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for the GWF team
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There is a word you often see, pronounce it as you may –
“You bike,” “you bykwee,” “ubbikwee” – alludin’ to R. A.
It serves ‘Orse, Field, an’ Garrison as motto for a crest;
An’ when you’ve found out all it means I’ll tell you ‘alf the rest.
Ubique means the long-range Krupp be’ind the long-range ‘ill –
Ubique means you’ll pick it up an’, while you do, stand still.
Ubique means you’ve caught the flash an’ timed it by the sound.
Ubique means five gunners’ ‘ash before you’ve loosed a round.
Ubique means Blue Fuse, an’ make the ‘ole to sink the trail.
Ubique means stand up an’ take the Mauser’s ‘alf-mile ‘ail.
Ubique means the crazy team not God nor man can ‘old.
Ubique means that ‘orse’s scream which turns your innards cold!
Ubique means “Bank, ‘Olborn, Bank – a penny all the way” –
The soothin’, jingle-bump-an’-clank from day to peaceful day.
Ubique means “They’ve caught De Wet, an’ now we shan’t be long.”
Ubique means “I much regret, the beggar’s goin’ strong!”
Ubique means the tearin’ drift where, breach-block jammed with mud,
The khaki muzzles duck an’ lift across the khaki flood.
Ubique means the dancing plain that changes rocks to Boers.
Ubique means mirage again an’ shellin’ all outdoors.
Ubique means “Entrain at once for Grootdefeatfontein.”
Ubique means “Of-load your guns” – at midnight in the rain!
Ubique means “More mounted men. Return all guns to store.”
Ubique means the R.A.M.R. Infantillery Corps.
Ubique means that warnin’ grunt the perished linesman knows,
When o’er ‘is strung an’ sufferin’ front the shrapnel sprays ‘is foes;
An’ as their firin’ dies away the ‘usky whisper runs
From lips that ‘aven’t drunk all day: “The Guns! Thank Gawd, the Guns!”
Extreme, depressed, point-blank or short, end-first or any’ow,
From Colesberg Kop to Quagga’s Poort – from Ninety-Nine till now –
By what I’ve ‘eard the others tell an’ I in spots ‘ave seen,
There’s nothin’ this side ‘Eaven or ‘Ell Ubique doesn’t mean!
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"AN ANZAC'S FAIR."
Have I been a soldier long sir? Aye, it
seems like twenty years
Since we sailed away from Melbourne
to the time we took Pozieres.
We lobbed at dirty Suez and entrained
for Mena Camp,
Right underneath the Pyramids, where
we soon got something damp.
We marched around the desert until our
feet were sore,
But soon took a jerry and filled our packs
We went down to Ismalia, to meet old
But the only thing we found there was
work, and then more work.
At last we sailed from Egypt and arrived
at Lemnos Isle,
We rehearsed all the landing in good
We heard at last the dinkum about the
Then all of us were pining to get quickly
to the front.
We got there, no time wasted, and on
that forsaken brink
We fought and starved and sweated when
you couldn't buy a drink,
We stuck it for eight blooming months,
when the heads made up their minds
To do the quiet, cunning trick - but we
left a lot behind.
We retreated back to Lemnos, the mob
was worn and pale,
I tell you sir, it was just like one coming
out of gaol.
They shipped us on to Alex, so the boys
couldn't spend their dough,
And they put us in the desert - we never
had a show,
In time we got near water, heard the
order, "He that hath
"In his harness soap and towel, may go
and have a bath."
We were thankful for small mercies, and
dropped in there with glee,
Its wonderful the dirt we dripped did not
stain the blooming sea.
At last there came along the news and we
did a dinkum dance,
Our Colonel said, "If you're good boys,
I'll take you all to France."
The trip across was lovely, the sea of
The only thing that marred it was ever-
But what a sight for sore eyes when we
landed at Marseilles!
The people there were civilised - we had
no eyes for males.
The girls all looked just lovely, as we
went north in the train,
And when this war is over I'm coming
They dropped us in a quiet spot to get
our second wind;
The Boche pulled nasty faces, but we just
sat there and grinned.
We stayed there for a month or so, then
things began to hum,
They took us quietly by the hand and
dumped us on the Somme.
"Now lads, this is the dinkum joint,
you've got to keep your name!"
But I guess the boys of Anzac earned
their undying fame.
We thought the place called Anzac was
pretty rough for shells,
But blime, down there on the Somme, was
two or three large hells.
Well, I think we did our little bit, and
we're now out for a rest;
I think the German won't be long before
he gives it best.
Our little British Army has got him
He's feeling pretty sorry he started up
But we are getting weary of looking
round for fight,
We'd like those clouds to turn around
and show us of the light.
I often in the dugout dream of "Home,
And I'm sure if I get back, sir, I never
more will roam.
But when I lob in Melbourne, and by the
I'll be proud that I in truth can say,
"Thank God, I did my bit."
The poem “An Anzac’s Fair” was sent home by Hector [soldier on left in above photo], and published in his local paper the Inglewood Advertiser on the 5th January 1917. Hector was killed 9 months later in the Battle of Passchendaele, and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres.
Hector Leslie DESLANDES was the youngest son of John DESLANDES and Catherine MUNRO and had been born at Inglewood, Vic, in 1894. Hector lost his eldest brother in 1910 (age 23) and his father in 1913, so when he enlisted on the 3rd February 1915 with his remaining brother George, they left their mother virtually on her own, as their only sister had married in 1912. Also enlisting with them was their mother’s brother, their uncle George Munro, and 3 other Inglewood boys, Thomas Murray and brothers’ Charles and William Roberts.
All six sailed with A Company of the 22nd Battalion on the Ulysses at the beginning of May, reaching Alexandria on the 9th June. Another local boy, Phillip Thompson, also made the journey with them, but as a member of B Coy.
They continued on to Gallipoli on the 30th August on board the Scotian, minus the Deslandes’ uncle George, and Tom Murray (‘Nip’), who were both ill. As a part of the 6th Brigade convoy, they were lucky to avoid the lurking submarine UB14 which managed to cause severe damage to one of their companion ships, the Southland.
Eventually landing at Anzac on the 5th September, they moved into trenches opposite Johnson’s Jolly the following day, where ‘Nip’ joined them a couple of weeks later, and there they remained until the evacuation. George parted company with his brother on the 8th October when he transferred to the 4th Field Coy Engineers, but both Deslandes boys returned safely to Egypt in January 1916.
Later that month, their uncle, who had remained in Egypt on guard duty after his illness, was invalided home after a bout of enteric fever – his war over before it had really begun. Charles Roberts also left them. He’d found himself in a spot of trouble after falling asleep on sentry duty at Anzac, and after the return to Egypt began a sentence of imprisonment, which was soon suspended. However, by April he was in hospital with Tachycardia and Valvular Disease, and the following month was shipped home medically unfit. His brother Willie, Phil Thompson, Nip and Hector made the move to the Western Front towards the end of March. It was during their stint in the nursery sector at Fleurbaix that they suffered their first casualty in action, when Willie received a bomb wound to the neck. He had been discharged from hospital to a convalescent depot, and Hector and his unit were taking over the reserve line at Bois Grenier, when George landed in France with the Engineers in early June.
By July Hector was on the Somme and on the 25th moved into the fighting at Pozieres. For four sleepless days he and his mates endured the horror of the attempted obliteration of Kay Sap, which was raked with enfilade and frontal fire, gas and high explosive shells. As noted in ‘With the Twenty-Second’: “The shells, malignant and relentless, killed wounded and buried living and dead together.” Phil Thompson was the next casualty of the group, he sustained a head wound on the 27th, and also suffering from shell shock, was sent through the hospital system to Blighty. Nip, operating as one of the Battalion runners, (described as ‘supermen’ during this time) received a Military Medal for his efforts.
After a short rest at Sausage Gully the 22nd then took part in an attack on the German trenches on the 5th August. Unfortunately, before the attack even commenced, they had lost approximately 20% of their men to enemy shellfire, and as they advanced, A Coy ‘were practically annihilated by machine gun fire.’ However, they took their objectives and held them until they were relieved later that night by the 24th Bn, and after leaving the front line, Nip was admitted to a rest station for a couple of days with shell shock. Later that month they played their part in the attack on Mouquet Farm, and the battalion was then moved on to a quieter sector in Belgium.
Hector then left his mates in the 22nd Bn, and transferred to the 6th Machine Gun Coy on the 7th September.
By winter he was back in France, and after a stint at Flers, was in billets at Flesselles when a fully recovered Willie Roberts, joined him and the machine gunners on the 8th December. Christmas was spent in the line amongst the cold and fog and slush, and the following few months were spent in and out of the line as they followed the German withdrawal towards the Hindenburg Line.
The Battle of Bullecourt on the 3rd May 1917 brought both glory and sorrow for the boys from Inglewood. Willie and Nip both operating as runners for their units met with completely different fates this day. Willie, following in the footsteps of Nip at Pozieres, earned himself a Military Medal. Pinned down in a shell-hole by machine gun fire with a badly wounded Lieutenant Palling, he and another man made a dash back to Company HQ with a report and to collect a stretcher. He then endeavoured to guide a stretcher party back until casualties prevented further progress. Meanwhile, Nip went missing and was later declared killed in action.
From a letter to their parents from Nip’s brother Frank (Murray):
I am writing to you to-day to tell you some bad news - "Nip" is missing. He may be in hospital, or he may have been taken prisoner - they don't know for sure where he is. His battalion was over here to-day, and I hunted round until I found his cobbers; that was the first I heard about it. He was bringing a message back to headquarters with a couple of mates, and they were hopping from shell hole to shell hole when he was hit in the leg and arm. His mates tried to pull him to the hole by pushing out a rifle, but he said, "I'm beggared; I can't hold it." His arm was broken, I think. They did their best to get him in, but couldn't at the time. They reported it when they reached headquarters, and two stretcher-bearers went out to get him. One came back carrying the stretcher - the other was killed. Two more tried and another was knocked, and they couldn't get him in just then. Another mate of his said that later on one crawled out and gave him a drink out of his bottle. They looked for him after but could not find him, so there is still a chance that he may have been picked up and taken to hospital, or he even may have been made a prisoner. ………………
Nine days later, the last of the group remaining with the 22nd Bn, Phil Thompson, joined Hector and Willie in the 6th MG Coy. Less than a month later however, he moved on to the VetHospital. After Bullecourt Hector’s unit went out for a long rest, which actually involved moving from camp to camp for the next few months. During this time Hector was promoted to Lance Corporal. Finally at the end of July they left the Somme area and headed north once more, where they went into billets at Wardrecques. From here they traveled to Ypres and began preparations for the Battle of Passchendaele, beginning withMenin Road on the 20th September, followed by Broodseinde Ridge on the 4th October.
Fighting was resumed on the 9th October, and Hector was a member of one of the 6 gun teams under the command of Lieutenant Wright, that were positioned behind the ruins of Broodseinde to provide indirect covering fire. They were shelled continuously; two guns being destroyed and two put out of action, whilst Hector and five of his comrades lost their lives. In the words of Lieut Wright; “…we were all dazed and ducking involuntarily at every burst and shaking at every sound, waiting for our ‘issue’ with just a sheet of tissue paper – it seemed – between us and sheer lunacy.” By next morning “When word came to abandon the cursed spot, I had some difficulty in inducing the boys to stay long enough to bury their comrades.”
Hector’s body was either never recovered or not identified.
A year after his death Hector was remembered by his mother and sister in verse:
He has done his best along with the rest
And marched with the brave old boys,
Inscribed his name on the scroll of fame
As one of Australia’s boys.
Hector’s brother George, along with Willie Roberts and Phil Thompson, returned home in 1919.
Endnotes: Menin Gate Photo taken by author. Photo of Hector & mate AWM PO8120.003.
Hector Leslie Deslandes (1894-1917) L/Cpl 145, KIA 9/10/1917; George William Deslandes (1885-1949) Pte 144 / Spr 4222, RTA 9/3/19; George Alexander Munro (1873-1935) Pte 214, RTA 21/1/16; Thomas James Murray ‘Nip’ (1893-1917) Pte 216, MM, KIA 3/5/1917; Charles Frederick Roberts (1894-1947) Pte 238, RTA 11/5/16; William Henry Roberts (1881-1937) Pte 239, MM, RTA 5/4/19; Phillip Louis Thompson (1887-1956) Pte 476, RTA 19/4/19.
Frank Murray (1895-1918), Pte 6314, 7th Bn – who wrote to their parents when Nip went missing, was KIA 27/4/1918 Meteren.
Heather ‘Frev’ Ford, 2010
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Chapter one ... had to have a go. If you want more .. I'll blog it. Don't ask me what happens .. don't know myself .. yet. If anyone doesn't want their name ripped off in the text. ... gimme a PM.
WHEN you boil the whole thing down, family history is a pain in the backside. Literally.
Ever spent an afternoon straining your eyes at a microfiche machine? Felt the pins and needles as the hand you are using to wind on the reel becomes an unfeeling stump? And worst of all, the seats provided in most libraries could have played a vital role in the activities of the Spanish Inquisition.
As they say … no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition. But you should be prepared for some mild torture during a trek along the twisting road that leads from mild curiousity to fully fledged obsession.
And, as I flexed my numb hand, arched my acheing back and rubbed my weary eyes that day in Mudcaster Local Studies Library, the sad truth hit me hard. I was an anorak.
In fact, I was in danger of becoming a NATO-issue Parka.
Blame it on World War One.
Let me tell you a story about it.
HERBERT Samuel McCallion is one of those names which gladden the heart of any war memorial researcher. Smyth,Smith,Thompson, Thomson, Johnston, Johnstone, on the other hand are the names of nightmare. You try searching the average database for a few of these. You’ll know what I mean when you are throwing pens at the rubbish bin and barking loudly at the computer screen.
Good old Bertie McCallion. I found him straight away with a swift delve into the wonderful on-line records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
You see, I’d been fascinated with Mudcaster’s First World War Memorial since infancy. What child of the Japs’n’Jerries era would not be intrigued by a six feet high bayonet wielding statue? I certainly was.
But, as any Great War buff will tell you, a simple name,rank and number just ain’t enough. We’re the anorak equivalent of a well known lager – we reach the parts that other researchers don’t.
And that’s why I was spending a sunny Saturday afternoon in the silent city which is Mudcaster Reference Library. They’ve got the old papers you see. Loads of ‘em all scanned and filed and ready for punters just like me.
True to form, there he was. Good old Bertie. Two column inches of New Century Schoolbook in eight point bold type.
Or rather there was young Bertie. He was only 21 when he bought his ticket in the fields outside the Belgian town of Ypres. He didn’t die in a gallant charge with bayonet fixed and a battlecry on his lips.
Bertie’s brains were blown out by a very skillful bloke from Germany who had just been waiting for some careless Tommy to show himself for a brief moment above the trench parapet. He was a run-of-the-mill casualty, another statistic noted as ‘one OR killed’ in his unit’s war diary.
The Mudcaster Bugle reported:
The father of Rifleman Herbert McCallion has received intimation that his oldest son, who is serving with the 7th (Service) Btn. of the Mudshire Rifles has been killed in action. Deceased as only 21 years of age and prior to enlistment in June 1915 had been an employee of Baird’s Spinning Mill. He was a keen amateur footballer. His father, Mr. John McCallion of Princes Street, Mudcaster has another son, Rfn. William McCallion with the colours.
2nd Lt. John Hartley wrote to the family: "Your son was a good boy and a brave soldier. His death was painless as he was shot through the head and died instantly."
Notch another one up, says I. Think again, said the annoying voice in my head.
An obituary without a picture is like Yorkshire pud wihout gravy. And the years had not been kind to Bertie McCallion’s head and shoulders portrait. It was one of those old paper pics that fall into the useless category. Some of them you can just about justify. Others are pretty good. Bertie’s was a horlicks.
But needs must and sometimes you have to think ‘outside the box’ as my managing director keeps telling me. Pisses me off but that’s a different story altogether.
Having a mate on the local rag is handy in my line of work and Chris Baker and I went back a long way. Mudcaster Comprehensive’s lone punk had dumped his safety pins and DMs in favour of a pin stripe suit and some bloody awful ties, most of them coffee stained.
"What you looking for now?" sighed Baker, as I entered his cramped little office, which was seperated from the rest of the local hacks by a dodgy door and a wafer thin partition which sported some retro 70s wallpaper – except it wasn’t retro.
"Wee story for you me old son," said I, pulling out the fags.
"I’m off them. Coffee too. Drink next," he muttered.
"Good for you," I grinned. "Health kick?"
"Don’t start," said Chris. "No smoking here by new company rule. No coffee on doc’s orders and the beer’s getting the big E until I lose the spare tyre."
Pleasantries exchanged, we got down to business. And Baker knows my little World War One stories attract a lot of interest. Local history, local people, local sales … you know it makes sense.
If you’ve been there and done that, you know the score. My little letter requesting more information was duly printed and, a week or so later, I received a very interesting phone call.
"Mr. Blackheader?" asked the lady on the other end of the blower.
"Near enough," I laughed. "I’ve been called worse. How can I help you."
"It’s about that request for an old picture of Hebert McCallion … the letter in the paper ..you were asking if anyone had one?"
"Oh yes, great to hear from you," I gushed in my best gushing tone. "Are you a descendant?"
And do you have a pic, I said to myself.
Thankfully, she did. And I could call round to hers and pick it up anytime.
Rules of the game. Be nice, be helpful but DON’T go rushing around immediately. It puts people off. Do the decent and print ‘em out a little piece about their ancestor, preferably on a nice piece of sepia toned card. A nice illustration of a cap badge and a little bit about the battalion also goes down well when you arrive on the doorstep.
Which is where I found myself the next day.
And what a doorstep it was. It took me three minutes to walk up the gravelled drive to get to it. And that was after I had identified myself to a minion at the other end of the gateside intercom.
The door opened and an aproned six footer looked down on me.
"I’m Blackadder. Here to see Mrs. Kate Wills?" I explaind, pointlessly.
"I’m aware of that," sniffed the minion. "Follow me please."
A swift glance around the décor of this mansion was enough to signify that the McCallion ancestors had come a long way from their terraced house in grimy old Princes Street.
I’d been expecting some dowager, but I don’t know why. So when Mrs. Wills turned from the window overlooking the bleedin’ county which she called a garden, it was all I could do to stop my freshly after-shaved jaw from dropping.
To put it plainly, Mrs. Wills was a bit of all right. Well maintained, suitably upholstered and just the wrong side of 40 .. which was fine by me.
"Pleased to meet you Mrs. Wills," said I, advancing with extended hand.
"Oh Kate is fine .. and you are Des? Is that right?" she countered.
Without waiting for an answer she produced a tin box. Huntley’s biscuits it was and a bit of an antique according to David Dickinson. He didn’t tell me that by the way … it’s just amazing what you learn by watching ‘Bargain Hunt’.
Eagerly, I opened the lid. Boxes are good. Plastic bags are a sign of bottom drawer documentation. When someone hits you with a box, you know it’s treasure. Plastic bags and ragged envelopes are indicative of old paper clippings you’ve already seen.
And there it all was. A super portrait of the bold Bertie and another bloke. The backside of the picture identified him as brother William. Two for the price of one .. not that I pay for this stuff … I’m strictly a scan man. Unless they want to dump the stuff on me.
Cap badge, a bundle of letters, a silk postcard, shoulder strap and an audio cassette.
When Mudcaster Rovers beat the Arsenal in one of the great giant killing exploits in FA Cup history, my heart skipped a few beats. Seeing that audio cassette had a similar effect.
Mrs. Wills sipped from the delicate China coffee cup which the aproned minion had silently delivered to what I assumed was the drawing room.
She knew my next question. People like that always do.
"Yes. It’s an old recording made by my brother of our grandfather William. He never really talked about the war but John finally got him to speak about it just before he passed away," she said.
"Perhaps you’d like to hear it?" she enquired, taking the cassette from my sweating paws and inserting it in a rather dated stereo system.
"I think you’ll find the story he has to tell rather interesting."
End of chapter One
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Relieved by K.R.R’s and marched back to 49th Division Camp at Vlmertinghe arriving about 12.30am 1-1-16 absolutely knocked up, so we saw in the new year marching along a Belgium road in a pretty exhausted condition, but we managed to welcome it with a song or two nevertheless.
**********End this diary/blog where it began.....20 blog pages ago....marching along a Belgium road pretty exhausted but welcoming the new year with a song of two***************
Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather....
If anyone wants a word version of this diary just let me know and I will email it. It is also available at the Imperial War Museum IWM -ref: 82/11/1
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Hello everyone, updating my blog for you all if your interested,
I fell ill beginning of September and spent 4 hours an my A&E twice lol
as long as i keep taking the tablets i am ok and dont get too breathless.
Police have my lappy and computer cos the friend i took in has made threats to both herself and me as if it was her ex and they proved it wasnt him, he had an alibi! am now waiting for her to go court, 6 months on and she is still walking the streets!!!!!!!
Seb has now gotten into so much trouble he is on a supervision order but at least the magistrate has orded him to get anger management so hopefully he will get calmer as the months pass,
Bex is still not working and doesnt want too so have given her till the end of the month to sort it out or she has to go live elsewhere!
good news is i have found a true friend across the road who looked after me and the kids while i was ill, if she hadn't i dont know where we would be now, she fed and watered us every day for 6 weeks! we pooled resourses and did the shopping together, i cooked if felt good but wasnt a problem if i didint.
well thats it in a nut shell, feeling much better now just need my lappy back and i will be ok!
Ok thats it for now,
thanks for reading,
love you all
The transition from CEF Sergeant to civilian father of two boys was at first fairly smooth. Three years of soldiering had accustomed John to broken sleep, so rocking fretful babies back to sleep was easier for him than many other a new father. And it was some months before he ceased to look at Marie as she slept beside him and wonder in awe at how they had come together at last.
Very different he thought from the few British and Canadian soldiers he met who had married in France. Apart from a few men from Quebec regiments, they were still struggling with the language - and most of the locals had difficulty with the French-Canadian dialect and pronunciation.
Still, John was relieved when his mother asked if he could return to Canada for a week to tie up the loose ends of his father's estate, and sell the family home. Marie was included in Madame's offer, but now pregnant again she decided to stay behind.
Toronto had changed, John decided. Everything seemed to be moving much faster, and the ever-intrusive American culture delivered from radio, magazines and newspapers made John long for the pre-war days.
He visited his Captain, now back to civilian life, but still serving in the Militia, which had changed greatly since before the War. The old numbers and the scarlet uniforms had vanished.
John was relieved to return to France.
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Well, long time, no post.
My story is about to hit print.
Not through some glamorous publisher, but by my own devices, and the help of friends in the profession.
You see, some of what I have written is now, not PC. They wanted me to change things. That is changing history. You can't do that, because that is how it was.
I have been a member of this forum for a while, and have not contributed with the dollars.
So, I get this idea to donate some of my books to it, when they are printed, so that the forum can get the funds.
I submitted this idea, as it turned out, when Chris was handing over to the new team. It seemed to have got lost. But communication with Admin restored and all looks good.
Low and behold, someone else had the same idea. Good on him, maybe others could do the same, so as to raise more funds for the forum.
Yeh, I know , mine's not there yet, but it is acoming!!!.
In my wandering jottings, I realise just how much I owe to this and another forum. To the members who answered my naive questions, who picked me up when I was down, who inspired, goaded, and stretched me.
To the cyber friends I have made, sharing their joys and losses, their day to day lives, their knowledge, it has helped to biuld a better understanding of those from foriegn countries, and to cement a fact, that although we live thousands of miles apart, our problems are very similiar, and our ability to overcome, and share, can help others. As members have helped me to do.
Putting this story in print means I must move on, to another era, and yet, I find I can't. Such has been the power of those whose lives were torn asunder by WW1, I find I keep returning, and wondering, and appreciating their efforts, and sacrificies.
Nearly a year ago, I went on a journey. A journey that exceeded my wildest expectations.
Walking the ground that the men of WW1 fought over, being shown, by holes in the earth, rows of cold stone, new woods;... the loss, the waste.
Of present day people who remember and appreciate the efforts of two- three generations ago, of good friendship from strangers.
A group of Aussies who were strangers at the airport, but through the experiences of the battlefields have reached a special understanding, becoming so close, in some ways, closer than parteners, or brothers and sisters, because we know what the other feels, when those about us have no idea why we are drawn to people and events of 90 so years ago, we were brought together by such intense emotions, shared and supported on those old battlefields.
So in my meandering jottings, I wish to thank all those who have helped me, in posting, and PM's and emails.
It is what makes this forum such a great resource, an extended community, and a haven from that mad, mad world. (That we Skindler's so often , .....well, we know, don't we?)
End of meandering thoughts.
Command on the Western Front: A reminder for me to re-read the 27th - 29th Sept 1918 attack around St Quentin Canal. Consider Prior & Wilson's comments in view of Terraine's argument that Haig improved. Also in view of my own concensus that Rawlinson generally learnt from his mistakes.
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Rifleman S/26148 Thomas Edwin Capers 8th Rifle Brigade, DOW 13/04/1917 VII. F. 9. WARLINCOURT HALTE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAULTY
courtesy of Jim Smithson, Dec. 2010
Thomas Edwin Capers was born and brought up in Ibstock, he was 26 and single at the outbreak of the Great War. Thomas was the youngest of three brothers and had two sisters, all born in Ibstock to parents Thomas and Sarah where the family had lived since about 1880. All the males of the family had worked either in the Ibstock Colliery or brick works.
Thomas Capers papers have not survived, in fact the papers of men in the number block S/26000 to S/26200 are few and far between. But combining what information there is with their medal index cards gives some idea of Thomas Capers' dates of joining, etc. Many of the men in this block first joined the KRRC before being transferred to the Rifle Brigade while still in the UK. These men are in alphabetic order through this small number range. Scattered amongst them are others who were first posted to the 5th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade and were then posted to either the 8th or 9th Battalion after completion of basic training and on arrival in France. All of them appear to have attested under the Derby Scheme in late November or Early December 1915, and were not called up until May and June of 1916. Thomas Capers does not fit into the alphabetical grouping of ex. KRRC men, and so it is likely he was first posted to the Rifle Brigade's 5th Battalion before being sent to France around October 1916, where he would have joined the 8th Battalion.
Easter Day in 1917 fell on the 8th of April. The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was in the Arras sector. Two celebrations of Holy Communion took place in the cellar of battalion HQ and they had moved to the Christchurch caves by nightfall. The following day the 1917 Arras offensive was launched, and the battalion had left the caves at 9am and initially moved to the reserve line. With many German prisoner coming back from the front and large numbers of British Cavalry moving forward news came that the first and second Brigade objects have been taken. There is some snow overnight, and on the 10th April 1917 the 8th Battalion moves forward several miles South East of Arras and by 4.30pm receives orders to “clear up the situation in the direction of Wancourt and the high ground south west of the village”. The Battalion advances in a heavy snow storm coming under a light barrage and machine gun fire. As the snow stopped, leading companies found themselves in an exposed position and suffered casualties from machine gun fire coming from the direction of Wancourt and Hill 90.
The attack on Wancourt is pressed home on the 11th April, with the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade in support of the 7th KRRC. But they are caught in machine gun cross fire, the 7th KRRC suffer badly, and the 8th RB suffer one officer wounded and 20 OR casualties. They are relieved from their forward position by the 7th RB that night, during another heavy fall of snow.
In the early hours of 12th April “B” coy. patrols get as far as Wancourt and Marliere. Easterly patrols establish that the enemy holds Guemappe in strength. While “C” coy. captures a 77mm field gun in the vicinity of Marliere. At 11am orders are received to attack the high ground South East of Wancourt, with the 8th KRRC on the right crossing the Conjeul river to the south of Wancourt, and the 8th RB on the left crossing the river to the north of Wancourt. But this would have meant passing in front of the enemy at Guemappe for about a mile. By 2.30pm the orders for the attack had changed. Both 8th KRRC and 8th RB were to cross the river to the south of Wancourt. The assault was to take place at 5.30pm, but by 5pm only three companies had managed to cross the river after wading through very deep and sticky mud. An alert enemy put down a heavy barrage on the Conjeul valley from Wancourt to Heninel, and before the attack even started the whole area was subjected to heavy machine gun fire. Advance was impossible and the attack was abandoned. The 8th RB was relieved that night and by the 13th April had returned to billets in Arras. The total casualties for these few days are: 5 Officers wounded; 25 other ranks killed, 5 other ranks missing and 68 other ranks wounded.
courtesy of Jim Smithson, Dec. 2010
Private 26148 Thomas Edwin Capers is one of those wounded during these few days, he is evacuted as far as a CCS at Warlincourt, but dies of his wounds on the 13th April 1917. In fact, the Battalion seems to have lost track of him at one point, as his name appears on the Battalion's casualty figures as being KIA on the 12th April.
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I am now the very proud owner of the Royal British Legion commemorative Poppy pin to remember those that sadly lost their lives 100 years ago at the 3rd battle of Ypres, known as Passchendaele.
The details of how this project came about and what went into the making of these commemorative poppy pins can be found on the attached video link.
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Having completed my transcription and posts on the 801st MT Coy, I am now looking at the units they supported, particularly the Yeomanry, in this case the Surrey Yeomanry and the Derbyshire Yeomanry. I have acquired copies of their regimental history books, read the Surrey one and I have started a new thread 'Yeomanry in Salonika' on the 'Salonika and Balkans' sub forum, if anyone is interested.
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Our Growing Departments
With our ever-increasing beds, all the departments in the hospital increase accordingly. In the early days we had R.A.M.C.T. men entirely in the offices, stores, post office, etc. Now nearly all – or at least the greater proportion – of the men have disappeared. Some have gone abroad with the R.A.M.C., others have transferred to fighting units, and many are on hospital ships. Then the problem was, who was to replace them?
I remember, a very long time ago, one of the heads of the Red Cross Society coming down and discussing with us how women could be employed. Gradually a scheme evolved, and the first military hospital to try it was the 3rd London.
The lady orderlies came, were approved of, and proved the greatest help to us; gradually, lady clerks, typists, postwomen, enquiry department, linen storekeepers, steward store assistants, telephone operators, cooks and charladies became installed; and today the ever green picture, “Can Women do our Work?” is answered, I think, by everyone concerned – Yes.
From a Matron’s point of view I looked on the influx of women with a sinking heart. I already had over 300 women for whom I was responsible; and when the War Office decided that all women employed in a military hospital should come directly under the Matron I nearly wept – and felt certainly that it was more than one could bear. Now when I look back over all those changes I still marvel how it was done. But the fact remains today that we have somewhere about 500 women employed in the different departments of the hospital; and, apart from this making my office work very heavy, I do not feel the responsibility any greater. This in itself, I think, speaks volumes for the loyal help we get.
The different departments all run smoothly. The Quartermaster’s office has two lady clerks, the C.O. has one, the Matron one, the Registrar’s office has many. I shall never forget poor Captain Gosse’s face when he first heard that ladies were going to be admitted into his office. He looked hopeless. And until the day he went away he always referred to them as “the little bits of fluff in my office.”
Two ladies are responsible for the card index where, within a few minutes, you can look up any patient who has ever been in the hospital. Another does the typing, another helps with the discharges. Three ladies answer all enquiries in the front hall, and seem to me to spend half their time directing people to the D corridor. I often hear, “Yes; left, right, left, right, then you had better enquire again”; and I wonder whether the visitor ever finds his way to D at all.
We have two ladies on the telephone and four in the post office. The postal arrangements are to my mind perfect, and hardly ever is there complaint of letters going astray of being misdirected, which is wonderful, considering the thousands of letters and parcels that pass through this office. Then in the pay office we have a lady clerk. Next along the passage is the massage room. I see that a very excellent article has already been sent about this department, so there is no need for me to say anything. I hope, however, it won’t be long before Miss Layton and her helpers will get their new room.
Then we come to the stores. All clean linen is given out by ladies who work under the supervision of the Quartermaster, much of the work is now done by ladies, who all come under what we call the General Duty Section. The kitchens too, now have many women replacing men. In the general kitchen we still have the staff-sergeant cook, who is responsible, but in the sick officers’ kitchen there is a V.A.D. cook, and also in the orderlies’ kitchen.
The scrubbers are also a great feature – and it is astonishing how easily they lose themselves in this huge place and what a lot of finding they require sometimes!
I feel that this article sounds rather like an essay on “Women’s Rights.” I am not a suffragette, and no one will welcome men back to their old jobs more than I shall, but I do feel that women have shown how much they can help, in this war, as well as men. And I know they will continue as long as they are needed. When we are not needed, then we shall just let the men have their own back again, and look after us as they used to – and it will be very pleasant to be looked after again, I think!
Edith Holden, Matron.
Well, about three weeks later than expected, the proof copy of the book dropped through the letter box this morning (slightly untrue that. It's so damn big it was left in the porch, but never mind). It's a strange feeling to have something you have worked on for six years resting in one's hands. Lump in the throat time. From my days in the music business I have plenty of albums on which I played and co-wrote songs but this book means more to me than they do - this is, after all, all my own work.
Anyway, I have placed an order for an initial print run (in the tens not the hundreds!) and now hope that I might come close to breaking even on the project.
Seeing this project come to fruition has helped me make a decision about doing another one. I have already started work: the list of files at the National Archives, Liddle Collection and IWM is already complete and visits are being planned. Several battalion histories and other relevant books have been located. A Roll of Honour of the men who died is complete apart from the CWGC details. Bloody hell, the first 2,500 words have even been written. This time, though, I am going to try to work to a more precise timetable and have set myself a deadline of next May (which is a bit optimistic as this is one one sixth of the time 'Pro Patria Mori' took!). And the subject? Well, it only seems fair to complete the 'other half' of the Gommecourt attack. So, '"A Lack of Offensive Spirit" - The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916' will be the next off the production line. And disproving Gen Snow's disgraceful slander of the men of the North Midlands will be high on the agenda!
Off to work we go...
Web site: http://www.gommecourt.co.uk
'Pro Patria Mori: the 56th (1st London) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916' available from May '06
Well dear reader,
As you can tell from the entry dates of this blog i have not been very good at keeping things up to date.
Anyroadup........Just returned from a four day stay at Chavasse House with six other like minded chaps. Left home at around midnight on Monday 17th and had a nice quiet mini bus (Ford Toureno) ride down to the Chunnel.
As you can imagine we arrived nice and early so instead of the 08:20 crossing we got onto a much earlier departure, thus giving us even more time in France.
Once across (under) the channel it was full steam ahead to Vimy Ridge, a place I had not been to before. Impressive monument and with one of our party having a relative named on the walls we spent a fair amount of time there. We also took the underground tunnel tour which was most informative and gave us all an insight into the underground conflict.
As we had to wait until about 1500 hrs to get into Chavasse we indulged in our first taste of French food......Yes it was into Alberts Maccy D's for a Grande Mac and Frites, then a wizz down the road to the Super U supermache for supplies (read beer & BBQ meats)
Up to Chavasse and bag a bedroom........Now, knowing what a bunch of snorers we had I managed to sort the larger of the ground floor double bedrooms to myself. Made up the bed, put on the kettle and made a brew. It was then time for the BBQ to get fired up and a few bottles of beer to get quaffed. Off to bed at about midnight. Day one over.
Day two..........Up at about at just after 07:30, breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage and baguette...(The bread van arrives at Chavasse at about 0800) Out and about by 10:00 and off to Thiepval and Ulster Tower......Did a quick look at the cemeteries ext to Ulster Tower and booked a tour of the woods with the new 'tenants' Don & Maureen (who we named Rapunzel, cos she loved living in the tower)
We met Don for the walk and were joined by a coupe of other guys, one wearing sunnies and a baseball cap and the other a quite tall guy, they were clearly together but I took no particular notice of either.
Anyway after a fantastic tour by Don (I have done similar with Teddy, but this was even better) one of our group said "That's Alexi Sayle in the baseball cap" Well courage was drawn and an approach made. Guess what Mr Sayle was very good had his picture took with our group and chewed the fat back at the Tower. Funny but 'Rapunzel' was serving behind the counter and never even knew he had been a visitor.
A quick tramp to the Popes nose observation point, a field walk that gave up a live 303 round (left where it was) then back on the bus to travel the short distance to Pozieres and the tank memorial and the windmill site. By now we had also visited a fair few cemeteries along the way and it was almost 17:00 hrs so a blast back to Chavasse for scoff and an evening of shooting the sh*te in the Rum Ration bar. at about 00:30 it was the end of day two.....
Day three....Up again at 0730 quick 3 S routine and breaky was a repeat of day two.....Out again by 10:00 and off to visit Sunken Lane, Hawthorn Crater and Redan Ridge number 1 cemetery where 'we' had a local boy buried. I always find sunken lane such an atmospheric place, quite spooky to be where those lads were asking "are we in the right place?" Up to Hawthorn Crater and a couple of lads go down inside to have a loser look while I did a bit of a field walk. (nowt found) We then went up to Redan Ridge and traced cemetery number 1, where a local lad (from Swindon Nr Dudley) is laid to rest. Private 689 Sidney Henry Garston was in the Royal Fusiliers and died on 14th November 1916 aged 23. He has a grave in Swindon that states he died at Beaumont Hammel.
From there it was a trip to see the Sheffield Pals memorial and Railway cutting cemetery etc. As we were then moving back past Ulster Tower one of our party uttered the fateful words "I wonder what Iain Mchenry is doing now" The van driver then uttered the fateful phrase " Goodness me (or similar) there he is in the front of that coach" The coach came to a halt at the Tower and we were duly re-united with Iain who's services we had hired some years before when we were on the Salient. So it was time for a brew and sarny at the Tower and a rejoining with Don, Rapunzel and Iain. To close the day we drove to Peronne and visited the museum. From there we re-stocked on essentials and returned to the Rum Ration and another BBQ......We adjourned back into Chavasse House at about 23:30 and just had to drink the rest of the beer/wine as we couldn't bring it back home.. So a late night was had, got to bed at about 0100 ...End of day three.....
Day four....Up again at 0730 (bit knackered) the 3S's and brekky, packed up and left the house at 10:00 for a quick trip to Corcelette (sp?) where the guy who had a relative remembered at Vimy also had a relly remembered here. Then we went off to Delville Wood and made a trip around the South African memorial. Fantastic place.
Back on the minibus and off to Lochnagar crater and a drive past the site of the dig at La Boiselle then back towards the Chunnel...Got there early and again took advantage of an early crossing. Back in Blighty at 15:30 but due to crashes/roadworks or whatever the problem was we didn't get back 'home' till 2200. Grrrrrrrr....
Well that's the trip for another year, so where next for 2013?
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The following extract is taken from “MI 7b, the discovery of a lost propaganda archive from the Great War”.
A Trench Raid
At last, after what seemed years of waiting, the long-expected signal came, and we filed into the sap, and then crawled cautiously across No Man’s Land to the shelter of some friendly shell-craters about forty yards from the Boche wire. The signal for the final rush was to be an intensive bombardment on the flanks of the position we were to attack.
We did not have to wait long. Punctual to the second, the artillery strafe commenced and simultaneously a blinding sheet of flame and an earth-shaking roar told us that H.E. had completed the work of our wire cutters in blasting a gap in the entanglements. The next few minutes were crowded in the extreme. The whole party made a dash for the opening in the wire, scrambled over the parapet, and, as had been arranged, divided their forces, and bombed their way, right and left, down the trench. A sentry, who had been posted quite close to the point of entry, had been blown backwards off his perch by the force of the explosion, and was no longer in a condition to dispute our passage. The only real resistance we encountered was on the right where a machine gun team hurriedly dismounted their gun from its emplacement, and directed a stream of bullets down the trench in the hope of catching the attackers unawares when they rounded the traverse. But the Bombing Sergeant, crawling along the parapet, dropped a couple of Mill’s Bombs in the middle of the party, and then jumped down afterwards lest there should be any mistake. So it was that a battered machine-gun, plus a pair of stout Bavarians, very much the worse for wear, were shortly being passed to the rear.
Naturally the time is limited on a raid, and it is prudent to get back to the shelter of your own trenches before the enemy has time to recover from his surprise, and starts to retaliate. But before we turned back we lighted the fuse of an “infernal machine” which had been part of the R.E.’s contribution to the night’s entertainment, and placed it in an unobtrusive position at the foot of the traverse, with the object of discouraging any Huns from annoying us in our retirement. We returned to the original starting point to find the “moppers-up” had lured several unwilling captives from their under-ground funk-holes, and had already started to shepherd them across No Man’s Land on the first stage of their journey to England. As we picked our way through the shell-holes on our way home, our machine-guns were sweeping the Boche parapet on our right and left to restrain any vulgar curiosity on their part as to the fate of their brethren. The last of the excursionists dropped over our friendly parapet just as two infernal machines, in quick succession, rent the night with the roar of their explosion, and a salvo of “woolly bears”, the first fruits of retaliation, burst high up in the air over the ground we had just vacated.
The article, “A Trench Raid” was written by Lt J.P. Lloyd of the Welch Regiment in September 1917, and is one of 150 or so articles and stories he wrote. His work is the sole surviving archive of military propaganda from a secret outfit designated MI 7b. All the official documents of MI 7b were thought to have been destroyed at the war’s end.
Lt James Price Lloyd was my paternal great uncle and as a Second-lieutenant, he had been shot and wounded in the first Battle of the Somme in the fighting at Mametz on Friday, the 7th July 1916. Whilst recuperating, he responded to a War Office trawl for officers to write articles about the war. His work was accepted and on 7th July 1917, a year to the day since he had been wounded, he reported for duty with MI 7b.
He thought he was joining a unit set up to counter Hun propaganda, but that was just a cover story. Although he didn’t know it at the time, he was joining a strategic propaganda offensive aimed directly at the Home Front, and the home fronts of the Empire, her dominions and colonies. Allied nations too were targeted, as were neutral nations who needed to be swayed towards our cause.
MI 7b (1) had been set up in response to the perceived threat that support for the war was waning, that revolution was in the air, that there was discontent in the factories, and saboteurs active amongst us! In the autumn of 1916, through to the dread dark days of early 1917, disaster loomed. The nation, traumatised by the horrendous losses on the Somme front, faced insurrection in Ireland, revolution abroad, and was in danger of losing the battle at sea. The fear of losing the war and the prospect of famine brought home the reality of a modern, total war. To have any hope of preparing the nation not only to accept the huge losses that the strategy of attrition would inevitably demand, but also to sustain their faith that the cause was just and noble, and the sacrifice necessary, there had to be a counter-balance to the Roll of Honour.
The authorities recognised that they had to seize the agenda, set the tone, improve and sustain morale. To that end, the War Office trawled for officers with some time on their hands to write about the war, especially the human interest side. Capt Alec Dawson (Border Regt) fielded their submissions and set up what became MI 7b (1).
It attracted some of the finest literary talent of the day, many of whom were serving in the Army and had connections to the popular newspapers and magazines of the time. Similarly illustrators and artists were recruited and so it was that MI 7b (1) was able to produce high-grade propaganda material in both graphic and text media from the outset. Given its connections and the newspapers’ insatiable appetite for war news, MI 7b (1) became a major source of news that was then reported by the press all over the English speaking world.
From August 1917, Lt James Lloyd wrote first-hand accounts of battles and daily life in the trenches, and Captain Bruce Bairnsfather provided cartoons and illustrations that gave the imagination a visual hook. It is clear that their work was integrated as a result of a clearly developed editorial strategy. Bairnsfather’s cartoon character “Old Bill” and his “Fragments from France” were a national sensation – Old Bill became the archetypal “Old Contemptible” and a much loved figure world wide. Lloyd’s retrospectives on fighting in France, along with Bairnsfather’s illustrations, allowed those on the world’s home fronts to identify with the men at war, and get that much closer to what they thought the war may be really like.
Lloyd had much to learn about writing propaganda as many of his drafts were too close to reality to have been passed fit for publication. Some of the most poignant and moving accounts he wrote, never made it beyond the manuscript. These “rejected” articles contain much that would otherwise remain hidden. In my view, these articles are that much more interesting and shed a truer and brighter light on events that went unreported.
As the propaganda agenda moved on, Lloyd was tasked with producing “Tales of the VC”, and so that his reports on the fighting in France weren’t stale, he was sent back to the Western Front to observe first hand. It is clear that Lloyd wasn’t the only MI 7b officer to undertake such travels, as A A Milne, too, undertook secret work in France at some time during 1918. Officers from MI 7b travelled the Western Front extensively witnessing, as opposed to taking a further active part in, the battles and major campaigns of the war from early 1917 onwards. Those accounts were their main source of war news reporting and were then distributed for publication around the globe. There are examples of newspapers carrying 2 or 3 articles sourced from MI 7b on a single page.
With War Office support, what had started out as a “one man and his dog” operation in early 1916, became a highly successful broadcast medium with global reach within 18 months or so, producing an estimate of 7,500 articles for syndication world wide. Had the “Green Book” – the secret valedictory house journal of MI 7b (1) - not been discovered by chance, those writing for MI 7b (1) would have remained incognito, and its secret work only imagined, as so little of its official archive is known to exist. A A Milne is now the best known member of MI 7b, and the current media interest in his role risks eclipsing the wider story. Milne was not the only surprise to be found on the inside cover of the Green Book, posted elsewhere on this forum. The list of members and their literary achievements is truly astonishing.
The 150 remaining articles in the archive are of a high literary standard and the articles and stories each stand on their own merit. They would be interesting enough on their own, but in the context of their being examples of a secret campaign, they are an invaluable source. Written by someone who had served and been wounded in the front line trenches, Lloyd’s stories provide a fascinating glimpse into the realities of the fighting, and of life in France. His published work for MI 7b (1) is extensive, and I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me find examples. However, not everything was published, and the unpublished drafts provide tantalising glimpses into the realities as perceived at the time and written in the lingua franca of that era with its richness of slang, its wry observations on the detail of daily trench life.
It is also fascinating to view the propaganda production process in action; from idea to pencil draft, to manuscript and green-ink correction and censorship, to the typing pool and beyond to the higher echelons of the War Office food chain where it may be “Passed for publication.” Then, the article is there on the page of a Tasmanian journal, sitting alongside other articles from MI 7b. Each of the articles are under the name of the serving officer who wrote them giving no indication that they are the principal parts of a highly secret and sophisticated propaganda offensive.
If the newspaper articles indicate the scale and reach of the operation, the discovery of the Green Book indicates the calibre of its operatives and like the Rosetta stone, unlocks some of the mystery.
Why were so many talented and intelligent men willing to write propaganda in support for a war that each of them knew would result in further widespread slaughter? I believe that that they knew it to be their duty. They were recruited ostensibly to take part in a counter-propaganda offensive, and although that may have been plausible for a while, it is clear from what is written in the Green Book, that by the war’s end, some of these were men who felt that their integrity had been compromised.
If all their work was meant for publication, what was the secret? The real secret of MI 7b (1) was that the Crown and Parliament had a very great need for it, far greater than history may yet have acknowledged.
Why was it disbanded so quickly? The rapid disbandment of MI 7b did not affect its role and function, for that carried on. I think that Lords Northcliffe and Beaverbrook recognised that MI 7b (1) was a first class news agency with global reach, in effect, the information superhighway of its day. They took control of its infrastructure to further their newspaper interests, and MI 7b’s role and function morphed via the Ministry of Information through to the BBC.
From Adelphi House to Bush House!
With its records destroyed, and all its members bound by the Official Secrets Act, the story of MI 7b (1) might have remained an interesting, but obscure, footnote in history. With any luck, this discovery may yet inform our thinking about the First World War, and play a significant role in our understanding of the true nature of the conflict and the context in which it was reported.
“Tales of the VC”, 96 of the 150 or so articles can be found on:
 21 September 1917
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Many times forgotten or remembered only for the catastrophic campaign of 1916, Romania was involved for a longer time than any would think. If we add the romanians that fought in the Austro-Hungarian army and the romanian legions from France and Italy, we can even say that they fought for most of the war.
When the war broke out in 1914, Romania, under King Carol I (member of the Hohezollen-Sigmaringen family, close to the german imperial family), was part of a secret defensive treaty signed in 1883 with the German Empire and Austro-Hungarian Empire, in case of any of these powers was attacked. But, as the Austria-Hungary was the one that invaded Serbia, Romania was thinking if they should join the Central Powers or remain neutral. Eventually, after the Crown Council of Sinaia, the king decided the neutrality of the nation. In October 1914, Carol I died, being succeded at throne by his nephew Ferdinand, who was married to Mary/Maria of Windsor, who was a pro-Entente activist. The population, such as the Gouvern, was splitted betwen pro-germans and pro-french, leading to many arguings during the neutrality.
In August 1916, after secret negociations with France, Romania finally joined the Entente. On the night between 27 and 28th of August, after a war declaration was delivered to the austrian embassy, the romanian troops entered in Transylvania, according to "Ipoteza Z" war plan, meeting initially little resistance. At the beginning of September, Bulgaria declaired war. Germanily sent in Bulgaria Marshal August von Mackensen, which obtained a crushing victory at Tutrakan/Turtucaia together with general Ivan Kolev (a defeat that was over-exagerated by the Romanian news, causing panic among the population). Meanwhile, Erich von Falkenheim was sent in the Transylvania at the command of the German 9th Army, pushing back the romanians to the border. Romanian war plan was expecting to face 8 german divisions in Transylvania, but there were in fact 40 divions. Plus, they didn't expect such a quick Bulgarian answer, which transformed everything into a huge chaos: units were sent from the transylvanian front to the bulgarian one, the hole lenght of the front being now by 1100 kilometeres, defended by 800.000 romanian soldiers (as an example, on the Western Front, 600 km were defended by 4 milion soldiers). Attacked from all sides by all four Central Powers, without a strong Russian support or a French offensive at Salonika (two days after Romabia joined the war, the French and the Russianz signed a treaty in which they will not support the romanians, unless they will attack the bulgarians first), the romanians were slowly pushed back throught their territory. General Alexandru Averescu proposed a counter-attack at south of the Danube known today as "the Flămânda Maneuver", an attack which, if it was correctly executed says Mackensen, "could encircle the german-bulgarian forces advancing into Dobrogea and put them into difficulty". On 3rd of October, at Bucharest arrived the French general Henri Mathias Berthelot, veteran from the battle of the Marne. He came with the idea of a similar battle, on the Argeș river; his plan, to attack one of the three german columns advancing to the capital was initially a succes. But, after two romanian officers carring with them the plans of the offensive have been captured, the whole plan failed. Continuing their advance, the german-austro-hungarian forces captured Bucharest (coincidence or not, exactly in the day when Mackensen got 64 years old), the royal family, administration and many civilians finding a refuge in Moldavia. The capital was moved to Iași. At the end of the year, the situation was catastrophic for Romania: 2/3 from the country have been occupied, a large typhus epidemic began killing many people and soldiers and the russian help began to become more and more unreliable (they even proposed a mass evacuation of the army, administration and royal family in Russia, in order to reduce the lenght of the front). German propaganda intensified, wishing to make the enemy soldiers dessert in mass and abandont fighting. But there was still hope. In the spring of 1917, the French Military Mission began a large process of reorganising and retraing of the romanian soldiers in using of modern equipment. There have been delivered rifles, canons, machineguns, planes, grenades to the army, and the number of divisions was reduced, still having a total of 415.00 soldiers on the first line, better prepaired, alongside many veterans of the battles if 1916.
The summer of 1917 was decisive for the Romanian war effort. Their situation became a real fight for survival as a state. The germans even had a prepaired a new offensive for the summer, hoping to crush Romania definitive. Not knowing about the reorganisation of the enemy, vom Mackensen even said "See you at Iași in 15 days" thinking that his enemy was as weak as the previous year. But, before the german offensive, Romania got its own one. In the same time with the Kerenski Offensive, general Alexandru Averescu launched an attack at Mărăști, leading to a significant romanian victory and a morale bonus fir the soldiers. This offensive was stopped only five days later, cause to the rusdian army's process of desintegration. Using this in his advantage, Mackensen launched his double offensive at Mărășești, and, a few days later, at Oituz. After harsh battles that took place for one mounth, with many casualties for both sides, the romanians repelled the german attack. Due to the Russian turmoil and eventually revolution, Romania got alone against all the Central Powers, eventually signing an armistice in November, and then a separate peace in 9th of March 1918. The Treaty of Buftea was not signed by king Ferdinand, fact that will later help at the Versailles Peace Treaty. To Romania were imposed harsh conditions: ceding the mountain peaks to Austria-Hungary and most of Dobrogea to Bulgaria, but were allowed to keep Bassarabia and Bukovina that were recently annexed, the germans had complete monopol on the Romanian industry, agriculture and oil for the next 90 years and their army was obligated to disband. Following next months, on the new Romanian-Bolshevick border took place many skirmishes, mostly forgotten by the communist regime and still are today. On 10th of November 1918, after Bulgaria sorrendered and the fate of the war balanced on the side of Entente, Romania remobilised its army and joined again the war. Eventually, on the 1st of December 1918, near Alba Iulia was signed the treaty in which Transylvania, Crișana and 2/3 of Banat united to Romania, unification oficially recognised atthe Versailles Peace Conference.
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147 pte / 2nd lt Hubert Joseph Foley R. Warwicks and S. Staffs
Born 30 October 1894 (Cradley Heath)
01 census Corngreaves Road , Cradley Heath
Joseph E. Foley 28 carter
Laura Foley 29
Hubert J. Foley 6
Norman Foley 4 months
Enlisted 21st September 1914 (Moseley) into 16th Warwicks (3rd Birmingham Pals)
Address 114 Grainger's Lane , Cradley Heath
Occupation- insurance clerk
landed France 21/11/15
during the attack on Falfemont Farm on the 3rd September 1916 he was wounded g.s. wound right arm
went back to France 18/1/17
posted to 15th Warwicks 5/2/17
during the attack on Vimy Ridge 9th April 1917 he was wounded g.s. wound left thigh
Appointed to temp. commision with the 3rd South Staffs (London Gazette 18th March 1918)
wounded again ! with 4th S. Staffs 29th May 1918 (g.s. wound head!)
placed on retired list on account of ill-health caused by wounds 25/2/19
applied in 1955 for a pension because of his wounds. He states ' A bullet penetrated lobe of right ear and passed throught head leaving partial paralysis and limited movement of head'
Hubert Joseph Foley died in the Stourbridge area in the Oct.Nov.Dec quarter 1969
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Yesterday 27/2/13 I found the remains of a World War One soldier In a field in pozieres I have declared the remains to the gendarmerie and passed on the personal effect I found which incl :-
An Australian badge
And some little beads ??
I believe the remains have been recovered today from the field and I await their findings , i am hoping they will find some indication as to who this soldier is
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I have decided to begin blogging on my research which I started a couple of years ago. The journey has been interesting and taken many twists and turns and I would like to keep a record of what have done and what I intend to do.
In order to do this I must first back-track to the very beginning...
My mother in 2007 and at that time in her 69th year and in seemingly good health asked me to find out 'what happened to your granddad in the First World War', my granddad being her father. My responses were:
We already know what happened, he was a 6th Seaforth Highlander, under-age, reported and made to be a stretcher bearer, was wounded and captured as a POW. He also joined up as a runaway about two weeks after the war started.
And, as she insisted she wanted to know how he was captured, where he had been as a soldier and POW - I don't have time to find this stuff out right now.
I had asked tons of questions as a child and got the answers. I didn't think there would be anything more to find out. However, she didn't let it drop and in 2009 I began to do some searches on the internet based on what she (and my grandma previously) had told me. 'He was captured at Arras in 1917'. I couldn't really make sense of the information I found and the truth was, I still didn't really have time - always too busy.
In 2010 my mother died unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart condition/disease and in amongst all of the grief and torment, I also felt I had let her down. For I had loved and worshipped my granddad while he was alive because to me he had always been a hero and yet as a grown-up, I no longer had time for him or my mother who wanted to know what her father really did.
After the funeral a cousin asked me to take her to another kirk so we could visit her mother's grave too and on that visit she told me she knew where our old family graves were and would show me. As it turned out she couldn't find them and so some weeks later, I returned to look alone. I had almost given up after quite a while of looking and started to walk away. On reaching the gates, I checked my watch and decided to allow another 15 minutes but doubted I would be successful. Some of the grave stones were completely illegible due to the erosion. I only went another row down when I found two of them, side by side.
My attention was caught by an inscription on the grave of my great, great grandparents 'and also their grandson William Proctor Duncan who was killed at Beaumont Hamel November 13, 1916 aged 31. Buried in Maillet Wood cemetery...' I asked myself several questions. Who was he? How had I not heard of him? How did he tie into granddad and the war? He must have been highly thought of but now forgotten. He needed, like granddad, to be remembered once again.
That was the start of the journey in the summer of 2010 when I began some serious ancestry research on my granddad's side of the family and in particular, the enigmatic William Proctor Duncan.
Six weeks after my mother died, my father died. He had emigrated to Cape Town in the late 1980s and had remarried my step-mother died ten months after him. Because of the distance and circumstances of funerals taking place immediately, I could not attend either. Instead in the spring of 2011, I found myself on a train to London having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work, to collect the belongings of my father that were being brought back from South Africa after the death of my step-mother, by her granddaughter whom I had never met.
I had managed to accumulate quite a lot of information on my great, great grandparents, their ten children and their grandsons William and George (my granddad). The day before leaving for London, I did something quite strange, I typed the words William Proctor Duncan into the Google search engine, not really expecting anything at all. What a shock I got. I found he was being discussed on something called The Great War Forum...
There was a conversation on the Forum and as I recall, it was entitled A Service Number on a Spoon.
It appeared that a spoon had been found by an amateur archaeologist near what had been the sight of a CCS at Poperinghe. It had been engraved with the letters SEA. and a number 3936. The feeling was that the letters denoted a Seaforth and the number was a service number. They had identified that William Proctor Duncan, a Seaforth, had that service number. However, it appeared from the conversation, he was not the only Seaforth with that number.
I must admit, I was very shocked that a relative of mine was being discussed on the Internet. When the initial shock subsided it was also quite exciting that having found out nothing about my granddad, here I might be able to find out more about the war service of his little known cousin. I checked what I had found out about him again. Just to make sure there was no mistake and they were actually discussing the right man.
So far, I had found him on two census aged 5 and 15 at the home of his grandparents at the Tugnet, Spey Bay. He had been born in Corstophine, Edinburgh the illegitimate son of the eldest child and daughter of the 10 Duncan children, according to his birth certificate. She was at lodgings and gave her usual address as Tugnet. She had been a servant in Fochabers but how she had ended up in Edinburgh, I didn't know at that time. I thought that his name, William Proctor Duncan was a nod to who his real father might be, a clue to be followed later.
The CWGC had yielded more information and his service number. It was definitely him. I needed to make contact...
Thanks to Simon Cawthorne the final bits have been added to the WO364 Missort database and it has been sent to Chris Baker. Hopefully, if all goes well, you should be able to search through it in the very near future.
The database contains details of the 156 Service Records that were recorded out of sequence in the WO364 files.
I hope anyone who uses it finds it helpful.
Today the Northamptonshire Branch will have a small remembrance ceremony for Anzac Day.
We have nine Australians who lay in Towcester Road Cemetery and another who rests at Dallington. The other who initially lay inside county boundries now lies outside, at Peterborough.
Hoping to get some DVD cam recordings of the event.
A medal recently came into my hands with an intensely human story behind it that I feel compelled to share. It is just one of the 6.5 million British War Medals that were produced at the end of the Great War of 1914-19, and is therefore nothing special in itself. As with so many of these, it’s true value can only be found by discovering the story that lies behind it.
As always, my start point came from the meagre details that the mint had punched into its rim, telling me that the medal was issued to recognise the service of “950. PTE. A. COOK. NOTTS & DERBY”. The actual Medal Rolls proved to be much more informative, revealing to me that he had in fact served with their 1st/8th battalion. Alfred Cook was therefore a member of the newly formed Territorial Force which had emerged from the reorganisation of the old volunteers units that came about with the implementation of the Haldane Reforms in 1907.
Born at Sutton-in-Ashfield (near Mansfield), in November of 1891, he was the fifth surviving child in a family of six. His older siblings were Annie Elizabeth, Hannah, John William and Harold, whilst Robert, the final addition to the family, had been born when Alfred was two. It is however the special relationship which seems to have existed between Alfred and Harold that will occupy much of our story. He was just a year older than Alfred, and they seem to have been very close.
So far as is known, Harold was the first member of the family to join the Territorial Force, which he must have done around the year 1909. In those days Sutton-in-Ashfield had its own Company of what was then simply known as the 8th Battalion. Still organised on the old “8 Company system” until after war was declared, their unit had several bases scattered around north Nottinghamshire. There was “A” Company at Retford, “B” at Newark, “C” at Sutton-in-Ashfield, “D” at Mansfield, “E” at Carlton, “F” at Arnold, “G” at Worksop and “H” at Southwell. It would seem that Harold enjoyed the experience enough for some of his enthusiasm to rub off onto Alfred, who followed in his footsteps and joined in his own right on 22nd August 1910. The battalion had actually returned from their annual summer camp earlier in that same month, and perhaps the tales of Harold’s 2 week adventure had been a major factor in influencing Alfred to sign up himself.
The boys were however growing up in other ways too, and it was not long before Harold had both found himself a bride and started a family of his own. This young couple would go on to have 3 children before the war, who they named as Lilian, Alice and, perhaps significantly, Alfred. It is easy to see that, with a young wife and growing family, Harold may have begun to find his commitment to the Territorial Force a little irksome and, despite their training being part-time, it would certainly have eaten into the time that couple had for each other. Whatever the reasons that lay behind it, we do know that Harold did not extend his contract with the unit, and handed back his uniform when his 4 years were up.
The two brothers would still have had lots of time together with “C” Company before then, and doubtless went on several annual camps in each others company. If Alfred at all missed his brothers’ presence in the unit, perhaps he consoled himself with the thought that his own contract would terminate at the end of August in 1914. Unfortunately however, by that date the Kaiser already had other plans for both of them.
The 4th August 1914 actually found Alfred at summer camp with the entire Territorial Brigade of the Sherwood Foresters, where the outbreak of the European war apparently took very few of their number by surprise. In fact, it is recorded that the men were so gripped by “war fever” that it rendered any prospect of them following their planned training schedule completely impossible. Once the formal declaration of war became known to them, their summer camp at Hunmanby near the Yorkshire coast was broken up and the men were sent home. Alfred would doubtless have been exceptionally eager to talk things over with Harold as soon as he arrived back at the family home in Park Street.
Things then began to move very quickly, and as early as Friday 7th August, the entire battalion had been mobilised and concentrated at Newark, where their men were briefly billeted in the local schools. With their strength recorded at 29 officers and 852 other ranks, a Church Parade and official send-off was held for them in the market square on Monday 10th before they marched off to their designated war station.
Harold also acted quickly, and signed a new attestation document with his old unit on August 9th. It would appear that, despite his family commitments, he may have been determined to take part in what he perhaps thought promised to be a great adventure. It is also possible however that he was equally motivated by wanting to try to look after his younger brother.
Alfred’s destiny actually became sealed on 3rd September, when he signed Army Form E624 and volunteered for overseas service. As with many other battalions of the Territorial Force, the issue of overseas service had not been given much emphasis in the 8th before the war, though 80% of their men readily accepted the commitment shortly after they had been mobilised. The brothers would almost certainly have discussed this issue, and we know that Harold also stepped forward to join the majority.
Part of the first full Division of the Territorial Force to be sent to France, the brothers landed at Le Harvre in early March of 1915. After moving up country towards the front line they engaged in an intensive training programme that culminated in them being sent into the trenches near Messines at the end of that month under the watchful eye of seasoned regulars. Despite the deep seated and widespread suspicions held about the Territorial Force amongst many of the full time professionals of the regular army, who frequently disparaged them as “Saturday night soldiers”, the 8th were judged to have performed well. So well in fact that, from the beginning of April, the battalion were detailed to take over a stretch of the front at Kemmel in there own right.
Up to this point the 8th had been lucky. Whilst 3 of their number had been wounded, their familiarisation had taken place in a quiet sector where they had not yet been exposed to the full grim reality of the war. All this began to change with the death of 18 year old Jack Hyde on Tuesday 6th April. Originating from Arnold but serving in “A” Company, he was shot through the head by a sniper and buried at the nearby Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery. In fact, as the days passed, and their casualties grew in number, Rows D and E in this cemetery began to assume the appearance of a plot reserved purely for the men of the 8th battalion. By Monday the 14th June, and after several tours in the trenches, it had already become the final resting place for no fewer than 43 of them.
Tuesday the 15th should have brought relief for the battalion, who were due to be replaced by anther unit thereby affording the 8th an opportunity to spend some time in one of the safer rear areas. It was reported as a quiet day until 21:00 hrs when, quite suddenly, with the unexpected detonation of three huge German mines, all hell broke loose. These acted as a signal that started a hail of artillery shells, trench mortars, rifle grenades and machine gun fire that then swept across the British trenches for over an hour. The enemy infantry proceeded to use this covering fire to advance into one of the mine craters that had been created within feet of where Alfred Cook had been standing, though they were swiftly driven out of this new position at the point of the bayonet. Major John Becher (a native of Southwell) was then able to supervise the reconstruction and reorganisation of the British defences, the coolness and efficiency with which he completed the task contributing towards him becoming the first man of the battalion to receive the DSO. By 23:00 hrs the situation had stabilised enough for the battalion to carry on with its planned relief but, by that time, both Alfred and another man from “C” Company, Oliver Bryan, were missing.
When greeted by this news, it would appear that Harold became beside himself. Joining forces with two of Oliver Bryan’s brothers, who were also serving with the battalion at that time, the three of them together swiftly sought and received permission from one of their officers to go back and search for their missing kinsmen.
In the darkness however they soon found that they were unable to conduct a proper search and, being in close proximity to the enemy, were at last reluctantly forced to abandon the enterprise. A court of enquiry later came to the conclusion that both Alfred and Oliver must have been buried under the front wall of their trench at the very start of the attack, when the German mines had been detonated. Neither of them were ever seen again and, having no known graves, they later became the first 2 soldiers from the 8th battalion to be remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing.
The story however does not end on that particular date, there being an equally sad postscript. Harold would lose his own life just 4 months later, during the same action which also saw Major Becher become fatally wounded. In a cruel twist of fate for the Becher family, two of his brothers-in-law, who were also serving as officers with the 8th battalion, were also killed on that same date. Becher eventually lost his own struggle for life at one of the base hospitals on the 1st January 1916, eleven weeks after he had been injured. The remaining Bryan brothers fared better, Charles went on to both win the MM and be promoted to the rank of Corporal, before being invalided out due to sickness in August of 1917. Stanley Bryan however was perhaps the most fortunate of them all, he was the only one of the 5 brothers that went on to serve until the end of the war, and was finally demobilised from the Labour Corps at the end of February in 1919.
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I have a picture of my Grandad when he served in the great war.......It is a group picture He served i believe with the 17th Yorks & Lancs Which were a labour corp.......In the group picture there seems to be a mixed bag of regt's looking at the cap badges...I was wondering if any member's had maybe seen this picture before or could give any idea's on it.....
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The Long Walk (Western Front)
My adventure started back in 2004 on an organised tour to the First World War battlefields. Not sure whether the seeds were sown on a wet weekend hopping on and off a bus, huddled in groups, staring at names on crosses and digesting events etched into memorials.
On reaching home, I began to think about my trip and wondered if it could be done in a more personal way.
I met Val in November 2004 and discovered her passion for walking, which over time began to make a huge impression on me. We would walk for hours across the Chilterns, trying to recognise the little brown things that flew across our path.
As confidence grew we walked further and further and then the penny dropped. One day in the early spring of 2005, I asked Val if she would be interested in walking the Verdun battlefields having read the excellent book titled the Paths of Glory. Val was not one to turn down a challenge and the rest is history …….
Oh I forgot to say my ambition is to walk the Great War, from every battle, skirmish that occurred from day 1 to the conclusion. Here is my story
April 2005 – Verdun(1916) Walk No 1
Flight to Paris - Train from Paris to Chalons sur Champagne - Train from Chalons to Verdun
We met Georges the train conductor on the train to Verdun. His nephew was on the train and was introduced to us so that he could improve his English. I told him of our quest but I’m not sure he either understood or believed me.
Verdun station set the trend, my mind wandering back to Feb 1916 and those first salvos that rained down, turning the tracks into twisted metal.
Who needs public transport or taxis when you can walk everywhere, saying that the walk to the Hotel Tigre complete with luggage was a slog. The Hotel Tigre sits on the Voie Sacree the most revered road in the whole of France and an important supply artery for the French Army in their hour of need.
Ok, Val and I like a drink and we didn’t disappoint, in fact we got pretty hammered by the end of the evening. It would set a precedent, a relaxed evening preparing for the unexpected.
Early rise, routine much the same now as it was then. We head to the supermarket to stock up. We stretch and go!!
Absolute rookies at this stage, not sure of distances, how much water to take and whether we had the correct walking gear. We didn’t look like stereotypical walkers that day and still don’t 8 years later. As long as you’ve got a decent pair of shoes and an umbrella, you’re good to go. Yes, you did read right an umbrella rather than waterproofs. If you are prepared to spend decent bucks on a breathable cagoule then fine but don’t go the cheap option as I assure you, you’d rather get wet on the outside then on the inside – catch my drift. Umbrella’s rock!! J
Anyway, we set off following the River Meuse past Bras, turning right at Samogneux. Three hours of walking on tarmac – ouch! Off-road for the first time following the path to the village of Haumont, where we had lunch and wondered what this village would have looked like. Haumont was blown off the face of the earth by the heavy fighting endured for 10 long months and was never re-built. I recall a long path called the Chemin des Americaines, meandering through the re-generated woods, which was signed off with a high five. High fives should be used sparingly, or they become worthless and they can be a tad geeky as well. We arrived at the Bois des Caures famous for a certain Colonel Driant who is immortalised here and his bunker (HQ) was soon reached. If I can take you back to that February morning when the German bombardment was at its most intense, French soldiers in the rear could see their comrades in the front trenches being systematically annihilated, then realising that that same bombardment was working its way towards them – now that’s a thought.
We followed the German attack through Beaumont en Verdunois, coming across some random guy with his dog looking for truffles, down through Louvemont-Cote-de-Poivre, another decimated village (village detruit), along the aptly named Ravin de la Mort, ending up at the Tranchee des Bayonettes.
An American was so moved by the story of a group of French soldiers who were interred by an explosion leaving only their bayonets visible that he built a memorial which enshrouds this moving site.
We had run out of water and boy was it showing. I took a drink from a stream, Val thought otherwise preferring hallucinating to dysentery. We finally found a place near Thiaumont to grab some water, which Val ordered in Spanish, which she doesn’t actually speak – interesting!
The Ossuaire is an incredible place, 15,000 headstones in front of a mausoleum. All along the length of the building are arches, atmospherically lit, displaying the names of many of the places we had walked through. Take a peep around the back and you are met with a macabre sight of bones found on the battlefield, stacked in huge piles in numerous crypts.
The walk back to Verdun took us through Fleury, flirting with the grounds of Fort de Souville, past the Lion de Souville commemorating the furthest advancement of the German army. I remember Val or myself spotting a dead Hawfinch in pristine condition on the side of the road.
We paid our respects to the Unknown Soldier at Faubourg cemetery and sat down at a bus stop gathering our strength for the final stretch.
Once in Verdun (no high 5), we collapsed in a restaurant that we have visited many times since. Neither of us found it easy to walk the final stint back to the hotel. But on reflection our day, which totalled 11 hours of walking (43.8km) and I hasten to add has never been surpassed in the 20 plus trips since, was a walk in the park compared to what those brave soldiers endured 99 years ago.
Woke up surprisingly fresh, both given the thumbs up, we’re good to go.
Stocked up at the same supermarket just by the railway station, had a good stretch and headed off in the same direction along the Meuse before taking a right up through Belleview, the goal being Belleview Fort on top of the hill. The house at the top of the hill had an interesting garage, from memory was definitely WW1, possibly a pill box or observation bunker. We ventured into the Fort, very eerie, noticed empty wine bottles – this was Fort Hoboville, not Fort Belleview. We walked the entire circumference of the Fort marvelling at the condition, although subject to German artillery bombardments never saw hand to hand combat, the German advance stuttering to a halt a mile or so away.
Retraced our steps back down the hill, chucking a right across fields (little farm on right), appreciating great views of woods in front and the top of the Ossuaire just visible. Descended onto the Sentier de Froideterre where we were not disappointed coming across various French fortifications. One of these being the Ouvrage de Froideterre, a defensive work, where we met some English lads who had a torch – bonus! Through dark corridors we inched, until we came to a gun turret. To reach the turret we had to ascend a ladder, which was missing several rungs. I and another lad climbed to the top, where I cast my mind back to the mind-set of a French gunner firing shell after shell at the approaching hordes. What discipline these men must have had to see so many attackers flowing like ants over the immediate terrain and the defenders refusing to leave their positions.
Following the path we soon reached the Ouvrage de Thiaument, tortured land, frozen in time. The remains of what was once an observation cupola, lying on its side where it had been hurled almost 100 years ago. Jagged barbed wire and undulation or should I say shell hole after shell hole, resembled the peaks and troughs of waves.
Adjacent to Thiaument is the Ossuaire, which we had visited briefly the day before. Rather than re trace our steps (standing joke between Val and myself, mustn’t tread over trodden ground, well at least on the same trip), we picked our way through the 15,000 graves, noticing the Muslim graves pointing towards Mecca. The Sentier De Douaumont led us to the biggest and most famous of the forts at Verdun - Fort de Douaumont. I must quickly say the path leading up to the fort should not be over-looked, with trenches visible either side.
Well, we went in, under, over and all around the fort. To think a handful of Germans, took the fort without a struggle, the French expending 100,000 men to re-claim the fort months later. Standing on top of Douaumont does not do the surrounding area justice, if you are trying to imagine the battlefields of 1916. Nature has a knack of re-claiming what man has endeavoured to obliterate. Check out the chicane’s within the fort, to thwart the enemy and buy time for the rest of the defenders. In one of the many dormitories, young swallows perched on the rusting bedsteads being fed by their parents.
Tiredness particularly after the previous day’s exertions was beginning to take its toll. At Fleury, we followed the mazy paths around the village that is no more. Names of the previous tenants, etched onto plaques mark out the original plan of the village. Fleury museum probably came at the wrong time for the both us and we crept around the exhibits like Flamingos, resting each leg in turn. Half-heartedly we flirted with Fort Souville, knowing full well that we would be back in the not so distant future.
Felt fresher than day 3, the last day of this trip. We headed out towards Fort St Michel, through the suburbs of Verdun towards the railway track. We trudged up and down looking for a path that would take us up to the fort; all we achieved was setting off a pack of dogs on at least three occasions. Fort St Michel like Fort Souville would have to wait for another day. Making our way to the Tunnel de Tavannes became only visible by scrambling down an embankment towards the railway line. Here in 1916 a huge explosion apparently caused by explosives attached to a pack mule resulted in 500 French dead.
We had lunch at Fort Tavannes. Not venturing too close to the damaged stronghold as the bombardments of 1916 had made light work of its structure.
Rain greeted us at Fort Vaux, no sign of humanity other than ourselves. We huddled on top of the fort for this quick visit, Fort Douaumont’s French flag on the horizon. The rain eased off and our trek continued on to Damloup, yet another of the villages destroyed although a mile or so up the road the re-built Damloup village very much alive and kicking. We ended up walking a complete circle thinking we were at Douaumont in fact we were back in Damn Loop... I mean Damloup. A tad dispirited we set off again for Douaumont, this time successful in our efforts. Our first trip was coming to an end.
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