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Ancestry put service records online ...
I had no great hope of finding any relative's service papers when the A-C records went online at Ancestry, only about 30% of records having survived WWII bombs, and only 2 known Clay ancestors of an age to be eligible for service - and one of them, Grandad Charles Henry Clay, had, I'd already found with help from GWF Pals, almost certainly served in the Volunteer Training Corps, the Great War fore-runner of 'Dad's Army'.
So, I was intrigued when I found records for a Thomas Clay. Could this be Grandad's half-brother?
What a wonderful place this internet is ...
Well. yes, it could. He wasn't using his middle name, Archibald and the papers recorded his mother's name as Hannah, not Ann as on all other records I'd seen. But the points which convinced me this was our Thomas were his age - only two Thomas Clays of the right age appeared in the freeBMD index to birth registrations - our Thomas Archibald, registered in Warwick, and a Thomas Henry, registered in Chesterfield; his location - Leamington Spa, where he had been born in 1892; the fact that his mother was living in Birmingham, where his father had died in 1912; and his trade - he was a tailor, like his Grandfather and at least one uncle before him.
Thomas enlists under the Derby Scheme
Like millions of other Britons, Thomas had not enlisted in the initial surge of patriotic fervour. As more and more men were needed for the front as the War moved into its 15th month, and insufficient numbers were volunteering, the newly appointed Director-General of Recruiting, Lord Derby, took steps to remedy the situation; Lord Derby was appointed D-G on 11 October 1915 and his programme for raising the numbers, known as the Derby Scheme, which required men to attest with an obligation to come if called up, was quickly put in place. A detailed description of the Derby Scheme can be found on The Long, Long Trail
Thomas attested at Leamington Spa on 11 December, 1915. His attestation form (below) appears to show that he was initially assigned to the RAMC, service number 16592 (but other papers indicate he was assigned to the Royal Warwicks) but, before posting to the BEF, he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, with new service number 36360.
Having attested, and been assigned to the Army Reserve, Thomas returned home to await mobilisation. This came just a few weeks later - on 9 February 1916, he was posted to the depot of 3rd Battn, Royal Warwickshire Regt at Warwick, where he underwent time-honoured enlistment procedures. He was medically examined on 10 February and the Medical History form (below) shows that he was a man of slight build - 5 ft 4 1/2 tall, weighing 8 stone 5 lbs and with a surprising entry under 'marks indicating ... previous disease' - he was absolutely bald, due to alopecia areata.
Thomas remained at Warwick until 17 July, undergoing training, but on 13 May was transferred from the RAMC (or the RWR) to the MGC. On 17 July he was posted to the BEF in France, and was assigned to 100 Coy, MGC on the 21st. Thomas was at war.
Before we get going, this is what the papers said of Sgt Skinner:
This extract comes from Kentish Express and Ashford News February 9 1918For Their King and Country"Mr & Mrs Joseph Skinner of the Street, Great Chart have received official news of the death of their eldest son , Sergeant Albert Skinner of the Royal West Kents. Sergeant Skinner joined the Buffs in October 1914 and proceeded toGallipoliwhere he was attached to the Royal West Kents. Leaving the Dardanelles he went toEgyptand was wounded in the attack atEl Arish. After being in hospital for several months he rejoined his unit and was killed by a shell at Tel el Khuweil-Feir, north ofBeersheba. In a letter received from the Colonel it stated “Sergeant Skinner was killed while advancing against the Turks on 4th November. He was buried where he fell in a little valley below the hill which was eventually taken from the enemy. Not only his own platoon but the officers and men of the whole battalion lost a great friend when Sgt Skinner was killed. He was with the battalion from the formation and was always so cheery and good hearted even in the hardest times.”
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Ernest Stanley Styles joined the Essex Yeomanry in 1914 and served until his discharge in 1919. He was an OR and survived his horrendous ordeal without serious wounds. In about 1972 his grandchildren perseuded him to write his story about the war. This he did in great detail from his date of enlistment until his discharge. A copy of this record is in the War Museum, London and also locally in the Essex War Museum.
The overwhelming feeling when one reads his story is of the futility of the whole affair. As with many others he has avoided writing about his comrades and their frequent deaths but has portrayed the conditions of the battles etc.
Ernest died in 1984 aged 91 and was a much loved kind and gentle man.
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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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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.
I'm indebted to Tony Lund, who has managed to help solve a little bit of the mystery of these names for me.
Thanks to him, Joe Cave will be given the proper remembrance within HBOS that he deserves.
For more information, see this thread:
In other news, my purchase of the Watsonian Ear Record, 1914-1918, has enabled me to tick off another two names. I'll give more information on that in a separate post.
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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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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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This is my first attempt at Blogging so forgive me if it's rubbish.
I have been researching the Great War for many years, and have visited many battlefields, but Saturday just gone prooved something of a turning point in visits.
My Great Uncle Lance Corporal William Thompson was a Lance Corporal in the 9th Lancers and died of wounds in November 1914 at the age of 28. For some time I have wanted to visit the site of the charge of the 9th Lancers at Audregnies, where the charge to the sugar factory came to an abrupt halt courtesy of a barbed wire fence.
After many months of research and consulting maps, PRO checks etc, I headed off to Mons early on Saturday morning. A beautiful sunny day certainly helped matters and I arrived in mid morning. Having checked the map, I could see where I wanted to go, and duly set off along what looked to be a good road. Zut Alors! Not 50 yards down the road, the tarmac vanished, to be replaced by potholes and rubble. Fearing for my tyres I abandoned the car and set off on foot. Arriving at a cross roads I turned right and headed into what I am certain was the 15 foot deep road, mentionned in the records, as being where the C troop formed up. With some difficulty I scrambled up the bank, and discovered that Belgian stinging nettles hurt just as much as British ones. Finally making it to the top of the bank, I was somewhat peeved to find that I had managed to leave my camera and binoculars at the bottom of the bank! 5 minutes, some swearing and three patches of stinging nettles later I was back on top of the bank, looking like a rotund and slightly balding meercat.
The view was stunning. Flat rolling leek fields stretching across to buildings some 600-700 meters distant, sent shudders down my spine. One could quite clearly see how even the slightest rise in the ground afforded a magnificent view. At the mid point of the gentle slope I could see two wooded mounds, which I deduced to be the remains of the 2 slag heaps the survivors of the charge hid behind, and in the far distance I could see what must have been the sugar factory.
I set off up the track, trying to avoid permenantly crippling myself by going over on the rubble. It was hot and dusty, but I was rewarded by banks of wild flowers, butterflies and the scent of lavender. I stopped level with the slag heaps and watched, wondering, had Uncle Will been there? I arrived at the top of the track and stopped opposite the old building that had been the sugar factory. It has now been changed into a farm and modern house, but the original building can quite clearly be seen. Looking back down the gently rolling fields, the madness of it all came home to me. How did anyone stand a chance? A young puss cat from the farm yard wandered over and sat in the road a few feet from me, and yawned. He rolled over in the road and let me scratch his tummy, and it was then that it hit me. This small cat, a living creature, lying in the road where probably so many of the horses and friends of the Great Uncle may well have lain. We haven't learnt, we are still making the same mistakes and will continue to do so.
I probably haven't expressed this well, but it was one of the most moving experiences of my life and I found myself, although I wasn't aware this had happened, wiping tears away. This was not just any battle field, this was my family battlefield, where my family had fought.
May you rest in peace Will, you died in my eyes at least, a hero.
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
1. Did some painting in the afternoon, and shortly before supper coal lighters came alongside and immediately after supper we got our first taste of real work in the Navy. Coaling ship is an awful dirty job and one that is always dreaded by the whole ships company. It is dirty and disagreeable even for those who do not have to coal. Coaling continued for several hours.
2. Finished coaling ship, and then while the crew was cleaning the ship I wioth a few other men went to the beach for a load of sand in a motor sailer. About supper time we set sail for Philadelphia. At last I thought that I was a real sailor.
3. Stood my first gun watch, which was from 12 to 4.a.m. After this we continued to stand fours on an four hours off for the remainder of the journey. Weather was fairly good with an occasional shower of rain.
4. Watch and watch. No excitement at all.
5. Peacefully sailing. My liking for the sea increases.
6. Steamed up the Dellaware River, and into the Philadelphia Navy Yard. We tied up alongside the dock, and were near several large ships, one of which was the U.S.S. Kansas, which was being overhauled for war service. Saw my first submarine. Four subs of the "L" type were tied up near us, just off our starboard beam.
7. Work of getting the ship in condition for European service was commenced. Worked in boats, and painted.
8. We began taking stores aboard and I went into the Navy yard in a working party. At this time I always preferred a working party to remaining aboard. During our stay in the yard we always worked hard and took aboard an awful amount of stores and supplies.
9. Scraped sand lockers on after deck houses.
10. Helped paint the smoke stack. Sure is some job. Here is hopes that I never have to do it again.
11. Continued painting on various parts of the ship.
12. Ditto. A sailor is never thru painting. When there is nothing else to do and a man could rest, there is always painting to be done. Put it on. Scrape it off. Then put on some more.
13. Various work about the ship. U.S.S. Ammen came in, and I helped dry dock her.
14. U.S.S. Dixie went into dry dock, and I got my first good look at a German ship. There were two of them there. The "Prinz Eithel Frederick" and "Kron Prinz Wilhelm". When I first saw them they were still painted as when they were in Transocean Service, with all superstructure brown. Fine ships they are. The American government soon overhauled them and put them in the transport service.
15. We scraped the bottom of the Dixie. The worst job that I have thus far met.
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.
We've just returned from filming in France for our documentary. It was a very emotional time for me and it was difficult to balance my feelings for what happened there with the pressures of working!
We started at Etaples Military Cemetery where my great grandfather was buried. Having seen his grave for the first time and knowing that I was the first family member for 89 years to see his grave was too much for me. It's funny how things like that affect you.
I obviously never knew the man and apart from two photos of him, there is nothing else - no family letters, diaries - nothing.
The cemetery itself is a beautiful place and very peaceful. It certainly is an amazing place - very imposing architecture.
From Etaples to the battlefields of Arras. We stopped off in Arras and visited the Place des Heros. It's a beautiful town, very vibrant, with some remarkable old buildings.
On the outskirts of Arras are the battlefields. We did the full tour following the 8th Lincolns route and others, as there are some cemeteries to visit.
Again it was a very emotional time to visit these fields and feel that my great grandfather had been where I stood.
Standing there on April 9th certainly made you think. Maybe in some parallel universe they were reliving that day again. It was a beautiful sunny Spring day - back then it was cold and snowing. It was moving standing in the cemeteries and reading the names and ages. In some of the cemeteries there was a register, which gave further information about those buried. It made very poignant reading. It was strange leaving, espeically when at Etaples; though I'd finally been to places my great grandfather had been and seen where he was buried and paid my respects, I felt awful leaving him behind again. I wanted to take him home with me. I really felt bad as if I was leaving him behind.
We met some charming French people who were able to point us in the right direction when the map reading went awry. We saw plenty of evidence at the side of fields that the battle still keeps turning up in the form of shells and other rusty metals.
At Roeux we grabbed a quick drink at the Cafe des Sports - Sunday in France in the middle of nowhere meant no food! We managed to persuade the owner to feed us with hare pate and bread, as one of the crew was a diabetic. He was a very generous host - despite speaking no English and me basic French we managed to get by.
Though it's been a hectic time cramming all the filming in, we had a fantastic time. Very emotional and moving - proof that those who died are still very much alive in our memories.
Now back in Blighty we've got the task of sifting through all the footage and piecing this documentary together. Hopefully it will be ready for broadcast in June/July and once broadcast will go on sale.
Time is passing and I still couldn’t start with the main narrative of my research. All prologues, bibliography and geography pages are online, but the "flesh" of the work is on terrible delay – graphics are not even developed yet, but worst, the first chapters couldn’t be backed with reasonable photos since by some reason I didn’t get the chance to take some good ones.
Rare 10 days in a roll of rain and fog had not only prevented me from going out for some essential tours, but also turned the specific part of the battlefield I needed to photo so desperately, into a muddy plain.
The sun had occasionally reminded me of its existence today so I decided to find my luck "Paschendaele" style. Wasting no precious time today, I took a bus right to the BHQ station (actually a boarding school, but then I was "on" with my shadow WWI world early today since it had been weeks since the last time I was crossing the border). The BHQ hill of general Meldrum and his NZMR HQ staff is now a grassy round hill with two picturesque ruins of country houses and some concrete reservoir tanks. I like those ruins where trees are slowly disintegrating the man made walls, actually subduing the ruin, turning it into some accessory of the tree – vis versa to what we are used to see: a tree which is just a decoration of a house. In times when silent nature seems to be a fading force (in contrast to its big brother – "nature disaster"), you get a moment of disillusioned optimism seeing that nature could still fight back.
"My" battle was not a planned one. Positions, routes and directions were subject to momentary decisions made by people who had little knowledge about the terrain facing them. Walking in their foot steps is a good way of getting into the tactical thought they had in mind. I spent some 20 minutes on the slope, scanning all positions I already know too well. However this time, not bothered by the disturbing sun and accompanied by my old friends of cold, wind and rain, I could just finish the puzzle. Winter and rain are great times to do this, even though "my" men were fighting just before the rains have started. The disturbing sounds of modernism – heavy machinery during construction, traffic and aluminum mega birds, seem to be silent suddenly and contemplation is suddenly possible. I had one of those moments I love most about going up to the field. Much like some sudden enlightenment saving you from a total failure in a critical math exam, the virtual isolation offered by bad weather suddenly fits your minds into that of the HQ staff that stood here some 80 years ago, choosing the best way to take these bold hills and jungle of orange trees. Reading about battle planning usually creates the illusion that it's merely a theoretical calculation of numbers, forces and objectives. Standing there I could have felt what must have been the true feelings. Those were their own guys, from their own island, sent to an unknown enemy system of redoubts. The ridge and hills were looking evil suddenly. Sending whole formations of close neighbors into the beaten zone, knowing your decision would separate between "reasonable" price and disaster. I was happy I wasn’t in their shoes!
Next I started walking north on their path. Another small hill with another ruin and water tank, is to be crossed. This place must have given them some psychological protection. Here they must have assembled splitting each regiment to its own objective. One of those moments old companions say goodbye.
I had to cross the small stream crossing the area. Nothing more then a shallow flow, but still one my advanced Garmont, despite the wax, couldn’t handle – for the poor soldiers this must have been no more then daily life. At this point I was about to follow the path of the Wellington's. They had the most challenging terrain, and handled it well. This was the first time in a while I was going to do a true "right in the path" journey on the bare ridge. I wanted to know how could the Wellingtons have drive the Turks out of two "classic" positions one after the other, suffering only few casualties. The Turks, as would be told widely in my site, gave up some great positions with little struggle, only to try and retake them little later in a series of desperate and brave counter attacks. I've tried to find a hint for that on the field. The bushes and coarse sand ground were silent. A bum driving some 4X4 hybrid was making his way up the steep slope as if looking to get killed… the noise distracted me, but I decided I'll just do it the good old way. Running like nuts up the slope from several directions was of high success! It turned out that some excellent machine gun job and the tactical use of small features on the terrain, was probably what brought the good results. Looking down from the peak of the first Turkish position, I saw it in regard to my own personal military knowledge - dam those conscripts were good soldiers! Month after month in the unfriendly deserts didn’t harm their ability. I did the same with the second line they took: another rush up, one more down and up again. This position was also taken with little casualties, despite all approaches to it being exposed to hostile machine gun fire.
On the first position I was again searching for some remains of trenches – some shallow long pits might have been those, but then who knows? It might be just the rain water creating their path down the hill.
The 12:30 dead line came so fast, but just in time. I had a quick last rush down the ridge right into a new fancy suburb that was built there a few years ago. The shadows of the Great War faded, and now I had only time to fight.
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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LZ64/L22 Bombed Sheffield in the UK, on the night of 25th/26th September 1916.
29 People died, although only 28 names are known. The memorial lists "10 Women, 10 Children & 9 Men", this would suggest that the 29th person is Male, because i have all 10 women, all 10 children but only 8 Men.
Possible 29th person:- Mabel Adsetts, John Bacon. Dont think Mabel Adsetts is the 29th Victim. John Bacon died 4th Oct 1916 in the Union Hospital Sheffield. Why i think that Jhn Bacon could be 29th victim - well, his son lived on one of the streets that was bombed, and a police report confirms that a man "died from injuries recieved, Writtle St". Maybe John was visiting his son on this night ?. the only male we can find who died on this day in Sheffield is John Bacon, and with connection of his Son living on Writtle st, seems that this could be our man.
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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.
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