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Strange Occurrences on the Western Front


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#1 Rodge Dowson

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Posted 18 December 2002 - 09:18 PM

I am very interested to hear in confidence, from anyone who has modern- day (Post 1918) personal first hand stories of strange sittings or experiences and feelings when they have visited WWI & WWII battlefields, airfields or military bases. I hope to gather and cross reference such stories and articles into a database archive.

Thanks

Rodge D. (The Archivist)



#2 Bert Heyvaert

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 12:16 AM

A book has been written in dutch, quite extensive, on this subject: HEIJSTER, R. Mysterie 14/18. I can send you copies of the relevant parts if you like, or the adress of the publisher, so you can try to get in contact with the author.
Although, I should mention that most people who read it are not very enthousiastic about it. The author, who is convinced that he is the re-incarnation of a German soldier who died on the Belgian front, conducted similar research in two parts. The first part of the book deals with strange occurances during the war. The second part are all stories of battlefield tourists, mostly British or dutch.

There is also a small chapter on Gallipoli in BROWN, R.L. A casebook of military mystery, Cambridge, 1974.

I have seen quite a bit of the western front, also at night, but never experienced any other feelings than a peacefull, quiet atmosphere.

Hope this is of any help,

Bert.

#3 Rodge Dowson

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 08:00 AM

Hello Bert, many thanks for your helpful reply, I have talked to quite a few visitors to the W/F some of whom I have taken over on tours. Some like me have had feelings and experiences at visiting certain locations. A couple like me have also felt they had seen things happen they could not explain.
I do not feel comfortable at 4 main places on the Somme, they are;

1. Mametz Wood Area the track from Flat Iron Copse Cemetery to the Welsh Dragon Memorial ( A real feeling of dread of being watched from the wood every step of the way, felt really sick half way down the track and went back to the car, which was at the cemetery, but felt fine at the cemetery itself?)

2. The area east of High Wood around London Cemetery (Very uneasy)

3. Newfoundland Park (Horrific feelings of intense noise and pain)
Others have said the same about Mametz Wood and one person I took in a party to Newfoundland Park said that she saw fighting and heard intense bombardment noises for a couple of seconds half way across park.

4. Serre No 2 Cemetery (don't like to go in now)


I have had no real problems visiting any other locations on the W/F to date.
Best Wishes, & hoping to hear from more of you on this subject, thanks for all the emails I have had so far.

Rodge

#4 fellop

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 12:14 PM

Hi Rodge,
On the same theme but off the Western Front. I have over the years visited many CWG Cemeteries, mainly WW1 but a few WW2. Also I should add that years spent in the Army I am not normally the sort of chap who gets "spooked" easily.

In April this year I visited the CWG Cemetery at Niederzwehren on the outskirts of Kassel, the site or near the site of a WW1 POW Camp to take some photos of a headstone of a local soldier whom I am researching who died as a POW on 10th October 1918.

For those who may not know this cemetery it is in open country, mainly farmland, on a hill over looking the town (or should that be city) of Kassel. It is very exposed and at best wind swept.

At the time of my visit, about 0930hrs I was the only person there. From the moment I got out of the car and entered the cemetery I felt uneasy I had the feeling as if someone was watching me, this to me was a real feeling you know the sort of thing, hairs on the back on your neck start to stand up. I looked around for some time and saw no one. I located the headstone and started to take some photos but I always had the feeling as if there was some one else was there or I was being watched. After I had taken my photos I started to walk around to look at some other headstones but I very quickly became more uneasy the longer I stayed so I returned to the car and left.

This has never happend to me before but I had a very real feeling some one or (dare I say it) something was watching me. It seems silly now to recall this but I really did feel uneasy at the time and I can remember it very clearly now.

Best Regards
Peter.

#5 ianw

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 09:25 PM

In general I always feel a sense of peace on the Western Front but I will admit to feeling similarly spooked at/in Mametz Wood.

On each occasion I have entered the fringes of that wood , I have felt unwelcome and an intruder and a real feeling of menace. This feeling has been shared by companions. In a clearing I once came across a massive shell of 10 inch diameter sitting mutely on its base ! (But then how else would a shell sit !). Not a welcoming place.

Walking up to the wood across the killing ground in front of it gives a peculiar feeling in my chest - but of course we all know the history of that place so this probably invalidates this as any sort of psychic experience.

It would be interesting to fly in a psychic or medium and get their reaction at a sample of French woods - innocent and infamous.

Newfoundland Park seems positively welcoming in comparison.

#6 Tom Morgan

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Posted 19 December 2002 - 10:08 PM

I was once asked by a TV company to accompany a psychic medium to the Somme and see what he made of it. "Case not Proven" as they say in Scotland.

I did a bit of research beforehand and could only find two references to supernatural occurrences. I was told of one lady who had heard the noise of battle in Mametz Wood, and one man who lived in the Somme and would not walk down a particular road at night. This road was one which approached a 1st July position. He was happy to walk away from the trench lines at night, but walking towards them gave him strong feelings of unease.

Me, I've never felt anything strange while "over there." I have often sat in cemeteries very late at night and only felt a feeling of calm!

#7 ianw

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 07:06 AM

Interesting that Mametz Wood gets another mention above .

#8 Dolphin

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 07:49 AM

Rodge

It's away from your WWI* and WWII theme, but I recall feeling very uncomfortable at the First Boer War battlefield of Majuba Hill. As you'll recall, Majuba was the scene of a debacle on 27 February 1881 when some 500 British were defeated by a smaller Boer force, who suffered almost no casualties.

I went there with a friend some 30 years ago, on an almost cloudless warm Spring day, ie very far from the conditions normally associated with things 'spooky'. We had the summit to ourselves. Nevertheless, we both felt a strong sense of unease, and had the definite feeling that we were under intense scrutiny. It wasn't pleasant, and I recall we curtailed our visit. I later met some other people who reported the same impression. There was nothing like it that feeling at Isandhlwana, Spion Kop or other battlefields.

* = There is, of course, a 1914-1918 connection with Majuba, as General Sir Ian Hamilton, of Dardanelles fame, was present as a Lieutenant in the 92nd Foot, the Gordon Highlanders.

Not directly in your line of enquiry, but I hope it helps.

Dolphin

#9 Andrew P

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 09:54 AM

One place where I have felt something coming near an "eerie" feeling was at 'The Farm' beneath Chunuk Bair at Gallipoli.
Maybe it had something to do with the solitude of the place, the huge height of Chunuk Bair near by or knowing that this was where Baldwin's brigade were overrun by the Turkish attack on the 10th of August.
But it was a feeling I had not experienced on other battlefields that I've been to.

#10 Simon_Fielding

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 09:57 AM

The only case I know of is a friend who camped in Mametz Wood one summer night and simply says "I wish I hadn't"...

This is an interesting thread given the huge upsurge in interest in spiritualism after the war.

Didn't Arthur ("Sherlock Holmes") Conan Doyle lose a son in the War, and attempted to contact him on the 'other side'? Anyone have any details?

Simon

#11 Tom Morgan

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 11:11 AM

His son, Alleyne Kingsley Conan Doyle, was wounded on the Somme (acting Captain 1st Hampshires) and never really recovered, dying of pneumonia in October 1918 (I think)

I don't know if this counts as "details" but Conan Doyle was rather predisposed and gullible in terms of spritualist matters. He believed that Harry Houdini had supernatural powers but wouldn't admit it. He still believed that one American family has psychic powers even after they had confessed that they were charlatans and had publicly demonstrated how they had done it. And of course, he believed in the Cottingley Fairies.

No offence intended to his memory or that of his son, but any endorsement of the supernatural by Conan Doyle isn't worth much!

#12 Rodge Dowson

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 06:39 PM

Hi everyone, many thanks for all your interesting replies, there certainly seems to be a lot of interest in this and a common theme in the Mametz Wood experiences.
Please keep listing your thoughts and feelings relating to this very interesting subject.

Merry Christmas to All

Rodge D.

#13 paul guthrie

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 06:50 PM

Some say birds don't sing at places like Mort Homme and Cote 304, they do.

#14 Terry Carter

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Posted 20 December 2002 - 08:09 PM

A few years ago myself and a couple of friends stayed a couple of nights at Ian Alexander's Rose Cottage in Longueval. The one guy also brought along his two eldest sisters who had not spoken to each other for a few years in the hope the weekend might help patch up their differences. They both had no interest in matters relating to the Great War. However one of the sisters was supposed to have psychic powers... which to me is a lot of rubbish. It was a winter night in January when we stayed at the cottage and after a meal and a few glasses of plonk we decided to have a walk towards High Wood. Why I do not know.. it was snowing and the wind was howling. We were in the vicinity of Wood Lane when this lady stopped suddenly and exclaimed that she felt that a lot of horses had suffered and died horrible deaths. Ok thousands of horses died on the western front. But we happened to be in the area of where the Deccan Horse and Dragoon Guards had charged on the evening on 14 July, 1916. If I remember right 90 horses were killed in the action. Spooky or what?

#15 Kate Wills

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 01:25 AM

A good friend and regular visitor to the Western Front paid a visit to a cemetery in which he had no interest, but where his touring partner wished to see a particular grave. Mike, idling around as one does on such occasions, stopped all of a sudden. He looked down, to find himself standing by a headstone that bore the same name as his own.

#16 Hill_60

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 06:55 AM

Not exactly a Western Front story, actually its more like a Home Front story and I have mentioned this elsewhere on this Forum, so at the risk of boring you all I'll tell the story again! tongue.gif

In my collection I have the 1915 Trio and Memorial Plaque to 6356 Pte George Henry Lowe of the 1st Bn CEF, he is buried at Y Farm Military Cemetery, he was killed in action on the 10 March 1915.
On a visit to a family grave at St. Pancras Cemetery in Middlesex I decided to leave the car and have a mooch-about in the overgrown areas of this vast cemetery. I fought my way along a disused path full of brambles when I found a CWGC grave, equally hidden in brambles etc. I cleared the undergrowth away and was suprised to find the grave of 6402 Lance Sergeant D. McMasters, 1st Bn CEF, who died on 18 Nov 1915.
I have gone back to locate the grave on numerous other occasions but without success.
I wonder what the odds on finding this grave were.

#17 Mark Hone

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 07:13 AM

People have always commented on the creepiness of Langemark German cemetery. I remember when first visting the Western Front with the WFA in the early 80's there were people who wouldn't go in. Even after warning my first school group in 1994 I clearly remember one boy starting back with fright when he glimpsed the 'Comrades' at the back of the mass grave. The thing is that Langemark is deliberately sombre (and creepy) overlain with oak trees. I seem to remember that research has indicated that the ambient temperature in the cemetery is 2-3 degrees C. lower that the surrounding area which presumably accentuates the effect.
On our school trips we have often discussed the 'tingle' phenomenon and how far it is an objective thing and how much caused by our knowledge of what happened in a place. I tend to think it is a mixture of both, but am a stubborn believer in the old 'stone tape' theory that horrible events become imprinted on a location. Candidates for the 'tingle factor' that I have encountered in recent years are: the Mur Des Fusillees at Arras and the site of the 1940 Wormhoudt massacre of Warwicks and Cheshires, particularly the 'pool of death' at the rear of the site.

#18 Terry_Reeves

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 09:56 AM

With regard to strange experiences on the Western Front.

On Christmas Eve 1917, my grandfather was on trench guard. In the early hours of the morning he and a fellow sentry heard the tin cans attached to the barbed wire start to rattle. The platoon commander, fearing a trench raid might be in progress, ordered an immediate stand to and a nervous half hour or so was spent peering into the darkness.

The following morning shortly after the dawn stand to, grandfather, along with three other men, were ordered into no-mans-land to see if they could find any signs of enemy activity that may have taken place during the night. Just in front of the wire, and much to their astonishment, they found a pile of gayley wrapped parcels and a set of fresh hoof prints.


Merry Christmas everybody

Terry Reeves

#19 Alan Lines

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 01:50 PM

Lee, I think you may find McMaster's service record interesting if you send away for it.

In the meantime this should keep you going.

6402 L/Sgt Dalton C McMaster (no S on the end)
Buried St. Pancras Cemetery, Middlesex.

Although he died in the U.K his number indicates he was an original member of the Battalion and he definitely went to the front because I know he was transferred back to England on 24/4/15 whilst a Corporal but I don't know why. Hopefully his records will explain.

This may also be of interest.

7057 John Thomas McMaster
1st CEF Killed in a railway accident at Nantes 12/2/15.
I think he was almost certainly the first fatality the Battalion suffered on active service. They weren't brothers but may possibly have been related.

#20 Hill_60

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 02:02 PM

Alan - mmmm, sounds interesting! I'll have a look at that in the new year, cheers.
There are quite a few CEF burials in the St. Pancras cemetery dotted about all over the place.
I've only been there a couple of times and at first was a little confused as some of the CWGC burials are recorded as being in the Islington Cemetery. St. Pancras is one of about 3 cemeteries all joined together. blink.gif

#21 Michelle Young

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 05:47 PM

In 1990, I was visiting Gallipoli. At about 2am, on April 25th, I was walking along the road above Anzac Cove, when I became very uneasy and spooked. I could sense a prescence near me.
I don't usually believe in psychic stories, but even now, I still remember that episode.

#22 Bob Coulson

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 07:40 PM

Quote from Rose Coombs MBE in BEF on Newfoundland Park.

"Even on a fine sunny summers day, the park seems to have a definitely foreboding atmosphere and after a thunderstorm I have smelt the awful stench of battle in the still deep trenches. Nowhere else in my travels on the Western Front has the horror of war come nearer to me than here."

#23 AOK4

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 10:14 PM

I don't want to spoil the atmosphere here, but I think this is all nonsense. I've been on cemeteries at midnight (because someone wanted to experience something), I've slept in a B&B on the Somme where a psychic had sensed the ghost of a dead soldier etc. I think if you want to feel such a thing, then you feel something strange, it's just superstition.

Jan

#24 egbert

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Posted 21 December 2002 - 10:54 PM

Jan,
never say never....but on this thread, I fear I have to concur: I am too realistic minded to believe in strange occurances. I have been also a couple of times at midnight out there at the trenches or war graves. I very much was inspired by the peaceful athmosphere. The only time I felt something spooky was when a (small) bottle of 1992 Cotes du Rhone passed by. But I don't want to offend other believers: I am just a lousy medium.

#25 Kate Wills

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Posted 22 December 2002 - 01:27 AM

I too have visited cemeteries late at night, when there seems an even greater sense of calm and timelessness. I am not sure I would feel quite as easy by one of Verdun's windowed ossuaries though.

Having said that, I have heard several people say they feel uneasy, especially around Verdun, and if that is what they truly feel, then so be it. However, if we come in peace and veneration (as most of us Forumites surely do) then why should any resident spirits protest?