The Old Contemptibles Plaque (Southampton)

In my meanderings around cemeteries in the UK I sometimes encounter plaques on the graves of the “Old Contemptibles”. Unfortunately they are not that easy to research because it is easier to research a soldier that died in the war than one who survived.

Just what is an Old Contemptible? Legend has it that Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, allegedly issued an order on 19 August 1914 to “exterminate … the treacherous English and walk over General French’s contemptible little army”. Hence, in later years, the survivors of the regular army dubbed themselves “The Old Contemptibles”.

Not too many men from the regular army survived the long slog in the trenches, and the survivors often suffered from the effects of the war for the rest of their lives. The grave markers that I see are from the “Old Contemptibles Association”  that was founded by Captain JP Danny, RA, on 25 June 1925. Membership was limited to veterans of the regular army who had served in the British Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders within range of enemy artillery during the period 5 August to 22 November 1914 and had thus taken part in the desperate early battles and retreats before the advancing German forces, before the tide turned and the allies counterattacked at the Battle of the Marne.  The Association had 178 branches in the UK & 14 overseas branches. It produced its own magazine “The Old Contemptible” & all members were known as “chums”.  The Association’s national organisation was wound up in the 1970s but in London and the South East it continued until 1994. (http://www.surreyinthegreatwar.org.uk/story/the-old-contemptibles-association/)

In Southampton, on the side of the former Docks’ Post Office and Telegraph building at Dock Gate 4, there is a plaque commemorating the men who sailed from the port to make history. Erected on 9 April 1950, it was unveiled by by Admiral Sir Algernon Willis, Naval Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth. 

Former docks post office and telegraph building

 

The poem, by Beatrix Price Miller reads:

OH MIGHTY FORCE THAT STOOD FOR ENGLAND!
THAT, WITH YOUR BODIES FOR A LIVING SHIELD,
GUARDED HER SLOW AWAKING, THAT DEFIED
THE SUDDEN CHALLENGE OF TREMENDOUS ODDS
AND FOUGHT THE RUSHING LEGIONS TO A STAND
THEN STARK GRIM ENDURANCE HELD THE LINE,
OH LITTLE FORCE THAT IN YOUR AGONY
STOOD FAST WHILE ENGLAND GIRT HER ARMOUR ON,
HELD HIGH OUR HONOUR IN YOUR WOUNDED HANDS,
CARRIED OUR HONOUR SAFE WITH BLEEDING FEET
WE HAVE NO GLORY GREAT ENOUGH FOR YOU,
THE VERY SOUL OF BRITAIN KEEPS YOUR DAY!
PROCESSION? – MARCHES FORTH A RACE IN ARMS:
AND FOR THE THUNDER OF A CROWD’S APPLAUSE,
CRASH UPON CRASH THE VOICE OF MONSTROUS GUNS,
FED BY THE SWEAT. SERVED BY THE LIFE OF ENGLAND,
SHOUTING YOUR BATTLE-CRY ACROSS THE WORLD.
OH, LITTLE MIGHTY FORCE YOUR WAY IS OURS,
THIS LAND INVIOLATE YOUR MONUMENT.

Grave markers. 

I have seen some of the markers in the cemeteries I have visited and can only find these in my images, it is possible I have missed seeing more by taking a different path or pausing to look at something else. But, I will keep on looking. Sadly, I expect many of the markers have ended up as scrap metal over the years, so these may be quite rare so many years down the line.

A Bagwell, Gloucester Regt

Gloucester Old Cemetery

E Ellis, Royal Field Artillery

Reading Cemetery

WA Marshall, MM. RVL Berkshire Regt

Reading Cemetery

 

GA Janaway, Royal Hampshire Regt.

Hollybrook Cemetery, Southampton

 

H Betterridge, Royal Fusiliers

Streatham Park Cemetery, London

 

Robert W Smith, Grenadier Guards

Gloucester Old Cemetery

   

DRW © 2018. Created 01/02/2018

Michael Gibson GC

Michael Gibson (06/1906 – 18/10/1940) was awarded the George Cross for his actions on 17 October 1940 in Coventry.

He was 34 years old and serving in the Corps of Royal Engineers when he and Second Lieutenant Alexander “Sandy” Campbell GC were called in to deal with an unexploded bomb which had fallen on the Triumph Engineering Company’s works. War production in two factories had stopped because of it., and a large number of people living nearby had been evacuated. Campbell found the bomb was fitted with a delayed action fuse which it was impossible to remove, so he decided to transport it to a safe place. This was done by lorry. Campbell lay alongside the bomb so that he could hear if it started ticking and could warn Gibson, the driver, to stop and run for cover. Next the two men carried it a mile from Priory Street to Whitley Common, where they successfully made the bomb safe. They were both killed the following day while working on another unexploded bomb.

Following a funeral service at Coventry Cathedral on 25 October 1940, the squad were buried in a collective grave in Coventry’s London Road Cemetery. The squad comprised Second Lieutenant Alexander Fraser Campbell GC and Sappers William Gibson, Richard Gilchrest, Jack Plumb, Ronald William Skelton, Ernest Arthur Stote and Gibson.

© DRW 2016-2018. Created 17/03/2017. Images and information courtesy of Mark Green.

Derelict C13 Balcony Coach 7936

I spotted this faded and derelict beauty while I was visiting Millsite, and kept on coming back to her because she had so much character, and even with all the water damage and years of neglect her leather and woodwork was still beautiful. She even had that feint wood and leather smell that the old coaches had. Sadly though she will never be restored, she is just too far gone, all the metalwork and removable fittings have long ago been stolen, and the compartments trashed.

© DRW 2009-2018. Created 15 April 2009. Moved to blog 01/12/2014

Constitutional Hill

This gallery really consists of 4 separate areas because there are really 4 distinct places to see at Constitutional Hill. Starting with the Court, then moving onto The Fort, Number 4 Jail and finally the Womens Jail.

“The Constitutional Court is the home of the Constitution, the highest court in the land. Like the Constitution itself, the court was designed to be open, accessible and transparent. The court is built around the remaining stairwells of the old awaiting trail block. The foyer of the court is a light filled area populated by slanting columns, an architectural metaphor for trees under which the African villagers traditionally congregate to discuss matters of social importance to the elders. Any member of the public may attend court hearings, or may enter the building to view the many individually commissioned artworks on display…”

[ Page 1 ] [ Page 2 ] [ Page 3 ]
[ Page 4 ] [ Newtown ] [ Braamfontein ]
The Flame of Democracy
The Flame of Democracy
Shadows
Shadows
Constitutional Court foyer
Constitutional Court
foyer
Unveiling Plaque
Unveiling Plaque
Entrance Doors
Entrance Doors
1910 Constitution
1910 Constitution
Constitution Court Building
Constitution Court
Building
Constitution Court Interior
Constitution Court
Interior
Interior artwork
Interior artwork

The ramparts of the old Fort were built by Paul Kruger from 1893 to protect the Zuid Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) from the threat of British invasion, and to keep watch over miners flocking to the village below. Reverting to a jail after the Anglo Boer War, all male prisoners passed through the foreboding tunnel beneath the ramparts, but only whites were held in the fort itself. The luckless African male prisoners being held at the “Number Four” jail not too far away. The sloping entrance tunnel was the last view that many prisoners would have of the outside world before being taken into the buildings behind the earthen ramparts.The rooms under the ramparts were used as magazines, stores and sleeping quarters but not for cells.

Interior gate facade
Interior gate facade
Heritage Plaques
Heritage Plaques
Front entrance
Front entrance
Inner courtyard
Inner courtyard
The ramparts
The ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Under the Ramparts
Interior Buildings
Interior Buildings
Rampart tunnel
Rampart tunnel

Number Four is the jail where thousands of male African prisoners were incarcerated and brutalised, many of whom were guilty of minor infringements of ridiculous petty legislation, others for political views, and some were hardened criminals.

Interior Courtyard
Interior Courtyard
Ablutions
Ablutions
Cellblock
Cellblock
Cell door
Cell door
Restraints
Restraints
Solitary
Solitary
Visitors entrance
Visitors entrance
Solitary gate
Solitary gate
Interior yard
Interior yard
Cell interior
Communal Cell interior
Solitary cell interior
Solitary cell interior
Communal Cell interior
Communal Cell interior

The Womens Jail was built in 1909, and is next to the old fort. Many of the women held here were guilty of minor infringements of ridiculous petty legislation, others for political views. The jail was segregated by race and based on a panopticon design where cell blocks radiated off a central hub.

Street Entrance
Street Entrance
Ground floor hall
Ground floor hall
1st Floor hall
1st Floor hall
Cellblock
Cellblock
Cell interior
Cell interior
Cell door
Cell door
Interior offices
Interior offices
Cell block
Cellblock
Cell block
Cellblock

© DRW 2012-2018. Created 15/03/2012. Moved to blog 14/09/2014

A Voortrekker Monument in Newlands, Johannesburg.

I have to admit this was a strange find that I made while on my way to the cemetery in 2012.

Situated in the grounds of the “Waterval Gemeente” Dutch Reformed Church in Newlands, it is the sort of thing easily missed. I only spotted it because I was curious about the magnificent church building.

The monument has a plaque “In Herrinering Van Die Voortrekkers” at its base, and a relief on the one side. Underneath the structure, in a barred area are the imprints of the wagon that came through here at the time (This could tie into the Voortrekker Monument in Emma Park.) The church dates from 1928 and is still in use. Unfortunately the monument is very difficult to access because of vegetation and fencing. 

As usual with a find like this, the context is everything and I was fortunate enough to get to talk with a member of the church which is why I know what is underneath the cairnlike structure.  

"Waterval Gemeente"
“Waterval Gemeente”

I was also fortunate enough to get to look around the church interior.

And in spite of the keyboard and drums there is still a beautiful old pipe organ

Fortunately I found the cornerstone which is surprisingly informative, 

There is an Afrikaans wikipedia page for the church, and the church has its own website too. 

You can only really get a good look at the back of the church because the front has been really hidden by the trees and foliage palisade fence. 

DRW ©  2012-2018. Created 31/05/2012. Moved to blog 05/02/2014, images added 05/08/2018