musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Month: December 2014

Happy New Year

It is now 21H42, and in South Africa it is 23H42, almost 2015. I have had an interesting, if somewhat odd year, and up to a point it was going reasonably well. However that has since changed.

The year saw many highlights and lowlights too, these are a few of them.


I started my year with a bit of shipwatching, the Maiden arrival of Norwegian Getaway in Southampton.

And I made a trip to Bristol to photograph Arnos Vale Cemetery, and managed to squeeze in a visit to the SS Great Britain.  It was a great trip, and on my way to Bristol I passed Bath Spa, and decided to make that a destination for a road trip. 

My first exploration of that month was to Old Sarum in Salisbury, and it was one of those strange places that leave you thinking. And, there was a lot of thinking that month as we gathered in Southampton to commemorate the memory of those members of the SANLC who perished in the Mendi Disaster 
The 1st of March is also the first anniversary of my arrival in the UK. Time has passed, and I have seen much since I stepped off the plane into the unknown.  I also managed to get to Bath Spa and it was a very pretty city.  

In this month  I moved into my own little pad in Salisbury. Bliss, no flatmates, no shared facilities, privacy!! YES! But what a lot of hoops I had to jump through to get there. Unfortunately it was a longish walk to work and often I would start out in the morning and be worn out by the time I got there. 


My birthday month. And in mid May I took a trip down to South Africa to settle some of my affairs. To be honest I do not really miss the place.


I returned to Salisbury in June, and it was interesting to be able to consider the UK as my end destination, and not the place I was leaving from. I also paid my first visit to Brookwood Cemetery and the military cemetery there was huge. The largest congregation of military graves I have ever seen in one place. 


This was quite a busy month, my first trip destination was Portsmouth and Gosport, and a visit to HMS Alliance and the Royal Navy Submarine Museum which was really fascinating. 

I also visited Haslar Naval Cemetery and photographed most of the World War II graves there. Unfortunately I was not able to complete the First World War Graves so would have to revisit at a later date.

I  took a trip on Shieldhall down to Ryde, which is the longest trip I had taken on this preserved vessel. I was also keen on doing a trip on her to Poole, but I just did not do it. It was also my last trip on her for the year. On a shipwatching note, I was able to photograph Emerald Princess.  

On the 4th of August we remembered the start of the horror of the First World War.
The biggest highlight of August (and probably the whole year) was definitely the Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red Memorial at the Tower of London.


It was a very memorable thing to see, and it was only probably a quarter of the way done. The images that I have seen of the end result have really been breathtaking, and I know it was probably the most effective memorial and tribute I have ever seen to those who never came back from the First World War.

I also made a visit to Tower Hamlets Cemetery, which was number 6 of the magnificent seven  Victorian Garden Cemeteries, and of course finally got to see the Imperial War Museum which had been on my bucket list since I was a a boy.

It was also the month when the Maritime Festival was held in Southampton, and to be frank it was not as good as the previous years one. 


Somewhere along the line in August I probably injured my ankle, and was not able to do much in the way of day trips. In fact September was a very quiet time altogether. The only major expedition I made was a return to Gosport to complete the World War One graves I had not done earlier in the year. The rest of that month I seemed to spend in a state of advanced vegging.


In October I started job hunting as I was concerned about the situation where I was. Fortunately (or with hindsight, unfortunately) I was able to find a job almost immediately in Basingstoke, and I made plans to pack up and leave Salisbury. Packing and arranging my move and finding new accommodation took up a lot of my time, and the only real highlight I had was on the shipwatching front when the worlds second largest cruise ship: Oasis of the Seas called in Southampton. 


In November I closed the book on Salisbury and at the end of the first week of November I moved to Basingstoke. It was also Remembrance Day in Salisbury.


And while on the shipwatching front I went down to Southampton to see Quantum of the Seas. This was the maiden arrival of this new ship too, and she was interesting to see.



That was the last bit of shipwatching I will do for awhile, or at least until next year, although that does depend on where I am.


December was a quiet one. Winter has set in and the weather has gone pear shaped along with it, although we have had some really beautiful days. Christmas Day being especially nice. I did three lots of gravehunting over December, the two local trips being especially memorable. I also revisited Brookwood, although I did not really have any specific grave that I was looking for. I do however have a new appreciation for it. 

And that was my year. I also had some finality on the job front, and from next week I am in the market (as they say). Whether I will remain in Basingstoke remains to be seen. My heart really wants me to go back to Southampton, but I have made no real plans. It all depends on the job market. On the gravehunting scene I will probably be returning to Brookwood, and I have a few churchyards on my list, I will also probably go to London one of these days to look up a few graves there, and of course to visit Norwood Cem. But until then the only thing I can say is…..

© DRW 2014-2018. Images and links recreated 21/05/2016.  
Updated: 22/06/2018 — 12:48

Christmas Gravehunting

Yes it is true, I will even go gravehunting on Christmas.
Early on Christmas day I packed my goodies and headed off to Monk Sherborne, to photograph two more CWGC graves at the All Saints Church.  It was not too far away, in fact I was not too far from Sherborne St John which I had visited on the 13th of December. 
My route had taken me on a bit of a detour as I was not able to use the shorter route I had researched before, but it is pretty country around here, so the view was of rolling English countryside and pretty houses. 
The Church is an old one, dating somewhere between the 10th and 14th century, and is built of flint with a clay tile roof. The churchyard is not a very big one and does not have as many graves as I would have expected. However, these things are deceptive because while there may be no headstones does not mean that there are no graves, or how many are on top of each other. 
My CWGC graves were easy to find, and once I had photographed them I wandered around the grounds. 
The one grave is particularly sad, as the soldier died on 26 November 1918, 15 days after the Armistice. It may be that he was a Spanish Flu victim, or died of wounds. However, the thought of going through that terrible war only to die shortly after it ends is especially sad.
Unfortunately the church does not have a lytchgate, but there is a beautiful wooden entranceway to the church which I suspect is very old. Its a really beautifully made wooden structure, but there was no indication as to its age. 
Behind the church and on one side are some fenced graves, and I believe there is a very nice wooden effigy of a knight inside the church. Unfortunately though, I could not get into the church to verify if this is true. 
This side of the church is easier to photograph because the sun was behind me.
I had completed my circuit of the grounds and theoretically was ready to head off home. 
There were a few graves I wanted to capture first and quickly did those before I started on my long walk home and my Christmas lunch.
On my way to the church I had passed the village War Memorial, and wanted to get some pics of it, although the sun was behind the memorial, making it very difficult to photograph the inscription. 
I took the right hand road to get back to where I wanted to be, and that was a nice walk, punctuated only by the occasional car and grouse catching fright at my passing.
I was finished with the Sherborne St John and the Monk Sherborne graves; 4 more have been photographed, and who knows where my next meandering would take me. In the meantime though I headed back to Sherborne St John to see about getting into the church, which means please follow the link to see my comments at the end of the Sherborne St John blogpost.
© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:34

Seasons Greetings

Tomorrow is Christmas, which means that it is technically Christmas Eve. Guess what? I have not heard Boney M once this year, and that is excellent! 
I have however seen lots of Christmassy goodies and overpriced gifts, I have seen commercial take precedence over good taste, and I am afraid I have seen many strangely decorated houses. It is after all, the season to be jolly…. (whatever that means).
In short I would like to wish all my fans and friends and family (and other things beginning with an “f”) a Merry Christmas, and as much overeating as you can bear.  I will not really be overdoing it tomorrow, but if the weather is nice I may head off grave hunting. That’s a good way to spend the day.  Unfortunately I have some tough decisions to make by the end of the yeat, and they may cloud my seasonal cheer. But, be rest assured I shall eat chocolate sometime in the next few days.


© DRW 2014-2018. Image recreated 21/04/2016. Bah Humbug. 

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:34

Return to Brookwood

Yesterday was one of those days when I get a spur of the moment urge to get out of the house. In fact, I had been pondering a return visit to Bookwood, but never got down to it until 11H56 in the morning of 20 December. By 12H24 I was on the train and on my way. It does go to show that I can get my act together if I really want to.
Much to my delight the previously flooded subway was now dry and I was able to enter the cem with my dignity intact. And, almost immediately I discovered something I had missed originally.

The sight of the railway line was always on my list of things to see, and this was a tangible link to that past.  I did not really have a specific plan on this day, I still did not have a map with me, but then I was really killing time and not really there with a goal. Everything would be happenstance. 

My next find was this sign which I photographed from the back. Oddly enough it does not really face anything, and there is a possibility that this sign may tie into the railway line, remember that on the other side of this sign is the railway line to London…..
(Passing the sign on the train confirmed my theory about the sign, it is barely visible from the existing Brookwood Station,  but the Necropolis Railway would have gone past it much closer).

I continued my random stroll, pausing to look at graves, and generally enjoying myself. It was a bit chilly but the light was nice and it was quite a nice day. Yet, there was something about this place that I could not quite put my finger on, and it only struck me a bit later. I also wanted to head towards the office which was at the “Glades of Remembrance”, which is on the opposite side of the road (Cemetery Pales) that bisects the cemetery. 

However, when I finally arrived there I found it all locked and bolted, so no asking of pertinent questions was going to happen on this day. That done I struck off across a large seemingly empty plot of ground which is dotted with the occasional grave. I had no way of knowing whether this area was still to be developed, or whether there were graves there. 
It was probably around about this point where I finally managed to put my finger on what I considered was wrong with this cemetery. It was not a welcoming place, it was not the sort of cemetery where you can wonder around and feel like you are amongst old friends, in fact I felt out of place here, almost like an intruder in some secretive place. I have been in many cemeteries, and they are all very different, yet some just have a better atmosphere than others, ask any taphophile and they will confirm what I say. It does not put us off our meanderings, it just makes us look harder for reasons to like the place. 
I really wanted to take a look at the chapel and St Edward Shrine Church which was more or less in the direction I was heading. I had not explored this area in my last visit so was really curious.  
Unfortunately for me the area is not really accessible as it was a private property, and the signage at the church explained the reasons. However, it also gave me a clue to the missing railway line.
“… the area around the furtherest building bonded by the edge of the railway platform and the low yew and box hedge (These actually outline the former south station of the Necropolis Railway)…”  
Google Earth was unable to provide an answer from the overhead view, but I did see what looked like railway lines behind the 3 buildings, so that may be the railway line remnants. A bit more reading and I was able to confirm that the buildings were the endpoint of the railway line, so next time I am there I will be able to take a better look and see what other remnants I can find.


Update 02/01/2015.

While looking through my pics that I took when I was last in London in August 2014, I discovered that I had an image of 121 Westminster Bridge House which was the entrance to the London Necropolis Railway Station. The lettering over the facade is no longer there, but it is the same building. The area was also bombed during the war so I suspect some changes have been made in that area around the building.

(More on the London Necropolis Railway Station is available on Wikipedia)

I checked Google Earth to see where the building was in relation to Waterloo Station and spotted a siding that ran almost right up to the building next to the old offices at 121, and in all probability that siding was the same one used by the funeral train to Brookwood. What a strange turn of events this whole LNR thing turned out to be.

Google Earth view of the siding and general area of Westminster Bridge House

Back to Brookwood:

Time was starting to pass so I started heading in the direction of the station. I wanted to catch the 14H55 train back to Basingstoke and still wanted to quickly stop at the military cemetery, in fact I was really tempted to spend an extra hour at the cem but the light was heading towards night so I did not think that the 15H55 train would be such a great idea. 

I really wanted to take another look at the Memorial to the Missing that I had not really appreciated last time I was here

However, the military cem is so big that I would not be able to get there, do what I wanted to and then still make my train, so I decided to leave it for another day and headed back towards the station.

Oddly enough I was not too tired, and had the light not been fading may have stayed awhile longer, but unfortunately light, train timetables and energy dictates how long I can stay in one place. The military cem is a day trip on its own, and maybe one of these days I will take that day and do what I want to in the military cem, but this was not that day. 

I still am undecided about Brookwood, although I now have a better understanding of how it comes together, and where the necropolis railway fits into it. It is worth remembering if I get to Waterloo Station too, because it is nice to tie something like this up. The modern context of Brookwood as a place is very different to what it must have been before WW2, and the sad thing is that the war really ended the necropolis railway and added to the numbers buried in the cem. There are 98 war graves buried there which are not in the military cem, and who knows, maybe one day I will be hunting them down too. But, we will wait and see. 
© DRW 2014-2018. Created 21/12/2014, updated 02/01/2015, images recreated 21/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:36

A visit to Sherborne St John

While the weather is reasonable I started to tackle the graves that I could assist the British War Graves Project with. One of the places on this list is Sherborne St John, a small (and really old) village roughly 1,8 miles from where I live. Its not an impossible walk, but a blocked road meant I had to make a considerable detour from my planned route.  The walk was a bit dangerous, taking me through country lanes that have no pavements or places to dive into when about to be run over by a maniac on a cellphone driving a German sedan.
The area became rural very quickly, and very pretty too. It always amazes me how different the UK is from back in SA. I kind of like the all pervading green; in South Africa the grass would have been dry and dead and dismal. In the UK it is green and lush and kinda muddy underfoot. My target was St Andrews Churchyard, with two CWGC graves in it, one of which was a Canadian nurse. Fortunately navigation within Sherborne St John was straight forward and before I knew it I was at the church.
I am really becoming a fan of these lytchgates, some are really beautiful, and this one was no exception. This particular one had a brass plaque on it,which made me think about how much has passed through that small wooden construction, and how many only made the passage in one direction?  
The churchyard was startlingly beautiful, it was just one of those places that took my breath away. I am always amazed to see some of those old graveyards and churches, the sense of history you get once you stand amongst the headstones is just so amazing. It is just so difficult to imagine the lives of those who are buried here so many years after the fact. Of course it is not only the lives of the people, but the country that they lived in which has changed,  they could never have imagined the era we are in now, but it is equally difficult to transpose yourself backwards through time to walk these pathways and see these headstones when they were newly laid.
sherborne_st_john 028
The church itself does not seem too old, although it is always very difficult to date these buildings. However, it appears as if a  church seems to have been built here about the year 1150, the chancel being rebuilt in the middle of the 14th century. The tower was added in the 14th century, but was almost wholly rebuilt in 1837. The north aisle is an addition of 1854; the chancel roof was restored in 1866, and in 1884 a thorough restoration was undertaken.(

My first CWGC grave was easy to find, the distinctive headstone against a hedge did not really need much looking for. However, the second would be more difficult as it was a private memorial, which meant I could be looking for anything. Fortunately I found my nurse, and was able to photograph her grave so very far from her home. I am especially fond of finding graves like this because the families may never have seen these graves, and its only since photography has become cheap and easy that we are able to finally take the photographs, but unfortunately too many years too late.

My original Google Earth view had indicated that there was an additional cemetery/churchyard not 100 metres from the church, and it was probably an overflow from the original graveyard. I headed towards this next.

My supposition was correct, and the graves here are relatively modern, although some of the headstones really look as if they are much older. The row of Yews encompasses a war memorial which I photographed too. These memorials often contain names that do not always exist on Rolls of Honour and its always a good idea to have the names off them.
That was it. Time to head back home. My route would take me past the local duck pond to quack at the local ducks. They probably thought I was quackers.
And back through the churchyard for more pics before finding my way to the bottom of the churchyard where I had spotted a small solitary headstone 

My initial thought was that it was the headstone of a child, or possibly a dissenter, however I did find other graves there, and it was very possible that it was the footstone of a grave, the headstone having been toppled. That’s part of the frustration about gravehunting; there are just no hard and fast answers to any questions that you may have.  This wooden fence was interesting though because there were graves on either side of it, which led me to think that it may have been a paupers or dissenters area. The answer is probably buried in history, and I would not have an answer on this day. Time was marching and I still had to get home before the light started to fade.

I was very tempted to root around in the area a bit more, but I decided to leave it for another day. I have another graveyard to explore in a village close by, and just maybe I will be able to include a return visit to this one too. I know I would love to get into the church.

And that was it. I was on my way home. It was a fantastic graveyard, with some really beautiful headstones and the inevitable mystery. And of course there were family plots, and soldiers and lichen, and that made it my sort of place.

Update: 25 December 2014.
Following on from my trip to Monk Sherborne on Christmas, I wanted to update this post slightly. The church is not too far from there, and I came home via Sherborne St John as I wanted to see if it was possible to see the inside of the church. A service was in progress when I arrived, but ended shortly thereafter. I was able to get into the church, and it was really very pretty, but could not take any pics because another service was due to start almost immediately.  There are two separate war memorials in the church and I may see about heading out there again one day to get pics of them. The one odd thing I saw was 4 scooters “parked” close to the gate, and parishioners walking back from the service. It brought back many memories from when we used to attend church back when I was young, although the clothing was much more sombre and less colourful amongst the people. I am not quite finished here yet, there may be another update one of these days.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2014


Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:37

A classic goes to the breakers

Today marked the end of the former Island Venture, or as she came to be known; Island Princess, and later Discovery. She was one of two sister ships built for flagship cruises, and her sister, Sea Venture became famous as the ship used in the TV series “The Love Boat”. The ships were not regular callers in South Africa, and I could be wrong but the call of Island Princess in March 1996 may have been the first for these ships under the Princess banner.

I was fortunate enough to visit her on this call, and I did a personal view of the visit in October 2012. They were handsome ships, with nice lines and a businesslike look about them. Unfortunately Sea Venture/Pacific Princess was not as fortunate as Island Venture/Island Princess was, the former not quite finding a niche to fill and being laid up for a few years in a deteriorating condition. She sadly went to the breakers in August 2013.  
Pacific Princess in happier times

Pacific Princess in happier times

As Discovery; Island Venture had a loyal following for many years, although the writing was really on the wall for her too. There were no last minute buyers for this old lady of the sea, she really slipped away from us and sailed on her last lonely voyage not too long ago. I always hoped she would call at Southampton but she never did, so I never got to see her again. 
Discovery in happier times. Image by Hugh Knapton

Discovery in happier times. Image by Hugh Knapton

Strangely enough the images I took in Durban of her sailing were not from the North Pier, but from the South, and while I did get unique images of her they were not the pics I wanted. 
Yet, there is one image that kind of says it all.
That last glimpse you get as a ship sails away, every departure means an arrival, and every arrival means a departure. Except when that departure is for the beaches at Alang. Farewell Island Princess, you will be missed.
DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2016
Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:42

Worting Road Cemetery, Basingstoke

This fine winters morning I decided that it was time to head off to Worting Road Cemetery in Basingstoke, as far as I can tell this was the cemetery used once the old Holy Ghost Cemetery was full. The latter was a magnificent cemetery, but Worting Road would turn out to be a disappointment.
All of the signs were there that I was going to not enjoy this visit, my GPS that took me along a path that did not go anywhere, the odd detours I had to make that seemingly did not make sense, and of course my ankle that was playing up once again. Oh, and did I mention flat camera batteries? Of course not. That is why I have four sets of batteries. Eventually, I found the cem after a long schlep through unfamiliar territory, and the first thing I saw was the Cross of Sacrifice. The cemetery has 54 CWGC graves in it, of which a number are of German nationals, presumably POW’s who died in the UK. 

The CWGC graves are to the right of the Cross of Sacrifice, and are laid out in a small plot, although there are other graves interspersed within the cemetery.

The cemetery has been photographed before so I did not really concentrate too much on the CWGC graves, but headed across to see what I could see amongst the many headstones.

To be frank, at a glance there wasn’t a lot too see. The headstones were mostly low and there were not too many really old ones that I could spot. A number had warning labels on them with a piece of wood holding them up. This poor chap was looking quite unperturbed by his new support structure.

In fact statues were quite rare, and the only real grave that made me stop and look was this one.

These are awfully melodramatic, and have to be seen to be believed.  The grass is still covered in frost from the previous night, and by the time I headed home at 2.30 there was still frost in a number of places in the area where I live.

The chapel is a very pretty building, although not very big. Like Holy Ghost Cem it is very neat and tidy and the grass has been cut and the paths are well tended. 

In fact I was beginning to feel as if this was really somewhat of a humdrum sort of place, with no real reason to return to. I usually say it is an ok cem, but not a great one.

Some cemeteries just stand out in your memory, but I am afraid this is not one of them. There was one nice touch that I did like about it though, a small memorial to the unmarked graves of children in Holy Ghost and this one.

It is a nice touch, and I know that often I come across small graves of children that have long passed on and are all but forgotten, at least this gesture is some sort of acknowledgement of those lives that never reached fruition.

Then it was time to go. There was no real reason to stay any longer, and I doubt if I will return unless it is on my way elsewhere. This expedition did result in me having a bit of a better understanding of the layout of the city, and my next expedition will hopefully be to the museum which is not too far from here. But until then I shall leave you with this slightly pained expression.

The problem with this cemetery is that it seems to lack character. Which is a pity because it then ends up fading into memory and becomes just another statistic.

© DRW 2014-2018. Images recreated 21/04/2016

Updated: 31/12/2017 — 08:44
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