Month: February 2017

Connections: Woodbine Willie

Many years ago there was a programme on local TV called “Connections” and it dealt with how things connect to form a link between one action and a result. It was fascinating watching it and I have often tried to link things like that in my own life. Yesterday I found a perfect example. The connection between a ship and an Anglican priest and poet.

It starts off like this:

In March 1986 I went to see the QE2 in Durban for the first time.

I did not see her again until 1991. At that time there was a small ship called Avalon in Durban harbour. Formerly the RMS St Helena, she was now seeking a new career doing cruises to the Indian Ocean Islands.

We managed to wangle a short trip across Durban Harbour on board her as she vacated the berth where QE2 would be the next day.  

Both QE2 and the former St Helena were Falklands veterans. In 1992 I sailed on the Canberra, also a Falklands veteran, and when we arrived in Cape Town the new RMS St Helena was alongside and I photographed her from the Canberra.

I mentally set a goal to see whether it was possible to get a trip on board the St Helena, and I wrote away for a brochure. As luck would have it there was a voyage to Tristan da Cunha coming up in 1993 and I was fortunate enough to book a cruise on this mini mailship

Many years passed, and the RMS St Helena ploughed her lonely furrow between Cape Town and St Helena while they constructed an airport on the island. Once it was completed the announcement was made of the St Helena’s last voyage in June 2016. Of interest to me was her visit to the Pool of London, where she would berth alongside HMS Belfast. I decided to head down to London and watch her arrive and say my goodbye to her.

Upon arrival in London I went to see the RMS arrive on the 7th of June, and it was quite an emotional moment for me. 

On the 8th I revisited Kensal Green Cemetery, and afterwards headed into London once again to see the ship. I first visited St Pauls Cathedral, before heading towards the Thames. In the maze of streets I somehow ended up in Lombard Street, and saw one of the many churches in London, it was now the home of the London Spirituality Centre, or, as it was formerly known: St Edmund, King and Martyr.

During my visit the person manning the front desk showed me a number of wall memorials in the church, and she was very proud of a memorial to somebody called “Woodbine Willie”.

 

I had to admit that I had never heard of him before, but the nickname stuck in my mind because Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy was way too much for me to remember at once. Apparently he was the Rector of this particular church at one time. He got his nickname for his habit of handing out cigarettes to troops (Woodbines being a favoured brand).

I continued my walk down to the Thames to say my goodbyes to the RMS and the next day I returned to Tewkesbury to post my blog and recover from my short but exhausting London jaunt. 

Yesterday, I visited Worcester Cathedral, and after seeing the cathedral walked through Worcester, and while I was walking I discovered a number of small bronze statues in the area. I did not pay too much attention to them, just read the names and took the pic. At the one statue I did a double take because the one statue was of Woodbine Willie! 

I was even more amazed to discover that there is a memorial to him in Worcester Cathedral, 

as well as an engraved pane on the Window of the Millennium.

“Woodbine Willie takes the light of Christ to the Troops”

On the 13th of March I returned to Worcester to close the chapter a bit more, walking to St John’s Cemetery where I photographed his grave.

As strange as it seems, this sequence really revolves around how things connected to each other, from the QE2 in 1986 to a forgotten and reluctant war hero in 2017. The key to it is really the RMS St Helena, without seeing Avalon the chances are I would not have recognised the name on the statue. Had I taken a different route in London I would not have seen the church, had I not stopped to look at a statute I would not have read that it was Woodbine Willie. Come to think of it, it is all really the fault of the QE2.

There is a stained glass window dedicated to him in St Paul’s Church in Worcester, that will be the last step of this journey. 

Connections, they are all around us if we know how to tie them together.

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2018, updated 13/03/2017 


Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Worcester Cathedral

The reason behind my “Waddle Through Worcester” was really to see Worcester Cathedral, or, as it is properly known: “The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester”. 

Like so many cathedrals it is large, beautiful and awe inspiring. It will be the eighth Cathedral/Abbey that I have seen and it is hard to know which is my favourite. It does not really matter though because each leaves me speechless and awed at the same time.

Unfortunately, getting the whole building into an image is very difficult because there is no real place where you can see it all in one shot. But, I do know where to try for next time. I returned to Worcester on Monday 13th and have replaced some of the exterior images in this post. 

 

The interior follows the same basic arrangement of most cathedrals and churches although parts of it were erected at different periods of time.

 

 

Information booklet available at http://www.worcestercathedral.co.uk/media/Cathedral_Brochure.pdf

The entrance was not quite where I expected it to be, but nevertheless it was very impressive with all those statues over the door. I do however wish that there had been more sunlight.

And, as usual, the moment I stepped inside it was as if I had entered a totally different world. I always like to think that having seen 8 of these churches I would be used to them, but each is unique, and I like to think that in the days of yore this place was held in awe by the people who came from far and wide and entered within. It certainly leaves me shell shocked. 

There are a lot of aspects to taking photographs in a cathedral. The light varies considerably and in many cases a flash is required and  I try to  avoid using a flash. There are always people moving in and out of view, and sometimes areas are just too big to photograph effectively. I do not carry a DSLR and make do with a reasonable hand held camera. Photographic permits are available from the shop at £3.

Overhead the vast expanse of vaulted ceilings is quite a dizzying sight, but nevertheless it is always worthwhile to lean back and appreciate the work of those who built this building.

Before the English Reformation the Cathedral was known as Worcester Priory. It was built between 1084 and 1504 and represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. 

There are some really beautiful wall memorials and effigies in the cathedral, and some are outstanding works of art rather than mere memorials.  I cannot help but marvel at the skill of those who created these works. 

   

Like so many churches there is a font and a pulpit,

and a quire,

An organ (or 3) 

and an Altar.

And the High Altar (image below).

In front of the High Altar and before the quire is the tomb of  King John.  Unfortunately I could not get a decent image of the tomb because of one person that was seemingly glued to the immediate space around it. 

Saint Wulfstan and Saint Oswald can be seen in miniature beside the head of John on his effigy.

It is not every day that you get to see the tomb of a King.

Underneath the Cathedral is the Crypt of St Wulfstan, and it is was open for viewing although the chapel was roped off.

It is a quiet and thoughtful place, a very appealing spot to wander around in. Many of the slabs on the floor are floor memorials. 

Returning to ground level I needed to find the loo (as usual), and that took me to the Cloister. It too is a pretty space, surrounding the central garden/graveyard/herb garden. I would have really liked to have walked around in that space but it was locked. 

I did find this area quite dark in spite of the many windows. 

But then it was still grey and gloomy outside anyway so that may have had something to do with the atmosphere.

My ablutions over, it was time to return to the building again and take another walk around. There is a dedicated Chapel of Remembrance where the Rolls of Honour are kept, and with its many memorials to the fallen.

I may do a separate blogpost about the memorials in this chapel and the windows in the Cloister.

On the 13th I was able to see inside the Chapter House, and it was magnificent, with amazing acoustics. My camera can’t really do justice to this structure.

 

Random Images

Space does not allow me to show all of my images, and I often cannot really describe what I saw which is why these images are here. They need no caption but just convey what I saw. They are places of great beauty and tranquillity.

   
   
   

The Cathedral from the bridge across the Severn

And that concluded my trip to Worcester Cathedral.  It is a beautiful building and so different but so similar to the others I have seen. Go back? of course, these structures have so much to see that each time is different. Besides, I hear there is another memorial to “Woodbine Willie” that I would like to see, I wish I had known about it at the time, or, maybe I did photograph it, I just have not seen it yet.

13/03/2017.

I did manage to photograph the memorial mentioned above, and will deal with it in my “Connections: Woodbine Willie”  post. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 20/02/2017, edited and some images replaced 13/03/2017