musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Military

Edging back to Evesham

While waiting for my new temp job to start I decided to do a morning trip back to Evesham to have a look at the Almonry Museum which had so far been closed each time I visited the Town. 

I caught the bus just after 8.30 in Tewkesbury which left me about 30 minutes to kill in Evesham before the museum opened and I planned to pay a visit to Bengeworth Cemetery which is not too far from the museum. It opened in 1857 and there are 6 CWGC graves in it, 3 from WW1 and 3 from WW2. The weather was nice and sunny but you can feel the slight bite of winter in the air already, best get it done now while I could. 

Crossing the Avon at the Workman Bridge I headed east along Port Street which then becomes Broadway Road after the roundabout. Before the roundabout was the Parish Church of St Peter which was really a typical church found in any number of towns in the UK. The churchyard is now a garden and unfortunately the church was closed. It was quite a difficult church to photograph though because of the big tree in the way.

And not too far away was the cemetery  (52.089526°,  -1.934438°), fronted by a small building which may have doubled as a chapel, office or store. 

There was an interesting relic in the building which may have been used in the moving of coffins.

The cemetery is not a large one, and was not really a cemetery to die over, but somewhere in there were the graves I was after. 

Of course the standard CWGC headstone is easy to spot, but three of the graves were private headstones so they needed a bit more legwork, however, all were found and after a few contextual shots I headed back the way I came. 

Evesham is an old town and you can see it in the street leading up to the bridge. Lots of small shops with flats above them, no longer prime real estate and in a busy street that has limited parking.

I do like the town though, it has all the amenities and a good public transport system, but I have not explored it all yet.

Finally the museum.

This 14th Century building was once home to the Almoner of the Benedictine Abbey that was founded at Evesham in the 8th Century. An almoner is a chaplain or church officer who originally was in charge of distributing money to the deserving poor. Following the closure of the Abbey by Henry VIII, the Almonry became the personal home of the last Abbot, Philip Ballard, whilst the rest of the Abbey buildings were sold to Sir Philip Hoby who arranged for the quarrying of the stone.

The Almonry has had a varied career: ale house, offices, tea rooms, private home, until it was finally purchased by Evesham Borough Council in 1929, opening as a heritage centre in 1957. Today, the Almonry is still owned and funded by Evesham Town Council (http://www.almonryevesham.org/about-us/)

Inside it was a veritable treasure house of goodies laid out in the small pokey rooms with their creaking floorboards and low doorways. Its the sort of place that gives you a glimpse into a totally different way of life, but without the usual glitz and gadgetry of a modern museum.

The main display I was after was model of the former Abbey, I had seen pics of it and really wanted to see it up close and personal. I was not disappointed.

It is interesting to see how the two parish churches and existing bell tower fit into the abbey complex, and in the bottom left you can see the Almonry building that I was about to explore. I will add more images of the model to my post about the Abbey.

As you can see it is an eclectic mix of items, some themed to a particular trade or occupation. The metal object with all the holes in the right hand corner is a prisoners bed from Evesham Jail. I believe the jail was housed at the almonry at one point, and there was a bigger jail in town. 

Outside the garden is on display with an interesting collection of odds and ends that originate from all ages. A close look at the buildings reveals that there are very few straight edges and parts of it lean at an odd angle; but then I would lean at an odd angle if I was that old too.

It is a very pretty spot, but somehow I got the feeling that it could be a very creepy spot too. Back inside I went into the World War 1 display which also had a section on the Battle of Evesham, and of course the effect of the war on the town and its people.

The display case above has a information about the two Victoria Cross holders with ties to the town:- Guardsman William Edgar Holmes VC. and Private William Jones VC. 

There was also a mock up class room, complete with apples on desks (the fruit, not the gadget). 

The wooden boxlike gadget in the upper right hand corner is a “Pedoscope“, also known as a shoe-fitting fluoroscope. 

These have long been legislated out of use, but back in their day they were considered high tech devices. 

A last glimpse into somebodies window… and I was finished for the day.

The museum is a gem, there is a lot to see and digest, and the World War 1 display had a lot of personal items relating to one of the casualties and to the Abbey Manor Auxilliary Hospital from 1914-1918. I need to process those and decide how I want to present what I saw.

I am glad I made the trip to see the museum, and would return there readily. I do recommend it as a place to experience, even if it is just to see what a 14th century building looks like.  I spent an hour looking around town, popping into the Magpie Jewellers to look around again. It too is a wonderous place to behold.

On my way home we passed through those little villages again and I am still going to do a day to each of them when I can. Logistically it will be difficult because of the bus times, but I think it can be done. I have spotted three war memorials from the bus, although photographing them has been almost impossible. I am going to visit these villages soon, so have started on a blogpost to deal with what I see. I have done the navigation, but have not been able to get it done due to other commitments. But, that’s for another day, for now the Almonry Museum is in the bag!

forwardbut

DRW © 2018. Created 13/09/2019

Updated: 09/10/2018 — 19:47

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion (1)

For quite some time I have been mulling over a return trip to Bristol, I wanted to go already in 2017 but the weather was just not amiable to a day trip so I kept on putting it off. However, by the time I was planning Liverpool I was already looking at Bristol once again. In 2015 I had been fortunate enough to be there for the Heritage Festival, so ideally I wanted to do the same once again. The closest window being the weekend of 21 and 22 of July 2018. And, just for once I was not going via Arnos Vale Cemetery but was going to strike out North West to find the Cenotaph. I had never really ventured into Bristol so had no real idea of what was out there, but it is an old city so you can bet there were some wonderful old buildings to see. 

The original Bristol Temple Meades Station

I arrived at Bristol Temple Meades station bright and early. It had been touch and go though because the weather forecast had been for clouds and possible rain and I was not feeling very energetic when I woke up at some ungodly hour to get to Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. I will skip all that malarky and continue from where I am in Bristol.

There is one of those horrible traffic circles that I needed to navigate across, hoping to find the one branch that is Victoria Street. Unfortunately they were building a road in the middle of the street which threw my navigation off. A similar thing had happened to me when I visited Birmingham in 2015 and I suspect they are still digging and excavating there. 

The correct road selected and I was off… and then had to stop and go have a look at a church. Now I am a sucker for churches and old buildings, and I do love a good set of ruins. This one fitted all the criteria in one space. The space is called Temple Church and Gardens, and the church is really just a shell, and like the church I saw in Liverpool it too was damaged by bombing during the Second World War. After the war they excavated the shell of the building and discovered that the church was originally round. The round church was originally called Holy Cross and it was part of a monastary built here in the 1100’s by the Order of the Knights Templar. Their church was designed to look like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. It was enlarged between 1300 and 1450 and lost its original round shape, and became the church that is there today, or should I say the ruins of the church?  

 

The other peculiarity about the building is that the tower leans by roughly 1,6 metres from the vertical, and the top was built so as to correct the lean, but it ended up looking somewhat odd as the lean increased. Unfortunately I never knew about this and the image I took of the tower does show the lean, but it is somewhat corrected by the camera lens. 

The church and a large portion of medieval Bristol was destroyed by a raid that occurred on 24 September 1940. This area was known as “Temple” and in the medieval period it was where cloth workers lived and worked. The Guild of Weavers even had their own chapel at the church.

The churchyard around the church still has graves in it, although their legibility is very poor.  The area is now a well placed leisure space and I doubt whether anybody really knows that they may be strolling through a former churchyard. 

Following this discovery it was time to continue on my way, still in Victoria Street and heading towards The Bristol Bridge across the Avon. 

Looking West (downstream)

Looking East (upstream)

There was another ruined church on the east side of the bridge but I decided to give it a miss on this occasion. If I stopped and detoured all the time I would never get to where I was going.  The green area just after the bridge is called Castle Park, and the next landmark is… a giant pineapple?

Actually the tower sticking out behind the building is the remains of St Mary-le-Port Church which was also destroyed during the bombing of 24 November 1940. The buildings around it were built for Norwich Union (facing the camera) and the Bank of England. Both buildings are apparently empty and have been the subject of a number of contested plans for redevelopment.   I cannot however comment on the pineapple, but it appears to be the work of Duncan McKellar.  

On the left side of the street is St Nicholas Church, and I had to get the shot very quickly because a large mobile crane was coming down the road and it was guaranteed to ruin any further images of the church. Maybe it was going to collect the pineapple?

I was now in High Street heading into Broad Street, and there were a number of places that caught my eye.

Broad Street was surprisingly narrow, and the Grand Hotel was really too big to even get a halfway decent pic of. 

As I descended further I felt almost hemmed in but at the end of the street was an archway that seemingly marked the end of this area. Actually, looking at it from Google Earth (centred around  51.454577°,  -2.594112°) there is a lot to see, and I suspect this is quite an old area too. Definitely worth a return trip one of these days.

Exiting out of the gate I had to turn left into Nelson Street and after a short walk could see the Cenotaph in the distance. This area had an incomplete feel about it and from what I gather had been redone not too long ago. The Cenotaph may be found at  51.454987°,  -2.596391°.

Sadly mankind has not learnt how to live in peace. I have covere the Cenotaph in more detail on allatsea.

The Fourteenth Army 1942-1945. Known as “The Forgotten Army”, they defeated the Japanese Invasion of India in 1944 and liberated Burma in 1945.

I was now moving South West through this paved area, it was very pretty but the fountains were not working which made it look bad.  Even Neptune was looking kind of parched. The day had turned out nice and sunny and it got hotter all the time.

I was now heading South towards a junction on the A38 which was more or less where I needed to be to find my next destination. In the middle of this junction stood the Marriott Hotel, and it was quite an impressive building.

The building on the left was really part of the harbour structure. I could have entered the harbour at that point but my destination was really to the right of the Marriott, so I turned to starboard. 

Queen Victoria was not amused because I needed to go to the right of her into Park Street. Behind her was the triangular shaped “College Green”, with Bristol Cathedral on the left and the City Hall to the right. I covered the Cathedral in a different post, but will mention that it was almost impossible to get the whole building in a pic because of the trees and length of the building and the sun position. The City Hall is quite an impressive structure though and it reminded me of the Royal Crescent in Bath. It too was way too big to get into a  single image.

I had to pass to the right of the building into Park Street and when I emerged I almost died when I saw what a steep hill I was facing.  What is it about Bristol and all these hills anyway?


The tower in the distance is the University of Bristol Wills Memorial Building and construction was started on it in 1915 and it was completed in 1925. The tower is 65,5 metres high, and it is a really beautiful structure and is the 3rd tallest building in Bristol.  Next to the building is the Bristol Museum and Art Gallery.

Having arrived at this point I started to look around in dismay, my memorial was nowhere in sight! I consulted my main map and found that I had made a mistake on the small map I was using, and my memorial was still 3 blocks away! 

And there he is…

“In Memory of the Officers, Non Commissioned Officers
and Men  of the Gloucestershire Regiment,
Who gave their lives for their Sovereign,
and Country in the South African War
1899-1902″

Behind the memorial was another ornate building with a statue of King Edward VII and it was known as “CHOMBEC”, or, Centre for the History of Music in Britain, the Empire and the Commonwealth.

While the building below is the  Royal West of England Academy of Art

It was time to turn around and head back down the hill to the Cathedral which was the next stop on my journey. I had achieved all my goals so far with a few bonus discoveries along the way. It was fortunately downhill from here…

I made one detour on my way down, and that was to a building I had seen on the way up. I could not investigate it too closely but it is St George’s Bristol, it was once a church but is now a concert hall.

Had I continued with the road I was on I would have come to the park on Brandon Hill where the Cabot Tower is.

I will add that to my bucket list for a return trip as their is one more Anglo Boer War Memorial I need to research. I photographed the tower at a distance in 2014, although I cannot work out where I took the photograph from. With my luck the tower would be closed on the day I visit.

I was once again at the College Green and the Cathedral was my next stop.  forwardbut

DRW © 2018. Created 21/07/2018

Updated: 26/07/2018 — 19:54

Ye Olde Medieval Festivale 2018

It is difficult to comprehend that a small town like Tewkesbury played such a pivotal role in the history of England so many years ago, and we are reminded of it because we hold the famous Medieval Festival around about this time of year. I do not really enjoy it because it is crowded and slightly crazy and there is a lot to see, but nothing to see. Its that kind of festival. I have attended all of them since I arrived in Tewkesbury in 2015 but did not hang round for the much vaunted “Battle”.  Last  year’s may be view on the relevant page:  2017 Medieval Festival

The build up started a few weeks back when the banners started to appear in Town, and then the posters and finally on a gloriously hot summers day it all came together and the population of Tewkesbury tripled. Make no mistake, this festival is famous amongst re-enactors, history buffs, curious onlookers, young and old. People come from far and wide to trade, drink, fight and wear cool clothing.  Part of the attraction for me has always been people watching although I do not do crowds too well.

I will not even attempt to explain the battle in this post as it’s beyond my stock of knowledge, but the whole shebang takes place in areas where the actual battle occurred. There may even be long forgotten burials in the area where we were today, but I won’t put my head on a block and say that there are.  I have tried to create some sort of semi-coherent account of the battle in another post

Where to begin?

The site is divided into 3 areas, and the image above is where the stores are set up and the playpark and food and concession vendors are laid out. It can get chaotic but there is a wide variety of bits and bobs available so it is very popular. Although at times it is strange to bump into a knight or ye ladye browsing the edged weapons or waffling away on their cellphone.  Actually the best time to explore this area is when the battle is occurring. It is much quieter. 

It is also a popular time when many alternative lifestylers come out of the woodwork and don their finest, and there were a number of really amazing costumes out there. 

This is just a small selection, and everyone of those who I photographed were amazing. Thank you. Incidentally, “The Green Man” is a regular at these events and seems to have an aura all of his own.

This is the same area at roughly 16H45 and the battle was raging in the field close by.

The field where the battle was happening is literally just over Upper Lode Lane (which connects to the Lower Lode Inn and Upper Lode Locks)

The battlefield is a large space surrounded on 3 sides by the Living History display, which is where you can see “how the other half lived” I could be wrong but many of the re-enactors were camped out in this area with their attendant followers and baggage. It is a fascinating glimpse into the past, and most of those camped here were in period clothing and lived it rough (no broadband?).  

I will say one thing about the people who were living in those tents, they made an excellent job of portraying what a campsite may have looked like, and they put their heart into creating the ambience for the event. This is part of what makes the festival so popular. 

According to my information the battle was due to start at 3pm, but as usual that was incorrect, and while the soldiers suited up there was a demonstration of falconry. It is however not really the sort of thing that works well in a large space because from where I was standing you could barely see the stage although I did manage one image of these amazing birds.

And while the falconry was going on the crowd just got larger and the seating area around the arena got steadily more packed with people in various states of undress. It was a scorcher of a day and the sun was not being merciful at all. I did not envy those who were going to participate in the fighting because that steel armour was going to get very very hot (especially if left outside in the sun).  I fear the knight below melted, leaving his armour behind.

Then there was movement as small squads of knights and followers started to head to the opposite end of the field. They were a ragtag mob, and I suspect many would already be wishing they were at home with a cold one watching the telly.

Do not make the assumption that all of these armour clad foot soldiers were men either. There were a number of girls and women in those squads, and they were not in the traditional camp follower role either.  We were also visited by the two snake oil salesmen with their cart of body parts and assorted bottles of green stuff. They too are regulars and bring some light relief to the waiting crowd. Their cry of “bring out yer dead!” causing many a smile and scared small children from near and far. 

Things were reaching a climax on the other side of the arena too as more men gathered while Sir Gallop-around-alot tried to impress the crowd with his equestrian prowess. Actually he was “scouting”, but the reality is that he was probably showing off. Archers were gathering on both sides too…

And then the archers let fly… the longbow used by the English was a fearsome weapon by all counts, and storms of arrows would reign down on combatants from rows of men especially trained in the use of the bow. Unfortunately if your opponent had similar trained men the advantage was moot. 

Then the armies arrived after a long march, and the Lancastrian forces of Queen Margaret of Anjou  passed within earshot of the audience.  

Things were hotting up as the two parties got together to parley. You can see Queen Margaret in her veil and the King facing the armoured man with the feathers in his helmet. The guy ruining the shot is not checking his email, he is busy reading the instructions on how to use his “gonne” 

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By all accounts the parley did not go well, she slapped him and stomped off, the die had been cast and battle would commence. Firearms were in use by then, although by all accounts they were relatively simple weapons, more liable to explode and kill the user than to kill the opposition. The Yorkists certainly had more guns than their enemies, and they were apparently better served.

Ye loude bange!!

Then battle did commence…

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It was also time for me to leave the festival. It was obvious that while the fighting was ebbing and flowing in the area I could not see very much. I was also tired and hot and bothered and really ready to call it a day. The real Lancastrians and Yorkists way back in May 1471 were probably equally tired and some were probably wounded and hoping to find sanctuary in the church and town.  

And that was The Medieval Festival.  I am glad I saw part of the Battle, it probably raged long after I had left, and I am sure much quaffing of ale was done afterwards. On Sunday the parade will wobble erratically down the High Street, I covered the parade last year, so all that is left are those random images that I enjoy so much. 

Acknowledgements:

Everybody!! especially those who were involved in the battles and in the supporting role, and of course the organisers and those who manned the stalls and gates and made sure it all went well.  

See ye nexte time.

DRW © 2018. Created 15/07/2018.

Updated: 25/07/2018 — 05:38

Armed Forces Day 2018

Today is Armed Forces Day in Tewkesbury, actually it was yesterday everywhere else, it is just that we like being different.  😉 

The reason for our delay was probably because there had been some additions to our War Memorial and a parade would have really caused havoc in the town. The War Memorial is in somewhat of an important junction so it tends to remind everybody battling to get around it that there were two World Wars and Tewkesbury was involved too.

I have covered the memorial in allatsea, but the additional names really mean that I need to update it too. The parade was scheduled from 9.30 till 11.30, but it battled to get started. Strangely enough there was not as large a military contingent as I would have expected, although veterans and cadets were well represented. 

As usual the Town Band showed the way and they paused at the Town Hall to collect the civic party who were dressed in their finest, led by the Town Crier:  Michael David Kean-Price – Town Sarjent and Common Crier,  Formerly of your Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (The Blues).

Fortunately the town isnt that large that the tail end of the parade hasn’t left while the front has arrived. There were not too many people around either, but then I expect not too many were aware of the event either. It was not well advertised.

And with the memorial surrounded on all sides they commenced the unveiling of the two new plaques. Unfortunately many memorials are faced with the same problem of who to put in and who to leave out. A lot of servicemen and women died after their military service and were omitted from Rolls of Honour and Memorials. It is a tragic state of affairs, especially in South Africa where there are over 2000 who are not commemorated on the National Roll of Honour or on the CWGC lists. 

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The unveiling really followed the tried formula of a Remembrance Service with its attendant Last Post and 2 minutes silence which was ruined by an idiot on a motorbike. 

The new plaques look like this.

World War One

World War Two

There was an elderly couple at the World War Two plaque and I suspect they were related to somebody commemorated on the plaque. Too many years too late is my opinion.

And then we were done and the parade marched off to take the salute at the Town Hall. I drifted away towards the closest loo and then walked up to the Vineyards to photograph the Monument there which I will post about eventually. It was 26 degrees outside and a cold ale went down very well. I paused at the cemetery too because one of the names on the one plaque was familiar.

Worker Kathleen Rose Sollis is buried in Tewkesbury Cemetery, she died on 22 March 1918, aged 20.

One day I hope to know the circumstances of her death. 

And that was Armed Forces Day. Thanks to serving and past members of HM Forces as well as those who serve in the Police, Fire Department, Hospitals too… Thank You.

DRW © 2018. Created 01/07/2018

Updated: 25/07/2018 — 05:38

Loving Liverpool (8) Western Approaches Command

As I was saying…

The war at sea was a brutal one, lasting from the first day of the war right through till the last. To make matters worse any person serving on board ship faced an even worse enemy than the Axis forces, and that was the medium which they sailed in. The convoys that plodded along between the United Kingdom and the United States were shepherded by escort vessels of all shapes and sizes, and overseeing the area of ocean between the two continents was Western Approaches Command.

The Western Approaches Command may be found at the Liverpool War Museum at 1-3 Rumford St, Liverpool. Do not expect this to be one of your normal museums geared towards children, it is mostly undergrond in the former bunker that used to serve as the operational nerve centre of the Western Approaches. I knew more or less where it was situated but came from a different direction so ended up making a wrong turning and that proved to be quite beneficial to me as I discovered two more War memorials in the process.

There is an open square behind the City Hall that is bounded by a large building that seems to have been called “Exchange Flags” but is now called Horton House and Walker House; recognise those names? 

The first memorial was dedicated to “the Men of the Liverpool Exchange Newsroom”

While the other is dedicated to “Men from the Liverpool Cotton Association”

There is a third monument in the centre of the square and it is known as the Nelson Monument. 

Nelson Monument

However, I am not going to cover these in this blog but covered them at allatsea. My main interest here is the Western Approaches facility underneath this vast space. 

Walker House (formerly known as Derby House), was adapted during its construction to include a reinforced bunker that housed the Western Approaches Command Headquarters.  Construction of the main building was completed in 1939 but the construction of Walker House was interrupted by the war. The inclusion of the re-enforced bunker to house the command centre for the Battle of the Atlantic meant that Walker House wasn’t finished until 1941. The bunker was closed on 15 August 1945 after the end of WW2 but was re-opened as the Western Approaches Museum. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchange_Flags) The museum entrance is almost unassuming, but beneath it is another world in another era.

Please show your pass to the guard at the door (he has stepped out for a moment). 

This is not some glitz and glass museum, you really need to remember it in the context of what it was like between 1941 and 1945, it is one of those places that is stuck in time. 

I am following the file numbering of my images so hopefully they will be in some sort of order as I passed through the museum, although I did backtrack on a few occasions. I am not in a position to explain the Battle of the Atlantic as it it really did not consist of a single event but rather a whole sequence of events, milestones, disasters and victories.  The men who bore the brunt of it were the men from the Merchant Navy who manned ships that were often one step away from disaster without the enemy even being close. They faced submarines, aircraft, weather and public and official indifference just to keep the lifelines of commerce open. 

Those who served on the escorts initially faced an uphill battle to keep the convoys safe but slowly a combination of factors turned the tables on the U-boats of the Axis. Even Churchill feared the submarine menace but at the end the battle was won and Western Approaches Command  had a vast role to play in that victory.

Communication in this labyrinth was via wireless, telex, telephone and messenger. 

Radio Room

These were often manned (womaned?) by a staff of naval ratings and WRENS who often had to deal with the emotional trauma of knowing that a convoy was sailing towards a disaster and being unable to do anything about it. They had a job to do and they did it with excellence. 

The operations room was the nerve centre of the command, a large plotting wall was used to keep tabs of the situation at sea and of course track the convoys and known enemy forces. Information coming in through all means of communication available. 

The Plotting Wall

Those involved had to really keep tabs of the big picture as well as a localised view of the situation on the ground. The course of a convoy’s often painfully slow progress was tracked by means of  colour coded elastics that followed its track across the Atlantic. 

The needs of the job sometimes meant that staff slept over at the bunker and limited sleeping accommodation was available. Even back then your bed had to be square.

The reality was that it was a totally enclosed bunker with limited ventilation and considerable stress; smoking was also common back then and the air quality must have been terrible. A four watch system was in place 7 days a week with only two 15 minutes rest periods during a watch. It was a not a very pleasant place to work, but then the men on board ship probably would not have swapped with them if they were given the chance.

The “Hot Line” to the War Office in London was able to connect directly to 10 favoured lines. It was housed in a sound proof booth and it is possible that Winston Churchill was heard in it a few times. It was a standard telephone but was modified especially for this purpose. There are only 2 of these instruments known to survive.   

The man in charge of the Western Approaches Command was Admiral Max Kennedy Horton, GCB, DSO & Two Bars, SGM (29 November 1883 – 30 July 1951). A former decorated submariner,  he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches Command on 17 November 1942.

As a successful former submariner he was able to understand the limitations of submarine warfare and instituted a number of tactical changes in the way the escort ships were to be used. 

Staff often saw him appear at the window overlooking the operations room clad in his pyjamas. As a keen golfer who may have had golf balls on his desk or clubs nearby. Given how much stress he was under golf this was his favourite way of unwinding.

He died in 1951 and there is a memorial to him in Liverpool Cathedral. 

He was one of the major reasons that the tide was turned in the Battle of the Atlantic, and of course his staff contributed to the success of this little known nerve centre. One of the stranger things to see was a film projector that was used to screen footage of the war. Originally the Gaumont Kalee Dragon projector was up in in London.  It is a fascinating piece of machinery. 

I trained as an apprentice in the telecommunications industry and quite a lot of the equipment on display was telecommunications related so it really interested me. This room housed the switchboard and probably part of the telex equipment.

Have you shown your pass?

 Below it was naval telex station

And switchboard

As well as the cipher station.

And then it was time to head upwards to sunlight.

There was a mockup street on display too, and it was really quite poignant because the reality was that once staff emerged from their bunker they would often end up finding a city that had been bombed. Liverpool was the second most bombed city outside London, the first raid taking place on 28 August 1940. Roughly 80 raids were conducted between August 1940 and January 1942, and over 75000 people were left homeless as a result of the bombing which mostly targeted the docks and warehouses on the Mersey. 

And then it was over. (my visit and the war). 

It was an extremely interesting place and it had an “otherness” about it, definitely a latent aura was present. It is very difficult to comprehend what it was like during the war, and the euphoria when it was all done and almost everybody got to go home. Sadly too many never did see that victory so this is really a part of commemoration. The men and women who worked here have all passed into history, they will however be remembered for the part they played, they were unsung heroes. 

It is a tangible link to World War 2, and one of those rare surviving places that we can see and experience. My only gripe was….  none really. I know that there is so much more that can go in here that is relevant, and I believe they are working towards it. It was well worth the visit and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

forwardbut

I shall leave you with my usual odds and ends pics.

DRW © 2018. Created 09/06/2018

Updated: 27/06/2018 — 19:10

Loving Liverpool (5) Birkenhead

Continuing where we left off… 

It was now day two of my Liverpool trip and outside all was grey and gloomy and I was at a momentary loss as to what to do with myself. While researching my navigation I discovered that Liverpool was also home to “U-534“,  a Type IXC/40 U-boat from World War II. She had been raised on 23 August 1993 by the Dutch salvage company Smit Tak  after being undiscovered for nearly 41 years. She now formed the nucleus of the U-Boat Story museum at the Woodside Ferry Terminal in Birkenhead, which, was a short train journey underneath the Mersey. You can see the dismembered U-Boat in the image below.

Woodside ferry terminal

I actually did not use my brains when I decided to hop the train across the river, for starters I was at least 2 hours too early, and secondly I could visit the museum free if I bought a ticket for the river cruise on the ferry.  With the clouds hanging over my head I picked up the underground at Lime Street and headed to Hamilton Square Station in Birkenhead.

Hamilton Square Station

It was chilly too, and I regretted not bringing my jacket with.  I also regretted missing the lift and hoofing up an infinite number of stairs to get out of the station. 

The promenade, U-Boat Story and Waterside Ferry Terminal were about a block away. A quick walk and I was there, but everything was closed and not a soul was in sight. It was only 8.15, why was everything closed? It was very depressing indeed. The only item that looked reasonably interesting was a replica of the Victorian submarine “Resurgam

The original ill fated vessel met its end in Liverpool Bay off Rhyl on 25 February 1880 while en route for Portsmouth. How successful it may have been as a functioning submarine is not noted. However, the information plaque records that she did sail and submerge successfully. 

At the waters edge I discovered that not only was the tide out, but there was actually a ship alongside at the ferry landing on my side of the river! Huzzah! let’s go have a look!

She was busy loading and there was no way of knowing when she would sail and of course I was on the wrong side of the river to get a proper look at her (for the record she was the Stena Mersey).  And, to my amazement a movement on my right revealed a tanker running light outbound.

I idled along checking my watch. The first ferry to Woodside was destined to arrive at 10H30 and  the museum only opened at 10H30 and it was only 8.20! I had a decision to make because nothing was happening here. Looming next to the terminal were the segments of U-534 and I peered at them through the fence with interest. 

I really wanted to see this exhibition so I either had to hang around till opening time, or head back to the other river bank and come across with the ferry after 10H30. 

There were a few other surprises on this short stretch of river bank. 

The Birkenhead Monument.

The HMS Birkenhead is one of those definitive shipwrecks that litter the pages of history, and especially early South African History, as she foundered after colliding with an uncharted rock near Danger Point (today near Gansbaai, Western Cape) on  26 February 1852. The sinking of the Birkenhead is the earliest maritime disaster evacuation during which the concept of “women and children first” is known to have been applied. There were of the approximately 643 people on board the ill fated vessel of which only 193 were saved. 

The memorial was unveiled on 5 March 2014

The HMS Thetis Memorial.

A bit further along the promenade I found a memorial to the men lost in the sinking of HMS Thetis on 1 June 1939. I recall reading the story of the disaster and unsuccessful attempts to rescue the men trapped inside her, and it was really one of those disasters that could have been prevented.

Ninety-nine lives were lost in the incident: 51 crew members, 26 Cammell Laird employees, 8 other naval officers, 7 Admiralty overseeing officers, 4 Vickers-Armstrong employees, 2 caterers and a Mersey pilot.

Thetis was successfully salvaged and repaired, being commissioned in 1940 as HMS Thunderbolt but was sunk by depth charges by the Italian corvette Cicogna on 14 March 1943 off Sicily.  All hands were lost and Thunderbolt settled to the bottom in 1,350 m of water.

She is listed on the Submarine Memorial at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.

It was time for me to head back to the other bank of the river. The ferry was currently running 10 minutes trips across the Mersey between the terminal in Liverpool and Seacombe/Wallasy and if I arrived too early I would ride her up and down until I got tired. The round trip on the “River Explorer Cruise” runs from Pier Head Ferry Terminal to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, Wirral and then to Woodside Ferry Terminal, Wirral where the U-boat Story was and then back to the pier head. It was a 50 minute hop off and hop on trip and I intended to climb off at Woodside, check the exhibition and then reboard at 11H30 to return to the starting place.

However, I am going to skip the ferry trip in this post as I really want to do a post about the ferry separately so this one will deal with my visit to U-534. (the ferry is dealt with in Loving Liverpool (6) Having bought a River Explorer ticket I was entitled to free entry to the exhibition and I had allocated enough time to grab the ferry back at 11H30, although I was equally prepared to catch the next one at 12H30 too, although it would be much more crowded on that trip. There were not too many of us at the museum at that awful time, and I headed directly for the vessel instead of pausing at the exhibits in the hall. The submarine had been sawn into 4 parts, with the conning tower balanced between two of them. Each sawn end had been “sealed” with a transparent bulkhead that allowed you to see inside it.

I am however ambivalent about what was done because they really sliced up an intact (albeit rusty) U-Boat, but it did allow for a limited view of the interior of a U-Boat. The limitations of what they did were several: the biggest being that you could only really see a jumble of badly rusted machinery but nothing that lay beyond roughly 2 metres away. The state of the transparent bulkheads did leave much to be desired because they were badly smeared and I would have thought that they would been cleaned every morning before the exhibition opened. In some sections the machinery was also covered in pigeon crap! and if a pigeon can get in then so can the rain.     

But, those slices were fascinating to see, and while there were cross section explanations that marked certain components it was not always easy to understand what you were seeing. The vessel was full of water for over 40 years so the interiors are badly rusted, and the few wooden parts that I saw were rotten and there was a certain eeriness about that interior. I recall reading a book called “The Night Boat” by Robert R McCammon many years ago, and it was about a submarine full of zombies, and what I was seeing looked very much liked what I imagined that literary submarine looked like (although without the zombies and pigeons). I am not going to even try explain the images because it is beyond me.

It was fascinating to say the least. What really amazed me was how they squeezed so much machinery into such a small area and routed pipework and cables through the hull. The vertically orientated image shows the inside of the saddle tanks, with the curvature of the pressure hull on the right hand side. I never thought to check the underside of the saddle tanks because technically they were free flooding.

On 5 May 1945 she was underway heading north towards Norway, when she was attacked by a Liberator aircraft from RAF 547 Squadron which dropped depth charges. the submarine took heavy damage and began to sink by the stern. Forty nine of the fifty two crew members survived, including four who escaped via a torpedo hatch.

Inside the main building is an exhibition of items that were found inside the submarine, and these were very poignant, and obviously from long ago. 

For me it was a rare glimpse at the inside of a ship that could have ended the war if affective countermeasures were not found, and at times it was a close run thing. U-534 never sank a ship but did shoot down two British aircraft. Her end came right at the end of the war, and today we are able to catch a tiny glimpse into a vessel that descended from primitive hand powered machines that were considered an ungentlemanly weapon. We have come a long way since U-534 was built way back in 1942, and today the nuclear powered submarine is a true submarine and even deadlier than before.

It was time to catch the ferry on the next part of my journey, so I headed outwards, slightly miffed because the shop did not have prices on their ferry models.

My next post will deal with the ferry and my 2 trips on board the ferry Snowdrop.

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DRW © 2018. Created 03/05/2018

Updated: 19/06/2018 — 12:54

Loving Liverpool (1)

There are many places in the UK that are famous for their maritime history, and Liverpool is no exception. This was where Cunard sailed from and where the Lusitania and Mauretania were based. The Titanic was registered in the city, and of course Liverpool was home to the escorts that shepherded convoys across the Atlantic during the 2nd World War. And, like so many ports in the UK it became bereft of ships as the passenger traffic died away and containerisation replaced the conventional cargo ships that used to call this place their home port. 

Recently I have been mulling over making another short trip somewhere, similar to the one I made to London in 2016 and Liverpool ended up on the top of the list. The logistics of getting there are not huge: catch a train from Cheltenham, bail out at Birmingham, catch a different train to Liverpool Lime Street Station and voila! there you were. The biggest snag was timing though. My original plan had been to head out on the last weekend of May, but the Monday was a bank holiday and rates and ticket prices tended to be higher over a weekend, so I ended up planning for 29 May till 01 June instead. I found a hotel easily enough, booked my train tickets, paid my deposit and started the countdown. 

Early on the morning of the 29th I was at Cheltenham Spa Station. I had tweaked my train booking so that I had roughly half an hour to change trains at Birmingham, but the train was late arriving at Cheltenham and that cut my changing time down to 20 minutes. I was curious about what Birmingham New Street Station looked like now that it was finally completed as I had last passed through it in mid June 2015 and it was a real mess. Hopefully things were better now. 

Upon arrival I dashed upstairs into the concourse and out the main entrance to the station (I may be incorrect about it being the main entrance). I got very disorientated when I saw that they had added a giant alien eyeball onto the front of the station!

While inside resembled something out of a cheesy science fiction show.  

Still, it is a major improvement, and the platforms are much lighter now than they were before but it is still a horrible crowded and frenetic place.

The train to Liverpool from Birmingham stopped at: Smethwick Gatton Bridge, Woolverhampton, Penkridge, Stafford, Crewe, Winsford Hartsford (Cheshire), Acton Bridge, Runcorn, Liverpool South Parkway and finally Liverpoool Lime Street. It was roughly a 2 hour train journey excluding train changes. 

When I was doing my navigation I had marked a number of places that I wanted to see, and I had planned to do them over the 3 days that I had. The big unknown was the weather though, it was overcast in Cheltenham when I left, although Liverpool appeared to be clear which was forecast to change. I would really have to play the weather by ear. My goals were: The waterfront with associated War Memorials and statues, the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals, a ferry ride, the Cenotaph, museums, and anything else that caught my wandering eye.

I arrived at midday, and the sun was shining!

Liverpool Lime Street Station was yet another of those glorious cathedrals of glass but in total disarray as they were renovating it (and is going to be closed completely for 2 months).

The cuttings leading to the station from Edge Hill were amazing, at least 3-4 stories deep, they are covered in vegetation and moss with bricked areas and bare rock all on display. It was quite a view but getting pics was impossible because of angles and reflections. It was one of those sights that leaves you with admiration for those who built the early railways. They laid bricks by the millions and gangs of men created these artificial caverns in the city with picks and shovels. Lime Street (what a great name) is probably the most well known station in Liverpool, although there are a number of stations in the city because it also has an underground rail network. 

Imagine this space in the days of steam…. 

My hotel was literally a quick walk “around the corner*, and I believe it is the 2nd oldest hotel in Liverpool. It was a nice hotel, although I did battle with hot water and the bed. The staff however were awesome, and the rate was a good one. I would stay there again if ever I came this way in the future.

I dropped off my bag and headed down the road to my first goal: 

St George’s Quarter.

The map below gives a rough outline of some of the structures in what is known as “St George’s Quarter”, although I am not dealing with all of them in these posts.

1 – St George’s Hall, 2 – St John’s Garden, 3 – World Museum, 4 – Central Library, 5 – Walker Art Gallery, 6 – Empire Theatre, 16 – Lime Street Station, 18 – Queensway Tunnel approach

Liverpool’s War Memorial was unveiled in 1930, it was designed by Lionel B. Budden, an associate professor from the university of Liverpool.  It is was placed on the plateau below St George’s Hall and is a long low rectangular structure with two long friezes. There is a  more detailed post on the memorial on allatsea/

St George’s Hall (# 1 on the map) was somewhat of a puzzle because it was a huge building that seemingly had no visible purpose although it had quite a number of secrets in it. The whole area around it had a number of bronze statues, and was very impressive. It was probably even more impressive when it was built, but the traffic in front and size of the building really makes it look like a large tomb. My first goal was accomplished and it was now time to find the waterfront. Behind the building is a very pretty park known as St John’s Garden (# 2 on the map), and in it there is a Memorial to the Liverpool Regiment that lists men who died during the Anglo Boer War, Afghanistan and Burma.

To the right of the park there were three very old and visually impressive buildings (3 – World Museum, 4 – Central Library, 5 – Walker Art Gallery,)

Walker Art Gallery

World Museum and Central Library

I visited the museum on my 3rd day and it was absolute chaos with all the crowds of people. I was very glad to get out of there! 

There are two other structures to mention while we are in the area, the first is: the former North Western Hotel building which stands almost attached to the station complex (# 16 in the map). Originally opened as a railway hotel in 1871 it was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, and had 330 rooms. The hotel closed in 1933, and at the moment it appears to be student accommodation. 

and next to is the Empire Theatre dating from 1925, (i# 6 on the map)

My hotel was in Lord Nelson Street that was sandwiched between these two buildings. 

It was time to find the waterfront! I had spotted the Liver Birds at some point so really just headed in the general direction where they were because the waterfront is a large area and I was bound to hit it sooner or later. I detoured to a number of buildings along the way but eventually reached my destination, and it was not to disappoint. I entered the area through Water Street, with the famous Royal Liver Building on my right, and the equally beautiful Cunard Building on my left. 

The former is famous because it is really a unique landmark on the waterfront and it is topped by a pair of “Liver Birds”.  Legend has it that while one giant bird looks out over the city to protect its people, the other bird looks out to sea at the new sailors coming in to port.  It is said that, if one of the birds were to fly away the city of Liverpool would cease to exist, thus adding to the mystery of the birds. The are  eighteen feet high, ten feet long and carry a cast sprig of seaweed in their beaks. They are officially cormorants but will always be known as the Liver Birds.

Royal Liver Building

The three buildings along this spot of waterfront are collectively known as the “Three Graces” (Royal Liver Building, Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building), and all three are spectacular.

Cunard Building

Port of Liverpool Building

I was able to get into the foyers of the Cunard and Port of Liverpool buildings, and I was stunned. The  building dates from 1917 although Cunard left the building in the 1960’s.  In fact the Cunard Shipping Company of today is owned by Carnival Cruise Lines and based in America. 

I would have loved to have seen this space back in the heady days of the Cunarders that used Liverpool as their base, but I would have ended up booking my passage in a very different looking room. The room in the images above is the 1st Class Booking Hall.

The Roll of Honour was placed in nearby Liverpool Parish Church in 1990

The Port of Liverpool Building was equally unbelievable. It was completed in 1907, and is a Grade II* listed building. The central area under the dome is where the passages lead off, and it reminded me a lot of a panopticon. But, unlike those it is much more beautiful.  

And seeing as I was at the pierhead I could check out the ships…  but unfortunately the only ship in sight was the Mersey Ferry “Snowdrop” and she was running cruises between the banks of the river spaced an hour apart.

Snowdrop

The queue was horribly long so I shelved that plan and went and hunted down some of the other items on my list. 

The Titanic Memorial with Royal Liver Building in the background

Captain Frederic John Walker RN. Memorial

The statue of Captain Frederic John Walker RN ties into the Merchant Navy Memorial in the two images below.  The escort groups he led sank more U-boats during the Battle of the Atlantic than any other British or Allied commander, and he was instrumental in the Allied victory of the Battle of the Atlantic,  The statue, by Liverpool sculptor Tom Murphy  was unveiled in 1998 and shows him  in a typical pose on board his ship. Sadly he died of a cerebral haemorrhage in July 1944.

Many ships and men owed their survival to Captain Walker and the escorts of the Western Approaches Command. Their contribution to the war effort is often neglected, but these unsung heroes will always have a special place in my heart.  Most have no other grave but the sea. 

The Liverpool Naval Memorial is also close to these Memorials, but it proved to be a very difficult memorial to photograph.

Liverpool Naval Memorial

I also passed this statue of these 4 guys.. but they don’t interest me.

And having reached the point on the pierhead we shall turn the page to reveal more about my trip to Liverpool.  I shall however leave you with this Superlambanana to keep you company. Or you can just bite the bullet and turn the page

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DRW © 2018. Created 02/06/2018.

Updated: 02/09/2018 — 08:46

Four Ships Week

Regular readers will know that I have slowly been adding in reminders about important dates in South African naval history. The most prominent being in February when I commemorate Three Ships Month. Sadly though, it does not all end with those 3 disasters (although technically the Mendi was not a naval vessel as it sailed with a civilian crew while doing trooping duties). 

There are however four more ships that I am adding into these reminders, and they were all lost in April of 1942.  The men killed in these sinkings were seconded to four British warships that were lost in what has become known as “The Easter Sunday Raid“. 

I am not in a position to elaborate about the disasters that befell these ships, as there are others who have done a much better job than I have. I am heavy reliant on Wikipedia for the information below.

HMS Cornwall, was  a County-class heavy cruiser of the Kent sub-class built for the Royal Navy in the mid-1920s. Cornwall was transferred to the South Atlantic in late 1939 where she escorted convoys before returning to the Indian Ocean in 1941. she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet in March 1942 and  was sunk on 5 April by dive bombers from three Japanese aircraft carriers during the Indian Ocean Raid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Cornwall_(56)

HMS Dorsetshire, was a County class heavy cruiser  and a member of the Norfolk sub-class, of which she was one of two ships (HMS Norfolk was the other).  Launched in Portsmouth in January 1929, she was completed in September 1930.  After a long and varied career she was transferred to the Eastern Fleet to support British forces in the recently opened Pacific Theatre of the war.   On 5 April, Japanese aircraft spotted Dorsetshire and her sister Cornwall while en route to Colombo; a force of dive bombers then attacked the two ships and sank them. More than 1,100 men were rescued the next day, out of a combined crew of over 1,500. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Dorsetshire_(40))

HMS Hermes, was the world’s first ship to be designed as an aircraft carrier, her construction began during the First World War but she was not completed until after the end of the war.  She  was commissioned in 1924, and served briefly with the Atlantic Fleet before spending the bulk of her career assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet and the China Station.  When the Second World War began she was briefly assigned to the Home Fleet and conducted anti-submarine patrols in the Western Approaches  before being  sent to patrol the Indian Ocean. She was refitted in South Africa between November 1941 and February 1942 and then joined the Eastern Fleet at Ceylon.

While berthed in Trincomalee on 8 April a warning of an approaching Japanese fleet was received, and she sailed that day for the Maldives with no aircraft on board. On 9 April she was spotted by a Japanese scout plane, and she was subsequently attacked by several dozen dive bombers shortly afterwards.  Without air cover she  was quickly sunk although most of the survivors were rescued by a nearby hospital ship, but 307 men were lost in the sinking. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HMS_Hermes_(95))

HMS Hollyhock, a Flower-Class Corvette, was laid down on 27 November 1939 and launched on 19 August 1940. She was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 19 November 1940. Hollyhock was bombed and sunk by Japanese naval aircraft on 9 April 1942 east of Ceylon in the Indian Ocean, along with the aircraft carrier Hermes, the Australian destroyer Vampire and two tankers.  53 men lost their lives in the sinking.  (http://www.naval-history.net/xGM-Chrono-20Cor-Flower-Hollyhock.htm)

64 South Africans lost their lives as members of the crew of these 4 ships.  Unfortunately these losses were conveniently shunted aside in the quest to sanitise history, but slowly we are recognising that there is much more that we need to discover and commemorate.  

Further Reading:

The major inspiration for this post is The Observation Post, a  blog that was set up to keep contemporary South African Military history alive and reveal the truth – because historical “truth” in South Africa is so often skewed to some or other political agenda.

Recounting South African Sacrifice on the HMS Dorsetshire

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Cornwall

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hermes

Recounting South African sacrifice on the HMS Hollyhock

DRW © 2018. Created 02/04/2018.  The Observation Post is created by Peter Dickens 

Updated: 09/05/2018 — 12:47

Three ships month

February has become known as a month where South Africa lost a number of men in shipping disasters. These are the three:

HMSAS Southern Floe. (11/02/1941)

One of four Southern Class whalers taken over by the Navy from Southern Whaling & Sealing Co. Ltd., Durban. The four ships were renamed  HMSAS Southern Maid, HMSAS Southern Sea, HMSAS Southern Isles and HMSAS Southern Floe. The four little ships, with their complement of 20-25 men,  “went up north” in December 1940. In January 1941, Southern Floe and her sister ship Southern Sea arrived at Tobruk to take over patrol duties along the mine free swept channels and to escort any ships through them.  

HMSAS Southern Maid. (SA Museum of Military History)

On 11 February 1941,  HMSAS Southern Sea arrived at the rendezvous two miles east of Tobruk where she was to meet Southern Floe,  but there was no sign of  her. A common enough occurrence as often ships would be delayed by weather or mechanical difficulties or even enemy action. However, a passing destroyer notified the vessel that they had picked up a stoker from the vessel, clinging to some wreckage. The stoker, CJ Jones RNVR, was the sole survivor of the ship, and he explained that there had been a heavy explosion on board and he had barely escaped with his life.  24 Men lost their lives; although never confirmed it is assumed that the vessel had struck a mine. 

SAS President Kruger (18/02/1982) 

One of three sister ships (President Steyn, Pretorius and Kruger),  was a Type 12 Frigate, acquired by the South African Navy in the 1960’s. Built in the United Kingdom, she was launched on 20 October 1960 from the Yarrow Shipbuilders, Scotstoun.

SAS President Kruger (F150)

On 18 February 1982, the vessel was conducting anti-submarine exercises with her sister ship the SAS President Pretorius, the submarine SAS Emily Hobhouse and the replenishment ship SAS Tafelberg. The President Kruger was stationed on the Tafelberg’s port side between 10 and 330 degrees, while the the President Pretorius had a reciprocal box on the starboard side. At approximately 4 am, the whole formation had to change direction by 154 degrees which would result in an almost complete reversal in direction. To maintain station the frigates would change direction first to maintain their positions ahead of the  Tafelberg on the new heading. President Kruger had two possible options: turn 200 degrees to port, or 154 degrees to starboard. The starboard turn was a much smaller one but was much more dangerous as it involved  turning towards the Pretorius and Tafelberg.  The officer of the watch elected to make the starboard turn, initiating 10 a degree turn. that had a larger radius and would take longer to execute than a 15 degree turn, Critically while executing the turn, the operations room lost radar contact with the Tafelberg in the radar clutter. An argument ensued between the officer of the watch and the principal warfare officer over the degree of wheel to apply, it was however too late and the bows of the much bigger Tafelberg impacted the President Kruger on her port side.

The President Kruger sank 78 nautical miles (144 km) south west of Cape Point, with the loss of  16 lives. 

HMT Mendi (21/02/1917)

The 4230 GRT Mendi (Official number 120875), was owned by the British & African Steam Navigation Company Limited. which was part of Elder, Dempster and Company. She was 370 ft long with a beam of 46 ft and was built by Alexander Stephen & Sons, Glasgow. She was fitted with triple expansion steam engines that gave her a maximum speed of 13 knots.

Model of the SS Mendi by Buddy Bacon, in Simonstown Naval Museum. Used with permission.

On 21 February 1917, South Africa lost some 607 African volunteers en route to the battlefields of France when their troopship:  HMT Mendi, was in a collision with the SS Darro off St Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight. Many would perish from exposure that night and the resulting death toll was high. Of the 802 SANLC troops on board some 607 men of the South African contingent perished, as did 30 members of her crew. 

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The deep sea is a place fraught with danger, made even worse by wartime restrictions and the ever present weather conditions that often hamper navigation and the safe operation of a ship. In the case of the Southern Floe enemy action was responsible for her loss, while the President Kruger and Mendi sank following a collision. The Mendi has only recently become important once again and we probably know more about it now than we did before. Sadly, there are none alive who can tell us how it happened.  It is however important that we remember these disasters, and the loss of lives that were the result. And, to remember the families of those who never saw their loved ones again. 

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning

We Will Remember Them.

 
DRW © 2018. Created 10/02/2018. 
Updated: 04/03/2018 — 08:28

Connections: it’s all in the name

I found a great set of connections this past week and while I have it more or less down pat there are still a few things that I need to do. The story goes like this:

Very close to where I live is the parish church of St Nicolas in Ashchurch. It is a pretty church with a long history and I visited there in November 2016.

What I did not know at the time was that there was a war memorial associated with Ashchurch, in fact it is right across the road from the church. I photographed that one on Boxing Day last year

When I had completed my blogpost I decided to create a community at “Lives of the First World War” for the 24 names from the First World War commemorated on the memorial. Three of the men commemorated on the memorial were Majors in the British Army, namely:

Major The Hon. Alfred Henry Maitland

Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall

Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland

Fortunately for me, a lot of the research had already been done on these officers and I really just had to tie them into the parish of Ashchurch. 

I knew that Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland (CWGC LINK)  had a Memorial in the grounds of Tewkesbury Abbey which could be a connection. 

Actually there are also two Cartland brothers commemorated on that memorial, both being killed a day apart during WW2. ( Major John Ronald Hamilton Cartland (Worcester Yeomanry, KIA 30/05/1940) and  Captain James Anthony Hamilton Cartland (Lincolnshire Regiment KIA 29/05/1940))  Remember this surname as it is important. Both of those two men were from Poolbrook in Worcestershire, while Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland was from Pershore in Worcestershire. The border between Tewkesbury and Worcestershire is not too far away, probably about a kilometre but so far I did not have a tangible link to Ashchurch

Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall was my next puzzle. According to his CWGC Casualty Record he was born in Ireland, however the record listed his wife as being from “Gainsborough”,  College Rd., Cheltenham. But, no real link to Tewkesbury. 

Major The Hon. Alfred Henry Maitland: According to his CWGC Casualty Record he was killed very early in the war (September 1914). And, his wife was listed as being “Edith, daughter of Sanford G. T. Scobell”. As yet I do not know where he was born, but I will find it given enough time. He served in the Boer War too, so he connects to South Africa. The Scobell link looked interesting and I accessed the 1881 Census record and discovered the following.

The Scobell family in the 1881 census comprised of:
 
Father: Sanford George Treweeke Scobell   Born 1893
Mother: Edith Scobell (Born Palairet 1850)
Edith M Scobell  daughter, born 1872 (Brighton)
Florence Eleanor Scobell daughter, born 1875 (Brighton)
Emily K Scobell, daughter, born 1876 (Worcestershire)
Mary Hamilton Scobell, daughter, born 1878 (Worcestershire)
Sandford TG Scobell, son born 1880 (Brighton)

I checked the names against my three majors and discovered:

Major James Bertram Faulkner Cartland,  married Mary Hamilton Scobell.
Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall,  married Florence Eleanor Scobell.
and The Honourable, Major Alfred Henry Maitland married Edith M Scobell.
 

That connected all three men to the same family. The Scobell family are listed in the census as living at “The Down House”, Redmarley-D’abitot Worcester. Google maps puts Redmarley in Gloucestershire, although it was part of Worcestershire up till 1931.

The Down House was recently on the market ( £3,250,000) and is described as having 7 bedrooms, 3 reception rooms, 4 bathrooms, morning room, formal drawing room, impressive library and dining room as well as separate three bedroom staff flat in the grounds, coach house and yard, stables, garaging, in all about 130 acres. It is a Grade II Listed Regency house and was originally designed and built by the well-known architect Thomas Rickman between 1820 and 1823.  Tewkesbury is 7 miles away, Gloucester is 10 miles, Cheltenham 15 miles, and Worcester 25 miles. (http://www.rightmove.co.uk/property-for-sale/property-59662366.html)

The connection to the Scobell family was complete, but what connected these men and the Scobell family to Ashchurch? To find that out I shuffled through my photographs of St Nicholas in Ashchurch to see whether there were any wall memorials in the church that could tie into the Scobell family. 

The answer to that was not inside the church, but outside the church in a family plot.

There are a number of individuals named on these graves, including Maj Gen. Sandford John Palairet Scobell (1879-1955) and his wife Cecily Maude (1885-1955), as well as Sandford George Treweeke Scobell (1839-1912) and his wife Edith (+1929), Charles John Spencer Scobell (illegible – 1918) and a number of others. Unfortunately I did not photograph individual graves at the time but rectified that in January 2017. 

The 1911 Census has the following information:

Sandford G T Scobell Head, Private Means, 72, 1839, Southover Lewes Sussex
Edith Scobell Wife Married Female, 61, 1850, Bradford Avon Wiltshire
Meloney E, Scobell, Daughter, Single Female, Private Means, 39, 1872, Brighton Sussex

Address: Walton House Tewkesbury, Parish: Ashchurch, County: Gloucestershire. 

As you can see from the inscription above, Walton House is mentioned on the grave of Sandford Scobell and that definitely connects to St Nicholas parish church in Ashchurch. Three of their daughters connect three Majors from three different families into Ashchurch and in turn they connect to the Ashchurch War Memorial as they lost their lives in World War 1.

But what about Walton House? 

Google is my friend and I hit paydirt when I picked up a link to the Smithsend Family. Amongst the information I found the following: “In 1911 the house was bought by a Colonel Scobell (the maternal grandfather of the Novelist Barbara Cartland) and the house passed to his wife Edith and then his son John Stanford Scobell in 1929 (including the Lodge and 1 and 2 the Poplars on the main road). From 1937 to about 1945 the house was owned by a Vet – Mr Maguire.(http://smithinfamily.co.uk/page17a.html)  

The house they were referring to is called Walton House in Tewkesbury, The paragraph puts the house firmly in the Scobell family from 1911 at least till 1937 and it is 1,9 kilometres from the parish church of St Nicholas. The house was granted to Gloucestershire County Council in 1946 from a John Carradine Allen and used as a children’s home. In 1994 it was sold and converted into flats. Incidentally the area where the house is is now called “Newtown” and it is roughly midway between Tewkesbury town and Ashchurch.  After visiting St Nicholas I went looking for Walton House and found it. Unfortunately it is not an easy place to photograph as it faces an area that is not accessible. This is probably the back of the house

while the image below is the one side.

Remember I said that we need to remember Major Cartland? The very popular romance novelist  Barbara Cartland‘s mother was Mary Hamilton ‘Polly’ Scobell, and she grew up at the Down House and as a small girl Barbara was a regular visitor from Pershore.  Her father was Major James Bertram Faulkner Cartland,  She was born in Edgbaston, West Midlands, July 9, 1901 and Christened Mary Barbara Hamilton Cartland and she attended Malvern Girls’ College and Abbey House, Netley Abbey, Hampshire. Her paternal grandfather allegedly committed suicide when he went bankrupt and her  father was killed in Flanders in 1918. and her two brothers were killed 1 day apart in World War 2.  Cartland was reared by her strong mother, who moved the family to London and opened her own business, a dress shop in Kensington  http://primrose-league.leadhoster.com/cartland_files/cartland.html

There is enough evidence to connect Ashchurch with Walton House, the Scobell family and the three majors who lost their lives in the First World War. Like so many families in the United Kingdom they lost their sons and fathers in the Great War. That war really decimated the professional class of officer from the army, and it was really the beginning of the end of the “gentry.” 

The Scobell family connections may be found at The Peerage, A genealogical survey of the peerage of Britain as well as the royal families of Europe.

I am more or less happy with this series of connections, the only additional find that I did make was the grave of Col. Henry Gillum Webb (1842-1904) who was one of the previous owners of Walton House. He bought the house in 1879 and it was probably Webb who made many of the later modifications to the house..

And inside the church is a wall memorial to members of the Ruddle family of Walton House.

There is an interesting observation in (http://smithinfamily.co.uk/page17a.html)  website that may be found on a PDF at http://smithinfamily.co.uk/Smithsend-tewkesbury.pdf   (page 61 onwards) it mentions Walton Spa, a potential rival to Cheltenham Spa, and it was centred around Walton House…. 

I won’t delve too deeply into that, suffice to say I am confident of the connections I have found. And can really publish this blog post.

Connections are everywhere though, you really just need to find that start and endpoint.

DRW © 2017-2018 Completed 07/01/2018.  

Updated: 14/10/2018 — 19:26
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