musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Military

Remembering D-Day, 75 years ago

Today, 75 years ago the Allied Forces landed on the coast of Normandy, the first step in the removal of the Axis powers from continental Europe. I was sitting thinking this morning about the courage of those who stepped into the unknown when the ramps of the landing craft dropped, leaving the path open onto the beach. That scale of  invasion had never been attempted before, and the book had to be written on how to do it long before the actual event.

The same level of courage was shown by the 23400 airborne troops who boarded the gliders and their tugs to cross the channel and get in harms way. In fact everybody had a role to play and it was through all their efforts that so many saw the 7th of June. There were 760 gliders and 1370 transport aircraft in use, protected by 3950 fighters. In total  129710 men were involved, supported by 1550 tanks and 12500 other vehicles.  It is not my place to describe the events on the beaches on that day, in fact the only people who could really describe it are the ever dwindling band of men who were there 75 years ago.

D-Day is commemorated in many places in the UK, and this week has seen a number of services and gatherings, and a new memorial was unveiled in France although why it has taken 75 years to happen is beyond me. Prime Minister Theresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron attended the inauguration of the British Normandy Memorial, overlooking Gold Beach at Ver-sur-Mer. The memorial  honours the more than 22,000 soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who died fighting under British command during D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.

The National Memorial Arboretum  commemorates the invasion at the Normandy Veterans Memorial (301) where there are 5 stones dedicated to each of the landing beaches in Normandy (Gold, Juno, Sword, Utah and Omaha). 

UTAH Beach

JUNO Beach

GOLD Beach

SWORD Beach

OMAHA Beach

Footnote: it is possible that there are other memorials at the NMA pertaining to the invasion since my visit 2015.

The problem that we face today is that history is being watered down so as to not offend some person who seemingly is offended at anything that is not politically correct. In 25 years time will we still commemorate this event? or will we be commemorating something that is unrecognisable as being related to D–Day? The veterans of the event grow fewer each year. All are over 75 years old, and many were in action before they were 20.  

Over the years D-Day has tended to be seen as an all American event, whereas there were men and women from 12 nations participating. We really have Hollywood to blame for a lot of that misunderstanding, sadly it is unlikely that the definitive Normandy Invasion movie will ever be made. 

The one tangible link with the invasion is HMS Belfast that is berthed in London on the Thames. History was made on that ship, and her guns were part of the naval bombardment on the beaches. I have never really found out how much damage was done by the naval bombardment, but I do not think I would have liked to have been a German Gefreiter on the receiving end of a 16″ shell. 

The forward guns of HMS Belfast

The naval contingent was huge and 120 warships, 1260 merchant vessels,  250 minesweepers, 3500 troop carriers, 100 smaller warships and 600 specialist craft took part.

Finally I wanted to make mention of the Port of Southampton.

The acres of harbour and its facilities were vital in the logistical operation of the invasion, and while much is written about the invasion very little is written about the harbour from where so many ships set out from. 

 

The fact remains that so much had to happen to get the men onto the beaches, the fact that they did is testament to the many who contributed to the success of the invasion. The vast cemeteries in France each has a story to tell, and the graves in it are those of real men. Some would loose their lives almost immediately the ramps dropped, others would die later in the drive from the beaches. But once that foothold was made there was no turning around.

On this day we commemorate the success of the Normandy Invasion and the Allied Forces who made it happen. 

 DRW © 2019. Created 06/06/2019. Statistics are sourced from the BBC. 

Updated: 07/06/2019 — 05:30

Commemorating Annie Munro

Being involved with photographing war graves you often find that you are drawn to some graves, or individuals, or you feel that you need to remind the world of a life that was cut short by the tragedy of war. One such grave is that of a young nurse called Annie Winifred Munro.

I do not recall how I got involved with this particular grave, all I know is that I felt that a plan really needed to be made to commemorate her loss, and some investigating was done. She is buried in the Glasgow Western Metropolis and her casualty details may be found on the corresponding CWGC page. Glasgow is far from my usual stomping grounds, and while we knew that there was a headstone we had no photograph of it. I decided to ask around and by luck one of the members of the South African Branch of the Royal British Legion was able to go to the cemetery and photograph the grave for us. It was winter, and snow lay on the ground. 

Annie was no longer forgotten, her record at the South African War Graves Project was just that much more complete now that the grave was photographed. Incidentally her headstone was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and “was erected to her memory by the South African Comforts Committee, under the personal direction of the Viscountess Gladstone”. 

But why was Annie buried here in the first place? It is difficult to understand so many years after the fact, but the information that exists is as follows: “… on arriving in England she was sent to France, where she contracted pneumonia which obliged her to return to England. After having partly recovered from the effects of pneumonia, she desired to visit Scotland, the home of her father, but was unable to travel farther North than Glasgow. There she was taken under the care of those who had known her father; and although she received all the attention that medical skill could give her, complications set in which it was impossible to combat. She died on 6th April, 1917, at the age of 25 years, and was buried with Military Honours in the Western Necropolis, Glasgow.”

Annie had previously served in the German South West African Campaign, transferring to the hospital ship “Ebani” on 26/11/1915.

Record card for Staff Nurse Annie Munro

She is also recorded as serving in Gallipoli and eventually was sent to France where she contracted pneumonia. She was shipped back to England to recover, but after having partly recovered she desired to visit Scotland, the home of her father. 

She is noted as having died from “Phthisis” (pulmonary tuberculosis or a similar progressive wasting disease) on the 6th of April 1917, although her record card shows her as being “very ill, progress unsatisfactory” on 07/04/1917. It is very likely that the date is incorrect as death is accepted as having occurred on 06/04/1917.

What drove Annie to visit the home of her father? was she invited over? was there some other underlying reason? She was a qualified sister and was probably well aware of how ill she had been and that there were risks attached to her travelling so far from where she was staying.  Sadly she died in Scotland and in time would eventually become just another name on a headstone in a cemetery.  Renewed interest in the First World War saw more and more people researching those who fought or died in that terrible war and there was a reappraisal of the role of women and nurses in the global conflict that touched everywhere on the globe. In 2012 Our own War Graves Project was already busy with the record card project that would reveal more details about  the almost forgotten part that South African Forces played in the war. Annie is amongst those many names on the Roll of Honour.

She was visited by Louise Prentice Carter in July 2018 who laid flowers on her grave and paid her respects to this nurse so far from Pietermaritzburg where she was born.

William and Ellen Munro lost not only their daughter in 1917, they also lost a son in the war;  Sergeant  William Alexander Munro was killed at Delville Wood on 15/07/1916.

Many people have contributed to this page, although I did rely on our South African War Graves Project for most of the information. Special thanks to Louise and the Legionnaire who photographed the grave for me in 2015. There is not a lot of information to add to this story though, and the one source I did find that is new to me is from The Evening Times of 13 May 2014.  

DRW © 2019. Created 12/04/2019

Updated: 16/04/2019 — 05:56

Remember the Mendi

HMT Mendi (21/02/1917)

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. 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.  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 10 April 2013, while I was in Southampton I decided to visit Hollybrook Cemetery and the Hollybrook Memorial to the missing. 
 

 
This particular memorial at Hollybrook commemorates by name almost 1900 servicemen and women of the Commonwealth land and air forces whose graves are not known, many of whom were lost in transports, torpedoed or mined in home waters. The memorial also bears the names of those who were lost or buried at sea or who died at home but whose bodies could not be recovered for burial.  
 
Sadly, all that is left of their lives is their names on a plaque. And I think that in this case, there is a small piece of England that is uniquely South African. They were men that came from the tip of Africa, to participate as non combatants in a war that they knew nothing about, and they died far from their homes, never reaching their destination, but remaining here, far from the sunshine that was now fading as I took my last few photographs. But if I do think about it, these men were never really forgotten, their families remembered them, and their comrades, but they too have passed on, and  that duty has been passed on to us, a generation of ex-servicemen who also served their country. 
 
However, in a shocking newspaper article on the 17th of February it was revealed that “The department of military veterans has withdrawn support for an “imperial” commemoration of a World War 1 shipping disaster in which 646 mainly black South Africans died” 
A retired senior military officer this week described the department’s decision as “abominable and a disgrace”. He said: “This means no military band or guards in fact no formal military presence at a memorial for South Africans who died on service in war.”
(Article in the Sunday Times 17 February 2019 Front page.) 
 
The stance has drawn severe criticism from veterans and organisations, and sadly the Mendi is once again just a porn in a game called political correctness and white washing of history. 
 

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

We Will Remember Them.


DRW © 2019. Created 18/02/2019. 

Updated: 24/03/2019 — 13:58

Remembering SAS President Kruger

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.

SAS Tafelberg replenishing a frigate (source unknown)

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. Because the impact was in the senior ratings mess most of the casualties were Petty Officers which impacted on the Navy due to the loss of so many senior ratings.

Roll of Honour:
AB. G.T. Benjamin
CPO J.P. Booysen
 PO. S.P. Bothma
 PO. G.A.F. Brind
 PO R.C. Bulterman
 PO. G.W. De Villiers
 PO. E. Koen
 PO. H. Lotter
 PO. R.A. Mc Master
 PO. R.F. Skeates
 CPO. H.W. Smit
PO. W.R. Smith
 CPO. W.M.G. Van Tonder
 CPO. D. Webb
 PO. M.B.R. Whiteley
 PO. C.J. Wium
 
1982 Naval Casualties at the SADF Wall of Remembrance
At the naval board of inquiry it was found that there was a  lack of seamanship by the captain and officers of the ship. The inquest apportioned blame on the captain and PWO. However none of the officers was court-martialled.
 
There is a comprehensive look at South African naval casualties on the Observation Post blog
 
DRW © 2019. Created 18/02/2019. The ship two images I cannot source. They come from my collection, but I have no idea where the originals came from. If you are the copyright holder please contact me so that I may acknowledge your historic images.

 

Updated: 17/02/2019 — 08:22

Revisiting Soldier’s Corner

The last time I was in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol was October 2015, and on that visit I discovered that the original ledger stones had been installed on what is known as “Soldier’s Corner”. This area was established by the Bristol Red Cross who placed the original ledger stones on the graves in the 1920’s. Many plots have more than one soldier buried in them so there are multiple names on some stones. However, the ledger stones were not maintained by the CWGC although the screen wall behind them was. 

At some point the ledger stones were removed from the plot and stored underneath the Anglican Chapel where they were rediscovered, along with the original cross that used to be mounted on the plot. It was decided to re-install them, although many were broken or damaged and some were missing altogether. It was these restored stones that I went and photographed in 2015.

Wind forward to December 2017, the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust and CWGC came to an agreement about the restoration of Soldier’s Corner, that involved replacing some stones, repairing and cleaning others and re-turfing the plot, thereby restoring it to what it may have looked like in the 1920’s. The project  was completed on 8 December 2018 and the unveiling of the plot was to coincide with the unveiling of the new headstone for Private William Walker, AIF, who died in Bristol on 11 December 1918.  I had been in contact with the family of Private Walker due to my work with Lives of the First World War and was invited to attend the unveiling and meet the faces behind the emails, I am however not related to the family in spite of my surname. 

And that is the background to why I was about to head off to Bristol on this cloudy, windy, damp and dodgy Saturday. 

My major concerns for the day were twofold: weather and timing. The weather had been clearing in Tewkesbury when I left, but the forecast for Bristol was 50% chance of rain. The rising sun made a rare appearance for me, signifying that I needed to make the trip. 

When I did the navigation for the trip I was concerned that the service was only starting at 2pm, and I had two options on trains, 14H45 or 15H00, the next trains were nearly 2 hours later, and anything after that was just out. I really had to watch my timing very carefully. Unfortunately though Bath was holding some sort of market and when the train got to Cheltenham it was swamped. To make matters worse it was only a 2 coach train and it filled even more when we reached Gloucester, and even more as we neared Bristol. It was so bad that the train ended up standing longer at each station as people struggled to board or get off. It was a tight squeeze as you can see from my image below at Bristol Temple Meads.

I had planned on grabbing a taxi at Temple Meads but the roadworks in front of the station caused the taxi queue to stand still. It took me less time to walk out of the station and to the road than it did for a taxi that had a fare.  It is roughly 20- 30 minutes walk to the cemetery depending on how many detours I make, but on this day I made none because I was already running 20 minutes late. I had a list of 77 graves that were still outstanding from Arnos Vale and I was hoping to at least find a few of them between when I arrived and when I had to attend the function. However, I had forgotten what Arnos Vale was like. For starters it is a very hilly place and very overgrown in parts.

Recent rains had also made the going very treacherous in places so I would have to try to stick to paths where possible. The odd thing is that once I was in the cemetery and ready to search I could feel the old sensations of enjoyment come back. I used to love walking these cemeteries but have cut down considerably on them because of my own mobility issues these past 2 years. When Summer comes it is Arnos Vale and I!

Soldiers Corner was looking so much better than it had since I had last seen it. Compare the image below with the one at the top of the page.

There were two people busy planting flags and planning for the event, and after comparing notes I tackled the 82 ledger stones that I had to photograph.

Amongst the stones that was replaced was number 674, which is the grave of A Dowling, AG. Lavers, PC. Mitchell, W Toogood and Jacobus Mozupe (or Molupe). A South African, he died in Bristol on 28 August 1917 and he shares his grave with 4 others. Unfortunately the ledger stone for 674 was not amongst those reinstalled in 2015 and he was now afforded a proper marker just like those around him.

The grave on the left is 674, while the grave on the right (675) is for HG Jones, GW. Turner, M Modlala (Madhlala), W Podmore and WT. Hellier. Gunner Jones and Private Madhlala are both South Africans, of which there are 5 tagged to Arnos Vale.

The family gathering I was attending was being held in the former Anglican Chapel which also has a small crypt beneath it.  This is an image I took of it a few years back. 

I did manage to peek inside it in 2015, although this time around it did not have all the trappings of a wedding reception. I always wonder what it looked like way back when it was being used for its original purpose.

The family gathering was interesting, because it did bring through that you really needed a bit of genealogist in you to be able to fully appreciate the lives of those who are buried all around the chapel. William Walker and his siblings are long passed on, but 100 years down the line we were able to connect to those whom he was close to and to experience the loss of a soldier that died a month after the war had ended. Twice wounded, he had spent 2 years on the Western Front and we will never really know what he went through in those two years. He has not been forgotten though, and hopefully long after we have passed over others will remember him, and the other servicemen and women who gave their lives in the “Great War”.

I briefly went looking for the one grave I visit each time I am at Arnos Vale and this time I was determined to identify her.

Her name was Lillian Sarah Radford, and she was 2 years old when she passed away on 9 March 1902 and she was the daughter of George and Lillian Radford. Her statue is beautiful, and if you don’t know where she is you won’t find her.  The 1901 census records that she was born in Bristol in 1899 and was the youngest of 3 children

Crunch time was rapidly approaching and I had to make a decision whether to stay for the service or not and I decided to leave as it was just too risky with the train situation. I was not in the mood to get stranded in Bristol, and after a quick look around I turned my bows for home. People were arriving all the time and I even spotted a representative from South Africa, and that made up for me leaving. 

It had been quite an emotional trip, as these things usually are, because no matter how many times I see war graves I can never forget that each was connected to 2 other people, and each was affected by the deaths of that loved one, often in a foreign country far away.  

The seven images below are reproduced courtesy of Julian Walker and the CWGC

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today.

It is strange to see how so many countries were represented at this service, how strangers all came together to remember a soldier who lost his life so long ago. Looking at the images above I was struck by how smart the military personnel were, and how important that wreath laying is. As civilians we often forget that when large scale trouble does occur these are the men and women who are in the forefront, and who will lay down their lives for their countries and loved ones. That was also true for the men and women way back in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945.

The road to the station is a familiar one, I have walked it quite a few times, thankfully the roadworks are complete so walking on the pavement is now possible.

I took a slightly different route as I wanted to see the Avon as it was flowing very strongly, and I was not disappointed.

I also found another Gromit statue at Paintworks, although I could not identify which it was. 

And of course there is a nice bridge to see on the way too.  I have not gotten a name for this one yet, and it does feature in my Banana Bridge post.  It does appear as if another bridge is being built in this area and it is to be called the St Philips Footbridge.

The one thing I do like about Bristol is the street art (not to be confused with those meaningless “tags” so beloved of spray paint purchasers).  This pair caught my eye.

The dogs are raised from the surrounding brickwork, and while the 2nd one seems to have been ruined it really looks awesome.

One of my favourite buildings in Bristol stands just outside the station. It used to be the headquarters of the former Bristol and Exeter Railway,  and was designed by Samuel Fripp and opened in 1854. Alas it is now an office complex, but it really needs to be something more grand like a hotel or museum.

At the station it appeared as if my train was still on time, and I had 10 minutes to grab some pics of the all new Class 800 Azuma that are replacing the long lived HST’s that have dominated train travel in the UK for so many years. I have been trying to get pics of these for quite some time and this time I was successful.

800-031

800-317

This interior shot was taken on my 2019 trip to Paddington Station

On the other platform 43-378 in the Cross Country livery showed these newcomers a thing or 2.

My own train arrived shortly after I hit the shutter and it was a Class 166, and these seem to be appearing more often in my viewfinder. It seemed to have originated in Malvern and not Bath so was reasonably empty, but it could quite easily have been choc-a-block had it come from the opposite direction. I was just relieved that I could get home without having to fight my way onto a train. 

And then we were on our way, it started to drizzle just after we left Bristol, and of course the light was also fading and by the time I reached Ashchurch it was getting dark very fast. The sun leaves us early these days, but soon it will turn and get darker later. Winter however will still be with us for awhile.

My mission was semi complete. I had to sort and label pics and of course write this post as well as send off images to whoever needs them, then there are all those Lives that need new images in my Arnos Vale Community I will probably change things in this post too, but I will leave that till tomorrow.

Mission accomplished. 

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 09/12/2018. Some images courtesy of Julian Walker and the CWGC

Updated: 28/05/2019 — 13:32

The End of the War

Today we commemorate the end of the First World War. The guns fell silent on this day 100 years ago, although they really just went into standby mode for the next global conflict that was a result of the peace that came at the end of 1918.  It is strange to think that in 2014 we were remembering when it started, and now we remember the end. But in that 4 year period what did we do? I know I changed jobs, moved house, got new glasses, built ships, read books, cycled, shopped, ate, slept and brooded. But if you were in the military way back then the chances are you would have been shot at, shelled, gassed, wounded, abused, messed around, and prayed that you would get a “blighty” that would take you home. Time is a strange thing, it can pass so quickly, but drag so slowly.

I was wearing a very large knitted poppy this week and somebody admired it. I explained that the poppy was very big because I have a lot of remembering to do during this period. I remember not only those who I am connected to immediately, but also a whole army of men and women who served in the wars, as well as their families and the many animals that served and died.  My involvement with the South African War Graves Project and the Lives of the First World War project have given me a greater understanding of what we did to each other. The many names on the war memorials and graves that I photograph are always connected to at least 2 other people, who are each connected to two others and so on. If you really look at it hard enough the end result is staggering.

In a few minutes I will be heading out to the War Memorial in Tewkesbury where we will commemorate the people who are named there, and the millions of others who are not listed on a memorial. Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters, Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents, Friends and Family. They are all an integral part of the symbolism of the poppy.

13H27 11/11/2018.

Once again Tewkesbury came out in force and we commemorated this dark period of history with a solemn service. The sun blessed our endeavours by shining brightly for the hour that we spent at “The Cross”. This year they read out the names from the memorial, and it kept on occurring to me how many of the names on it were the same;  back in 1914 the town had a much closer knit community, and “joining up” was something that was “done” back then. 

And once again the front of the marching column had reached the memorial before the slightly ragged end had left the Abbey. Children are included in service and I hope that some will take heed of the importance thereof and one day watch their own children march past in a ragged line of sombre expressions and the occasional shy waves. 

And when it was done the clouds came up and the occasional spatter of rain fell, not enough to scatter everybody but enough to change the atmosphere.  The parade marches off and then returns once again, passing the Memorial en route to the Town Hall where the Mayor takes the salute. It can get very crowded there so I tend to stick close to the Memorial to watch the parade as it “Eye’s Right” past us. 

Close by was a little girl in a red coat sitting on her fathers shoulders, and she returned the salute to every group that came past. And, it was not a half baked salute either, but a proper one, and I like to think that those who marched past appreciated her efforts. She made my day and pulled me out of the gloom that I was in.

The crowds have all dispersed and gone home to their roast, 2 veg and spuds, but back then what did Tommy and his mates have to say nearly 3 hours into the armistice? You can bet they were wary of the peace but glad that it was done, and you can bet Pierre and Gunther and soldiers on both sides were equally glad that they had come through it all intact, although some would be scarred mentally and physically for the rest of their lives. You can bet the Nurses and VAD’s did not cease their vigil over the men who were in their care, and you can bet that in homes throughout the world there was joy and sadness in abundance. 

In the far away Outer Hebrides people were celebrating that the war war was over and their men would soon be coming home too. Some would board HMY Iolaire for the trip home on the 1st of January 1919 and would loose their lives in the tragic peacetime sinking of that ship.

We have not learnt the lessons of the war because sabres are still being rattled as politicians push their own agendas. If it happens again it will be a short war, but a very long nuclear winter will follow. 

The two World Wars made the planet what it is today.  And what would those who lost their lives have said about the mess we are in? I am sure that they would be disgusted.

DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created Remembrance Day 2018.

Updated: 28/05/2019 — 13:41

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!

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DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 13/09/2019

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:47

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. 

I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads 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 monastery 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 covered 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 – 2019. Created 21/07/2018

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:56

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 – 2019. Created 15/07/2018.

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:56

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). (He told me that the bell he carries weighs in at 8lb.)

Fortunately the town isn’t 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.

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Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:58
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