musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Personal

Lives of the First World War

Regular visitors to the blog may be thinking that I have given up on the blog. Be rest assured I have not, and this post will explain why.

Recently I started submitting images to “Lives of the First World War”, and it is a lot of work. I have over 8000 images of war graves, and a large number of War Memorials  in my collection. The majority of graves have been photographed in the United Kingdom and most have been submitted to the British War Graves Project. This is really an opportunity to marry up a grave with a record, and it is really a decision  that I decided to take seeing as I had all these images that have never really seen the light of day. 

Lives really is a series of templates that are populated from a variety of records, ranging from CWGC right through to British Census records up to 1911. However, there is no real consistency as to what records will be available for each casualty. In some cases even the CWGC record is missing, which is odd considering that technically there is a CWGC record for every casualty. Lives does not only touch on casualties, but on survivors too, and in that department I am totally clueless as my photography has been about casualties and not survivors. The one thing I do like is that many of the private memorials that I have photographed can now be linked to an individual and that record can be further fleshed out with the data on the private memorial. Unfortunately these can make for very sad reading. The one PM I did yesterday involved three brothers that were all killed in action, they were able to be linked because of a simple typed piece of paper stuck to a tree above the grave of one of them  (Sgt Evan Victor Joseph DCM, MM).

The other PM I have found today concerns Ernest Lute and Alfred Morgan. The latter had a sister called Amy who married Ernest Lute, who was killed in action on 25 October 1918, while Alfred died on 05 October 1918 in a Berlin hospital after being a POW for 4 years. Amy did not live long after that, as she passed away on 15 December 1918. The war ended on 11 November 1918, and she was the only one to see it, although having lost a brother and husband it is possible that she died from a broken heart. This particular memorial sums up a lot of what the war was about for those who were left at home. 7 people were involved in this case, and they are all remembered on this forgotten memorial. Whether Albert or Doris are still alive I cannot say, but loosing their parents within such a short period of time must have been very traumatic and life changing.  

At the time of writing I have “remembered” 1958 individuals and have created 53 “communities” where I have my images sorted into. The biggest being for Netley Military Cemetery with 528 “lives” in it. The nice thing about the project is that I am revisiting those places that I photographed in 2013 and 2014, seeing pictures that I had really forgotten about completely. 

Unfortunately the project is not that great a design, in fact I could rip it to shreds given how rigid it can be in the way it does things.  A good example would be the cause of death field that does not include a “died at sea” option. With so many naval casualties you would think that it would have occurred to them to have that option available.

And on the subject of naval casualties, it is shocking to see how poor the records are for the merchant navy men. Trying to find the correct record for a “John Smith” who served in the merchant navy is almost an impossibility. Just out of curiosity, there are potentially 113007 occurrences of the surname Smith, of which 1917 served with the merchant navy.  The merchant navy has always been an odd many out amongst the many services and corps that served in both world wars, and that is true even today. They lack the glamour of a uniform, but when courage was handed out they stand right near the front.

Amongst the Dominions; Canada, New Zealand and Australia stand out, with the Canadian records being the easiest to make sense of. There are lamentably few South Africans to research. I know from our time doing the record cards way back in 2012  the military records are sparse for our men and women, and even sparser for those who served in the South African Native Labour Corps.  The only real sources for information about our casualties is the CWGC and of course the South African War Graves Project

There is a community for those who drowned in the HMT Mendi and that constitutes the biggest grouping of South Africans in the project. I was recently able to have 151 South Africans added that are buried in Brookwood Cemetery, most of them died of Spanish Flu in 1918, although amongst the millions who were taken by the epidemic this is really a small group. Unfortunately only certain people are able to add in new lives, and that really leaves me with no real way to increase the coverage of our men. 

I will be busy with this for a long time; looming in my future are 778 naval casualties in Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, and I am currently busy with Arnos Vale in Bristol and the 363 casualties commemorated there. I can do roughly 20 in a day, although I am having a lot of fun with private memorials in Arnos Vale and they tend to take more time. I dread Haslar though because even the Royal Navy tended to confuse everybody with how they did things. One of the biggest problems in my opinion is that the British Army did not allocate service numbers to the officers, and you can realistically only search with a surname and a service number. 

So, if things are quiet that is why. I do get some sort of enjoyment out of something like this, one day they will probably start a World War 2 version, but the odds are I won’t be alive to see it.

View this as part of my legacy for the future, I may not have achieved much worthwhile in my life, but I have certainly ensured that a small portion of those who never came home are remembered.

‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.”
 

© DRW 2017. Created 17/09/2017

Updated: 17/09/2017 — 10:50

Exploring the Domesday Book

When I heard about the “Doomsday Book” many years ago I was intrigued. After all, a book with a title like that sounded positively like something that could be the harbinger of the Apocalypse. Naturally I filed it away for future reference assuming we ever got to a point in our civilisation where the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse ride forth. 

My first disappointment was the title. It is called the “Domesday Book” and not “Doomsday” as I always thought it was. In fact you can also buy it on Amazon, and in English too!  However, for those who were affected by the book and it’s contents it really was a disaster because from what I have read; once recorded in the book you were really up the creak sans paddle!

The book that I started to explore has its own webpage, quaintly referred to as “The first free online copy of Domesday Book”

To know what the book is about you really need to first read the appropriate Wikipedia page. and there you will find the answer to why it was literally doomsday for the people affected by its compilation. “The assessors’ reckoning of a man’s holdings and their values, as recorded in Domesday Book, was dispositive and without appeal.” By the way dispositive means “relating to or bringing about the settlement of an issue or the disposition of property.”

Now the Domesday Book was not written in English, so it is not the sort of thing you can pick up and read,  as it was written in medieval Latin, and if that is not bad enough extensive use of abbreviations seemed to have been used too. The sheer scale of the compilation was an achievement all of its own. Technically somebody visited everybody and wrote down what they saw, it is literally a record of England at the time and the book’s colophon states that the survey was completed in 1086. Once that data had been compiled it is probable that a medieval bean counter then rubbed his hands together and worked out who owed the king/baron/local lord/boss and then had that cast in stone (or written on parchment). Reading between the lines one person was responsible for writing it in parchment, although others may have been involved in the writing thereof. At any rate they certainly did not use Times Roman size 10px as their font.

The nitty gritty.

Naturally I was curious to read what it said about the town where I live, and lo and behold there is an entry for it. I copied this “verbatim” from the Opendomesday website. 

11 female slaves?  It is an interesting question because slavery back then was “normal” but who they were is a mystery; captives from a war perhaps? or children sold to landowners? the local debtor? somebody that angered the church?  We will never really know.  Actually slavery still exists, the only difference is that it is much more hidden and does involve a people trafficking, drugs and all manner of exploitation. Technically all of those people are buried somewhere around here. 

The page looks like this… 

Tewkesbury is the listing on the bottom right hand side. The line through a name may be a way to mark a reference, I do not know if was like that originally, or whether it was added by the Open Domesday project. 

It is heavy reading, especially if you cannot read medieval Latin (or modern Latin). I suspect if you handed that page to your local pharmacist you could come away with a box of extra strength laxatives, 66000 large yellow pills and a bottle of something green. 

For me the fascination is having this glimpse into an era that we cannot even conceive. Conditions were primitive, people worked hard, children died young, men and women were always at the beck and call of those lording it in their expensive estates. As a peasant/working man you were considered to be property rather than humanity. The role of the church was large, and any person who lived in his wattle and daub hut next to his small field would always be in awe of the grand buildings that they would encounter on their visits to the local market/ale house.

 In 1087, William the Conqueror gave the manor of Tewkesbury to his cousin, Robert Fitzhamon, who, with Giraldus, Abbot of Cranborne, founded the present abbey in 1092. Building of the present Abbey church did not start until 1102. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tewkesbury_Abbey), That shows the great age of the Abbey and its surrounding settlements too. Vasco Da Gama rounded the Cape in 1497 and by then the Domesday Book was probably no longer in use, but strangely enough it still existed, and is usually housed in the  National Archives in Kew. (It may be in at  Lincoln Castle. at the moment). 

It may be viewed as the oldest ‘public record’ in England. 

I am glad I dabbled so briefly in the book because the weight of ages hangs heavily over its pages. It weighed heavily on those who it affected, and of course the fact that it still exists today makes it an immeasurable historical document. I often think that when the monks had completed their task they looked at it with pride, and never considered that many centuries down the line their work would still fascinate us, even though we do not know anything about who they were. Sadly they never signed their name at the end, although I suspect that somewhere in those ancient pages you will find a personal mark left behind; kind of like a medieval easter egg on a DVD or popular game.

I have to admit my curiosity may extend to me buying one of those copies just to have that tangible link to a world that has long gone, and to be able to look back and say “What an amazing book!”  

Of course credit is due too, and  The Open Domesday Project and the associated  images are kindly made available by Professor J.J.N. Palmer. Images may be reused under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence.  

© DRW 2017. Created 15/08/2017. Image by Professor J.J.N. Palmer and George Slater

 

Updated: 26/09/2017 — 12:54

The Mud of Passchendaele

On 31 July 1917 the third battle of Ypres started. but it is more commonly remembered as the Battle of Passchendaele. A name synonymous with mud, wasted lives and no gains for the high cost in human lives. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the city of Ypres in West Flanders, and was part of strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917.

An estimated 245,000 allied casualties (dead, wounded or missing) fell in 103 days of heavy fighting. many of those killed were buried in the mud, never to be seen again. 

South Africans generally recognise the Battle of Delville Wood as our “definitive battle”, and as such we do not commemorate it the way Delville Wood is commemorated, and a quick search for 31/07/1917 at the South African War Graves Project website will only bring up three pages of names, of which at least one page may be discounted as not occurring in the battle. However, from 31 July 1917 many families in the United Kingdom would be discovering that they had lost a father, or a son, or a husband. My current project is called “Lives of the First World War” and there I am encountering many of the casualties from that battle. I was particularly struck by a private memorial that I photographed in Reading Cemetery in 2015.

Serjeant Charles Stewart MM. lost his life on 31 July 1917, probably in this very campaign. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate like so many of his countrymen and comrades who would loose their lives tomorrow, 100 years ago.  He is also remembered on this overgrown gravestone that I found by chance. 

The sad reality is that  little, if any, strategic gain was made during the offensive, which was in fact a total of eight battles.  It increased the soldiers distrust of their leaders, especially Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, and left many soldiers utterly demoralised, shell shocked or badly wounded. The often atrocious weather just made things that much worse for Tommy on the ground, whereas the Generals, far behind the lines could condemn the lack of progress safely in the dry map rooms of their headquarters.    

The French lost 8,500 soldiers. while estimates for German casualties range from 217,000 to around 260,000. Bearing in mind that each one of these casualties had parents, possibly wives, occasionally children. A single death would have repercussions that would affect many more people.

World War One is really a series of disasters, The Somme battlefields, the icey sea of Jutland, the slaughter of Gallipoli, the mud of Passchendaele, the horrors of chemical warfare, the rattle of machine guns and the cries of the wounded and the dieing.

There were many heroes in these battles, and many wore the uniforms of nurses who had to drag extra strength from within to deal with the flood of blood in the casualty clearing stations as the wounded were brought in. Their story is often overlooked amongst the khaki uniforms, but their sacrifice was equally important. A light of sanity in a world of blood soaked madness.

We commemorate the battle from the 30th of July, but for those caught up in the trenches the hell would continue right through until November.  The only light on the horizon was that it would all stop a year later on the 11th of November 1918. 

Unfortunately, we never seemed to learn those lessons from the First World War, because a second war was looming in the future, and that war would define our world from then onwards.  

Remember the Dead.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

© DRW 2017. Created 30/07/2017. The “Ode of Remembrance” is from Laurence Binyon‘s poem, “For the Fallen“, which was first published in The Times in September 1914. 
Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2017. Page 2

Like last year there was a display of hunting birds and raptors. I find them quite fascinating because they are really killing machines, you do not want to mess with them;  that eagle owl was huge and the Kestrel was probably sizing me up as a potential meal.

European Eagle Owl

Barn Owl

 

Harris Hawk

 

Kestrel

A festival like this really shows you many things, and there are odd things to see and snigger at. I think I enjoy those the most. These are some of those strange and odd things I spotted.

 
 
   
   
   
   
   

On the next day (Sunday), a parade was held through Thewkesbury. There were participants of all ages, colours, genders and everything else inbetween. Little kids with cardboard swords, big kids with flags, old women with flowers and strange tall statues with waving arms. It was all there somewhere. Of course there was one of my favourite characters: the so-called “Green Man”

Most of these images were taken from the same spot, so may be a bit boring, however I have also thrown in some images of the groups getting ready.

And then it was over for another year and Tewkesbury will depopulate once again as everybody goes home to wherever they came from. People travel long distances to attend the festival, and you can bet many will be back again next year. Me? I do not know where I will be this time next year. But, if I am still here I will probably be taking pics somewhere because that is what I do best.

Special thanks to those who took so much time and trouble, you did a great job!

© DRW 2017. Created 09/07/2017 

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2017. Page 1

Tewkesbury is famous for 3 things: It has an abbey, It flooded in 2017, and holds a Medieval Festival once a year. I have attended it 3 times already, but never really stay the distance till the giant battle. There are just to many people there and I do not have the stamina to stick it out till the mini war breaks out.  on 4 May 1471 the Battle of Tewkesbury occurred and it was was one of many that happened during the “War of the Roses“.   The Tewkesbury Battlefield Society erected a monument to the battle in the form of two 5 metre sculptures of a victorious mounted knight and a defeated horse. It was created by Phil Bews out of green oak wood felled in Gloucestershire, and was dedicated on the anniversary of the battle in 2014.  Unfortunately trying to get a photo of these has always been difficult because they are in a strange place and I have only managed images from the local bus. 

In the abbey, set inside the tiles of the floor in front of the altar are a number of brass plaques, and one of them commemorates eighteen year old Edward, Prince of Wales, the last legitimate descendant of the House of Lancaster, who was killed either in the battle or during its aftermath and is buried in the Abbey.

On to the festival.

Realistically there is very little to say about what there is to see, in fact many images from all three festivals are interchangeable. However, I am constantly amazed at how the English go all out to participate at an event like this. It is also very well attended by people from all over Europe and the UK.  It is quite funny to see a period dressed soldier talking on a cellphone, or buying the papers at the local Tesco. 

Costumes and other people

Across the one stream was an encampment that had been set up where you could roam around and get a feel for how the people involved way back when may have lived when out fighting battles or on the hunt. It was not as crowded as the market area, and quite a few of the tents were occupied by ye lordes and laydys.​

   

It was a very interesting place because so many people had gone all out to “do their bit” and have a blast at the same time. That is one thing I can say about the Brits, when they go all out they really go all out! It becomes a family affair with men, women and children dressed to the medieval equivalent of the nines and doing their bit.

Weapons and things that go bang!  

I do not recall seeing canon last year, but this year there were quite a few on display, some of which can actually fire! I cannot really give a lecture on each one, but will add in the information board to the left of an image if I have it. The person who was explaining it was excellent, inspite of him being dresses in what could be described as a cut off muslim dress with a funny hat. The weapons were under “The Kyngs Ordynaunce” banner, a re-enactor society founded in 1991 portraying an artillery company of the late 15th century.  

At this point we will hit the pause button and continue on the next page 

forwardbut

DRW 2017. Created 09/07/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Bad teeth no bar

Many years ago when I was photographing the WW1 Record cards for the South African War Graves Project I was puzzled by the notation on some of the cards “May be rendered dentally fit in 7 days”.

When I first saw “Discharged: Dentally Unfit” I thought there was typo on the card, but later on I found more like it, and on a few occasions servicemen being discharged for refusing dental treatment. 

That phrase stuck in my head because I could not really fathom what was going on. I do remember that prior to us going up to the Border in December 1980 our whole infantry company was marched off to the dentist up the road in the military hospital, and those who had dodgy teeth had them treated before we flew out to South West Africa (now Namibia) .

This past week revealed another link in the chain when a recruiting poster for WW1 popped up on facebook. Emblazoned in a largish font at the bottom was the advisory “Bad teeth no bar”.

Jokes abounded about how you cannot have a bar if you have bad teeth or can only visit a bar if you have good teeth.

Each time I was called up for a camp we visited the military dentist in Potch too and he noted the condition of your teeth, the reason being that if you were a casualty identification may be possible through your dental records. There was method in that madness after all. I do not know whether this was also true way back 1914,  or if it was just a ploy to gain more cannon fodder for the generals to throw into badly planned and executed attacks. I do suspect that the military back then was more concerned about not having their soldiers all going on sick leave with dodgy teeth. Dental hygiene was quite poor back then, a cavity would not be given a temporary filling followed by an even more expensive permanent one. The dentist just grabbed his biggest set of pliers and let rip! 

Military dentists were not known for their compassion, and for that matter the same could be true of some “civilian dentists”. They were doing a job and they probably saw some horrible things during the course of their day, although a mouth of rotten teeth on a living soldier was much preferable to that of the corpses that were left after a bloody battle. I believe in earlier wars the teeth of dead soldiers became the source of many pairs of false teeth. There were people who picked through the corpses and extracted teeth which they then sold off to the dodgy false teeth creator. It was a perfectly respectable way to earn a living.

My current reading matter is all about Victor/Viktor Capesius, a Romanian who served at Auschwitz and who was put on trial for his part in the “selections” alongside “men” like Josef Mengele. Mention is made in the book of the inmates who were given a pair of pliers and sent to extract the gold filled teeth of the dead, and how Capesius allegedly stole of that ill gotten gold. Given how many people died in Auschwitz the amount of gold obtained from fillings was a large amount, and while most ended up in the coffers of the Third Reich, the unscrupulous nature of the perpetrators of the horrors of genocide in the camps certainly extracted their cut too.  (The Pharmacist of Auschwitz: The Untold Story, by Patricia Posner)

My curiosity is suitably satisfied for now, but you never know what else will pop up in the future. 

© DRW 2017. Created 07/07/2017. Image of the military dentist was taken in Winchombe during the Wartime Weekend on the GWSR,and he most certainly was a decent fellow just doing his bit. 

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Post-Mortem: RMS St Helena model

Continuing from where we last left off

Weeks in the making, my 1/1250ish RMS St Helena is almost finished. Large scale construction has ceased and I am left with a model that is more or less completed. The end result looks like the ship, as long as you stand very far away 😥 There are numerous mistakes and skew lines and poor paintwork on her, but that can partly be blamed on my constant chopping and changing of the ship as I experimented.

The image above was actually done deliberately as I wanted to convey the long voyages that the ship makes on her trips between South Africa and St Helena.  Think of it as paying homage to a small ship on a big ocean.  Unfortunately my model does not do the ship justice, and one day I will probably start a new one.  This week I found out that Rhenania made the RMS St Helena model that I had seen before and they do not re-issue models once the initial run is completed. 

Snags and booboo’s that I have made in the construction of the ship:

Hull:

The wood I used worked well, it sanded cleanly and was  workable with the tools I had. However the hull was seriously flawed. The well deck is too long and there shouldn’t be a step between the forepeak and the area behind it. If anything the real ship does not have much of a sheer, the sheer is created by the bulwarks surrounding the forepeak. The knuckle that exists is not easy to fabricate, I would really need to create a hull that has the fine shape and then create the deck above it that has a slightly fatter shape and mate them together. Getting a bow right is always a pain. It makes sense to start the ship by creating the bow and then work backwards instead of the other way around. I may just create a fake hull and try recreate the bow to see how it comes together. 

The area at the deck level aft of the large hatch really needed to be reworked to the point where the gangway area is cutaway before mounting A and B decks.  

The aft mooring deck on my model is too small, I suspect It worked that way because I originally had the stern wrong. The stern is different to what I thought it looked like, but then it has been many years since I sailed on her.

The superstructure that I fabricated was reasonably close to what it should be, but its edges are skew and the individual decks turned out slightly wrong.  The bridge area became messy as I could not settle for the bridge that I wanted. It turned out to be slightly too big and as a result of that I was not able to add on the bridge roof that shaded the area by the wheelhouse doors and bridge wing. 

The pool area… I cannot remember what that looked like, and they seem to have altered it slightly since I was last on the ship.

Fittings and fiddly bits:

Davits… bugbear number 1000000. I made the mistake of trying to create conventional davits the way they look on ships, it did not work. I ended up creating a Γ shape, drilling into the superstructure to support the one end and adding the lifeboat on the flat area. Then I mounted the uprights with their curved shape next to the platform and utilised the superstructure wall as a gluing point. That made them reasonably workable, but they do not look great. The least said about the lifeboats the better. There are 2 different style boats on the ship and you need to make both. They are small, the size of a grain of rice, getting them anywhere near what they look like is difficult. 

My mast ended up odd, I may relook what I have because it really does not work well for me. The problem is that the 2 legs are sloped backwards and I made them the wrong way around. There are also two platforms that house the radar gear. I have not added them or any of the associated monkey island equipment. 

The pair of cranes turned out reasonably well, I eventually changed the cable to a thin wire painted black and was reasonably happy with the outcome. However, because of the long well deck I ended up with having to make one boom longer than the other. The twin derricks were similarly strung with wire, but they did not come out well and ended up hampering my work on the front of the superstructure. I shouldn’t have mounted them when I did and left them for almost last.  My aft crane is somewhat of a mess. As far as I recall it was stowed facing forward. There was not enough space on that pool deck area for it to face forward. 

Did anything go right?

No, it turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. However, having completed my ship I am happy to say that she does bear a resemblance to the RMS, and I probably won’t attack her with a saw again. She certainly will not end up at the breakers, but will be a good example of how not to build something on this scale. It would be very much easier to build a larger scale model, but my ship collection is comprised of 1/1200 and 1/1250 models so I would like to fit her in with that. 

Closeup? 

I have retouched some of the paintwork on the computer and the portholes have to be redone because they are terrible. But to do that I need to get 2 coats on the superstructure.  I really need a break from building her though, and will see how it goes from then.

And that is where we stand today. The big question is: “Is she finished?”

The reply is: “yes and no. Ask again next week”.

Postscript:

Since writing this post I took the ship and removed the “portholes and windows”, made a change to the stern deck, repainted the hull and superstructure, added exhausts to the funnel, an antenna on the bridge, a flag staff aft and lost a lifeboat. I then had to make a new lifeboat and mix paint to create orange, mounted the new boat and painted all 4 boats because getting a perfect colour match is impossible. It never really ends does it? tonight when I get home I will be relooking those “portholes and windows” and touching up paint. I have since rebuilt the mast and am currently relooking the pool area. This is what it looked like way back when I sailed on her.

The ship is now officially completed, and has set sail for the inside of my display cabinet. It was fun, and now I have nothing to do at night anymore. bah humbug, that’s ok because I have 2 new ships to work on, namely the SS France and HMS Tiger. That ought to keep me amused until I start on the original St Helena. 

© DRW 2017. Created 26/05/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Tewkesbury Mini-steam Weekend 2017

It was that time of the year when Tewkesbury holds a number of events in and around the town. The first event that I attended this year was the mini-steam weekend that was held on the 24th and 25th of June. I attended the event last year too as well as in 2015. I had an information leaflet somewhere but seem to have mislaid it again so will really cheat a bit if I need info. The event is held by the Model Steam Road Vehicle Society. in the grounds of the Tewkesbury Rugby Club.

The engines on display are not the large full sized beasties, but smaller versions that mimic their bigger breathren; and like the full sized vehicles are feats of engineering way beyond my skill level. Realistically most of the machines this year were the same as I saw last year, in fact that was the problem with the event this year, I had seen it before but I do look for the odds and ends that make it different. 

This was the first engine that I saw while I was walking to the event, I have seen this guy quite often with his engine “Jack”, and he seems to thoroughly enjoy himself. The Abbey can be seen in the background of the image. 

The event has the usual mix of traders, enthusiasts, vintage cars and interested parties, and quite a few of the engines were raising steam when I got there.

Oh, and having their brightwork polished. Make no mistake, these machines require lots of time, patience and probably a healthy bank balance too. 

This wonderful showmens engine is typical of that particular type of vehicle with loads of shiney brass fiddly bits.

I am always fascinated by the electrical plant on these machines. It has a certain “Frankensteinish” look about it.

Here are a few of the steamers just waking from their slumbers while their owners had that first cuppa.

There was one exhibit that I ended up rooted to the spot at. It featured a single sided ploughing engine (my terminology may be out of wack though), and I spent quite a lot of time listening to the owner enthusing about his pet project. And, she was a beauty. 

I am no boffin on these things, but this system uses a single ploughing engine, an anchor, with an associated trolley and a double ended tool carrier. Wait, let me see whether I can find a link to explain it all. http://www.steamploughclub.org.uk/index.htm has a nice description on how steam ploughing actually works. In the image above the engine is closest to the camera. The dolly in the middle looks like this. Since the war ended GI Joe has gone into the ploughing industry.

The other end (called a travelling anchor) looks like this….

And it has the large disk-like wheels to prevent it being pulled sideways by the engine with ballast on the opposite side to the engine to prevent it from tipping from the load. A large twin forked anchor is set into the ground ahead of it and it is winched forward to the anchor as the rows are ploughed.  

These models are really magnificent and the owner is rightly proud of them too. I can see why. 

A full sized ploughing engine? they look like this… 

Continuing on my meander I also spotted this quirky steam powered ape. 

Who says steam in not versatile?

While I was walking around a number of engines were making their way to the arena where they circled around in a slightly haphazard way.

You can even use steam to walk the family dog and tow the family around.

There was a small display of vintage cars, and there were some I had not seen before.

And then there was this Kombi in the distance, she should have been in that line-up too.

By now I was considering my homeward trek and stopped at some of the traders tents to look around. The one tent had all of these wonderful old vintage and not so vintage tools in it, and what a strange eclectic collection it was. 

And while I was loitering there I heard a strange noise behind me… 

And then it was time to go. However I shall enthral you with my random pics.

   
   

And that was my day. Hope you enjoyed it too.

One final pic… because this is one of the things that Tewkesbury is known for:

© DRW 2017. Created 24/06/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

The girl from the past

Some time ago a strange story popped up in my radar, one that drew me because of the strangeness of it, and the other because it was such a poignant story that really had a satisfying ending.

On 9 May 2016, a contractor uncovered an old metallic coffin with windows set into it while working at the home of a family in San Francisco who were having their house renovated.  The old coffin was still sealed and contained the remains of a young girl who was seemingly perfectly preserved. 

The vast grindstone of bureaucracy pondered on the issue and declared vast amounts of money would be required to rebury her. At that point in time nobody could even put a name to her, or understand why she was there in the first place. As things go the story did not end there. In fact it dropped off the screens for a period, but all of us who had read it originally were asking the same questions: what happened since then? And, what did she look like? It was obvious that she dated from the Victorian era because the history of the town pretty much nailed down when there was a cemetery in the area, although it was cleared in the 1890’s; the remains exhumed and re-interred in a city called Colma. Colma is considered the city of the dead as it has 2 square miles of cemeteries. The clearance happened at least 10-15 years after Miranda was buried and our little time traveller had been left behind, undisturbed until she was rediscovered over a century after being laid to rest.

At this point I can only point the reader to one source that can tell the story better than I can, and it really makes for fascinating reading for those who have an interest in history, forensics and a good old fashioned sad story.  The primary source that I use is http://www.gardenofinnocence.org/miranda-eve-childs-casket-found-under-home.

It was decided that the home owner that had this abandoned coffin in her home would have the gift of naming the child.  She in turn asked her 4 and 6 year old daughters what they would like to name a little girl and they said her name will be Miranda. It is under that name “Miranda Eve” that she would be buried although it was hoped that a positive identification would be possible. 

An organisation, known as Garden of Innocence had decided to take on her reburial. The organisation provides dignified burials for abandoned and unidentified children, and this girl was definitely one of those.  A suitable casket was hand made with as much care as if she was the daughter of everybody involved in the project. Miranda was destined to undergo a second funeral, this time by the hand of strangers, but with the well wishes of large portions of the internet to accompany her in her new grave. 

On the 4th of June 2016 she was laid to rest once again, inside her original coffin that was placed in a wooden casket. She was seen off by over 100 strangers who had been touched by this girl from the past. Strands of her hair has been taken so that it could be analysed to shed light on a possible cause of death. DNA was also extracted and it would be used to compare with any possible family members that would be traced assuming that a tentative identification could be made. Garden of Innocence provided the headstone and memorial service for “Miranda Eve” as she was still unidentified. One side of her headstone was left blank in case they could eventually identify her

The house where she was found had been built in 1936 on what was the “Odd Fellows” Cemetery in the family plot in the Yerba Buena section, and that had “been cleared” in the 1890’s when the city of San Francisco decided that the dead were taking up too much space, and voted to have all burials stopped in the City and close the cemeteries. Approximately 300 000 bodies had to be exhumed and moved but the question does arise: how many other sets of remains are still buried underneath the neighbourhood? And how did she slip between the cracks and remain undiscovered when the house was being built? 

After long days and months of detective work, she was finally identified as being Edith Howard Cook; the second born child and first born daughter of Horatio Nelson Cook and Edith Scooffy Cook,  Born on the 28th of November 1873 she was just over 2 years and 10 months old when she died on the 13th of October 1876. Her identification was made possible by using old maps of the original cemetery and overlaying it with maps of the area, then finding a plot that was in the space where the house where she was found is. That would have yielded up a grave number and using records would yield a name. In total 3 children had been identified as “possibles”, and by taking DNA samples of possible relatives a positive match was made. Miranda now had a name. 

What did she die of? Thanks to the hair samples and records we know that she died of “Marasmus“, in short it is caused by a severe deficiency of nearly all nutrients, especially protein, carbohydrates, and lipids. Her family were relatively well off, so her nutrition would have been adequate, but we can only speculate as to what triggered this condition in the first place. It is possible that she was suffering from something else that caused her eating to tail off. We will never know because she did not end up on the autopsy table. What we do know is that she was buried with love, dressed in a long white christening dress embellished with elaborate lace work and wearing ankle high shoes and tiny purple “false indigo” flowers were woven into her hair and on a long necklace, similar to a rosary.

An image of her was taken and subsequently created as a “Fairy Tale Portrait”, by graphic artist Jennifer Onstrott Warner of Fairy Tale Portraits in Newport Beach and it turned out beautiful. To the best of my knowledge no untouched images of her were released, maybe that’s a good thing? Although I am still very curious about this little sleeping beauty.  

While reading this story I naturally turned to Google and the image search, and while I saw many iterations of that image I also saw many images of vapid celebrities and selfie’s posted to social media by the self absorbed and what a contrast it was.

And what a story this turned out to be.  In our modern mad world we were touched by a girl from 1876 who was forgotten and who lay undisturbed for over 145 years. Her own parents and siblings are long gone too, possibly even exhumed from the same cemetery? The question of what was the underlying cause of the Marasmus will never be answered, although in the 1870’s children led very precarious lives, and a simple childhood disease could be a killer. Modern medicine was still a long way into the future, although in our modern world there is a condition similar to Marasmus called Kwashiorkor, and it is still found in many third world countries. 

Miranda Eve rests in Greenlawn Memorial Park in Colma, her new headstone was unveiled on 10 June 2017 and it bears her name and date of birth and death, and a simple epitaph:

“I once was lost

but now I am found”. 

Rest in Peace Edith. 

Acknowledgements:

Garden of Innocence for what they did.  Image of headstone from their facebook page

Jennifer Onstrott Warner of Fairy Tale Portraits for the wonderful image that she created.

The many people who helped identify Edith and who “brought her home”

And the others who made her their own. Many pages made for fascinating reading especially the SF Weekly.

© DRW 2017. Created between 10-16 June 2017. 

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Still building the RMS

Buried a few posts back is my progress on building a 1/1250-ish model of the RMS St Helena. If you don’t know what I am talking about I suggest you start from the back.

Where am I now?

*Click here for the 18/06/2017 update*

When last we left the ship she was in a state of…

At that point I had changed the superstructure and was contemplating the well deck bulwarks. In the back of my mind was the feeling that I needed to change them so I ended up ripping them out and replacing them with aluminium ones cut from a beer tin. If only I had thought of that originally I would have saved myself considerable work (and £2.99 for a sheet of brass). The superstructure has been rough painted and filed more or less level with the hull section. I scrapped the original bridge wing scheme too because I was going to make them out of brass, but that idea has also changed and I may see whether it is easy to make them out of aluminium so that I can have a proper bridge wing effect. There is also a section of steel that merges the slope of the superstructure with the bridge wing. I meed to see how that comes together too. 

 As at 19.21 today she looks something like this…

I have made the crane mounting post and added in the well deck hatch and started to see what arrangement I could make for her two cranes. This is not how the new cranes will look. I have made proper ones now but they still have glue drying so haven’t been mounted yet. I am also on the lookout for paint for her decks. They use a light blue on her steel decking so I am either going to have to mix or buy a tinlet. At any rate I am not going anywhere until I have the bulwarks fixed. The bend angle that I used created a empty space between the bulwark and the deck so that needs to be fixed too.  I still have not created her funnel either, probably because I hate working with wood. 

What have I learnt so far?

The well deck may be too high or the deck between it and the fo’c’stle may be too low. I am unable to achieve the slight upward slope of the bulwarks because there is this size issue between the gangway area and the well deck. I do not know how to solve this yet. Actually looking at some of my pics, she has two housings on either side of the deck where the cranes are mounted. I may be able to use that to create my sloping bulwarks. I must investigate that. 

My wooden crane sucked. I do have a length of styrene and it has worked well enough that I have a set of cranes that may work well. 

The aft deck screen around the pool needs to be put in motion, as must the davits. I have the perfect material for the davits and should be able to churn out 4 sets without too much of a headache. But, I have to make lifeboats which means the headache is back. The length of styrene may work for the boats. I must experiment a bit.

I need to start straightening my sheer lines once have the bulwarks sorted and I need to experiment with bridge wings, ah what fun! 

In the meantime, some more views of the real ship. I see on my pics her fo’c’stle was Oxford blue too, that should make my work easier. 

So. That is where we are now. During the week I hope to do more work on her and then will post progress when I am done next weekend. 

10/06/2017. 

When last you we saw the RMS she was looking more RMS-like all the time. However…

This afternoon I attacked her with a saw.

After ripping off her superstructure I cut away a third of the deck and filed it flat. The deck used to end where the patch of blue now is. I then headed off to Cheltenham and came back with basswood and a few more interesting goodies and rebuilt that deck.  Because of the size of the wood I ended up having to use two pieces instead of one. The result looks something like this….

I then refabricated bulwarks and added them in, masked the hull and painted the white area in. (No pics as the paint is wet). On Friday I made the funnel that you can see above, it needs to be flatter at the top though, not sloping backwards. I also added my new crane unit just for show. The issue there is that the one boom stretches from the crane and rests on a cradle affixed to the superstructure front. My one boom is consequently longer than the other.  

I have made one major decision though. This model is far from anywhere near perfect, in fact it is a hodge podge of wood and plastic and really quite poor. However, I have learnt a lot by building it, and I will complete it so that it looks much better than it does now, and then I will consider building another with the knowledge I have gained building this service pack 1. When I started I did not have the one image I have now (which I cannot show because it belongs to somebody else), That image showed me a lot of detail that I could not get off my existing images. Ideally I need the plans but it looks like my brother is trying hard not to be seen. I did ask him to go look for them but I guess he never found them or never looked. Anyway, building will stop this week as I have the landlord popping in to check that I haven’t wrecked the place so my ship and associated goodies are being hidden away till next week. 

11/06/2017.

I have made a lot of progress this afternoon. One thing about the weather, it makes you stay indoors and work on your ships! The aft pool area is more or less completely built although it may change, I have done some preliminary work on painting decks and am experimenting with davits. The issue with them is glue. The super glue is useless and the other all purpose glue is also useless. I may need to add a notch in the decks for the davit to rest on. Thinking about it still. Funnel is glued down and two hatches have been added although crane assy is still not stuck down. She is looking much better, not perfect, but better.

Still to do:

Build 4 lifeboats and 8 davits, mount them. 

Bridge wings. Still need those.

Crane on starboard deck aft

Repaint

Think about gangway

Black topping to funnel and logo… I have no idea how to do that logo on such a small scale. Print it out and shrink it down I guess. √  Sorted! Shrunk a logo to 9% printed, cut out and mounted it. Voila!

Bridge front needs to be done. It does not sit flush with the accommodation but protrudes slightly. 

Mast and associated satnav gear.

Two derricks on well deck 

Two housings on foredeck and associated machinery

Till then…

It is the 18th of June and the RMS is almost done… although “done” has not quite been explained. 

I have added the aft crane, 4 lifeboats, a “mast”, forespike, foredeck housings and am really at a point where I need to touch up paint and finish this puppy off finally.

Those lifeboats were a major pain. The conventional davits that I made proved almost impossible to mount. There was just nothing apart from 2 points where they were glued to keep them in place., never mind to mount a lifeboat on. The davits are a mess. How the heck they make them in this scale (and smaller) is beyond me. That was a major stumbling block as far as I am concerned. The bow shape is wrong, the bulwarks are just exacerbating the problem. Talking of bulwarks… did I mention that I managed to get them on? the small square hole in the hull is where the gangway sits, currently the hole is too short, but trying to enlarge it may be dangerous. The mast is OK, but not quite what I was trying to achieve. The derricks in the well deck are OK, although their booms are pieces of wire and proved to be hell to get to sit in the correct position. The aft crane looks more like a 6 inch gun. I need to change that. I also should have stayed with the yellow I had on the funnel. The yellow I have now is icky. 

Paintwork is an abomination. Because I made so many changes the paint ended up lumpy and short of sanding it all off will always look lumpy. I jumped the gun when it came to painting her and am now saddled with what I have. There isn’t much I can do at this point, although having completed the ship I am tempted to try sand her hull and accommodation down to bare wood and then repaint. I have not decided. I am very tempted to try change the bow shape though, but having almost finished the ship I am now loathe to break it again. 

Portholes and windows? I am thinking about them. 2 Options: either make them out of trimline or create a stencil and paint them in. The former works but the trimline tends to come off. Painting is a pain. I need to experiment. I tried using the trimline option on the bridge front but it ended up skew and the white parts disassociated themselves with the experiment. 

Now that I look at her, she actually looks kind of like the RMS after all.

A new iteration?

Things have changed a lot since I started this project. I have better images and I have a set of deckplans (thanks Glynn), I also have better wood, tools and know more about how the ship comes together so a new version should be an improvement (almost anything would be an improvement). However, my eyesight and sausage fingers are just not allowing me to work to such small scale (old age they call it), and I need to sort out the glue issue, this stuff I am using now is a major source of irritation. And of course the thought of those damn lifeboats and davits leaves me frazzled. I would build a scaled up version but the problem with that is… railings. I rest my case.

This post is the last of the construction posts. Next time you see it I will be completing the ship. 

Thanks for watching this space, soon there will be a new space to watch.

© DRW 2017. Created 04/06/2017. Updated 18/06/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22
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