musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: Personal

The loss of HMY Iolaire

Over the years I have read about many disaster’s at sea and of course the Titanic springs to mind almost instinctively. However, in October 2017 I discovered yet another disaster that has slipped below the radar, and I was determined to create some way to commemorate the men who lost their lives  in the disaster 100 years ago on this day. It was an uphill slog because unfortunately accuracy is difficult because of the poor records, contradicting evidence and the multiplicity of the same names being used.  Unfortunately I was not able to get anybody involved with the disaster commemorations to look at what I did and assist in getting it correct. 

The HMY community on LIves of the First World War.

HMY Iolaire was a former private yacht that had been pressed into naval service in the Outer Hebrides during the First World War, and on old years eve 1918 she was hurriedly loaded with over 200 members of the Royal Naval Reserve to take them home to the Island of Lewis on leave.  That passage is fraught with danger for those who do not know these waters; rough seas, an unforgiving coastline and submerged reefs are all just waiting for the right moment to spring their deadly trap.

The RNR men were all inhabitants from this area, most had served and survived through the war years, often serving in minelayers or small craft that performed a very necessary function, but without the glitz and glamour associated with a much larger vessel. Their own knowledge of the sea meant that these experienced seamen were much in demand by the Royal Navy, and they performed admirably in the roles they filled. It was almost the beginning of a new year and they had survived the war and the flu epidemic and Hogmanay was approaching. The Iolaire would take them home to waiting families, and there were more men than spaces on that ill-fated vessel.  Crowded with happy reservists she would sail into destiny from the pier at  Kyle of Lochalsh. 

Back home on Lewis; parents, wives and children were preparing to welcome home their men, it would be a festive occasion because some of the men had not been home in a long time, and with the war over all that was left was demobilisation and a final return home and civilian life. On board the yacht some of the men slept, some talked, others swapped yarns and compared their military service with men that they did not know. The master of the vessel was Commander Richard Gordon Mason and once they had sailed the commander went below, presumably to sleep, leaving  Lieutenant Leonard Edmund Cotter in charge. These were not amateur seamen but experienced men who knew how to handle ships. 

The Beasts of Holm (Gael: Biastan Thuilm) is a rocky outcrop near the harbour and Iolaire was driving towards it, with seemingly nobody in charge attempting to rectify the situation.  To make matters worse the weather was starting to get rough, and the darkness compounded the problem.  It also emerged that there was no lookout stationed in the bows of the vessel, although given the darkness and how little time there would be to make course corrections it was really a moot point. 

“The Beasts of Holm rocks near Stornoway on Isle of Lewis Scotland” by Dave Conner is licensed under CC BY 2.0 (image resized)

Below the men had no way of knowing the calamity to come, and when the ship struck the rocks they were all in immediate danger. The chances are that many died almost immediately, but for others it was the beginning of a life or death struggle. Many were encumbered by their heavy uniforms and unfamiliarity with the ship, To make matters worse she did not have life-saving equipment for them all, the lifeboats were few, and in the heaving seas trying to launch them successfully would be almost impossible as the ship plunged and ground her iron plates on the rocks.

The tragedy was unfolding almost 20 yards from land, but nobody on land was aware that a ship was foundering on their doorstep, Some men tried to swim for safety but in the cold wild waters almost none would make it. One brave man, John F. Macleod from Ness, Isle of Lewis, managed to get ashore with a rope and a hand over hand crossing was established, but the sea would clear that vital rope of its cargo on more than one occasion, but men were getting ashore,  often battered and bleeding but alive.

There were really many things that went wrong on that night and once the alarm had been sounded on land things moved at a frustratingly slow pace; people had to be woken up, keys had to be found, horses found, cars hired and so on. By the time all of it had been coordinated it was too late, the ship had gone down, those who could reach safety had, although one man still clung to the mast. The morning light revealed the carnage, dead men washed up on the shore, or drifting in the sea, exhausted survivors looking for help and trying to find their friends or family that may have survived. The full horror was still to come as the islanders tried to take stock of what had happened. Isolated families were notified and the festivities of Hogmanay would be forgotten as married women found that they were now widows while their children were unable to understand the magnitude of the tragedy that was unfolding around them.

Aftermath.

The dead were gradually gathered in and taken to a hastily evacuated ammunition store that now served as a mortuary. Small boats scoured the area looking for and recovering bodies, while parties on shore walked the jagged coastline, hoping to find survivors, but the sea had not given up all of it’s dead.  Of the ship there was little trace, and a number of bodies were invariably trapped within its flooded compartments.

The community where this disaster had unfolded was never the same again, families would grieve for many years, while those who had lived through it would suffer from “survivors guilt”. A commission of inquiry was set up but it could find no real reason for why the ship ended up on the Beasts of Holm in the first place. There was nobody alive who could explain the sequence of events on the bridge that had led to the ship hitting the rocks, and naturally scapegoats would be sought so as not to throw the spotlight on high ranking officers or the Admiralty. 

A further inquiry was launched to establish more facts and possibly apportion blame, and generally it seemed to do a reasonable job given the difficulties involved, but no real reason behind the accident was ever found. Those that knew went down with the ship.  

The dead are buried in many places. I found a crewman buried in Portsmouth while a search at CWGC under 01/01/1919 will bring up a long list of men who are buried in a number of cemeteries in the community and surrounding settlements, while some are commemorated on the Portsmouth, Plymouth and Chatham Naval Memorials. There is a memorial to those who lost their lives on the Island of Lewis, but is is a rarely visited memorial because the story is almost forgotten.

The Iolaire Memorial, Holm Point, near Stornoway, Lewis

Young children would grow and watch as the world plunged once again into a mad war, some would following in the footsteps of the previous generation and serve their country, and once again women would mourn those who never returned. The story of the sinking of the Iolaire is more than a story about a small ship foundering, it is about complacency and negligence and about a community ripped apart in the early morning of a new year. 

Sadly the men of the Iolaire are mostly forgotten now, occasionally someone like me will stumble on the story and ask the same questions that were asked almost 100 years ago. We will not find any answers either. Unfortunately a number of difficulties facing anybody who is researching the disaster is trying to make sense of the Scottish naming conventions that often leave a researcher with multiple occurrences of the same name. There is also a lack of information in general as to the men who served in the Merchant Navy as well as the Royal Navy Reserve,  most of these me were members of the latter. Fortunately somebody has done the work for me and there is a Roll of Honour that I found very useful. 

There is not a lot of information out there. A good place to start is the The sinking of H.M.Y. Iolaire – 1 January 1919 page, as well as the Wikipedia page and of course the relevant CWGC pages for individual casualties. I bought a very good book called: “When I Heard the Bell: The Loss of the Iolaire” by John MacLeod (Edinburgh: Birlinn Press. ISBN 978-1-84158-858-2.), and it went into aspects that I had not even considered before.  Another book is due to be launched in 2018 called “The Darkest Dawn: The Story of The Iolaire Disaster” by Malcolm Macdonald and Donald John Macleod. 

The Iolaire was built in 1881 by Ferguson of Leith. (634 tons) and her original name was Iolanthe. This was later changed to Mione, and later, to Amalthaea. She is however not to be confused with the  Iolaire that was owned by Sir Donald Currie. In 1915, the luxury sailing yacht Amalthaea was commandeered by the Admiralty and converted and armed for anti-submarine warfare and coastal patrols. Her owner was Mr Michael Duff-Assheton Smith, who later became Sir Michael Duff. He had bought her from the Duke of Westminster.

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 21/07/2017. Image of Iolaire Memorial is © Stephen Branley and is being used under the the Creative Commons  Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license. Image has been cropped, darkened  and resized. “The Beasts of Holm rocks near Stornoway on Isle of Lewis Scotland” by Dave Conner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:42

Looking back on 2018

2018 had many high and low points, and it was really a year of change and renewal.  The biggest issue that weighed on my mind towards the end of 2017 had been the renewal of my visa which was done successfully for another 5 years. By the time you read this almost a year would have passed from those 5. My mother’s health took a turn for the worse towards the end of December and at one point I was looking for flights just in case I had to return to South Africa. Fortunately that did not happen, but she remains in high care and who knows what the future holds. (Update: I will be returning to South Africa for a brief visit at the end of February 2019)

I had also been contemplating resigning from my job as I was really getting tired of the atmosphere where I worked, sadly it was all caused by the same person and by the end of August I had made my decision and resigned. It just goes to show how bad things were, and I am amazed that I stuck it out for 3 years. I have a new job now, albeit it as a contractor and am still in Tewkesbury, but would probably leave like a shot if a better job came up elsewhere. My new employment is interesting though, I have learnt a lot of things that I had never considered before, and that is a good thing.

The weather was also surprising, with 2 snowfalls in the early part of the year. They were fun, and I got some great pics. So far (touch wood) we have not had snow, but that is pretty much how we felt at the beginning of the year too.

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We also lost Ray Thomas, Mort Walker, Billy Graham, Stephen Hawking,  Harry Anderson, George and Barbara Bush,  Aretha Franklin, Burt Reynolds,  Joe Jackson, Dolores O’Riordan, Montserrat Caballé, Hugh Masekela, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, John McCain, Morgan Tsvangirai, Pik Botha, Margot Kidder, Sir Roger Bannister, Kofi Annan, Charles Aznavour, Paul Allen, and Stan Lee (complete list at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deaths_in_2018

Because the weather was better I ended up gallivanting again, and visited a number of places during the year. Naturally I ended up taking way too many photo’s as usual. I also ate too much ice cream, read lots of books and watched too many anime and movies. 

The highlight of the year was definitely  the trip I made to Liverpool in June and it spawned a whole wodge of blogposts.

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and of course my visits to Evesham were amazing, and it is a place I enjoy visiting. Hopefully next year I will get to the light rail that runs there too. 

This was also the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, and I am still involved in the Lives of the First World War Project.

The project finishes in March 2019 and I may find that I have a lot more free time on my hands from then. 

I was also lucky to get to travel to Wales and paid a brief visit to Swansea and Mumbles

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and I paid a few visits to Bristol in July and August. This time around exploring beyond the cemetery and harbour too. I will be returning there once the weather improves. 

Meanwhile back in Tewkesbury, we had the usual Medieval Festival as well as the Classic Vehicle Festival.

The one thing that I can be sure of is that I live in interesting times, and I expect 2019 will bring quite a few highlights and low lights to blog about. I may be making a short trip to South Africa in 2019, but haven’t made a decision yet, there are many factors involved in deciding, but really need to look into all of them. It is an expensive trip and with my job still being as it is I have to be rational about something like that. 

That is 2018 in a nutshell. I have deviated from my usual format this time around, its much easier to do, and I can always add bits on in these last days of the year. Irrespective though, with Brexit looming in the distance who knows what April may bring. The election in South Africa is also looming in 2019 and given how bad things are getting there who knows what the year will bring. You can bet that more money will be squandered on everything but the poor. We will just have to wait and see.

DRW © 2018-2019. 

Updated: 29/01/2019 — 13:39

Let’s play Poohsticks

This morning, while riding on the cycle track on my way home I encountered a man and his toddler on the cycle path. “We’ve been playing Poohsticks” he said. 

It was a lightbulb moment.  Now Poohsticks is a very famous game invented by A. A. Milne for his son Christopher Robin Milne, and the game first came to prominence when it was described in the author’s book The House at Pooh Corner.  We more or less have a perfect spot in which to play it, so it was just a matter of time before Miss Emily was roped in for a quick game. 

Dressed to the nines, with her new red purse, felt hat and wellies we headed for the Carrant Brook. 

“Why are we going to the river?” she asked. “Are we there yet?”

I first took her down to the bank and tried to explain the rules. She sat on the tree branch and tried to listen attentively. She had already waylaid a passing twig that she wanted to hurl into the river. “Not yet Miss Emily.”

She eyed another tree branch that was in the river and claimed it as her own “I win!” she exclaimed.

“Nope, not quite Miss Emily, that is overdoing it.”

“Oh Pooh”

We walked a bit further “What about this cool brick?”

“Nope, it will sink like a stone. Enough speculating, lets go stand on the bridge and we can see whose stick gets to the finishing line at the narrow gap downstream first”

We walked up to the bridge and Miss Emily tried to look over the railing, “this railing is too high, maybe if we get that brick I can stand on it?”

“Forget that brick Miss Emily, you can look between the rails. Now get your stick ready!”

Miss Emily pushed her stick through the railings until she was holding it over the water “I am ready!” she shouted excitedly.

“Me too. When I say three let them go and whoever gets to the narrowing first wins. 1, 2…………. 2,5………… 2,6…………  3!” 

The sticks tumbled down into the water to meet their fate. “I’m winning!” she cried.

“No wait, I could be loosing. Which is my stick? I am all confused.”

“That’s always a problem when you play Poohsticks unless you mark your stick properly.”

“That sounds complimacated and way too much work.” She said thoughtfully. “After all this is not the Olympiciamiam Games.”

“You mean the Olympic Games?” 

“Yes, them too. Just imagine winning a gold medal and lots of ice cream in the Olympiciamiam Games as well as in the Olympic Games!”

“I knew it would come down to ice cream again.”

“Let’s have another round.” she grabbed a stick from the pile “Ready when you are!”

And so we played Poohsticks from the bridge.

“That was fun!” Miss Emily said, “I think I am going to enter the Olympiciamiam Games when I grow up.”

“Don’t grow up Miss Emily, it’s a trap!”

“It is?”

“Most definitely, just think, had I not had you I would not have been able to play Poohsticks.”

“That’s true. I don’t think adults play enough games once they grow up.”

“I agree. Come, let’s go get some ice cream, what flavour would you like?”

And so we headed off home via the ice cream shop, Miss Emily had learnt something new, and I had ended up with muddy boots and many pics. The brief sunshine had felt invigorating and we were both ready for the weekend. “it will soon be a new year Miss Emily, how long have you been with me?”

She thought for awhile, “Since September 2016.”

“Time passes very quickly these days”

“Uhu, so we better play games more often then.”

“Good idea Miss Emily, a very good idea.”

The final score? Miss Emily won by 3 sticks and 1 ice cream.

DRW © 2018-2019. Created 29/12/2018

Updated: 29/01/2019 — 13:31

The Musings Advent Calender 2018

I started this in 2015, so this is really the 4th year in a row I have done it. Hopefully some of the pics will not have been seen before. Hang onto your hat, and open the little doorway. (Newest image is at the top of the page)

24 December

The Christmas Truce

23 December

Spotted in Cheltenham. Created by John D’oh

22 December

21 December

20 December

Castle Park, Bristol

19 December

18 December

Cholera Epidemic Memorial. Tewkesbury Cemetery

The Cholera Epidemic Memorial commemorates 76 locals who passed away from in the Cholera epidemic in 1832 and 54 locals who suffered the same fate in 1849

17 December

Steampunkian thingey, Mumbles Pier

16 December

Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria

Information board

In South Africa the 16th of  December used to be celebrated as “Geloftedag” (aka Day of the Covenant, Day of the Vow, Dingaans Day), and the Voortrekker Monument featured very strongly in the day. On 16 December the sun shines through a hole in the roof and shines on a  slab in the middle of the building.  Since 1994 the day has been called “Day of Reconciliation”.

15 December

Magistrates chair from 1885 (Tewkesbury Museum)

14 December

He’s so fluffy!!

13 December

12 December

Seen in Stroud

11 December

Emerging bike (Evesham)

10 December

Princess Mary’s Gift (Almonry Museum, Evesham)

09 December

Wind indicator, thermometer and barometer. (Evesham)

08 December

Battle Honours: HMS Victorious

07 December

Morris Dancers in Evesham

06 December

Detail from the Exchange War Memorial in Liverpool

05 December

Piano for the playing at Bristol Temple Meads

04 December

Street art in Bristol

03 December

Unicorn in Bristol

02 December

Public art: Bristol

01 December

Olde house in Tewkesbury

DRW © 2018 – 2019.

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:51

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 a 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 and 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 a 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: 08/03/2019 — 16:51

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. 

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: 04/01/2019 — 06:50

The village tour: Ashton-Under-Hill

Continuing where we left off….

I arrived at Ashton-Under-Hill (Google Earth 52.039141°, -2.003869°) at roughly 9.08 am. This village intrigued me the most because it bigger than the two I had just visited, and it had an interesting mix of old buildings. There was a  War Memorial and a church with two CWGC graves in it.  The Saturday bus also seems to take a slightly different route to the weekday bus and that affected what I had to do because the bus dropped me off past my intended targets. 

Once it dropped me off it would travel a bit further, reverse, turn around and head towards Sedgeberrow and Evesham.  

There it goes now! I stayed with this raised embankment because the War Memorial was situated on it.  From what I read this was not the original location of the memorial, and it appears to have been originally located on private land. 

It is described as “Cross, with laurel wreath wrapped round the shaft, on a stepped square base,” it has 8 names from the First World War and 2 from the second. The front is engraved as follows:

There are also shorter name lists on either side of the memorial. 

The memorial looks out over the “Ashton First School and Village Hall”

The rent was partly paid, and I continued my walk to my next stop which is the church of St Barbara which is roughly 200 metres away.

If you did not know the church was there you would probably have missed seeing it, as it is set back from the road and only the lych gate and a badly eroded 15th century cross is situated in front of it. The 17th century thatched cottage is what drew my attention originally and I wonder whether it was the rectory?

There are two casualties buried in the churchyard, 1 from each of the World Wars.

There is a small door that can be seen between the two windows in the image above, and it is engraved 1624. Like so many parish churches it is a mix of old and older. The oldest parts date from Norman times, represented by the South doorway with its characteristic rounded arch. The Tower with its 6 bell ring, was begun in the 13th century. while the Chancel was rebuilt in 1624 by Sir John Franklin, then Lord of the Manor.  St Barbara is the patron saint of armourers, gunners and blacksmiths. (https://www.ashtonunderhill.org.uk/organisations/st_barbaras/). The lych gate dates from Mach 1931

Amazingly the church was unlocked and I was able to see inside of it. 

It is not a spectacular church, but it did have some lovely stained glass in it. The ROH was small but there were 3 personal memorials in it, one of which I am reproducing here because it is such a poignant one.

Then it was grave hunting time and I battled to find the one grave which was a private memorial. It too had been recently restored which is probably why I could not find it. Many of the private memorials are in a poor condition and are the responsibility of the family. The rent was paid, it was time to look around and get my bus onwards to Evesham. It was due at 10.22 but it was only 9.43. There was one more building that I wanted to find and apart from that I had the 40 minutes to idle.

Twas time to enjoy the view. 

The village history says: 

“…  A walk along the almost mile long village street (now called Beckford Road to the south and Elmley Road to the north) will take the visitor past a wide selection of the local rural architecture typical of both the Cotswolds and the Vale of Evesham.

In addition to timber-framed and stone cottages there is a black and white farmhouse dating back to the 15th century, an elegant stone manor house built before 1700, tall brick houses from around 1800, also many red-brick Victorian cottages and a scattering of 20th century houses in a variety of styles. The non-conformist chapel was built in the 1920s. The village also has two schools; the old Village school in the centre built in the 1860s with the more modern village hall attached, and at the north end the 1960s Middle School. The village pub ‘The Star Inn’ offers a warm welcome, traditional Ales and home-cooked food.”

 (https://www.ashtonunderhill.org.uk/information/history.shtml)

The “non-conformist chapel” mentioned in the history of the village is the other building that I was interested in. 

It had quite a number of unveiling stones on it, which was quite odd, it is possible that everybody wanted to be a part of it. 

Unfortunately I was not able to get into the building, but it cannot be very large inside. It is however, a very interesting shape. 

My meanderings continued.

Like the other two villages I had passed through, Ashton-Under-Hill has a mention in the Domesday Book.

And just in time for my bus too. I am off to Evesham to get more images from the museum, I will continue this grand tour at a latter time, visiting Beckford and Sedgeberrow. As they say in the classics:

Next up is Sedgebarrow; just follow the arrow…  

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DRW 2018 – 2019. Created 21/10/2018.  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.  

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:49

The village tour: Kemerton and Overbury

The day finally arrived, it was time to embark on my grand tour of the villages en route to Evesham. The weather forecast was favourable, my navigation was done and all that was left was hitting the road. My plan was to travel by bus to Kemerton, take my pics and then head over to either Overbury or Ashton-Under-Hill, and from there to Evesham. The only real hard and fast decision was that Kemerton would be my first stop. 

I grabbed the 07.35ish 540 bus in misty weather and even the sun was still partly asleep at this time of the morning, and I duly arrived in Kemerton at 7.50ish. Everybody was apparently asleep too.

This is the road from Bredon.

I did not venture into the side streets of the village, but only the main street, and there is not a lot to see. 

Lost? this may help.

As you can see the sun was starting to colour the sky and the light was improving considerably.

Even the local shop/post office looked like it was starting to stir. This was the only shop I saw in the village. While “The Crown” was the only pub I saw, although there may be others. 

And finally, the reason for my early morning sojourn.

The War Memorial is described as a “Latin Limestone Cross atop a tall shaft, which is on a 5 stage base. The design of the cross was adapted from an ancient village cross in the village of Laycock.” (https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/32460). It was unveiled on 9 January 1921, and was made by Sir Herbert Baker RA (possibly the architect?), Messrs E T Taylor of Tewkesbury and Mr A Stanley of Kemerton. It is a Grade II listed structure. 

There are 20 names from the First World War and 7 from the Second World War on the memorial.

The building in the picture behind the memorial had an interesting sign painted on the wall, although I do not know if it is a period sign or a recent addition.

The rent was paid, it was time to walk across to Overbury which was less than a kilometre away, past the village hall (dated 1902), 

although walking on the pavement was difficult because the grass was heavy with dew. Not much was stirring here, but then it was still early.

Much to my delight I found a Catholic Church on the outskirts of the village, and it still had a graveyard.

It is called St Benet’s Catholic Church (served by the Benedictines of Douai Abbey), and it was built in 1843 by M E Hadfield, together with the adjoining Priest’s House.

I had missed the local Anglican Church though, so that is another reason for a return to the village. Across the street from the church was a large field with grazing sheep and a white painted farmhouse in the distance. There was a hint of mist in the air and the slowly lightening sky was still coloured orange by the sun on the clouds. It was one of those moments that always leaves me breathless. 

(1500 x 510)

In fact there were sheep having breakfast on both sides of the road. This chap was resting his wary head and we exchanged Baa’s. 

Kemerton is also mentioned in the Domesday Book

  • HundredTewkesbury
  • CountyGloucestershire / Worcestershire
  • Total population: 40.5 households (very large).
  • Total tax assessed: 13.4 geld units (very large)
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 60 geld units. Taxed on 60.0. Payments of 0.82 urban.

My next destination was in sight.

And in the distance I could see the the bell tower of St Faith’s, Overbury on the left side of the road. 

There are 5 CWGC graves in the churchyard, and all five are from the First World War. The War Memorial is incorporated into the Lych Gate so technically it could also double as a coffin rest.

The Memorial commemorates the Men of Overbury and Conderton who gave their lives in the Great War (and the Second World War).  There are 26 names from the First World War and 4 from the Second World War. (https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/32563)

For some strange reason I took almost no images of the Lych Gate structure as I was too intent of trying to get the names instead. Once that was done I tackled the Churchyard, 4 of the headstones were standard CWGC pattern while the last was a private memorial, and it had been recently restored too.

Rent paid, it was time to move onwards. And I seemingly did not photograph the church completely, although it was not easy to get an unobstructed view of it. Fortunately I did get the back of the Lych Gate.

The Exif data of this image puts the time at 8.34 and I still had to find the bus stop to get the bus that theoretically should arrive about 8.50. I had scoped the route out on my maps and the bus stops were marked on it, so no problemo!

In fact, the timetable listed the bus stop as “opposite shelter”, and this is the shelter….  

The shelter however is on the side heading back to Tewkesbury, and Google Earth marks the stop as being roughly 50 metres before the shelter, and the locals said the stop was at a small bench 50 metres on the other side of the shelter. This is the UK,  if you do not stand at a designated bus stop the bus will not stop! 

Overbury Church Of England First School

Old Village Shop

Overbury is in the Domesday Book too:

  • HundredOswaldslow
  • CountyWorcestershire
  • Total population: 15.5 households (medium).
  • Total tax assessed: 3 geld units (medium)
  • Head of manor: Overbury.
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 6 geld units.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £6. Value to lord in 1086 £6.
  • Households: 15 villagers. 7 smallholders. 6 slaves. 2 female slaves. 1 priest.
  • Ploughland: 3 lord’s plough teams. 12 men’s plough teams.
  • Other resources: Meadow 10 acres. Woodland 1 * 1 leagues. 0.5 church lands.
  • Lord in 1066Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Lord in 1086Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Places mentioned in this entryOverburyPendock.

and this is the road out of here.

The next village in the route was Conderton although I was not stopping there, and fortunately the bus driver saw my frantic waves from what I hoped was the bus stop.

My next destination was Ashton-Under-Hill and that is over the page….

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DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 20/10/2018.  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.  

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:49

The villages en route to Evesham

My first trip to visit Evesham in May 2018 is the key to what has become of something of an obsession.  The bus goes through a number of typical English villages, namely Bredon, Lower Westmancote, Kemerton, Overbury, Beckford, Little Beckford, Ashton Under Hill, Sedgeberrow, and finally Fairfield. It is somewhat of a long trip but there is a lot to see and try to photograph (unsuccessfully I may add). By the process of elimination I have narrowed down the list of villages to visit to 4, namely Kemerton, Overbury, Ashton-Under-Hill and Sedgeberrow because they either have a church with CWGC graves in them, or a war memorial. 

I have been able to grab pics of the following through the bus window: 

Ashton Under Hill War Memorial. ( 52.039634°, -2.005106°)  

20/10/2018: Ashton-Under-Hill is “in the bag”. 

Kemerton War Memorial. ( 52.033202°,  -2.079959°)

20/10/2018. Kemerton is “In the bag”

Beckford. (Marker on an island, may not be a war memorial. 52.020002°,  -2.038073°)  

26/11/2018: Beckford is “In the bag”

Sedgebarrow War Memorial (52.045395°,  -1.965749°)

Sedgeberrow is in the bag

As far as churches go, there are two I have to check out:  St Faith’s Church in Overbury (52.03491, -2.0642) has 5 CWGC Burials in it  (20/10/2018. Overbury is “In the bag”),  while  St Barbara’s in Ashton-Under-Hill (52.03773 , -2.00571) has 2 CWGC Burials in it. (20/10/2018: Ashton-Under-Hill is “in the bag”. )

Ashton-Under-Hill

I intend village hopping, starting off at Kemerton, then moving onto Overbury, and Ashton-Under-Hill, then completing the trip to Evesham and doing Sedgeberrow on the way back as the bus takes a slightly different route when it returns from Evesham.  Because of the timetable spacing I am looking at an hour in each village, although the Overbury stop may be longer due to an oddity in the timetable. 

I had everything planned for the 4th of October, but shift changes at work changed my plans, so it will either happen when next I am on evenings or on a Saturday morning.   Watch this space as they say in the classics. 

**Update**

The grand tour commenced in the 20th of October. You can read about it from the start page (Kemerton and Overbury)

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DRW © 2018 – 2019. Created 09/10/2018. Added links to the grand tour 21/10/2018

Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:48

Musings and Mumbles

Having finished our sightseeing in Swansea, we now turned our bows to a distant point on the map called “Mumbles Pier“, which is situated at Google Earth co-ordinates:  51.568880°,  -3.976965°.  It just struck me that this is also the furtherest western point I have been to in the United Kingdom.  The Mumbles lighthouse may be seen in the image below and the lattice like bridge  is our destination. 

You drive all along the bay to get there, and unfortunately stopping places are few and far between and the road is busy. I was hoping to spot the Cenotaph on the way, and eventually did see it which confirmed where it was, although it did not make a lot of sense having it on the beach front, but then things may have been very different way back when it was erected. 

We managed to squeeze into a parking a bit further from the area above, and I grabbed a few pics looking towards Swansea before we carried on with our journey. 

(1500 x 724)

The area was really nice, with small boats and picturesque houses, and people enjoying the stiff wind that was blowing. 

A short drive further and we had arrived at Mumbles Pier.

Unfortunately the pier extension is closed off, presumably for repair. It was built in 1898 and is 835 feet long and is a Grade II listed structure.  The building on the left is a lifeboat station and there is a gift shop too. Alas we would not be visiting those on this day.

The end of the land had a flight of stairs down to the beach, but you could also get a good view of the lighthouse and the other outcropping of land. The angle of that rock is amazing to see.

Standing on some rocks looking back at the pier and small beach I could not wonder what it must be like to stand here when the sea is raging.

(1500 x 437)

The area that Swansea Bay opens into is the Bristol Channel, and the Mumbles Lighthouse was built in 1794 to guide vessels along the coast and into Swansea Bay, past the hazards of the Mixon Shoal ½ mile to the South. The height of the tower is 17m, and the height of light above Mean High Water is  35 m. It was automated in 1934 and electrified in 1969. (https://www.trinityhouse.co.uk/lighthouses-and-lightvessels/mumbles-lighthouse).

A quick walk through the amusement arcade and we were once again outside. I was curious about what this building was supposed to be but there was no clue.

We drove up the very steep road, and good clutch control was needed because it was a killer of a hill. We were now heading for Oystermouth Castle which was not too far away, although we were really taking the long way to get to it. The Castle is situated at  51.577066°,  -4.002761° although it was closed by the time we wound our way to it.  

It is a Norman castle, the first iteration being built in 1106,  and  overlooks Swansea Bay on the east side of the Gower Peninsula near the village of the Mumbles. The castle fell in and out of use, but  after the Middle Ages, it gradually fell into ruin, and was described in a survey of Gower made in 1650 as “[a]n old decayed castle of no use, but of a very pleasant situation.”  It was restored in the 1840s while the castle was owned by the then Duke of Beaufort. He gave the castle to Swansea Corporation in 1927; and today the castle is maintained under the responsibility of the City and County of Swansea council.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oystermouth_Castle)

The weight of ages looms heavily over these ruins, and it is one of those buildings that has just managed to stay with us in spite of the ravages of war, politics, climate and time. The view from the castle over the village is good, although it looked very differently so many centuries ago. At least there was no air pollution from cooking fires.

It was time to head back home, a last pic of the pier, and we were on our way.

(1500 x 875)

On the drive back to Swansea I was determined to find the Cenotaph, and I saw it almost at the last moment and hurriedly snapped the pic below, hoping to fire off at least one more as we got closer. Unfortunately a local bus decided to insert itself into the space and as a result I only have this one pic of the Cenotaph. It is however, better than a picture of a bus.

The sun was low as we headed past Port Talbot and back to Tewkesbury, but the hills were still very impressive.

The moon was extremely large and bright and I attempted to grab some pics of it but had very little success due to the vibration and light; which is a pity because it was spectacular to see. 

It had been a great day out, I had seen many things and added to my knowledge, I have been to Wales, and seen the Mumbles. It was one of those things to write home about. 

Special thanks to Evert for the trip, I really enjoyed it.

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Updated: 04/01/2019 — 06:48
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