musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: United Kingdom

A last farewell

This post is one that I have dreaded for quite some time, and the time has finally come to make it. However, there is much more to it than a mere farewell, because it is really the culmination of many parts. It really starts way back in the in 1992 when I first saw the newly built RMS St Helena in Cape Town from the Canberra. Both of these vessels are legends, but at the moment we are more interested in the RMS. and this was the first photograph that I took of her. 

Because her prices were in £ she was very expensive to sail on, and a short cruise was not easy to get because she ploughed a long furrow between Cape Town, St Helena, Ascension Island and finally the UK. She was amongst the last passenger ships doing a dedicated line voyage and was also amongst the few ships left that flew the Royal Mail pennant. 

By some weird piece of luck I heard about spaces being available on board her for the voyage to Tristan da Cunha  that was happening in  1993, and I took a chance and booked passage. It was not cheap by any means and I am thankful for my travel agent who helped me with my booking and the associated flights to and from Cape Town.

Naturally sailing day was a long drag away. I was stuck in a dead end job with a company I loathed, and was only too glad to get away from them for awhile. Around about the same time I picked up issues with my health and ended up having to lug a stash of pills on board with me. There was no way in hell I would be stopped by aches and pains. The report of my voyage exists on allatsea so I am not going to repeat it, suffice to say I enjoyed it thoroughly; Tristan was a fascinating destination, but the ship was so much better. She is really a hybrid passenger and cargo ship and of course does not have the glitz and glamour of the modern cruise ships, if anything she really came from a much nicer era of travel. Her crew were composed of a mixture of “Saints” and ex Union-Castle staff and of course that meant that I was experiencing just a tiny piece of the legacy of the glorious  Union-Castle mail ships. 

I was very fortunate to get that opportunity of a voyage and I kept an eye on her as much as was possible in the intervening years. At some point she stopped calling in the UK, and she was managed by Andrew Weir Shipping as opposed to Curnow Shipping. Work was started on an airport at St Helena and that was really the death knell of my favourite ship, although it was still a number of years away. 

A number of years have passed, the airport was ready to open and it was announced that the RMS would make one final voyage to the UK, arriving in June 2016. At first I thought “Who do I know that can get me pics?” And then I decided I would get them myself and set out for London  on the 7th of June to see the RMS for the last time.   I have told that story before and you can read about it on the blogpost.

The airport was not without its problems though and the RMS was granted a reprieve for another year and a half. 

A year and a half has passed, and sadly the RMS has sailed from Cape Town on her last voyage. The moment that all of her many fans dreaded has finally arrived. 

What of her future? she is came into service in 1990 so is already over 27 years old and is already in the zone where a replacement should have been on the table. She has always had engine issues, and recently had to return to drydock for repairs in Simonstown. The odds of her finding a reputable buyer is really very small, and the odds of her becoming a static hotel in St Helena is even smaller. Unless a buyer can be found she will make one last voyage to the beach, and that will be incredibly sad. However, rather she gets broken up than stuck in some backwater and left to rot.  I am a realist, and preserving ships in a very costly business, even one as small as her. 

I remember many years ago a print advert for Union-Castle that showed the inside of a jet aircraft and a view from the window. It more or less said: “From (date unknown) this is the view you will see when you go to England (or South Africa).” That is now also true of those who wish to visit St Helena Island. 

She will be sadly missed, there will never be another like her. 

The end of the era has come.

Glenn Kasner took photo’s of that last sailing and these images are copyright to him. I am using them with permission.

Sadly she had somewhat of a poor send off, but thanks to the tug for showing some respect. 

**Update 2018**

10/02/2018. The RMS sailed from St Helena for the last time. The ship, which has supplied the island since coming into service so long ago was expected to reach Cape Town on the 15th of February (Since revised to 17 Feb) where they will disembark the last passengers who sailed on the ship. Thereafter she will go into lay up or alternatively head off to her next destination, whether it is the beaches of Alang or a new career. The Master was unable to reveal what the final destination of the vessel will be as he would only find out while en route for Cape Town. Once I know more I will post it here too. 

Farewell RMS, fair weather for your final journeys. Thank you for the experience of real sea travel the way it used to be. 

DRW © 2018. Created 25/01/2018. Final 3 images are by Glen Kasner © 2018 and are used with permission, updated 15/02/2018

Updated: 15/02/2018 — 19:38

Gadding about in Gloucester

This “fine” Friday morning I took a days leave to attend to some business in Gloucester. It was a grey and overcast day and not really photography weather, but I always lug a camera along just in case I spot something of interest. My business took me to the Post Office in the city and it sits on the edge of a public square that is often used to hold a market in.

My business was done quite quickly which was a surprise considering that I read about these long queues and delays. Instead it was done professionally and courteously and there is no hope in hell that the post office in South Africa will ever be as “jacked” as the post offices I have encountered in the UK. 

On my way out the door I discovered a War Memorial in the one corner and was given permission to photograph it.  I have posted the memorials and name lists on allatsea

The memorial is cared for by the Royal Mail and it is the second War Memorial that I have seen in a post office in the UK.  There are 7 names from WW2 and  23 from WW1 on the plaques. 

Having made my first discovery for the day I was really at leisure. I had no real hard and fast plans but did want to go to the Old Cemetery and photograph some of the CWGC graves in it. My last visit had been more of a reconnoitre  than a serious gravehunting expedition and I have always hoped to get back to do a better job of photographing the graves. Unfortunately on my first expedition in 2015 had seen similar poor weather, so not much had changed. The area around the bus station was like a bombsite, as they are “improving” the existing facility (which isn’t all that much anyway, anything would be an a improvement). There is a bus that stops at the cemetery, but I had no idea where to catch it so decided to catch a taxi instead. The cemetery is roughly 2 km’s away depending on where you are coming from. Luckily I found a taxi by accident and was soon outside Gloucester Old Cemetery. The cemetery is on the Painswick Road in an area seemingly called Tredworth. It was opened in 1857, and now covers 35 acres. 

It is divided into two halves by the road,  All but a few of the 158 First World War graves are in the original ground, 81 of them in a war graves plot, known as ‘NG’ Ground. Of the 94 Second World War burials, 60 form a separate war graves plot known as ‘B’ ground. There are also 10 non World War service burials and 7 Foreign National burials here. (CWGC information on the cemetery)

The older part of the cemetery is where you will find the chapel. It is quite an attractive building but unfortunately it is fenced off. I do not know if it still in use as a chapel though. They seem to use it as a place to park the digger machinery.  

This part of the cemetery is bisected by a stream/culvert,

And the World War 1 plot and Cross of Sacrifice can be seen on the left side. The chapel would be behind me on the right. The strange thing about this part of the cemetery is how few headstones there are. However, that does not mean that it is all empty space, it is very likely that there are graves under all that grass. I headed towards the furtherest part of the cemetery and worked my way to the opposite end of it, photographing as I went. On my last visit I had really just captured a few headstones, and never really intended to return as images of the graves were not needed. However, I have created a community on Lives of the First World War  which is why I wanted the pics of the rest of the graves. 

By the time I arrived at the Cross of Sacrifice my shoes were squelching, the grass was sodden with dew and it would have been fun to walk this area when frost had fallen overnight because it freezes the grass and it makes a nice crunching noise as you walk. 

Once I had completed this half of the cemetery I crossed the stream/culvert into what is probably the oldest part of the cemetery and hunted down the graves in that area. There are not too many, but I am sure I missed some casualties that are on private memorials.  There are a number of really beautiful headstones in this cemetery, and here are some…

What always amazes me is how the weathering does affect the gravestones, and that is a major problem with the white CWGC headstones that are often badly discoloured. The two CWGC plot headstones were reasonably clean, but some of the scattered graves were in an appalling condition. 

Then it was time to hit the newer part of the cemetery, or I assume it is a newer part although there were some very old graves in it. It would be interesting to know how this cemetery developed, and I can’t help but think that at some point this was one big cemetery, although the area I was now heading to was laid out in a more ordered way and parts of it had a a lot of headstones. My guess is that this part of the cemetery may still be in limited regular use.  

The majority of new burials and cremations probably all happen at Coney Hill Cemetery which is not too far away. I had visited it last time around too, and it did not really leave much of an impression on me. 

The graves here are most WW2 graves although I did find a few WW1 graves up near the top of the cemetery. It is also where the other Cross of Sacrifice and associated WW2 graves are.  

I photographed them all and wove my way through the cemetery and photographed those familiar white headstones (although some are a strange shade of green). Overall there were not too many CWGC graves here, so I covered large areas without seeing much, naturally there would be a grave at the furtherest far corner of each cemetery and I always end up making that trek across the cemetery to photograph it.

And then I was finished for the day and was ready to head back to town. It was 11H55 by the time I reached the bus stop outside the cemetery, and the next bus was scheduled for 12H06, so I decided to hoof it instead. 

Or should I say squelch it instead? This is Tredworth Road and I intended following it to back to town.  That bridge in the image is the line to Bristol and quite a lot of trains hurtled over it. Naturally none would do that while I was watching.  

The area was mostly residential, with row houses on either side of the street. It is always interesting to see this style of housing because housing in the parts of South Africa where I grew up were totally different, and many of these older houses predate the founding of the city of Johannesburg!

 In the image below Stroud Road  feeds into Tredworth Road from the left, 

and I was now in Stroud Road. My first discovery was one of those beautiful Anglican Churches. 

This the Church of St Paul and St Stephen,  and it was consecrated by the Bishop of Gloucester, on 11th October 1883. It is in a beautiful condition and I was fortunate enough to be able to go inside, after I had photographed the War Memorial outside.

I could not get an image down the aisle as there were people talking in the centre, but the stained glass window behind the Altar is magnificent.

The War Memorial inside the church really comprised of two elements. A large plaque (as per the image) and a smaller wooden cross with the lists of names on either side. I really think the cross really detracted from the beauty of the plaque.

When I left the church I made one critical blunder, instead of turning right at the church I decided to go straight which took me towards the docks instead of the bus station where I wanted to be. However, it wasn’t too much of a problem because there were still areas of Gloucester that I have not seen.

And then I started to recognise a few places and knew where I was and could find the bus station (assuming it hadn’t moved since this morning). But, as I arrived at the turning my bus drove past me and I would have an hour to wait till the next one. The local Wetherspoons is close by so I headed across to it for lunch. This particular one is called “The Regal”  and it is housed in what I assume to be an old movie house or theatre.

While the food is good and the toilets are clean I always find ordering food a hit or miss affair. If it gets too busy at the bar you can end up starving. However, I persevered and after lunch I caught the bus home and by the time I hit Tewkesbury  I was bushed. Fortunately I had left my bike in town so did not have to face another long walk home, but when I finally got into the flat I realised how tired I really was. These extended outings are not a good idea, I am not able to handle them as well as before. 

I had achieved my goals, but the crappy weather really did not make for good photography, but I did remember that the likelihood of me returning to the old cemetery was small. And the same is true for Gloucester. Bristol is back in my sights again, but that will have to wait till the weather improves. 

The following blog posts from the past link to other visits that I made to Gloucester:

More random images (some from 2015)

   
   

DRW © 2018. Created 12/01/2018.  Some images of the cemetery are from 2015.

Updated: 17/01/2018 — 06:13

Photo Essay: Eurocopter EC135

I love helicopters, there is something about that transition between sitting on the ground with your rotors spinning and taking off that really tickles me pink. This morning, the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity Eurocopter G-HWAA landed outside and I had the chance to have a really good look at it. 

I have seen her and a sister before though, at the Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival in 2016 and 2017, but there were always crowds around her. Whether you like it or not, a helicopter landing or taking off is a moment that is worth standing in the cold for. And, it was cold.. I know because I dashed out there sans woolly hat and big jacket. But, it is always worth the discomfort to have a good look at machines like this. This particular helicopter is a Eurocopter EC135 T2, and according to the manufacturers plate it was built in 2005 in Germany.

so without further ado… here are the pics.

 

Unfortunately by the time I had found my camera and keys she had already landed, but I have seen two of them in flight before.

G-WASC. 2016 image

And when she took off I could not get a clear image of her because of the large trees and the need to stay out of range of the downdraft. I was originally in a better position to take pics but left because of the cold, and by the time I got back it was too late to be on the sun side of the chopper. Bah humbug! 

G-HWAA

And that concluded our excitement for the day.  The Midlands Air Ambulance Charity is a worthwhile cause, and it is probable that today another life was saved by men who gave up their Sunday to shave time off the golden hour that is all the time that is available in many cases.  Since 1991, the charity has responded to more than 43,000 missions,   and that is a large number when you consider how many helicopters it operates. Maybe one day I will be able to read about this particular one.

DRW © 2018. Created 07/01/2017 

Updated: 13/01/2018 — 07:48

Connections: it’s all in the name

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

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

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

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

Major The Hon. Alfred Henry Maitland

Major Frederick Eckersall Nixon-Eckersall

Major James Bertram Falkner Cartland

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

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

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

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

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

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

I checked the names against my three majors and discovered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 1911 Census has the following information:

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

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

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

But what about Walton House? 

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

The house they were referring to is called Walton House in Tewkesbury, The paragraph puts the house firmly in the Scobell family from 1911 at least till 1937 and it is 1,9 kilometres from the parish church of St Nicholas. The house was granted to Gloucestershire County Council in 1946 from a John Carradine Allen and used as a Children’s home. In 1994 was sold and converted into flats.. Incidentally the area where the house is is now called “Newtown” and it is roughly midway between Tewkesbury town and Ashchurch. 

After visiting St Nicholas I went looking for Walton House and found it. Unfortunately it is not an easy place to photograph as it faces an area that is not accessible. This is probably the back of the house

while the image below is the one side.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wont delve too deeply into that, suffice to say I am confident of the connections I have found. And can really publish this blog post.

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

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

Updated: 07/01/2018 — 20:27

Lost at Sea: HMY Iolaire

This past year I have been busy with shipping disasters that tie into the First World War, and this post is about one of them. This particular tragedy occurred on the 1st of January 1919 and concerns HM Yacht Iolaire. I originally wrote this in October 2017, but am moving it to the 1st of January to commemorate the disaster. 

During the September and October 2017, while adding information to Lives of the First World War I encountered the grave of a crewman from HMY Iolaire that went down in the early hours of New Years Day 1919. I had bumped into the name of this vessel before so I decided to do some looking further and I was shocked by what I found.

The Iolaire was a former private yacht that had been pressed into naval service in the Outer Hebrides, and on old years eve 1918 she was hurriedly loaded with over 200 members of the Royal Naval Reserve to take them to the Island of Lewis.  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 looming. 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 Hogmanay is very much an important part of the people around Scotland and these islands. 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 return home. There were brothers and neighbours on that ship from a small community that worked hard and who lived an often precarious existence. 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 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. 

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. There was also a lack of guidance coming from the bridge although Lt Cotter remained on it but very little is known of the whereabouts of Commander Mason.

The tragedy was unfolding almost 20 yards from land, but nobody on land was aware that a ship was dieing on their doorstep, and that the men had very few minutes to save themselves. Some tried to swim for safety but in the cold wild waters almost none would make it. One brave man 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.

On the bridge rockets were now being fired but these lacked the percussive element that would alert the people on the land, the rockets that were fired from the ship were taken as part of the celebration of the first year of peace, and a lookout on land reported a blue light as a “request for a pilot”. There were really many things that went wrong on that night and the end result would devastate the small community of Lewis

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 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. 

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.

I am not finished with the Iolaire tragedy, so I do not consider this page as completed. There is still so much to find out, but even if I do not complete it be rest assured that the story of the loss of the Iolaire will remain with me for a long time.

© 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. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 18:11

Looking back on 2017

Like 2016, 2017 was not a good year, the world has become an even more dangerous place than last year, and the political rumblings in many countries became roarings!  In South Africa the corruption and incompetence continues and Cape Town is running out of water (bottled and tap). We also saw the death of a number of old school entertainers and celebrities,  and fake news still proliferates through social media, and racism is still alive and well. And now for the weather…

Amongst those who passed on in 2017: Willie Toweel, Sir John Hurt, Peter Skelleren, Simon Hobday, Joost Van Der Westhuizen, Chuck Berry, Colin Dexter, Joe Mafela, Ahmed Kathrada,  Sue Grafton, Mary Tyler Moore, Hugh Hefner, Jerry Lewis, Peter Sarstead, Glen Campbell, John Hillerman, Adam West, Helmut Kohl, Fats Domino, Don Williams, Charles Manson, Ian Brady, Harry Dean Stanton, Della Reese, Roger Moore, David Cassidy, Sam Shepard, Martin Landau, Gordon Kaye Richard Hatch, Tom Petty, Michael Bond, Al Jarreau and Bill Paxton. Unfortunately though some dictators will outlive us all.  

I did not have a busy year, although there was a major spurt of activity in March when I had to go back to South Africa at short notice.  This new year is crunch year for me,  and I am sitting on a fence with lots of spikey bits. These are some of the highlights (and low lights) of my year.  

January:

Was a quiet month, and I really relooked some of the places I had seen as well as some of the interesting objects that you normally do not notice. Clocks were subject of choice for January

February:

In February I finally hit Worcester and specifically Worcester Cathedral.

Worcester Cathedral

I ended up making a second trip to the city, and it was quite a nice place to visit. 

March:

In March I had to return to South Africa as my mother was doing poorly. 

I was able to revisit a number of places and a decision was made regarding her future care. She was not amused, but our options were extremely limited.

April:

Amongst the places I revisited was the James Hall Transport Museum

I arrived back in April, and just in time for the GWSR World War Weekend. 

May:

I looked back on the three cemeteries in Portsmouth (Milton, Highland Rd and Kingston)

I seemed to have stayed indoors a lot in May because the only noteworthy thing I seemed to do was attempt to scratchbuild a model of the RMS St Helena. I now have a new one I am busy with so all in not lost. However I am kind of baffled at how long this exercise has taken. 

June:

June was a busy month and I seemed to do quite a lot in Gloucester. One of the many things I saw was HM Prison Gloucester and it was fascinating. 

I also popped into the “harbour” in Gloucester, and it was quite an interesting place to see, although it is no longer the bustling harbour it used to be

July:

The Tewkesbury Medieval Festival was held once again, but unfortunately I missed out on the Wellland Steam Fair this year. 

August:

The Tewkesbury Classic Vehicle Festival was held in August and it was bigger than last year too. Some real blasts from the past were on show too. 

1904 Mors 24/32 HP

September:

September I ventured forth into Stroud and inadvertently ended up in Painswick too which was quite fun but very tiring.

October:

The weather was rapidly turning as we October, but then the whole year had seen lousy conditions most of the time. It really dampened my excursions too so I had to do some thinking about what to post. Sadly I heard of two pets that crossed the rainbow bridge in this month and their loss is always a sad one.

November: 

November is the month when military veterans take out their berets and caps and don their medals and poppies to Remember The Fallen. I also managed to photograph the War Memorial in Prestbury

December:

And suddenly it was December, and the biggest story in December was…

And that was my year. May the new year be full of love, light and laughter, and may the sun shine brightly and may peace and prosperity be with you and yours. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 31/12/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 08:26

Snow? Again?

To think we almost had a white Christmas this year, and it was fun to experience it at the time even though it was not Christmas. Theoretically we were all done and dusted with snow for 2017, however, the weather had more in store for us. Yesterday (Boxing day) started out as a moderately pleasant day, with the sun making a token appearance and rain shoving it out of the way towards the afternoon. At this point the Carrant Brook has been flowing quite strongly but not enough to flood the surrounding fields.

This fine morning when I opened the curtains I was in for a rude surprise (although I really had to wait for it to get lighter), outside the field was white and wet,

the Brook was much higher and there was snow on the cars and frozen patches all over the place.

This should have happened on Monday! not today when I am at work!  I did not feel too confident with heading out there on my bike, although there were tire marks in the snow (albeit wobbly ones) so I decided to hoof it instead, and seeing as I was on the hoof I would take some pics (I can’t help it, it is just something I do!). 

So, these images are what is left after last nights surprise snow. Hopefully it won’t freeze and create an ice rink across my route to work, and hopefully the Carrant Brook will also drop its level, although its level is partly determined by what comes from upstream and the height of the Avon where it joins it. I hold thumbs. 

However….

This will be my last set of images for 2017, and this weekend I will do my infamous “retrospective” for the year gone by. I will also create the new 2018 index page and hopefully all will be well in the land of Gloucestershire. 

© DRW 2017-2018, created 27/12/2017

Updated: 27/12/2017 — 19:02

Finding the Ashchurch War Memorial.

When I moved to Tewkesbury in 2015 it was inevitable that my camera lens would be on the lookout for churches, cemeteries and war memorials. The Parish Church of St Nicholas being the one church closest to where I was living at the time.  I made two visits to the church and once I had done those I put it out of my mind and concentrated on other things. However, I was unaware that there was a war memorial associated with Ashchurch and this past week I realised that I had missed out. 

St Nicholas Parish Church

On Boxing Day of 2017 I headed out on my trusty velocipede to find the war memorial, having flagged it on Google Earth first ( 51.997611°,  -2.105686°). The break in the clouds was just enough for me to go photograph it. It was not a warm day though with a bitter wind rattling around my ears. The winter sun was low on the horizon too which did not auger well for photography. 

It is not too difficult to find it, you literally follow the cycle path until you find St Nicholas church, then cross the road and there you are. 

What you cannot see from the photograph is the island that separates the memorial, village hall and school from the frenetic traffic on the A46. It also explains why  I never saw it when I went looking for the Chieftain tank outside the MOD Depot.  Everything that I had been after had been on the opposite side of the road!

MOD Depot Gate Guard

The memorial is described as “Cross with ‘roof’ ends on top and each arm, set on capital on top of square tapered column on three step base” (http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/20772)

 

Remembrance Day was almost 2 months ago  and there are still wreaths at the memorial. The main inscription reads:

There are three panels with names from both World Wars, 24 from the First World War and two from the 2nd. It will be interesting to see how many of them are buried in the graveyard of St Nicholas Church just over the road. At a later date I will add these names to my “Lives of the First World War Community”, but for now though I was finished and it was time to head off to the shops and get some food into the fridge. I may come back here one day when the sun is not as low on the horizon for better pics, but for now I could tick this memorial off my list. 

Ashchurch Village Hall

The names on the memorial may be seen at http://www.glosgen.co.uk/warmem/ashchurchwm.htm.   

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 26/12/2017

Updated: 26/12/2017 — 12:56

Cemetery in the snow 2017

In 2015 while I was in Basingstoke we had an overnight snowfall and I headed off to my local graveyard for some photography. That was quite a large cemetery and I spent a lot of time in it. Tewkesbury Cemetery is on the opposite end of town from where I live so any excursion to it in snowy weather on foot was not really a clever idea. However, apart from the churchyard of the abbey the closest cemetery was technically the old Baptist Chapel, which is literally over the road from the abbey. Unfortunately I can never remember where it is so had to backtrack a bit to find it. In fact, this post is going to backtrack all the way back to 2015 when I first arrived in Tewkesbury, because I have never done a post about the chapel before. This post covers the chapel and it’s associated burial ground and I am using a mix of images from my other visits as well as my Dec 2017 visit.

Situated at the end of one of the many alleyways in the town, it is one of those places you could miss unless you were actually looking for it.

The alley leads into The Old Baptist Chapel Court and the chapel is situated to the right in the image, while the burial ground is just past the building. A sign above the entrance to the court gives a brief history of what is within this small space.

I was fortunate enough to get a “tour” on my one visit so at least I know what it is like on the inside. The history of the chapel is quite interesting too.  

The old Baptist Chapel started out in the mid 15th century as a Medieval hall house and it is thought that by the mid 1700’s it was the meeting place for the Baptists, who were another of the many non-conformist groups who held clandestine meetings of their faith. In the 18th century it was transformed into a simply decorated chapel with a pulpit, baptistery and pastor’s room.

The trapdoor on the right is the Baptistery, and water was presumably  led or carried from the river at the bottom of the court. Prior to 1689, Baptists were persecuted by the authorities leading them to perform baptisms in secret at the nearby Mill Avon. The Baptistery was installed once the persecution ceased. 

However, the property is much higher than the river, so I do not know how they got water to it. Although who knows what it was like 2 or even 3 centuries ago.  

Most of the images were taken from the mezzanine level around the chapel and I seem to recall that there was a bricked up window that has a long story behind it. Unfortunately I no longer remember what it was  (stare too long at the window and you loose your memory perhaps?). 

In 1805 a new chapel was built and the old chapel was subdivided into two cottages with the remains of the chapel in the middle. The chapel may be amongst the earliest Baptist chapels in existence in the UK, and it was restored in the 1970’s to look as it did around 1720. It is almost impossible to get an exterior view of the building due to the narrowness of the alley at that point.  

This is really the best that you can do. The chapel is the timber framed building.  

The burial ground.

Layout by Tewkesbury Heritage (1024×252)

The earliest identified memorial in the burial ground is that of Mary Cowell and is dated 1689, with the newest dating from 1911. 

That is the extent of the burial ground, it is not a large area at all, and is hemmed in by houses on either side and the river beyond the trees. 

The Shakespeare Connection.

One of the more  interesting burials in it is that of Joan Shakespeare, who was William Shakespeare’s younger sister. She married into the Hart family, and one of the Hart descendants moved to Tewkesbury. John Hart was a chairmaker, and so was his son, and there are two Shakespeare Hart burials in this tiny plot.

Thomas Shakespeare

Will Shakespeare Hart

Somewhere amongst my photographs is a sign that pointed to a boat builder called Shakespeare in Tewkesbury but naturally I cannot find it at this point in time. A list of the interments in the burial ground may be found at the Gravestone Photographic Resource,  (and I believe there are records in the chapel too). According to that list the oldest identifiable headstone dates from 1777 and they identify 11 graves with 23 individuals. I doubt whether that list is complete.

Generally speaking many of the headstones are in a remarkable condition, and there are some very fine examples with intricate carving on them.​

 

If you stood at the river end of the court and looked towards  the chapel you can get a much better idea of the crowded area. The entrance would be on the top right of the image.

It is amazing to see how different the same space looks when it is blanketed by snow.  

And having revisited the burial ground it was time to head off home. It had been an interesting visit, and at some point I must compare the images that I have with what is on that list. And of course find that sign from the boat builder. I will return here again one day to have a look at those registers because I would like to document the individual graves. My existing images are from 3 different dates and they really show how a relatively undisturbed plot of ground does change with the seasons, although Winter left its mark on this chilly day and of course there was however one occupant that I did not see on this visit, but I expect he is curled up somewhere warm.

 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 10/12/2017. Some text originated from a Tewkesbury Heritage information board at the burial ground. 

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:01

Let there be snow!

Yes it is true, it is snowing outside. We had our first flakes on Friday but it was not a significant amount. But the weather forecast for the UK predicted snow wherever you go for today!

I woke at 7.30 but it was too dark to see much and I managed to bounce my flash off the flakes outside. It looked very promising and when I made my usual call home it was belting down outside. Here are some of my first pics. 

And yes, it is cold, and no I do not have snow boots and yes my hands are frozen. But… I am chuffed. I will periodically post new pics as I venture out. I am not likely to take a long trip because I do not want to get caught in it and it does appear that snow will be with us for most of the day.

11.55.

I went down to the Abbey to see what it was looking like, I was too wary to use the bike, and considering the slush on the roads I am glad I did not. Ugh, what a mess!​

 

The Abbey always presents interesting photographic opportunities, and just think how many snow storms it has seen during its long existence.​

 

My real aim was to do another “Cemetery in the snow” post, similar to the one I did in Basingstoke in 2015, but the cemetery is quite a long walk away and I was not going to tackle that! Instead I headed across to the old Baptist Chapel and its associated graveyard. I have not done a separate post on the chapel so will do that after I am finished playing in the snow.

11/11/2017

10/12/2017

And then it was time to wend my way home along the cycle path. It is hard to believe that this was once a railway line 

And that was the day, or should I say morning. It is still snowing outside although the weather forecast is for sun tomorrow. We will see when we get there. Will I use the bike tomorrow? probably not. I am not that confident with the inevitable slippery roads, and because of the low temperatures there is no way of knowing what conditions will be like out there in the morning, or in the evening. We will just have to wait and see.

Tuesday 12 December.

The leftover snow is still on the ground, the pavements are ice rinks, the temperatures are low but the light is fantastic. I took these on my way to work this morning.

And that concludes the weather. We now return to our regular programming. 

© DRW 2017-2018. Created 10/12/2017

Updated: 01/01/2018 — 17:01
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