musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: United Kingdom

Curse this war!

Its that time again… Wartime in the Cotswolds with the GWSR (Gloucester Warwickshire Steam Railway). The theme? The Battle of Britain. So grab your gas mask and tin hat and follow me….

Last year I attended a similar event and it was amazing and I was really hoping for the same on this day. The weather has been changeable this whole week, but there was the promise of sunshine for later in the day with no rain in sight. I headed out early in the morning to grab a bus to Cheltenham and another bus to Cheltenham Race Course station. On the way I spotted Captain Mainwaring on his way to the station too!

I just hope that Private Pike isn’t lurking in the bushes somewhere.

Although the Americans had set up camp outside the station and that can only mean silk stockings and chewing gum for the locals. 

ARP had set up their barricades too and were checking tickets and dishing out ID cards. Naturally they were looking out for Fifth Columnists too. 

Unfortunately our train was the class 117 diesel railcar  that I always seem to end up travelling on. http://www.gwsr.com/planning_your_visit/what_to_see_and_do/DMURailcar_1.html She is not my favourite rail vehicle. I would have preferred a steam engine, but this was wartime after all, we have to make do with what we have.

The train was full, and many of the passengers were dressed in period clothing or military uniforms, it never ceases to amaze me how the British tackle something like this with so much enthusiasm, and I would really like to thank them for paying homage to a bygone age with so much enthusiasm.

And then we were off….  Our destination: Gotherington

The view out of the window was Britain in Spring, it was really beautiful, especially the huge fields of Rapeseed.

Gotherington was like a military camp, and I expect will remain like that until tomorrow when the event finishes.

It is a very quirky place and one day I must really bail out and have a look around. 

The next stop on the line is Winchcombe, I had visited the town in May last year and I was considering doing it again today, although it really depended on train timings and my own energy levels.  At Winchcombe the train to Toddington stops and waits for the train from Toddington. It is single line working between stations and a token system is used to ensure that accidents don’t happen.

It too had been taken over by the military who were cleaning their rifles and doing what soldiers have done since the days of yore.

Curse this war! how much longer must it go on?

As an aside, there was even a military dentist in his own private rolling surgery, just ready to declare you dentally fit in 7 days!

And then we heard a whistle in the distance and the oncoming train appeared around the bend.

The loco in charge was 4270, a  “42xx” class tank locomotive. She was running bunker first to Cheltenham Race Course, and would carry on with her journey once we had departed. 

The next stop was Toddington, which is really the current endpoint of the GWSR, although they do run trains to Laverton halt further up the line, and in a few years time there will be another station on the line as they extend the rail network closer to the mainline all the time.   Toddington is also where the loco shed is and the majority of displays were being held. There were a few that I had my eye on too..

As usual there was a mixed bag of cars, military vehicles, squaddies, GI’s, airmen, sailors and all manner of uniform on display, along with the usual bag of stalls selling militaria or hobby-est items. There was even a tank just in case there was an invasion.

I had seen her last year at the Welland Steam and County Fair, and just in case I need a reminder, she is a M18 Hellcat Tank Destroyer.

The jaw dropper however was the reproduction Spitfire that was on display. I am struggling to find a definitive identification of the aircraft, but it appears as if she is based on the aircraft that Johnnie Johnson flew (MKIX EN398). More information on the “Spitfire Experience” may be found on their website. 

And yes, the engine did run while I was there and it was awesome. Unfortunately it did not run at full power, but it was really something to experience.

Meanwhile, back at ground level, I strolled down to the workshops to see whether there was anything there that interested me. Fortunately it was not a wasted trip because there were a number of diesels in the yard.

GWSR has a number of heritage diesels and they are quite handsome beasties, although against a steam engine they are reasonably insignificant.

Class 47376 (D1895), a Brush Type 4.

Class 37 no: 37215

Class 26043 (D5343)

Class 45/1 45149 (D135)

At the Toddington Narrow Gauge Railway they too had a train at work, although I did not go for a ride this time around. They were using “Tourska” , a 1957 Chrzanow build with works number 3512.

There was still quite a lot to see so I did the rounds once again, hoping to find a few warships for my collection, but there were lots of distractions.

It was really time to head towards Winchcombe, the train at the platform was headed by the 1950 built 7820 Dinmore Manor, a Manor class light mixed traffic locomotive.

We were supposed to leave at 11.30, but somewhere along the line the timings of the trains went haywire and we sat for an additional 20 minutes. I know there is a war on but….  

Winchcombe was crowded, and our altered timing meant that we had to wait for the train from Cheltenham Spa to arrive before we could leave. 

Fortunately ENSA was at hand to provide some wartime melodies, but I think seeing Laurel and Hardy really made my day.

And then I got suspicious because I spotted Oliver Hardy on the cellphone!  It was another fine mess he got Stanley into.

I had decided to not continue into Winchcombe because the messed up times just didn’t fit in with my plans. Remember, Cheltenham Race Course is not the end of the line for me. I had to get back into Cheltenham, catch a bus to Tewkesbury and then hoof it to where I lived. It was a long stretch ahead of me and I was tired.

Then the air raid siren went off……

and once again I could not help think of what it was like living in wartime Britain. The ever present threat of aerial bombing, rationing of food, the long lists of casualties, propaganda, soldiers, aircraft overhead, overzealous ARP members, children being evacuated, family that never returned home. This was the reality between 1939 and 1945, this small experience that I had was nothing like the real thing, and I am fortunate that I did not experience it. When I see the people dressed in their period uniforms and glad rags I cannot help but think that these were the sort of people that took it on the chin and gave it back 100 times more. I suspect the British enjoy these re-enactment events because they are reminded of what their parents and families went through in those dark hours of war. It is their way of saying: “We have not forgotten, and never will.”

And as the Home Guard peddled along the platform on his way to the NAFI, I felt a tinge of pride because I understood what Churchill meant when he said….

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

And then the train departed for Cheltenham Race Course with me on it.

The War was over, the Battle of Britain won. 

The event was great, although last years was definitely better, there was much more to see and experience than there was this time around. The delayed trains were an irritation because you do not want to be stuck in a place like Winchcombe of Toddington with no way of getting home. And of course my own stamina is not as good as it used to be. I tire very easily nowadays and that’s not a good thing at all. Still, sign me up for next year if I am still around. Now where did I leave my tin hat?  

© DRW 2017. Created 22/04/2017

Updated: 27/04/2017 — 18:07

Return to the UK

On the 6th of April I packed my gear and prepared to go home from South Africa. I still struggle with the idea that South Africa is no longer home, and that I really was doing things the other way around. I was flying Virgin Atlantic again, and would use the Gautrain to get to the airport.

The weather had been typical summery weather (even though it was Autumn), but rain was forecast for the later that week, although by the 6th the rains came.  

Driving in Johannesburg is a challenge, the roads are crowded, potholes are large, idiots abound and law enforcement is usually absent. The highways are really a free-for-all and at times a giant parking lot. After having lunch it was time to go and my friends took me to Marlboro Gautrain station where I caught the airport link to Oliver Tambo International Airport. It started raining just as we left and fortunately we were heading east as opposed to west where the traffic was bumper to bumper. I did attempt photography from the front seat but the combination of rain, vibration and everything else rendered the images useless.

Once at the airport things got really slow as we queued to go through immigration. So much so that by the time I got through it the gates for boarding were open and I was not able to take any images in and around the international departures. The one thing I do recall was the exorbitant price for half a litre of  water (R35), at one vendor and R10 at the duty free.

The flight was scheduled for over 10 hours and we took off at 8.30ish and it wasn’t too awful and there were just over 250 people on board. It always amazes me how some people consider 5 items of luggage as being perfect for carry on luggage.  Service was much better on this return flight than it had been on the departure flight and I didn’t watch too much though. A rewatch of Rogue One was in order and I also took in Hacksaw Ridge and Arrival. Those two were really good watches and I recommend them both. 

I had an aisle seat in the centre aisle and for once I actually remembered to show what food was available on the aircraft and the menu is to the left of the text. I had the Bobotie and the eggs for brekkies and they were not great. 

I managed quite well during the flight and my bladder did not make a nuisance of itself for once, and I did not sleep at all as we headed North with the longest stretch over Africa.

We landed around about 6.30am and after a long queue at immigration I had my baggage and was on my way to the Heathrow Express station to catch my ride to Paddington. I had used the Heathrow Express to get to Heathrow initially, but wanted to use the Heathrow Connect for this trip so that I knew it for the future. The Express does not cut too much time off the trip to Paddington, but is more than double the price of the Connect option. The first time I landed in the UK I had used the Tube to get me to my destination, although that made more sense considering I was heading to South London whereas now I had to get to Paddington Station.

The train is comfortable and got quite crowded as we got closer to Paddington and it appears as if it is used by a number of locals to commute with. The cost for a ticket is £10.30 (or thereabouts)

At Paddington I finally stopped and grabbed a breather. I had almost 3 hours to kill before my next train to Cheltenham Spa was due. It was too short a time to go into London but very long if you have time to spare. If I had not had luggage with me I would have spent the time in reckless abandon in London on what was a really nice Spring day. I had deliberately planned the train time to be able to deal with any eventualities or delays along the way.

Paddington Station is an interesting space, especially when it comes to the roof. And, while there is not a large variety of trains in it you do get unique images if you look for them.

I am quite proud of seeing 4 HST’s under one roof on the same day!

The new shopping area is also open and I found that they had installed a Paddington themed shop in it too. 

I also found a neat Paddington shaped collection box in the shop and was able to donate some of the heavy change that I was accumulating along the way.

Paddington Station can be very full at times, and there is a constant hussle and bustle as trains arrive or depart. My 11.36 train appeared on the board at roughly 11H10, and was listed as “preparing”. 

They put up the platform number roughly 10 minutes before scheduled departure and then there was a mad rush as we all headed to the platform for our train. 

I arrived in Cheltenham Spa close to 13H30 and managed to grab the bus to Clarence Street Bus Station and then a bus to Tewkesbury where I found that there was no real way to get home with my luggage unless I hung around to 15H45 for a taxi or 15H17 for the local bus that goes through the area where I live. It was too far to hoof it with luggage though so once again I waited. 

It was all done and dusted. I had used 8 trains, 2 aircraft and 3 buses on this trip, I had covered a lot of kilometres, and discovered that even though I had last driven 3 years ago, still knew how to drive. Unfortunately my trip was not about pleasure and more about reality, it was not a holiday either, although I did get to renew acquaintances with friends I had last seen in 2014. 

South Africa has changed and is constantly changing as people get more cheesed off with the powers that be. At some point something is going to have to be done. The events of 7 April show that more and more people are getting very unhappy with the status quo. Whatever happens I just hope that it does not involve violence. 

And, to make matters worse it is back to work on Monday.

Random Images.

© DRW 2017. Created 08/04/2017

Updated: 19/04/2017 — 19:35

The Science Museum

The Science Museum in South Kensington is probably one of the most innovative and interesting museums that I have ever visited. It is the sort of place that has something for everybody, and it is probably one of the best places to take children to when they need to explore.  I have visited it twice (2016 and 2017) and would visit it again if ever I get the chance. It is that sort of place! 

The Science Museum

The Science Museum

To cover everything in this blogpost would be impossible, there is just so much to see. Founded in 1857 from the collection of the Royal Society of Arts and surplus items from the Great Exhibition as well as a collection of machinery that originated from contents of the Patent Office Museum. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_Museum,_London). There are over 300000 objects in the collection, many of which are very rare and of historical importance.

Over 450 000 children visit the museum every year, which ranks it very highly in museum popularity. 

My first visit in 2016 was a short one, I literally ran out of time and I had really wanted to return at some point but my finances precluded a day trip just to see the museum, unless I was in London for another reason.  

I had heard great things about this museum too. and they are all true; it is an amazing place, although I did find the Munchkins crowded me out. However, they were having a blast and I hope that someday they will become great scientists instead of bankers and accountants or “something in the city.” 

Again there was just too much to see and I did not see a third of it. But, there were a lot of exhibits that tied into my interests. (I will be adding many more images to this gallery below at a later date)

 science1314  
   

Now who says Science is not fun? Oh, and by the way, the basement has a really interesting exhibition in it called “The Secret Life of the Home”, and it was amazing.

My 2017 trip was really to see the flight gallery. I had missed it in 2016, and from what I had read it held a number of interesting aviation artefacts.

   
   
   

Unfortunately the flight exhibition is in a very dark environment so pics were almost impossible to get, I was disappointed in that, but it just means a revisit is required.

From there I explored another area that I had missed, and it was really about communications and computing. 

At some point I will caption the images above, I do not have all of my Science Museum information with me so it will happen when I return to the UK. In the meantime I shall leave you with this image.

© DRW 2016-2017 Created 24/03/2017

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21

Going home

Early on Monday I started my long journey to South Africa. It entailed 4 train rides and an 11 hour flight. I am doing a direct flight this time around so won’t have that long layover in Dubai to deal with and two flights. Frankly I do not mind flying Emirates but really dislike that airport and I am struggling with my lower back and hip pain.

It is worth noting that my destination is no longer what I consider “Home“. 

Why am I doing this? My mother is 87 and doing poorly. My original intention was to head down there next year, but I am sufficiently concerned to change my plans. I do not know what the outcome of this trip will be. Actually, if things do not go well in the future I will be flying back anyway. 

The chances are I won’t be posting many updates until I get back in April, so till then keep the powder dry, and boil the kettle!

And don’t forget to put the cat out, although I did not know he was on fire.

Getting underway…. 

I left Tewkesbury early on Monday 20th from Ashchurch for Tewkesbury Station. It was a cold and gloomy day and from there I traveled to Cheltenham Spa and boarded the GWR train to London Paddington Station.  I had last been at Paddington in June 2016, so was more confident of what I could do or not do from the station. 

Our loco; 43187, was one of the recently repainted GWR operated vehicles, and she was  branded as “The Welshman”. My plan was to leave my luggage at Paddington and grab the tube to South Kensington and then go visit the Science Museum as well as photograph the interior of the Natural History Museum. I had allowed roughly 3 hours to do this before I had to get back to catch the train to Heathrow,

However, before I did anything I went to the War Memorial on the station that has really taken on a deeper meaning since I read the book (Letter to an Unknown Soldier) that is based on this famous statue.  

I then caught the Circle Line at Paddington, heading west towards South Kensington Station.

There is a subway that runs under the streets from the tube station to the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and that saved me a long walk through Kensington Gardens in what could have changed to wet weather.

Emerging from the subway I was at the Natural History Museum.  I had seen the building in 2016, but had not really taken much notice because I am not really interested in a museum like that, however, the building is magnificent and unfortunately the entrance where I emerged was closed, and at that point alarm bells started to ring in my head.

The museum was boarded off and my heart sank when I realised I was not going to be seeing the interior of the building. I had seen it briefly in the Paddington Movie and that is what really spurred my interest in seeing the interior. Unfortunately, this part of the museum was closed and I had to make do with a few long shots and not much else.

Around the block I schleped… thoroughly browned off at this happening, a similar thing had happened when I first arrived in London in 2013 and went to visit the Imperial War Museum.

My walk around the block did reveal one interesting object worthy of photographing:

Known as the “Queen’s Tower” it is all that remains of the Imperial Institute, which was built to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The unveiling stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 4 July 1881,  The Imperial Institute building was demolished between 1957 and 1967 and between 1967 and 1968 work was carried out to enable the tower to stand on its own and the lower portion of the tower was substantially rebuilt. (https://www.imperial.ac.uk/about/history/queens-tower/)

The London Science Museum

The London Science Museum

My first Science Museum visit in June 2016 was by necessity a short one. I had missed the entire flight exhibition and I really wanted to explore it further.

The London Science Museum

I have created a post dealing with the Science Museum visit but I will expand it when I return home in April, This post is really a quickie to establish some sort of continuity, and as such we will jump forward to Paddington Station where I boarded the Heathrow Express  and headed off to the airport to board my onward flight to South Africa with Virgin Atlantic.

It cost me £22 for the one way trip, while the trip from OR Tambo airport to Marlboro Station in Johannesburg on the Gautrain set me back R150. It is an interesting comparison. (£1 = ±R15)

Check in was easy although I kept on dropping everything, and after a shortish wait I was on board the Boeing 787, with a row to myself. This particular aircraft is called “Birthday Girl” and it would be the first time I have flown in a “Dreamliner”. 

As far as flights go it was not too bad, the food was ok, the onboard video service was reasonably good, although I only watched 3 movies. What I did find poor was that that they did not come around with beverages often and luckily I had a small water bottle with me. Service wise Emirates wins hands down, but I was not as sore and tired after this flight as I would have been had I done the stopover in Dubai.  The interior of the aircraft changes colour which explains the pinks and purples, and the windows do not have blinds, instead they have a button that either lightens or darkens the window when needed. I was however concerned that there were not as many toilet facilities as on the other aircraft I have flown on. 

Because I had a row to myself I was able to indulge in some photography too as we headed south.

And then we were on final approach to OR Tambo, and I saw Johannesburg in the distance. I had last been here just under 3 years ago, and considering how much I had read about the economic and political situation in the country I was not too sure what I would find.

Approaching ORT, with Johannesburg in the distance (1500×964)

Because it was “Human Rights Day” the airport was relatively quiet, and by 8.30 I was on my way to Marlboro where I was collected by my brother.

24/03/2017

My mother is doing very badly and drastic action has to be taken and tough decisions made and I do not any quick and ready answers. To be frank I was shocked, and at times I still cannot believe it. However, we can only do our best with what resources we have and then take it from there.

© DRW 2017. Created 21-24/03/2017.

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 12:39

Return to Worcester

On 13 March I returned to Worcester as I had some free time. It was a spur of the moment thing though because the weather was wonderful and Spring is in the air. Unfortunately the trains were not. Somewhere something had broken and Ashchurch had one at the platform and one in the distance and none of ours in sight.

The train was delayed by 20 minutes and in an effort to make up the schedule was only going to Worcester Shrub Hill Station.  It is also a larger station than Foregate, but seems to take very little traffic compared to Foregate. Last time I was in Worcester I spotted the semaphores again and the set at Shrub Hill is much larger than the one I had seen previously

Here you can see the split in the rails (Shrub Hill sits on the vertical leg of the T junction, with Foregate on the line to the left and Birmingham to the right). I asked a conductor about them and he said that they are still in use and they do not know when they will be replaced. There is signal box located at the south end of platform 1, and two signal boxes at Henwick (west of Foregate Street), and Tunnel Junction to the north of Shrub Hill. 

Bailing out at Shrub Hill messed with my plans because I had planned to head off to St John’s Cemetery in Henwick, and then return via the cathedral. Now it made sense to go to the cathedral first, take my pics and then go to the cemetery. I could see the cathedral from the station so really just had to head in the general direction. 

Actually I am glad things did work out like that because I saw more of Worcester as I wobbled along. 

Presumably this was the local Great Western Hotel associated with the station. The station building is quite impressive and was designed by Edward Wilson and built in 1865. It is a Georgian-style building mainly of engineering brick with stone facings, but situated where it is you cannot get a decent image of it from the parking area beneath it.  

To the right of the hotel was what seems to be an “Industrial Park”, what it was before I do not know, but it is large and very impressive. 

It is really a large warehouse type structure, and at the far end is one of those wonderful clock towers that seem to pop up in the strangest places.

Then I crossed over what I suspect is the Worcester and Birmingham Canal that eventually comes out at a set of locks into the Severn River. If you follow the Severn there is a good chance you may end up in Tewkesbury.

Just look at that sky! I had not brought my parka with today and eventually had to remove my hoodie because I was getting decidedly overheated. 

I then threaded my way through the maze of streets towards my end destination.

Finally ending up at the Guildhall. 

And if you know where to look you will spot Cromwell above the door, with his ears nailed to the wall (theoretically).

While Edward Elgar looked towards the traffic and probably lamented the lack of Pomp and Circumstance.

At this point I went to the cathedral to photograph the “Woodbine Willie” plaque and window, and those will be covered in my “Connections: Woodbine Willie” post. Suffice to say I did take some new cathedral images and you can view my original Cathedral post on its own page.

After finishing the cathedral I then headed to the right of the image above into what is known as Deansway Street, passing the Ducal Palace 

Until I detoured to the remains of the Medieval Church of St Andrews. 

The structure is also known as “Glover’s Needle”. The plaque inside gives more information, unfortunately it is affixed to the far wall of the spire and not readable from the locked gate. Thank goodness for optical zoom. Click on the image to read the plaque. 

It is a very pretty spot and it overlooks the river close to the bridge. It must have been a fine looking church and today is a very easily recognisable landmark in the city. 

This is the road bridge over the Severn, while the railway bridge and viaduct is in the image below.

Once across the bridge I entered into Cripplegate Park.

And then through the park and onwards to my destination: St John’s Cemetery in Henwick. 

As far as cemeteries go, this one is reasonably uninteresting, there are 33 CWGC graves in the cemetery and I would photograph those that I saw, my final tally being 29. My real aim was to photograph this grave.

Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy, also known as “Woodbine Willie” would gain fame through his work on the Western Front during the First World War, and his devotion to the poor. He was an orator and a poet who drew crowds to hear him speak. He was also the vicar of St. Paul’s in Worcester (next on my bucket list).

This grave really closes a chapter for me, one that started in London in 2016, and which led me here in 2017. Read about the strange chain of events at “Connections: Woodbine Willie”

Then it was time to head back. I had 2 choices. I could increase speed and make the 13H03 train, or dawdle and make the 15H06 train. Given how wonky the trains were the former seemed like a better idea and I rang down for full ahead. 

Back along the path I had come, passing over the railway line with it’s signal cabin that was mentioned above,

Past St John’s Church,

Through Cripplegate Park with its really nice ornate non functional fountain,

Over the bridge, pausing to take a photograph,

Up Broad Street and past All Saint’s Worcester,

along Foregate Street, pausing to take an image of Lloyd’s Bank and the former church alongside. Now called “Slug and Lettuce”  it was the former St Nicholas Church that dated from the 18th Century. It is a Grade II listed building but is no longer an active church.

I snuck a peek inside and it was stunning. 

Leaving slugs and their lettuce I finally arrived at  the station with 6 minutes to spare.

That was not my train though, mine was the next one. And, while it left on time it tarried before Shrub Hill and did not rush to Ashchurch either. 

Worcester was in the bag, although there are enough reasons to return one day, It wont be anytime soon though because I have an even bigger trip ahead of me, but that is another story for another day. 

© DRW 2017. Created 13/03/2017. 

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:21

Camberwell Cemeteries in Danger

When I first arrived in London in 2013, one of the first cemeteries I visited was Camberwell Old Cemetery and at the time I did not really take too much notice of it. It is an old cemetery and there is a small chance that I may have family buried there, but I cannot confirm it.

I visited the cemetery twice, and on both occasions the weather was grey and chilly and the remnants of snow may still be seen on some of my pics. I had no real reason to visit it though, and it was by sheer luck that I picked up one of the two Victoria Cross burials in the cemetery during my first visit (Albert McKenzie VC).

The cemetery was really divided in two, the first part being a normal maintained cemetery, while the other being a heavily wooded area, probably much older and reminiscent of Nunhead Cemetery. Given the weather I did not explore very long in this area because the mud and undergrowth really precluded doing very much. I was actually quite puzzled by the state of this area, but I did not know the history at the time. 

The cemetery is located on Forest Hill Road, and covers approximately 30 acres (0.12 km2).  The site was purchased in 1855 and it was originally meadow land.  The first interment took place in  July 1856 and over 30,000 burials took place in the subsequent 30 years. In 1874 the cemetery was further expanded by seven more acres and by 1984, there were 300,000 interments. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camberwell_Cemeteries)

Map courtesy of Kevin Brazier

There are 291 First World War burials, and war graves plot is in the north-east corner of the cemetery and contains two screen walls. One commemorates almost 160 casualties buried in the plot, the other bears the names of those buried in the remaining war graves scattered throughout the cemetery that could not be individually marked. Those remaining graves are much important than we realise in the light of what is happening at Camberwell Old Cemetery.

The war graves plot also contains a group of special memorials to the 14 casualties of the Second World War buried in the cemetery. 

   
   
   
   

So what is going on at Camberwell Old Cemetery?

From what  I can  read in short it is “Southwark Council is cutting down acres of inner city woods to mound over graves and next to dig up thousands of people’s remains to sell their graves as ‘new’ burial plots” (http://www.savesouthwarkwoods.org.uk/home/4593424362).  That will include the unknown burial plots of the war graves scattered that are throughout the cemetery that could not be individually marked. The cemetery is more than a mere burial place, it is a green lung in a busy city, it provides homes for woodland and small creatures, it is a valuable recreational space and it is a historic cemetery. It is difficult to know the whole story because there are two sides to each story, but my gut instinct says that what they want to do is fundamentally wrong, although the rational part of me says that come hell or high water they are going to do it irrespective.  The part that really gets to me is that “the Church of England has said the Commonwealth War Graves Commission do not need to mark the poor soldiers’ graves – to avoid making them seem special and for ‘practical purposes’, that is, to allow cemeteries to bury on top of them”. http://www.savesouthwarkwoods.org.uk/48-ww1-soldiers-graves/4593715253. It would be interesting to know why these graves have been “lost” in the first place and why they were not accorded a CWGC headstone at the time. I do suspect that there may be private memorials involved, and as such CWGC has no real jurisdiction over those graves.   

Camberwell New Cemetery

Before I made my second trip  I first visited Camberwell New Cemetery which is not too far away. It contains 198 Second World War burials, almost 80 of them forming a war graves plot and the rest are scattered throughout the cemetery. A screen wall commemorates almost 120 of these casualties (including those buried in the plot) whose graves could not be marked with individual headstones, together with a further 56 Second World War casualties whose remains were cremated in Camberwell (Honor Oak) Crematorium.  

I will be honest and say that the cemetery was not really memorable, in fact I took very few photographs of the place.

In 1926 the first part of the land was laid out as a cemetery and was consecrated by the Right Reverend William Woodcock Hough, Bishop of Woolwich, and the first interment took place on 23 May 1927. The Crematorium was built in 1939 to meet a growing demand for cremations and it is situated in the cemetery grounds, ten acres of which were landscaped as memorial gardens. 

What did interest me at this cemetery was the Civilian Casualties Memorial that was seemingly under restoration.

This was the first one that I had seen since arriving in London, and I have seen a number of others since then. 

I did not spend too long at this cemetery and set off for Camberwell Old Cemetery to photograph the grave of William Stanlake VC, and I recall at the time thinking that finding it in that mass of vegetation was going to be very difficult, but fortunately the plot was easily found.

Path to the grave of William Stanlake VC.

And then I headed off for home. I seem to recall visiting Motherwell and Brockley cemetery on this trip too. No wonder I was so tired all of the time. 

The destruction that is happening at these two cemeteries is very sad, and while I do not live in London I do have an interest in these happening because I have seen it so often before. I do not think that the destruction and re-use of these two cemeteries can be halted, but I do hope that the damage can be minimised or stopped before these two spaces are irreversibly changed.

It is worth visiting the  Friend of Camberwell Cemeteries website to read for yourself what is going on. Let us hope that sanity prevails. 

© DRW 2013-2017. Retrospectively created 11/03/2017

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 12:49

Four years later

Temporarily under construction. 

On the 1st of March 2013 I landed in United Kingdom. It is true, I have been here now for 4 years. This is the final year of my visa and literally “crunch year”. I posted the following on Facebook at the time

“Alrighty. I am back. I am in luverly London. Flights were long, trip was not too awful. I am now in Kennington in London. This will be my base for about a week. And, Imperial War Museum was closed when I went there!!! aaarrrghhh!!”

On the 2nd of March 2013 I posted

“a busy day, Walked from Kennington to past Tower bridge. Took 790 pics. The morning was overcast and cold but it turned into a wonderful day later on. So much to see.. watch my pics!”

 

That long walk was exhausting, and I really overdid it that day. So much so that I ended up with extremely sore and swollen shins that took a long time to heal. I did a photo essay on my visit to Tower Bridge especially for this occasion. 

I started out by living in Kennington, and it  was very nice, being close to the tube (Northern Line), bus, shops and everything else. It was really an ideal area to live in

Kennington Tube Station

Kennington Station was not the one closest to my destination, I emerged at Oval Station, and I would use that station frequently, but that first exit with my luggage will always stay with me. I dragged my luggage nearly a kilometre to where I was staying, fortunately it was not too awful a day. (There is a Photo Essay on the London Underground at allatsea). Initially I used the tube quite often but found the buses were handier and cheaper in the long run. 

Not too far away was Peckam, Lewisham, Brixton, Camberwell, Newington (Elephant and Castle) and Deptford. Yes, it is true, I ventured forth into Brixton on a number of times and survived to tell the tale! Lewisham was interesting because it was at the local hospital that my grandfather was treated for the wound that he suffered in Delville Wood. 

The weather was grey on many of the days, and once again I gave thanks for my NATO Parka, it is still the most effective cold weather jacket that I have and is still in regular use. 

I was fortunate that I was able to remain in my temporary “digs” in Kenington for an additional month, and during that month I covered a lot of ground while simultaneously job hunting. It was evident though that I would not find the technical work I was looking for and accommodation prices were steep. I really need to get out of London and go elsewhere. That was when I decided that the time had come to venture forth to Southampton which was where I really wanted to be, but which proved to be somewhat of a bad decision job-wise.  I pretty much covered 2013 in this blog though, so you can follow a lot of my meanderings from March 2013 in the list below. 

I have just recently added in a photo essay about the London Eye as I had not covered it before. I almost forgot I had those pics. 

I have lived in London, Southampton, Salisbury, Basingstoke, Burntwood and Tewkesbury (which is where I am now). I have worked as a baggage handler, a test technician, a recycler, and a workshop bench technician. I have seen churches and cathedrals and graves and towns and all manner in between. I have traveled in numerous trains, seen a number of preserved ships, taken over 70000 photographs, visited the “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries in London, I have seen many museums (including IWM), countless statues, and drowned myself in the weight of ages. I have been places and seen things and my bucket list has had a number of items crossed off it

I have learnt new habits and skills and forgotten old ones. I even had to relearn how to ride a bicycle. I have met people from all over the world, and from various parts of the UK, I was here when the Brexit Referendum occurred, and may still see the triggering of the negotiations to leave the EU.

Apart from the cities that I lived in I have also visited Romsey, Havant, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Lichfield, Bath, Bristol, Poole, Weymouth, Birmingham, Walsall, Portsmouth, Dudley, Chippenham, Reading, Winchcombe and Winchester. 

My health has not improved though, and I have started to feel my own age, having to rely on 3 pairs of glasses. I have also had to curtail my walking as it has become difficult at time.

The strange thing is that I am more aware of my environment, I look at flowers and trees with a new interest, I gasp at the beauty of an autumn day, and revel in those rare sun filled long days of summer, the chilly bite of winter is exhilarating and the feel of frost under your feet at midday still amazes me.  

I was last in South Africa for a short visit in May 2014, and frankly I do not miss it. I read in horror some of the events that occur daily in South Africa, and see how the economy is declining and political unrest becomes more of an issue. I may still end up back there if I cannot get my visa renewed, but that’s another story altogether. The strange thing is I struggle to remember a lot from South Africa, although that could be my brain that is full. 

The next 10 months will be filled with more of the same, and I look forward to returning to Bristol and Worcester as well as Gloucester.  If I have to go back to SA this blog will be my way of reminding myself of the time I spent here.

These are my memories, I have to make more.

© DRW 2017 Created 01/03/2017 

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:22

Remembering the Mendi 2017

Every year around this time I commemorate the lives lost in the sinking of the troopship Mendi on the 21st of February 1917. This year is no different and each year I know more about it.

Earlier this month I discovered a new Mendi Memorial in the churchyard of St John The Evangelist, Newtimber, Sussex. The memorial is to  “Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase” who perished on the Mendi.

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

Naturally I wanted to know more and took a good long look at my Roll of Honour and drew a blank. The big problem with the ROH is that it is really inaccurate, and there are a number of reasons for that. I consulted with the local co-ordinator of the South African War Graves Project and he replied as follows:

“This whole Mendi RoH is troubling, it seems to me that there were initial errors made in some of the names, errors crept in as a result of “tweaking” the facts and a general misunderstanding of the history of the casualties (probably due to the unavailability of any documentary evidence.) Many of these errors are now on memorials and plaques and seem to be copied from one to the next (or sourced from the internet) and how do we address that? We have forwarded copies of the documents at the SANDF Archive  that list the recruitment details of these chaps and I hope that these will eventually be filtered through the system and the graves/memorials amended. Lets see…

Typical documentation for SANLC

Henry Bokleni:   (7587)  His father was Bokleni and he was Henry. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. It seems he was a Chief/Headman at the time.

Richard Ndamase:  (9389)  His father was Ndamase and he was Richard. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Dumezweni so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Mxonywa Bangani:  (9379)  )  His father was Bangani and he was Mxonywa. In keeping with the standard practice at the time, as he never had a surname, he was given his father’s name as a surname. His Chief was Nongotwane so based on the info we have, it is unlikely he was a Chief.

Isaac Williams Wauchope : (3276) His father was Dyoba (also known as William Wauchope). Isaac was a learned man, holding the posts of a teacher and a clerk/interpreter to the magistrate and married his wife Mina as per Christian rites. He was a minister at a church in Blinkwater when he got sentenced to 3 years in Tokai Prison for forgery. He enlisted in 16 Oct 1916 as a clerk/interpreter and not as a chaplain (it is unlikely he would have got the chaplain post as he had a criminal record) The Chaplain job went to Koni Luhlongwana (9580), who also died on the ship.

 It does not seem that he used his father’s name as surname at all during his lifetime and so the use of “Dyoba” is incorrect. The reasoning behind the attempts to ‘africanise’ his name remain a mystery.

New Memorial to the Mendi :  There is also a problem with the 670 (it was 646, including the crew) who died. We have identified the home provinces of some of the casualties – Transvaal (287), Eastern Cape (139), Natal (87), Northern Cape (27), OFS (26), Basutoland (26), Bechuanaland (8), Western Cape (5), Rhodesia (1) and SWA (1) so not all were from the Eastern Cape.”

The reality is that the memorial contains incorrect information, and it is perpetuated as there is no real way to correct many of the errors. I am relooking my own RoH and correcting it to conform with the data that SAWGP has.  

However, in spite of the errors, the fact remains that people have not forgotten the Mendi, in fact we probably know more about it today than we did way back in 1917. 

This year, apart from the Services of Remembrance being held at Hollybrook and Milton Cemeteries in Hampshire, a South African Warship, SAS Amatola, (a Valour Class Frigate) will lay a wreath at the site of the disaster.  On board her will be some of the relatives of the soldiers who died on board that ill fated troopship.

The Mendi has not been forgotten, it is now prominent in the military history of South Africa, The men who lost their lives have not been forgotten, the sea has claimed them, but their spirit and courage still resonates 100 years after they died. However, we need to broaden our vision and recognise that all of the men of the battalions of the SANLC and NMC who volunteered to serve overseas are remembered too, because the non combatant role that they played was equally important to the ending of the “war to end all wars” 

© DRW 2017. Created 21/02/2017.  Image of Newtimber Memorial © Copyright Bob Parkes and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:22

Worcester Cathedral

The reason behind my “Waddle Through Worcester” was really to see Worcester Cathedral, or, as it is properly known: “The Cathedral Church of Christ and the Blessed Mary the Virgin of Worcester”. 

Like so many cathedrals it is large, beautiful and awe inspiring. It will be the eighth Cathedral/Abbey that I have seen and it is hard to know which is my favourite. It does not really matter though because each leaves me speechless and awed at the same time.

Unfortunately, getting the whole building into an image is very difficult because there is no real place where you can see it all in one shot. But, I do know where to try for next time. I returned to Worcester on Monday 13th and have replaced some of the exterior images in this post. 

 

The interior follows the same basic arrangement of most cathedrals and churches although parts of it were erected at different periods of time.

 

 

Information booklet available at http://www.worcestercathedral.co.uk/media/Cathedral_Brochure.pdf

The entrance was not quite where I expected it to be, but nevertheless it was very impressive with all those statues over the door. I do however wish that there had been more sunlight.

And, as usual, the moment I stepped inside it was as if I had entered a totally different world. I always like to think that having seen 8 of these churches I would be used to them, but each is unique, and I like to think that in the days of yore this place was held in awe by the people who came from far and wide and entered within. It certainly leaves me shell shocked. 

There are a lot of aspects to taking photographs in a cathedral. The light varies considerably and in many cases a flash is required and  I try to  avoid using a flash. There are always people moving in and out of view, and sometimes areas are just too big to photograph effectively. I do not carry a DSLR and make do with a reasonable hand held camera. Photographic permits are available from the shop at £3.

Overhead the vast expanse of vaulted ceilings is quite a dizzying sight, but nevertheless it is always worthwhile to lean back and appreciate the work of those who built this building.

Before the English Reformation the Cathedral was known as Worcester Priory. It was built between 1084 and 1504 and represents every style of English architecture from Norman to Perpendicular Gothic. 

There are some really beautiful wall memorials and effigies in the cathedral, and some are outstanding works of art rather than mere memorials.  I cannot help but marvel at the skill of those who created these works. 

   

Like so many churches there is a font and a pulpit,

and a quire,

An organ (or 3) 

and an Altar.

And the High Altar (image below).

In front of the High Altar and before the quire is the tomb of  King John.  Unfortunately I could not get a decent image of the tomb because of one person that was seemingly glued to the immediate space around it. 

Saint Wulfstan and Saint Oswald can be seen in miniature beside the head of John on his effigy.

It is not every day that you get to see the tomb of a King.

Underneath the Cathedral is the Crypt of St Wulfstan, and it is was open for viewing although the chapel was roped off.

It is a quiet and thoughtful place, a very appealing spot to wander around in. Many of the slabs on the floor are floor memorials. 

Returning to ground level I needed to find the loo (as usual), and that took me to the Cloister. It too is a pretty space, surrounding the central garden/graveyard/herb garden. I would have really liked to have walked around in that space but it was locked. 

I did find this area quite dark in spite of the many windows. 

But then it was still grey and gloomy outside anyway so that may have had something to do with the atmosphere.

My ablutions over, it was time to return to the building again and take another walk around. There is a dedicated Chapel of Remembrance where the Rolls of Honour are kept, and with its many memorials to the fallen.

I may do a separate blogpost about the memorials in this chapel and the windows in the Cloister.

On the 13th I was able to see inside the Chapter House, and it was magnificent, with amazing acoustics. My camera can’t really do justice to this structure.

 

Random Images

Space does not allow me to show all of my images, and I often cannot really describe what I saw which is why these images are here. They need no caption but just convey what I saw. They are places of great beauty and tranquillity.

   
   
   

The Cathedral from the bridge across the Severn

And that concluded my trip to Worcester Cathedral.  It is a beautiful building and so different but so similar to the others I have seen. Go back? of course, these structures have so much to see that each time is different. Besides, I hear there is another memorial to “Woodbine Willie” that I would like to see, I wish I had known about it at the time, or, maybe I did photograph it, I just have not seen it yet.

13/03/2017.

I did manage to photograph the memorial mentioned above, and will deal with it in my “Connections: Woodbine Willie”  post. 

© DRW 2017. Created 20/02/2017, edited and some images replaced 13/03/2017 

Updated: 15/04/2017 — 13:25

A waddle through Worcester

The last time I was in Worcester was in June 2015 when I came for a job interview in Tewkesbury. At the time I had a few minutes between trains so quickly walked up Foregate Street to see if I could spot the cathedral. I did however not go far enough before I turned around and went back to Foregate Street Station to catch my train. There are not a lot of trains between Aschurch for Tewkesbury and Worcester (or anywhere else for that matter) so any trip I made would be a short one; there is a 3 hour window to sightsee in, and after that you are stuck for almost 2 hours waiting for the train.  I had not planned any cemetery visits for this trip, this was really about the cathedral.  The weather was grey and gloomy as my pics show, and definitely not photography weather, but one day hopefully I will return on a sunnier day.  

(I made a return visit on 13/03/2017 to photograph St John’s cemetery, you can read about it at “Return to Worcester”)

Your first view of the cathedral was through the dirty window of the train as it pulls into Worcester Shrub Hill Station. The two stations are quite close together but Shrub Hill is on the line to Cheltenham, Gloucester, Bristol and eventually Weymouth. 

Worcester Foregate Street serves the line that goes from Great Malvern to Birmingham and this is the street I would use to get to the Cathedral. 

The town is a pretty one with a very nice array of old buildings and some really spectacular ones too. There was one building that I was really after and that was the Guildhall, but first…

This building is labelled “The Hop Market Hotel” and it is stunning. Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the name is still clearly visible on the stone façade of the building, although it is no longer a hotel.  It is a Grade II listed building and the date 1836 may be seen above the one doorway. 

The next building on the right hand side of the image is/was a church, it is sadly now called “Slug and Lettuce” A bit of rooting around reveals that it is the former St Nicholas Church that dates from the 18th Century. It is a Grade II listed building but is no longer an active church (which is a shame).

Lloyds Bank is next door

and this beaut that I cannot name as yet.

The one place I did remember from my passing through in 2015 was the Guildhall, and it is really quite an ornate affair on the exterior with  statues, gilt, carvings and reliefs. it was built in  1721, and designed by Thomas White, a local architect. 

Unfortunately you cannot get far back to fit the building into a straight forward image.  I am particularly fond of the statues that adorn it, as well as the various faces that peer out from above the windows. The local tourism centre is housed in in one corner of the building and if you like decorative gimmicks I guess this is the place to see it. I believe there is an interesting war memorial in the building so it is listed as worth going to see again.

Charles I

Queen Anne

Charles II

I believe that the stone head above the door in this image is supposed to represent Oliver Cromwell, with his ears nailed to the frame, although we do not know what Oliver Cromwell looked like in real life, so they could be having us on.

I was now close to my goal, and I spotted a statue of Edward Elgar who was a great believer in “Pomp and Circumstance.” The Cathedral was across the street. 

 

At this point you can go to the page about the cathedral by clicking the convenient arrow below.

forwardbut

Like most of these buildings it is very difficult to take a photograph that encompasses the whole building. This is the best that I could do from this position. I believe that a better image can be taken from Fort Royal Hill

Pride of place in front of the Cathedral is the Memorial to the men from Worcestershire who lost their lives in the Boer War. 

At this point I entered the Cathedral and that part of this post continues on another page. My return to the station continues below.

I exited the cathedral and headed to the embankment that overlooks the River Severn (which also flows past Tewkesbury). There is a rail bridge and a road bridge over the Severn and I was really curious about the rail bridge.

The bridge in the foreground is the road bridge. The cathedral was behind me at this point.

I walked a bit further until I found what looked like an exit from the cathedral close, and it came out at the Edgar Tower. 

At this point I had quite a lot of time to kill till before my projected train at 15.06 (or thereabout). I had seen something called the “Museum of Royal Worcester“, and I thought that it was related to the local regiment so headed off into that direction. However I was sadly disappointed to find that it was a porcelain museum! Royal Worcester is believed to be the oldest or second oldest remaining English porcelain brand still in existence today. 

What now? I was tempted to take a walk to one of the two cemeteries in the city, but neither was really within walking range given the train timings, so I decided to head in the direction of the station. 

Like Tewkesbury Worcester has a lot of old timber framed buildings that line it’s narrow streets, many are taken up by small business that cater for a specialised clientèle. They are pretty buildings and some are probably very old, but they are very difficult to photograph.

By the way, the slightly furtive figure is a representation of Charles II fleeing Cromwell on 3 September 1651. “Worcester was the site of the Battle of Worcester (3 September 1651), when Charles II attempted to forcefully regain the crown, in the fields a little to the west and south of the city, near the village of Powick. However, Charles II was defeated and returned to his headquarters in what is now known as King Charles house in the Cornmarket, before fleeing in disguise to Boscobel House in Shropshire from where he eventually escaped to France. Worcester had supported the Parliamentary cause before the outbreak of war in 1642 but spent most of the war under Royalist occupation.”  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worcester)

There are a number of these small bronzes in the area where I now was, and I was surprised to find a statue of Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy aka “Woodbine Willie”. I had seen a wall memorial to him in London in 2016 and this was a nice feather in my cap.

Close to Woodbine Willie was a small church, actually it was the back of “St Martin in the Cornmarket”, although it should now be called “St Martin in the car park”. 

It was a pretty church on the inside, although not awe inspiring. Sadly the churchyard was a disgrace.

I discovered four of those small bronze statues in the area of the church and they were really charming. These are the other three. 

I was slowly heading in the direction of the station so really just decided to see about getting an earlier train to Tewkesbury, I had 35 minutes until a train left so had till then to decide what to do. 

The sign on this building reads: “The Worcester New Co-operative and Industrial Society Ltd. 1888” 

I grabbed a quick bacon butty and decided that I would head towards the two bridges over the Severn, There were a number of interesting buildings in the street I was heading down, although it is doubtful whether many are still being used for what they were originally built as.

This building was fascinating, Now occupied by “Tramps Nightclub” it was formerly the East Side Congregational Church and is a Grade II listed building dating from 1858. Right next door to it what is now known as the Angel Centre.

It has a very interesting Memorial Stone that ties it into the former church next door.

As I walked I was able to glimpse portions of that railway bridge I saw from the cathedral, although time was starting to become an issue again.

It is a very impressive structure, and I was not even seeing all of it from where I stood. Sadly though it was time to leave and I turned around and headed back to the station, passing this oldie that stood on the side of a hill.

If only I knew the stories behind these old faded buildings that seemingly exist with our characterless modern architecture. 

At the station I spotted my first class 166 in the new GWR livery. It was heading to Paddington, I was not.

The strange thing about Foregate Street Station is even though it has two platforms you catch the train to Weymouth on the same platform as you would disembark from it.  

When last I was here I had photographed from the other platform and there was a tantalising glimpse of two churches which will be on my list for the next time I am in Worcester.

Now why wasn’t the weather like that on this trip? definitely a reason to return.

And, one final puzzle, why are there semaphore signals in this portion of the line?

And that concludes my trip to Worcester. I will be back one day I hope, there is a lot more to see that I did today, but then I was really there for the cathedral, and now that it has been seen I can make a plan to see the other sights that I know about now.  It is all about exploration and waddling through Worcester.

© DRW 2017. Created 20/02/2017  

Updated: 15/04/2017 — 13:22
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