musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: United Kingdom

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2017. Page 2

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

European Eagle Owl

Barn Owl

 

Harris Hawk

 

Kestrel

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

 
 
   
   
   
   
   

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

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

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

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

© DRW 2017. Created 09/07/2017 

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Tewkesbury Medieval Festival 2017. Page 1

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

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

On to the festival.

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

Costumes and other people

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

   

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

Weapons and things that go bang!  

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

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

forwardbut

DRW 2017. Created 09/07/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Bad teeth no bar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Tewkesbury Mini-steam Weekend 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A full sized ploughing engine? they look like this… 

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

Who says steam in not versatile?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

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

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

© DRW 2017. Created 24/06/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

HM Prison Gloucester

It was time to go to jail; although in this case I am innocent I tell you! I was framed! call my lawyer! 

HM Prison Gloucester had recently unlocked it’s doors to the public and was accepting visitors to the disused facility. It was then added to my bucket list and it was one of the reasons I was in Gloucester yesterday.

The prison lies on the east bank of the Severn and was built on the site of a 12th century castle. The keep was demolished in 1787 and a prison was built in it’s place in 1879 while a debtors prison was added in 1826. A new wing was added in 1884 and the governors house was built 1850’s, although it is outside the walls.  

Once past the front door of the prison there was a labyrinth of passages to navigate, fortunately one of them led to the toilet! The first area I explored was where “closed visits” were conducted. There were 3 cubicles where the prisoner was able to talk to his visitor without having physical access to them. 

This is a holding cell, and it would be where arriving prisoners could be kept while they were booked in or until such time as they were allocated a cell, or if there was a shortage of space. It is a temporary solution though, and ideally overcrowding in this space would be avoided as much as possible. 

Once I had cleared the admin block I entered into what was known as a “sterile area” which was really a fenced in area behind the block with gates leading to an exercise yard.

Make no mistake, you will not be able to scale that fence easily because it may look flimsy but it is not. I expect the sterile area is used to cordon off the gate house from the rest of the the prison. There is a vehicle entrance in this sterile area and I suspect it was from here that prisoners were removed from vehicles for processing. 

For some reason prisoners always walked in an anti-clockwise direction in the exercise yards. There were three yards in total and this one leads into B wing. However I did not go into B wing immediately but went to the debtors prison instead. This was originally built to house people who could not pay their bills although this area has changed a lot since the Georgian era when it was built. In fact there was not all that much to see.

Entrance to the Debtors Prison

It was now in use as the healthcare centre, so was in a reasonable condition and the only real way you would know it was part of a prison would be the many lockable doors and barred windows.

Opposite the old debtors prison was the A&B wing which is probably the most spectacular part of the prison. Photography in there was difficult because of the varying light conditions and small cells, but I have to admit some of the images I took were stunning. Let us go inside before the screws find us….

To the left is the “A” Wing, and to the right is “B” wing. 

“A” Wing.

“A” Wing is probably where the general population were housed. The cells that I went into had a double bunk and a washbasin and toilet in them. These facilities were only installed into the cells in 1995/96. Prior to this prisoners would have to “slop out” at the start of the day. 

The cells are small, even with such a narrow bed frame in it. The toilet is out of frame but is on the other side of the washbasin in the left hand photograph. Imagine being locked in here for a long time, staring at the same walls day after day.

The wing has 3 levels to it and there is access to “C” block via an overhead walkway on the 2nd floor of this wing. The 3rd level was roped off so I could not investigate it.

There is one curiosity that is not immediately obvious and I did not take too much notice of it at the time. Outside each cell is a coiled serpent and they represent evil. Above them are lion claws which represent justice bearing down on evil. It seems to be just the sort of symbolism that the Victorians would have used. 

Returning to the central entrance I went into “B” Wing/Segregation. Two levels of this wing housed remand prisoners, and one housed “VP” prisoners and the segregation unit. 

Unfortunately I could not go into the chapel as the access to it was closed off. Instead I crossed over into “C” Wing and explored there for awhile. It was built in the 1970’s, and in the 1990’s was a “young offenders” unit until it was closed in 2013. It does not have the heaviness that I felt in the other block, although I am sure it must have been a rough place when occupied.

Having had a look at the interiors it was time to look at the exteriors. The only view you have of the outside is the sky; a very high wall surrounds the prison and there was no getting over it too easily.

It kind of reminded me of the garden walls in South Africa. 

The execution shed is long gone, but it was built at the end of “A” Wing, the Governor able to watch it from the luxury of his home. The last hanging in this prison took place in 1939. It is thought that there are over 100 prisoners buried in unmarked graves under the prison.  

And then it was time to leave. I have to admit the prison is an interesting place to visit, and they offer guided tours too. Personally I prefer doing my own thing and having a post mortem afterwards. 

Make no mistake, this place is not a holiday camp, it is a grim cold building that must have been noisy, crowded and violent. It is the nature of the inmates that they tend to be amongst the worst of the human race. 

I have visited two other prisons: the first is the “Women’s Jail” as well as the old “Number 4” Jail in Johannesburg, but it appears as if I never did blogposts for them (since retrospectively rectified). 

Random Images. 

¢ DRW 2017. Created 04/07/2016.

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:22

Gloucester Harbour

It is strange to find a harbour so far from the sea, but then you really need to remember that the Severn is not a small river. Gloucester harbour is not a deep water port as I know it, but was built more as a harbour for barge and small vessel traffic. Unfortunately, like so many of these places the need for it became superfluous as the truck and better roads brought about a whole new way of moving goods from one place to another.  Even the railways were not immune to this new way, and Gloucester, like Tewkesbury and Cheltenham were all in the firing line of the Beeching axe

Today the harbour is a small boat and pleasure craft harbour, with a lot of narrow boats and yachts and small pleasure craft (aka floating gin palaces). However, the buildings remain, being converted into yuppie pads and trendy working areas or shops for those that are attracted to them.

Use the image above to get an idea of what this area looks like and realistically the easiest way to see the harbour is to use our fictional vessel: “Diverse Alarums” and start from where the River Severn splits and the left fork is the entrance to the locks that will enable us to enter the “Main Basin”

Do not be tempted to go to starboard because there be dragons. Seriously though, that part of the river may not be very navigable, as I saw trees drifting downstream along it. 

The lock also has a lifting vehicle bridge over it, as well as an associated control cabin. The road would take you to the back of the warehouses on the right bank of the Main Basin. I did not really explore that area too well though.

Assuming we were successful, the Diverse Alarums would exit into the “Main Basin” which has a number of interesting things in it.  The image of the basin below is looking towards the lock which would be in the top left hand corner.

Sailing down the basin, roughly midway there is a cut that is the entrance to the Victoria Dock. It is really just pleasure craft that are berthed there and is of no real interest to somebody like me who prefers working vessels. 

Going full astern to escape the the throng of very expensive craft we are safely back in the main basin. On the right hand side of the basin are two drydocks, and these are really fascinating places for somebody like me. I did a blog post about drydocks many moons ago and these two feature in that post. Today both docks were in use.

Ambulent

Just past the drydocks is what is known as the “Barge Arm”. It is occupied by a bucket dredger with the rather quaint name “SND no 4”

The building in the shot is home to the National Waterways Museum. I visited it in 2015 but I was not impressed. It seemed more geared towards young visitors instead of jaded oldies like myself. 

If we go astern again and turn back into the basin we will be presented by the Llanthony Bridge which is a lifting bridge. It is the third bridge at this site and was built in 1972. 

Exiting from this bridge the quay to our Starboard side is known as the Llanthony Quay and it was built in the early 1850s by the Gloucester & Dean Forest Railway Co., soon taken over by the GWR, to provide a means of supplying coal from the Forest of Dean as an export cargo.

Baker’s Quay would be on the port side and was constructed in the late 1830s by a group of local businessmen led by Samuel Baker at a time when the Canal Co. was heavily in debt and could not finance much needed additional quay-space.

(http://www.gloucesterdocks.me.uk/gloucester/docks.htm)

The red vessel in the distance is the former Spurn Head lightship that used to be moored at the mouth of the Humber Estuary. She was decommissioned in 1985, she has served as the headquarters of a yacht club and as a tourist attraction in various locations. She was extensively restored and converted into a treatment centre for alternative medicine under the name “Sula” and at the moment she is up for sale. If only I had vast amounts of money….

The area opposite her on Baker’s Quay is not accessible and recently a warehouse burnt down there. There is some serious foliage on the one building, 

I did walk into this area but there was not much to see except for the sort of space that would make any urbex buff smile knowingly.

If we had continued along past the Sula and the old warehouse buildings we would be facing the High Orchard Bridge. I have not gone much further than the lightship though. Maybe another day? I did see a sign for a Telford Bridge so need to do some investigating of that. 

It is  bascule bridge but I have not seen it raised yet. Beyond that I have no idea. At one point I will go on a boat trip downriver and see how far it gets us. There is quite a lot of interesting stuff down river but at this point we will disembark from our well found tub because our tour around the harbour is complete. The Gloucesterdocks website covers most of this in much better detail than I can and is well worth the visit.

Ships and small craft.

There are not too many vessels that catch my eye here, but some are worth showing.

This beauty is called Johanna Lucretia, she is a topsail schooner and was built in 1945 in Belgium.

Johanna Lucretia

Severn Progress  is a tug and was built in 1931 by Charles Hill & Sons Ltd, Bristol. Her low profile is necessary to sail under low bridges.

Severn Progress

Sabrina 5

FY86 White Heather

Halcyon

Random Images

   
   
   
   
   
   
   

© DRW 2015-2017. Created 04/06/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:21

Pigging it in Gloucester

On my walkies around Gloucester today I could not help but fall over the large customised pigs in various parts of the city. I enjoy these odd public artworks because they are so colourful. The one I really followed the most was in Southampton when a whole wodge of brightly hued Rhino invaded the city.

I have also caught parts of a Paddington Bear campaign, a rugby ball themed campaign for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and part of a Shaun The Sheep Campaign in Bristol.

The problem with the piggies is that there is no information on any of the pigs, so what they are about is beyond me. After a quick look I now know the following:

The Citizen, Gloucester, and its companion website Gloucestershire Live are supporting “The Henson Trail”, which will see 20 pig statues placed across Gloucester and a further 20 will be placed across the rest of Gloucestershire.  The trail itself is named after Joe Henson MBE, who championed the Old Spot breed at Cotswold Farm Park when it opened in 1971.”

Anyway, here are the ones I photographed:

As the say in the classics…

© DRW 2017. Created 03/06/2017.  Info on The Henson Trail from http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:21

Galloping around Gloucester

Looking at my handy index page for 2015, I was last in Gloucester in August and September of 2015, and in those visits I took in the Cathedral, the Jet Age Museum and I saw lots of dudes with odd shaped balls.. I had really intended to return one day but it has taken me over a year to do that. 

Actually I had two reasons to be there. The first was to go look at a hobby shop, the second was to take a look at the recently opened HM Prison Gloucester as well as take a closer look at the harbour/docks. This particular post does not deal with that aspect of my visit, it will have a post all of it’s own once I have completed this post and added images to some of my other posts. Realistically I am going to amalgamate some of the images I took way back in 2015 with this one. 

The weather was a deciding factor for this trip, I was not really in the mood for an expedition, but the sun was shining and it wasn’t too cold so I grabbed my camera and headed for the City of Gloucester. For a change I did not go via Cheltenham but took the 71 bus straight from Tewkesbury. (£6.50 return). My planning for the trip really was based around finding the prison and shop, but as I was there early I decided to hit the harbour first. I will be honest though, I am not too much of fan of the city, but then I haven’t done too much exploring. The map on the left pretty much sums it up. The bus station is out of the picture but would be in the top right of the map had.   

 On one of my previous visits I did go to the local cemetery and looked around the harbour, but it was a grey day so not too much came of those visits. From what I can see the city really is formed around a cross of streets and spread outwards from there. As usual there is a mixed bag of old and new and all manner in between.

The hobby shop I was after is much further along and on the left hand side. I visited it on my way back. At the point where I am standing now I turned 180 degrees and headed in the general direction of the harbour.

Amongst the odd things I spotted were large customised statues of pigs. Unfortunately there was no mention of what the campaign was about, or who was responsible for the customisation.  Ah well they did make for interesting oddments to photograph and the images of the ones I saw are on the relevant page.

This is not the only street art in the city, there is this interesting depiction called “Spirit of Aviation” by Simon Stringer from 1999.

 And oddly enough, a Roman on a horse! 

Gloucester was founded in AD 97 by the Romans under Emperor Nerva (that’s him on the horse) as Colonia Glevum Nervensis, and was granted its first charter in 1155 by King Henry II. Parts of the Roman walls can be traced, and a number of remains and coins have been found, though inscriptions are scarce. In Historia Brittonum, a fabled account of the early rulers of Britain, Vortigern‘s grandfather, Gloiu (or Gloyw Wallt Hir: “Gloiu Long-hair”), is given as the founder of Gloucester. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gloucester  In Brunswick Place there are two bronze reliefs set against the wall, and one shows the Romans doing what Romans did well.

Continuing on my stroll I encountered “St Michael’s Tower” which was once used as a tourist information centre. The tower was built in 1465 on the site of the nave of the previous church of St Michael the Archangel.  In the 1840s the old church was demolished, apart from the tower, and a new St Michael’s Church was constructed in 1851, it too closed in 1940, The main part of the church was demolished in 1956, but the tower was spared.

This area is also known as “The Cross” because it is the intersection of Northgate, Southgate, Eastgate and Westgate Streets. 

There are a number of church spires poking out above the rooftops, and one I returned to was St Mary de Crypt in Southgate Street. it was first recorded in 1140 as “The Church of the Blessed Mary within Southgate”. 

It still has it’s churchyard attached and that is a destination all on its own.

One really stunning item I saw was this wonderful scene set up against the wall of a “practical watchmaker”. I am not too sure what happens where the time comes for them to chime but you can bet it is awesome.

By now I was within smelling distance of the harbour, and I have dealt with it in better detail on it’s own blogpost. 

And, I dealt with the Prison on it’s own page too. 

My walk along the Severn took me to the site of the ruins of Llanthony Secunda Priory. Realistically it is a shell of a building and there was not much to see.

 A bit further on is the old Victorian farmhouse that is under conservation. It is a very pretty building and was part of what was then Llanthony Abbey Farm. 

Within the harbour you will find “Mariner’s Chapel”.

 I visited it in 2015, and it was really typical of a chapel that you would expect to find in a harbour. 

It is a simple building but you can feel the call of the open water within it’s walls.  

On my bucket list from 2015 was the War Memorial, and I visited that in 2015.

Then it was time to find out where the Prison was and I asked a passing policeman who had worked in the prison, and he said it was a very grim place. He also solved the one question that had been bugging me since I first photographed it in 2015. “What is this in aid of?”

It turns out that is not a drinking fountain but a urinal! That could explain the lack of a tap. It is marked “Gloucester Board of Health 1862” on the base, and I suspect it was walled when it was in use. 

Crossing out of the harbour area I passed the locks that would have led into the Main Basin of the harbour with it’s gates and bridge.

I found my hobby shop without too much looking, although it did not have what I wanted.

and that wrapped up my trip and it was time to head for the bus station and home. Gloucester was “in the bag”, but I suspect I will return one day, I really need to revisit the cemetery and of course take a look at the museum, but that may never happen. 

Random Images 2017 

Random  Images from 2015

© DRW 2015-2017. Created 03/06/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:21

Shot at Dawn

In April 2015 I visited the National Memorial Arboretum and one of the many Memorials I saw on that day was the “Shot At Dawn” Memorial. 

Shot at Dawn Memorial

I commented at the time:

“The subject is a difficult one to read up on, because of the controversy of so many of the hasty decisions made by those who endorsed the executions. It can be argued that in many cases the sentence delivered did not take account of the circumstances of each individual, and the age and maturity of so many of those who were executed.
It is true that there were executions for offenses that were not related to cowardice or “lack of moral fibre”, some men were executed for murder. However, the fairness of the court martial process is often questioned, and those high ranking officers who sat on these tribunals were often seen as being totally out of touch with the reality of the situation of soldiers on the ground. It could also be argued that in many armies, the benefit of any sort of hearing did not exist, and the men were shot outright, often on the field of battle.”

Each wooden post that has been driven into the ground represents one of those who had their lives taken from them by the court martial process. 

The statue is fronted by 6 similar pillars, representing the firing squad who had to do the deed. A target was pinned on the person to be shot, and supposedly none of the squad knew whether his bullet would end the life of the accused. However, if blanks were used they would easily know whether their rifle fired a blank or a live round.   

This past week I read a book entitled For the Sake of Example, by Anthony Babington, first published 1983. It is an oldish book, but it is the first one I have read that dealt with the issue of those who were “shot at dawn”. It made for very sad reading because many of those deaths were not necessary in the first place. The common thread I saw in the book was the phrase “setting an example”. I also read a lot between the lines, and there was evidence of very perfunctory “trials” (Field Court Martial), with a swift verdict and the case would be “shoved upstairs” for some higher up to agree with and so on until it reached the desk of Field Marshall Haig or whoever was the end of the chain.

Once they rubber stamped the verdict and passed it back downwards the sentence would then finally be read out to the person who had been found guilty and often he would be shot the next day. It is doubtful whether anybody of high rank gave those meagre findings more than a glance and probably muttered “setting an example” before passing the buck to the next person in the chain. Many of the cases I read about were the result of poor decisions made by the man who was about to be shot. No real account of domestic circumstances was taken, and neither was much attention paid to the mental health of the soldier apart from a brief lookover by the closest doctor.  Many of the men who lost their lives were suffering from what we call today “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (aka PTSD)” , and given the horrors of the typical First World War battlefield it is understandable why so many ended up with the symptoms of PTSD.

One comment was made quite often: “unfit to be a soldier” and it was used in negative way, irrespective of whether the soldier was a success in civilian street, or a good father or dutiful son. The career soldiers with their rubber stamps did not give a hoot. Would we be able to say the same thing about them if ever they ended up on civvy street? would we condemn them as being “unfit to be a civilian” and take them outside and shoot them?

It is an incredibly difficult decision to take a person’s life, although if you were used to sending off complete battalions to their death in nonsensical attacks surely one more wouldn’t make you loose any sleep. I get this feeling that the Tommy on the ground was really just a number, irrespective of whether he was a regular soldier, a conscript or even a volunteer. Let’s face it, many of those who flocked to the colours were under the impression it would all be over by Christmas and they got a rude awakening when it carried on until November 1918 instead. A large number of those who flocked to the colours were young, often under 20, as were some of those who had their lives brutally ended by a squad of men from their own side. The shooting of a soldier often propelled his dependants into poverty as they no longer had the income that was sent home by the soldier, and if my memory serves me correctly a least one solder was shot shortly after he got married, widowing his bride even before he got to know her properly.  

The First World War did bring about many changes to the military, and fortunately the practise of shooting somebody for taking a stroll down the road to visit a girlfriend or local tavern was not as prevalent in that war. It could be that many who had served in the first slaughter avoided the mistakes that were made back then. Political pressure was also used to change the way these situations were dealt with, although it was way too late for the 20,000 who were found guilty of offences carrying the death penalty. 3000 soldiers received the death penalty and 346 were carried out.

In 2006 the British Government agreed to posthumously pardon all those who were executed for military offences during the First World War, but that was too many years too late for the families of these victims of officialdom. The irony is that even though a pardon has been granted, the pardon “does not affect any conviction or sentence.”

*Update 09/08/2017*

While uploading images to Lives of the First World War,  I encountered a private memorial to Arthur James Irish who was “executed for desertion” on 21/09/1915, although the grave (and CWGC record) states he was killed in action in Loos, Belgium. He is buried in Sailly-Sur-La-Lys Canadian Cemetery

This is the first time I have encountered a grave connected to one of those who was executed by firing squad, and I will do some more reading about the case. It could be that the information is incorrect, or it may be a genuine case of mistaken identity. In any event it does not excuse those who rubber stamped these executions without looking into individual circumstances. 

Executed for Murder.

There are three interesting cases in South Africa that need mentioning, although none are from the Western Front during the First World War. 

The first being that of “Breaker Morant” and Peter Handcock.

Lieutenant Harry Morant was arrested and faced a court martial for “war crimes”. According to military prosecutors, Lt. Morant retaliated for the death in combat of his commanding officer with a series of revenge killings against both Boer POWs and many civilian residents of the Northern Transvaal.

He stood accused of the summary execution of Floris Visser, a wounded prisoner of war and the slaying of four Afrikaners and four Dutch schoolteachers who had been taken prisoner at the Elim Hospital. He  was found guilty by the court martial and sentenced to death.

Lts. Morant and Peter Handcock were then court-martialed for the murder of the Rev. Carl August Daniel Heese, a South African-born Minister of the Berlin Missionary Society.  Morant and Handcock were acquitted of the Heese murder, but their sentences for murdering Floris Visser and the eight victims at Elim Hospital were carried out by a firing squad  on the morning of  27 February 1902.  Morant’s last words were reportedly “Shoot straight, you bastards! Don’t make a mess of it!”

They are both buried in Church Street Cemetery in Pretoria.

The next incident is the case of a Veldkornet, Salomon Van As who was executed by firing squad on 23 June 1902, against the back wall of the jail in Heidelberg, having been found guilty of the murder of Captain Ronald Miers at Riversdraai 12 miles south of Heidelberg.

On 25 September 1901, Captain Miers approached a party of Boers under a white flag most likely with the intention to convince them to surrender. What exactly happened is not known, the British claim the Captain was shot in cold blood which made this a war crime, however Van As claimed he acted in self-defence. 

Today the bullet holes from that execution can still be seen on a stone that has been picked out in white paint on the back wall of the building. 

Two years after the war the British authorities apologised to his parents and offered compensation after admitting that false witnesses had been used against him during the case. He was buried in a shallow grave close to the old cemetery (Kloof Cemetery) but reburied on 13 October 1903.    

 

Executed for Rebellion.

Our next example is equally interesting because of the emotions that it raises.  Josef Johannes “Jopie” Fourie was executed for his part in the 1914 Rebellion in protest against the decision to invade German South West Africa as part of the international war effort against Germany. Fourie was an Active Citizens Force (ACF) officer in the Union Defence Force at the time and had not resigned his commission. As a result he was tried under court martial and was sentenced to death. This quirk also means he is eligible for commemoration as a casualty of war by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and his name has been put forward for consideration.

He is buried in Pretoria’s Church Street Cemetery. The same cemetery where Breaker Morant and Peter Handcock were buried. 

© DRW 2017. Created 02/06/2017, updated 09/08/2017

Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:21

Portsmouth Cemeteries, a retrospective

This morning, while editing my Victoria Cross grave collection, I realised that I had not done a blog post on my visit to Portsmouth Highland Road and Milton Cemeteries, although I had done one on my flying visit to Kingston Cemetery.   This retrospective post is to rectify the matter so that I can carry on with my editing.

Portsmouth is not too far from Southampton, but I never really saw too much of it because I always ended up at the Historical Dockyard,  my first visit happed in April 2013, and it was really a taste of this great naval city and its large chunk of maritime history. My visit to Milton and Highland Road were for a different reason though. There are 9 Mendi Casualties buried in Milton Cemetery, and I really wanted to pay my respects. Fortunately one of the Hamble Valley and Eastleigh Heritage Guides was willing to take me to the cemetery to see the graves. 

I also had a map of the two cemeteries in my camera bag, and it showed the location of the Victoria Cross and George Cross graves in the cemeteries. I wanted to photograph as many of them as I could while I was there.

The day was not too sunny, but only rain would have deterred me in this quest. Our first port of call was Milton Cemetery (Google earth:  50.798967°,  -1.060722°). The cemetery is really closer to Fratton than Portsmouth, and when I had first checked it’s location I had considered it was do-able on foot from Fratton Station. 

Milton Cemetery Chapel

Plaque attached to the chapel

The cemetery  was opened in 1911, and contains 426 graves from both World Wars. The 1914-1918 burials are mainly in Plot 1, while the 1939-1945 War burials are widely spread throughout the cemetery.

8 Mendi casualties are buried in this row

Being a Royal Navy base and manning port, it is inevitable that many of the graves do have a naval connection, although Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery in Gosport contains the majority of naval graves in the area that I am aware of.

To be honest, Milton was not a very interesting cemetery, it was a bit too modern for my tastes, although there were a lot of interesting finds to be made in it. There are two Victoria Cross graves (Sidney James Day VC and John Danagher VC) and one George Cross grave (Reginald Vincent Ellingworth GC) in it. John Danagher VC was serving with Nourse’s Horse (Transvaal) during the first Boer War when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 16 January 1881 at Elandsfontein, near Pretoria.

The Cross of Sacrifice is also present in the cemetery, but I did not photograph any of the military graves apart from ones that interested me. It was really a fleeting visit as I did not want to take up too much of my host’s time. Fortunately he has an interest in cemeteries and is a member of the Friends of Southampton Old Cemetery.

Random Images from Milton Cemetery

   
   
   

And then it was time to go and we headed off to Highland Road Cemetery which is about 1,5 km away as the crow flies. (Google Earth:  50.786022°,  -1.067228°).

Those heavy clouds did nothing to make the chapel stick out more, Oddly enough the Google earth image shows a marker in the middle of the graves tagged as “St Margaret C of E Church”. I do not know whether that tag is supposed to relate to the chapel. There is one more building in the cemetery and I suspect it may have once been the Dissenters Chapel or a Mausoleum. The history of the cemetery may be found on the Friends of Highland Road Cemetery website.

Highland Road Cemetery was definitely the nicer of the two cemeteries. It was opened in 1854 and contains war graves from both world wars. The 1914-1918 burials are spread throughout the cemetery while the 1939-1945 War graves are widely scattered.

There are eight Victoria Cross graves in the cemetery and I am pleased to say I found them all. (John Robarts.VCHugh Shaw. VCWilliam Temple. VCHenry James Raby. VC. CBHugh Stewart Cochrane. VCWilliam NW Hewett. VCIsrael Harding. VCWilliam Goate. VC.)

I am however very sorry I did not photograph the grave of Reginald Lee who is buried in the cemetery. He is remembered as being in the crows nest with Fred Fleet, on board the ill fated Titanic when the iceberg was sighted at about 11.40 p.m. on 14 April 1912, although it was Fleet not Lee who shouted the famous “Iceberg Ahead”. (Frederick Fleet is buried in Hollybrook Cemetery in Southampton)  

The Mausoleum above is for members of the Dupree family, 

I would have liked to have revisited this cemetery in better weather, but realistically it would have been a very long walk to get there. As hindsight always says “it is too late now”

Random Images from Highland Road Cemetery 

 
   
   
   

It was time to leave this place and head off home. It had certainly been a productive morning, and I liked those. I would revisit Portsmouth in the future, but I never managed to return to it’s cemeteries. 

© DRW 2013-2017. Retrospectively created 12/05/2017. With special thanks to Geoff Watts and Kevin Brazier. 

Updated: 24/05/2017 — 12:48
DR Walker © 2014 -2017. Frontier Theme