musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: United Kingdom

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

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: 24/05/2017 — 12:49

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: 05/05/2017 — 12:48

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
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