musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: War Memorial

Armistice Day 11/11/2017

Somebody in the crowd remarked that it would have been considered a nice day in the trenches with its fine drizzle, grey sky and low temperature. But, it was not 1917, it was 2017 and we were all gathered at “The Cross” in Tewkesbury to commemorate the end of the First World War and the 100th anniversary of the end of the Battle of Passchendaele. Today is Armistice Day while tomorrow is Remembrance Day.

The build up to the Remembrance Day commemoration has been very evident in Tewkesbury, and every other town and city in the UK. It is taken seriously in the United Kingdom because of the strong connection with this island and the many who are buried in foreign fields. The red, green and black of the Remembrance Poppy is to be seen everywhere, and the people wear theirs with pride. Unfortunately the PC mob is hell bent on destroying this tradition because somebody may be offended, but they can really take a running leap off a short cliff.

I was determined to be at the cross when the short service would be held, and I was not the only one.  

If you open the image above you can see the War Memorial that is the centre of the cross marked in red. If you close the streets leading to the memorial you effectively bring the town to a halt.  Unfortunately, as you can see the weather on this day was not as good as that in the image above. 

But, roughly 5 minutes from 11 am. The police blocked the roads and for these brief few minutes the town ground to a halt. Banners were raised and the ceremony commenced. 

There is a sequence of events for these commemorations:

  1. At 11am, the Last Post is played
  2. The exhortation is then read 
  3. The Two Minute Silence then begins
  4. The end of the silence is signalled by playing the Reveille

The Exhortation:

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old, 
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. 
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning 
We will remember them.”

Response: “We will remember them.”

Great Britain still believes strongly in remembering not only those who fought in the two World Wars, but also the more than 12,000 British Servicemen and women killed or injured since 1945, and I see that each year as I participate in the commemorations. Tomorrow the town will stop once again and many more people will gather to pay their respects, and I am proud to be a part of it. 

This year I was finally able to plant a poppy cross that I had been carrying since I arrived in the UK. The Field of Remembrance was not a large one, but that doesn’t really matter because the intention is what counts. 

South Africa is slowly reawakening to the importance of this Act of Remembrance, long after it was downplayed by the previous government.  It is up to the young to carry these acts of remembrance forward, and many are out there are the time of writing this, collecting for charity and wearing their poppy with pride 

Sunday 12/11/2017.

This morning when I got up it was seemingly clearing but not for long, and by the time I left home at 9.50 it was drizzling very softly.  Town was deserted but that could be because High Street was barricaded closed.

I headed down to the Abbey to waste some time and take a few pics and by the time the service was finishing the sun had arrived too and was shining brightly. It was however cold and I regretted not wearing my parka.  

The nice thing about the deserted streets was that you could get some pics of some of the buildings that were usually blocked out by cars.

I think we need to close off the roads more often so that we can just admire these old timber framed beauties from close up.

I started to head towards the War Memorial but ended up trying to help somebody that was hopelessly lost and trying to find their way to Swindon. Unfortunately that is almost impossible from Tewkesbury, unless you go via Cheltenham.  

By the time I was able to find a spot the crowd had swelled considerably, it was decidedly full! 

Last year I had sited myself on the left of this picture, but this year I had not been able to get there in time so took what I could get. The parade would enter from the left, encircle the memorial and then would start once the long crocodile had all arrived. There are a lot of people in that parade, ranging from old to very young. 

And then we were all there and the Service of Remembrance could start shortly before 11 am. I do not know how many people there had a connection to the military, but it did not really matter, the fact that there were so many is encouraging. The chilly weather did not help much and I know I was cold and some of those kids in the parade were probably even colder in their inadequate uniforms. The sun was behind me which does explain the heavy shadows. 

And then there was two minutes of silence and reflection, followed by the wreath laying.

Unfortunately a PA system was not in place so all we heard was a murmur in the distance and we sort of followed the proceedings as best we could. After the wreaths had been laid the parade marched back the way it had come, turned around and then headed back towards the memorial, passing it on the left and up towards the Town Hall where the Mayor would take the salute. 

We all stood on the sidelines watching the parade pass, doing an “eyes right” as they approached the memorial. Leading the parade was the Tewkesbury Town Band. Not only do we have a town band, we also have a Town Crier!

The column became more ragged as it neared the end as many service, civic and school groups were marching too, doing their level best to keep in some sort of step. And then the future of Remembrance made their approach. Many probably wished they were at home in bed, or elsewhere, and I am sure many did not realise the significance of what they were doing. But, the fact that they were here today was because of those who took up arms over 100 years ago. 

 

And then it was over and Tewkesbury returned to some sort of Sunday normality. I am always left looking at my photographs and trying to find ones that can really explain the importance of holding a Remembrance Day service, and it always comes down to 2 groups of people: the veterans and the young. When I grew up we were literally surrounded by men (and occasionally women) that had served in one of the World Wars and in my case it was my father and my grandfather. And we thought we knew the whole history and reasons behind the two wars. But looking back now we did not know them, or understand why our family members went to war. Eventually my brother and I would both do our national service and would join the brotherhood of those who took up arms. But, our service was regional, whereas the two world wars had a global reach, affecting the whole world and causing reverberations that we still feel today. But over the past 4 years in the United Kingdom I have come to realise that the war effected the United Kingdom much more deeply. In fact I doubt whether this island ever got over the slaughter of the trenches, and each time I see my images I can see that the wound will never heal, and every year they will continue to march and sell and wear a poppy in commemoration of those who were a part of the institutionalised slaughter of warfare. And if we could ask those gone before what lessons were there to be learnt? they would all reply: Never let it happen again. It is a pity our world leaders never seem to understand that, if they did we would not need to have a Remembrance Day in the first place.

 

‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.’

© DRW 2017. Created 11/11/2017 and 12/11/2017.

Updated: 24/11/2017 — 08:59

Pressing on to Prestbury

When I originally photographed Prestbury Cemetery in Cheltenham in 2015 I did some reading about it and one name popped up that I stashed away “just in case”. That name was the Prestbury War Memorial and it sort of became famous after it was bit by car! Unfortunately the opportunity to find it did not happen until today as I had business to attend to in Cheltenham, so could really kill 13 birds with two stones. Very close to the memorial is the Parish Church of St Mary’s, and I would be an idiot if I missed visiting it while I was in the area. 

From Clarence Street in Cheltenham I caught the “A” bus (gee, it is nice to have working bus services) that took me towards my destination, and the friendly bus driver set me off as close as he could to the church. That also happened to be next to the United Reformed Church which is a beauty in it’s own right.  

Being Autumn the light is beautiful, although it really depends on how cloudy it is. On this particular trip it alternated between overcast and sunny and by the time I headed off for home I was overheated in my lightweight hoodie.  

Left would take you to the church while right will take you into Prestbury village. I took the left path.

And there she is…

Like so many parish churches it is hard to date it because of the numerous restorations that have been done to the building, however the church appears to have been largely rebuilt in the 14th century when the north and south aisles were perhaps added to an earlier building. The church was so thoroughly restored in 1864–8 that the date of the medieval work is difficult to determine. (British History) . It is really very similar to many of the parish churches I have seen but it is no less beautiful. Fortunately I was able to access the church and my images do not really do it justice.

My camera tends to get confused with the available light so pics are usually hit or miss.

The Prestbury page at the Open Domesday Project may be found at  http://opendomesday.org/place/SO9723/prestbury/  and this is what the entry looks like: 

The war memorial inside the church is unlike any I have seen before, and it is really beautiful. 

Unfortunately it is difficult to photograph it because of ambient light but I am sure the gist is there. That memorial must have taken a long time to create.

The church has quite a large churchyard,  and there are six casualties buried in it,  and I managed to find 5.

There are a lot of these wooden crosses in the cemetery, and I always thought they were found more in Orthodox churches, but for some reason this seems to be a regional thing in the churchyard. Irrespective though, I could not help but think of a flock of birds when I first saw these.

The weight of ages is heavy in this churchyard, and who knows how old the earliest burial may date from. From what I can see the churchyard is in use for limited burials, and the lack of space is what would have brought Prestbury Cemetery into use.

I did the obligatory circuit of the graveyard, but could not really form any opinion as to what is the oldest grave in it. These churchyards hold more than what is visible on the surface. It however a very nice graveyard with some really beautiful headstones.   

Then it was time to leave this pretty place and head for the war memorial up the road.  Past the local with its fine views of the churchyard.

and finally…

As war memorials go it is not really a big or fancy one, but it does tell the story of how many men lost their lives from this area which makes it an important part of the village. And, I hope on 11 November the people of this village will pay their respects to those who never came home. There are a number of names that match the graves in the churchyard close by, and this memorial really provides something tangible to those who were never able to see where their loved ones were buried. 

The list of names may be found at Remembering.org.uk

Then it was time for me to head back to Prestbury Cemetery to try to find a grave that had evaded me the last time I had been there. It is a mere kilometre “down the road”, but that was much easier to deal with than my mammoth walk from Painswicke to Stroud last month. 

Prestbury Cemetery is a beautiful cemetery to visit, it too is full of the history of this area and the people and families that lived nearby, and I am happy to say I found the grave I was missing, although it was quite a search. The one memorial in the cemetery that is really outstanding is the Gloucesters Memorial that is made up of the battlefield crosses from the graves of those who are buried in foreign fields. It is a very unique tribute that is in dire need of restoration. 

 

And then it was time to head to town to deal with the business I had to attend to. It was a long day and I covered a lot of ground. Many of my goals were achieved, and others were not. But Prestbury is in the bag, but who knows whether I will ever go their again.

© DRW 2017. Created 03/11/2017.  Domesday Book entry courtesy of the Open Domesday Project, under the CC-BY-SA licence, with credit to  Professor John Palmer and George Slater. 

Updated: 12/11/2017 — 16:09

Striding out to Stroud (2)

Having left Painswick in the dust I was now in Stroud. My goals were many, I had planned a possible visit to the war memorial, St Laurence Church, a hobby shop and of course the local cemetery. It really depended on time and weather and energy levels. Unfortunately my energy levels had taken a knock as a result of the unexpected detour. The sad thing is that had I stayed at Cheltenham and caught the 10H01 train I would have arrived here at the same time as I did after my extended walk from Painswick!  

You can read about Stroud on the usual wikipedia page.

Because I had not arrived by train I had entered the city close to St Laurence Church, and it was easy to find, just look for the spire.

The weather had not eased either, but I had come very far and was not going to give up that easily. Unfortunately seeing a spire and finding it are 2 different things altogether and I ended up passing a number of odd places on the way.  This handy map came in useful at a point, but unfortunately it is only useful when you are standing in front of it. I had wanted to start off with a visit to the tourist information office but that was based on me arriving by train. 

St Laurence Church was within reach and it too dates from many years ago, although as usual various parts date from different eras but it was mostly rebuilt by the Victorians. There is an extensive history of the church at http://www.stlaurencefuture.org.uk/the-original-church.html. Unfortunately, like so many churches it is very difficult to photograph the complete building.  

Neither did the weather help very much. The church was open and I was able to investigate it further. Unfortunately it has lost its pews and while it is still very beautiful it has lost its “character”.

It also has some very nice wall memorials but they are much too high to photograph. 

The War Memorial was surprisingly legible and I had to get a pic of it.

Unfortunately the churchyard was not accessible so I could only shoot over the fence.

Then it was time to head into High Street to find my next destination, a hobby shop where I was hoping to buy some ships. Unfortunately I did not have a good experience at the shop, they were not even interested in my purchases. Guess what guys, you lost a customer!

Parts of the town were jam packed as there was a Saturday market on the go so photography was not easy. But, after finding the loo I was confident that my next destination was do-able and I headed off in what I hoped was the right direction. Compared to my earlier walk this one was much shorter, although the hills were killers. Stroud has a lot of hills and I do not envy those who have to park in some areas. 

At some point I came to the Holy Trinity Church and my goal was just a bit further on.

Stroud Old Cemetery has 17 CWGC graves in it, they were not really my priority but I would photograph any that I saw.  When I arrived at the cemetery I was in for a shock. Not only was there a signing warning of Adders, but it was a regular jungle!  

The chapel is perched on a hill and that was a seriously steep hill too. So I chose a lower path to start with. I could make no sense of this cemetery at all, it just did not fit into anything I had seen before. Apart from the potential of meeting a snake with a calculator my biggest fear was taking a fall, the overgrown graves were positively hazardous.

As much as I hated to admit it, I was tired. My hips and legs were painful and my one sock kept on disappearing inside my shoe! I was not going to spend a lot of time here, because rationally there was not much to see. There were no real headstones that caught my eye, in fact headstones were very sparse. Grabbing pics of CWGC stones where I saw them I worked my way across the cemetery and probably got 13 of them. I am glad I had not made a commitment to photograph the graves here. A private memorial would be almost impossible to find. The view from the cemetery is quite spectacular, it is just a pity that the sun was still not out.

Then I had had enough and left the cemetery and headed back to town.

This was not a cemetery I will remember easily. 

I took a a different gate to exit and walked down a street of row houses, coming to the Holy Trinity Church once more. It was open so I took a quick pic and left.

There is a very nice old school building in the area and it has a very interesting clock and bell installed.

Town was still full of people and I threaded my way through the throngs, looking for photographables.

Stroud was “in the bag”. One of the attractions of the town was the colour of the buildings, the stone being quarried locally. It reminded me a lot of Bath Spa, but without the many attractions of that town. Make no mistake, parts of Stroud are very pretty, but I had not seen too many of them. The weather and time constraints had pretty much dictated my visit, and of course my unexpected detour from Painswick did tire me out prematurely. I would have liked to have spent more time here, but the trains were a worry. 

I believe the station is a Brunel creation, but it did not have that grandness of some of his work.

I was fortunate that I did catch the train when I did because the next one was canceled and that would have left a 2 hour wait. It was not one of my better train trip days that’s for sure. Oddly enough I did not have to wait too long for a bus from Cheltenham and was home earlier than I expected. Unfortunately I am positively bushed. 

Would I go back? maybe. There is a war memorial that I did not get and I would like to look around the town more, but the cemetery is not even worth considering. However, I wouldn’t mind revisiting Painswick, it was stunning.  

And that was my day. Pass the painkillers.

© DRW 2017. Created 23/09/2017

Updated: 26/09/2017 — 12:45

Striding out to Stroud (1)

When I was on my way home from London in April this year, one of the stations we passed through was Stroud in Gloucestershire. It seemed like pretty place to visit and I filed the information away for future reference. However, this past summer was a no go for excursions, the weather has been lousy and I have really missed hitting the trail. Somewhere along the line I decided that a visit to Stroud should happen and my original planning was for last week. I had all the timetables printed out and was really raring to go. But, the weather went icky and so did I. So I never went.

This weekend the weather looked promising so I grabbed my goodies, printed my maps and set my internal alarm clock for 6am this morning, The plan was to grab a bus to Cheltenham, arriving before 8.30 and then walking to the station to catch the 8.59 train to Paddington, bailing out at Stroud, in fact I still had my timetable all printed from the week before. 

The best laid plans of mice and men had it in for me though; when I arrived at the station I discovered that my train did not exist, in fact, had I checked the times before traveling I would have found that out. I was working from a timetable for 16 September and that train had been canceled today.  The problem was that the next train was only at 10.01, and trying to kill 2 hours at Cheltenham Spa Station was not going to happen.

I hung around for awhile and read and reread the Metro that I had picked up at the barriers. Then just as I was about to head off out of the loo an announcement was made about the train to Stroud. As usual I could not hear it so I head up to inquiries. The local GWR staff were evidently waiting for news, but by then I was browned off and decided to head off to Cheltenham, buy sausages at Lidl and then head for home. I went to cash in my tickets, and in the midst of that transaction GWR came to the party and organised a taxi for me to Stroud. A shining example of customer service. Thank you Great Western Railways.

 And so I headed off to Stroud with an amiable Turkish driver. The town is about 19 km from Cheltenham I believe, and is technically closer to Gloucester than Cheltenham. As we rode along we eventually came to a built up area with some really stunning buildings, and one of those typical Anglican Churches that I keep on bumping into. One of the places on my list was St Laurence Church in Stroud and I made the assumption that this was it and decided to bail out here. You know me, I am a sucker for churches and graveyards, so this was right up my alley. Sun? there was none, although the forecast said it would clear a bit later.

I was feeling very smug that I had managed to arrive at my destination, and could look forward to a day of photography and walking. In fact I asked a local what was the name of the street that the church was on. He looked at me strangely, and said that the church was not on my map because we were not in Stroud! So if we were not in Stroud, where were we? 

The village of Painswick.

I was still 5 miles from my intended destination! The local took pity on me and seeing my interest in the churchyard showed me one of the more interesting graves in it.

It belongs to the stonemason John Bryan, and I will be frank and say that while it is unusual it is nothing compared to some of the other gravestones in the churchyard.

The churchyard is amazing, it has one of the best collections I have seen in ages, and they seem to be unique to this churchyard. In Lichfield the slate headstones were popular, over here a ground level ledger stone with a brass plaque seems to be the favoured grave ornamentation. 

The real beauties were closer to the church and I have never seen anything like them before. Unfortunately time and weather has rendered them to be mere shadows of what they looked like originally, but even today you can still marvel at the artistry.

The local showed me one of the end faces similar to the two above that had been restored and I was astounded.

The parish church of Saint Mary  was open, so I was able to go inside and have a peek. 

And like so many parish churches in the UK it is a grade I listed building and parts of it are very old. Various areas were added on over the centuries, so its really hard to tie the building down to a specific date. It is a very beautiful building inside, and my photographs do not do it justice. 

And then it was time to face reality. I was over 5 kilometres from Stroud and there was a long walk ahead. Would I be able to do it? I had no alternative, there was no other place where I could get a bus or train back to Cheltenham. I would have to hoof it.

But first:  the war memorial. 

There are supposedly 99 Yew trees in the churchyard and a number of them surround the war memorial in the churchyard.

The problem was that I had last taken an extended walk of this distance in 2015 and even then I knew that my extended walking days were more or less over. I was OK with short distances, but long ones were problematic. Fortunately the route was straight forward, just follow the road.

Painswick was a very pretty place and I would really have liked to explore it more, but the big question was weather and time. My biggest fear was getting to Stroud and finding that the trains from Paddington were canceled too, then I would have really been in trouble. I upped anchor and headed down the road. Striding to Stroud. 

The countryside around here is very beautiful, although it would have looked much better if the sun was shining.  Large areas are of National Trust Woodlands and are ideal for bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts. Undulating areas of pasture land fall to the Wick stream which supplied the power for the woolen mills which can still been along its length. (http://www.painswick.co.uk)

I have always associated the UK with scenery like this, vast areas of green and rolling hills. It is very beautiful. 

The road seemed endless and the only way to know how I was doing was the occasional peak on the my map on my phone. That road was long, but fortunately the verge was tarred so I was not dodging and diving oncoming traffic. At some point bells started ringing as I approached an area called Stratford Park which is where the Stroud Society of Model Engineers has their track. I had been looking at the map last night to see where it was and while I had not intended going there I took note for possible future reference; and here I was walking past it! Unfortunately it was not in operation so my luck was out.  

and then….

Finally!! Break out the bubbly! I had arrived!

forwardbut

Domesday Book entry.

Naturally I was curious as to what they say about Painswick in the Domesday Book.

Yes, it is illegible. That’s why it is easier to go look it up.  

A lot of odd things happened to me today, and I have to admit that I have a sneaky suspicion I was supposed to see Painswick, and I am glad I did. I would love to explore it more but it is not an easy place to get to. The churchyard of St Mary’s was magnificent. and my special thanks must go to GWR for excellent customer service, as well as the gentleman who took me around the churchyard and church. I often think that many times were are predestined to see or do things, and Painswick was one that I had to experience. 

Now, onwards to Stroud!

© DRW 2017. Created 23/09/2017. Domesday Book entry courtesy of the Open Domesday Project, under the CC-BY-SA licence, with credit to  Professor John Palmer and George Slater. 

Updated: 26/09/2017 — 12:40

Lives of the First World War

Regular visitors to the blog may be thinking that I have given up on the blog. Be rest assured I have not, and this post will explain why.

Recently I started submitting images to “Lives of the First World War”, and it is a lot of work. I have over 8000 images of war graves, and a large number of War Memorials  in my collection. The majority of graves have been photographed in the United Kingdom and most have been submitted to the British War Graves Project. This is really an opportunity to marry up a grave with a record, and it is really a decision  that I decided to take seeing as I had all these images that have never really seen the light of day. 

Lives really is a series of templates that are populated from a variety of records, ranging from CWGC right through to British Census records up to 1911. However, there is no real consistency as to what records will be available for each casualty. In some cases even the CWGC record is missing, which is odd considering that technically there is a CWGC record for every casualty. Lives does not only touch on casualties, but on survivors too, and in that department I am totally clueless as my photography has been about casualties and not survivors. The one thing I do like is that many of the private memorials that I have photographed can now be linked to an individual and that record can be further fleshed out with the data on the private memorial. Unfortunately these can make for very sad reading. The one PM I did yesterday involved three brothers that were all killed in action, they were able to be linked because of a simple typed piece of paper stuck to a tree above the grave of one of them  (Sgt Evan Victor Joseph DCM, MM).

The other PM I have found today concerns Ernest Lute and Alfred Morgan. The latter had a sister called Amy who married Ernest Lute, who was killed in action on 25 October 1918, while Alfred died on 05 October 1918 in a Berlin hospital after being a POW for 4 years. Amy did not live long after that, as she passed away on 15 December 1918. The war ended on 11 November 1918, and she was the only one to see it, although having lost a brother and husband it is possible that she died from a broken heart. This particular memorial sums up a lot of what the war was about for those who were left at home. 7 people were involved in this case, and they are all remembered on this forgotten memorial. Whether Albert or Doris are still alive I cannot say, but loosing their parents within such a short period of time must have been very traumatic and life changing.  

At the time of writing I have “remembered” 1958 individuals and have created 53 “communities” where I have my images sorted into. The biggest being for Netley Military Cemetery with 528 “lives” in it. The nice thing about the project is that I am revisiting those places that I photographed in 2013 and 2014, seeing pictures that I had really forgotten about completely. 

Unfortunately the project is not that great a design, in fact I could rip it to shreds given how rigid it can be in the way it does things.  A good example would be the cause of death field that does not include a “died at sea” option. With so many naval casualties you would think that it would have occurred to them to have that option available.

And on the subject of naval casualties, it is shocking to see how poor the records are for the merchant navy men. Trying to find the correct record for a “John Smith” who served in the merchant navy is almost an impossibility. Just out of curiosity, there are potentially 113007 occurrences of the surname Smith, of which 1917 served with the merchant navy.  The merchant navy has always been an odd many out amongst the many services and corps that served in both world wars, and that is true even today. They lack the glamour of a uniform, but when courage was handed out they stand right near the front.

Amongst the Dominions; Canada, New Zealand and Australia stand out, with the Canadian records being the easiest to make sense of. There are lamentably few South Africans to research. I know from our time doing the record cards way back in 2012  the military records are sparse for our men and women, and even sparser for those who served in the South African Native Labour Corps.  The only real sources for information about our casualties is the CWGC and of course the South African War Graves Project

There is a community for those who drowned in the HMT Mendi and that constitutes the biggest grouping of South Africans in the project. I was recently able to have 151 South Africans added that are buried in Brookwood Cemetery, most of them died of Spanish Flu in 1918, although amongst the millions who were taken by the epidemic this is really a small group. Unfortunately only certain people are able to add in new lives, and that really leaves me with no real way to increase the coverage of our men. 

I will be busy with this for a long time; looming in my future are 778 naval casualties in Haslar Royal Naval Cemetery, and I am currently busy with Arnos Vale in Bristol and the 363 casualties commemorated there. I can do roughly 20 in a day, although I am having a lot of fun with private memorials in Arnos Vale and they tend to take more time. I dread Haslar though because even the Royal Navy tended to confuse everybody with how they did things. One of the biggest problems in my opinion is that the British Army did not allocate service numbers to the officers, and you can realistically only search with a surname and a service number. 

So, if things are quiet that is why. I do get some sort of enjoyment out of something like this, one day they will probably start a World War 2 version, but the odds are I won’t be alive to see it.

View this as part of my legacy for the future, I may not have achieved much worthwhile in my life, but I have certainly ensured that a small portion of those who never came home are remembered.

‘When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.”
 

© DRW 2017. Created 17/09/2017

Updated: 17/09/2017 — 10:50

The Mud of Passchendaele

On 31 July 1917 the third battle of Ypres started. but it is more commonly remembered as the Battle of Passchendaele. A name synonymous with mud, wasted lives and no gains for the high cost in human lives. The battle took place on the Western Front, from July to November 1917, for control of the ridges south and east of the city of Ypres in West Flanders, and was part of strategy decided by the Allies at conferences in November 1916 and May 1917.

An estimated 245,000 allied casualties (dead, wounded or missing) fell in 103 days of heavy fighting. many of those killed were buried in the mud, never to be seen again. 

South Africans generally recognise the Battle of Delville Wood as our “definitive battle”, and as such we do not commemorate it the way Delville Wood is commemorated, and a quick search for 31/07/1917 at the South African War Graves Project website will only bring up three pages of names, of which at least one page may be discounted as not occurring in the battle. However, from 31 July 1917 many families in the United Kingdom would be discovering that they had lost a father, or a son, or a husband. My current project is called “Lives of the First World War” and there I am encountering many of the casualties from that battle. I was particularly struck by a private memorial that I photographed in Reading Cemetery in 2015.

Serjeant Charles Stewart MM. lost his life on 31 July 1917, probably in this very campaign. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate like so many of his countrymen and comrades who would loose their lives tomorrow, 100 years ago.  He is also remembered on this overgrown gravestone that I found by chance. 

The sad reality is that  little, if any, strategic gain was made during the offensive, which was in fact a total of eight battles.  It increased the soldiers distrust of their leaders, especially Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, and left many soldiers utterly demoralised, shell shocked or badly wounded. The often atrocious weather just made things that much worse for Tommy on the ground, whereas the Generals, far behind the lines could condemn the lack of progress safely in the dry map rooms of their headquarters.    

The French lost 8,500 soldiers. while estimates for German casualties range from 217,000 to around 260,000. Bearing in mind that each one of these casualties had parents, possibly wives, occasionally children. A single death would have repercussions that would affect many more people.

World War One is really a series of disasters, The Somme battlefields, the icey sea of Jutland, the slaughter of Gallipoli, the mud of Passchendaele, the horrors of chemical warfare, the rattle of machine guns and the cries of the wounded and the dieing.

There were many heroes in these battles, and many wore the uniforms of nurses who had to drag extra strength from within to deal with the flood of blood in the casualty clearing stations as the wounded were brought in. Their story is often overlooked amongst the khaki uniforms, but their sacrifice was equally important. A light of sanity in a world of blood soaked madness.

We commemorate the battle from the 30th of July, but for those caught up in the trenches the hell would continue right through until November.  The only light on the horizon was that it would all stop a year later on the 11th of November 1918. 

Unfortunately, we never seemed to learn those lessons from the First World War, because a second war was looming in the future, and that war would define our world from then onwards.  

Remember the Dead.

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”

© DRW 2017. Created 30/07/2017. The “Ode of Remembrance” is from Laurence Binyon‘s poem, “For the Fallen“, which was first published in The Times in September 1914. 
Updated: 21/08/2017 — 12:23

Where I am now

It is 29 March and I am midway through my trip to South Africa. It has not been a very busy time but I have had to do certain things that needed sorting.

My mother was doing very badly when I first saw her, her situation is complicated, and there is no hard and fast solution, At this moment the best we can do is try to find some way to ensure that she is safe and cared for as best we can. After typing this I will be heading out to visit her. The traffic in Johannesburg is still a mess; that never changes! and as a result I have to wait until rush hour ends before venturing forth.

The roads were very quiet on the morning I landed because it was a public holiday, on a normal day this area is like a madhouse with the rules of the road being ignored by all and sundry. The tallest building in this image is the Carlton Centre and at the top of that building is the viewing deck where I took pics in 2011

The image above is taken from the top of the Carlton looking East in the direction where the first image was taken from.

I stayed with my brother for a day before heading to the West Rand where my friends stay and my storage unit is. I will stay on the West Rand until I fly home on the 6th.

The West Rand is not as bad as it is made out to be, and parts of it are very pretty. I used to live on the border of the Kloofendal Nature Reserve where the Confidence Reef is situated. It is a very unspoilt bit of land and my one friend has a wonderful view of the area from her flat.

There are a number of small mammals in the reserve, although all we could see on that afternoon were “Dassies” (Rock Hyrax).

There are also a lot of Guinea Fowl, and we often used to find them foraging in the parking lot of the building.

I did have a few places that I wanted to see once again, and I was keen to take a look at the Reid Tenwheeler that had been plinthed at the Rand Society of Model Engineers in Florida.

Of course I also got to see my favourite cat… Unfortunately he thinks he is a catfish that is trapped inside a cat’s body and that leaves him very tired and prone to wearing odd things on his head.

I was also re-acquainted with Niknaks. There are Niknaks in the UK but they do not come close to the ones that are sold in SA.

Talking of prices: Petrol is R13.31 a litre for 93 Octane. From 1 April it will decrease by 22 cents, however there is a 30 cent increase in the fuel levy and a 9 cent increase in the Road Accident Fund levy. 

The political situation in South Africa is of concern as the corrupt battle it out with the non corrupt and there were some interesting developments during this past week. Two famous South Africans passed away so far: Ahmed Kathrada,  a politician and former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist.  As well as Joe Mafela, a popular TV star and entertainer. Both are being buried from West Park Cemetery this morning (Wednesday). Unfortunately my plans for the day involved a visit to West Park, and those plans have now been changed.

I am also going to try get to as many memorials as I can to see what condition they are in. The Ferreira Deep Memorial is a bit of an awkward one to photograph and I only managed a quick pic while we waited for the robot to change.

I also went to take a look at the war memorial in Rotunda Park in Turffontein. The long missing name plaque was replaced in March 2015 and this was the first time I had seen it after it was restored.

I spent two days sorting through my storage unit and disposing of more of my “stuff” but there is still a lot there and I am moving it to my brother’s house so that the money saved there can contribute to some sort of help for my mother.   

That pretty much sums up where I am now. 

29/03/2017. 15H35. I am at home. It has been a hot day, possibly one of the hottest I have experienced in quite some time. I have had quite an interesting morning, and here are some pics.

After visiting mum I headed to Turffontein Race Course where I wanted to photograph the Hennenman Air Crash Memorial. I had heard about it following photographs by Clinton Hattingh of a memorial in Alberton. The security at the race course were not sure where the memorial was, but they went out of their way to assist me in my quest. The Memorial is situated close to the offices of the race course, but inside a secure area. 

Once I finished with the race course I headed to the James Hall Museum of Transport in Rosettenville Road.

Last year when I did my blogpost about Bubble Cars and Micro Cars  I had two vehicles that I could not identify and I was hoping to rectify that today. However, between when my original pics were taken so long ago, and today the 2 vehicles have been removed and there is now a small exhibition on small cars that features a Messerschmitt, a BMW Isetta, The Enfield Electric Car as well as an Optimal Energy Joule.

At a later date I will do a blog post about the museum because it really deserves a post all on its own. The museum is in a beautiful condition and it is well worth making the trip to see it.

While I was in the area I stopped briefly at Wemmer Pan.  Sadly Pioneer Park is somewhat of a mess, it really seems to serve no real purpose anymore. Surprisingly enough the swimming pool is still open, but I was unable to get into the building.

The station and roof where the Johannesburg Live Steamers club used to operate from are still there, but the trains no longer circle the raised tracks. The tracks have been lifted and club has relocated Rietvlei Zoo Farm.  

Leaving Wemmer Pan I climbed onto the M1 and headed off to Newtown to photograph two items that I had seen at Museum Africa in 2012. I had first been in Newtown in 2011 and revisited it in 2012, and at the time there was a lot of talk about redeveloping the “Potato Sheds” and erection of an office block/mall etc. That has now happened and frankly I think the end result was disappointing.  

I was glad to see that the old railway footbridge still survives, but it was barricaded closed.

Museum Africa borders on Mary Fitzgerald Square and it was a let down, the one exhibit I was after was closed and the other did not have the items I was looking for.  But, that’s how things go when you have after thoughts.  Sadly the museum is not a tourism hotspot and it was very quiet when I was there.

It was time to start heading home, and there are a number of possible routes to the West Rand. The one I chose would take me past Brixton Cemetery and I decided to pop in for a visit.

The cemetery is looking beautiful with its masses of green trees and beautiful light. It is a very pretty place, but I did not feel very secure there as vast sections of the fence have been stolen. Just before I left for the UK a lot of gravestones in the Jewish section had been vandalised and since then it has been fenced off. More images are available at my Photo Essay about Brixton Cemetery

I have spent many hours in this cemetery and it is like visiting and old friend. It is just such a pity that I did not really feel very safe, certainly not as safe as I feel in some of the cemeteries in the UK.

And that was my day. West  Park has been shelved for another day, and on Friday I am going to relocate my stuff from the storage unit so the blog may be slightly quiet for awhile. Once I have returned home I will expand this page and create subposts about some of the things I have seen. But, that is another story for another time

© DRW 2017. Created 29/03/2017

Updated: 11/04/2017 — 07:12

Remembering the Mendi 2017

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

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

TQ2713 : Memorial to Chief Henry Bokleni Ndamase by Bob Parkes

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

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

Typical documentation for SANLC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Updated: 06/04/2017 — 06:22

Worcester Cathedral

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

and a quire,

An organ (or 3) 

and an Altar.

And the High Altar (image below).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Random Images

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

   
   
   

The Cathedral from the bridge across the Severn

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

13/03/2017.

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

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

Updated: 15/04/2017 — 13:25

Let there be light

A gazillion years ago; when I was a wee lad, Christmas had a certain appeal because not only was it about goodies but because it was also about spirit. Part of the ritual would have been a trip into Johannesburg city to “look at the lights”. Way back then Johannesburg went over the top with decorating the town and transforming a mad place into something magical for kids such as myself. The OK Bazaars was famous for the display that they erected, it drew vast hordes of people and naturally must have cost a small fortune. But the irony was that after hours trading was not allowed so they could not tap into that captive audience. 

Then they scaled it down and stopped it altogether. 

This year I had a late afternoon appointment in town and because it gets dark really quickly now I would be in town when it was dark and I would be able to see the Christmas lights in Tewkesbury.

night-061

night-062

In the image below you can see the War Memorial, and barely 2 weeks ago we were standing at the memorial Remembering the Fallen. 

night-065

The lights were not very impressive because there was really a lack of colour in them. But! it was better than nothing. 

© DRW 2016-2017. Created 24/11/2016

Updated: 14/12/2016 — 19:55
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