Category: World War 1

Merchant Navy Day

The 3rd of September is commemorated as Merchant Navy Day in the UK, and as such we commemorate the men and women of the Merchant Navy who lost their lives in the service of their country. Their contribution to the war effort is often forgotten but it was a vital one. Sadly the records that are held barely identify them and we often know very little about their service and their lives.  The main Merchant Navy Memorial is the Tower Hill Memorial in London and it commemorates more than 35,800 casualties from both World Wars who have no known grave. 

Tower Hill Memorial, London

That is why it is very important that on this day we fly the Red Duster in their honour.

The images below are all taken at the National Memorial Arboretum.

Hospital Ships Memorial

SS City of Benares Plaque

Arctic Convoys Memorial

The Liverpool Merchant Navy Memorial

DRW © 2019. Created 02/09/2019


Updated: 10/09/2019 — 08:37

Visiting Winston

While doing the navigation for Oxford I realised that it was not too difficult to visit the grave of Sir Winston Churchill in Bladon. He is buried in the churchyard of the Parish Church of St Martin in Bladon (Google Earth co-ordinates 51.830287°, -1.349588°) and the closest station to the church is Hanborough which co-incidentally is the stop before Oxford. By my estimates it was about a 1,8 km walk and I could do a round trip to the grave in 2 hours. The problem was: the trains to Oxford and back only run one per hour and they are typically 25 minutes apart. I could bail at Hanborough, do my graving and head back to Evesham, or I could continue onwards to Oxford depending in the time. It was something that I would only be able to decide when I was there.

I decided to do the trip on the 24th and it was a stinker of a day, with temps of 29 degrees and upwards. I caught my usual train and it was reasonably full, and got even worse when we arrived at Hanborough at 10.11.

Hanborough Station

I was hoping that there would be a taxi at the station but I was out of luck and I would have to hoof it. Fortunately there is a pavement so I did not need to do any bundu bashing.

Roughly at the midpoint the road crosses the River Evenlode and runs parallel with the River Glyme too although you cannot see the latter.  The Evenlode was originally called the Bladene and the village is named after it, although it appears in the Domesday Book as Blade.

River Evenlode

And then I started to approach houses, and in the distance the spire of the church showed me the way.

The church is on a rise with a steep path leading from the road. A lychgate is at the entrance to the church grounds.

and there she is. The Parish Church of St Martin, Bladon.

The Churchill family plot is on the other side of the church and there are quite a few members of the family buried in the plot (you can actually see it on Google Earth).

Sir Winston Churchill was born at Blenheim Palace in 1874. Grandson of the 7th Duke, he was also a close friend of the 9th Duke and Duchess. Winston spent a considerable amount of time at the Palace throughout his life and proposed to his wife Clementine in the Temple of Diana at the palace. Both are buried in the family plot below.

And the grave of Sir Winston Churchill. 

Unfortunately there were other people at the plot and I wondered around waiting for them to leave. The churchyard is quite large but legibility of the graves is very poor. I did not really hunt down any military graves, but just walked through the burial area before returning to the plot which was still not cleared of people.  

I was thinking on the train about how I would feel about seeing this grave, I am somewhat of a fan of Sir Winston for his actions during the Blitz, but am no fan of his disastrous Gallipoli campaign  in the First World War. He was also not very popular with Afrikaners for his participation and capture in the Anglo Boer War, but then they hate anything English anyway. As it turns out I did not spend time at the grave as time was my real deciding factor. The church was open for visitors and I strolled inside, only to be confronted by the same people. The organist was also busy playing although he did seem to hit a few wrong notes.

The present building appears to have been considered around 1802 when the Bishop of Oxford was petitioned by the villagers of Bladon to grant them a new church as the old one was dilapidated and falling down. The new church was opened in 1804 and the building materials were paid for by the fourth Duke of Marlborough. It was extensively reconstructed in 1891 and the lychgate was built in 1893.

There is a small display about the burial and life of Sir Winston, and it appears as if he had a very strong connection to the church. A stained glass window commemorates the 50th anniversary of his death and it was unveiled by the Duchess of Cornwall on 09 June 2015

And then it was time to leave as I needed to plan my return to the station and I still had at least a 25 minute walk ahead of me. 

In earlier year the village of Bladon was involved in glovemaking and the quarrying of stone, much of which was used in the construction of the buildings in Oxford, and nearby Blenheim Palace, the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. Bladon does appear in the Domesday Book too.

  • Hundred: Wootton
  • County: Oxfordshire
  • Total population: 28 households (quite large).
  • Total tax assessed: 5 geld units (quite large)
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 5 geld units. Payments of 0.5 miscellaneous.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £6. Value to lord in 1086 £6.
  • Households: 8 villagers. 18 smallholders. 2 slaves.
  • Ploughland: 7 ploughlands (land for). 2 lord’s plough teams. 3 men’s plough teams.
  • Other resources: Meadow 14 acres. Woodland 1 * 0.5 leagues. 2 mills, value 0.7.
  • Lord in 1086: Adam (son of Hubert).
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086: Bishop Odo of Bayeux.

(Domesday Book images are available under the CC-BY-SA licence, and are credited to Professor John Palmer and George Slater )

I discovered the village War Memorial just past the church and quickly grabbed some pics of it while I could. 

and then a quick look to the left…

and a turn to the right and I was on my way again. 

I had 3 choices ahead of me. It was unlikely that I would make the 11:11 train to Oxford, but would be in time for the 11.33 train back to Evesham. I could also catch the 12.33 train back to Evesham and use the spare hour to look over the Oxford Bus Museum that was next to the station. (assuming it was open). However, as things turned out I arrived at the station at the same time as the 11.11 train so I decided to grab it and continue onwards to Oxford where we will continue our exploration of that great city. 

DRW © 2019. Created 23/08/2019. Domesday Book images are available under the CC-BY-SA licence, and are credited to Professor John Palmer and George Slater

Updated: 26/08/2019 — 06:57

Crime and Punishment

In my many travels throughout the UK I have often encountered oddments that relate to “Crime and Punishment”, many of these would be considered barbaric in our politically correct times, but way back then it was a total different ballgame. The most obvious artefacts that tend to stick out are the village stocks. I have seen 4 sets (that I can remember) and they are interesting curiosities that are often very old. 

The stocks at St Nicholas Parish Church in Ashchurch, Gloucestershire

You have to admit they look like reasonably benign articles of punishment, but the opposite is true. Attitudes were very different in those olde days, when you were bunged in the stocks it was not seen as some idylic rest period. Perpetrators locked into them faced all manner of additional torments, ranging from weather, children, drunks and the real threat of mob justice. You could also have your clothing stolen and of course could have been pelted with vegetables, faeces, dead animals and of course verbal and physical abuse would have been the norm, especially if you were a well known miscreant. 

The stocks in Evesham, Worcestershire

However, many of the people bunged into the stocks were anti-social, or thieves or somebody on the receiving end of a grudge, and of course pissing off (and on) the church/mayor/town hall/local lord etc. would have brought the might of the “law” onto your head.  They were also not restricted to men, women and children could also spend some time being on the end of justice. There was no such thing as “extenuating circumstances” either. 

The stocks in Winchombe

England’s Statute of Labourers 1351 prescribed the use of the stocks for “unruly artisans” and required that every town and village erect a set of stocks. Sources indicate that the stocks were used in England for over 500 years and have never been formally abolished. 

Stocks in Minstead in the New Forest, Hampshire

Another chance discovery I made in Salisbury one morning on my way to work really left me scratching my head. 

Some investigation revealed a plaque close by, although it was not all that easy to read.

And of course Salisbury also had a reminder of the bad olde days affixed on the side of one of the walls of a local building

And in Lichfield I spotted the plaque below.

and I spotted the following in Oxford:

Of course London has a grim past and if you know where to look it is often right in public view. One of the many macabre sights that I recall was close to Tower Hill Merchant Navy Memorial.


I was recently in Liverpool and was able to visit the local holding cells associated with the Assizes court that was in the building and it was an interesting aside to my visit. But I also came up close and personal with a items used in punishment, namely:

a whipping chair

A flogging frame

Birching was a common punishment handed down to young offenders, and a flogging with a light cane or a heavy cane was actually quite a common punishment in South Africa until it was abolished too. The barbarity of the act of flogging or caning should really be seen from the position of the one being caned or flogged or the person committing the act.  

Women were often on the receiving end of punishment, and the use of the “Brank” or “Scold’s Bridle” was an easy way to silence what were seen as nagging women, it was really about power though and subjugation of females. I have seen two examples in the Clink Prison Museum in London, but it is doubtful that this pair were ever used and they are probably reproductions. 

Children were equally at risk from “the law” and there is a good example in the old castle/prison in Oxford:

Julia Ann Crumpling, aged 7,  was sentenced to seven days’ hard labour at the prison in 1870. She allegedly had stolen a pram from a Mr and Mrs Edmund Smith of Witney, who had left it outside while going into a shop. She would have been housed in the B wing that housed housed women and teenagers.  Did she just make a stupid mistake by taking the pram? or was she really just a rebellious child? and what effect did the sentence have on her? Back in those days prison was not seen as a holiday rest camp and justice was served to young and old. The Victorians believed that prisons should deter people from committing crimes, with the punishment of hard labour dished out to crush inmates’ spirits.  You did the crime you did the time!

So far I have managed to visit 3 prisons/jails in the UK:

And they have all been grim places, and as a curious visitor I got to go home at the end of the day whereas this was “home” to the inmates. Many of those inmates were there because they deserved to be there; unfortunately rehabilitation is not always as successful as the authorities would like to admit.  

The military however had it’s own set of rules known as the “The Kings Regulations” and they were the official policy and were used as the  basis for “justice” in the military and to “enforce discipline”. A number of men were “shot at dawn” for offences relating to military law, and in many cases the trials were a travesty of justice.  Of over 20,000 who were found guilty of offences carrying the death penalty, 3000 soldiers received the death penalty and 346 were carried out.  The circumstances of many of the offences were often ignored by those who sat on the courts martial, and often the accused would have very little inkling of what was waiting for him once he faced the wrath or indifference of those in charge.

The British Army also used what was known as “Field Punishment # 1” which consisted of the convicted man being placed in fetters and handcuffs or similar restraints and attached to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel or a fence post, for up to two hours per day. Of course that was preferable to being shot at dawn. As an aside, the former South African Defence Force was well known for it’s iron discipline, and while there were no cases of execution by firing squad there were many cases of abuse by detention barracks staff and of course daily abuse by “instructors” of national servicemen. It was rumoured that there was an unofficial acceptable body count allowed for in training.  Had the SADF been allowed to use a firing squad you can bet they would have!

Our so called “liberal world” cringes at the idea of shooting or flogging anybody, but in some parts of the world these are still in daily use. 

However, in some “civilised countries” the “rights” of the offender seem to be overtaking those of the victim, and in the UK even slaps on the wrist would bring out a horde of lawyers and organisations dedicated to preventing of punishment of those found guilty of crime. Had poor little Julia Ann Crumpling been around in 2019 she would have probably have been sent for counselling and paid compensation for having been arrested because she was a minor. The people who left the pram outside would have been fined for littering.     

Crime will always be with us. There will always be those who consider themselves above the law,  and of course those who get a vicarious thrill from violence and murder. There will always be corrupt politicians and policemen, and alcohol and drugs will always remove any sense of right or wrong when used incorrectly. Thankfully a lot of the draconian punishment has fallen by the wayside and a lot fewer innocent people end up incarcerated, and these relics from bygone ages should serve as a reminder that in many 3rd world countries things are still in the dark ages and justice can be harsh and the dungeons of the past are still the dungeons or the present  

DRW © 2018-2019. Finally completed 13/07/2019

Updated: 13/07/2019 — 07:23
DR Walker © 2014 -2019. Images are copyright to DR Walker unless otherwise stated. Frontier Theme