musings while allatsea

Musings of a curious individual

Category: World War 2

Revisiting Soldier’s Corner

The last time I was in Arnos Vale Cemetery in Bristol was October 2015, and on that visit I discovered that the original ledger stones had been installed on what is known as “Soldier’s Corner”. This area was established by the Bristol Red Cross who placed the original ledger stones on the graves in the 1920’s. Many plots have more than one soldier buried in them so there are multiple names on some stones. However, the ledger stones were not maintained by the CWGC although the screen wall behind them was. 

At some point the ledger stones were removed from the plot and stored underneath the Anglican Chapel where they were rediscovered, along with the original cross that used to be mounted on the plot. It was decided to re-install them, although many were broken or damaged and some were missing altogether. It was these restored stones that I went and photographed in 2015.

Wind forward to December 2017, the Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust and CWGC came to an agreement about the restoration of Soldier’s Corner, that involved replacing some stones, repairing and cleaning others and re-turfing the plot, thereby restoring it to what it may have looked like in the 1920’s. The project  was completed on 8 December 2018 and the unveiling of the plot was to coincide with the unveiling of the new headstone for Private William Walker, AIF, who died in Bristol on 11 December 1918.  I had been in contact with the family of Private Walker due to my work with Lives of the First World War and was invited to attend the unveiling and meet the faces behind the emails, I am however not a related to the family in spite of my surname. 

And that is the background to why I was about to head off to Bristol on this cloudy, windy, damp and dodgy Saturday. 

My major concerns for the day were twofold: weather and timing. Unfortunately when I did the navigation for the trip I was concerned that the service was only starting at 2pm, and I had two options on trains, 14H45 or 15H00, the next option was nearly 2 hours later, and anything after that was just out. I really had to watch my timing very carefully. Unfortunately though Bath was holding some sort of market and when the train got to Cheltenham it was swamped. To make matters worse it was only a 2 coach train and it filled even more when we reached Gloucester, and even more as we neared Bristol. It was so bad that the train ended up standing longer at each station as people struggled to board or get off. It was a tight squeeze as you can see from my image below at Bristol Temple Meads.

My major concern was that in the afternoon the trains theoretically would be equally packed as the mob came home and  I needed to make a decision by 14H00. The weather had been clearing in Tewkesbury when I left, but the forecast for Bristol was 50% chance of rain.

I had planned on grabbing a taxi at Temple Meads but the roadworks in front of the station caused the taxi queue to stand still. It took me less time to walk out of the station and to the road than it did for a taxi that had a fare.  It is roughly 20- 30 minutes walk to the cemetery depending on how many detours I make, but on this day I made none because I was already running 20 minutes late. I had a list of 77 graves that were still outstanding from Arnos Vale and I was hoping to at least find a few of them between when I arrived and when I had to attend the function. However, I had forgotten what Arnos Vale was like. For starters it is a very hilly place and very overgrown in parts.

Recent rains had also made the going very treacherous in places so I would have to try to stick to paths where possible. The odd thing is that once I was in the cemetery and ready to search I could feel the old sensations of enjoyment come back. I used to love walking these cemeteries but have cut down considerably on them because of my own mobility issues these past 2 years. When Summer comes it is Arnos Vale and I!

Soldiers Corner was looking so much better than it had since I had last seen it. Compare the image below with the one at the top of the page.

There were two people busy planting flags and planning for the event, and after comparing notes I tackled the 82 ledger stones that I had to photograph.

Amongst the stones that was replaced was number 674, which is the grave of A Dowling, AG. Lavers, PC. Mitchell, W Toogood and Jacobus Mozupe (or Molupe). A South African, he died in Bristol on 28 August 1917 and he shares his grave with 4 others. Unfortunately the ledger stone for 674 was not amongst those reinstalled in 2015 and he was now afforded a proper marker just like those around him.

The grave on the left is 674, while the grave on the right (675) is for HG Jones, GW. Turner, M Modlala (Madhlala), W Podmore and WT. Hellier. Gunner Jones and Private Madhlala are both South Africans, of which there are 5 tagged to Arnos Vale.

The family gathering I was attending was being held in the former Anglican Chapel which also has a small crypt beneath it.  This is an image I took of it a few years back. 

I did manage to peek inside it in 2015, although this time around it did not have all the trappings of a wedding reception. I always wonder what it looked like way back when it was being used for its original purpose.

The family gathering was interesting, because it did bring through that you really needed a bit of genealogist in you to be able to fully appreciate the lives of those who are buried all around the chapel. William Walker and his siblings are long passed on, but 100 years down the line we were able to connect to those whom he was close to and to experience the loss of a soldier that died a month after the war had ended. Twice wounded, he had spent 2 years on the Western Front and we will never really know what he went through in those two years. He has not been forgotten though, and hopefully long after we have passed over others will remember him, and the other servicemen and women who gave their lives in the “Great War”.

I briefly went looking for the one grave I visit each time I am at Arnos Vale and this time I was determined to identify her.

Her name was Lillian Sarah Rudford, and she was 2 years and when she passed away on 9 March 1902 and she was the daughter of George and Lillian Rudford. Her statue is beautiful, and if you don’t know where she is you won’t find her.

Crunch time was rapidly approaching and I had to make a decision whether to stay for the service or not and I decided to leave as it was just too risky with the train situation. I was not in the mood to get stranded in Bristol, and after a quick look around I turned my bows for home. People were arriving all the time and I even spotted a representative from South Africa, and that made up for me leaving. 

It had been quite an emotional trip, as these things usually are, because no matter how many times I see war graves I can never forget that each was connected to 2 other people, and each was affected by the deaths of that loved one, often in a foreign country far away.  

I took a slightly different route to the station as I wanted to see the Avon as it was flowing very strongly, and I was not disappointed.

I also found another Gromit statue at Paintworks, although I could not identify which it was. 

And of course there is a nice bridge to see on the way too.  I have not gotten a name for this one yet, and it does feature in my Banana Bridge post.  It does appear as oi another bridge is being built in this area and it is to be called the St Philips Footbridge.

The one thing I do like about Bristol is the street art (not to be confused with those meaningless “tags” so beloved of spray paint purchasers.  This pair caught my eye.

The dogs are raised from the surrounding brickwork, and while the 2nd one seems to have been ruined it really looks awesome.

One of my favourite buildings in Bristol stands just outside the station. It used to be the headquarters of the former Bristol and Exeter Railway,  and was designed by Samuel Fripp and opened in 1854. Alas it is now an office complex, but it really needs to be something more grand like a hotel or museum.

At the station it appeared as if my train was still on time, and I had 10 minutes to grab some pics of the all new Class 800 Azuma that are replacing the long lived HST’s that have dominated train travel in the UK for so many years. I have been trying to get pics of these for quite some time and this time I was successful.

800-031

800-317

On the other platform 47-378 in the Cross Country livery showed these newcomers a thing or 2.

My own train arrived shortly after I hit the shutter and it was a Class 166, and these seem to be appearing more often in my viewfinder. It seemed to have originated in Malvern and not Bath so was reasonably empty, but it could quite easily have been choc-a-block had it come from the opposite direction. I was just relieved that I could get home without having to fight my way onto a train. 

And then we were on our way, it started to drizzle just after we left Bristol, and of course the light was also fading and by the time I reached Ashchurch it was getting dark very fast. The sun leaves us early these days, but soon it will turn and get darker later. Winter however will still be with us for awhile.

My mission was semi complete. I had to sort and label pics and of course write this post as well as send off images to whoever needs them, then there are all those Lives that need new images in my Arnos Vale Community I will probably change things in this post too, but I will leave that till tomorrow.

Mission accomplished. 

DRW © 2018. Created 09/12/2018

Updated: 09/12/2018 — 20:15

The End of the War

Today we commemorate the end of the First World War. The guns fell silent on this day 100 years ago, although they really just went into standby mode for the next global conflict that was a result of the peace that came at the end of 1918.  It is strange to think that in 2014 we were remembering when it started, and now we remember the end. But in that 4 year period what did we do? I know I changed jobs, moved house, got new glasses, built ships, read books, cycled, shopped, ate, slept and brooded. But if you were in the military way back then the chances are you would have been shot at, shelled, gassed, wounded, abused, messed around, and prayed that you would get a “blighty” that would take you home. Time is a strange thing, it can pass so quickly, but drag so slowly.

I was wearing a very large knitted poppy this week and somebody admired it. I explained that the poppy was very big because I have a lot of remembering to do during this period. I remember not only those who I am connected to immediately, but also a whole army of men and women who served in the wars, as well as their families and the many animals that served and died.  My involvement with the South African War Graves Project and the Lives of the First World War project have given me a greater understanding of what we did to each other. The many names on the war memorials and graves that I photograph are always connected to at least 2 other people, who are each connected to two others and so on. If you really look at it hard enough the end result is staggering.

In a few minutes I will be heading out to the War Memorial in Tewkesbury where we will commemorate the people who are named there, and the millions of others who are not listed on a memorial. Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters, Aunts and Uncles, Grandparents, Friends and Family. They are all an integral part of the symbolism of the poppy.

13H27 11/11/2018.

Once again Tewkesbury came out in force and we commemorated this dark period of history with a solemn service. The sun blessed our endeavours by shining brightly for the hour that we spent at “The Cross”. This year they read out the names from the memorial, and it kept on occurring to me how many of the names on it were the same;  back in 1914 the town had a much closer knit community, and “joining up” was something that was “done” back then. 

And once again the front of the marching column had reached the memorial before the slightly ragged end had left the Abbey. Children are included in service and I hope that some will take heed of the importance thereof and one day watch their own children march past in a ragged line of sombre expressions and the occasional shy waves. 

And when it was done the clouds came up and the occasional spatter of rain fell, not enough to scatter everybody but enough to change the atmosphere.  The parade marches off and then returns once again, passing the Memorial en route to the Town Hall where the Mayor takes the salute. It can get very crowded there so I tend to stick close to the Memorial to watch the parade as it “Eye’s Right” past us. 

Close by was a little girl in a red coat sitting on her fathers shoulders, and she returned the salute to every group that came past. And, it was not a half baked salute either, but a proper one, and I like to think that those who marched past appreciated her efforts. She made my day and pulled me out of the gloom that I was in.

The crowds have all dispersed and gone home to their roast, 2 veg and spuds, but back then what did Tommy and his mates have to say nearly 3 hours into the armistice? You can bet they were wary of the peace but glad that it was done, and you can bet Pierre and Gunther and soldiers on both sides were equally glad that they had come through it all intact, although some would be scarred mentally and physically for the rest of their lives. You can bet the Nurses and VAD’s did not cease their vigil over the men who were in their care, and you can bet that in homes throughout the world there was joy and sadness in abundance. 

We have not learnt the lessons of the war because sabres are still being rattled as politicians push their own agendas. If it happens again it will be a short war, but a very long nuclear winter will follow. 

The two World Wars made the planet what it is today.  And what would those who lost their lives have said about the mess we are in? I am sure that they would be disgusted.

DRW © 2018. Created Remembrance Day 2018.

Updated: 11/11/2018 — 14:01

Spotted in town.

Remembrance Day is getting closer, and poppies are starting to be displayed as we head towards the 11th. I saw two of the latest iterations of Remembrance in town yesterday.

And on Wednesday 10 October at 11am, a service was held at Tewkesbury Cemetery,  to welcome Home Pte. Henery John Waylen who died of illness contracted during service in Salonika in 1917 but who has been laid in an unmarked grave ever since. I photographed his grave on 29 October.

DRW © 2018. Created 27 October 2018. 

Updated: 29/10/2018 — 12:00

The village tour: Kemerton and Overbury

The day finally arrived, it was time to embark on my grand tour of the villages en route to Evesham. The weather forecast was favourable, my navigation was done and all that was left was hitting the road. My plan was to travel by bus to Kemerton, take my pics and then head over to either Overbury or Ashton-Under-Hill, and from there to Evesham. The only real hard and fast decision was that Kemerton would be my first stop. 

I grabbed the 07.35ish 540 bus in misty weather and even the sun was still partly asleep at this time of the morning, and I duly arrived in Kemerton at 7.50ish. Everybody was apparently asleep too.

This is the road from Bredon.

I did not venture into the side streets of the village, but only the main street, and there is not a lot to see. 

Lost? this may help.

As you can see the sun was starting to colour the sky and the light was improving considerably.

Even the local shop/post office looked like it was starting to stir. This was the only shop I saw in the village. While “The Crown” was the only pub I saw, although there may be others. 

And finally, the reason for my early morning sojourn.

The War Memorial is described as a “Latin Limestone Cross atop a tall shaft, which is on a 5 stage base. The design of the cross was adapted from an ancient village cross in the village of Laycock.” (https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/32460). It was unveiled on 9 January 1921, and was made by Sir Herbert Baker RA (possibly the architect?), Messrs E T Taylor of Tewkesbury and Mr A Stanley of Kemerton. It is a Grade II listed structure. 

There are 20 names from the First World War and 7 from the Second World War on the memorial.

The building in the picture behind the memorial had an interesting sign painted on the wall, although I do not know if it is a period sign or a recent addition.

The rent was paid, it was time to walk across to Overbury which was less than a kilometre away, past the village hall (dated 1902), 

although walking on the pavement was difficult because the grass was heavy with dew. Not much was stirring here, but then it was still early.

Much to my delight I found a Catholic Church on the outskirts of the village, and it still had a graveyard.

It is called St Benet’s Catholic Church (served by the Benedictines of Douai Abbey), and it was built in 1843 by M E Hadfield, together with the adjoining Priest’s House.

I had missed the local Anglican Church though, so that is another reason for a return to the village. Across the street from the church was a large field with grazing sheep and a white painted farmhouse in the distance. There was a hint of mist in the air and the slowly lightening sky was still coloured orange by the sun on the clouds. It was one of those moments that always leaves me breathless. 

(1500 x 510)

In fact there were sheep having breakfast on both sides of the road. This chap was resting his wary head and we exchanged Baa’s. 

Kemerton is also mentioned in the Domesday Book

  • HundredTewkesbury
  • CountyGloucestershire / Worcestershire
  • Total population: 40.5 households (very large).
  • Total tax assessed: 13.4 geld units (very large)
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 60 geld units. Taxed on 60.0. Payments of 0.82 urban.

My next destination was in sight.

And in the distance I could see the the bell tower of St Faith’s, Overbury on the left side of the road. 

There are 5 CWGC graves in the churchyard, and all five are from the First World War. The War Memorial is incorporated into the Lych Gate so technically it could also double as a coffin rest.

The Memorial commemorates the Men of Overbury and Conderton who gave their lives in the Great War (and the Second World War).  There are 26 names from the First World War and 4 from the Second World War. (https://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/32563)

For some strange reason I took almost no images of the Lych Gate structure as I was too intent of trying to get the names instead. Once that was done I tackled the Churchyard, 4 of the headstones were standard CWGC pattern while the last was a private memorial, and it had been recently restored too.

Rent paid, it was time to move onwards. And I seemingly did not photograph the church completely, although it was not easy to get an unobstructed view of it. Fortunately I did get the back of the Lych Gate.

The Exif data of this image puts the time at 8.34 and I still had to find the bus stop to get the bus that theoretically should arrive about 8.50. I had scoped the route out on my maps and the bus stops were marked on it, so no problemo!

In fact, the timetable listed the bus stop as “opposite shelter”, and this is the shelter….  

The shelter however is on the side heading back to Tewkesbury, and Google Earth marks the stop as being roughly 50 metres before the shelter, and the locals said the stop was at a small bench 50 metres on the other side of the shelter. This is the UK,  if you do not stand at a designated bus stop the bus will not stop! 

Overbury Church Of England First School

Old Village Shop

Overbury is in the Domesday Book too:

  • HundredOswaldslow
  • CountyWorcestershire
  • Total population: 15.5 households (medium).
  • Total tax assessed: 3 geld units (medium)
  • Head of manor: Overbury.
  • Taxable units: Taxable value 6 geld units.
  • Value: Value to lord in 1066 £6. Value to lord in 1086 £6.
  • Households: 15 villagers. 7 smallholders. 6 slaves. 2 female slaves. 1 priest.
  • Ploughland: 3 lord’s plough teams. 12 men’s plough teams.
  • Other resources: Meadow 10 acres. Woodland 1 * 1 leagues. 0.5 church lands.
  • Lord in 1066Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Lord in 1086Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Tenant-in-chief in 1086Worcester (St Mary), bishop of.
  • Places mentioned in this entryOverburyPendock.

and this is the road out of here.

The next village in the route was Conderton although I was not stopping there, and fortunately the bus driver saw my frantic waves from what I hoped was the bus stop.

My next destination was Ashton-Under-Hill and that is over the page….

forwardbut

DRW © 2018. Created 20/10/2018.  The Open Domesday Project and the associated  images are kindly made available by Professor J.J.N. Palmer. Images may be reused under a Creative Commons BY-SA licence.  

Updated: 21/10/2018 — 07:26

Shipshape and Bristol Fashion (2) Bristol Cathedral

The third item on my list of things to see was Bristol Cathedral. It is not too far from the harbour so it tied in with my plans quite well. As mentioned before, it is not an easy place to photograph given its length, the trees in front of it and the sun which was sitting in an awkward position by the time I got there.  The closest I could get was an image across College Green which I took on my return visit in August 2018.

The cathedral is situated at  51.451724°,  -2.600606°. and while it is a large building it is relatively unassuming. If anything St Mary Redcliffe is the one you would have expected to be the cathedral. 

It is called the Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, and was founded in 1140 as St Augustine’s Abbey. It survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries and 1542 became the seat of the Bishop of Bristol.

On the day of my visit parts of it were closed off for the graduation of UWE students, in fact I was probably lucky to see what I did. 

You can see additional rows of seats in from of the screen and behind the altar. The organ was being played while I was there and it was a beautiful noise.

Actually it was a thunderous noise, the volume of the organ is amazing. It was built in 1907 and restored in 1989. Elements of the original organ still exist though. 

The high altar above is number 4 on the floor plan.

There were a lot of visitors that day, and for some strange reason I kept on bumping into the same person wherever I went. I just could not shake them off no matter how hard I tried. I suspect they were thinking the same thing about me.

The Lectern

The Pulpit

The Elder Lady Chapel (2 on the map) was open for prayers, and is usually used for lunchtime Eucharist services (Holy Communion). On the right wall is the tomb of Lady Margaret Mortimer and Lord Maurice Berkeley.

Elder Lady Chapel

The Seafarers’ Chapel (below) is in the space between (2) and (4)

Seafarers’ Chapel

And I was able to see the Eastern Lady Chapel (Item 5 on the map) this time around too.

Eastern Lady Chapel

Like most cathedrals the building had a lot of wall memorials, niches and area’s where people were commemorated. These are common to many of the churches and cathedrals and they do make for fascinating reading. What I did not find was a War Memorial although it may have been in a closed off area.  There were at least four general war related memorials, with one pertaining to the Anglo Boer War. I am very fond of the memorial on the left, it was very beautiful. 

During my August visit they were holding choir practise. It was inspiring to hear those clear voices in the wonderful spaces, just walking around subconsciously listening was wonderful. On this visit the large doors at the end of the nave were also open and I was able to see this end of the building without a tent in the way. Behind the congregation was a wonderful rose window and you can see it above the door, 

Cloister and gardens

The Cloister was not very spectacular, if anything it was quite plain. There was access to the Chapter House from here, although I was not able to access that space. (It appears as if the Chapter House is no longer open to visitors)

The garden is situated in an area that was part of the churchyard, it was very well planted and a pleasant space, with gravestones being incorporated into the flower beds and shrubbery.

Then it was time to start heading for the exit, stopping at the shop first to find out about the war memorial.

In August I was able to get the following image of the west of the building which I had not been able to get the first time around.

Unfortunately the volunteers working at the cathedral did not know whether there was a war memorial or not, but while browsing the shelves of the shop I found postcards of some of the stained glass and they tied into the war. Like so many buildings in Bristol it was affected by the bombing, and from what I read the stained glass was blown out in most of the cathedral. The replacement windows include depictions of local Civil Defence during World War II. Usually I don’t pay too much attention to the windows, but these were very meaningful and unique and I did try to get decent photographs of them although they are set high up in the wall. 

Civil Defence during World War 2

St John Ambulance

Nursing Services

British Red Cross

Fire Services

Wardens Services

Home Guard

Womens Voluntary Services

 

Bristol Police

And that more or less concludes Bristol Cathedral, all that is left are the random images. You can either look at them or turn the page to the harbour festival.

forwardbut

 

DRW © 2018. Created 22/07/2018

Updated: 11/08/2018 — 18:28

Armed Forces Day 2018

Today is Armed Forces Day in Tewkesbury, actually it was yesterday everywhere else, it is just that we like being different.  😉 

The reason for our delay was probably because there had been some additions to our War Memorial and a parade would have really caused havoc in the town. The War Memorial is in somewhat of an important junction so it tends to remind everybody battling to get around it that there were two World Wars and Tewkesbury was involved too.

I have covered the memorial in allatsea, but the additional names really mean that I need to update it too. The parade was scheduled from 9.30 till 11.30, but it battled to get started. Strangely enough there was not as large a military contingent as I would have expected, although veterans and cadets were well represented. 

As usual the Town Band showed the way and they paused at the Town Hall to collect the civic party who were dressed in their finest, led by the Town Crier:  Michael David Kean-Price – Town Sarjent and Common Crier,  Formerly of your Majesty’s Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (The Blues).

Fortunately the town isnt that large that the tail end of the parade hasn’t left while the front has arrived. There were not too many people around either, but then I expect not too many were aware of the event either. It was not well advertised.

And with the memorial surrounded on all sides they commenced the unveiling of the two new plaques. Unfortunately many memorials are faced with the same problem of who to put in and who to leave out. A lot of servicemen and women died after their military service and were omitted from Rolls of Honour and Memorials. It is a tragic state of affairs, especially in South Africa where there are over 2000 who are not commemorated on the National Roll of Honour or on the CWGC lists. 

(1500 x 526)

The unveiling really followed the tried formula of a Remembrance Service with its attendant Last Post and 2 minutes silence which was ruined by an idiot on a motorbike. 

The new plaques look like this.

World War One

World War Two

There was an elderly couple at the World War Two plaque and I suspect they were related to somebody commemorated on the plaque. Too many years too late is my opinion.

And then we were done and the parade marched off to take the salute at the Town Hall. I drifted away towards the closest loo and then walked up to the Vineyards to photograph the Monument there which I will post about eventually. It was 26 degrees outside and a cold ale went down very well. I paused at the cemetery too because one of the names on the one plaque was familiar.

Worker Kathleen Rose Sollis is buried in Tewkesbury Cemetery, she died on 22 March 1918, aged 20.

One day I hope to know the circumstances of her death. 

And that was Armed Forces Day. Thanks to serving and past members of HM Forces as well as those who serve in the Police, Fire Department, Hospitals too… Thank You.

DRW © 2018. Created 01/07/2018

Updated: 25/07/2018 — 05:38

Loving Liverpool (11) The Final Say?

The final say?

This is the final post in my “Loving Liverpool” series that covers my recent trip. And what a ride it has been. I returned from the city with over 2000 images and even when I look at them now I realise how many images I neglected to take, especially in St John’s Garden and at the Anglican and Catholic Cathedrals.

The highlight of the trip was probably Museum of the Moon and St James Garden, they were breathtaking and photographs do not do them justice.

Museum of the Moon

Liverpool as a maritime city is a mere shade of its former self, no longer do mighty transatlantic liners berth in the Mersey nor cargo ships ply their trade backwards and forwards. Mighty steam engines no longer wait at Lime Street Station to take their trains to London or north to Scotland. The end result has been much cleaner air! But a loss of the heritage that made this place what it is. 

Liverpool was built around the slave trade, and it made many people very rich and inflicted misery on countless others. There is no way to really reverse that situation, and I am afraid that it is yet another blot on our “civilisation”. However, it is crucial that it does not get swept under the carpet and relegated to the pages of dusty old tomes. The Maritime Museum had an exhibition on Slavery, but I did not see too much of it because of the crowds. The museum also has the obligatory Titanic exhibition which was surprisingly interesting, especially since the builders model was present, or was it the builders model of the Olympic disguised as the Titanic?

Cunard’s Campania

For me though Liverpool will stand out for its many beautiful buildings, and there are a lot of them! The one strange gem was Roscoe Gardens and the Grand Central Hotel with its quirky décor, steelwork and pipe organ. It was truly a wonderful space, and I could easily do a post all about that building alone. 

There were two churches outside of the cathedrals that I saw, in particular the Liverpool Parish Church is a real beauty, and it had a welcoming atmosphere too. The nautical feel of the church does it credit, and of course finding woodwork from the Aquitania was an added bonus.  

But, like the other “bombed out church” it does tell a story about the Liverpool Blitz.

The presence of Western Approaches Command Museum really just highlighted the importance of the city to the conduct of the Battle of the Atlantic,  and I am sure that if I visited the city cemeteries at Anfield and Toxteth Park I would possibly find some of the many innocents killed in the bombing buried within them.

Talking of cemeteries, contrary to my usual plans I did not visit the city cemeteries, although St James Garden was really a bonus. It was a really wonderful place to visit. The Cathedrals were equally amazing, and a revisit to them both is really on the cards for a return visit.

One of the more surprising finds was the Hall of Remembrance inside the City Hall. The building itself was stunning, and the staff were incredibly helpful too. The Hall was outstanding, a really beautiful room but I am sure not too many people are even aware of its existence.

The pier head was enjoyable, but it really was sad that there were all these acres of dock space and nothing in them, it is the reality in many of the former ports in the UK. The faithful ferry does help alleviate the shortage of shipping, but I fear that even at some point she may become redundant unless a way can be found to revitalise the service. Birkenhead across the water is also worthy of exploration, as is Bootle and possibly further afield to a point when I can see the expanse of water known as the Irish Sea.

The Irish Sea in the distance (1500 x 422)

On my way to Liverpool I was lucky enough to get some pics of the large bridge at Runcorn spanning the Mersey. It really deserves better photographs than those I managed from the moving train.

Crewe Railway Heritage Centre was also worth a visit but was not open during my time in Liverpool. It was a pity though as there appeared to be quite a lot to see.

Some of those wonderful old buildings.

Municipal Offices

Exchange Station

Former Royal Infirmary

County Sessions House

Hargreaves Building

Wellington Rooms

Playhouse

Liverpool, London & Globe Bldg

There were a number of other weird and wonderful things that I saw, and these are some of them.

Paifang, Nelson Street

Like many cities Liverpool has a large ethnic Chinese community centred around Chinatown. Many of the inhabitants are descendants of Chinese seaman who served in the merchant ships that called in the city.  The paifang on Nelson Street is the largest, multiple-span arch of its kind outside China.

The Liverpool Sailor’s Home Gateway was originally outside the main entrance to the Sailor’s Home  which stood where the current John Lewis is. It was removed from the home in 1951 and presented to the successors of the Henry Pooley and Son’s Albion Foundy in Liverpool; the original makes of the gate.

Liverpool sailor’s home gateway

It was returned to this space in 2011 and is dedicated as a memorial to all the sailors who have passed through Liverpool during its long history as an international seaport.

This wonderful footbridge I spotted in Princes Dock. It reminded me of a whale carcass.

The Queensway Tunnel was opened in July 1934 and it connects Liverpool with Birkenhead. 

Queensway tunnel

There are a number of ventilation shafts visible from the river, with one shaft being part of  George’s Dock Ventilation and Control Station building. This magnificent art-deco building should really be the 4 grace. In the image below it is the square building in the foreground. 

I was hoping that the Library (situated in St George’s Quarter), would be a magnificent space, but sadly it wasn’t. However. if you look upwards…

Quite a few “modern” buildings are worthy of consideration too, and the city has a surprisingly modern skyline.

(1500 x 479)

Liverpool Museum

Mann Island Buildings

The Gym. Strand Street

Echo Wheel & Echo Arena

There is a lot of excellent public art and statues in the city and it is impossible to see it all and catalogue it. 

‘A Case History’ was created by John King. Installed in 1998 on Hope Street

Heaven and Earth by Andy Plant

The Great Escape. Herbert Cronshaw

These 10 pages are not the only one spawned as a result of my visit, a number of pages were created at allatsea too, and so far these are:

Overall though I really enjoyed Liverpool, it was one of those experiences that I was very fortunate to have. I tend to view cities as a newcomer and can see them with a different light to what the average person who lives in the city has. Would I live in Liverpool? I cannot answer that because I really only saw the touristy bits and not the nitty gritty of life in its tougher neighbourhoods.

I only dabbled briefly in the underground railway and only experienced 3 stations and my 4 days of weather were all different, and of course I was not there to experience winter in all its discontent. Yet I found the people incredibly friendly and I must single out the commissionaire at one of the “3 Graces”, the guide at the Musical Britain display and the lady manning the front desk of Grand Central Hotel,  as well as the staff at The Lord Nelson Hotel. What a pleasure to deal with you all.

Lord Nelson Hotel

Its time to lapse back into my torpor of inactivity, although I still have quite a lot more odds and ends that I will use in other blogposts, for starters my forthcoming “Crime and punishment” post has been put on hold and now needs a rethink.

And that was Liverpool…

DRW © 2018. Created 15/06/2018

Updated: 27/06/2018 — 19:10

Loving Liverpool (10) Liverpool Parish Church

Liverpool Parish Church is also also known as “Our Lady and St Nicholas”, and the current building was built after the original main body of the church was destroyed by fire on  21 December 1940, during the bombing of Liverpool by the Luftwaffe.

Situated close to the pier head it would have been much closer to the Mersey before all the changes and dock building was done.

The bombing attack resulted in the building of a new church, and the completed church, was dedicated to “Our Lady and St Nicholas” and it was consecrated on 18 October 1952.

The church had a very welcoming feel about it and it is light and very beautiful inside. Liverpool is a maritime city and that is reflected in the church too.  The best find was the Cunard Roll of Honour which was moved from the Cunard building and rededicated on 21 July 1990.

 

The nautical theme abounds and I found yet another bell from HMS Liverpool. Just how many bells did the ship have? (there is also an HMS Liverpool bell in the Cathedral)

One of those rare gems is the Roll of Honour of those who lost their lives during the 2nd World War while serving in merchant ships and fishing vessels. The case is made from wood from the Aquitania.

The Pulpit and Font.

Chapels.

Maritime Chapel of St Mary del Key (St Mary of the Quay)

Chapel of St Peter

The Cross in the Chapel of St Peter was created by Revd David Railton, who was the rector at Liverpool at the time, was formed of two pieces of fire blackened roof timbers taken from the ruins of the church. in 1920, Revd Railton wrote to the Dean of Westminster, about the possibility of giving an unidentified soldier a national burial service in Westminster Abbey. This became the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior 

The Grail Boat (Greg Tucker)

Our Lady of the Quay (Arthur Dooley)

Unfortunately I missed so much in the Garden of Remembrance that I now have a reason to revisit the church in the future. 

Atlantic Conveyor Memorial

And then I had to leave and go to my next destination.

As far as churches go this one is a relatively new building in an ancient parish, but it has managed to straddle the old and the new and the result is stunning. I regret not looking over the garden though, but the lack of headstones probably put me off.  But, that’s a good reason to return.

The Bombed Out Church.

I also found one more church that had been affected by the bombing, and it is the former St Luke’s Church on the corner of Berry Street and Leece Street, It is known as “The Bombed Out Church”

The church was built between 1811 and 1832, in addition to being a parish church, it was also intended to be used as a venue for ceremonial worship by the Corporation, and as a concert hall. It was badly damaged during the Liverpool Blitz in 1941, and remains as a roofless shell. It now stands as a memorial to those who were lost in the war, Unfortunately it was closed on both times I was there, but I was able to photograph two monuments of interest. 

The first is “Truce” by Andy Edwards, and it commemorates the the moment when British and German soldiers called a temporary truce during Christmas in the First World War.

The second monument is related to Malta.

There is an Irish Famine Memorial too, but for some strange reason I missed photographing it. 

Incidentally the surrounds were never used for burials, and today this is a nice peaceful green spot in the city. And that concludes my look at the two churches I saw in Liverpool and both are worthy of a revisit. Continue onwards to the final say.

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DRW © 2018. Created 19/06/2018

Updated: 06/12/2018 — 07:01

Loving Liverpool (8) Western Approaches Command

As I was saying…

The war at sea was a brutal one, lasting from the first day of the war right through till the last. To make matters worse any person serving on board ship faced an even worse enemy than the Axis forces, and that was the medium which they sailed in. The convoys that plodded along between the United Kingdom and the United States were shepherded by escort vessels of all shapes and sizes, and overseeing the area of ocean between the two continents was Western Approaches Command.

The Western Approaches Command may be found at the Liverpool War Museum at 1-3 Rumford St, Liverpool. Do not expect this to be one of your normal museums geared towards children, it is mostly undergrond in the former bunker that used to serve as the operational nerve centre of the Western Approaches. I knew more or less where it was situated but came from a different direction so ended up making a wrong turning and that proved to be quite beneficial to me as I discovered two more War memorials in the process.

There is an open square behind the City Hall that is bounded by a large building that seems to have been called “Exchange Flags” but is now called Horton House and Walker House; recognise those names? 

The first memorial was dedicated to “the Men of the Liverpool Exchange Newsroom”

While the other is dedicated to “Men from the Liverpool Cotton Association”

There is a third monument in the centre of the square and it is known as the Nelson Monument. 

Nelson Monument

However, I am not going to cover these in this blog but covered them at allatsea. My main interest here is the Western Approaches facility underneath this vast space. 

Walker House (formerly known as Derby House), was adapted during its construction to include a reinforced bunker that housed the Western Approaches Command Headquarters.  Construction of the main building was completed in 1939 but the construction of Walker House was interrupted by the war. The inclusion of the re-enforced bunker to house the command centre for the Battle of the Atlantic meant that Walker House wasn’t finished until 1941. The bunker was closed on 15 August 1945 after the end of WW2 but was re-opened as the Western Approaches Museum. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exchange_Flags) The museum entrance is almost unassuming, but beneath it is another world in another era.

Please show your pass to the guard at the door (he has stepped out for a moment). 

This is not some glitz and glass museum, you really need to remember it in the context of what it was like between 1941 and 1945, it is one of those places that is stuck in time. 

I am following the file numbering of my images so hopefully they will be in some sort of order as I passed through the museum, although I did backtrack on a few occasions. I am not in a position to explain the Battle of the Atlantic as it it really did not consist of a single event but rather a whole sequence of events, milestones, disasters and victories.  The men who bore the brunt of it were the men from the Merchant Navy who manned ships that were often one step away from disaster without the enemy even being close. They faced submarines, aircraft, weather and public and official indifference just to keep the lifelines of commerce open. 

Those who served on the escorts initially faced an uphill battle to keep the convoys safe but slowly a combination of factors turned the tables on the U-boats of the Axis. Even Churchill feared the submarine menace but at the end the battle was won and Western Approaches Command  had a vast role to play in that victory.

Communication in this labyrinth was via wireless, telex, telephone and messenger. 

Radio Room

These were often manned (womaned?) by a staff of naval ratings and WRENS who often had to deal with the emotional trauma of knowing that a convoy was sailing towards a disaster and being unable to do anything about it. They had a job to do and they did it with excellence. 

The operations room was the nerve centre of the command, a large plotting wall was used to keep tabs of the situation at sea and of course track the convoys and known enemy forces. Information coming in through all means of communication available. 

The Plotting Wall

Those involved had to really keep tabs of the big picture as well as a localised view of the situation on the ground. The course of a convoy’s often painfully slow progress was tracked by means of  colour coded elastics that followed its track across the Atlantic. 

The needs of the job sometimes meant that staff slept over at the bunker and limited sleeping accommodation was available. Even back then your bed had to be square.

The reality was that it was a totally enclosed bunker with limited ventilation and considerable stress; smoking was also common back then and the air quality must have been terrible. A four watch system was in place 7 days a week with only two 15 minutes rest periods during a watch. It was a not a very pleasant place to work, but then the men on board ship probably would not have swapped with them if they were given the chance.

The “Hot Line” to the War Office in London was able to connect directly to 10 favoured lines. It was housed in a sound proof booth and it is possible that Winston Churchill was heard in it a few times. It was a standard telephone but was modified especially for this purpose. There are only 2 of these instruments known to survive.   

The man in charge of the Western Approaches Command was Admiral Max Kennedy Horton, GCB, DSO & Two Bars, SGM (29 November 1883 – 30 July 1951). A former decorated submariner,  he was appointed Commander-in-Chief, Western Approaches Command on 17 November 1942.

As a successful former submariner he was able to understand the limitations of submarine warfare and instituted a number of tactical changes in the way the escort ships were to be used. 

Staff often saw him appear at the window overlooking the operations room clad in his pyjamas. As a keen golfer who may have had golf balls on his desk or clubs nearby. Given how much stress he was under golf this was his favourite way of unwinding.

He died in 1951 and there is a memorial to him in Liverpool Cathedral. 

He was one of the major reasons that the tide was turned in the Battle of the Atlantic, and of course his staff contributed to the success of this little known nerve centre. One of the stranger things to see was a film projector that was used to screen footage of the war. Originally the Gaumont Kalee Dragon projector was up in in London.  It is a fascinating piece of machinery. 

I trained as an apprentice in the telecommunications industry and quite a lot of the equipment on display was telecommunications related so it really interested me. This room housed the switchboard and probably part of the telex equipment.

Have you shown your pass?

 Below it was naval telex station

And switchboard

As well as the cipher station.

And then it was time to head upwards to sunlight.

There was a mockup street on display too, and it was really quite poignant because the reality was that once staff emerged from their bunker they would often end up finding a city that had been bombed. Liverpool was the second most bombed city outside London, the first raid taking place on 28 August 1940. Roughly 80 raids were conducted between August 1940 and January 1942, and over 75000 people were left homeless as a result of the bombing which mostly targeted the docks and warehouses on the Mersey. 

And then it was over. (my visit and the war). 

It was an extremely interesting place and it had an “otherness” about it, definitely a latent aura was present. It is very difficult to comprehend what it was like during the war, and the euphoria when it was all done and almost everybody got to go home. Sadly too many never did see that victory so this is really a part of commemoration. The men and women who worked here have all passed into history, they will however be remembered for the part they played, they were unsung heroes. 

It is a tangible link to World War 2, and one of those rare surviving places that we can see and experience. My only gripe was….  none really. I know that there is so much more that can go in here that is relevant, and I believe they are working towards it. It was well worth the visit and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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I shall leave you with my usual odds and ends pics.

DRW © 2018. Created 09/06/2018

Updated: 27/06/2018 — 19:10

Loving Liverpool (5) Birkenhead

Continuing where we left off… 

It was now day two of my Liverpool trip and outside all was grey and gloomy and I was at a momentary loss as to what to do with myself. While researching my navigation I discovered that Liverpool was also home to “U-534“,  a Type IXC/40 U-boat from World War II. She had been raised on 23 August 1993 by the Dutch salvage company Smit Tak  after being undiscovered for nearly 41 years. She now formed the nucleus of the U-Boat Story museum at the Woodside Ferry Terminal in Birkenhead, which, was a short train journey underneath the Mersey. You can see the dismembered U-Boat in the image below.

Woodside ferry terminal

I actually did not use my brains when I decided to hop the train across the river, for starters I was at least 2 hours too early, and secondly I could visit the museum free if I bought a ticket for the river cruise on the ferry.  With the clouds hanging over my head I picked up the underground at Lime Street and headed to Hamilton Square Station in Birkenhead.

Hamilton Square Station

It was chilly too, and I regretted not bringing my jacket with.  I also regretted missing the lift and hoofing up an infinite number of stairs to get out of the station. 

The promenade, U-Boat Story and Waterside Ferry Terminal were about a block away. A quick walk and I was there, but everything was closed and not a soul was in sight. It was only 8.15, why was everything closed? It was very depressing indeed. The only item that looked reasonably interesting was a replica of the Victorian submarine “Resurgam

The original ill fated vessel met its end in Liverpool Bay off Rhyl on 25 February 1880 while en route for Portsmouth. How successful it may have been as a functioning submarine is not noted. However, the information plaque records that she did sail and submerge successfully. 

At the waters edge I discovered that not only was the tide out, but there was actually a ship alongside at the ferry landing on my side of the river! Huzzah! let’s go have a look!

She was busy loading and there was no way of knowing when she would sail and of course I was on the wrong side of the river to get a proper look at her (for the record she was the Stena Mersey).  And, to my amazement a movement on my right revealed a tanker running light outbound.

I idled along checking my watch. The first ferry to Woodside was destined to arrive at 10H30 and  the museum only opened at 10H30 and it was only 8.20! I had a decision to make because nothing was happening here. Looming next to the terminal were the segments of U-534 and I peered at them through the fence with interest. 

I really wanted to see this exhibition so I either had to hang around till opening time, or head back to the other river bank and come across with the ferry after 10H30. 

There were a few other surprises on this short stretch of river bank. 

The Birkenhead Monument.

The HMS Birkenhead is one of those definitive shipwrecks that litter the pages of history, and especially early South African History, as she foundered after colliding with an uncharted rock near Danger Point (today near Gansbaai, Western Cape) on  26 February 1852. The sinking of the Birkenhead is the earliest maritime disaster evacuation during which the concept of “women and children first” is known to have been applied. There were of the approximately 643 people on board the ill fated vessel of which only 193 were saved. 

The memorial was unveiled on 5 March 2014

The HMS Thetis Memorial.

A bit further along the promenade I found a memorial to the men lost in the sinking of HMS Thetis on 1 June 1939. I recall reading the story of the disaster and unsuccessful attempts to rescue the men trapped inside her, and it was really one of those disasters that could have been prevented.

Ninety-nine lives were lost in the incident: 51 crew members, 26 Cammell Laird employees, 8 other naval officers, 7 Admiralty overseeing officers, 4 Vickers-Armstrong employees, 2 caterers and a Mersey pilot.

Thetis was successfully salvaged and repaired, being commissioned in 1940 as HMS Thunderbolt but was sunk by depth charges by the Italian corvette Cicogna on 14 March 1943 off Sicily.  All hands were lost and Thunderbolt settled to the bottom in 1,350 m of water.

She is listed on the Submarine Memorial at the Royal Navy Submarine Museum in Gosport.

It was time for me to head back to the other bank of the river. The ferry was currently running 10 minutes trips across the Mersey between the terminal in Liverpool and Seacombe/Wallasy and if I arrived too early I would ride her up and down until I got tired. The round trip on the “River Explorer Cruise” runs from Pier Head Ferry Terminal to Seacombe Ferry Terminal, Wirral and then to Woodside Ferry Terminal, Wirral where the U-boat Story was and then back to the pier head. It was a 50 minute hop off and hop on trip and I intended to climb off at Woodside, check the exhibition and then reboard at 11H30 to return to the starting place.

However, I am going to skip the ferry trip in this post as I really want to do a post about the ferry separately so this one will deal with my visit to U-534. (the ferry is dealt with in Loving Liverpool (6) Having bought a River Explorer ticket I was entitled to free entry to the exhibition and I had allocated enough time to grab the ferry back at 11H30, although I was equally prepared to catch the next one at 12H30 too, although it would be much more crowded on that trip. There were not too many of us at the museum at that awful time, and I headed directly for the vessel instead of pausing at the exhibits in the hall. The submarine had been sawn into 4 parts, with the conning tower balanced between two of them. Each sawn end had been “sealed” with a transparent bulkhead that allowed you to see inside it.

I am however ambivalent about what was done because they really sliced up an intact (albeit rusty) U-Boat, but it did allow for a limited view of the interior of a U-Boat. The limitations of what they did were several: the biggest being that you could only really see a jumble of badly rusted machinery but nothing that lay beyond roughly 2 metres away. The state of the transparent bulkheads did leave much to be desired because they were badly smeared and I would have thought that they would been cleaned every morning before the exhibition opened. In some sections the machinery was also covered in pigeon crap! and if a pigeon can get in then so can the rain.     

But, those slices were fascinating to see, and while there were cross section explanations that marked certain components it was not always easy to understand what you were seeing. The vessel was full of water for over 40 years so the interiors are badly rusted, and the few wooden parts that I saw were rotten and there was a certain eeriness about that interior. I recall reading a book called “The Night Boat” by Robert R McCammon many years ago, and it was about a submarine full of zombies, and what I was seeing looked very much liked what I imagined that literary submarine looked like (although without the zombies and pigeons). I am not going to even try explain the images because it is beyond me.

It was fascinating to say the least. What really amazed me was how they squeezed so much machinery into such a small area and routed pipework and cables through the hull. The vertically orientated image shows the inside of the saddle tanks, with the curvature of the pressure hull on the right hand side. I never thought to check the underside of the saddle tanks because technically they were free flooding.

On 5 May 1945 she was underway heading north towards Norway, when she was attacked by a Liberator aircraft from RAF 547 Squadron which dropped depth charges. the submarine took heavy damage and began to sink by the stern. Forty nine of the fifty two crew members survived, including four who escaped via a torpedo hatch.

Inside the main building is an exhibition of items that were found inside the submarine, and these were very poignant, and obviously from long ago. 

For me it was a rare glimpse at the inside of a ship that could have ended the war if affective countermeasures were not found, and at times it was a close run thing. U-534 never sank a ship but did shoot down two British aircraft. Her end came right at the end of the war, and today we are able to catch a tiny glimpse into a vessel that descended from primitive hand powered machines that were considered an ungentlemanly weapon. We have come a long way since U-534 was built way back in 1942, and today the nuclear powered submarine is a true submarine and even deadlier than before.

It was time to catch the ferry on the next part of my journey, so I headed outwards, slightly miffed because the shop did not have prices on their ferry models.

My next post will deal with the ferry and my 2 trips on board the ferry Snowdrop.

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DRW © 2018. Created 03/05/2018

Updated: 19/06/2018 — 12:54
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