Band tells story of Welsh soldier shot at dawn

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The story of a young soldier who was shot for desertion after he turned himself in at a police station has been re-told by the Welsh rock/folk band Trenchfoot.

Private William Jones, of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, had volunteered for the army in 1915 while still a teenager. Assigned to the front line he was serving as a stretcher-bearer when he went missing on 15 June 1917. He had helped a wounded comrade to an aid post near their trenches, but then disappeared.

He made his way across the Channel and home, but was then persuaded by his mother to hand himself in at the local police station in Neath. However, he was shown no leniency and was one of 306 British soldiers who were executed during the First World War.

Andy Edwards, spokesman for Trenchfoot, said: ‘It is thought William’s mother urged him to turn himself in after he arrived home in Glynneath having deserted the army, an act that would have brought shame on the family.

‘The young soldier was probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder induced by the very grim things that he saw. To make matters worse, it’s thought he was actually too young to join up and was likely one of the many hundreds of volunteers who lied about their age and were signed up by a desperate army.’

The band’s song Post at Dawn tells the story of Private Jones and his fateful decision to hand himself in.

For more about the band Trenchfoot, click here.

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A First World War cyclist with dead geese

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A cyclist of the York and Lancaster regiment carries dead geese on his bicycle. The photo was taken in Italy during the First World War and presumably the soldier would have been well received by his comrades on his return. Roast goose would certainly have made a welcome change from standard rations.

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Thiepval Memorial to be restored

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The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has announced plans to restore the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, prior to the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in 2016.

In particular, the CWGC will be addressing issues with water ingress and drainage.

From mid-June 2015 the memorial will be obscured in parts by scaffolding, and at times during the project the four name panels facing the Stone of Remembrance will not be accessible.

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A Royal Artillery gun on a French road

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An 18-pounder gun team of the Royal Field Artillery turns back onto a road to avoid enemy fire, somewhere near Faverolles, 29 May 1918.

It was clearly a hot, dusty day and the gunners were keen to make a retreat.

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British artillerymen at Gallipoli, 1915

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Two 60-pounder (5-inch) guns of 90th Heavy Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA) prepare for action at Cape Helles, Gallipoli.

The gun in the foreground features rudimentary camouflage on its barrel and identification numbers on its carriage.

The battery would later be posted to Egypt before being sent to the Western Front.

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An Army Service Corps driver and his truck, 1916

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A soldier of the 34 Auxiliary Patrol Company, 960 Motor Transport Company, Army Service Corps (ASC) stands by his truck in a photograph probably taken in 1916.

Although it is an organisation that is often forgotten in the context of the First World War, it performed a crucial function for the British Army.

At its peak, the ASC numbered 10,547 officers and 315,334 men. There were also thousands of Indian, Egyptian and Chinese under ASC command.

Nicknamed Ally Sloper’s Cavalry, after a cartoon character of the time, the moniker may have had unkind overtones of ‘sloping off’ somewhere relatively safe when the heat was on.

Soldiers of the ASC were often exposed to danger, however, either taking ammunition and supplies to the front line or having to act as emergency infantry when the need arose.

The ASC was granted the title ‘Royal’ following the First World War.

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Lost VC goes on show in Brighton

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A ‘mislaid’ Victoria Cross has gone on show at the Brighton Museum in Sussex. The medal was awarded posthumously to 42-year-old Major George Godfrey Massy Wheeler of the 7th (Hariana ) Lancers.

It was found by museum staff who were searching for items to display to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War.

Andy Maxted, curator at Brighton Museum said: ‘We were searching through our collections database last year, looking for objects that might enhance the War Stories exhibition. During the search we came across a reference to the Massy Wheeler VC along with a full size and miniature copy, strangely enough, in a box of Decorative Arts jewellery.

‘We then tracked down the remainder of the medals which we found in a general medals box that also contained a telegram from the King to Massy Wheeler’s widow expressing sympathy on the news of his death. We were obviously delighted when we found the VC.

The medal is display alongside Major Massy Wheeler’s other campaign medals in the Prints and Drawings gallery at Brighton Museum until 7 June 2015.

Massy’s commendation for the Victoria Cross stated: ‘For most conspicuous bravery at Shaiba, Mesopotamia. On the 12th April, 1915, Major Wheeler asked permission to take out his Squadron and attempt to capture a flag, which was the centre point of a group of the enemy who were firing on one of our picquets.

‘He advanced and attacked the enemy’s infantry with the lance, doing considerable execution among them. He then retired while the enemy swarmed out of hidden ground and formed an excellent target to our Royal Horse Artillery guns.

‘On the 13th April, 1915, Major Wheeler led his Squadron to the attack of the “North Mound.” He was seen far ahead of his men riding single-handed straight for the enemy’s standards. This gallant Officer was killed on the Mound.’

Major Massy Wheeler is buried in Basra War Cemetery.

For more information about the dispay, click here.

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