Overseas VC winners saluted at National Memorial Arboretum

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The British government’s communities secretary, Eric Pickles, will make a speech at an unveiling ceremony at the National Memorial Arboretum on 5 March to commemorate the overseas-born First World War recipients of the Victoria Cross.

Pickles will be drawing attention to the 145 servicemen from 19 different countries who were awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War.

As part of the Centenary commemorations paving stones will be laid in the birthplace of each Victoria Cross recipient.

First World War Victoria Cross winners came from countries as diverse as Belgium, China, Japan and Ukraine.

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Messages to wounded WW1 Kiwi soldiers found in attic

New Zealand soldier and PM

William Ferguson Massey, Prime Minister of New Zealand, meets a convalescent soldier at the Mount Felix hospital

A banner embroidered with messages from home to recovering New Zealand soldiers has been found in an attic at Walton-on-Thames.

The town was the site of the Mount Felix military hospital where Kiwi soldiers recovered from wounds received at Gallipoli.

Wounded at Gallipoli

New Zealand High Commissioner Lockwood Smith said: ‘ Some 27,000 New Zealand troops were treated here, and of course some died here, and in the cemetery in this churchyard I think there are 21 young New Zealand soldiers.’

The Kiwi influence endures at Walton-on-Thames – the town has a New Zealand Street, and a pub called The Wellington – said to be named after the New Zealand capital rather than the victor of Waterloo.

On display

It’s known that the banner was stitched in the South Island town of Stirling near Balclutha.

Added Smith: ‘The banner is something that we’ll try and find out more about and there may be families who may have some recollection of what was behind it all.’

It will be put on display at New Zealand House in London prior to the Gallipoli centenary.

For more about the New Zealanders at Mount Felix hospital, click here.

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Missing soldier’s name added to Hampshire memorial

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Corporal Reginald Robbins RE

The name of a Royal Engineer, who died in the years following the First World War, has finally been inscribed on the war memorial at Andover in Hampshire, 95 years after it was erected.

Corporal Reginald Robbins’ name was recorded on a roll of honour that was read out at the original unveiling ceremony for Andover’s war memorial in 1920.

Somehow, however, his name was never actually added to the monument – possibly because he was deemed to have died of natural causes unrelated to the war.

Corporal Robbins was born in Sussex, but moved to Andover as a teenager.

He joined the Royal Engineers in 1917 and was posted to France and Egypt, surviving hostilities but dying of Spanish flu in 1920 at the age of 25.

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South Wales Borderers head ‘up the line’, 1916

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Troops of the 2nd Battalion, South Wales Borderers wait in the rain on their way to the front-line trenches near Montauban in October 1916.

It’s a picture that’s worth 1,000 words. The men are laden down with kit: greatcoats, blankets, ammunition. They lean forward to counteract the weight of equipment. The hems of their coats are splattered with mud.

Most of them do not smile at the camera. Even those that do seem to have a certain wariness in their expressions.

Off to the right, at the top of a road, one man carries a brush, as if he’s sweeping mud off the wet road. Behind him is a tractor or traction engine and, beyond that, a muddle of motorised and horse-drawn transport.

Off to the left, amid what could be shell-holes, are two casual observers, one in a cap and greatcoat, one in a tunic and helmet. Judging by their lack of equipment and laid-back demeanour, they’re not part of the column and aren’t about to head up to the front line.

Perhaps they, like the sweeper and the tractor driver, are tasked with working on the road or are related to the trucks and wagons in the distance.

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British prisoners of war, April 1918

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Their faces showing a range of expressions, a group of British prisoners of war look into the lens of a German photographer in April 1918.

The men were captured during the Spring Offensive that began in March 1918 and are about to be sent to prisoner of war camps in Germany.

They display an interesting mix of clothing, including a few greatcoats and leather jerkins and numerous knitted caps amid the helmets. A least one soldier wears the bonnet of Scottish regiment.

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Missing Irish infantryman to be buried as ‘unknown soldier’

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An Irish-born infantryman, killed in 1914, will be buried as an unknown soldier, after attempts to trace his relatives failed.

Researchers believe they have found the remains of private James Rowan of 2nd Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, who was originally from County Longford.

However, an ‘exhaustive search’ to trace living relatives has so far failed.

Lack of evidence

Lynne Gammond of the Army’s headquarters at Andover, Wiltshire, said: ‘It is very sad actually. There was a huge response but we just couldn’t make the link.

‘We have DNA from the remains, so if anyone can prove a positive link in future then we can still carry out the tests.’

Private Rowan’s suspected remains were among six sets found close to a railway siding near the Belgian village of Comines-Warneton five years ago.

He was killed nearby on 20 October 1914 and his name currently appears on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing.

Unknown soldiers

The MoD is planning a re-interment and a memorial service for the currently unknown soldier. It will take place on 16 April at the Prowse Point Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Belgium.

The suspected private Rowan will be buried next to his five former comrades, who were also designated unknown soldiers after attempts failed positively to identify them.

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WW1 exhibition at University of Leicester

Leicestershire Regiment troops at the Battle of Cambrai, 1917

The University of Leicester is showcasing a selection of items from its First World War collection as part of its commemorations of the Anniversary of the First World War.

University archivist Caroline Sampson said: ‘This exhibition draws on material from our special collections to commemorate the enduring legacy of the war to Leicester and to showcase contemporary artistic and photographic imagery of the world at war.

Wartime insight

‘The exhibition in the David Wilson library is an attempt to give people an insight into a worldwide event seen through a Leicester and Leicester university perspective.’

‘The exhibition will feature a number of iconic and thought-provoking images both of battles scenes and representations of the impact of war beyond the front line.

‘Of particular note is the monthly German publication, Kriegszeit, which showcases images in the expressionist tradition which provoke an emotional response to different aspects of wartime Europe.’

The exhibition runs until 27 April, www.le.ac.uk

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