Jutland casualty found in North Atlantic

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A Danish expedition team has located the wreckage of British warship HMS Warrior, a casualty of the Battle of Jutland.

The cruiser was badly damaged during the 1916 battle and 71 of its crew were killed. The remaining 743 men were transferred to HMS Engadine, which then tried to tow HMS Warrior back to England. The attempt was abandoned as the weather worsened and the Warrior was allowed to drift and sink.

Wreck discovered

The team was led by Sea War Museum Jutland founder Gert Normann Andersen, who said. ‘The first task of the expedition was to analyze the route it was towed and the official positions of where it sank.

‘In total, 30 wrecks were found and investigated along the route and Warrior turned up as number 27. It was located 19-27 sea miles from official positions. Multibeam measurements were taken of the wreckage and video recordings were made using a ROV – a remotely operated underwater vehicle.’

The wreckage lies 83 metres below the surface, with the ship’s keel facing towards the surface. Compared to other wrecks from the battle, HMS Warrior is in deeper water and in reasonable condition, its interior entombed within its armoured hull.

To watch ROV footage of the wreck, click here.

 

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Lost Cambrai tank reveals its secrets

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In 20 November 1917, during the Battle of Cambrai, a British tank nicknamed ‘Deborah’ was hit by a shell from a German field gun and came to a grinding halt. Five of her crew were killed and the remainder were forced to bail out under fire and make a hazardous retreat on foot.

Eighty years later, the tank’s rusted remains were rediscovered and excavated. They are now preserved in France as a memorial to the battle and to the men who fought in it.

‘Gallantry and skill’

The tank’s commander, second lieutenant Frank Heap, was awarded the Military Cross for his efforts during the battle and for leading his surviving two crew-members to safety.

His MC citation reads: ‘In Cambrai operations near Flesquieres on November 20th 1917, he fought his tank with great gallantry and skill, leading the infantry on to five objectives. He proceeded through the village and engaged a battery of enemy field guns from which his tank received five direct hits, killing four [as was believed] of his crew. Although then behind the German lines he collected the remainder of his crew and conducted them in good order back to our own lines in spite of heavy machine gun and sniper fire.’

Author John Taylor has explored the human story behind the tank in his recent book Deborah And The War Of The Tanks.

Human cost

Deborah’s commander, second lieutenant Heap, was a graduate of Cambridge University who would later return to his native Blackpool to run the family hotel and catering business.

Among those of his crew who were killed were the tank’s driver, 20-year-old private George Foot from Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire.

Second lieutenant Heap wrote to his parents: ‘We all feel his loss very deeply, for his cheery spirits and unfailing good nature had endeared him to all. It is impossible that a soul like George’s should not go on living. I feel convinced I shall meet him again.’

Deborah and the War of the Tanks, 1917 is published by Pen & Sword Books, price £25.

Click here to watch a film about the discovery of Deborah.

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Missing WW1 medal found on Welsh beach

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A First World War medal belonging to a soldier who lost his life in Belgium in 1916 has been recovered from the sands of a Welsh beach.

Private Martin Tierney of the 2nd Battalion, the Leinster Regiment was killed in May 1916 and is buried at the CWGC Ration Farm Cemetery near Ypres.

Lost in the sand

Metal detectorist Tom Tummuscheit discovered the medal on the beach at Burry Port, Carmarthenshire, in April. A local newspaper then launched an appeal to find any surviving relatives. Remarkably it managed to track down the soldier’s great nephew, Donald Tierney, who lives in Ireland, and the medal was returned to him.

Private Tierney’s father lived in a house (now demolished) at Burry Port. The family believes the medal went missing in the 1960s or 1970s when it was dropped on the beach by children who were playing a game of soldiers.

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Historian identifies missing sailor from Battle of Jutland

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Wounded sailors on board HMS Castor following the Battle of Jutland

Researchers have identified a missing British sailor who lost his life in the Battle of Jutland in 1916.

Able seaman Harry Gasson from Hastings in Sussex served as an able seaman on board HMS Castor and was one of 10 members of the ship’s crew to be killed during the battle on 31 May 1916.

Crucial clue

The 32-year-old’s body was discovered on the Danish coast shortly afterwards. At the time he could not be identified and was buried at Esbjerg New Cemetery with a headstone inscribed, ‘A British Seaman of the Great War’.

Some 100 years later, Bob Cobley, the representative for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in Denmark, discovered a note in the burial records of Esbjerg’s Church of Zion that provided a crucial clue.

The documents recorded that the name ‘H Gossom’ was written in the lining of the unidentified sailor’s trousers. While that name delivered no matches among CWGC records, Cobley found Harry Gasson’s name on the list of missing sailors from the Battle of Jutland.

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A photo showing damage inflicted on HMS Castor during the Battle of Jutland

Identity restored

‘I was very moved. I have come very close to the man, and now we have finally been able to identify him,’ said Cobley.

A new gravestone featuring Gasson’s name and rank will be put in place during a rededication ceremony to take place in Esbjerg on 31 May, the 100th anniversary of the sailor’s death.

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War Horse raises funds for threatened WW1 stables

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A soldier of the Army Remount Service with a convalescent horse of the Army Service Corps

The final London production of Michael Morpurgo’s play War Horse on 12 March raised funds for the Shorncliffe Trust, which is trying to preserve original First World War stables near Folkestone in Kent.

The charity is attempting to raise money to preserve the site of the Shorncliffe stables and remount school, run by the Canadian Veterinary Corps at Shorncliffe Camp during the First World War.

Due for demolition

Morpurgo said: ‘Shorncliffe contributed hugely to the war effort, providing care, veterinary attention and alleviating the suffering. It is a place that played a significant part in the story of the First World War, and that is a story that must be told in all its aspects and passed onto the next generation.’

The stables on the former MOD-owned site are soon to be demolished by the new owners Taylor Wimpey.

Chris Shaw, founder of the Shorncliffe Trust, says the charity is trying to raise £2m to lease the land from the new owners and turn the buildings into an educational centre. ‘We thank Michael Morpurgo and the National Theatre for supporting our charity and giving us a chance to tell the story of these magnificent animals, who bravely worked and died alongside their soldiers from all countries during the First World War,’ Shaw said.

On the way to the front

‘We hope the work and educational programmes we are planning at Shorncliffe are a fitting legacy to the thousands of men and horses that came through the gates of the camp during the First World War.’

More than three million men were present at Shorncliffe Camp at one time or other during the First World War, making it one of the most important staging posts on the way to the front line in France and Belgium.

For more about the Shorncliffe Trust, click here.

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Interactive map tells story of Battle of Jutland

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Sailors of HMS New Zealand following the Battle of Jutland

The National Museum of the Royal Navy has launched an interactive map to create a record of the people involved in the Battle of Jutland of 1916.

The project is a forerunner of the museum’s new exhibition 36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle that Won the War which opens on 12 May at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The map highlights the impact of the Battle of Jutland across the UK and also considers its human cost.

Following responses from descendants of Admirals Beatty and Jellicoe, among others, the museum hopes members of the public will share stories of those connected with the battle.

The Battle of Jutland was fought over 36 hours from 31 May to 1 June 1916. Some 6,094 British and 2,551 German sailors lost their lives during its course.

To view the interactive map, click here.

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Appeal launched to find remains of VC winner of Vimy Ridge

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Canadian machine gun teams at Vimy Ridge, 1917

The remains of a VC winner and those of more than 40 of his comrades may have been discovered close to the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge in France.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge took place in April 1917 and witnessed Canadian troops take strategic heights in a series of bloody attacks they saw fierce hand-to-hand fighting.

Buried where they fell

Historian Norm Christie believes he has located the last resting place of a group of 44 Canadian soldiers who were buried close to where they fell in 1917.

Among them, he suggests, may be private William Johnstone Milne VC of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Milne was born in 1892 in Lanarkshire, Scotland before moving to Canada in 1910. A farm labourer, he joined the army in September 1915.

On 9 April 1917 he was serving with the 16th (The Canadian Scottish) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

His VC citation reads: ‘On approaching the first objective, private Milne observed an enemy machine gun firing on our advancing troops. Crawling on hands and knees, he succeeded in reaching the gun, killing the crew with bombs, and capturing the gun.

‘On the line re-forming, he again located a machine gun in the support line, and stalking this second gun as he had done the first, he succeeded in putting the crew out of action and capturing the gun. His wonderful bravery and resource on these two occasions undoubtedly saved the lives of many of his comrades. Private Milne was killed shortly after capturing the second gun.’

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Canadian troops and German prisoners, Vimy Ridge 1917

Secrets of crater CA40

Christie is convinced Milne and many of his comrades were hastily buried in shell craters close to where they fell. His researches suggest their remains may lie in a former crater known as CA40.

In the years following the First World War, the crater was supposed to have been dug up and the bodies exhumed, but this did not happen and the men’s names remain on the Memorial to the Missing at Vimy.

Christie has now set up a fundraising effort with a goal raising enough to explore the site and discover its secrets. To find out more about the project go to https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/4zeCb

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Canadian troops on the march near Vimy, 1917

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