England footballers join Living Memory project

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Interim England football manager Gareth Southgate and three senior members of his squad – Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart and Daniel Sturridge – have visited Stapenhill Cemetery in Burton-upon-Trent in support of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) Living Memory Project.

Local interest

The Living Memory Project is a nationwide initiative aimed at encouraging communities to discover, explore and remember the war graves in their local area. This November, The FA and CWGC are working together to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.

Said Southgate: ‘I think it’s important for us to get a sense of perspective. We’re so held up in our own sport yet there are people that have given a lot more and they should be remembered for more significant acts than what we carry out on a football field.

‘We heard a remarkable story of somebody who came from Burton-upon-Trent and went to the Battle of the Somme as a stretcher-bearer and carried some of his colleagues back off the battle field.’

Football’s involvement

While the CWGC’s sites on the continent are well-known and visited, few people are aware that the commission cares for 300,000 graves and memorials throughout the UK in more than 12,000 locations.

The FA has encouraged football clubs at every level of the game to unite behind the Living Memory Project and remember all of those buried in CWGC graves in the UK.

Colin Kerr, Director of External Relations for the CWGC, said: ‘We’d urge visitors to lay flowers as a mark of remembrance but, most of all, we want people to share their experiences by tweeting photos using the handle @CWGC plus hashtag #LivingMemory. That way, we keep the spirit of these brave men and women alive and the war graves are never forgotten.’

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Remembrance statue goes on show in Glasgow

A First World War themed sculpture has been unveiled in Glasgow to raise awareness of the Scottish Poppy Appeal.

The Every Man Remembered statue, which stands approximately 23ft high, stands on a block of limestone from the Somme area of France and is encased in a glass box among thousands of poppies that float in the air.

Designed by artist Mark Humphrey, the statue has been placed in Glasgow’s George Square. It had previously made appearances in London’s Trafalgar Square (pictured above) and in Cardiff in 2014 and 2015 respectively.

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British stretcher bearers on the Western Front, 1918

Ongoing needs

Mark Bibbey, chief executive at Poppyscotland, said: ‘The poppy continues to be a symbol of remembrance for those who have fallen but it also serves as a reminder of the living who still need our support.

‘In fact, one in eight veterans have a fundamental unmet need for support and more than half suffer from a long-term illness or disability.

‘That’s why we need the Scottish public to make their donation and wear their poppies with pride, so that we can be there for our ex-servicemen and women when they call for back-up.’

For more about the Royal British Legion’s Every Man Remembered campaign, click here.

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Lost AA Milne WW1 poem rediscovered

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A tank crew in France, 1917

A previously unknown poem by Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne has been rediscovered in archives at the Tank Museum in Dorset.

This poem, which was used to raise awareness of Tank Corps soldiers who were prisoners of war, was found in the museum archive by research assistant Sheldon Rogers in a box of papers that once belonged Hugh Elles – the first commander of the Tank Corps.

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Tank crew training, France 1918

Fundraising and propaganda

Rogers said: ‘We believe this poem was written specifically for a fundraising matinee which took place on 7 November 1918. The show was organised by Harry Tate, the popular music hall comedian.

‘It was in support of the Tank Corps Prisoner of War fund and the event was backed by the King and Queen, while the bands of the Welsh Guards and Scots Guards also took part.

‘Although the programme had been catalogued, the significance of its contents had been overlooked – and no one seemed to have any knowledge of this poem, which was written before Milne had achieved fame with Winnie the Pooh.

‘It is clearly a piece of propaganda and designed to celebrate the tank, which was a British invention and was of massive interest at the time.

‘But more importantly he celebrates the men who served in the tanks. He had been wounded himself and knew what conditions were like.’

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A staged propaganda photo from 1916 – showing a German surrendering German soldier

Secret service

During the First World War, Milne served as an officer in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment but was invalided in 1916 with trench fever.

Following this he was recruited by MI7b, a secret propaganda unit made up of authors from the time who wrote positive articles about the war for newspapers in Britain and overseas, as well as pamphlets and weekly updates to the soldiers themselves.

Written six years before Winnie’s debut in Punch, this example of Milne’s work shows his characteristic combination of humour and emotion:

So remember, whenever you talk of the Tanks,

The newest invention, the wonderful Tanks –

The older invention – the men in the ranks;

The wonderful men of all ranks.

For they’re just the same men, only more so, in Tanks.

You’ll remember them?

THANKS!

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Exhibition focuses on WW1 in Italy

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London’s Estorick Collection will reopen in January 2017, after a five-month refurbishment, with an exhibition entitled War in the Sunshine, revealing the little-known role of British forces in Italy during the First World War.

Among the items on show are paintings by official war artist Sydney Carline and some 50 images by war photographers William Brunell and Ernest Brooks.

Carline was remarkable among the artists of the First World War in that his first works were produced while he was serving as a fighter pilot flying a Sopwith Camel in northern Italy.

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Insightful photography

Brooks had been an official photographer on the Western Front and had captured iconic images of British forces on the Somme and at Passchendaele.

He was assigned to Italy in 1917-1918 and showed a great ability to portray the plight of front-line combat troops and dispossessed Italian civilians scratching a living behind the Anglo-Italian lines.

Brunell’s works are distinguished by the photographer’s ability to capture the drama of northern Italy’s mountainous terrain and the frontline along the River Piave, north of Venice.

He also produced intimate and sympathetic images of many of the young Italian women who were employed by Britain’s Army Service Corps, unloading railway wagons, washing British army uniforms and preparing meals.

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Forgotten campaign

The exhibition recalls a campaign that is often ignored. In October 1917 around 120,000 British troops were shipped to Italy to help stop advancing German and Austro-Hungarian forces.

British soldiers would also play a significant part in Italian victories in the Battle of the Solstice (June 1918) and on the Piave in the Vittorio Vento campaign of October-November 1918.

Five squadrons of the RAF and 40 batteries of artillery were also deployed in Italy.

The Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art is renowned for its core of Futurist works. It comprises pieces by many of the most prominent Italian artists of the Modernist era.

War in the Sunshine runs from 13 January until 19 March 2017.

www.estorickcollection.com

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British soldiers recovered from Somme battlefield

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Private Harry Carter

Two British soldiers will be reburied at 11AM on 19 October at the Albert Communal Cemetery Extension in France.

The pair were part of a group of eight men from the 10th Battalion, Essex Regiment who were killed following the explosion of a massive German underground mine near the Somme village of La Boisselle on 22 November 1915.

First evidence

In 2010 the La Boisselle Study Group (LBSG) began an excavation in an area of land known during the First World War as ‘the Glory Hole’; supposedly because it was notoriously dangerous.

In summer 2013 the team discovered the first evidence of the Essex Regiment soldiers, including shoulder titles and buttons.

The eight men were recorded as having been ‘killed in action’, and had graves and headstones in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cemetery in the nearby town of Albert. LBSG historians, however, could find no documented evidence of the recovery of their bodies and it transpired they still lay where they had fallen.

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An Essex Regiment shoulder title (courtesy LBSG)

Fixed bayonets

The LBSG team began by recovering the remains of two of the soldiers, who appeared to have been on sentry duty when the mine exploded.

They lay close to rifles with fixed bayonets and also had bags of grenades and flares. The search for their six comrades then continued, but the project became further complicated by the discovery of two French soldiers buried barely half a metre from the British remains.

These men were identified as privates Louis Heurt and Appolinaire Ruelland (of the 118th Infantry Regiment), who had been killed in early January 1915 and buried in the wall of what had been their trench.

Two metres further along the trench the archeologists discovered the timber remnants of the dugout in which the remaining six Essex soldiers were believed to have been sheltering when the mine exploded.

At the entrance were rifles, stacked helmets and boxes of hand grenades waiting to be picked up when the men went on duty.

Unfortunately, time on the dig ran out before the LBSG could agree terms with the landowner for a new contract to complete the recovery.

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Private William Marmon

Identity confirmed

The two sentries had been wearing fibre identity discs, but these had long since decayed. However, the Ministry of Defence Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre (JCCC) managed to locate descendants of all eight soldiers and to perform DNA testing.

This determined the two recovered bodies belonged to 21-year-old private William James Marmon (21) from St Pancras, London, and private Harry Carter (also 21) born in West Ham, Essex.

Marmon had been carrying three small ceramic figurines, usually found in cakes traditionally served in France at the festival of Epiphany, a French bullet head finely-carved with a heart symbol, a metal slot-machine token, some French coins and the remains of a pipe and lighter.

Carter was wearing a ‘trench-art’ ring on a finger of his right hand and was carrying a lighter, coins and writing paper.

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A fragment from a rifle marked 10th Essex and dated 1915 (courtesy LBSG)

The eight La Boiselle soldiers

Private Harry Carter, b. 1894, West Ham, estate agent’s assistant

Private Harry Fensome, b. 1896, Luton, moulder

Lance corporal Albert Huzzey, b. 1897, West Ham, errand boy

Private William J. Marmon, b. 1894, St Pancras, London

Private George Pier, b. 1890, Dagenham, Essex

Private Charles Ruggles, b. 1892, Halstead, Essex, farm labourer

Private Edward Toomey, b. 1889, Walworth, Surrey, restaurant kitchen porter

Private Charles Aldridge, b. 1888, Caxton, Cambridgeshire, farmer

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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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