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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Restored Mémorial de Verdun to re-open

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A German soldier takes cover at Verdun, a dead French soldier lies to his left

The restored Mémorial de Verdun Museum will open its doors on 22 February; prior to the official centenary of the battle in May this year.

The renovated building, by Brochet Lajus Pueyo architects, has added 1,900sq m of space at a cost of €12.5m.

‘Mincing Machine’

Visitors will follow in the footsteps of a French soldier on his way to the front – the so-called ‘Mincing Machine’ that cost many thousands their lives.

It is unclear how many soldiers were killed at Verdun. Latest estimates suggest there were around 377,000 French casualties and around 337,000 German.

All the museum’s original founders had fought at Verdun. Their plan was to create a replica of the battlefield as the central exhibit. This has now been extended with an extensive audiovisual display.

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French troops, their faces etched with anxiety, in a trench at Verdun in 1916

Poignant objects

Also on show are the everyday objects that the ordinary soldiers carried into action – providing an evocative link with the men who found themselves caught up in a hellish situation so far removed from their normal lives.

In many cases, these unassuming items were all that remained of the men who went missing in the terrible, churned-up mud of the battlefield or were blown to pieces during its bombardments.

Curator Edith Desrousseaux de Medrano said: ‘A tour of the Memorial Museum leaves a lasting impression. Visitors are brought face to face with history, and with those who shaped it beneath the shells and in the mud of Verdun.’

The official ceremony marking the centenary of the Battle of Verdun is scheduled for 29 May 2016. For more on the commemoration go to www.verdun2016.org

For more about the Mémorial de Verdun, go to http://memorial-verdun.fr/

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A German infantry platoon prepares to march to the front at Verdun, 1917

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Lost German U-boat found in North Sea

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German sailors in the conning tower of a U-boat during the First World War

The wreck of a World War One German U-boat has been found in the North Sea. Windfarm developers discovered the submarine lying about 55 miles east of Caister-on-Sea in Norfolk.

Historians believe the wreck to be that of U-31, which went missing in January 1915. All 35 men on board died and, as an official military maritime grave, the wreck will remain where it lies.

Unexpected discovery

Scans of the seabed in the vicinity have uncovered more than 60 wrecks over a two-year period. While some of these were already known, the windfarm developers were not expecting to find a missing U-boat.

U-31 probably hit a mine while patrolling the North Sea and would have sunk in a matter of minutes. Of the 17,000 German sailors who served on board U-boats in the First World War, more than 5,100 lost their lives.

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