Royal Navy Museum marks centenary of WRNS

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Second World War WRNS with their kit

The National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, is marking the centenary of the formation of the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) with an exhibition entitled Pioneers to Professionals. Women and the Royal Navy.

On show within the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, the display opens on 18 February and charts the history of women and the Royal Navy from the age of sail to the present.

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WRNS working on depth-charges during the First World War

Untold stories

Drawing on the collections of the National Museum of the Navy, in addition to loans from other museums and private individuals, the exhibition shines a light onto an area of naval history that has all too often been forgotten.

Among those whose story is told are Hannah Snell, who disguised herself as a man to serve in the Royal Marines, and Ann Hopping, who went to sea on Royal Navy ships in the 18th century.

The exhibition also explores the role of women during two world wars and considers the realities of everyday life in today’s Royal Navy.

For more about Pioneers to Professionals. Women and the Royal Navy, click here.

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Belgian memorial for Hertfordshire Regiment


The Hertfordshire Regiment will soon gain its first memorial outside the UK. The new monument will be constructed at the site of the 1st Battalion’s attack near St Julien on 31 July 1917 – the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele.

About 620 soldiers went into action that morning, but within two hours all the officers and 75 per cent of the other ranks had been either killed, wounded or captured. The memorial is scheduled to be unveiled on 31 July this year.


Poignant moment

Dan Hill from remembrance group Herts at War, which has been campaigning for the memorial, said: ‘We’re putting together an unveiling day with an interactive battlefield walk, to tour the field exactly 100 years to the day on from when it happened – very poignant.’

The £5,000 monument will be brick-built, bearing plaques in English and Dutch describing the battle and its importance to Hertfordshire as a whole.

Hill added: ‘The 31 July 1917 is quite simply the most important day in Hertfordshire’s military history, so to be able to commemorate it like this feels tremendous for all of us.


‘We’ll have at least 30 descendants of people that fought there on the day, as well – it’ll probably be the most Hertfordshire people there since the day of the battle – and we’ll also have live streaming so people back home can watch the unveiling as it happens, which I think is important.

‘To turn the clock back 100 years and take descendants out 100 years on, that’s exactly what we’re all about, and a fitting act of remembrance for these soldiers who gave their lives for us.’

Herts at War is interested to hear from whose relative may have fought that day, or anyone who is interested in attending the unveiling. For more information click here.

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Huge scrap-metal soldier statue on show in Dorset


A huge statue of a First World War soldier has been created from scrap metal to commemorate the men who lost their lives in the conflict.

The Daily Mail reports that the figure, known as The Haunting, stands more than six metres high and comprises items such as brake discs, horse shoes and spanners.

The artwork has been created by blacksmith and artist Martin Galbavy, who spent three months working on it at Dorset Forge and Fabrication, near Sherborne.

The figure was commissioned for private clients who plan to display it in 2018 to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Dramatic creation

Chris Hannam, owner of the forge, told the newspaper: ‘The head and the hands are purposely made from sheet metal but everything else is from scrap.

‘He has been in our yard and we are having a steady stream of people coming to have a look, and they are amazed.

‘It is causing a lot of interest. Within 12 months people should be able to see him in his new location.

‘Part of the story behind this figure is that it is a ghost of a soldier, and I think Martin has captured that look very well.’

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Battle of Passchendaele commemorations 2017


The UK government has revealed its plans to commemorate the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele (the Third Battle of Ypres).

Passchendaele is perhaps associated with the most iconic and ghastly images of the First World War, with its drifting poison gas and morasses of mud making it arguably the most appalling of battlefields. Its ferocity and horror is encapsulated in Siegfried Sassoon’s famous line: ‘I died in hell – They called it Passchendaele.’

Official commemorations

The official commemorative event will begin with a Last Post Ceremony at the Menin Gate in Ypres on 30 July.

It will be followed by a series of live performances in Ypres’ Market Square that tell the story of the Battle. Images and film will also be projected onto the town’s Cloth Hall.

Descendants of those who fought in the battle will be invited to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Tyne Cot Cemetery on 31 July – the day the battle began.


Ballot for tickets

Opening the public ballot for tickets, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said: ‘As we continue to commemorate the centenary of the First World War, it is important that we remember the horrors of the battlefields of Ypres and honour the many who lost their lives. Some of the First World War’s most defining images of futility, mud, gas attacks and trenches come from these very battlefields.’

Descendants can apply online at before 24 February 2017.

Those wishing to be at Market Square on Sunday 30 July 2017 can also register their interest in attending in order to receive regular updates and further information about attending the events.

The event will also be shown live on large screens in the Market Square at Ypres and at the Zonnebeke Chateau Grounds, so that those not able to secure a ticket will still be able to attend the public event on 30th July, and watch the Tyne Cot event on 31 July.



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England footballers join Living Memory project


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.


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


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.


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.’


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?


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