Category Archives: Remember Me Project

A Birthday Spent In A Welsh Cemetery

Sad Reading, Burial Plot For Four,Rocking Dog

Sad Reading, Burial Plot For Four

No, I really didn’t mind spending part of my birthday in a cemetery… honest! I was so pleased to be laying my last poppy for “The Remember Me Project”. Of course I could decide that I want to head to Basra, Baku, Beersheba, The Gaza Strip, and Gallipoli… but that’s perhaps for another day.

My brain has been pretty tangled trying to seek out Driver John Noble Winters grave. Born in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire on 12th April 1881 he was one of a large family born to Frank and Eleanor Winter. In the 1901 Census he is 19 and living in Wales. He is boarding with the Britton family. William Britton, originally from Frampton Cotterell, Gloucestershire is an underground colliery haulier and I suspect may have secured John Winter his job at the mine as a coal hewer (miner).

By the 1911 census John, 29 is married to local Ystrad girl Louisa (nee Parsons) 33. From the census he has been married for 8 years. The household consists of John, Louisa and three children, Charles Henry 7, Emily Eva 4 and Elizabeth Mary 1. They were living in Ystrad, Glamorganshire. John was still working as a coal miner hewer.

As a miner John would have been in a reserved occupation, however mining was incredibly tough and many miners relished the prospect of enlisting. I know that John Winter enlisted at Pentre but at present I do not know when this occurred. He served with the Royal Field Artillery (Service No W5046). At some point he was wounded in France and was shipped back to the UK. Again, it requires more investigation as to how long he was back in the UK before he died.

He died on 17th April 1916 at the Woolwich Military Hospital (Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects (Entry 275813) and was transported back to Wales for burial. He was buried on the 21st April 1916 in Trealaw Cemetery. The plot had already been purchased when John was interred. His son Francis (Oct 1910-Oct 1910) and daughter Ann Ellen (Apr 1914-Apr 1914) had already been buried in the plot (Plot 0387) Later, another daughter Emily Eva would join her father and siblings in the same plot (July 1906- Dec 1921)

With a rough outline of John Winters family life and somewhat sketchy military details it was time to seek out his grave. Somehow I managed to arrive at a different cemetery (Glyntaff) but  the mistake proved to be a godsend! The cemetery has an office which holds all the records for all the cemeteries in the area. The lovely Nadine was really helpful and bought out huge burial registers and I was able to see the Winter entries. She also then very kindly printed out plans of Trealaw cemetery and warned me that it was huge!

We travelled a few miles and we arrived in Trealaw the longest town in the Rhonnda. Nadine you were right – the cemetery was enormous and we needed your plans. In fact the cemetery is roughly a mile long end to end. A real whistle stop tour, the headstones in the cemetery tell the story of mining disasters, lung disease, child mortality, Italian ice cream and war. There are 158 WW1 and WW2 Commonwealth graves in the cemetery, John Winters grave being one of them.

Using the plan I was able to locate Driver Winters’ grave on a steep grassy hillside in the right hand corner of the cemetery. His grave (Plot 0387) had views over to an opposing hillside dotted with sheep and scars of quarrying and mining. It was somehow reminiscent of “How Green Was My Valley”. Behind the headstone the hillside continued and interrupted by a Scots pine which seemed stunted by harsh winters and chill winds blowing through the valley.

I laid my 45th poppy and thought about John Winter lying there in his adopted homeland with three of his children. We seem to think a war grave is just that, but in this case it tells a story of the harsh realities of fleeting fatherhood and child mortality. A life beyond the battlefield.

It was now time to find Johns wife Louisa and a grown up son who are buried in the same cemetery. According to Nadines’ plans they were to be found at the opposite end of the cemetery (yes literally a mile away!) On this one I had to use my best orienteering skills to locate the grave. I somehow wished that the numbers of the plot areas were clearly marked. You had to judge the areas by the shape and tiers of graves whilst comparing the plan. I think I found Louisa’s burial place (Plot D1314), an unmarked grassy “bed”. Louisa died in December 1949 at the age of 72 years (buried 29th December 1949). Her son Charles Henry Winter who died in Chipping Sodbury is also interred there and died in January 1946 (buried 11 January 1946). I felt so sad stood thinking of Louisa, two wars, widowhood, the grime of mining, and more than anything the loss of her children. Apart from the four offspring in the two graves another child Elizabeth Ann died aged 2 days in 1909 and is in an unmarked plot in the cemetery. I wonder how Louisa felt about her “lot”, a very hard life. I laid a poppy for Louisa and family, she was so near and yet so far from the grave of her husband and infant children. It was very poignant.

I am hopeful that this giant jigsaw of piecing together census’s, military records, local archives (Parish magazine reporting John Nobles death) etc… is accurate. Little discrepancy’s with age and records with no mention of his middle name have made this a difficult search.

Please contact me if you know different.

Plots and plans continue for my creation of a WW1 Flower Show table which will be “unveiled” at Frenchay Flower Show on 14th July. I’ll be there with the lovely Sally Stanley and her Parcels of Comfort exhibit.

 

 

John's Wife & Son,Rocking Dog

John’s Wife & Son

Burial Tome,Rocking Dog

Burial Tome

Cross Of Sacrifice,Rocking Dog

Cross Of Sacrifice

On Home Soil,Rocking Dog

On Home Soil

Cross For John,Rocking Dog

Cross For John

Green Valley,Rocking Dog

Green Valley

Scots Pine,Rocking Dog

Scots Pine

So Near..Yet So Far,Rocking Dog

So Near..Yet So Far

Welcome Colour,Rocking Dog

Welcome Colour

The Week That Was, Life’s Rich Tapestry

Kaffe Fassett's Rich Tapestry,Rocking Dog

Kaffe Fassett’s Rich Tapestry

Life has been a rich tapestry of differing threads since my last post. There has been a trip to Bath and a lovely meet up with son, daughter in law and sparkling new little Freddie. Apart from the delight of a new baby to cuddle, how rewarding it is to watch your children parent. After coffee and cake and a well meaning mother in law .. “you need to rest”, (I really wasn’t asking for a Victorian six week lying in period…honest!) I took my leave. “Makery” Roman blind instructions picked up, I chanced upon Kaffe Fassett and Candace Bahouth’s exhibition “A Celebration of Flowers” at the Victoria Art Gallery. It was spectacularly colourful and temptingly tactile. There was patchwork, mad mosaic, needlepoint and painting. Eye poppingly inspirational.

I finished my second Rocking Dog patchwork quilt of the year earlier in the week and it will be shortly leaving the kennel to grace and warm another bed. The blind is indeed next in the queue and then a back up of other makes ranging from quilts, a certain wedding coat and Rocking Dog prototypes. The unused overlocker is looking forlorn and needs some dedicated time to make it feel loved and needed. It really is the elephant in the workroom!

The weekend was glorious so with Andyman away playing his flaming bagpipes on the Isle of Man a friend and I spontaneously took ourselves to The Pig near Bath. We had a relaxing afternoon in the garden eating wood fired flatbread and posh choc ice. It was one of those blissful English summer days and was completed by the inevitable meander around the delightful kitchen garden.

A large mountain of ironing, admin’ and a half hearted attempt at cleaning were the more mundane bits of the week, a domestic tapestry!

Flowers were picked for a bright 88 year old neighbour and somehow we ended up reading snake poems by DH Lawrence and Sylvia Plath. We also talked about the frustrations of age related failing faculties. Unfortunately I know you won’t be reading this Molly, but you are AMAZING! Interested and Interesting, together with being a fount of knowledge on “Time-Team”!

Stem ginger scones were baked and given. How delicious they are served with apricot conserve and clotted cream. Not much else to report on the cooking front.

I have been trying to tie up my WW1 Flower Show table for 14th July. My brain is rather full. I know i’m slightly barking as i’m signing present day forms etc.. with a 1918 date. Oops! This week I have been researching eggs and how they were collected for wounded soldiers. There was a National Campaign set up by Frederick Carl, editor of “Poultry World” who classed eggs as as a superfood for the wounded. Even pre-war many families kept a few hens, but now the campaign encouraged hen owners to donate an egg or two for ailing soldiers. Children in particular were encouraged to get involved with the egg campaign and the eggs were often collected together on school premises. In November 1914 a target of 20,000 eggs a week was set to send to the wounded in Boulogne. By August 1915 over a million eggs were received for overseas. This figure didn’t include those eggs that had been sent directly to local hospitals. In the course of the war 32 million eggs had been sent to hospitals in France and Belgium.

Many of the eggs arrived with the soldiers complete with decoration, patriotic messages and names & addresses. This sometimes led to pen pal correspondence and even a wedding! I started researching eggs because in the local parish magazines of the Great War period there were poultry husbandry meetings held at the village hall. I wanted to ascertain the relevance and importance of such meetings.

So indeed there will be a display of WW1 inspired decorated eggs on my Flower Show table.

Today I am visiting my last soldiers grave in Trealaw Cemetery the Rhondda, Wales. Driver John Noble Winter of the Royal Field Artillery died from wounds 17th April 1916. Born in Winterbourne, Gloucestershire by the 1901 census he is 19 years old and working as a coal hewer. Untangling a short life is a brain boggling investigative tapestry. Later today The Remember Me Project will have laid the last poppy on British soil and number 45 of the 53 Whiteshill Memorial names. We Will Remember Them.

I hope your weekend is filled with threads of wonderful things, creating your own rich and diverse life tapestry.

Love Rocking Dog x

PS. Our bath, yes that old chestnut, is on its way! Currently it is out in the ocean after a port of call in Kuwait. Rather like Parcel Force you can track its movements using Vessel Finder, very exotic! It will eventually head up the Suez Canal, it’s taking provenance to the extreme… but then I always love a good story!

Mad Mosaic,Rocking Dog

Mad Mosaic

Kaffe's Patches,Rocking Dog

Kaffe’s Patches

My Patches,Rocking Dog

My Patches

Food Tapestry,Rocking Dog

Food Tapestry

Posh Choc' Ice,Rocking Dog

Posh Choc’ Ice

On Its Way!,Rocking Dog

On Its Way!

Flower Gift,Rocking Dog

Flower Gift

Bakers Dozen,Rocking Dog

Bakers Dozen

Baked Gift,Rocking Dog

Baked Gift

Flower Show,Rocking Dog

Flower Show

Egg Research,Rocking Dog

Egg Research

Brain Space,Rocking Dog

Brain Space

The Remember Me Project, Closer To Home

Please Remember Me, Rocking Dog

Please Remember Me

Rocking Dog has been quietly working away on The Remember Me Project researching all the WW1 names on the Whiteshill Memorial, Hambrook. In between looking at museum archives, Ancestry, local history books and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission site I have also been out and about!

There have been graves to visit in three local churchyards. Real Live Rocking Dog has accompanied me on these trips and watched me lay six more poppy crosses.

All Saints Church, Winterbourne was my first port of call to visit two graves. The first I found easily, that of George Fitz Worlock. A Guardsman in the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards he died on 19th November 1914 at Manchester Royal Infirmary from wounds he sustained at Ypres.

Between 1914-1918 520 beds at the Manchester Royal Infirmary were allocated to the War Office. Over 10,000 service personnel were treated during this period. Incidentally in 1918 a centre was opened at the hospital specifically to deal with Venereal Disease. The centre treated more than 837 people in the year it opened. I do not know how many of these were servicemen but Venereal Disease was a sizeable problem in troops serving abroad. In 1918 there were over 60,000 admissions for VD in France and Flanders but only 74,711 admissions of the well publicised Trench Foot for the entirety of the war in France and Flanders. Many soldiers risked the brothels knowing that a case of Syphilis or Gonorrhoea could excuse them from the front line.

Guardsman George Fitz Worlock (14198) was repatriated to England with his injuries and disembarked on 6th October 1914. He died little more than a month later on the 19th November 1914. He was buried in the churchyard not far from the place where he lived with his wife Lottie (nee Malpass). They had married in Bristol on 7th December 1913. It was poignant to see that Lottie shared the same grave plot and had remained a widow until she died in July 1971 at the age of 86. George had enlisted with the Grenadier Guards in January 1909. Prior to this he is listed as being a carter. As a professional soldier he would have been one of the first expected to fight for King and Country. I am presuming that a family dealing with a serviceman’s death on home soil could choose whether they wanted a Portland Stone Commonwealth war grave headstone or at their own expense a headstone of their choosing. The Worlock family chose an imposing Celtic style cross in local Pennant stone. When I laid my poppy there were drifts of cow parsley and a border planted with wallflowers, marigolds, and a silvery leaved curry plant. Mature holly trees, a cherry and other native trees provided nesting for sweet singing birds.

The other grave in this churchyard proved more difficult to find. I was helped to locate the grave by a really helpful church warden. On the top tier and far corner of the cemetery I found the grave of Eynon George Rice Bowen. A Captain in the Remounts he died on 26th March 1916  aged 52. Interestingly he does not appear on the Commonwealth Graves Commission site. Details of his death are fairly sketchy but I have recently stumbled upon an archive which will be useful in researching his life. Not only did he serve in the Great War but the Boer War too. The Army Remount Service was the body responsible for the purchase and training of horses and mules as remounts for the British Army. A large depot existed in Shirehampton, near Bristol which dealt with animals being shipped from overseas (predominantly USA and Canada)

In the Frenchay Parish magazine of March 1916 it states:- Alterations to Frenchay Roll of Honour. Captain Eynon GR Bowen whose serious illness we all deeply deplore, and for whom our prayers are asked, is of the Remounts not of the ASC (Army Service Corps). In April’s Parish Magazine Captain Eynon GR Bowen’s burial is reported. Just 5 months later his son Lieut. Eynon George Arthur Bowen is killed, shot down by German ace Oswald Boelcke (the flier who trained the Red Baron).

Father and son are both commemorated on the Whiteshill Memorial. Meanwhile Eynon Bowen senior is laid to rest at All Saints, Winterbourne Down and Eynon Bowen junior is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, France. The grave in Winterbourne mentions Eynon Bowen junior and it is also the resting place of Georgina Catherine Bowen, the wife of Eynon George Rice who died on 15th December 1945 aged 82. Mrs Bowen was a very active member of the community serving on a number of wartime committees. Their daughter Dorothea was a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment and provided nursing care at Cleve Hill Hospital.

Eynon GR Bowen’s grave sits in a beautiful spot with far reaching views to Bristol, and over less distant fields to the family home “Harcombes”, Hambrook. When I came to lay my poppy there was wild lilac, bluebells, buttercups and a leafy canopy. Only the sound of birdsong broke the silence of this beautiful pastoral setting.

One grave needed to be visited in St Peter’s Churchyard, Frampton Cotterell. Gunner John Stuart Rymer (120959) served with the Royal Garrison Artillery and actually died a long time after WW1 had ended  (3rd October 1921). His inclusion on the memorial is a little bit of an anomaly. The War Graves Commission only commemorate those who have died during the designated war years whilst in Commonwealth military service or of causes attributable to service. Death in service included not only those killed in combat but other causes such as those who died in training accidents, air raids and due to disease such as the 1918 flu pandemic. In the case of WW1 the period of consideration was 4th August 1914 to 31st August 1921. Gunner Rymer’s death fell outside this criteria. He does not feature on the Commonwealth Graves Commission site.

In the Parish magazine of October 1921 it states that John Rymer died for his country as a result of wounds received during the Great War.

A pupil of Bristol Grammar School between 1907-1912 there is a little film on the Schools site about a visit to John Rymer’s grave. He is to be found in the churchyard in a grouping of three almost identical crosses. One is a grave for John, another for his brother Arthur (who died aged 30 in 1930) and the third cross is for their mother Emily who died in 1906. According to records their father John who died in 1928 is also buried in the plot. One mystery is as to where John’s second wife is buried (he married Emily’s sister Kate)

The local circuit was completed with a visit to St John The Baptist Church in Frenchay. I know this church well, it was where I was christened, confirmed  and married. Added to which there were numerous nativities, harvest festivals, plays at the church that both myself and …..much later our children took part in. I was here to visit three graves in the churchyard.

Private Frank George Amos (204205) served with the 7th Worcesters Reserve Battalion (transferred to 526th Area Employment Company, Labour Corps). He died on December 17th 1918 aged 29yrs. He was the son of Albert (d. 1915) and Emily (d.1919) who ran The Crown public house in Hambrook. It is unclear why Frank and his brother Frederick are commemorated on the Winterbourne Down panel of the Whiteshill memorial and yet the Amos family burials are at Frenchay. The Amos brothers are also named on the war memorial at All Saints Church Winterbourne Down. Franks brother Frederick was killed in action in 1917 aged 21 and we visited his grave at Faubourg D’amiens Cemetery, Arras last year.

Franks resting place is to be found in a shady spot in the churchyard with drifts of cow parsley, brambles, baby blue eyes and a canopy of mature trees. Frank lies in the plot with his mother and father. Meanwhile his brother Frederick is also commemorated on the grave.

A Portland stone Commonwealth grave was found in a different part of the graveyard. This grave belongs to Driver Arthur George Criddle (18245) who served with the Royal Field Artillery (A Bty 109th Brigade). Arthur died at home on 28th August 1917 (though there are some discrepancies with the date of death) aged 23 years. In November 1915 the Frenchay parish magazine reports that Arthur is in hospital, and in September 1916 he has been discharged and given an Army pension. He died after a very long illness  and many people attended his funeral on 2nd September 1917. One of a large family, another of the Criddle brothers (William Ewart) died in February 1917 in Mesopotamia (now Iraq)

Finally there was the grave of a Royal Flying Corps officer to find. With views over Frenchay Common Captain Harry Wadlow’s grave enjoys a lovely spot. Harry was accidentally killed on May 1st 1917 whilst flying near Dartford, Kent. A past pupil of Bristol Grammar School he was a brilliant sportsman. He joined the Army Service Corps after leaving school in 1914 and in September 1916 the Frenchay parish magazine reported that Harry had transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. He began a course of flying instruction in a de Havilland DH2. These aircraft were constructed of wood, fabric and wire, it had a maximum speed of 86mph and was fitted with a machine gun.

Harry was an only child, his mother Laura had died when he was six. His father, Henry Wadlow was headmaster at Frenchay School. The school was closed on the day of Harry’s funeral (May 7th) so that the children could attend and he was buried with full military honours. Harry was laid to rest in the same plot as his mother.

So, this completes the poppy laying for The Remember Me Project in England. 44 graves/memorials of the 53 inscribed names have now been visited. Wales is my next port of call to visit the grave of a miner who left the valleys for the front.

One Of Brothers,Rocking Dog

One Of Brothers

Commonwealth Grave,Rocking Dog

Commonwealth Grave

An Amos Brother,Rocking Dog

An Amos Brother

Poppy For Harry,Rocking Dog

Poppy For Harry

Common Views,Rocking Dog

Common Views

Worlock Grave,Rocking Dog

Worlock Grave

1921 Casualty,Rocking Dog

1921 Casualty

Mother & Sons,Rocking Dog

Mother & Sons

Home View,Rocking Dog

Home View

The Remember Me Project, France & Belgium 2018 Continued.

The One We Missed,Rocking Dog

The One We Missed

Day one of The Remember Me Project in France saw us visit eleven cemeteries over a couple of hundred miles. We also popped into a twelfth cemetery on behalf of my lovely neighbour Molly. Her uncle had been killed very close to the end of the war and is buried at Anneux British Cemetery. We popped into the roadside cemetery to pay our respects and lay a poppy for Sgt Arthur Walter Rich who died on 28th September 1918 aged 20years.

Driving towards our accommodation for the night there was the awful realisation that I had missed out one of the cemeteries, oops! Though over an hours drive away and adding to the already long journey to Switzerland Andy offered to retrace our footsteps in the morning. We spent the night in a place called Cagnoncles and then ventured out early the following morning to head to the missed out cemetery, Villers Bretonneux Military Cemetery. We arrived there so early I had to climb over a low gate to lay my poppy for Pte Thomas Richardson. He was serving with 2nd/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment when he was killed in action on 31st March 1918. The cemetery is impressive as it also “houses” the Australian National Memorial. The cemetery and memorial is set on a hill with far reaching views over the French countryside. The cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and incorporates some impressive entrance buildings. The cemetery and memorial were created after the Armistice when graves were brought in from small burial grounds and from the battlefields. The cemetery itself is planted with symmetrically aligned trees and a beech hedge, it felt very peaceful and the views astounding. Over 2,000 servicemen are laid to rest here including two New Zealand pilots from WW2. A new museum, The Sir John Monash Centre is due to open here very shortly.

Unfortunately we didn’t have time to visit the impressive Australian Memorial. It commemorates nearly 11,000 Australian servicemen with no known grave, their names being inscribed on walls surrounding the tower. The tower can be climbed, although in windy weather entry to the tower is restricted. On 25th April each year an Anzac Day dawn service takes place by the memorial.

We then re-tracked back to our pre-planned course and headed back towards St Quentin to visit Grand-Seraucourt British Cemetery. We were here to visit the grave of Pte Henry George Harmer who served with 6th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. He died aged 19yrs on 21st March 1918. Originally he had been buried elsewhere but was laid to rest (identified by his identification disc) at Grand Seraucourt British Cemetery. The cemetery was set up from a country lane in view of fields and a large hay barn. Henry’s grave was planted with succulents and herbaceous plants, lots of colour to look forward to. At the entrance to the cemetery there was an impressive bank of deep pink heather.

We then journeyed for nearly 2 hours to La Ferte-sous-Jouarre 66km from Paris. We were here to visit the memorial in the town which commemorates 3,740 Officers and men who served with the British Expeditionary Force. These were men who died (many dying at the Battle of Mons) between August and October 1914 with no known grave. Sgt Charles Blair Godwin had a very short war. He left England with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers as part of 4th Division on August 22nd 1914 and was dead by 26th August 1914. The report of his death states Sgt Godwin’s Coy (B Coy) was heavily engaged in the Battle of Le Cateau on August 26th covering the retirement of other troops. Orders to retire themselves never reached them, and by the evening they were closely surrounded by enemy. An attempt to break through with the bayonet was made, and Godwin fell fighting in this charge. Charles Godwin lived in Frenchay with his family in a large house called Woodfield. According to the 1901 census the family employed four live in servants. Now partitioned into two homes, one of them is Lake House. Our daughter and now son in law were lucky enough to be offered the garden for their wedding reception by friends who live there now. In the 1901 census Charles is 16 and an army Student. He attended Marlborough College from 1898-1900 and the college holds much information and photographs on the ex-pupils who served and died for their country.

The La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial is impressive and under extensive restoration.It was designed by George Hartley Goldsmith who was initially assistant draughtsman to Sir Edwin Lutyens before going on to be an architect in his own right. He designed 67 cemeteries including the co-design of Villers Brettoneux Military Cemetery & Memorial. Thankfully, I was able to find Sgt Godwin’s name and took photographs through the barrier. A poppy cross was left by the War Stone in his honour.

The cemetery dash was over this side of the trip. Switzerland and beyond!

Our journey home saw us visit the very last of our Whiteshill Memorial WW1 names, (at least the ones in France and Belgium). Before departing for the Euro Tunnel we headed to Ypres. We needed to find Edward Lewis’s name in amongst the 55,000 inscriptions on the Menin Gate. William (Edward) was born on 20th December 1895 in Winterbourne. In the 1911 census Edward is 15yrs and an assistant gardener. He is living with his mother Annie and stepfather Edwin together with six siblings/step siblings. A mere 4 years later Edward has been killed whilst serving with the North Somerset Yeomanry. We found his name high up on a panel on the memorial. He was watching down on the cobbled road which cars now rattle through. It is likely that Edward would have marched the same road out onto the battlefields. It is an incredibly moving monument and one evidently well visited. Poppy wreath’s covered steps and staircases. Wreaths from schools, universities, regiments, countries, industries and individuals each regaling how these servicemen will never be forgotten.

Between October 1914 and September 1918 hundreds of thousands of troops marched through the Menin Gate and the town of Ypres to the battlefields of Flanders. The Menin Gate Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Flanders. It was designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield and based on a concept of Triumphal Arch and central hall. It was built between 1923-27 and includes the inscription written by Rudyard Kipling “To the Armies of the British Empire who stood here from 1914-1918 and to those of their dead who have no known grave”

After placing a poppy for Edward at the bottom of the panel (Bay 5 Stone L) where he is commemorated I had a little stroll in Ypres. It is difficult to comprehend that most of the town is less than 100 years old. It was completely destroyed in WW1 and much thought was given to leave the town as it was to signify the destruction of war and act as a poignant memorial. However in the event it was decided to completely rebuild the town exactly as it was. Therefore the Cathedral, Cloth Hall and other important buildings were built to look identical to their shelled predecessors. Cobbled roads and railway tracks were relaid. A place of pilgrimage from the earliest post war days, Ypres is buzzy and offers cafe’s, places to stay, shops and historic tours. I definitely would love to return to Ypres and I want to be there to hear the Last Post which is bugled every evening at 8pm at the Menin Gate. The Last Post has been sounded there since 1928 and only in WW2 was this nightly ceremony interrupted. For the duration The Last Post was played at Brookwood Military Cemetery, Surrey. Ypres was occupied by the Germans from 20th May 1940 until 6th September 1944 and the evening the Allies took back the city was the night that The Last Post sounded again despite heavy fighting outside the city boundaries.

So, with Pte Edward Lewis’s poppy finally laid, my pilgrimage to France and Belgium was complete. 38 poppies laid in/at 32 cemeteries/memorials over approximately 5 days. It has been an amazing privilege to pay homage to these local heroes, many of them teenagers. I have been in awe of the beauty and individuality of the cemeteries and memorials I visited. They each had a very special unique feel and most enjoyed the beauty of life going on outside the boundaries of cemetery walls and hedges. I particularly loved the cemeteries with working farms, allotments and busy little towns going on around them. Without exception the cemeteries were beautifully kept with thoughtful seasonal planting, trees and with a nod to nature. I will always remember the New Zealanders’ lament at Hooge and the noisy cockerel at Ribecourt.

Special thanks must go to Andy for driving hundreds of miles to facilitate this project. Sometimes the atmosphere was fraught with wrong turns, mud, traffic, an inaccurate sat’-nav’ and even more inaccurate and perfectly hopeless navigator! I really appreciate you helping me with this journey, and I know for a fact you’d rather be following your team around Europe rather than following WW1 ghosts. Thank you from the bottom of my rusty old heart! Thanks too to Real Live Rocking Dog for being Sooo patient. PS. I just daren’t bring up the subject of all those WW2 names on the memorial.

So. The big question now is what to do with all this information, research, photographs etc.. I am keen to do something really meaningful for the community with it. We will indeed Remember Them.

……………………………..

As the weekend stretches out in front of us I am thinking of servicemen and women who are currently serving for our country in somewhat uncertain times.

Thanks for getting to the end of this rather long post.

Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Australian Memorial,Rocking Dog

Australian Memorial

Striking Entrance,Rocking Dog

Striking Entrance

Poppy For Henry,Rocking Dog

Poppy For Henry

La Ferte sous Jouarre,Rocking Dog

La Ferte sous Jouarre

Charles Blair Godwin,Rocking Dog

Charles Blair Godwin

Poppy For Sgt Godwin,Rocking Dog

Poppy For Sgt Godwin

Menin Gate, Ypres,Rocking Dog

Menin Gate, Ypres

54,000 Names,Rocking Dog

54,000 Names

Not Forgotten,Rocking Dog

Not Forgotten

8pm Invite,Rocking Dog

8pm Invite

Life Continues, Ypres,Rocking Dog

Life Continues, Ypres

Sign, Ypres. Rocking Dog

Sign, Ypres.

The Remember Me Project, France & Belgium Spring 2018

SO Many Names. Pozieres. Rocking Dog

SO Many Names. Pozieres. Rocking Dog

Sometimes I have to try and remember why I started this project. One or two folk have exclaimed “what do you want to do that for?” Thankfully they have been in the minority. Overwhelmingly people have been supportive and interested in my desire to try and lay poppies on as many graves/memorials of those WW1 names commemorated on my local War Memorial. Frankly there have indeed been times when Andy and I have thought “what are we doing?”. These transient feelings are more often than not to do with the Sat’-nav’ which has inconsiderately taken us off piste! Hundreds of miles have been travelled between the cemeteries in France and Belgium and many frustrated sighs and much map crumpling done. Narrow muddy tracks have been navigated, many turns in the road have been taken and much incoherent schoolgirl French has been spoken. There has been rain, wind, biting cold (and indeed pleasant sunshine) to endure. We have never lost sight of the fact that soldiers stood sleeping in wet lice infested uniforms for nights upon end against wet and muddy trench walls. The noise of shells, machine guns, dying men, braying horses and the silent but palpable fear of their fellow soldiers. Inadequate rations, wet trench foot ravaged feet, rats, shell-shock, noxious gas, the fear of “going over the top” enter our minds. It is moments when I imagine the war torn French and Belgian landscape of 100 years ago that I know why I am committed to my pilgrimage to those fallen local men.

This trip saw us travelling to Calais via The Shuttle. We then drove to Dieppe where we spent the night before visiting our first cemetery. Pte Leonard George Player of the 3rd Base Remount Department, Army Service Corps is buried in the Janval Cemetery, Dieppe. The port of Dieppe was used by Commonwealth Forces as a minor base from Dec 1914 onwards for the passage of small arms ammunition, flour and forage. A hospital was stationed in the town from Jan 1915 until May 1919. The Commonwealth graves form part of the larger communal cemetery. Belgian and French military graves are also sited within the walls of Janval. High weathered brick walls, freshly dug earth, spring bulbs and sunshine greeted us. The noisy cry of seagulls reminded us that we were close to the port. Aged 23, Pte Player died on 19th January 1916. His father paid for the inscription “He Is Not Dead, But Sleeping”. As I left the cemetery I became aware of a large slate plaque on a brick building at the entrance. It commemorates the talented painter Gwen John. Up until fairly recently it was slightly hazy as to where she was buried. Ffion Hague has been instrumental in researching and commemorating John’s life and death.

Our next cemetery stop was an hours drive away, close to the beautiful city of Rouen. Through a rather macabre set of black French tombs we reached the Commonwealth graves. I was here to visit the grave of Pte Francis Henry Goodman, 21st Australian Infantry at Bois Guillaume Communal Cemetery. Francis was born in Winterbourne and it seems he went to Australia at the age of 25yrs with his older brother Frederick. In the 1901 Census 17 year old Francis is listed as a stone mason whilst 20 year old Frederick’s occupation is carpenter. Francis died of wounds in France on 20th October 1918 aged 35yrs. Most of the CW casualties buried in the cemetery came from No 8 General hospital quartered in a large country house in Bois Guillaume. Frederick paid for the inscription on his brothers grave “A Painful Shock A Blow Severe To Part With One We Loved So Dear”.

We then travelled for nearly two hours to the Somme. Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery saw us lay a poppy for Pte Herbert George Goodfield who served with the Somerset Light Infantry (7th Battalion). He died from wounds on 31st August 1916. It is very possible that Herbert was bought in from the battlefield to Bronfay Farm where there was a large dressing station. It was a very peaceful cemetery which had views of fields, clumps of woodland and farm buildings. The grass was studded with daisies and spring flowers were beginning to burgeon.

A few minutes drive later we were at Bouzincourt Communal Cemetery Extension to lay a poppy for Bombadier William John Mauler. A soldier with D Battery, 59th Brigade Royal Field Artillery, William died aged 20 on 10th November 1916. In the Parish magazine it said the following ” On Friday November 17th the sad news reached Frenchay that Bombadier William Mauler of the RFA had been killed in France on the 10th of that month. A gas shell fell on the edge of his dug-out about 4am and filled it with gas before he could get his gas-helmet on etc…” The inscription on his grave reads ” He Died For Freedom And Honour”

After another momentary drive we found ourselves at Forceville. In a lovely cemetery accessed by a grassy path we came to pay our respects to 2nd Lieut Jack Kilby. His grave was to one side of the Cross of Sacrifice and was planted with lavender, pinks and thyme. Kilby was one of the original members of 12th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment (Bristol’s Own) volunteering in September 1914. He went onto gain his commission in the 3rd Worcesters in June 1915. When he was fatally wounded by a German shell he was with 10th Bn Gloucester Regt attached to 7th Trench Mortar Battery. Aged 27yrs he left a widow Minnie (nee Luton) and he requested that no one should wear black mourning clothes should he die. By all accounts he was a brilliant sportsman and was captain of the village cricket team. His inscription reads “For England And The Honour Of Bristol’s Name”

After 15 minutes in the car we arrived at the imposing Thiepval Memorial.The memorial commemorates more than 72,000 men of British and South African Forces who died in the same sector before 20th March 1918 and who have no known grave. The majority of those commemorated died during the Somme Offensive of 1916. It is the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the missing in the world. High up on one of the panels I found Sgt Bert Knapp’s name. He died aged 22 on the 1st July 1916 whilst serving with 7th Bn Bedfordshire Regt. On two sides the memorial is bordered by mature Beech trees. Beneath their canopy drifts of snowdrops and daffodils were coming into bloom. Perched on a hill the memorial commanded views over beautiful French countryside.

Another short drive brought us to Pozieres. A cemetery and memorial, it is completely enclosed on three sides and somehow seemed to contain the sky. The fourth wall is pillared and looks out onto the road and fields beyond. The memorial stands in a cemetery of largely Australian graves. However, no Australian names appear on the memorial. The Australian officers and soldiers with no known grave are commemorated at Villers Bretonneux. I was here to see three of the 14,000 + names on the memorial. Gunner Herbert Clifford (Royal Horse & RFA), Cpl Alfred Flux (RFA) and Rifleman Benjamin Smith (7th Bn Rifle Brigade) all died on 21st March 1918. Three poppy crosses were carefully placed.

Further down the road we visited Warlencourt Cemetery. The cemetery was made late in 1919 when graves were brought in from small cemeteries and the battlefields of Warlencourt and le Sars. Pte Tom Biggs and Pte George Ernest Lloyd both of 6th Bn Gloucester Regt were killed on 5th November 1916. One grave separates their resting places. The cemetery is within view of the town of Warlencourt and has open views of fields and farms. The cemetery is planted with ornamental cherry trees.

There were still more cemeteries to go! We travelled for 15 minutes along the road to Queens Cemetery Bucquoy. Able Seaman Percy C Thompsons grave appears to have recently been replaced. It is white, its inscription and badge crisp. Percy had been serving with the Royal Naval Division Lewis gun section (Anson Battalion). He was killed in fighting on the Ancre, France on February 17th 1917. The cemetery had views of the town of Bucquoy, together with fields, wind farm, water tower and woodland.

As light was fading we dashed from Queens the 38 minute drive to Ribecourt British Cemetery. Able Seaman Thomas Adams of the Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve was killed in action on 7th March 1918 and was subsequently buried in the little cemetery at Ribecourt. Unfortunately, the cemetery was later shelled and a special memorial “grave” states- T. Adams RNVR, Hood Battn, RND. 17th March 1918. Known to be buried in this cemetery. “Their Glory Shall Not Be Blotted Out”. The cemetery is set up high on a country road just outside the little town. Across the road was a little orchard, farm buildings and a very noisy cockerel!

Our final port of call was a visit to Pte Herbert John Greens grave in Unicorn Cemetery Vendhuile. He was serving with 8th Bn Royal Berkshire Regiment when he was killed in action on 17th September 1918. Aged 22yrs he left behind a widow Agnes (nee Amos). His inscription read “Death Cannot Divide”. The cemetery is situated down from a motorway. It is planted with espalier trees to provide a screen and there was underplanting of beautiful clumps of tete de tete.

Day one completed…..but wait we’ve missed a cemetery out. That’s a story for another day!

Poignant Poppies,Rocking Dog

Poignant Poppies

Sunny Plot, Dieppe, Rocking Dog

Sunny Plot, Dieppe

Chance Find,Rocking Dog

Chance Find

Side By Side,Rocking Dog

Side By Side

A Grave Between,Rocking Dog

A Grave Between

One Of Brothers,Rocking Dog

One Of Brothers

Thiepval,Rocking Dog

Thiepval

One Of Thousands,Rocking Dog

One Of Thousands

Striking Entrance,Rocking Dog

Striking Entrance

Heavy Sacrifice, Forceville,Rocking Dog

Heavy Sacrifice, Forceville

Fresh Stone,Rocking Dog

Fresh Stone

Replacement Stone,Rocking Dog

Replacement Stone

Gosh! It’s Been A While.

Setting The Scene,Rocking Dog

Setting The Scene

Gosh! It REALLY has been a while since Rocking Dog blogged. We have been fortunate in having the opportunity to spend an extended break in Umbria. The beauty of having super quick wifi is that work things can be dealt with across the miles.

We started our trip with visiting more cemeteries for The Remember Me Project. By the end of our break a total of 38 poppies had been laid in near enough the same amount of cemeteries across France and Belgium. This figure includes the cemeteries visited in October last year. A dedicated post regarding my latest poppy laying trip will pop up on the Rocking Dog site in the next few days.

Eventually we left the Somme and headed close to the Swiss border for an overnight stop. The spectacular trip through Switzerland followed and finally after a bit of white knuckle driving through northern Italy we reached Umbria. The sun doesn’t always shine in Italy. We had rain, we had wind, there was the cold and the odd luxurious sunny day. Most nights we were grateful for the newly installed wood burning stove. With temperatures hitting in excess of 40 degrees in the summer affecting grape and olive harvests the Umbrian folk have now had to endure an uncharacteristically cold winter. Thick snow and temperatures dropping well into the minus’s, they have needed their famous down filled puffa jackets!

In November we had grass seed sown but unfortunately it has shown no desire to germinate and grow. The sowing will be repeated next week and hopefully with the warmth of an Italian spring we will soon have verdant green pasture. Fingers crossed! It is too early to tell whether there will be a good harvest of olives late October, but we are ever hopeful. We love the whole process of producing olive oil from our trees. There were weather weary shrubs to replace and new herbs to dig in, there were 15 barrow loads of pruning to put on the bonfire and jolly geraniums to pot up. Constructive time spent outside.

I was sad to have lost a very lovely friend somewhat unexpectedly and did lots of contemplative walking and lots of contemplative sewing. It’s taken so much of my life to realise that sewing really does soothe my sad soul. Beloved Bernina really is truly therapeutic. Can I ask what soothes your soul?

Flying back to Bristol for my friends Celebration of Life service, Andy was left to host ancestors of the farmhouse we now own a tiny part of. From New York, they were apparently lovely and really enthusiastic about the area and their kinfolks former home. We hope they’ll return and stop for longer next time. I’m sure they are going to be pretty busy as they have sold their home and are converting an old yellow school bus for a unique mobile home.

As ever there was gorgeous food to eat, starry skies to be amazed by and the odd Aperol Spritz to partake in by the lake. It is often the most simple things that give the most pleasure. I love the ancient olive tree just outside one of our bedroom windows. As dawn arrives, the tree fills with chirpy and busy little birds. They enjoy the olives which escaped the rakes of the late autumn harvesting. Such a perfect view and I absolutely know that we are truly lucky.

Back in UK there are sewing projects to finish, ongoing research for The Remember Me Project and a job to apply for. The garden of the damp woodland variety needs to be tackled and the dusty, crumbly house needs to be dealt with. Friends need to be loved and cared for, and the nest got ready for another little grandchild. Volunteering for Young Carer’s will restart and yes, there are really lovely things to come home for … just not the dusting!

Hope you have a good week. Love Rocking Dog x

PS Many thanks to Cliff at the British Legion, Frampton Cotterell for the box of poppy crosses. The box is sadly empty- each cross represented one young local soldier who fell or who died of wounds during the Great War.

Roman Rugby,Rocking Dog

Roman Rugby

Letting In The Sun,Rocking Dog

Letting In The Sun

Contemplative Walking,Rocking Dog

Contemplative Walking

Choppy Lake,Rocking Dog

Choppy Lake

Calm Lake,Rocking Dog

Calm Lake

Social Lake,Rocking Dog

Social Lake

Cake,Rocking Dog

Cake

Pasta....,Rocking Dog

Pasta….

& Projects,Rocking Dog

& Projects

 

Snow, Cake, Siena & Unexpected DNA!

Gilded Siena,Rocking Dog

Gilded Siena

Sorry it’s been so long since Rocking Dog signed on. A week of coughing and the lack of sleep that came with that didn’t really make me feel much like talking either verbally or in the form of written words. At one point I looked across at Real Live Rocking Dog and thought “boy, your breathing’s a bit laboured” however after a while I realised it was indeed me that was the one breathing heavily!

Before Cough (BC) Andyman together with youngest daughter headed out to Umbria for a very cheeky little break. Though cold, the valley was embellished with the dazzling spectacle that is Mimosa. Birds were busily enjoying the olives that had escaped the olive oil bottle and the countryside as ever looked verdantly beautiful. The following morning Liv’ and I planned to head to Rome. We awoke to snow and the hills looked as if they had been magically dusted with icing sugar. It really was quite surreal seeing olive trees with a cloak of snow, especially with robins in residence!

Alas our train to Rome was cancelled so we decided to take the next available bus or train to destination unknown. We ended up on a bus heading to the beautiful city of Siena. The warm bus wiggled through snow covered medieval hilltop towns and past vineyards, ploughed fields and olive groves. In just over an hour we arrived at the bottom of the city. In years gone by these Italian hilltop towns would have needed an arduous and lengthy walk to reach their summits. Recently most cities have become inventive with their transport plans and there are lifts, escalators, funiculars and the like. On this occasion we used a series of steep escalators to reach the architectural delights of Siena. We had a really gorgeous time simply wandering. The Palio where the famous bareback horse races takes place annually (July 2nd and Aug 16th 2018) was joyfully devoid of the throb of summer tourists. If you are in Siena at any point the Complex of Santa Maria della Scala is worth a visit. It houses several museums and is the site of one of Europe’s first hospitals. The frescoes were wonderful and I loved the thought that patients had such amazing art to gaze at from their beds.  I particularly loved the starry ceiling in the First Aid Room.

Cake, delicious wine, pasta, wood fired pizza and friendly folk made this whistle-stop trip to Umbria and Tuscany very pleasurable.

After Cough (AC)- it’s been difficult trying to shake off this irritable ailment. Real Live Rocking Dog has not been loving the snow so like me has been enjoying curling up beside the wood-burner. Trying to do something slightly constructive I baked a cake using new season Rhubarb from the garden, delicious! There have been bathroom planning decisions to be made, and cupboards to de-hoard. I have been contemplating cutting the fabric for my new summer coat… maybe this week. Pattern matching, I can’t decide whether it’s a pleasurable challenge or acutely sadistically stressful!

There have also been soldiers to research ready for our return to the Commonwealth War Cemeteries in France later this month. This week there will be poppy crosses to collect and route planning to organise. Eighteen soldiers graves/memorials will be visited in fifteen different cemeteries over the course of two days. Our travels will take us to Dieppe and Rouen before heading up to a cluster of cemeteries on the Somme. There is a solitary cemetery to visit just East of Paris where we will pay our respects to a soldier whose family lived in a house where really good friends of ours now live. On our route home we will head to the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres where we will lay our last poppy cross in France. Together with the cemeteries we are hoping to visit some manmade caves under a church at Bouzincourt. During a Time Team episode in 2010 some WW1 graffiti was discovered. One name belongs to a soldier, Alfred Flux who lived in our village. Alfred wrote his name and details onto into the stone in 1916. Serving with the Royal Field Artillery he was to later die in March 1918. Having no known grave he is commemorated at Pozieres. On our return home there will be the lengthy job of collating all the information and archiving photographs.

Now for the DNA news. As you may already know my girls thoughtfully bought me an Ancestry DNA kit for Christmas. In January I sent off my phial of spit and waited patiently. I received an e.mail whilst in the supermarket on Wednesday telling me my results were in. Mother in Law promptly posted home with her bags of cakes, drive home done, bags dropped on the kitchen table, computer turned on…let the show begin!  The results were given in the form of a wheel of cheese and imagine my surprise that the largest percentage of my DNA is Scandinavian! Not a whiff of the French Huegenots that I expected. Roughly a quarter of the cheese wheel was Northern English and another quarter paid homage to my Celtic roots (Irish/Welsh Scottish). I always suspected I had red and white gingham running through my veins! The only slightly sad bit of this is that because my Mum and Dad are both dead I can’t ascertain easily who was the Viking in the family. Was it my Dad who was Scottish or my Mums long line Yorkshire family? Anyway I am loving being Scandi’ and there’s even an 8% wedge of Iberian Peninsula in there for good measure!

Anyway I must away now I have got to put the Elk Casserole on and get fitted for my Scandinavian traditional costume!

Have a great week and I hope the big thaw is well underway wherever you are. Stay cosy!

Liz aka Rocking Dog x

Before The Snow,Rocking Dog

Before The Snow

First Aid Room,Rocking Dog

First Aid Room

Coffee & Cake,Rocking Dog

Coffee & Cake

Snow & Metal,Rocking Dog

Snow & Metal

Snow Patrol,Rocking Dog

Snow Patrol

Monochrome Morning,Rocking Dog

Monochrome Morning

Stockholm,Rocking Dog

Stockholm

Penchant For Gingham!, Rocking Dog

Penchant For Gingham!

Scandi' Inspired Creativity,Rocking Dog

Scandi’ Inspired Creativity

Bake A Cake,Rocking Dog

Bake A Cake

Sew A New Coat,Rocking Dog

Sew A New Coat

Next Trip,Rocking Dog

Next Trip

Who Do I Think I Am?

Who Am I?,Rocking Dog

Who Am I?

In my next life apart from coming back as a Scandinavian I will study History, Archeology or Geneology! I have always loved history and my poor family have become accustomed to withstand the latest information excitedly gleaned from Ancestry. Poor damp children have been tramped through muddy graveyards in Yorkshire and sent on their way to visit distant relatives in New Mexico! Meanwhile long suffering Andyman and I  have taken a trip to New Zealand knocking on the doors of Scottish ancestors. In for a penny in for a pound we looked up folk whose ancestors lived and baked in the Rocking Dog Kennel in the 1800’s and now reside in Rotorua.

Who Do You Think You Are? is my sort of TV viewing. I really can understand those tearful Jeremy Paxman moments. During my own family research I found a relative who had died in a bakery accident. His wife and children were shipped off to America, i’m certain to relieve the state of maintaining the families welfare. There was the relative who was in a Scottish workhouse, and the poor woman with four daughters who was cast aside by her husband to marry another who produced sons. There are large families, many child deaths, an illegitimate child born to a servant girl. There is TB, war service, widowhood, drudgery, a judge, global travel, philanthropy, entrepreneurism, farming the land and Chalmers gelatine!

With all this ancestry nerdism my girls chose well with their Christmas gift, an Ancestry DNA kit. Today I will spit in a tube, add the stabilising solution and post my DNA in the prepaid box. As the meerkats say…Simple! In approximately six weeks I will be e.mailed with the results. The test gives insights into ethnicity, where ancestors were from and what migratory journeys they went on. Ancestry has a huge database and can connect with 90,000000 family trees. It can help find long lost relatives or even prove that you are related to an important historical figure. I’m certainly not expecting to be linked to Richard III, William Shakespeare or the like! My mothers family worked the land in Yorkshire and I have gone back (with the help of other Ancestry subscribers) to around 1550. Regarding my Scottish fathers ancestry there were always mootings of a French connection. Very possibly they came to UK as persecuted Huguenots. We will see!

Still on an ancestry theme I have been continuing to do some research for the Remember Me Project. I have set myself the task of researching in depth the lives of the 53 World War names on the Whiteshill Common Memorial. Though not my ancestors, the census’s and other documentation does give one a real sense of these local lives.

Have a lovely week and stay cosy!

Love Rocking Dog x

Box Full Of Surprises,Rocking Dog

Box Full Of Surprises

DIY DNA,Rocking Dog

DIY DNA

My Ancestry,Rocking Dog

My Ancestry

Sepia Ancestors,Rocking Dog

Sepia Ancestors

Someone Else's Ancestors,Rocking Dog

Someone Else’s Ancestors

French Blood?,Rocking Dog

French Blood?

Remember Me Project- Day 2 WW1 War Graves, France

Cabaret Rouge Cemetery,Rocking Dog

Cabaret Rouge Cemetery

The Remember Me Project, researching names on the war memorial at Whiteshill Common, Hambrook took me to France. The second day of cemetery visits dawned sunny, with blue skies and rich autumnal colours. Our first cemetery of the day was a visit to Le Touret. The cemetery commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers killed in this sector of the Western front from October 1914 until the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. I was able to place a poppy cross close to stone 17B for Pte Francis (Frank) Candy who died on 6th April 1915 whilst serving with the Gloucestershire Regiment. The cemetery was impressive in the early morning sunshine, and beyond the boundary walls there were field upon field of cabbages, cows and people working the land.

We then headed to The Guards Cemetery at Windy Corner, Cuinchy. The name Windy Corner was coined by WW1 troops to describe the cross roads at Cuinchy. Close to the landmark a house existed which served as a dressing station and battalion HQ. In time the cemetery sprang up beside this house. Of all the graves I visited I found Guardsman 19 year old Frank Henry Harcombes disconcertingly moving. He had been buried closely together with two fellow Grenadier Guardsmen who had died on the same day (17th March 1915). Seeing the three graves with no gaps between was poignant. There was sweet birdsong within the cemetery and the thoughtful planting for all year round colour (lupins, sedum, aubretia, rock roses, iris’s, roses, lambs ears and soldiers & sailors). Beyond the cemetery there was the hum of a tractor ploughing.

Much larger was the cemetery we visited next. Cabernet Rouge cemetery contains the graves of 7,650 British Empire servicemen. It’s name came about as a result of a small cafe which was eventually destroyed by heavy shelling in May 1915. The cafe was distinctive in that it was built of brick and had a red tiled roof. Other buildings in the village were mainly thatched. It is a seriously impressive cemetery and is almost spear shaped. Its designer Brigadier Sir Frank Higginson ( a former Canadian Army officer) was secretary to the Imperial War Graves Commission for 37 years and was granted his wish to have his ashes (1958) scattered in the cemetery together with those of his wife Violet (1962). In May 2000 the remains of an unknown Canadian soldier were taken from Cabaret Rouge and laid to rest at the foot of the National War Memorial in the Canadian city of Ottawa. I was at Cabaret Rouge to visit the grave of Sgt Charles Herbert Langley of 110th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. He was killed in action on 4th May 1918 aged 22yrs. He received the Military Medal in 1917. The cemetery is set in beautiful countryside and hay was being baled. There were chestnut and spruce trees outside the boundary walls and small conical Yews within.

We next found ourselves at La Targette British cemetery to visit the grave of 2nd Lieutenant Walter William Gibbs of 1st Survey Coy. Royal Engineers. He died on 22nd April 1918 aged 30 years. His life prior to the war sounds to have been an interesting one. He was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and for two years he was a member of the Bolivian Boundary Commission. He went on to Mozambique and was engaged on survey work for three years. In 1917 he obtained permission from Portuguese East Africa to return to England to enlist. He married shortly prior to leaving for France. The cemetery is a small intimate one with 638 WW1 graves and 3 WW2 graves. We witnessed wonderful autumnal tree colour in woods beyond the cemetery.The little British cemetery was rather dwarfed by the neighbouring French National Cemetery. Here 11,443 WW1 graves are sited together with over 500 WW2 graves.

Arras was our next stop to visit Faubourg D’Amiens cemetery designed by Edwin Lutyens. Here we would pay homage to three brave men. Lieutenant Eyon GA Bowen was killed on 8th September 1916 aged 23years. He served with 22nd Squadron Royal Flying Corps and his name is inscribed on the Arras Flying Services Memorial. Incidentally his name appears on memorials at Whiteshill Common, Winterbourne All Saints Churchyard, on the Braidlea Shield (housed in St Mary Magdalene Church, Stoke Bishop), Sherborne School and Nevern War Memorial. His father, Eyon George Rice Bowen also died in the course of WW1 (26th March 1916 aged 52 years) and is buried in the churchyard at All Saints, Winterbourne. Bowen seniors name is to be found on the Whiteshill and Winterbourne church memorial together with his sons.

Close to the Flying Services Memorial I found Rifleman Albert Hughes’s name on the Arras Memorial. He served with the London Rifle Brigade and died aged 28yrs on 28th March 1918. His name could be find high on Stone 11 Bay Number 9. The white pillared bay felt very serene and peaceful.The Memorial commemorates 35,000 British, South African and New Zealand servicemen who have no known grave. Most were killed during the Battle of Arras (9th April-16th May 1917)

Lastly it was time to find the grave of Private Frederick Graham Amos who was killed in action whilst serving with 5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment on 6th May 1917. His grave carried the inscription “Not gone from memory or love but gone to our father’s home above” Each letter for a personal inscription would have to have been paid for by a relative. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website carries records for inscriptions, burial details and a wealth of other information. This cemetery was really beautiful, unlike most other cemeteries its boundary walls were high, built of mellowed brick. Beyond the walls were large houses, and within, poplars and silver birch’s creating soft “borders” in front of the walls. It felt very tranquil and there was beautiful planting. The brick contrasted with the magnificence of the white marble Arras Memorial.

Our morning was drawing to a close, but not before a visit to Beurains Cemetery to visit the grave of Private Frederick Walker who prior to the war had worked as a labourer on a farm. He served with 6th Battalion, Somerset Regiment Light Infantry and died on 9th April 1917 aged 26yrs. This intimate little cemetery contains the graves of 317 British, 14 Canadian and 4 German servicemen. It was tucked in tightly by various farm buildings. It was another cemetery designed by Lutyens.

Our final port of call before heading for Switzerland was to visit the cemetery at Landrecies. Landrecies was the scene of a rearguard action in the retreat from Mons in August 1914. It was recaptured from the Germans in November 1918. This little cemetery contains the graves of 165 British soldiers who died in the last three months of 1918. When I came to the grave of William Luton I found it very poignant that he had been killed in action a mere 7 days before the Armistice. William had died on 4th November 1918 whilst serving with 1st/5th Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment, aged 22 years. The inscription on his grave read “He plucked the fairest flower and planted it in heaven”. The cemetery itself has a strong connection with the English town of Malvern due to the large number of soldiers from the area buried there. I loved this little cemetery, it was bordered on three sides by working allotments and there were dahlias, cabbages, zucchini and other crops to harvest. Within the low walled cemetery it was planted with four young cherry trees.

So, fifteen cemeteries visited, and twenty poppy crosses carefully placed during some really wonderful autumnal October sunshine. March 2018 will see Andyman and I attempt to visit the remaining fourteen cemeteries in France, paying homage to another seventeen servicemen whose names reside on the Whiteshill Common Memorial.

Au Revoir.

Sunrise Le Touret,Rocking Dog

Sunrise Le Touret

Pte Candy,Rocking Dog

Pte Candy

La Targette,Rocking Dog

La Targette

Another Cross,Rocking Dog

Another Cross

Flying Services Mem',Rocking Dog

Flying Services Mem’

Faubourg D'amiens,Rocking Dog

Faubourg D’amiens

Tucked Tightly,Rocking Dog

Tucked Tightly

German Graves,Rocking Dog

German Graves

Laid Together,Rocking Dog

Laid Together

The Remember Me Project – Remembrance Sunday 2017

Le Touret Cemetery,Rocking Dog

Le Touret Cemetery

As many of you will already know I am currently researching the WWI names on the Whiteshill Common Memorial in Hambrook. As the centenary of the end of WW1 approaches I am keen that the inscriptions on the memorial are “brought to life”. These names were sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles, friends and fellow workers. Many of the fallen played cricket and football on the common, they attended school across the common, collected conkers, courted, ate picnics and participated in village life.

Following some initial research I decided somewhat rashly that I wanted to visit as many graves and memorials before the 2018 centenary. This is a post about my visit to France and Belgium. On this trip I visited the resting place/commemorative panel of 20 of those 53 sevicemen’s names on the Whiteshill Memorial.

Very naively I presumed that there were two or three huge cemeteries to bury/commemorate the war dead. How very wrong I was. There are indeed hundreds of cemeteries scattered across France, Belgium and further afield. In the course of this Remember Me Project I will eventually visit thirty one French and Belgian cemeteries. On this first visit in the course of a morning and afternoon I visited fifteen cemeteries and placed crosses on/by twenty graves/memorial plaques.

I used the Commonwealth Grave Commission website to plot and plan my visit to each cemetery. With their maps and grave/memorial references I wrote up a little plan of directions to reach each grave/memorial. Andyman and I then spent an evening plotting the sequencing of the cemeteries we planned to visit, pre-loading postcodes into the sat-nav. Poppies packed, we headed for le Shuttle. The Belgian cemeteries were those we visited first and it took very little time to reach Artillery Wood Cemetery following disembarkation at Calais. This cemetery was undergoing major restoration work to its boundary walls, but the graves remained undisturbed and with beautiful planting. Beyond the walls crops were growing, wind turbines were turning and life was simply going on. Percy Buckley of the Manchester Regiment was buried here (Feb 27th 1918 aged 20) My first cross was laid.

A visit to New Irish Farm Cemetery followed (Pte Charles Maggs Gloucestershire Regiment 27th August 1917 aged 32). Enlisting in Bristol this serviceman was killed in action at Ypres. The cemetery was named after a nearby farm, known to troops as Irish Farm. Pte Maggs’s front row grave overlooks fields, crops were being pulled and tractors were hard at work. Then it was onto Tynecot. Tynecot is the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in the world. It is the resting place of 11,900 WW1 British Empire servicemen. Many of those buried there fell at Passchendaele. Meanwhile the Tynecot Memorial commemorates nearly 35,000 UK and NZ servicemen who died after August 1917 and whose graves are not known. Firstly I placed a cross on the grave of Pte Sidney T Marks, Royal Berkshire Regiment 1st August 1917 aged 27. Then there were three names to find on the memorial panels Pte George H. Andrews, Gloucestershire Regiment, 23rd August 1917, Pte George Biggs,Gloucestershire Regiment, 9th October 1917 and Lt.Colonel James Hugh Coles D.S.O, 1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment, 24th April 1917 aged 33yrs. Tynecot was preparing for the New Zealand National Commemoration for the Battle of Passchendaele in its centennial year. 520 New Zealanders are buried at Tynecot whilst many more are commemorated on the memorial.The cemetery looked beautiful with roses in shades of deep red, pink and an amazing orange colour. Soldiers & Sailors, Geranium, spiky grasses, pinks, sedum, auricula’s, Elephant ears also provided botanical interest for all year round colour. On the grassy banks leading into cemetery British Legion poppies had been planted with poignant personal messages and would remain there for 101 days.

The lovely cemetery at Hooge Crater was next on my visit list. Hooge Crater was the site of a chateau and stables and the area saw very fierce fighting throughout WW1. Pte Clifford Percy Lloyd who served with the Machine Gun Corps is buried here and was killed in action on 22nd August 1917 aged 19 yrs. The cemetery looked beautiful with lavender balls and young Silver Birch trees. Beyond the low boundary walls cabbages were being grown and cows were grazing. As we walked back up towards the Cross of Sacrifice a group of New Zealanders were singing a lament. It really bought a lump to my throat.

Bedford House Cemetery was a very naturalistic cemetery to visit, with a bullrush lined stream, little bridges, lily pads and what appeared to be a grassy bunker. Beyond the low boundary walls cows grazed and tractors ploughed the rich earth. The cemetery is the resting place of Pte Arthur Young who was killed in action on 21st September 1917 whilst serving with the Gloucestershire Regiment. Prior to enlisting Arthur was employed as a labourer on a golf course near Bristol.

Another cross was laid at Wytschaete Cemetery for Pte William Harmer who was killed in action on 7th June 1917 aged 25yrs whilst serving with the Worcestershire Regiment. The inscription on his grave read “I shall go to him but he will not return to me mother” This cemetery had a lovely backdrop of evergreen and deciduous woodland and the cemetery felt very much part of the village.

Merville Cemetery saw me lay a cross on the grave of Pte Francis Albert Cox who died on the 8th July 1918. He served with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment and a war diary reported that on 8th July fourteen were killed and sixteen were wounded by an aerial bomb. It is likely that Pte Cox was one of those casualties. The Commonwealth grave cemetery is situated right next to the Merville town cemetery. Compared to the towering and rather macabre black granite graves the serenity and simplicity of the white Commonwealth graves was rather lovely.

The final cemetery visit for Day 1 was to visit the grave of Pte Percy Jones who lies in Rue du Bacquerot-13th London. We initially mistakenly visited another Rue du Bacquerot cemetery (No 1), one without the prefix 13th London. However our mistake led us to the sweetest cemetery with farm track in between its two halves. One section contained the graves of Indian soldiers, there was a predominance of sweet scented pink roses and the graves were carved with Indian script. It was charming. Further down the road we found Percy’s resting place. This cemetery was small and intimate with less than 200 Commonwealth graves. Pte Jones died on 16th April 1916 aged 24yrs whilst serving with 10th Battalion South Wales Borderers.

It was time to rest our weary heads after this 1st day whistle-stop tour. Many thanks to Andyman for all the twists and turns in the road and for finding all the cemeteries.

My account of the 2nd day of cemetery visits will appear in a further post this week. If any relatives would like photo’s of graves/cemeteries please do not hesitate to get in touch. I would also like to appeal at this point for any information that could be useful for The Remember Me Project. I really would like to try and build a picture of the lives of these servicemen before and during the time they were called up to fight for their country. Perhaps too, any interested parties could contact me to register their interest in a Rocking Dog Vintage Tea planned for Sunday November 11th 2018. Please email me, lizferg@btinternet.com

Thank you.

We will especially remember them this Remembrance Sunday.

Whiteshill Memorial,Rocking Dog

Whiteshill Memorial

Plotting & Planning,Rocking Dog

Plotting & Planning

Precious Cargo,Rocking Dog

Precious Cargo

20 Crosses,Rocking Dog

20 Crosses

Tynecot Poppies,Rocking Dog

Tynecot Poppies

Name Upon Name,Rocking Dog

Name Upon Name

La Targette Cemetery,Rocking Dog

La Targette Cemetery

Buried Together,Rocking Dog

Buried Together

Life Goes On Over The Wall,Rocking Dog

Life Goes On Over The Wall