Tag Archives: Trenches

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

The Rocking Dog Remember Me Project

Remember Me,Rocking Dog

Remember Me

Real Live Rocking Dog and I have been walking together for a glorious ten years now. Many of our walks have taken us close to the war memorial on Whiteshill Common, Hambrook. I have often stopped and looked at the names on the edifice, many of the surnames have seemed very familiar to me. Having been brought up in a village close by I have more than likely rubbed shoulders in years gone by with the sons, nephews, grandsons and maiden aunts etc.. of those commemorated on the memorial.

For a while now I have been wanting to research those 53 WW1 names on the memorial to link in with next years Armistice centenary. Then my plans became more bold, I decided I wanted to visit the graves/memorials of these fallen soldiers. The challenge has begun.

As we are heading through France and Belgium next month I have started to research the resting places of all those inscribed names. I am ashamed to say I was incredibly naive to think that the majority of these servicemen would be in a couple of cemeteries. Thus far I will need to visit 18 French cemeteries and 2 in Belgium. There are some Commonwealth graves in local churchyards and one that I will visit in the Rhondda, Wales. Others are off limits due to their location or security risk (Iraq (formerly Mesopotamia), Azerbajan, Israel, Gallipoli and Greece). The biggest of the cemeteries I need to visit is the Thiepval Memorial with over 72,000 casualties. Meanwhile other cemeteries to visit have only 100 or so casualties. I am wondering which I am going to be most moved by, the enormity of Thiepval or the intimacy of the smaller cemeteries. Thiepval is the largest Commonwealth Memorial to the missing in the world. Most of those commemorated there died during the Somme Offensive of 1916.

I have been using Ancestry.co.uk, the Commonwealth Graves Commission site and local archives (including Frenchay Museum) to conduct my research. The research has led me to war memorial plaques at Marlborough College and the Australian War Memorial. It has also uncovered stories of the near blind villager who knitted a large quantity of woollen mittens and socks for those in the trenches at Gallipoli. There are stories of a villager housing many Belgian refugees and other locals who were instrumental in organising & sending out Christmas parcels to the soldiers of the villages. These parcels were an amazing morale boost for the men at the front. Others nursed at a temporary hospital tending the wounded, whilst others managed poultry to lay eggs for the patients.

As 2018 beckons I want to start compiling A4 sheets (which will be laminated) of the lives and deaths of these soldiers. With the current householders’ permissions I hope to attach one of these “Remember Me” sheets to a door or gate where the soldier was bought up, schooled, worshipped or worked. I will hopefully be able to track down photo’s and personalise each history. These soldiers will simply not be allowed to be just a name on a war memorial. Thank you to kind friends who are knitting poppies to attach to the histories. Pretty please sometime later I would love to buddy up with anyone who has a super duper laminator!

I am hoping that the culmination of all this will be a vintage tea next November. The icing on the cake would be if ancestors of those commemorated came to pay tribute to their relative, and of course to eat Rocking Dog cake.

I include photo’s of my Great Aunt Susan who was called up to be a nurse with the Expeditionary Force in the first few days of the war. Another photo shows my two great uncles, one of whom (David Cresser) served in Gallipoli with the Anzacs. He also had the honour of raising the Union Flag in German occupied Samoa. Finally another photo shows my Grandfather John Warrington Scott (top right, bit of a lad!) He served with Royal Engineers and was very badly gassed in the trenches. Thankfully all these relatives returned home to Scotland and New Zealand.

Have you got relatives who served in WW1? As the 2018 centenary beckons let us Remember Them.

Have a good week and stay cosy, autumn seems to have arrived! Love Rocking Dog x

 War Memorial Rocking Dog

War Memorial,

Frenchay Church,Rocking Dog

Frenchay Church

Commonwealth Grave,Rocking Dog

Commonwealth Grave

Royal Engineer Grandfather,Rocking Dog

Royal Engineer Grandfather

My Great Uncles WW1,Rocking Dog

My Great Uncles WW1

Gt Aunt Susan WW1, France,Rocking Dog

Gt Aunt Susan WW1, France

Great Little Exhibition-Parcels Of Comfort

Knitting List,Rocking Dog

Knitting List

Last week I went to a great little exhibition, “Parcels of Comfort”. Until January 8th people can visit this poignant space at Bristol Cathedral. Parcels of Comfort examines the story of the importance of parcels sent to the front during WW1. The British Army considered the delivery of letters and parcels to servicemen as vital as delivering rations and ammunition.

Parcels and letters provided an amazing boost to the morale of the troops, especially those suffering the mud, lice, cold and deprivation of life in the trenches.

This exhibition uses small room sets to create the environment where loved ones would knit and sew useful items to send out to the boys. Warm woollen socks, gloves and under-garments would undoubtedly have made the recipient more comfortable. Five local textile artists, together with GCSE textile students from a Bristol school have used hand-stitching and mixed media to cleverly recreate the atmosphere of home during WW1. The knitted items for the exhibition were created from original wartime patterns.

I loved the embroidered tea and soap packet, together with the embroidered addressed linen parcels.

I am fortunate to have my great Aunt Susan’s postcards sent to my Grandmother from France where she was serving as a nurse. Two of her cards mention the fact that the parcel of sweets hadn’t arrived. Then, another postcard thanking the family for the parcel.

Later in time, my father Doug, served in the Royal Navy during WW2. A bundle of letters written by my father to his aunt and uncle have survived. Egypt, Australia, Shanghai, my dad was obviously hopeful there’d be mail waiting for him at his next port. From all this correspondence it was evident just how much he loved hearing news from home. One letter carries a list, messages and signatures of all the guests who attended his sisters wedding in Scotland.

If you live local to Bristol I can really recommend this little exhibition. Perhaps you can tie it in with a delicious visit to the renowned Ice Cream parlour “Swoon” which is close by on Park Street.

Whilst on a war theme, I am heading to Clifton Cathedral on Friday to see the 1916 silent film The Battle of the Somme. It is accompanied by Laura Rossi’s orchestral score, performed by the newly formed Bristol Symphony Orchestra. I need to remember to take a box of “Man-size” with me.

 

Great Aunt Susan is the nurse holding the lantern. Grandfather, John Warrington Scott is the cheeky looking soldier back right.

Embroidered Wall,Rocking Dog

Embroidered Wall

Parcel Of Comfort,Rocking Dog

Parcel Of Comfort

Wool & Embroidery Silk,Rocking Dog

Wool & Embroidery Silk

Aunt Susan Person Of Comfort,Rocking Dog

Aunt Susan Person Of Comfort

WW1 Grandfather,Rocking Dog

WW1 Grandfather

WW2 Navy Dad,Rocking Dog

WW2 Navy Dad