Tag Archives: Ww1

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

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

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

The Olives Are Picked & Rocking Dog Is Back At The Kennel!

Before They Became Oil,Rocking Dog

Before They Became Oil

Yes indeed the olives are now picked and made into divine olive oil.The nets have been put away for another year and the 1,300 mile journey back to the kennel from Umbria has been completed.The linen has been traded in for woolly jumpers and the wood-burner has been stoked. Brrrrrrrr!

It’s good to be back with fresh verve and inspiration and I look forward to seeing friends for walking, chatting and simply being with. Watch out for new Rocking Dog posts including my trip to fifteen French and Belgian cemeteries over 2 days for the Rocking Dog “Remember Me Project” It was the most incredible and poignant experience.

DATES FOR YOUR DIARY– Rocking Dog will be selling Christmas Loveliness together with other wonderful crafty and artisanal foodie folk at the seriously fandabidosi (my Italian is really improving!) Court House Farm, Portishead on Sunday 26th November and Sunday 10th December 10-3.30.

It’s now time to shut myself away like a little elf in my workroom and create some creative and very festive magic!

Love to all, and hope you have a good week. A wine fasting Rocking Dog x

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

The 11th Hour Of The 11th Day Of The 11th Month

Poignant Somme Symbolism, Rocking Dog

Poignant Somme Symbolism

Armistice Day has been commemorated for the last 98 years on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. It marks the day when the Armistice was signed at Compiegne, France between the allies of WW1 and Germany. It brought about the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front.

Beginning in 1939 the two minute silence was moved to the closest Sunday to 11th November. This decision was taken so as not to disrupt wartime munition production if 11th November fell on a weekday. After WW2 this Sunday was named Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday.

The Poppy worn in the lead up to, and on Remembrance Sunday itself came about as a result of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by Lt. Colonel John McCrae. A Canadian doctor, he was inspired to write the poem in 1915 after losing a friend at Ypres. The bleak battle torn ground was barren, but he witnessed resilient scarlet poppies struggling through the churned and barbed fields. Later an American academic Moina Michael, started making silk poppies which were brought over to England by a French woman Anna Guerin. In 1921 the British Legion was founded, and the organisation that year ordered 9 million poppies. The sale of these poppies raised a staggering £106,000, helping veterans with housing and employment.

Yesterday I went to College Green in Bristol to see the installation of “Shrouds of the Somme”. I witnessed servicemen meticulously laying out 19,240 12inch shrouded figures. The number represents the allied servicemen who died on the very first day of the Battle of the Somme. Somerset artist Rob Heard made the figures and personally wrapped and bound each figure with a hand stitched shroud. Studying a list from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission he systematically worked through the 19,240 fatalities, crossing off each name as a figurine had been given its shroud. Though I didn’t witness the exhibit in its entirety, it was truly poignant. The “Shrouds of the Somme” remains in Bristol until the 18th November.

Driving away from College Green I happened to notice that poor old Queen Victoria sited outside The Bristol Royal Marriot Hotel had been given a rubber gas mask by some joker. From experience she’s the butt of many a prank, for a student city we are!!

Today I will be remembering my grandfather John Warrington Scott (Royal Engineers) who was badly gassed in the trenches during WW1. As a consequence of the gas he died from stomach cancer aged 46 on Armistice Day 1941. Also remembering my lovely mum who died 31 years ago today. On a happier note Happy Birthday to lovely niece Iona who slipped out into the world on the bathroom floor 17 years ago today!

Shrouds Of The Somme, Rocking Dog

Shrouds Of The Somme

3 Of The 19,240, Rocking Dog

3 Of The 19,240

Gas Masked Royal, Rocking Dog

Gas Masked Royal

Grandfather John W. Scott, Rocking Dog

Grandfather John W. Scott

My Mum, Rocking Dog

My Mum

Niece Iona, Rocking Dog

Niece Iona

Not In My Tree

Whose Baby?, Rocking Dog

Whose Baby?

It always makes me sad to see old photo’s and photograph albums lying rather forlornly in charity shops, flea market stalls and the like. Sometimes I feel sufficiently sad to want to give these photo’s a home! I appreciate that I am very sentimental, and it would be completely alien to me to part with my personal cache of family photographs. I am therefore always curious as to why photographs are abandoned and discarded. Over the years I have amassed a small collection of “not in my tree” photo’s including an album with incredible photo’s of WWI Gallipoli and ANZAC soldiers recovering in an Oxford hospital (if only I could find it!) Other photo’s date back further and provide a wonderful historical document of fashion, housing, class, toys, prams, uniform etc..

Thus the lovely chubby baby above is no relation to me. You are left to wonder whether the baby reached adulthood, lost its endearing chubbiness and the hopes that they lived a happy life. We presume from the clothing that the baby is a girl, but one hundred years ago babies were dressed very similarly. This baby could indeed have served in WW1, a casualty, a survivor, a hero, a deserter, who knows.

My Dr Zhivago fur and velvet clad mother and child are in fact Danish. Dated on the back of the photograph 1902, these are obviously wealthy Copenhagen residents. My lovely sister gave me this photo a number of years ago, so even relatives know me well enough to know that i’ll love a “not in my tree” photo!

The montage of photo’s featuring children are an eclectic collection of children from different eras and social backgrounds. How stern the spectacled nanny (?) looks. Her starched apron features the embroidered words “All for Jesus”, and the photograph has been taken at the Salvation Army Photographic Studio. Is this baby a foundling, a baby to be adopted, a promotional photograph, a conundrum never to be solved. I love the photo of the girls with babies in prams, so reminiscent of “Call The Midwife”. Alas there are no dates, no names, no anything to tell us who these sweet girls are.

The Mother bathing her baby in the enamelled bath was a very exciting project. I found some glass negatives in a cigar box at an indoor junk market about 25 years ago. There were the faintest magical tracings of what the images could be, and I duly purchased the plates for a few pounds. For a while the plates lay cocooned in their cigar box home but eventually my dear dad found a super keen photographic enthusiast. The plates disappeared into his dark room and voila! this beautiful image appeared. I love the way the photographer has captured the mother’s smile as she tenderly sponges her calm baby. Another very special “not in my tree” photo.

Lastly, an entire album of one woman’s coach trip travels in the late 1950’s. There are the glories of Venice, Rome, Pompei, Capri, Florence, Interlaken and Windermere! There are the chair-lift rides, the group photos, full 1950’s skirts, the bags and the shoes. How did this meticulously ordered album end up unloved and unwanted?

So a little glimpse of my somewhat bonkers “not in my tree” photograph collection.

Dr Zhivago Photo, Rocking Dog

Dr Zhivago Photo

Montage Of Childhood, Rocking Dog

Montage Of Childhood

Cigar Box Photo, Rocking Dog

Cigar Box Photo

1950's Coach Trip, Rocking Dog

1950’s Coach Trip