Visiting Ypres

For the past four and a bit years I’ve been immersed in the commemoration of WW1 as part of the team running this site, as a volunteer at the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum and due to my own interest in this period of history.

Back in September 2014 I made a visit to France which included visiting the Etaples Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery but since then I haven’t had the chance to go back to the Western Front., however as entered the last month of the centenary commemorations I had the luck to visit Ypres for along weekend.

Well aware how easy it is to become overwhelmed by trying to see too much in a short period of time we decided to visit fewer places for longer periods of time and coupled with the glorious weather encouraging us to enjoy the European cafe culture we had a wonderful, if moving weekend.

Our first stop was at the tucked away Underhill Military Cemetery where there are graves of two Norfolk Regiment men who died 100 years to the day before our visit.

Private George and Private Moran, died 12th October 1918

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Catch it before it Vanishes

We were really pleased to hear from photographer Nick Stone recently – especially as he was letting us know about his imminent WW1 art exhibition that opens in Norwich on the 100th Anniversary of the Armistice.

All of the details about location and opening times are on the pictures of the flier below – but if you can’t wait until the 11th then you can always take a look at Nick’s website or see his newest piece of work at the Armistice: The Legacy of the Great War in Norfolk exhibition which opened at Norwich Castle on 20th October.

 

Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace exhibition

Although I have now lived in Norfolk for over 20 years I return to Kent to see family on a regular basis, my last visit coincided with a 14-18 Commemoration Project in my home town’s Remembrance Gardens.

Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace is a large out-door exhibition which covers much of the history of World War One (accompanied by amazing modern photography) which is interspersed with panels explaining how the war impacted on Ashford and the surrounding area.

It took well over an hour to wander around the whole exhibition and read the panels and even after how much work and research I’ve undertaken in the past few years there were so many bits of new information to pick up.

This exhibition is touring and if you missed it in Ashford it will be visiting Worcester and London before November – full details here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to the panels around the park I also found two more moving tributes to those who served in WW1, and I think that these will remain in situ after the exhibition has moved on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On leaving the park we discovered one more World War One art installation. Many tanks were given to towns and cities after the war but Ashford has one of the only remaining ones left on display. This piece of unique history is commemorated in, of all things, topiary…

 

If you can get to see this exhibition as it tours the country I do recommend it. It ticked all of my interest boxes – history, local history, personal stories and excellent photography – to which these images from my mobile phone do no justice at all.

If you visit any exhibitions like this, or any other WW1 related places this summer please do let us know – we’d love to share them with others.

 

More unexpected WW1 discoveries

After the excitement of finding the flight gallery dedicated to the First World War in Seattle I didn’t think we’d find any other WW1 connections during our trip, most of it was being spent in National Parks after all.

However the last place we stayed in – Jackson, Wyoming – had a final surprise for us.

The town itself was only incorporated in 1914 (and today has a population under 10000!) and yet in the town square there is a war memorial which includes names from World War One.

Being on holiday I didn’t investigate the names too much but since we’ve been home I’ve looked into it more and discovered that American Memorials can honour all who served not just the dead and that the team looking after Jackson’s memorial are very dedicated and still adding to the people remembered on the statue.

Being curious I’ve looked into WW1 casualties from the area more and just 129 fatalities from the entire state are recorded for Wyoming during this conflict. 11 of these men died in November 1918, and sadly two died after the Armistice was signed (Pte. George W Hughes, 1st Class and Pte. Louis Lourand) – without more research I can’t say if these are Jackson men but I can feel some more research coming on over the winter!

 

World War One in unexpected places

I’ve recently just had the trip of a life time travelling in America and I really wasn’t expecting to find any links to World War One while we were there however this wasn’t quite the case.

While in Seattle we visited the Museum of Flight and while this had some wonderful space exhibits (the main reason for our visit), modern planes to explore; and lots of WW2 planes I was most surprised to find a whole gallery dedicated to World War One.

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A tour of some of Australia’s War Memorials

We’ve just been sent this lovely piece from one of our blog readers who took a trip to Australia earlier in the year.

The tour began in Melbourne, Victoria, with a visit to the Shrine of Remembrance set among the lush and beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. 114,000 Victorians enlisted in the First World War. Of the 89,000 of them who served abroad 19,000 were killed. They were buried in distant graves far from home at a time when most Australians did not travel abroad. The Shrine provided a place where Victorians could grieve as individuals, as families or as a community. It also served to honour the courage of the men, women and children who remained at home.

The shrine was built by public subscription at a time of considerable national hardship in Australia as in Britain. The inspiration for the external outline came from one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the mausoleum at Halicarnassus to Mausolus, King of Caria in South West Asia Minor. It was opened by the Duke of Gloucester in November 1934 in front of a crowd of  300,000.

The Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne

The shrine is equally spectacular inside, but achieves a profound sense of calm conducive to remembrance of the ANZACs who gave their lives in two world wars and in subsequent conflicts.

The great vault of the Shrine of Remembrance open to the sky

Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was formed in December 1914 and was heavily engaged in the disastrous British-led campaign in the Dardanelles. Otherwise known as the Gallipoli campaign, the very word has a deep resonance for Australians. In keeping with the composition of the ANZAC, the flags of Australia and New Zealand hand vertically facing each other inside the shrine.

The flags of Australia and New Zealand within the Shrine

James Lawson was born in Halifax, Yorkshire and went to Australia in 1905. On 20 August 1914, just weeks after the outbreak of war, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and was commissioned second lieutenant in the 4th Light Horse Regiment. He served first on Gallipoli and later in Sinai and Palestine. In May 1917 he was promoted major and placed in command of A Squadron. On 31 October 1917 Lawson’s squadron, and another from the 12th Light Horse Regiment, led the charge at Beersheba. Lawson’s regiment later took part in the capture of Damascus led by General Allenby in September 1918. He returned home in January 1919 and lived out his life in Wimmera, Victoria, a modest but much admired and respected citizen.

major James Lawson, 4th Australian Light Horse Regiment
in the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Vic.

Sergeant James Offord of Bendigo, Victoria, enlisted in the 4th Light Horse Regiment and served in the Sinai-Palestine campaign, and was awarded the Military Medal. He made a souvenir of a Turkish flag after the battle of Beersheba, 31 October 1917.

Turkish Flag from Beersheba in the Shrine of Remembrance, Melbourne, Vic.

Also in the Shrine is one of the only two landing craft to survive from Gallipoli: the other is at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

A Gallipoli landing craft

 

Troops of the Australian 4th Battalion landing at Anzac Cove, 25 April 1915
Public Domain image : Australian War Memorial, ID Number: P00035.001

Northwards into upstate Victoria and  seemingly every city, town and village has its war memorial, always lovingly cared for and usually surrounded with trees and flowers. In Bendigo, the domed war memorial lies a few hundred metres from the cenotaph. Bendigo’s wealth came from the Victorian gold rush of the 1850’s and the town centre is a filled with elegant buildings from that time and later.

Bendigo, Victoria: The War Memorial and Cenotaph

At the end of World War One, the small rural community of Tooborac raised £600 by public subscription to remember the seventeen soldiers who did not return. The memorial consists of a granite column with a white marble figure of a soldier standing to attention.

Three views of the War Memorial at Tooborac, Victoria

On the Murray River, which forms the border between Victoria and the state of New South Wales, lies the town of Echuca. It was once a thriving trans-shipment point for the steam-driven paddle steamers bringing cargo hundreds of miles up the river from the sea near Adelaide. It is now a flourishing tourist centre and a welcoming place to visitors from England. Here, the memorials to the men who fell in the South African wars, as well as the two world wars and later conflicts, are grouped together outside the quiet  of the public library against a backdrop of the gum trees along the river. The memorial remembers all those from the Echuca District who went to fight, not only those who did not return.

The War Memorials at Echuca, Victoria

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra is the national memorial. It stands elevated on the slopes of Mount Ainslie and lies in ceremonial alignment with the old and new Commonwealth Parliament Buildings across Lake Burley Griffin.

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra, viewed looking up Anzac Parade, and the view from the Memorial to the Parliament buildings.

On a sunny Sunday morning walking up Anzac Parade the temperature is 30°C, the air is dry, clear and fragrant with the smell of eucalyptus, Holy Communion is being taken nearby in the Anglican church of St. John the Baptist, and all is peaceful and quiet. Anzac Parade is lined with memorials that capture the eye and the camera.

The Mounted Memorial shows Australian and New Zealand Army horse riders in action. The horse of the New Zealander on the right has been injured or shot, and the rider is falling to the ground; the rider on the left is supporting his mate. The original memorial stood in Port Said, Egypt, but was badly damaged in 1956 during the Suez Crisis. This is a replica unveiled in 1968.

The original memorial bore this inscription: ‘Erected by their comrades and the governments of Australia and New Zealand in memory of the members of the Australian Light Horse, the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, The Imperial Camel Corps and the Australian Flying Corps who lost their lives in Egypt, Palestine and Syria 1916 – 1919’

The Mounted Memorial on Anzac Parade, Canberra

The Australian War Memorial is a place of remembrance, a museum and an archive. It contains the Tomb of the Australian Unknown Soldier. The heart of the commemorative area is the Hall of Memory, a tall domed chapel with a small floor plan in the form of an octagon. In front of the Hall of Memory is a narrow courtyard with a memorial pool surrounding an eternal flame and flanked by sidewalks and shrubbery, including plantings of rosemary for remembrance.

The Hall of Memory, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Above the courtyard to either side are long cloisters containing the Roll of Honour, a series of bronze plaques naming the 102,185 Australian servicemen and women killed in conflict or on peacekeeping operations. The plaques include names dating back to the British Sudanese Expedition, the Second Boer War, and the Boxer Rebellion. The entire long wall of the west gallery is covered with the names of the 66,000 who died in World War I. The east gallery is covered with the names of those who died in World War II and conflicts since.

A section of the West Gallery with the names, but not the ranks of the 66,000 Australians who were killed during World War One. Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Plans to honour an unknown Australian soldier were first put forward in the 1920s, but it was not until 1993 that one was at last brought home. To mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the body of an unknown Australian soldier was recovered from Adelaide Cemetery near Villers-Bretonneaux in France and transported to Australia. After lying in state in King’s Hall in Old Parliament House, the Unknown Australian Soldier was interred in the Hall of Memory on 11 November 1993. He was buried in a Tasmanian blackwood coffin, on which were placed a bayonet and a sprig of wattle. Soil from the Pozières battlefield in France was scattered in his tomb.

Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier
Australian War Memorial (www.awm.gov.au/visit/hall-of-memory/tomb/)

Among the many displays in the museum are the paintings of George Lambert. Lambert served as an official war artist in Sinai-Palestine and was a member of the Australian Historical Mission that went back to Gallipoli in 1919. During this period he recorded, in hundreds of small oil and watercolour studies, the landscapes in which Australians fought and the details of their everyday lives.

A Sergeant of the Australian Light Horse by George Lambert. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

He later undertook larger commissions, one of the most famous of which is ‘The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba’, which captures some of the drama and chaos of the 4th Light Horse Brigade’s thunderous charge on the Turkish trenches south of Beersheba on the late afternoon of 31 October 1917.

Detail from The Charge of the Australian Light Horse at Beersheba 1917 by George Lambert
Australian War Memorial, Canberra

Onward to Sydney, by train through rural Victoria and New South Wales. On an overcast and humid Australia Day (26 January – the date on which the First Fleet arrived at Sydney Cove in 1788), the ANZAC Memorial in Hyde Park did not look at its best. The reflecting pool struggled in its greyness to reflect the pink marble cladding of the Art Deco memorial.

The ANZAC Memorial, Sydney

…and with better lighting conditions and a far more competent photographer:

ANZAC Memorial, Sydney

The interior is largely faced in white marble, and features a domed ceiling adorned with 120,000 gold stars – one for each of New South Wales’ military volunteers during World War I.

However, the centrepiece of the interior is the monumental bronze sculpture of a deceased youth, representing a soldier, held aloft by a caryatid comprising three female figures, representing his mother, sister and wife. There are two allusions which strike one when first seeing the figure: the Spartan mother’s farewell injunction to her son to uphold Spartan values of bravery as he went to war, “[Return] either with it [your shield] or on it”. A hoplite could not escape the field of battle unless he tossed away the heavy and cumbersome shield. Therefore losing one’s shield implied desertion and cowardice. The youth in the ANZAC Memorial returned dead, carried on his shield, and hence, brave. His arms are extended along a sword in the manner of Christ crucified, and one is reminded of the three women who tended Christ after his decent from the Cross.

‘Sacrifice’ by George Rayner Hoff, the centrepiece of the ANZAC Memorial, Sydney
With thanks to: sydneyemeraldcity.blogspot.co.uk/ – my photograph is terrible!

‘This is the central motif of the Memorial’s design. … Thousands of women, although not directly engaged in war activities, lost all that was dear them – sons they had borne and reared, husbands, fathers of their children, friends, lovers. … There was no acknowledgement of them in casualty lists of wounded, maimed and killed. They endured all men’s sacrifice quietly. In this spirit I have shown them, carrying their load, the sacrifice of their menfolk. … Sacrifice is a shift away from the rhetoric of honour, glory and manly deeds manifested in earlier memorials – Hoff had seen too much of war to glorify it. From the AWM website.

Four white marble panels inside the memorial appear almost as regimental standards bearing Australian battle honours for the First World War, including the largely forgotten (in Britain) battle of the Cocos Islands, the Royal Australian Navy’s first victory at sea on 9 November 1914.

A visit to some of the war memorials of Australia (and New Zealand) remind us that 1914-1918 was indeed a World war.

Detail of the war memorial at Oamaru, South Island, New Zealand, visited in 2004
nzhistory.govt.nz/media/photo/oamaru-war-memorial

Unless a URL is quoted, the photographs are those of the writer and may be freely used for non-commercial purposes, with an acknowledgement to the Norfolk in World War One blog: https://norfolkinworldwar1.org/ (the images have been reduced in size/quality for publication on the Internet and higher resolution ones can be shared on request.

A Walk in the cemetery part one.

Earlier in the spring, when the weather was decidedly changeable my husband and I went for a walk in our local cemetery, we were primarily looking for the drifts of snowdrops but then we came across one of the two Commonwealth War Graves plots within the Earlham Cemetery here in Norwich.

Two graves in particular caught my eye and I have spent a little bit of time investigating the two men commemorated on them:

This headstone reads:

7717 Private

J.Reford

Royal Inniskilling Fus

21st August 1914 Age 30

The first thing that caught my eye was that he died just 17 days after war was declared. We then had to find out if he was wounded in France very early on and returned to the UK where he then died. I pretty much instantly dismissed this thought as I didn’t think that an injured soldier would have been transferred to Norwich with wounds this early in the war.

Thanks to the Long Long Trail website I have discovered that Private Reford served with the 2nd Btn of the Fusiliers, who at the out break of were stationed in Dover but that sometime that month they were moved to Norfolk. They weren’t here for long however as they landed at Le Havre on the 22nd of August, the day after Pte. Reford’s death.

I wanted to know more and so using the National Archives site I discovered that the War Diaries for the Btn were available online for the dates I was interested in so I paid to download them. While they are a totally compelling and fascinating read sadly they are prefaced with a handwritten note:

WO 95/1505/2

Arrrrrrrrrrrrrghhh – the diary starts on the 25th August, the rest of the month isn’t there as it was assumed it had already been sent in!

The Regimental Museum for the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers does offer a tracing service (temporarily offline) and I will be contacting them and also using some of the resources they suggest to see if I can find out any more about the death of Pte. Reford.

However, as ever, if anyone else has already researched this man and his death and would like to share them with us we’d be very grateful.