Our community blogs
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
This area is not for queries but for ongoing blogs. if you want to ask for help, please go to the appropriate sub-forum in the main part of the GWF.
You have been asked to make your first post in a specified location. Once you have done that, your query can be raised in the various sections of the forum.
If you previously posted a request for help or information in this area, it is likely to be deleted at some point in the next few weeks or months. So if you have a reply, please make a note of it, If not, can you re-post it in the appropriate part of the forum, which is likely to get you a quick response.
for the GWF team
- Read more...
- 0 comments
The Guards Memorial is located at the edge of St James Park and Horse Guards.
It was built to commemorate those who lost their lives whilst serving with the Guards Division during the First World War. As well as commemorating those who served in the Foot Guards, the inscription on the memorial remembers the Officers, WO's, SNCO's and men of the supporting arms and logistics units which were part of the Guards Division, which includes the Royal Regiment of Artillery.
A panel at the rear of the memorial portrays an 18 pounder gun in action.
Guards Memorial 18 pounder in action
The Guards Division was formed in France in August 1915 by transferring all the Guards Battalions from the Divisions with which they were serving into the new formation.
When the Division formed, the bulk of the divisional artillery was brought in from the 16th (Irish) Division. The 74th / 75th / 76th Brigades Royal Field Artillery were formed in September 1914 by the Irish Command as New army (K2) units. They moved to Aldershot, then on to Salisbury Plain, equipping with 18 pounders. The fourth unit in the Division was the 61st (Howitzer) Brigade RFA, a New Army (K1) unit which transferred in from the 11th (Northern) Division.
LXXIV - 74 Brigade RFA (232, 233, 234, Batteries)
LXXV - 75 Brigade RFA (235, 236, 237 Batteries)
LXXVI - 76 Brigade RFA (238, 239, 240 Batteries)
The 61st Brigade RFA formed as three x 6 gun batteries. In February 1915 the Brigade re-organised into four x 4 gun batteries. It came under the command of the Guards Division in August 1915, when the 11th Division was ordered to the Mediterranean, and deployed to France.
L61 LXI (Howitzer) Brigade RFA (193,194,195 Batteries)
The Divisional Ammunition Column was originally raised by the 16th (Irish) Division, transferring to the Guards Division. Three Medium Trench Mortar Batteries (X / Y / Z) were formed in March 1916, and a Heavy Trench Mortar Battery (V Guards) in May.
The 61st (Howitzer) Brigade was broken up in November 1916 and the units left the Division. D/61 Battery would transfer to 50th (Northumbrian) Division.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Built in Belfast by Harland and Wolff between August 1896 and February 1897, the SS Gascon was a Union Line ship until the merger with the Castle Line in 1900, resulting in the new company, Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co. Ltd. The company(s) operated between England and Cape Town, and South Africa and New York. “She is 430 ft. long, 52ft. wide, and 33ft. deep, and has a tonnage of 6,287. Her twin screws are driven by two sets of triple-expansion engines, the cylinders of which are 19, 31, and 52 inches in diameter, the length of stroke being 48in.” Under the command of Captain W. Martin, the Gascon’s maiden voyage departed Southampton on the 20/3/1897 carrying 234 passengers for South Africa.
With the outbreak of the (2nd) Boer War in 1899, the Gascon was among those requisitioned as a troopship. Her service included the departure from England with troops on the 21/10/1899 and arrival at Cape Town 12/11/1899. Other dates included: 16/12/1899 to the 7/1/1900; 20/2/1900 to 11/3/1900; and 16/3/1901 to …..
She also returned to England carrying wounded, sailing from Cape Town on the 28/3/1900 and arriving Southampton 22/4/1900. Wounded and invalids were also returned to England in August 1900, embarking at Cape Town on the 25/7/1900, and disembarking 760 patients at Southampton on the 16/8/1900.
Among the latter was Corporal William Henry Bryce (95) of the 1st Queensland Mounted Infantry, suffering with enteric fever, and in a letter home he wrote: “We had a very good passage. Being invalids we were treated better than ordinary troops on a troopship. Most of us slept in hammocks, and beds were provided for the worst cases.”
Another on board was Herbert Gerald Hinton (110), also of the 1st QMI suffering with enteric fever. He went on to serve as a Lieutenant with the 2nd Australian Light Horse in the Great War, before being killed in action during the Gallipoli campaign on the 7/8/1915.
In between the wars the Gascon continued to carry passengers and mail. One such passenger travelling from Cape Town to England in July 1904 noted that: “Life on a Cape liner is very pleasant, the long, shady decks affording ample space for promenades, or games of various sorts. ………… Some of the officers of the Gascon, in common with other ships of the Union-Castle line, were “Naval Reserve” men, and everything on board was managed with naval precision and immaculateness. Sundays, the crew was up for inspection, toeing the line on the main deck, then marching to service, read by the Captain;……”
The first representative South African Rugby Team to visit Great Britain also travelled on the Gascon, arriving at Southampton on the 20/9/1906.
In 1914 following the outbreak of the Great War, with William Francis Stanley (Mercantile Marine) as Master in command of the ship, the Gascon departed Southampton early in August to carry the mail to the Cape. Captain Stanley was given instructions by Sir Owen Phillips (Lord Kylsant) to “Go as you like and take as long as you like, but don’t get collared.” Ignoring a suspicious radio message received on the way, which turned out to have been an enemy trap, the Gascon made it safely to Table Bay on the twenty-third day out of Southampton.
Leaving Durban on the 11th of the following month, the ship was to connect with the H.M.S. Pegasus at Zanzibar to deliver reliefs and stores. However, as they neared their destination on the 20th they were intercepted by the lighthouse keeper who warned them of the proximity of the German cruiser Königsberg. Captain Stanley ordered the ship to be turned around and head as fast as possible to Mombasa. On arrival later that day the Gascon was immediately requisitioned as a hospital ship, and received permission to fly the Red Cross Flag as of the 23rd of September.
Meanwhile at Zanzibar the Pegasus had been shelled by the Königsberg and eventually sunk, with the survivors and wounded having previously been evacuated by boats from the Banffshire. Later, when it was considered safe to do so, the Gascon returned to Zanzibar where it collected the men of the Pegasus and carried them to Simonstown. By mid-October 1914 the Gascon was once again docked at Durban.
Early in 1915, staffed with members of the Indian Medical Service (IMS) under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Victor Hugo (IMS), His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Gascon was transporting sick and wounded Indian troops from England and France to Egypt, en route to Bombay, India. This continued until their arrival at Alexandria (Egypt) in mid-April, when orders came through on the 14th that the ship was to be refitted for the accommodation of British patients with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF).
The refit was underway by the 16th of April 1915, and 18 Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) orderlies were brought on board under the command of a Corporal. Following on from these changes, Lieut Col Hugo noted that: “Our native personnel has been cut down and now stands as follows:- Two sub-assistant surgeons, two store-keepers, two asst. store-keepers, two tailors, two Mahomedan cooks, eight sweepers, two writers, nine A.H.C. ward servants, two Hindu cooks, three extra ward orderlies, four Dhobies.”
Lieut Col Hugo himself had originally joined the IMS in 1892 and was an experienced and decorated veteran of the North-West Frontier Campaigns from 1894 to 1898. Before returning to military service at the outbreak of WW1 he had held the position of Professor of Surgery at King Edward’s Medical College in Lahore. He was considered by his peers to be an excellent surgeon.
On the 17th the medical staff was increased again when Lieutenant Colonel George Adlington Syme of the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) came on board as a consulting surgeon. He commented that “the Gascon was well equipped with a good operation theatre, having full provision for sterilization; a fair supply of ordinary instruments and apparatus; and a good X-ray plant.”
With him were 3 nurses from the Australian Army Nursing Service (AANS) and the British matron Susan Winifred Wooler of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). The AANS nurses, Sophie Hill Durham, Ethel Alice Peters and Katherine Minnie Porter were all members of the 2nd Australian General Hospital (AGH) and had departed Australia at the end of 1914 on the A55 Kyarra.
The Gascon left Alexandria around midday on the 19th; at first in a convoy escorted by the French cruiser Jeanne d’Arc, but parting from it the following morning due to its slow progress, and they crossed the boom into Mudros Harbour (Lemnos Island) on the morning of the 22nd. By this time the harbour was full of ships that had been gathering in preparation for the assault on the Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey, and Lieut Col Syme described their arrival:
“We entered a fine harbor divided into an outer and inner port. Outside destroyers and torpedo boats were patrolling, and also large warships. The inner harbor was full of transports and warships, with destroyers and torpedo boats, submarines and trawlers. There was also a naval hospital ship, and the hospital ship “Sicilia,” on which Lieut-Col. Bird is Consulting Surgeon.”
The following day (23rd) Gascon received four more AANS nurses from the 2nd AGH who were transferred from the hospital ship Sicilia, which had been at Lemnos since the 15th and had twelve nurses on board. Elsie Maud Gibson, Ella Jane Tucker and Muriel Leontine Wakeford had also been members of the Kyarra, while Clementina Hay Marshall had originally sailed on the A8 Argyllshire with the First Convoy to leave Australia. This brought the total of female nursing staff to eight, with seven AANS nurses under the command of Matron Wooler.
Both the Sicilia and the Gascon were to provide a ferry service between Turkey and Egypt, for the serious casualties sustained during the landing and the ongoing campaign. As official hospital ships, in compliance with the protection of the Geneva Convention, they were painted white with a green horizontal band running the length of the hull, broken in (three) places each side with red crosses. Darkness required added protection with “a row of green electric lights along each side from bow to stern and a big red cross electric light in the centre.”
Throughout the day of the 24th of April those on the Gascon watched as the harbour began emptying of ships, the troops on the transports singing and cheering as they left, full of the excitement of finally being on the move. Later that afternoon the Gascon also moved out of the harbour, but anchored again outside the boom. In the early hours of the morning of the 25th of April she weighed anchor and proceeded to her destination, arriving in the waters north of Gaba Tepe around 7 a.m. The landing was well under way, and her task this day was to cater to the serious casualties of the Australian and New Zealand forces at what soon became known as Anzac Cove, while the Sicilia catered to the British 29th Division at Cape Helles.
Orders were to anchor near HMS London, but before this could be achieved the Galeka was alongside with wounded, and the boatloads kept coming, so that it was midday before they reached the London. As the vessels came alongside the ship, ‘stewards climbed down to sort the living from the dead’, the dead being left in the boats to be returned to shore, while ‘all firemen and sailors off duty turned to and did magnificent work’ helping to bring the wounded aboard. Those on stretchers, the ‘cot cases,’ were lifted onto the ship in a box hoist and then the stretchers were lowered to the wards via a lift.
Lt Col Syme noted that “the wounded began to pour on board, first from a transport, then from lighters, launches and torpedo boats. …. the bad cases were put in “swinging cots” in the wards, the less serious were put in “bunks” in tiers, and on the deck and in the smoking room. Cases of haemorrhage were taken to the operation room and dealt with as soon as possible. When the cases had got fairly sorted, we began operating.”
“The Gascon was fitted up for 350 patients. By putting mattresses in the smoking room and on the floors, hatchings and decks, we arranged to accommodate 150 more….”
Various other transports had been allocated to take on the less serious cases, but with the Gascon the only clearly marked hospital ship in the vicinity, it was only natural that most of the vessels carrying wounded headed straight for her, and before long she was filling rapidly with all manner of cases.
Ella Tucker in a letter home wrote: “We were right up in the firing line – several gunboats were behind us, firing right over us. Several shots from the forts splashed very near us. About 9 a.m. the first patients were brought on board. It was awful to see them, some with scarcely any clothes on, blood pouring in all directions, some limping gaily, others with an arm bandaged. Several died as they came across in the boats to us.”
“They just poured into the wards all day. My ward holds 96 – and I was responsible for about 40 on deck. I had three orderlies and a sergeant-major to assist.”
Elsie Gibson who was in charge of Ward V capable of holding 113 patients, with the assistance of 3 RAMC orderlies, 2 Indian orderlies and 2 Indian sweepers, noted in her diary that: “About 9 a.m. my first patients from battlefield commenced to pour in.”
“We went for worst cases first and worked like fury….”
“We took on board 570 wounded. Some minor cases gave up their beds and after wounds dressed went off to Transports…”
“In my ward I had 118 patients (one Turk badly wounded) and some slept anywhere on deck and gave their bunk or stretcher or floor to more badly wounded.”
Sophie Durham made reference to the fact that the decks were soon covered with wounded, and how a ‘native’ orderly was wheeling a trolley of dressings and instruments behind her, when “ ‘Queen Elizabeth’ fired a salvo. The blast rolled the trolley, the orderly, and me over the top of it. I just sat up and cried. The orderly said, ‘I think we dead now’.” The Queen Elizabeth had come up from Cape Helles during the day and anchored at the rear of the Gascon firing over her for several hours.
Elsie Gibson made everyone laugh when she was crossing a hatchway at the time the London lying alongside them fired its guns: “the flash went before my eyes and then the awful report. I could not help it and I cannot help laughing when I think of it, but I put both hands to my face and screamed.”
The effect the wounded had on Captain Stanley was also mentioned by Sophie Durham:
“The ship’s captain was a tough old chap with no time at all for any sort of colonial.
I caught him putting his own air cushion under a Digger’s head. He came up to me, patted me on the back, and said, ‘Now I know, Sister, why you are so proud of your boys. I never thought to see such men’.”
She later commented that: “It was our first experience of war-time conditions, and we all wondered if we’d run away if our ward was shelled. Shells were, of course, passing over the ship the whole time, but once we got our first batch of wounded we didn’t have time to think.”
Towards evening with no more room available, the Gascon left for Mudros Harbour with 547 wounded, including 23 Officers; arriving there at midnight. Private William Walsh (826) wrote later to his parents “that just before our hospital ship steamed out the Turks fired two volleys at us, just missing our ship by a few yards….” He went on to say: “Well, we had a good trip back on the hospital ship, lovely beds to sleep in, lovely nurses to look after us, Indian soldiers to wait on us, and the best of food (three-course dinner).”
Elsie Gibson noted in her diary: “We got to bed between 2&3 a.m. 2 Sisters stopped up all the time. We got up again 6 a.m. & then two Night Sisters went to bed 9 a.m.”
In a letter home Muriel Wakeford recorded: “28th April, 1915 – Just off duty. We have had a terrible time and no one but ourselves will ever know how we feel about everything that has happened. Rest assured we have all done our very best.” “Two of us are doing night duty, Sister Durham and I. We do half the ship each, with a number of orderlies. The day staff come on very early and go off very late, and in that way get through a fair amount.
On that first day Clementina Marshall, an experienced theatre nurse, was also on duty in the operating theatre for 21 consecutive hours, the beginning of many such long hours, for which service she was later mentioned in despatches.
Elsie Gibson commented on their second day on the wards that “There is no end to the work you just leave off when it is impossible to work more or you get orders to go off duty. …….. We give Morphia ad lib.”
With some expectation that she might unload the patients at Mudros, the Gascon was however left waiting in the harbour until the evening of the 26th before orders finally came through to sail to Alexandria, and she eventually left at 6.30 p.m.
Throughout the journey from Turkey to Egypt the ship was slowed on various occasions in order to consign the departed to a watery grave. Each man was covered with the Union Jack and following a funeral service conducted by Captain Stanley, they were carefully slipped over the side. These men are all commemorated on the Lone Pine Memorial.
Members of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF):
DOW 25/4/1915: *Pte Allan Robert OLLEY, 357, 7th Bn; *Pte Thomas Anderson WHYTE, 47, 10th Bn; DOW 26/4/1915: *Pte Alex BLOOMFIELD, 1205, 1st Bn; *Pte George Clarence CAVANAGH, 493, 7th Bn; *Pte Stanley George CHARLESWORTH, 391, 7th Bn; *Pte George STRAKER, 1429, 1st Bn; DOW 27/4/1915: *Pte Arthur Leslie ANDERSON, 152, 12th Bn; *Pte Sydney Robert CROSS, 1011, 12th Bn; *Pte William Henry VICK, 1042, 10th Bn (C Coy); DOW 28/4/1915: *Pte Ernest MAY, 985, 7th Bn
Katherine Porter had been nursing Thomas Whyte (47) before he died, and she later wrote to his fiancé “I remember Private Tom Whyte very well. The poor man came on the Gascon during the morning. He had an abdominal wound and was taken to the operation room almost at once and everything possible was done for him… it was knowing that he was engaged made me stay on duty a little longer to be what comfort I could to him. It was a terrible day for us all and I saw so much that was awful that day.”
Arriving at Alexandria just before midnight on the 28th, the unloading of 535 wounded was carried out throughout the following day (29th). Elsie Gibson said “It was a sight to see all the Red Cross Waggons waiting to carry wounded to entrain for Heliopolis No.1 AGH. Serious cases were sent to Hospitals in Alexandria and were saved the train journey.” Ella Tucker commented on what a pathetic sight the wounded made, with hardly any of them wearing shirts, which had been so blood-stained and torn that they’d been thrown overboard. “Others had their coats and trousers split, and hurriedly sewn over. Some were minus a boot; very many minus socks.” She went on to say: “It took hours getting the stretcher cases off. We started at 9 a.m. The last was landed at 4.30.”
Also taken ashore that day was the body of Private Frederick Allen DOODSON, 927, 1st Bn. He had died of his wounds as they approached Alexandria, and was buried on the 29th in the Chatby War Memorial Cemetery.
With their wards empty the nurses set to work preparing them for their next load of patients. They made bandages, padded splints, and washed out some of the blood stained pyjamas that had been left on board.
Empty of patients, and replenished with coal and water, the Gascon left Alexandria at 6 pm that evening (29th), and arrived back in Mudros Harbour in the early hours of the 2nd of May. By this time the Bay was almost empty of ships, but they handed over supplies to some that remained. Later that afternoon they returned to the waters off Anzac Cove, and Muriel Wakeford noted that not long after their arrival “a terrific bombardment commenced, seven or eight battleships firing practically together made a din and a terrific one… The rifle fire is continuous and as soon as darkness comes the flashes are visible. I could scarcely have believed we were so close, and feel absolutely no fear. There is just a feeling of intense excitement.”
The wounded began arriving at 3.30 a.m. the following morning (3rd). Although dressing stations had now been established ashore, allowing wounds to receive some professional attention, many of the men were in much worse condition than the first group, following a week of exposure, the strain of being under fire, the inability to wash and very little sleep or food. Lance Corporal George Tidex of the 13th Battalion when taken on board with a thigh wound thought he was in heaven: “….when I saw the row of white beds with proper pillows and green shaded lights, it was just like entering Heaven after six days in the trenches.”
During the day the ship had to move further out due to shells falling unpleasantly close and some shrapnel hitting the deck. As luck would have it, they had not long moved on when a shell dropped in the water where they had been. They continued taking on wounded until midnight of the following day (4th); many deaths having occurred during this time. Elsie Gibson felt that those who had been killed outright were more fortunate compared to some they received with their ghastly wounds; citing gangrene and amputations in large numbers.
The Gascon once again sailed for Alexandria at 12.30 a.m. on the 5th of May, travelling via Cape Helles to deliver some Red Cross goods, and arriving at 9 a.m. on the 7th. Throughout the day 434 sick and wounded were disembarked, and with them went Lt Col Syme. His reason for leaving the ship: “by some means – presumably in the operating room – my right hand became poisoned, and I went into hospital at Alexandria…”
There were a total of 41 deaths on board since they had begun taking on wounded, and the majority of the funerals this time were officiated over by Lt Col Hugo. The following casualties were members of the A.I.F.:
DOW 3/5/1915: *COWELL, Harry Stephen – Pte 1403, 16th Bn (D Coy); *SMITH, Quintin Robert – 2nd Lieut, 14th Bn; *SNELL, Francis William – Pte 956, 15th Bn; *STEIN, Alfred James – Pte 1247, 15th Bn; *WARD, Henry Holdford – Pte 1669, 16th Bn;
DOW 4/5/1915: *BUTTERFIELD, Ernest, Cpl 76, 15th Bn –; *CARTER, Harold Reginald, Pte 1549, 16th Bn; *COLLYER, John, Pte 1241, 4th Bn; *FAIRBEARD, Charles Henry, Pte 55, 16th Bn; *HABBLETT, Harold, Pte 396, 16th Bn; *HUNTLEY, Clive Neilson Reynolds, Lieut, 1st FCE; *LAMOND, Alexander, Pte 1201, 13th Bn; *MAHONY, David, Pte 692, 11th Bn; *PALIN, Archibald Edward, Pte 938, 13th Bn; *SMITH, Alexander John Ross, Pte 888, 5th Bn; *SPARSHOTT, Frank, Pte 948, 11th Bn; *WALSH, John Thomas, Pte 1181, 8th Bn; DOW 5/5/1915: *DOUGLAS, William Bowman, Capt, 3rd Bn; *HARDMAN, Roy, Pte 1615, 15th Bn; *BYRNE, Herbert Horan, Pte 115, 15th Bn;
DOW 6/5/1915: *CROWLEY, Matthew Nicholas, 839, 13th Bn; *ELPHICK, Arthur Thomas, LCpl 1262; *FRANCIS, Thomas, Pte 504, 13th Bn; JAMES, Jonathan Albert, Pte 1094, 4th Fld Amb; DOW 7/5/1915: *BLANN-HAY, Henry James, Pte 125, 1st Bn.
Of these men, Pte John Collyer (1241) has had his story told by Kit Cullen in “Jack’s Journey”, and was one of those whose wound had been infected with gas gangrene.
One of the members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) known to have lost his life, Robert TORRIE, 8/1109, Otago Regiment died of wounds 3/5/1915.
There were also at least 4 casualties from the (British) Royal Naval Division. These were *Pte Frank DIXON (RMLI) and *Abel Seaman Alfred Oswald HALL (RNVR) who died on the 3/5/1915; and *Stoker Michael DUNPHY (RN) and *Sub Lieutenant Graham Morton PATON (RNVR) who died on the 4/5/1915.
Departing Alexandria at 7.45 that same evening (7th) the Gascon arrived back at Anzac Cove on the morning of the 10th of May, anchoring about 2 miles off shore at 7.30, and began taking on wounded immediately. Filling the ship was a lot slower however, as the wounded were brought on board in small numbers throughout the following days and nights.
Among the wounded embarked on the 11th was Lieutenant Alfred John Shout who had already distinguished himself earning the Military Cross, (to be followed in August with the Victoria Cross, posthumously). Another was Major (later Major General) John Gellibrand.
Then on the 15th of May, Major General William Throsby Bridges, the officer commanding the 1st Division A.I.F, was brought on board accompanied by his chief medical officer Colonel Neville Howse VC, and Gellibrand moved out of his bed for him. One of the nurses commented on how brave the seriously wounded General was, and his words to his carers: “Don’t worry about me. You must have plenty to do, and I’m done.” Various officers including Lieutenant General William Riddell Birdwood, the commander of the Australian & New Zealand Army Corps, visited Bridges before the Gascon departed, and Howse remained on board attending to him when the ship finally sailed for Alexandria at 11.30 a.m. on the 17th of May. During this time Elsie Gibson noted that they had had a number of working visitors, including the Assistant Director of Medical Services, Surgeon General Charles Snodgrass Ryan who worked with Lieut Col Hugo on some of the surgical cases whilst on board. General Bridges died the following morning (18th) at 5.45 a.m., but although they were still almost 2 days from Egypt, he wasn’t buried at sea.
Arriving at Alexandria at 6.30 p.m. on the 19th of May, disembarkation was begun immediately, including all walking cases and 48 of the stretcher cases. The remaining 391 patients were disembarked throughout the following day (20th), and Maj General Bridges was buried in the Chatby Cemetery. [Note: His remains were exhumed on the 27/7/1915 and returned to Australia to be reinterred at Duntroon]
Elsie Gibson noted that they were all very tired after a long trip, but she managed to go ashore in the afternoon of the 20th with Matron Wooler and Major Illius (IMS) to do some shopping.
Forty deaths had occurred on the ship between the 10th and 19th of May, and most of the funeral services while the Gascon was still at anchor off Gallipoli, had been conducted by the Chaplains from HMS London (Rev A.C.W. Rose) or HMS Prince of Wales (Rev H.D.L. Viener). Together with a photograph of 'Boat No. 705' forwarded to the 'Sydney Mail', a correspondent wrote on the 17th of May: "Many of our dear lads went out to their last resting-place just at the outside edge of the harbour. It is a pathetic picture. I snapped it just as the boat was returning from its daily task of burying the dead, which it received from the hospital ship at anchor in the harbour. The bodies were covered with the Flag the gallant young fellows had given their lives for. A clergyman accompanied the vessel on each of its trips, and I could see the touching scene as the burial service was being read before the bodies were committed to their watery grave. War is indeed a rotten game, as I could not help thinking seeing those brave boys going ashore full of life, and being brought out on boat 705 to be buried, for sanitary reasons, at sea."
The other funerals were conducted by either Lt Col Hugo, or Reverend Alfred Lee-Warner. One of the nurses later described Lee-Warner as “a delicate man, on leave from Khartoum. He was spending his furlough on the “Gascon,” and was, I think, the finest character I ever met. He did all the writing home for the severe cases, sat with the dying, and helped with the bandaging. In fact, he did everything but cook.” In the letter that he wrote to the father of Oliver Harris (624) two days after his death, he told him that Oliver had “asked particularly that a letter be written to tell you. He was conscious for a long time, and I was able to converse with him. The sister tells me what a nice boy he was.”
Including Oliver, the following members of the AIF were amongst the 40 deaths:
DOW 11/5/1915: *JAMES, Reginald, Pte 622, 13th Bn;
DOW 12/5/1915: *BATES, Wilfred Froud, LCpl 51, 16th Bn; *JONES, Octavious, Pte 1198, 13th Bn; *WILLIAMS, Anthony George Herbert, LCpl 1009, 12th Bn; *PENINGTON, William Ronald, S/Sgt 3, 4th Bde HQ;
DOW 13/5/1915: *BROWNING, Joseph, Pte 1460, 4th Bn; *DONALD, John Gordon, Pte 181, 16th Bn; *KING, William, Pte 626, 13th Bn; *ROBERTSON, Gordon Holmes, Tpr 378, 2nd LH; DOW 14/5/1915: *BRIDESON, John Thomas, Pte 167, 1st Bn; *HICKS, Colin, Pte 1003, 14th Bn; *PENHALIGON, Sydney John – Pte 77, 3rd Fld Amb; *PHILLIPS, Thomas Harold, Tpr 199, 2nd LH; *WILLIAMS, Percy James, Pte 1534, 16th Bn; *WORTABET, John Cecil, Pte 1625, 9th Bn; DOW 15/5/1915: *BENNETTS, Edward James, Pte 1559, 10th Bn; *BURROWS, Albert Frederick, Pte 1518, 1st Bn; *CAMP, John, Pte 1317, 10th Bn; *PILKINGTON, Ashley Ford, Pte 176, 3rd LH; *WOODS, William Henry Rankin, 71, LH;
DOW 16/5/1915: *ADELT, Carl, Tpr 554, 1st LH; *BUTLER, Edwin MacMullen Everitt (Ted), Cpl 701, 3rd LH; *BUTLER, Ernest Rupert, Tpr 723, 2nd LH; *DENDTLER, Robert, Pte 693, 1st Bn; *NORRIS, Walter Herbert, Pte 563, 16th Bn; *WRAGGE, Clement Lionel Egerton, Tpr 647, 2nd LH; DOW 17/5/1915: *HARRIS, Oliver, Tpr 624, 2nd LH; *ELWOOD, Alfred Terah, Pte 507, 2nd Bn; *PHILIPPSON, William Felix, Pte 1616, 11th Bn; DOW 18/5/1915: *BRIDGES, William Throsby, Major General;
DOW 19/5/1915: *WEIR, Joseph, Pte 848, 9th Bn;
Note: Douglas Elliott SCOTT, Sgt 68, 3rd LH, is listed as having DOW aboard the Gascon on the 20/5/1915 and buried at sea – however, if he died on this date he would have been buried ashore. Either the date is incorrect or he died on another ship.
Other deaths included: A member of the New Zealand Forces (NZEF): *Sapper Walter NAYLOR (4/233A, NZ Engineers) – DOW 10/5/1915.
Members of the Royal Naval Division: *Pte William Albert COKER (RMLI) and Stoker Henry MILES (RN) died on the 14/5/1915;
With all patients disembarked and all staff back on board, the Gascon left Alexandria once more at 10 p.m. that evening of the 20th of May. Having arrived back at Anzac Cove at 7 a.m. on the 23rd of May, Elsie Gibson made mention of the “roar of cannon and shrapnel bursting into the sea, some 100 yards from us.” A church service was held on board at 10.30 a.m., and later that day, still free of patients, they received orders to proceed to Mudros Harbour, arriving there at 5 p.m. that evening.
The following evening (24th) they received 50 wounded from HMS Reindeer and another 39 from a Fleetsweeper on the 25th. Whilst in the harbour the nurses were visited by officers from the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital which was situated ashore. They also witnessed 3 (friendly) submarines maneuvering about the harbour close to their ship.
Orders were then received to transfer their sick and wounded to the Dunluce Castle, and proceed to the Island of Imbros. This was carried out on the 27th of May and they left the harbour at 7.15 that evening; the crews of the warships cheering them as they passed. They arrived off Imbros at 1 a.m. on the morning of the 28th, and at 4.30 a.m. began taking on the seriously wounded cases from a Minesweeper. They then sailed for Anzac Cove, arriving there at 10.45 a.m., and slowly took on wounded for the rest of the day and night. At this time the area was empty of ships due to their withdrawal following the recent torpedoing of HMS Triumph.
In the early hours of the morning of the 29th of May, Elsie Gibson noted that there was “Terrific firing on shore”, and wounded began arriving throughout the day in larger numbers, including some very serious cases. This would have coincided with the Turkish assault on Quinn’s Post, in which Major Hugh Quinn lost his life. The Gascon also found herself on special alert this day, moving position a number of times, as a submarine periscope had been sighted and they had orders not to anchor.
Around 9 p.m. on the 30th of May the Gascon moved in closer to shore as another battle was expected. Elsie Gibson had been on duty from 6.15 a.m. to 10 p.m. and was dead tired and almost “reduced to a grease spot”; the weather being so hot made the wards almost unbearable. Ethel Peters had collapsed that morning.
By the end of the following day, the last day of the month of May (31st), they had lost the following members of the A.I.F., with Rev Lee Warner conducting their funeral services:
DOW 28/5/1915: *PARMENTER, Albert Osborne, Pte 964, 2nd Bn; *WEST, James, Spr 207, 2nd FCE [real name Ernest Rudolph LOVELL]; DOW 29/5/1915: *BLACKWELL, Henry Albert, Pte 535, 9th LH; *BLYTHEN, Duncan Tonkinson, Pte 1573, 14th Bn; *DICKSON, Robert Lang, Pte 1105, 13th Bn; *EVANS, Frank Richard, Spr 96, 3rd FCE; *FOGARTY, Mervyn, Dvr 3519, 1st Div Arty HQ; *LIONE, Ernest Arthur, Pte 1792, 1st Bn
DOW 30/5/1915: *BAX, Alec Hartly, Tpr 524, 3rd LH; *BOURKE, Edward William, Pte 110, 15th Bn; *DENFORD, Dustin Lee, Dvr 5442, 4th Div Tn; *FARRELL, Harold Alexander, Pte 1605, 13th Bn; *GIRLING, Frederick Horace, Pte 259, 13th Bn; *JACKSON, Ernest, Pte 751, 3rd LH; *JONES, Herman Hill, Pte 1096, 13th Bn; *MURRAY, David James, Pte 12, 5th LH; *SELLERS, Frederick, Pte 353, 1st LH
DOW 31/5/1915: *BALDWIN, Charles Robert, Pte 1522, 4th Bn; *BLACKIE, Norman Robertson, LCpl 520, 5th LH; *JARVEY, James, Tpr 500, 8th LH; *KELLY, Charles Oswald, Pte 868, 4th Bn; *LAWSON, Martial, Pte 1156, 13th Bn; *PAUL, Ernest Clifton, Pte 1806, 7th Bn
Member/s of the NZEF included:
THOMSON, Arthur John, Tpr 9/223, Otago Mtd Rifles – DOW 31/5/1915
And possibly: WINKS, Lawrence, Sgt 11/457, Wellington Mtd Rifles – everything in his service record states DOW 31/5/1915 on the Gascon, but the CWGC lists him as DOW 1/6/1915, and buried in Ari Burnu Cemetery, D.12
The first day of June and the Gascon was still receiving the sick and wounded from shore.
Much needed extra help was also received with 2 members of the 2nd Australian Field Ambulance being brought on board for duty. These were Melbourne Surgeon, Major Charles Gordon SHAW and Bugler James Baker McBEAN (151) who was serving as an orderly. They both remained with the ship for the following 2 months.
That night Elsie Gibson took a break and sat in one of the deck chairs on the Starboard side of the ship, until a ship’s officer who had survived a ‘narrow shave’ himself, advised her to move to the Port side as she was in the line of fire.
The following day (2nd) the hospital ship Sicilia anchored nearby and they received a welcome visit from some of the Officers and Nurses. Lieut General Birdwood also paid a visit on the 3rd of June and took the time to speak to many of the patients. By this time the hospital staff were exhausted from the long hours and the heat, and Muriel Wakeford was forced to take a ‘sickie’ herself. Katherine Porter was also very ill.
Although the medical staff were stretched to their limits, Captain Edwin Thomas Kerby, had written to his mother on the 1st of June: “On board …. everything points to efficiency: dirt and untidiness are absolutely tabooed; comfort and skilled attention are just showered upon one, so that almost before you know that you are on board you are in bed, washed, and comfortable.”
Finally, they left their anchorage off Anzac Cove and returned to Mudros Harbour, arriving at 8.30 a.m. on the 4th of June. After taking on 100 ‘walking cases’ who had been transferred from Cape Helles, they left again at 7 p.m. for Alexandria. During the voyage Measles broke out in Elsie Gibson’s ward, as well as a Tetanus case that needed special care, and her best Orderly was sick. On the afternoon of the 7th of June she confided to her diary that “I nearly disgraced myself by fainting 1.30 p.m. but bucked up again & got at it.”
Clementina Marshall wrote: “Well, we are almost at Alexandria again, on our fourth trip, with about 500 wounded on board. We have had a very heavy trip, lasting about a fortnight. We have been operating day and night, and I am beginning to feel very weary. However, we have finished this stunt, and will have a rest for a few days until we get back again.”
They reached the outer harbour at Alexandria at 10 p.m. on the 7th of June, and came into the wharf at daybreak on the 8th. Throughout the day 473 patients were disembarked, including 32 Officers. Twenty more deaths had occurred between the 1st and 7th of June, mostly due to gunshot wounds of the abdomen and head. One of these had been John Alfred LANE (Pte 1148, 2nd Bn) who had died of a head wound on the 7th – his body was taken ashore and buried in the Chatby Military Cemetery.
The other members of the A.I.F. who had died during this time and were buried at sea, were:
DOW 1/6/1915: *BOYCE, Harold Paull, Pte 1704, 12th Bn; *BROWN, John – Tpr 856, 3rd LH; *HORNBY, William Robert, Pte 1649, 2nd Bn; *PATTRICK, Eroll McLeod Nunn, Tpr 748, 6th LH; DOW 2/6/1915: *CLOUGH, Richard Henry, Cpl 365, 5th LH; *ELLIOTT, John William, Pte 1130, 7th Bn; DOW 3/6/1915: *GRIFFIN, Edward Denis, Pte 1191, 13th Bn; *READ, Alexander James, Pte 1166, 1st Bn; *VINE-HALL, Noel Francis, Lieut, 13th Bn; DOW 4/6/1915: BOYLE, Owen Dunigan, Pte 369, 2nd Bn
Members of the NZEF:
WEIR, Frederick James, Lieut, 3rd Auckland Mtd Rifles – DOW 2/6/1915
MORGAN, Malcolm, Tpr 13/217, Auckland Mtd Rifles – DOW 3/6/1915
McDONALD, Duncan Buchanan, Lieut 11/555 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 6/6/1915
PATERSON, George, Cpl 11/557, Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 6/6/1915
Muriel Wakeford writing from Alexandria on the 7th of June, wrote: “Back again after the worst trip we have had. We can just manage to last out with four or five hundred patients for four days. This time we’ve been eighteen days and I can tell you it was pretty tough.
Owing to the strenuous nature of this trip, we nearly all succumbed more or less. I had a rather bad sore throat, consequently had to give up for a day or two, which was very much against the grain. I am nearly right again which, in these circumstances, is something to be thankful for.”
With all patients ashore, the Gascon left Alexandria again at 6.30 that evening of the 8th of June, and with some relief, the nursing staff had been increased from eight to ten. Elsie Gibson noted that “2 more Sisters have been sent to help us.” Both these nurses had been chosen from the 1st Australian General Hospital, and had originally sailed on the A24 Benalla with the First Convoy to leave Australia; they were Alice Elizabeth Barrett Kitchin (aka Kitchen) and Hilda Theresa Samsing. Alice Kitchin wrote in her diary that “Every one is kind & nice & glad to see us as the work is heavy.”
During the return trip with the weather still very hot, the nurses received permission to sleep on deck, and Elsie Gibson, Clementina Marshall and Muriel Wakeford took advantage of this concession. Having arrived in Mudros Harbour at 6 a.m. on the morning of the 11th of June, their departure orders didn’t come through until the 14th, so at last, the medical staff at least, had a few days break. During this time there were opportunities to go ashore and do a bit of sight-seeing as well as visit the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital.
They eventually sailed at 6.30 p.m. on the 14th and anchored in their usual spot off Anzac Cove at 5 a.m. on the 15th. The hospital ship Sicilia, which they were to relieve, was still at anchor and didn’t depart until later that night, so the Gascon only took on a small number of wounded. That morning a hydroplane flew over, and when fired on by the Turks, some shrapnel fell on the deck injuring one of the orderlies.
On the 16th of June Elsie Gibson commented that she was “..to do duty (night) at acute Wards. The very worst are down this end & mostly operation cases. We have cots for these serious cases & they are not double-banked as in the big Wards at stern & the patients not so numerous. They are abdominal, head, chest & amputation chiefly.”
Over the following days they continued to take on wounded in small numbers, and on alternate days they also took on lighter cases for treatment, while one of the fleet sweepers that would normally have carried them to Lemnos was undergoing repairs. Lance Corporal Robert William Crawford (75) was one such case. He was taken on board with a badly sprained ankle on the 17th, and the next day was transferred to a fleet sweeper and taken to Lemnos.
Despite the protection ‘enjoyed’ by hospital ships, the fear of being torpedoed still existed, and added to the physical discomfort of patients and medical staff, as Alice Kitchin pointed out on the 17th of June: “Very warm down below. At 9 pm the port holes are all closed for fear of submarines; the wartertight doors can be closed quickly & then it would take us longer to sink.” A few days later she also wrote “The work gets heavier daily & the flies a pest & the atmosphere very oppressive down below & there is so little time to take the air on deck.”
The ship was once again visited by Lieut General Birdwood on the 19th June, along with Brigadier General Robert Alexander Carruthers (Quarter-Master General).
After taking on the last of their wounded late on the 26th of June, they finally left their anchorage at 11 p.m. and headed for Lemnos.
All funeral services during this time had been conducted by Rev Lee Warner, and the members of the A.I.F. who had lost their lives were as follows:
DOW 16/6/1915: *ELLISS, Baizel Dudley, Pte 10, 12th Bn; DOW 17/6/1915: *DENSLEY, Benjamin, Pte 82, 2nd Fld Amb; *WARREN, Francis Edgar, Pte 616, 8th Bn;
DOW 19/6/1915: *NORTON, William Thomas, Pte 366, 2nd LH;
DOW 20/6/1915: *COLLIE, John Alexander, Pte 1328, 11th Bn; *CROUCHER, Harold, Pte 814, 8th LH; *O’CONNOR, William Henry, Pte 370, 2nd LH; *OWEN, John Richard, Pte 1664 14th Bn; *PAWLEY, Arthur James, Pte 441, 7th Bn; DOW 21/6/1915: *ROADS, Richard Leslie, Pte 184, 3rd LH; DOW 22/6/1915: *CADELL, Thomas Leonard, Lieut 3rd Bn; DOW 23/6/1915: *HOLMES, Louis Gordon, Capt 3rd Bde HQ; *KEID, William, Tpr 170 2nd LH; DOW 25/6/1915: *DOLLA, Carl, Pte 489, 16th Bn; *KISSICK, John, Pte 292 4th LH; *SMITH, James, Pte 2022, 3rd Bn; *TOSDEVIN, Robert, Pte 110, 11th Bn;
DOW 26/6/1915: *MEREDITH, Thomas Herbert, Cpl 1129, 1st Bn; *WATSON, Wallace Frederick, Pte 143, 12th Bn
Members of the NZEF:
ENDEAN, Arthur Stanley, Tpr 11/248 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 25/6/1915
SINGLETON, Wilfred, L/Cpl 3/95, NZ Medical Corps – DOW 26/6/1915
The Gascon arrived in Mudros Harbour at 4 a.m. on the 27th of June. During the day they transferred 43 light cases and 6 Officers to the shore hospital, and took on board 175 walking cases who crowded the decks. Leaving again for Alexandria at 5 p.m., they arrived at 7.30 p.m. on the 29th of June, and anchored in the harbour overnight.
The following day (30th) they disembarked 462 patients including 18 Officers
There had been a total of 43 deaths on board since the 16th of June, including the following four members of the A.I.F. that had died since leaving Lemnos.
DOW 28/6/1915: *MORGAN, Henry Eustace, Pte 2007, 6th Bn;
DOW 29/6/1915: *MacFARLANE, Norman, Bdr 2257, 3rd FAB (7th Bty); *PARKINSON, Vere, Pte 348, 5th Bn; *PHILLIS, Horace Vincent, Pte 814, 10th Bn
Once again the majority of the deaths were due to wounds of the abdomen and head.
Unlike the previous trips, the Gascon this time remained alongside the wharf for a full day after it had been emptied of patients. Cleaning up the ship and the restocking of necessary stores throughout the 1st of July allowed the members of the medical staff to spend a free day ashore. This gave them the opportunity to catch up with friends, go for a drive, have lunch, shop, etc. It appears that the Reverend Lee Warner left the ship at this time.
The Gascon left Alexandria at 5 a.m. on the 2nd of July for her 6th trip to the Gallipoli Peninsula. The sea was a little rough during the morning and most of the nurses were unable to eat or to do any work preparing their Wards until the afternoon. Elsie Gibson felt so terrible she took to her bed, and again on the following day (3rd), while the sisters that were allocated to night duty this trip prepared her Ward for her. Arriving off Anzac Cove at 11.50 a.m. on the 4th of July, they anchored near the hospital ship Neuralia which was almost full, but remained until midnight on the 5th. The Gascon took on some patients later in the day of the 4th, but these were mostly medical cases that were to be transferred to a Fleet Sweeper the following day.
During the afternoon of the 5th a little excitement was had when an enemy submarine was sighted in the direction of Imbros. As those on board the Gascon looked on, a seaplane circled the area looking for it, while one of the Monitors fired several shells in the general direction, until she too was fired on from shore and moved away.
Another visit was had from Lieut General Birdwood on the afternoon of the 7th of July, and with him was the commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF), Major General Alexander John Godley.
Two mates in the 7th Battalion were also brought on board on the 7th and were returning for their second evacuation on the Gascon. They were Bertram Hilton Biggs (652) and Ernest Harcourt Ely (702), both having originally been wounded and evacuated on the first day of the Landing (25th). Bertram could be said to be the lucky one of the pair; he eventually had his left leg amputated in England and returned to Australia in 1916. Ernest was killed in action in August 1916.
Over the following days, sick and wounded continued to be brought on board, including a large number of light cases that had to be received after the Fleet Sweepers had left for Lemnos. Most of these cases were suffering from bowel complaints and diarrhoea, which due to the worsening conditions on shore, was on the increase amongst the troops.
As the ship continued to fill and the medical staff became very busy, Alice Kitchin commented on the 11th that: “The staff is not adequate for the heavy demands on it especially the night when the wounded always come in, in 2 or 3 batches.” That evening there was also a lot of shelling going on between ships and shore; some of the shells falling close to the Gascon, and Elsie Gibson wrote: “We watched Monitor & Torpedo getting shells at her right & left as she got out as quickly as possible – so did we.”
Between the 5th and 14th of July, as well as the patients who remained on board, they had also treated 998 light cases before transferring them to Fleet Sweepers to be taken to Lemnos. With the ship quite full, and the Sicilia arriving to relieve them, they finally left for Lemnos themselves at 3 p.m. on the 14th. Reaching Mudros Harbour at 8 p.m., they anchored until morning, and during the 15th 5 Officers and 12 Indians were transferred to the shore hospitals and about 75 light cases were brought on board. Instead of their usual trip to Egypt, orders were received to proceed to Malta and they sailed at 6.30 p.m.
Arriving at Malta at 6 a.m. on the 18th of July, they were directed to enter Quarantine Harbour, where the patients had to be taken off the ship in Lighters as there was no wharf to dock beside. 426 rank and file and 35 Officers were disembarked throughout the day, and as their wards were emptied the medical staff were able to go ashore for some sightseeing.
As well as her impressions of Valetta, Ella Tucker wrote home that: “The Malta people are so good to our men. There was a pyjama suit and a blanket sent down to the ship for every man.” Trooper Robert James Rodd, 451 6th LH, who had been evacuated with a head wound, also wrote home from Malta: “Coming over on the hospital ship (the “Gascon”) there were two Sydney Hospital nurses. Nurse Durham, and Nurse Porter. They were both lovely nurses. They treated us so nicely, and the doctors were exceptionally good and nice to the wounded.”
During this trip there were a total of 37 deaths, and their funerals were conducted by Reverend William Cyril Mayne (Royal Army Chaplains Department), who had replaced Rev Lee Warner. The following being members of the A.I.F.:
DOW 7/7/1915: *LOGAN, James John, Sgt 1783, 8th AASC; *MacLURE, Valentine Murray, Pte 157, 3rd Bn; * WELLS, Cecil Frederick John, Pte 1450, 7th Bn;
DOW 8/7/1915: *BENNETT, Cyril Arthur, Tpr 711, 7th LH; *GANNON, Frances Joseph, Tpr 166, 7th LH; DOW 10/7/1915: *CAIN, Sydney Alexander, Pte 385, 2nd Bn;
*KENT, Francis Burwood, LCpl 292, 9th LH; *PENNINGTON, Rowland John Robert, Dvr 2155, 3rd FAB; DOW 11/7/1915: *COOPER, Volney Leonard, Tpr 537 7th LH;
DOI 11/7/1915: *WORSLEY, Tasman, Pte 512, 12th Bn;
DOW 12/7/1915: *CREER, Errol Joseph Hart, L/Cpl 392, 6th LH; *REDMAYNE, James – Pte 2017, 2nd Bn; *STOKES, Henry – Cpl 552, 12th Bn; *WALKER, Kenneth Leigh, 2nd Lieut/438, 7th Bn; DOW 13/7/1915: *SOANES, Henry Donald, Pte 150, 7th Bn; *THOMAS, Colin, Dvr 283, 2nd Fld Amb;
DOW 14/7/1915: *BENSON, Henry, Pte 167, 6th Bn; *BLACKSTOCK, Wilfred Lawson, Pte 1753, 12th Bn; *BRADY, George, Pte 696, 12th Bn; *GARNER, George Godfrey, Sgt 411, 7th Bn; *GILES, George Leslie, 1101 / 2169, 8th Bn; *JOHNSON, Cyril Allen – Pte 1340, 15th Bn; *PERMEZEL, Cedric Holroyd – Capt, 7th Bn;
DOW 15/7/15: *BERKIS, Arvid, Pte 1507, 6th Bn; *POPLE, William, Cpl 1166, 7th Bn; *FLOCKART, Robert Pearce, Maj 5th Bn; DOI 17/7/1915: *HAGUE, Henry, Pte 1340, 3rd Bn; DOW 18/7/1915: *PRESTON, William, Pte 1059, 7th Bn
Members of the N.Z.E.F:
DREAPER, Reginald Charles, Tpr 11/757 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 11/7/1915
PALMER, Harry Thomas, Capt, Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOI 15/7/1915
Captain Palmer, who died from pneumonia, had written to his wife on the 8th of July: “I came on board ship on Monday night, and in the interval have been very rocky, but as I am getting the best of attention and plenty of medicine, will come out of it smiling, don’t worry.”
Having left Quarantine Harbour at 10 a.m. on the 19th of July, they experienced very rough seas the following day causing a great wave of seasickness among the medical staff. They arrived back in Mudros Harbour at 7 a.m. on the 22nd of July, passing the HS Neuralia which was just leaving full of wounded. Once again their routine was broken when they received orders to proceed to Cape Helles instead of Anzac Cove, and sailing at 5 p.m. they reached Cape Helles about 9 p.m. The Gascon was to relieve the HS Grantully Castle which then departed the following morning (23rd) and the Gascon began taking on wounded that evening. During the 23rd they also received a visit from (Lieutenant) Colonel John Girvin of the Royal Army Medical Corps (R.A.M.C., A.D.M.S.)
They continued to take on patients each day until the 29th of July at which time they received orders to sail the next morning. Leaving Cape Helles at 6 a.m on the 30th of July, they arrived in Mudros Harbour at 9.30 a.m., where they took on board 177 cases from the shore hospitals, bringing their total to 468. Sailing again later that evening, they arrived at Alexandria early on the morning of the 2nd of August. Throughout the day 464 patients were disembarked, including 23 Officers.
Among the deaths during this time were four cases of gas gangrene. Deaths included: Able Seaman Aaron Johnstone (RNVR) died of dysentery on the 26/7/1915; William Barlow, Pte 2141, 1/8 Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers died 28/7/1915; Joseph Bolton, Pte1656, 1/5 Bn Manchester Regt died 30/7/1915.
One of the cases taken on board at Mudros on the 30th was Private Charles Burke (1719) of the 15th Battalion, AIF. He died of Enteric Fever as they neared Egypt on the 2nd of August, but was buried at sea by Rev Mayne.
The ship remained in port all the next day of the 3rd while coaling took place, and the medical staff were given a free day to go ashore. Amongst her shopping, Alice Kitchin “laid in a stock of Mothersill & Worcestershire sauce”; remedies for seasickness.
Leaving Alexandria at 10 a.m. on the 4th of August, the Gascon arrived in Mudros Harbour at 6 p.m. on the 6th of August. Later that evening 8 hospital ships and various other transports left the harbour for the Gallipoli Peninsula, to cater to the wounded from the diversionary battles that were being staged while the new landing took place at Suvla. The Gascon and another hospital ship, the Gloucester Castle remained behind in the harbour.
During the afternoon of the 8th of August the Gascon finally received orders to proceed to Anzac Cove, reaching there at 10 p.m. The area was dotted with the lights of the other hospital ships and the noise of the battle raging on shore was deafening. Several boatloads of wounded came alongside the Gascon at 1 a.m. (9th), and they continued to flow in all that day. Many of the slightly wounded were treated and then transferred to Fleet Sweepers before, the ship having been filled, left for Imbros at 6 p.m. Before sailing, the Australian surgeon, Major Shaw and his orderly James McBean, who had been with the ship for two months, went ashore at Anzac to rejoin their Unit, the 2nd Field Ambulance. During the day Colonel Arthur William Mayo-Robson (R.A.M.C.) had come on board as a consulting surgeon.
Joining many other ships at Imbros, they received orders to transfer all their 627 patients to other transports and then return to Anzac. The idea behind this was to clear the clogged beaches of wounded as quickly as possible and as the hospital ships could anchor closer to shore than the other transports without being fired on, they were acting as Casualty Clearing Stations for the time being. The transfer took place during the following day (10th), with 250 cases, including 3 Officers being transferred to the Canada, and the rest to the Ionian. Seventeen deaths had occurred on board in this short space of time, their funerals conducted by the Rev Mayne, and included the following members of the A.I.F.:
DOW 9/8/1915: *CLARKE, Frank Graham, Pte 302, 12th Bn; *FISHER, John Martin, Cpl 439, 7th Bn; *KEEPENCE, Herbert Spencer, Pte 1599, 1st Bn; *MORRISSEY, Patrick, Tpr 663, 8th LH; DOW 10/8/1915: *HANSEN, Henry, Pte 290 15th Bn (buried at sea 4 miles from Imbros)
Those of the N.Z.E.F. included: DOW 9/8/1915: BURR, Eric Bell, Tpr 11/208 Wellington Mtd Rifles and WILSON, James Hood, Tpr 11/402 Wellington Mtd Rifles;
DOW 10/8/1915: GRIMMER, Frank William, Pte 10/731 Wellington Regt – (buried at sea in the region of the Dardanelles)
Leaving Imbros at 6.20 p.m. on the 10th of August the Gascon hadn’t yet put down anchor at Anzac, when Elsie Gibson noted that “a launch was alongside & a wounded officer for immediate op taken on.” Later that evening Alice Kitchin commented: “Bullets fell on our deck & one wounded the dispensary Indian tonight, although the anchor was got up & we moved.” They continued filling up all day of the 11th and by late afternoon were full once more. Elsie Gibson wrote in her diary: “Wounded came on without ceasing. As fast as our Orderlies could carry them off the cradle & as fast as the winch could work – it never ceased & doesn’t it make a thundering noise.”
One of those brought on board this day was the newly promoted Captain Frederick Harold Tubb of the 7th Battalion. He had been wounded during the enemy counter attack at Lone Pine on the 9th of August, and was later awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions that day.
The Gascon left for Imbros again at 5.30 p.m. on the 11th of August where the night was spent awaiting orders for the unloading of the wounded. The orders that came through on the morning of the 12th however, were to proceed to Lemnos, and they arrived in Mudros Harbour at 1.30 that afternoon. There they waited for the rest of the day and a good part of the next (13th) before orders finally came through at 5 p.m. to proceed to Malta. Leaving at 7.30 that evening, they were thankful to be on the move at last. Elsie Gibson had noted in her diary while sitting in Mudros Harbour: “It is very hot – a stinking calm – there is no other word for it. My patients are wet & their beds & pillows saturated & I am oozing all the time. The wounds are very bad, very septic & offensive & some fly blown.”
The weather was cooler as they travelled towards Malta, where they arrived at 9.30 on the morning of the 16th of August. The 463 patients, including 28 Officers, were disembarked throughout the day, and the Gascon departed once more at 7.45 that evening.
There had been 34 deaths on board since the 11th of August, and the burials at sea had been officiated over by the Rev Mayne; the A.I.F. deaths being:
DOW 11/8/1915: *CRAPPER, Oliver, 2134, Pte 5th Bn; *LEA, Thomas, Pte 2247, 13th Bn
DOW 12/8/1915: *SEYMOUR, Hobart Alfred, Cpl 487, 3rd LH
DOW 14/8/1915: *MARKS, Alfred George, Cpl 658, 5th Bn
DOW 15/8/1915: *CHATTERTON, Stanley Vine, Pte 1009, 5th Bn; *KELLY, John Thomas Henry, Pte 1391, 13th Bn
N.Z.E.F : JAMES, Thomas Parry, Capt 11/488 Wellington Mtd Rifles – DOW 12/8/1915
British forces: KINGSFORD, Alfred Ashby, Sgt 11856, 8th Bn Welsh Regt Pioneers – DOW 10/8/1915; POTTS, John Charles Stanley, Pte 2814, Warwick Regt – d.12/8/1915;
SLACK, Harry, Pte 10448, 7th Bn, N Staffordshire Regt – d.13/8/1915; REDMOND, Patrick, L/Cpl 10851, Royal Dublin Fusiliers – d.16/8/1915.
On the return journey to Lemnos Alice Kitchin noted in her diary that her steward and a fireman were both ill, and the weather was still very ‘hot & steamy.’ She also mentioned that she spent the afternoon of the 17th“sewing & chatting with Capt Bengerfield [sic] who began as a patient & is now doing McShaw’s [sic] work.” Captain Vivian Benjafield, a Sydney surgeon who had originally sailed with the 2nd AGH, had been evacuated from Anzac earlier that month with dysentery. On recovery he was attached to the Gascon to fill the void left by the departure of Major Shaw.
On arrival at Lemnos the Gascon anchored near the Dunluce Castle in the outer harbour at 8.30 on the morning of the 19th of August. Orders came through to proceed to Cape Helles, and sailing at 1 p.m. they arrived there at 6 p.m.
The Galeka left the following morning (20th) and the Gascon began taking on the sick and wounded in its place. Elsie Gibson noted: “Very slow & awfully dismal here – patients coming about 9 & 10 daily.” Lt Col Hugo went ashore on the 22nd of August, and everyone was very happy to see him safely return later that evening. The Delta arrived on the 23rd to relieve the Gascon, but with only about 60 patients on board she had no orders to move out. Three of the patients lost during this time were with the Royal Marine Light Infantry, being Pte John Witheridge Edmunds who died on the 21/8/1915 and Pte Richard Farnworth and Pte John Dring, who died on the 23/8/1915.
Moving in close to Gully Beach on the afternoon of the 25th they took on 150 medical cases from a Fleet Sweeper and then sailed for Lemnos at 4.30 p.m, arriving in the outer harbour about 9.30 p.m. Pte Frederick James Walker of the Manchester Regt died on the 25/8/1915.
On the morning of the 26th the Gascon moved to the inner harbour and anchored against the Cawdor Castle. In the afternoon all ‘walking cases’ were transferred to the shore hospitals and the rest taken on board the Cawdor Castle to be transported to England. Alice Kitchin noted in her diary: “Rained today: a very rare event since we landed in Egypt.”
Temporary Sub Lieutenant Hugh Alexander Massey of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve died this day and was taken ashore for burial.
Orders were received on the afternoon of the 27th to proceed to Imbros where they arrived about 9 p.m. and anchored outside the boom. Around midnight 100 patients, mostly Australians, were brought from Anzac Cove by Trawler and taken on board. Then from 5 a.m. on the 28th the sick and wounded continued to stream in all day. Alice Kitchin commented that “the anchor was well exercised being let go & taken up 6 times while we took on cases from various barges & beaches.” Elsie Gibson wrote: “We are clearing a Hospital at Imbros & are just inundated. They are on decks everywhere – poop-deck, boat deck, well deck, promenade deck & smoke room. All cots & available floor space also filled.” Hilda Samsing mentioned that “The Chief Steward is a good fellow and went around the decks to see that everyone had been given breakfast.” By 10 p.m. there were 940 patients on board and a signal was sent that no more could be taken. Although a large number of these were minor cases, there were also some very bad dysentery cases.
Leaving Imbros at 6.30 a.m. on the 29th of August they arrived back in Mudros Harbour at 11 a.m. and anchored near the Dunluce Castle. Able Seaman George Smith, RNVR, Drake Bn and Lieutenant Charles Alfred Lister, Royal Marines, Hood Bn, had both died on the 28th. The Honourable Charles Lister was taken ashore at Lemnos and buried in the East Mudros Military Cemetery.
After waiting all day for orders, they finally came through at 10 p.m. that night. The orders carried out on the morning of the 30th involved transferring 48 Indian Troops to the hospital ship Seang Choon, and 10 Officers, 230 rank and file and 10 wounded Turkish Prisoners to the transport Huntsgreen (previously known as the Derfflinger). Alice Kitchin commented on how the transfer of at least these patients “relieved the strain on the ship’s resources & food.” The Gascon then sailed for Alexandria at 11.15 a.m. with the remaining 650 patients.
Hugh COOPER, Pte 1519, 3rd Bn AIF, died of wounds on the 31/8/1915 and was buried at sea by Rev Mayne.
The Gascon arrived at Alexandria at 4 p.m. on the 1st of September and remained in port for the following 3 days, undergoing repairs and caulking of decks as well as the usual coaling.
The 649 patients, including 17 Officers, were disembarked on the 2nd, one of these however, being the body of Pte Maxwell Cannon, 1960, 1/5th KOSB, who had died the day before; and he was buried in the Chatby Military Cemetery.
Also leaving the ship that day to return to the 2nd AGH were 4 of the nurses; Sophie Durham, Clementina Marshall, Katherine Porter and Muriel Wakeford. During her service on the Gascon, a romance had blossomed between Muriel Wakeford and a member of the crew, Sub-Lieutenant Raymond Gustave Sargeant. The couple later married in England on the 28th of June 1916, and Muriel resigned her appointment with the AANS as a consequence.
Four replacement AANS nurses were brought on board at this time, all four having originally sailed on the A14 Euripides with the First Convoy to leave Australia. They were Penelope Frater, Adelaide Maud Kellett, Alice Joan Twynam and Jean Nellie Miles Walker.
Departing Alexandria at 8.15 a.m. on the 5th of September, the Gascon also carried 8 British nurses who were to join the Itonus at Lemnos. Elsie Gibson commented that a “Number of the crew & orderlies [were] down with Enteric”, and Alice Kitchin noted that “All the wards have been sulphured to make them a bit sweeter.” Arriving in Mudros Harbour at 7.30 p.m. on the 7th of September, they received orders the following day (8th) to proceed to Anzac Cove; departing at 4.30 p.m. and arriving at 10.30 p.m. No doubt with some relief, Alice Kitchin wrote in her diary: “It is much cooler this time & at times quite chilly.”
Patients began arriving early on the 9th, mainly medical cases, and they continued to fill up over the following days. On the 12th of September they hoisted the ‘Blue Peter’ to let all ashore know they were full and finally left for Lemnos at 11 p.m that night.
The following members of the AIF had died during this time, their funerals conducted by Lieut Col Hugo:
*BROWN, Frederick, Pte 1149, 20th Bn and *HAYES, Charles Henry, Pte 1240, 20th Bn – DOW 10/9/1915; and DRAIN, Edward (Teddy), Pte 2343, 3rd Bn – DOW 11/9/1915.
The Gascon arrived in Mudros Harbour at 6 a.m. on the 13th of September, and amongst the many other ships at anchor were the Gloucester Castle and the Aquitania. While waiting for orders 33 Indians and 9 Infectious disease cases were taken ashore in the afternoon, before she left for Malta at 6 p.m. Arriving at Malta at 8 a.m. on the 16th they anchored in Quarantine Harbour and disembarked their 465 patients.
Pte Rupert Mckean, 1050, 8th Bn AIF had died earlier that morning and was buried at sea by Lieut Col Hugo.
Sailing at 10 a.m. on the 17th of September they experienced rough weather on the return to Lemnos, but no seasickness on board this time. The Gloucester Castle was passed en route on the 18th, and they arrived in Mudros Harbour at 7 a.m. on the 20th, where it was too rough to row to the Aragon for orders. On the 21st the Dunluce Castle left the harbour at lunch time, and the Gascon followed her at 1.30 p.m., heading for Cape Helles, where she arrived at 7 p.m. They were still experiencing rough seas, and it was very cold and windy.
Elsie Gibson commented that there was a French hospital ship at anchor called the Charles Roux, which was a Stationary Base Surgical Hospital Ship which treated French soldiers before transferring them to other hospital ships. The Gascon began taking on sick and wounded on the 22nd of September with 200 transferred from Fleetsweepers. The following day (23rd) they continued taking on medical cases in large numbers. Alice Kitchin explained how they “Went into the smooth waters near the shore & anchored till we got patients on & then out again near the French Hos. base ship.” One of those taken on board during this time was Chaplain Kenneth Best. He wrote: “I am put in dysentery ward and am given soup, fish and custard for lunch. How unspeakably delicious it tasted. I fear what the result will be, but doctor should know best.” On the 24th they went in close to shore again and took on around 60 patients before leaving for Lemnos at 9.30 a.m., where they arrived at 2 p.m.
At 6.30 a.m. on the 25th the Gascon went alongside the Ausonia, and transferred 309 of her patients, including 17 Officers and Chaplain Best. She then transferred 2 officers, 186 other ranks, 6 Indians, 10 Greek labourers and 4 men of the Zion Mule Corps to the shore hospital. Also taken ashore was the body of Roderick McLeod, CSM 343, 5th Bn Highland Light Infantry, who died of his wounds this day, and was buried in the East Mudros Military Cemetery.
With 16 patients still on board they left for Anzac at 11 a.m. on the 26th, and arriving at 4 p.m. took on several patients before settling in for a quiet night. Sick and wounded continued to be brought on board over the next 2 days, until 3.30 p.m. on the 28th September when they sailed for Lemnos with 476 cases, including 15 Officers, reaching there about 9.30 p.m. One of the deaths during this time was Pte Alfred Frederick Percy Davies of the Northamptonshire Regt who died on the 27/9/1915.
The following morning (29th) they received orders for Malta, and disembarked 24 Indians and 7 cases of scarlet fever and diphtheria before leaving at 1 p.m. Pte Hubert Leigh Starr, 517 25th Bn AIF, succumbed to dysentery en-route (29th) and was buried at sea by Reverend Robert Noble Beasley (Royal Army Chaplains Department), who had taken over from Rev Mayne. Two other deaths during this trip were Pte Arthur Henry Taylor of the Essex Regt who died on the 30/9/1915 and Pte Herbert Thomas Howard of the Norfolk Regt who died on the 1/10/1915.
On the 1st of October Alice Kitchin, who was on night duty, wrote: “A very rough & roll ing sea, things smashing every where which woke me up at 4 p.m. So I got on early with a dose of Mothersill & Worcester sauce with good effect & got through the night as well as could be expected, though going up & down staircases is a bit dangerous to life & limb.”
The Gascon arrived at Malta and anchored in Quarantine Harbour at 7 a.m. on the 2nd of October. Orders first came through that they were to disembark their patients the following day, and then subsequently to proceed to England, but the final word was that they were to go to Gibraltar. 40 ‘deck cases’ were disembarked that afternoon, and the following day (3rd) after waiting all morning for medical supplies, they departed for Gibraltar with the remaining 400 patients at noon. Over the previous months many of the crew had been ill with Enteric fever, and later that day (3rd), Merchant Seaman John William INKSTER succumbed to the illness.
Rough weather was experienced during most of the trip to Gibraltar and there was a great deal of seasickness. However, by the 7th the sea was calm, and the ship slowed its speed considerably so they wouldn’t reach their destination during the night and have to anchor outside the harbour. The ship entered the inner harbour at 7 a.m. on the 8th of October and began disembarking their patients at 8.15 a.m. 397 patients were disembarked; this number including 14 Officers, 372 rank and file and 11 Naval ratings. Welcome assistance was received by many members of the Royal Army Medical Corps from the shore hospital, and the medical staff were able to go ashore to enjoy some relaxation in the afternoon.
During the voyage 2 patients died of illness on the 4/10/1915: Pte John Galloway, 554, 17th Bn AIF and Pte Frederick John Tyler, 403, 5th Bn Essex Regt; and Pte Guy Holbrook, 2255, 10th Bn AIF, died of typhoid on the 6/10/1915, all being buried at sea by Chaplain Beasley.
The following day (9th) while the ship was being coaled, the nurses along with some of the doctors, crossed the bay to Algeciras, Spain, and spent an enjoyable day shopping and sightseeing. The Gascon sailed at 7 a.m. on the 10th of October for her return to Lemnos, passing the Dunluce Castle on the 11th. However, on the 13th she received a wireless message to put in at Malta instead, and they tied up in the Grand Harbour, Valetta at 6 a.m. the next day (14th). Orders then came through to embark patients for England, which was carried out on the 15th.
With 393 patients on board, mostly convalescents and walking cases, they left about 3 p.m. that afternoon (15th). Alice Kitchin noted in her diary: “It has been very hot all day & W5 [Ward 5] is rather a trial being so close & full of cigarette smoke which is overpowering from 110 men who smoke incessantly.”
On the evening of the 16th of October, the Gloucester Castle which was also heading to England, caught up and passed them. The Gascon arrived off Gibraltar at 12.10 p.m. on the 19th and despatched various cables before proceeding on at 1.35 p.m. Throughout the voyage there was constant grumbling from the patients in regard to the poor quality and quantity of food. Alice Kitchin also made reference to the monotony, including bad butter and sloppy rice.
Arriving to a wet and foggy Southampton late morning on the 24th they began disembarking the 392 patients as soon as they docked, having only lost one patient on the voyage. That patient being Pte James Fish of the Lancashire Regt, who was committed to the deep on the 21/10/1915. Empty once more the ship left again at 3 p.m. and arrived at Tilbury at 4 p.m. on the 25th, anchoring at Gravesend, having missed the tide. She continued on to East India Dock, London, on the 26th, arriving at 4.30 p.m. With no steam to heat the ship, having been towed along the Thames, the nursing staff were glad to finally leave the freezing ship on the 27th; looking forward to the 2 weeks of Leave ahead of them. The Gascon remained in dock undergoing repairs and a refit until the 10th of November.
With all the staff back on board, as well as a new addition, a Stewardess, and the entire equipment and R.A.M.C. personnel of the 29th British General Hospital (BGH), consisting of 34 Medical Officers and 201 other ranks, the Gascon sailed for Salonika on the 11th of November 1915. She arrived after dark on the 25th and anchored outside the harbour; entering the following day (26th). The Grantully Castle had been in the harbour for a fortnight and the Asturias, also with a General Hospital on board, had been waiting for some time, and the Gascon was set to join the waiting game.
On the 4th of December she received 75 invalids, and then on the 5th as the 29th BGH equipment and personnel finally began to be disembarked, 291 patients were brought on board to take their place. With the onset of winter, many of these cases were suffering from trench fever, frostbite and the resulting gangrene. Disembarkation of the 29th BGH continued throughout the day of the 6th and finally concluded at 11.30 a.m. on the 7th. The Gascon then sailed for Alexandria at 3.15 that afternoon (7th), and arrived early on the morning of the 10th.
Two patients had died during the voyage and the other 364 patients, including 8 Officers, were disembarked throughout the day (10th). Now that the Gascon was carrying fewer patients and the ship due to transport more invalids to England, three of the AANS nurses left the ship on the 12th to return to their original Units; these were Alice Kitchin, Hilda Samsing and Jean Miles Walker. Sadly, Jean Miles Walker didn’t survive the war; a victim of the Influenza epidemic, she died from Pneumonia on the 30/10/1918. Her remains are buried in St John the Evangelist Churchyard, Sutton Veny, Wiltshire, England.
Having embarked 358 invalids during the morning of the 12th, the Gascon left the harbour at 2 p.m., but promptly returned on account of a burst steam pipe. With repairs complete the ship sailed again at 5 p.m. on the 14th of December, and arrived at Southampton on Boxing Day (26th). Disembarkation of the 358 invalids took place that day and the Gascon remained at dock coaling and undergoing some minor repairs until the 2nd of January 1916.
During the 3rd of January, 139 Indian invalids, along with the personnel and stores of the 1st Indian General Hospital were embarked for the voyage to Egypt. Leaving Southampton at 4.30 p.m. on the 4th, they arrived at Alexandria and anchored in the harbour at 5.30 p.m. on the 16th. Disembarkation took place on the 17th and the ship then remained in the harbour for some time awaiting orders. During this time the remaining AANS nurses left the ship, Penelope Frater on the 20th, Adelaide Kellett on the 22nd, and Elsie Gibson, Ethel Peters, Ella Tucker and Alice Twynam on the 1st of February.
Taking the place of the AANS nurses were 4 nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service Corps; three joining the ship on the 3rd of February, and one more on the 4th. The Gascon also embarked 290 invalids, including 11 nurses on the 4th, and departed for England once more at 5 p.m. Stopping at Gibraltar en-route on the 12th, they embarked 32 more invalids before continuing on later that morning. Southampton was reached on the 17th and the patients were disembarked on the 18th. Pte Thomas Henry Lewis, 207 1/5 Bn Welsh Regt, was the only death on the voyage, having succumbed to chronic Dysentery on the 9/2/1916.
With coaling and some minor repairs seen to, 62 native invalids were embarked for Boulogne, France on the 25th of February, and following further delays the ship finally sailed at 6 a.m. on the 28th. Arriving at her destination on the morning of the 29th, the patients were disembarked, and 347 British and Canadian patients were embarked in their place; the ship sailing for Southampton at 7.15 that evening.
Southampton was reached at 9.30 a.m. on the 1st of March, and all invalids disembarked. The following day (2nd) 358 Indian invalids were embarked for Alexandria, and the ship sailed at 3 p.m. Arriving at Alexandria on the 14th, all patients were disembarked during the afternoon.
On the 15th orders were received by Lieut Col Hugo to hand over command of the Gascon with all her medical stores and equipment to Major Herbert Longmore Grant Chevers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. This took place on the 19th of March and Lieut Col Hugo and his entire IMS staff left the ship and entrained for Suez.
The Gascon continued her war service until the end of 1919, but this history finishes here (for now).
Occasionally the various diaries differ in regard to dates and times, and quite often in the number of patients carried during trips – in most of these cases I have chosen to stick with the Gascon diary.
The service records and further detail of the AANS nurses can be found at the following link: https://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/groupstories/16457
*HMHS Gascon War Diary [NA – WO 95/4145/1] (by Lieut Col E.V. Hugo, I.M.S.)
*AANS Nurse: Elsie Gibson’s Diary [AWM – PRO1269]
*AANS Nurse: Alice Kitchin’s Diary [SLV – MS 9627 MSB 478] (courtesy of a transcription from Dr Kirsty Harris)
*Snippets from various other Diaries
*Various letters from Nurses and Soldiers and articles sourced from Australian newspapers [Trove]
*Soldier’s and Nurse’s Service Records
*Great War Forum (special thanks to members), as well as various other websites and books
100 YEARS AGO TODAY: The March to the Rhine - Day 21.
King George V and General William Birdwood visit the graves of several notable soldiers including, the temporary grave of Prince Maurice of Battenburg, the King's one-time equerry Major Lord Charles Mercer-Nairne, Brigadier General Francis Aylmer Maxwell VC, CSI, DSO & Bar, and Major the Hon. William George Sidney Cadogan, the equerry to the Prince of Wales. Presentation of baton of the Marshal of France to Philippe Petain at Metz, 8 December 1918. Marshal Petain, Marshal Joseph Joffre, Marshal Ferdinand Foch, General Maxime Weygand (France), Field Marshal Douglas Haig (Britain), General John Pershing (USA), General Cyriaque Gillain (Belgium), General Alberico Albricci (Italy) and General Józef Haller (Poland) awaiting the arrival of French President Raymond Poincare.
General Staff - 1st Canadian Division, C.E.F.
13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada)
14th Battalion (The Royal Montreal Regiment)
15th Battlion (48th Highlanders of Canada), 3rd Inf. Bde, C.E.F.
16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish), 3rd Inf. Bde, C.E.F.
5th Canadian Divisional Artillery, C.E.F.
14th Brigade C.F.A., C.E.F.
61st Field Battery, C.F.A., 5th C.D.A., C.E.F.
Lt Abner Virtue - 6st Fld Bty
60th Field Battery, C.F.A., 5th C.D.A., C.E.F.
Outside Recht, Photo: Edward Walshe
Recht, Photo: Edward Walshe
Marcard, Photo: Edward Walshe
Railway Bridge Bonn and Kirke, Photo: Edward Walshe
Dedenburg & Bonn Railway Bridge, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Amel, Photo: Edward Walshe
Amel, Photo: Edward Walshe
Moderscheid, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Moderscheid, Photo: Edward Walshe
Bullingen, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Bullingen, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Wirtzfeld, Photo: Edward Walshe
Wirtzfeld, Photo: Edward Walshe
Outside Krinkelt, Photo: Edward Walshe
Krinkelt, Photo: Edward Walshe
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
These are the categories that I have on my computer in bookmarks. I will update this page on a regular basis, particularly during the early phase of the "sorting into categories".
These are ONLY for the British cases here on the GWF. They do not include any of the cases on the CEFSG (here).
I was initially posting this information for the benefit of GWF PALS that wanted to investigate the case further and possibly take it to the reporting stage. I was not familiar enough with the Regiments and did not have access to the UK War Diaries, so I could not finish the case. With the assistance of the Long, Long Trail and now with Ance$try Worldwide, I am able to proceed. There are a number of these cases still listed in the final category below ("Other Cases Posted") and I am now in the process of working through these to move them to the other categories. Many may end up in the "Abandon or Hold" category, which I have now split. If you have looked at a report and believe it is in the wrong category, let me know.
Changes to this blog include:
- 23 November 2019 the details of acceptance or rejection during the Approvals Process have now been added, which are generally emails from the CWGC. Any team response or report updates are then uploaded to the site. This information, on how the process works, may be of benefit to other researchers.
- 12 February 2019 the topic lists that have multiple nationalities have been sorted and classified as to their nationality
- 25 January 2018 addition for "Short Listed Candidates". Those are the cases where is there is more than one person that fits the characteristics for the grave but the list is very short. The reason for this category is for FAMILY who may be researching an UNKNOWN, so they now know it may be their relative in that grave - but it is not a positive identification. This category has also been used where one or more of the candidates has been identified elsewhere, thus shortening the list.
- 5 July 2018 addition of "CWGC Reports to be Submitted / Possibly Incorrect Identifications". It appears that the named person is "clearly" (not a minor question) in that grave. This has not been applied yet to cases where a recent submission (post 2000) may have misidentified an UNKNOWN (i.e. Kipling Case).
- 8 July 2018 added "A member is looking for this soldier".
- 22 July 2018 added "The Approvals Process", in concert with the 1st "Phase I" Approval.
- 27 October 2018 added "Abandon or Hold / Accounted for by Special Memorial(s)" - men are listed missing but may be on a Special Memorial within a cemetery
The cases are now also posted to TWITTER as:
As always, I appreciate the assistance of any member who wishes to participate in these investigations. If a draft report is prepared, any member is welcome to review the document and provide comments, corrections or criticisms. If the report goes to the Submission Stage, any member that participated in the process can have their name added to the report. For that I need your Real Name, Affiliation (can be as simple as "Private Researcher") and your email address (so the CWGC can contact you directly if they wish).
A list of both the Canadian and Commonwealth reports that I have submitted can be found here, with download links:
Main Page: http://laughton.ca/publications/unknown-project/
- Canadian Reports: http://cefresearch.ca/unknown-reports/
- Commonwealth Reports: http://laughton.ca/publications/unknown-project/commonwealth-unknowns/
The difference between the Canadian and Commonwealth reports is that initially the Canadian reports were submitted to the CWGC Canadian Agency in Ottawa for review first. If acceptable to Ottawa, they then were forwarded to the Maidenhead CWGC Office. This process was modified in January 2019 so that now all cases go directly to the CWGC Maidenhead.
As cases move through the process, their place on the list below is modified. A topic might go from "New Cases" to "Reports Submitted" and then up to the "Approvals Process". There it might stay for a considerable length of time, before being marked as "Approved" or "Rejected". Once in that part of the process, additional information is added, such as a direct link to the report or review documents received from the approvals authorities (including rejections). Under the new process, a "Commonwealth Case" must make it through all three (3) phases of the approvals process. There is no information at present to indicate a "Canadian Case" would move through the process in the UK or if it would then be sent back to Ottawa.
The Approvals Process:
Phase 4 - Approved for Rededication Service
10 September 2019 bumped up to JCCC for the final decision - Approved 6 January 2020 - rededication week of 28 September 2020
19 October 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 352 - Captain Vivian Hastings Clay
Report: Captain Clay Warlencourt British Cemetery Plot 6 Row F Grave 34 (28 December 2016)
Phased Approval: MOD SO2 Email 10 September 2019; Final Approval 6 January 2020
- 10 September 2019 bumped up to JCCC for the final decision - Approved 6 January 2020 - rededication week of 28 September 2020
Phase 3 - Reviewed by Joint Casualty and Compassionate Centre:
2 October 2018 - CWGC Identification 292 - 2nd Lieutenants (2) Clark and Noon
Report: 2nd Lieutenants (2) Clark and Noon Tyne Cot British Cemetery Plot 59 Row D Grave 46 & 47 (27 August 2016 Amended 7 October 2018)
AHB Request: MOD SO2 EMAIL 2 October 2018
Response: Team Email and Amended Data 7 October 2018
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/242835-2nd-lts-e-v-clark-g-noon-rfc-found/
- 2 October 2018 - CWGC Identification 292 - 2nd Lieutenants (2) Clark and Noon
Phase 2 - Reviewed by Services Authorities (National Army Museum or Air Historical Branch):
19 December 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 86-2 - APPEAL REJECTED (original reports by Tom Tulloch-Marshall and John Hartley)
Report: Corporal BFG Jeffs RFC Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery Plot 3 Row D Grave 7
Rejection Details: CWGC Email of 19 December 2018
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/241174-unknown-rfc-corporal-b-f-g-jeffs-11th-sqd/
- 19 December 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 86-2 - APPEAL REJECTED (original reports by Tom Tulloch-Marshall and John Hartley)
Phase 1 - Approved by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (HQ Maidenhead):
21 September 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 365 - Lieutenant Alfred Eaves
Report: Lieutenant Eaves Warlencourt British Cemetery Plot 5 Row K Grave 20 (19 January 2017)
Phased Approval: CWGC Email 21 September 2018
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/245104-lieutenant-the-queens-royal-west-surrey-regiment/
12 February 2019 - CWGC Identification Case 380 - Second Lieutenant Alick Guyer Aylmer (20 April 1917) @thetrenchrat22
Report: 2nd Lieutenant Alick Aylmore Assevillers New British Cemetery Plot 9 Row D Grave 6
Phased Approval: CWGC Email 12 February 2019
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/249166-assevillers-new-british-cemetery/
- 21 September 2018 - CWGC Identification Case 365 - Lieutenant Alfred Eaves
Phase 1 - Rejected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (HQ Maidenhead)
22 November 2019 - CWGC Identification CASE 353 - Captain Fitzherbert & Lieutenant Battersby
Report: Captain Fitzherbert and Lieutenant Battersby Messines Ridge British Cemetery Plot 4 Row E Graves 38 & 39
Rejection Details: CWGC Email of 22 November 2019
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/245856-lt-p-w-battersby-capt-w-w-fitzherbert-rfc-messines-ridge-british-cemetery-4e38-39/
- 22 November 2019 - CWGC Identification CASE 353 - Captain Fitzherbert & Lieutenant Battersby
Significant Correction Reports - Only CWGC Approval is required
Approved 28 March 2019: Correction Report - Private William Henry Hart
Report: Private Henry William Hart #2691: 23 August 1918, 7th Battalion Australian Infantry
Forum Topic: https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/266046-correction-report-7th-bn-aif-on-menin-gate-memorial-instead-of-villers-bretonneux-memorial/
- Approved 28 March 2019: Correction Report - Private William Henry Hart
- Phase 4 - Approved for Rededication Service
Submitted to CWGC but not yet reviewed: (you can download PDF versions from my web site here)
https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/280412-marfaux-british-cemetery-case-1-new-zealand-cyclist-mclaughlin/ - NZ cyclist with dentures
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/280327-dormans-french-national-cemetery-case-1-unknown-aviators-b15-and-b16/ - Richard & Trevor Team
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279263-jonchery-sur-vesle-british-cemetery-case-3 -lieutenant-aviator-at courthiézy/ - Richard & Trevor Team
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279745-guards-cemetery-windy-corner-case-1-buried-by-germans-13-4-18-wood/ - Serjeant Wood
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/278469-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-5-company-serjeant-major-queens-own-royal-west-kent-regiment/ - CSM Traill
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/278418-unknown-canadian-soldier/ @Chesterboy - Higgins
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262657-peronne-road-cemetery-case-1-csm-durham-light-infantry/ - CSM Thomas Blanchard
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/273969-lance-corporal-james-ohare-30257-25th-northumberland-fusiliers/ - Lance Corporal O'Hare
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274606-rmli-hawke-bn-in-adanac-military-cemetery/ - Lieutenant Wainwright, Hawke Bn. (*see)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/261820-csm-royal-marine-light-infantry-serre-road-no-2/ - 19 August 2019
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264973-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy-case-1-leicesters-captain-with-a-military-cross/ - (Spencer-Smith)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268716-spoilbank-cemetery-case-2-negro-corporal/ - based on lead from @Becstar
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264975-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy-case-2-lieutenant-royal-dublin-fusiliers/ (report by @dickaren - Heenan)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254412-unknown-2nd-lt-e-c-northamptonshire-regiment-ovillers-11z1/ - (Cole)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255493-captain-the-loyal-north-lancashire-regiment/ - (Harris)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/242217-unknown-sgt-major-recorded-royal-horse-guards/ - (Eales)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255849-royal-welsh-fusilier-2nd-lt-8-may-1916/ - (Taggart & Osborne-Jones)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274949-rmli-queens-cemetery-bucuoy/ - Private Hilton (RMLI) in Queens (*see)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274606-rmli-hawke-bn-in-adanac-military-cemetery/ - Privates Dickinson (RMLI) in Adanac (*see)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265061-the-wrong-lieutenant-colonel-hindle-or-stewart/ - the Serjeant is probably wrong as well
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262911-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-1-pte-harry-lewis-8th-bn-royal-highlanders-black-watch/ - (not Lewis)
- Corrections Only
- Unknowns Identified
Draft Reports Posted for Review and Comment
Unknowns Identified (please post a request to comment on the topic if you have the time and interest to review a draft report)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254911-unknown-officer-connaught-rangers-villers-faucon-ccext-3c14/ - (Crofton) - now marked to abandon 28 April 2019
- none at present
- Unknowns Identified (please post a request to comment on the topic if you have the time and interest to review a draft report)
To be Submitted:
Unknowns Identified (all checked to make sure NO CANDIDATES are listed on a SPECIAL MEMORIAL, 27-10-2018)
(now ranking these on secondary review to guess at success rate)
- Unknowns Identified (all checked to make sure NO CANDIDATES are listed on a SPECIAL MEMORIAL, 27-10-2018)
Possible CWGC Reports:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265656-heath-cemetery-harbonnieres-case-2-rfc-captain-and-serjeant/ - downgraded as missing absoluite proof @Cheshire22
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263274-gordon-dump-cemetery-case-1-unknown-2nd-lt-4th-middlesex-regiment/ - was 2nd Lt. Paterson with 4th Bn.?
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262411-templeux-le-guerard-british-cemetery-case-1-south-irish-horse/ - need confirmation of date of death
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254224-unknown-rsm-the-queens-royal-west-surrey-regiment/ - could we sell this to the CWGC?
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/236950-unknown-captain-royal-irish-rifles-arras-road-cemetery-2m14/ - check the topic to see if anyone reporting this 15 Dec 2018
- New Zealand @jacksdad
Short Listed Candidates
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277473-canadian-cemetery-no-2-case-1-rmli-company-sergeant-major/ - 2 RMLI CSMs now share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/265637-heath-cemetery-harbonnieres-case-1-london-regiment-serjeants/ - now share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268636-spoilbank-cemetery-case-1-captain-leinster-regiment/ - based on lead from @Becstar now share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/270767-st-souplet-british-cemetery-case-1-unknown-captain-krrc/ - share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268352-unknown-hli-corporal-arras-road-british-cemetery-2a3/ - share a grave
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/268329-unknown-middlesex-officer-arras-road-british-cemetery-3n8/ - has both 20th and 21st Officers in the precise area, closed
Abandon or Hold:
- Accounted for by Special Memorial (added 27-10-2018 - check all cases)
Hold for the Moment
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/271342-lance-corporal-alexander-peter-10726-scots-guards/ - very obvious! now questions 17 Nov 2019
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263672-caterpillar-valley-cemetery-case-2-unknown-glasgow-highlander/ (possible 2 or 3 identifications!)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/255692-lt-2nd-lt-kings-royal-rifle-corps-found-together/ - active again April-May 2020
- These two are linked investigations as Northumberland Fusilier Officers. If the Unknown Captain is Lockie, then the Unknown Officer is a one of five (5) Second Lieutenants and the case for the Unknown Officer cannot be resolved:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276348-strand-military-cemetery-case-1-captain-officer-wiltshire-regiment/ - can't separate the Captains
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263640-caterpillar-valley-cemetery-case-1-corporal-2nd-bn-leinster-regiment/ (location close but not absolute - had been high ranked!)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264174-unknown-csm-royal-irish-regiment-la-laiterie-military-cemetery/ (only missing CSM not in that area of Kemmel)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/263022-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-4-captain-gordon-highlanders-1914/ - no Captains missing
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262995-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-3-two-aviators-with-plane-serial-number/ - with Trevor Henshaw
- Casualty Already Identified:
Report Being Prepared by Others:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279780-guards-cemetery-windy-corner-case-2-worcestershire-regiment-5702/ (Alan @thetrenchrat22)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276082-romeries-communal-cemetery-extension-case-2-british-airman-23-october-1918/ (Trevor @fetubi)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/264975-epehy-wood-farm-cemetery-epehy-case-2-lieutenant-royal-dublin-fusiliers/ (Richard @dickaren)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/247283-b20-duhallow-ads-cemetery-2-sets-of-airmen/ (Luc @LDT006)
Report Submitted by Others:
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274060-rifleman-partiman-sunwar-1451/ @Dogflud
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/254937-icrc-records-of-british-dead/ (for case relating to Lt. H. R. Smith but there are other here - Ecoust M.C.)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/262964-zantvoorde-british-cemetery-case-2-captain-royal-berkshire-regiment-1914/ (questionable at this point)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/256961-lieutenant-royal-munster-fusiliers/ (reported approved by MOD - see this post on Lt. Gilbert Donnelly @Dr.Dan)
New Cases Posted (to be sorted):
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279790-sucrerie-military-cemetery-case-1-private-john-finlay-3751/ - John Finlay, have pinged @Becstar
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/279126-northumberland-fusiliers-may-1918-2nd-lt-collins-2nd-lt-davies-2nd-lt-jennings/ - Davies & Collins (case 2)
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277473-canadian-cemetery-no-2-case-1-rmli-company-sergeant-major/ - linked case to CSM Rogers
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277325-messines-ridge-british-cemetery-case-2-unknown-aviators-haller-foster/ @LDT006 Luc's case
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/277323-messines-ridge-british-cemetery-case-1-unknown-new-zealand-officer/ - one of two Auckland Lieutenants
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/276930-unknowns-battle-of-messines-7-june-1917/ - 2 possible men for identification
- https://www.greatwarforum.org/topic/274208-2nd-bn-scots-guards-lance-corporals-cabaret-rouge-british-cemetery/ - Mel's number case
Interesting Puzzle Cases
- Two Lieutenants from the Royal Irish Regiment in October 1914 but three (3) sets of remains recovered: (duplicate topics - my mistake)
- A Member is Looking For This Soldier
Corporal Martin Carroll #55818, Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Plot 6 Row D Grave 3
2nd Division, 4th Infantry Brigade, 19th Infantry Battalion
CANADIAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Killed in Action of 8 August 1918
Reported Found 29 May 2015
Rededication Service 1 December 2016
Chapter one ... had to have a go. If you want more .. I'll blog it. Don't ask me what happens .. don't know myself .. yet. If anyone doesn't want their name ripped off in the text. ... gimme a PM.
WHEN you boil the whole thing down, family history is a pain in the backside. Literally.
Ever spent an afternoon straining your eyes at a microfiche machine? Felt the pins and needles as the hand you are using to wind on the reel becomes an unfeeling stump? And worst of all, the seats provided in most libraries could have played a vital role in the activities of the Spanish Inquisition.
As they say … no-one expects the Spanish Inquisition. But you should be prepared for some mild torture during a trek along the twisting road that leads from mild curiousity to fully fledged obsession.
And, as I flexed my numb hand, arched my acheing back and rubbed my weary eyes that day in Mudcaster Local Studies Library, the sad truth hit me hard. I was an anorak.
In fact, I was in danger of becoming a NATO-issue Parka.
Blame it on World War One.
Let me tell you a story about it.
HERBERT Samuel McCallion is one of those names which gladden the heart of any war memorial researcher. Smyth,Smith,Thompson, Thomson, Johnston, Johnstone, on the other hand are the names of nightmare. You try searching the average database for a few of these. You’ll know what I mean when you are throwing pens at the rubbish bin and barking loudly at the computer screen.
Good old Bertie McCallion. I found him straight away with a swift delve into the wonderful on-line records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
You see, I’d been fascinated with Mudcaster’s First World War Memorial since infancy. What child of the Japs’n’Jerries era would not be intrigued by a six feet high bayonet wielding statue? I certainly was.
But, as any Great War buff will tell you, a simple name,rank and number just ain’t enough. We’re the anorak equivalent of a well known lager – we reach the parts that other researchers don’t.
And that’s why I was spending a sunny Saturday afternoon in the silent city which is Mudcaster Reference Library. They’ve got the old papers you see. Loads of ‘em all scanned and filed and ready for punters just like me.
True to form, there he was. Good old Bertie. Two column inches of New Century Schoolbook in eight point bold type.
Or rather there was young Bertie. He was only 21 when he bought his ticket in the fields outside the Belgian town of Ypres. He didn’t die in a gallant charge with bayonet fixed and a battlecry on his lips.
Bertie’s brains were blown out by a very skillful bloke from Germany who had just been waiting for some careless Tommy to show himself for a brief moment above the trench parapet. He was a run-of-the-mill casualty, another statistic noted as ‘one OR killed’ in his unit’s war diary.
The Mudcaster Bugle reported:
The father of Rifleman Herbert McCallion has received intimation that his oldest son, who is serving with the 7th (Service) Btn. of the Mudshire Rifles has been killed in action. Deceased as only 21 years of age and prior to enlistment in June 1915 had been an employee of Baird’s Spinning Mill. He was a keen amateur footballer. His father, Mr. John McCallion of Princes Street, Mudcaster has another son, Rfn. William McCallion with the colours.
2nd Lt. John Hartley wrote to the family: "Your son was a good boy and a brave soldier. His death was painless as he was shot through the head and died instantly."
Notch another one up, says I. Think again, said the annoying voice in my head.
An obituary without a picture is like Yorkshire pud wihout gravy. And the years had not been kind to Bertie McCallion’s head and shoulders portrait. It was one of those old paper pics that fall into the useless category. Some of them you can just about justify. Others are pretty good. Bertie’s was a horlicks.
But needs must and sometimes you have to think ‘outside the box’ as my managing director keeps telling me. Pisses me off but that’s a different story altogether.
Having a mate on the local rag is handy in my line of work and Chris Baker and I went back a long way. Mudcaster Comprehensive’s lone punk had dumped his safety pins and DMs in favour of a pin stripe suit and some bloody awful ties, most of them coffee stained.
"What you looking for now?" sighed Baker, as I entered his cramped little office, which was seperated from the rest of the local hacks by a dodgy door and a wafer thin partition which sported some retro 70s wallpaper – except it wasn’t retro.
"Wee story for you me old son," said I, pulling out the fags.
"I’m off them. Coffee too. Drink next," he muttered.
"Good for you," I grinned. "Health kick?"
"Don’t start," said Chris. "No smoking here by new company rule. No coffee on doc’s orders and the beer’s getting the big E until I lose the spare tyre."
Pleasantries exchanged, we got down to business. And Baker knows my little World War One stories attract a lot of interest. Local history, local people, local sales … you know it makes sense.
If you’ve been there and done that, you know the score. My little letter requesting more information was duly printed and, a week or so later, I received a very interesting phone call.
"Mr. Blackheader?" asked the lady on the other end of the blower.
"Near enough," I laughed. "I’ve been called worse. How can I help you."
"It’s about that request for an old picture of Hebert McCallion … the letter in the paper ..you were asking if anyone had one?"
"Oh yes, great to hear from you," I gushed in my best gushing tone. "Are you a descendant?"
And do you have a pic, I said to myself.
Thankfully, she did. And I could call round to hers and pick it up anytime.
Rules of the game. Be nice, be helpful but DON’T go rushing around immediately. It puts people off. Do the decent and print ‘em out a little piece about their ancestor, preferably on a nice piece of sepia toned card. A nice illustration of a cap badge and a little bit about the battalion also goes down well when you arrive on the doorstep.
Which is where I found myself the next day.
And what a doorstep it was. It took me three minutes to walk up the gravelled drive to get to it. And that was after I had identified myself to a minion at the other end of the gateside intercom.
The door opened and an aproned six footer looked down on me.
"I’m Blackadder. Here to see Mrs. Kate Wills?" I explaind, pointlessly.
"I’m aware of that," sniffed the minion. "Follow me please."
A swift glance around the décor of this mansion was enough to signify that the McCallion ancestors had come a long way from their terraced house in grimy old Princes Street.
I’d been expecting some dowager, but I don’t know why. So when Mrs. Wills turned from the window overlooking the bleedin’ county which she called a garden, it was all I could do to stop my freshly after-shaved jaw from dropping.
To put it plainly, Mrs. Wills was a bit of all right. Well maintained, suitably upholstered and just the wrong side of 40 .. which was fine by me.
"Pleased to meet you Mrs. Wills," said I, advancing with extended hand.
"Oh Kate is fine .. and you are Des? Is that right?" she countered.
Without waiting for an answer she produced a tin box. Huntley’s biscuits it was and a bit of an antique according to David Dickinson. He didn’t tell me that by the way … it’s just amazing what you learn by watching ‘Bargain Hunt’.
Eagerly, I opened the lid. Boxes are good. Plastic bags are a sign of bottom drawer documentation. When someone hits you with a box, you know it’s treasure. Plastic bags and ragged envelopes are indicative of old paper clippings you’ve already seen.
And there it all was. A super portrait of the bold Bertie and another bloke. The backside of the picture identified him as brother William. Two for the price of one .. not that I pay for this stuff … I’m strictly a scan man. Unless they want to dump the stuff on me.
Cap badge, a bundle of letters, a silk postcard, shoulder strap and an audio cassette.
When Mudcaster Rovers beat the Arsenal in one of the great giant killing exploits in FA Cup history, my heart skipped a few beats. Seeing that audio cassette had a similar effect.
Mrs. Wills sipped from the delicate China coffee cup which the aproned minion had silently delivered to what I assumed was the drawing room.
She knew my next question. People like that always do.
"Yes. It’s an old recording made by my brother of our grandfather William. He never really talked about the war but John finally got him to speak about it just before he passed away," she said.
"Perhaps you’d like to hear it?" she enquired, taking the cassette from my sweating paws and inserting it in a rather dated stereo system.
"I think you’ll find the story he has to tell rather interesting."
End of chapter One
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Croisilles Wood, featured prominently in this video, is a destination in 1917 (2019 film) by Sir Samuel Alexander Mendes. The protagonist, Corporal Schofield, reaches Croisilles Wood as the suicidal raid to which he has been sent to cancel, is already underway. The 7th Division attacked Croisilles in March 1917 and took it on 2 April. It was lost on 21 March 1918 and recaptured by the 56th (London) Division on the following 28 August, after heavy fighting. Plots I and II of the cemetery, were made between April 1917 and March 1918 and the rest was formed after the Armistice, when graves were brought in from the neighbouring battlefields and from some smaller burial grounds. The majority of the soldiers buried in the cemetery belonged to the Guards, 7th and 21st Divisions. Croisilles British Cemetery now contains 1,171 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the Great War. 647 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 14 casualties buried among them. Other special memorials commemorate casualties buried in HENDECOURT-LES-CAGNICOURT Communal Cemetery in 1917, whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. The cemetery also contains the graves of six Commonwealth airmen of the Second World War and 18 German war graves.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Relieved by K.R.R’s and marched back to 49th Division Camp at Vlmertinghe arriving about 12.30am 1-1-16 absolutely knocked up, so we saw in the new year marching along a Belgium road in a pretty exhausted condition, but we managed to welcome it with a song or two nevertheless.
**********End this diary/blog where it began.....20 blog pages ago....marching along a Belgium road pretty exhausted but welcoming the new year with a song of two***************
Dedicated to the memory of my grandfather....
If anyone wants a word version of this diary just let me know and I will email it. It is also available at the Imperial War Museum IWM -ref: 82/11/1
- Read more...
- 0 comments
It's been a long time since my last post in this blog, so here is one interesting article.
The Romanian 2nd Army's success at Marasti forced the Central Powers to revise their plans. The offensive planned in the Namoloasa area was abandoned and the bulk of the forces were moved in the Focsani area. The new offensive was going to be launched west of the Siret River, on the Focsani – Marasesti – Adjud direction, with the German 9th Army (general Johannes von Eben) and on the Oituz Valley with the Austro-Hungarian 1st Army (Archduke Joseph). The objective was to encircle and destroy the 2nd Army.
On the other side, the Romanian General Headquarters decided to cancel its attack in the Namoloasa area. The Russian 4th Army had to be pulled out from the front in southern Moldavia and moved north, where it could threaten the flank of the Austro-German forces advancing in Galicia. The Romanian 1st Army was going to replace the Russian troops departing the area.
For the offensive, the German 9th Army was strengthened with units brought from the French (the Alpine Corps, which arrived on 6 August) or Italian fronts. General von Eben decided to deliver the main blow with the German 1st Corps (6 divisions), while to its left the German 18th Reserve Corps (3 divisions) had to pin down the Entente troops opposite it. The right wing of the 9th Army was manned by the Ramnic Group (2 divisions). The reserve was made up of one German and one Austro-Hungarian divisions and the Alpine Corps, which arrived in the area during the first day of the battle. The German forces in the attack sector were 102 infantry battalions, 10 cavalry squadrons, 24 pioneer companies, 2 armored cars, 1,135 machine-guns, 356 mortars, 223 field guns and 122 heavy guns and howitzers.
Opposite the German 1st Corps was the Russian 4th Army, which had in contact with the enemy only two corps: on the right the 8th (3 divisions) and on the left the 7th (2 divisions). The reserve was made up of one infantry and one cavalry divisions. These totaled 84 infantry battalions, 52 cavalry squadrons, 280 field guns and 36 heavy guns. The bulk of the Romanian 1st Army was at Tecuci and was getting to cross the Siret River and replace the Russians.
The German 9th Army's offensive was preceded by a powerful artillery preparation, which began at 0430 hours on 6 August 1917. At 0730 hours the 1st Corps (general Kurt von Morgen) started the attack, with the 12th Bavarian, 76th and 89th Infantry Divisions in the first line and with another two divisions in the second echelon. The front defended by the Russian 13th and 34th Infantry Divisions was broken and 10 km breach was created. The Russians started a disorderly retreat east of the Siret River. At the request of the Russian command, general Constantin Christescu, CO of the 1st Army, ordered maj. general Eremia Grigorescu, CO of the Romanian 6th Corps, to intervene west of the Siret with the 5th Infantry Division and with the 9th Infantry Division to defend the river's eastern bank. The 32nd Dorobanti Regiment Mircea and the 8th Dorobanti Regiment Buzau counterattacked and stopped the Central Powers offensive on the line Moara Alba – Doaga – Furceni.
Seeing that the chances to force the crossing over the river are minimal, in the morning of 7 August, the German command redirected the offensive to the north, with four divisions. The effort was concentrated against the Romanian 5th Infantry Division, but the assault was repulsed. However, a bulge was created at the junction with the Russian troops, but the situation was saved by the counterattack of two battalions from the division's reserve. At noon, after a short artillery preparation, the enemy renewed the attack enjoying a 3 to 1 numerical superiority. The 3rd Vanatori Regiment held out in the Doaga village against an entire German division. The same thing happened in the sector of the 32nd Dorobanti Regiment Mircea. The soldiers in this unit made several bayonet charges only in their shirts, because of the suffocating heat, managing to push back the Germans to their positions. In the evening, the 1st Corps attacked and broke through the front of the Russian division on the right flank of the Romanian 5th Division. Threatened with the encirclement, the 32nd Regiment retreated to the Cosmesti Bridge. To fill the gap created, the Romanian 9th Infantry Division was introduced west of the Siret River. It was continuously attacked. In the evening of 7 August, under the cover of darkness, a German group approached and assaulted the 9th Division's flank, engaging into hand-to-hand fights. The Romanians abandoned Doaga and retreated to the outskirts of the Prisaca Forest, where a new defensive line was established. That day the 5th Division lost 44 officers and 1,770 soldiers (dead, wounded and missing). The front moved back 2-3 km.
On 8 August, general von Eben changed the attack sector to the west, on the front held by Russian units. In the evening, during the second assault, they were forced to retreat. A Russian regiment was almost completely destroyed. The Romanian front was bombarded and the attack on the 5th and 9th Infantry Divisions resumed the following day. On 9 August 1917, the German effort was increased. The assault started at 1900 hours, after a powerful artillery preparation, which caused many casualties to the 9th Division. Its troops were only able to dig foxholes, because the ground was very dry and hard to dig. The Germans again took heavy casualties because of the Romanian and Russian artillery situated on the eastern bank of the Siret River, which was firing directing into the attackers' flank. However, the first line of the Romanian defense was pierced in several spots, but reserves intervened and repulsed them after some very violent fighting. The 34th Regiment, which faced the 12th Bavarian Division, held out against three consecutive assaults. Only the 2nd Battalion, under the command of Major Gheorghe Mihail, the future Chief of the General Staff in 1940 and 1944, remained in the first line. It counterattacked and captured 62 prisoners and two machine-guns. The unit's battle flag was decorated later with Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. The same award was bestowed upon the regiment's CO, colonel Virgiliu Dumbrava, as well the 2nd Battalion's CO. But the casualties were heavy: 35 officers and 1,551 soldiers. The 36th Regiment lost 36 officers and 954 soldiers. Also, the 7th and 32nd Dorobanti Regiments suffered many casualties. During the night, at 0200 hours, another assault took place and the Germans managed to push back for several hundred meters the 9th Division and the right wing of the 5th Division. The neighboring Russian division was also forced to retreat, but the Russian 4th Army counterattacked and captured 2,500 prisoners and recovered the lost ground.
The last failures had weakened the German 9th Army. Thus, general von Eben strengthened the 1st Corps with a new division and the 18th Reserve Corps with the Alpine Corps.
On 10 August, it was the Entente's turn to attack. General Christescu and general Ragoza, the CO of the Russian 4th Army, decided to strike each with a corps of two divisions the bulge in the German line. During the morning, the 9th Army attacked the Russian sector, but gained little ground. At 1700 hours, the allied infantry started the assault, after a long artillery preparation. The 9th Infantry Division took the first German trenches, but because of the losses it had to abandon them. Reinforced with a regiment form the Romanian 13th Infantry Division, it resumed the attack, but again without success. The 5th Infantry Division and a regiment of the 14th Infantry Division managed to get inside the German positions, but could keep them. The 8th Dorobanti and 3rd Vanatori Regiments managed to enter the Doaga village, but were repulsed. The situation was similar in the sector of the Russian 4th Army. However the offensive had reduced the combat potential of the German 76th, 89th and 115th Infantry Divisions, which had suffered the brunt of the assault. These were already exhausted after several days of failed attacks. The report of general von Eben to the Army Group CO, marshal von Mackensen, mentions the fact that the 216th Infantry Division had suffered many casualties because of the flank bombardment of the Romanian artillery yon the eastern bank of the Siret.
For the following day, general Christescu imposed a limited objective to the 6th Corps: the Doaga – Susita Valley. The Russian 4th Army had decided to remain on the defensive. The Germans attacked in its sector at 1600 hours, after a three hour artillery preparation, and again forced the Russian troops to retreat. At 1630 hours, the Romanian 9th Infantry Division began the assault without knowing the situation in the neighboring sector. After the Russian retreat the flank was exposed. The division's CO sent a battalion to extend the line. The Germans were advancing on Marasesti and the situation became extremely dangerous for the Entente.
The 9th Vanatori Regiment, which was in the division's reserve, was quickly brought in and set up positions in the factory north of the town. It managed to stop the German troops that were threatening to encircle the 9th Infantry Division. For this action, lt. col. Gheorghe Rasoviceanu, the regiment's CO, was awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. A regiment of the 13th Infantry Division, from the 6th Crops' reserve, established the link with the Russians. The 5th Infantry Division attacked in the Doaga area, but the 7th and 8th Dorobanti Regiments failed to enter the village. The same day, maj. general Eremia Grigorescu was named at the command of the 1st Army.
Noticing that the troops of the German 1st Corps were exhausted, general von Eben decided to assign the main strike to the 18th Reserve Corps of maj. gen. Kurt von Wenniger, which had suffered fewer losses and was less tired. Thus, on 12 August, the 9th German Army attacked with small forces the 5th Infantry Division, in order to pin it down, and concentrated its forces against the Russian 4th Army, taking Panciu. Following this failure, general Ragoza wanted to retreat the Russian-Romanian front north of Marasesti., but abandoned the idea at maj. gen. Eremia Grigorescu's pleas. Lt. gen. Constantin Prezan, the Chief of the General Staff, decided to replace the Russian 7th Corps with the Romanian 5th Corps (10th and 13th Infantry Divisions) and to put the Russian 8th Corps under the command of the Romanian 1st Army. The staff of the Russian 4th Army was retreated to Bacau from where it was reassigned to another front.
On 13 August, the 18th Reserve Corps attacked the Russian troops north of Panciu, but failed to make any breakthrough. The following day, general von Eben ordered the 1st Corps to eliminate the Romanian bulge in the area of the Prisaca Forest and take the bridge over the Siret River at Cozmesti. In the same time, the 18th Reserve Corps had to attack on the Zabraut Valley. After powerful artillery preparation commenced the assault on the Russian 8th Corps' positions. Brig. gen. Henri Cihoski, CO of the 10th Infantry Division, sent the 10th Vanatori Regiment as help. It surprised the Alpine Corps and caused it important casualties, some in vicious hand-to-hand combat.
The vanatori managed to take Hill 334, but were forced to retreat following a powerful artillery bombardment. The 38th Infantry Regiment Neagoe Basarab also intervened and its CO, col. Gheorghe Cornescu, received the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class for the counterattack that stopped the German offensive, which threatened to penetrate in the Susita Valley, behind the Romanian 2nd Army. The Russian 8th Corps was forced to pull back north of Iresti and Straoani.
The 5th Infantry Division, at the other end of the front, had been reduced to one third of its initial size during the last days of fighting. The positions in the Prisaca Forest were heavily bombarded by German artillery. At 1700 hours the assault began with two divisions and forced the Romanian troops to retreat. The division's reserves, as well as a regiment form the 14th Infantry Division, in the army's reserve, intervened and stopped the German advance north of the Prisaca Forest. The bridge at Cozmesti was blown up, as the Romanian engineers had built another two to the north. The exhausted 5th Infantry Division was pulled out of the first line.
On 15 August, the 18th Reserve Corps continued the offensive and managed to create a breach at the junction between the 10th Infantry Division and the Russian division to its right. The 10th Vanatori Regiment, supported by 10 Romanian and 3 Russian batteries, counterattacked and reestablished the situation. However, with its left wing, the 18th Corps took Muncel, forcing theRussians to pull back. Thus the link between the two Romanian armies was threatened. The 2ndArmy attacked with the "Colonel Alexiu" Detachment made up of 2 vanatori battalions, 2 infantry battalions and 3 artillery batteries, which, together with a Russian cavalry division, retook control of the village. The following day, the Germans occupiued half of Muncel, but were again forced to retreat after the assault of col. Alexandru Alexiu's men.
The days of 17 and 18 August were calm. The losses suffered by both sides, forced the commanders to reorganize their units. Maj. gen. Eremia Grigorescu replaced the 14th Infantry Division, which was deployed east of the Siret River, with the 1st and 6th Rosiori Brigades and the hard pressed 5th Infantry Division with the 2nd Cavalry Division. The latter and the two brigades formed the Cavalry Corps. The 14th Infantry Division was moved on the northern bank of the Siret River in the Cozmestii de Vale area. Also, the army's heavy artillery was redeployed so that it could better cover the sector of the 5th Corps (10th, 13th and 9th Infantry Divisions). The 1st Army's reserve was made up of the 15th Infantry Division and of the 5th Infantry Division, under reorganization. On the other side, at the intervention of marshal von Mackensen, general von Eben grouped 7 infantry divisions under the command of the German 1st Corps and subordinated almost all the heavy artillery of the 9th Army to it. These forces totalized 55 battalions and 95 batteries.
On 19 August, the Germans resumed the offensive, attacking with the 1st Corps towards Marasesti and with 18th Reserve Corps on the Panciu-Muncel direction. The main effort was concentrated in the sector between Marasesti and the Razoare Forest, defended by the Romanian 9th and 13th Infantry Divisions, the latter being assaulted by three enemy divisions. The artillery preparation started at 0630 hours in the area of the trenches of the 47/72nd, 51/52nd and 50/64th Infantry Regiments, from the first line of the 13th Infantry Division, and at the western outskirts of Marasesti, where the 9th Vanatori Regiment of the 9th Infantry Division was located. It lasted for two hours and was the most violent artillery bombardment of the entire battle. At 0900 hours the first assaults small scale began and were easily repulsed. After 1100 hours a very powerful attack started. The main blow was delivered north of the Razoare Forest, at the junction of the 13th and 10th Infantry Divisions. The 10th Infantry Division was attacked by the 13th Austro-Hungarian Division, which failed to breakthrough the Romanian lines.
The 13th Infantry Division, commanded by brig. gen. Ioan Popescu, was the Romanian unit that saw the most action that day. It occupied a front 6 km wide, with the 47/72nd Infantry Regiment at the south-western edge of the Razoare Forest, the 50/64th Infantry Regiment in the Negroponte Vineyards and the 51/52nd Infantry Regiment in the middle. The reserve was made up of one battalion of the 50/64th Regiment and the 48/49th Regiment. 15 Romanian and 15 Russian batteries provided artillery support.
The attack started at 0900 hours. In the sector of the 47/72nd Infantry Regiment, the German assaults failed one after another. The 1st Battalion was situated on the left wing, south of the Razoare Forest. It was attacked by the 28th Bavarian Infantry Regiment (from the 12th Bavarian Division) and by units of the German 89th and 115th Divisions. The 2nd Battalion, on the right wing, was assaulted by the Austro-Hungarian 13th Infantry Division. The 3rd Battalion was kept in reserve. The regiment's CO, lt. col. Radu Rosetti, the former chief of the Operations Bureau of the General Staff in 1916, was wounded at a leg during the fighting. At the center, the 51/52nd Regiment was situated in an open position ands was also powerfully attacked. It had to pull back. The Germans tried to use the momentum and infiltrate behind the positions of the two regiments on the flanks of the Romanian 13th Infantry Division. The 3rd Battalion/47/72nd Infantry Regiment, under the command of maj. Draganescu counterattacked and stopped their advance. The reserves of the 51/52nd Regiment joined the fight directed by the unit's CO, lt. col. Ioan Cristofor, buying time for the reinforcements sent by the division to arrive. The 1st Machine-gun Company commanded by cpt. Grigore Ignat, stubbornly held its position, being almost totally destroyed. Its CO was posthumously awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. However, the Germans advanced towards Hill 100, behind which the allied artillery was situated. The 50/64th Regiment had to pull back its right wing, because of the enemy advance in the sector of the 51/52nd Regiment. Lt. col. Diamandi Genuneanu, the 50/64th Regiment's CO, organized the defense south of Hill 100 and managed to hold out against two Bavarian regiments for two hours.
General Popescu organized the counterattack against the German forces closing in on Hill 100. The 2 battalions in reserve, together with the 3rd Battalion/47/72nd Regiment and other units attacked from several different directions the German 115th Infantry Division, which had infiltrated between the Razoare Forest and the Negroponte Vineyards. The artillery of the 10th Infantry Division also intervened in the fighting at that moment, at the orders of the army's CO. The 1st Battalion/50/64th Regiment, commanded by cpt. Nicolae Miclescu, emerged from the Negroponte Vineyards and surprised the German infantry in the area and pushed it back to towards the Razoare Forest. Cpt. Miclescu was wounded during the action. He was later awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. The 3rd Battalion/47/72nd Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Battalion/48/49th Infantry Regiment joined the battle. The resistance at the edge of the Razoare Forest was broken following a violent bayonet charge. The Germans started a disorderly retreat. The entire 47/72nd Infantry Regiment started a counterattack, followed soon by the 39th Infantry Regiment (from 10th Infantry Division). The German troops retreated towards the Susita Valley, dragging along the units of the Austro-Hungarian 13th Division. The Romanians captured the first line of the enemy positions, but the advanced was stopped by maj. general Eremia Grigorescu, because von Eben had already started to deploy his reserves.
The 10th Division and, especially, the 13th Division had achieved a great victory. The commanders of the two divisions, as well as the commanders of the 47/72nd, 50/64th and 51/52nd Regiments were awarded the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class. Another 7 officers received this high distinction for the fighting on 19 August. The 39th Infantry Regiment Petru Rares captured 376 POWs and 7 machine-guns and advanced 500 m on a 4 km wide front. The 47/72nd Infantry Regiment took 209 POWs and 4 machine-guns. But the losses were high. The same regiment lost 880 men (99 killed, 300 wounded and 481 missing). The regiment's flag, as well as those of the other hard pressed units on 19 August were also decorated with the Mihai Viteazul Order 3rd class.
The same day, the Germans attacked the sector of the 9th Infantry Division, situated south of the 13th Division. It had been reduced to 4,500 men in the previous days of hard fighting. In the first line were the 9th Vanatori Regiment on the right wing and the 40th Infantry Regiment Calugareni on the left wing. After a powerful artillery preparation, two German infantry divisions started their attack. Following some heavy fighting in the ruins of the factory north of Marasesti, the 9th Vanatori Regiment was forced to fall back towards the city. The 40th Infantry Regiment also abandoned its first positions. The 9th Division reformed the front on the line south Negroponte Vineyards – Marasesti Railroad Station – south Marasesti, which it held against the enemy assaults, with the help of the artillery of the 14th Infantry Division from the eastern bank of the Siret River, firing directly in the German flank.
Because of the failure of its army to take the objectives on 19 August, general von Eben decided that the continuation of the offensive was no longer possible. A week of pause followed, which both sides used for reorganizing. The 9th Army again changed the attack sector. The 18th Reserve Corps was strengthened with 3 divisions and the entire heavy artillery at the army's disposal. The Romanian 1st Army received the 11th Infantry Divison. Maj. general Eremia Grigorescu redeployed his forces. Thus, the Russian 8th Corps formed the army's right wing in the Muncelul area. It had two divisions in the first line and another two reforming in the back. The Romanian 5th Corps (10th and 15th Infantry Divisions) held the front all the way to Marasesti Railroad Station, where it linked up with the 3rd Corps (14th Infantry Division), situated between Marasesti and the Siret River. East of the river was the Cavalry Corps (1st and 6th Rosiori Brigades, 2nd Cavalry Division and one brigade of the 5th Infantry Division). The army's reserve was made up of the 9th, 11th and 13th Infantry Divisions and the other brigade of the 5th Division.
The offensive of the 18th Corps started in the sector of the Russian 8th Corps on 28 August. At 0900 hours the German troops infiltrated between the two Russian divisions and forced them to retreat. Two regiments of the Romanian 3rd Infantry Division from the 2nd Army intervened and managed to stop the German advance together with the Russian reserves. The following day, general Grigorescu prepared an attack in the Muncelul area, aimed at eliminating the bulge created by the Germans. He put at the disposal of the Russian 8th Corps another Russian division, as well as the Romanian 9th Infantry Division, a regiment from the 13th and another from the 15th Division. The two regiments from the 2nd Army were also supposed to participate in this action.
The assault started at 0800 hours, from the north and west, but found the Germans ready for an attack of their own and it was repulsed. The second one, around 1700 hours, was also repulsed. The Germans forced the right wing of the Russian 124th Division to pull back. Two battalions from the 2nd Army intervened and managed to stop the enemy advance during the night. The 11th and 13th Infantry Divisions were brought behind the threatened areas. The 5th Division crossed to on the western bank of the Siret River. On 30 August, the German 18th Reserve Corps resumed the attack and its troops managed to get between the 18th Dorobanti Regiment Gorj and the 2nd Vanatori Regiment of the 2nd Army. The 34th Infantry Regiment Constanta, belonging to the 9th Division from the 1st Army, counterattacked and plucked in the breach.
The Russian 8th Corps was strengthened with the 13th Infantry Division on 31 August, when, because of the weather, there was no fighting. General Eremia Grigorescu subordinated the 9th Infantry Division and a Russian division to the CO of the 13th Division, brig. general Ioan Popescu. This group attacked on 1 September. The artillery preparation started at 0600 hours, with all the artillery available to the group, as well as with the artillery of the other two Russian divisions and the army's heavy artillery. After one hour, the 9th and 13th Divisions attacked from the west and the 3rd Infantry Division (belonging to the 2nd Army), commanded by brig. general Alexandru Margineanu, from the north. After some heavy fighting, the 13th Division advanced up t o200 m of Muncelul. The 18th Corps counterattacked in the sector of the 3rd Infantry Division, but was repulsed. The following day, the same 3rd Division suffered the brunt of the 9th Army's strike. The main objective was the Porcului Hill, defended by the 30th Dorobanti Regiment Muscel. It lost the positions, but they were retaken following the counterattack of the division's reserves and of a Russian regiment. It was the last major operation of the German 9th Army in the Marasesti sector.
The offensive of the 1st Army in the Muncelul area was resumed on 3 September. The 11th Infantry Division was subordinated to the General Popescu Group, entering the first line beside the 9th and 13th Divisions. The Russian division and the regiments of the 2nd Army formed the reserve. The plan was to attack frontally with the 9th Division and a brigade of the 11th, while the 13th Division and the other brigade of the 11th Division were going to attack the Muncelul village, threatening the enemy flank. The artillery preparation started at 0630 hours and at 0800 hours the 13th Infantry Division started the assault, but could not make any progress. The same happened in the sector of the 9th Division. A second artillery preparation, which lasted for an hour and a half, and some violent hand-to-hand fighting were necessary for the 13th Infantry Division to occupy the eastern edge of the Muncelul village. But the Romanian losses that day were heavy: about 2,700 men.
This was the last day of the battle of Marasesti, both sides deciding to adopt a defensive attitude on the entire front. The Romanian 1st Army had lost 610 officers and 26,800 NCOs and soldiers, while the German 9th Army had lost about 47,000. Forty Mihai Viteazul Orders 3rd class were awarded for deeds accomplished during the fighting around Marasesti. Maj. general Eremia Grigorescu received the Mihai Viteazul 2nd class. Also, the flags of no less than 9 regiments were decorated with the Mihai Viteazul 3rd class. The fighting continued with little intensity the following days, with local attacks and counterattacks. In one of these clashes, on the Secuiului Hill on 5 September, the volunteer Ecaterina Teodoroiu was killed by machine-gun fire, while leading her platoon. On the other side, on 8 September, maj. general Kurt von Wenniger, CO of the German 18th Reserve Corps, was killed by an artillery shell in the Muncelul area.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
The transition from CEF Sergeant to civilian father of two boys was at first fairly smooth. Three years of soldiering had accustomed John to broken sleep, so rocking fretful babies back to sleep was easier for him than many other a new father. And it was some months before he ceased to look at Marie as she slept beside him and wonder in awe at how they had come together at last.
Very different he thought from the few British and Canadian soldiers he met who had married in France. Apart from a few men from Quebec regiments, they were still struggling with the language - and most of the locals had difficulty with the French-Canadian dialect and pronunciation.
Still, John was relieved when his mother asked if he could return to Canada for a week to tie up the loose ends of his father's estate, and sell the family home. Marie was included in Madame's offer, but now pregnant again she decided to stay behind.
Toronto had changed, John decided. Everything seemed to be moving much faster, and the ever-intrusive American culture delivered from radio, magazines and newspapers made John long for the pre-war days.
He visited his Captain, now back to civilian life, but still serving in the Militia, which had changed greatly since before the War. The old numbers and the scarlet uniforms had vanished.
John was relieved to return to France.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
The Great War took a terrible toll on William Weekes and his family.
William, of Sherford, near Kingsbridge, Devon lost five sons in 2½ years between 1916 and 1919.
Only four of those who died are remembered on the War Memorial in Sherford – and on a grave in the village churchyard.
Missing from the memorial and grave is William’s eldest son, William Henry.
He was killed in action in France in 1916.
His story is told here for the first time.
The devastating losses suffered by the Weekes family would never have been revealed – but for Devon Family History Society and research carried out by Audrey and Dick Lloyd on the men named on Sherford War Memorial.
A picture of the grave commemorating brothers John, James, Charles and George Weekes was published by Devon Family History Society in 2019.
Audrey and Dick Lloyd discovered that William Henry served in the Royal Engineers and was killed at Givenchy. He left a widow and child, but nothing more was known about him.
William Weekes and his wife, Elizabeth (nee Maddick) – who died a year before the outbreak of the Great War – had 13 children.
The first of their sons to die in the war 25-year-old John Robert Weekes (regimental number 10622), who was killed in action in the Battle of Loos on September 25, 1915. A private in the 8th Devons, he is remembered on the Loos Memorial in France. Born in East Pool, near Sherford in 1890, he worked as a farm labourer at Bowden Cottage, near Kingsbridge before enlisting in the Army.
James Thomas Weekes was 33 when he was killed in action in Salonika on April 25, 1917. A private in the 10th Devons (regimental number 15230), he is remembered on the Doiran Memorial in the north of Greece. Born in Churchstow in 1884, he enlisted in the Army in Kingsbridge. In 1911, aged 26, he worked as a horseman, living with his family at Bowden Cottage.
Charles Weekes, a sergeant in the Machine Gun Corps, died of wounds and pneumonia in Nottingham Military Hospital on October 23, 1918. He was just 22. Audrey and Dick Lloyd discovered that he had fought on the front line for more than three years and had several narrow escapes from death. Charles (regimental number 18282) previously served in the Devonshire Regiment (regimental number 10688). Born in South Pool in 1895, he worked as a farm labourer before enlisting in the Army in Exeter. He is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard, Sherford.
George Edwin Weekes was a leading seaman in the Royal Navy (service number 231215) before the war began. He served in HMS Thunderer in the Battle of Jutland – the largest naval confrontation of the Great War – and died at home from Spanish flu on April 7, 1919, aged 30. He was born in Churchstow on October 20, 1888. His brother Alfred, who also served in the Royal Navy in the Great War, was the only one of the six brothers to survive.
William Henry Weekes was killed in action on November 17, 1916 while serving as a pioneer in the 1st Labour Battalion Royal Engineers. He was believed to be 42 when he died. He enlisted in London on August 14, 1917 (regimental number 110225). At the time he was living at Glendower, Sea View Terrace, Newlyn in Cornwall. His war records show that he went to France on August 21, 1915 with the British Expeditionary Force. He was invalided home on April 17, 1916 and received treatment at a hospital in Newcastle. He returned to France on July 13 that year, just four months before he lost his life.
William Henry married Ethel Morrison Nicholls on October 4, 1904 in Penzance. In 1911, aged 36, he was working as a mason’s labourer and living with Ethel at St Peter’s Hill, Newlyn. They had a daughter, also called Ethel Morrison, in 1911. Before enlisting, William Henry worked for a Justice of the Peace in Mousehole. After his death, his personal belongings – a damaged silver watch, chain, medallion, a photo and letters – were returned to his widow. He was buried at Guards’ Cemetery in Lesboeufs, on the Somme. His widow, born on April 24, 1885, died at 2, Sea View Terrace, Newlyn on August 15, 1945, aged 60. William Henry and Ethel’s daughter was born on May 12, 1911. She married John Harry in Penzance in 1928. He died the following year, aged 23. Ethel Jnr died in 1976, aged 65.
The picture – showing the grave remembering four of brothers – is from Devon Family History Society.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Rifleman S/26148 Thomas Edwin Capers 8th Rifle Brigade, DOW 13/04/1917 VII. F. 9. WARLINCOURT HALTE BRITISH CEMETERY, SAULTY
courtesy of Jim Smithson, Dec. 2010
Thomas Edwin Capers was born and brought up in Ibstock, he was 26 and single at the outbreak of the Great War. Thomas was the youngest of three brothers and had two sisters, all born in Ibstock to parents Thomas and Sarah where the family had lived since about 1880. All the males of the family had worked either in the Ibstock Colliery or brick works.
Thomas Capers papers have not survived, in fact the papers of men in the number block S/26000 to S/26200 are few and far between. But combining what information there is with their medal index cards gives some idea of Thomas Capers' dates of joining, etc. Many of the men in this block first joined the KRRC before being transferred to the Rifle Brigade while still in the UK. These men are in alphabetic order through this small number range. Scattered amongst them are others who were first posted to the 5th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade and were then posted to either the 8th or 9th Battalion after completion of basic training and on arrival in France. All of them appear to have attested under the Derby Scheme in late November or Early December 1915, and were not called up until May and June of 1916. Thomas Capers does not fit into the alphabetical grouping of ex. KRRC men, and so it is likely he was first posted to the Rifle Brigade's 5th Battalion before being sent to France around October 1916, where he would have joined the 8th Battalion.
Easter Day in 1917 fell on the 8th of April. The 8th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade was in the Arras sector. Two celebrations of Holy Communion took place in the cellar of battalion HQ and they had moved to the Christchurch caves by nightfall. The following day the 1917 Arras offensive was launched, and the battalion had left the caves at 9am and initially moved to the reserve line. With many German prisoner coming back from the front and large numbers of British Cavalry moving forward news came that the first and second Brigade objects have been taken. There is some snow overnight, and on the 10th April 1917 the 8th Battalion moves forward several miles South East of Arras and by 4.30pm receives orders to “clear up the situation in the direction of Wancourt and the high ground south west of the village”. The Battalion advances in a heavy snow storm coming under a light barrage and machine gun fire. As the snow stopped, leading companies found themselves in an exposed position and suffered casualties from machine gun fire coming from the direction of Wancourt and Hill 90.
The attack on Wancourt is pressed home on the 11th April, with the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade in support of the 7th KRRC. But they are caught in machine gun cross fire, the 7th KRRC suffer badly, and the 8th RB suffer one officer wounded and 20 OR casualties. They are relieved from their forward position by the 7th RB that night, during another heavy fall of snow.
In the early hours of 12th April “B” coy. patrols get as far as Wancourt and Marliere. Easterly patrols establish that the enemy holds Guemappe in strength. While “C” coy. captures a 77mm field gun in the vicinity of Marliere. At 11am orders are received to attack the high ground South East of Wancourt, with the 8th KRRC on the right crossing the Conjeul river to the south of Wancourt, and the 8th RB on the left crossing the river to the north of Wancourt. But this would have meant passing in front of the enemy at Guemappe for about a mile. By 2.30pm the orders for the attack had changed. Both 8th KRRC and 8th RB were to cross the river to the south of Wancourt. The assault was to take place at 5.30pm, but by 5pm only three companies had managed to cross the river after wading through very deep and sticky mud. An alert enemy put down a heavy barrage on the Conjeul valley from Wancourt to Heninel, and before the attack even started the whole area was subjected to heavy machine gun fire. Advance was impossible and the attack was abandoned. The 8th RB was relieved that night and by the 13th April had returned to billets in Arras. The total casualties for these few days are: 5 Officers wounded; 25 other ranks killed, 5 other ranks missing and 68 other ranks wounded.
courtesy of Jim Smithson, Dec. 2010
Private 26148 Thomas Edwin Capers is one of those wounded during these few days, he is evacuted as far as a CCS at Warlincourt, but dies of his wounds on the 13th April 1917. In fact, the Battalion seems to have lost track of him at one point, as his name appears on the Battalion's casualty figures as being KIA on the 12th April.
Hello everyone, updating my blog for you all if your interested,
I fell ill beginning of September and spent 4 hours an my A&E twice lol
as long as i keep taking the tablets i am ok and dont get too breathless.
Police have my lappy and computer cos the friend i took in has made threats to both herself and me as if it was her ex and they proved it wasnt him, he had an alibi! am now waiting for her to go court, 6 months on and she is still walking the streets!!!!!!!
Seb has now gotten into so much trouble he is on a supervision order but at least the magistrate has orded him to get anger management so hopefully he will get calmer as the months pass,
Bex is still not working and doesnt want too so have given her till the end of the month to sort it out or she has to go live elsewhere!
good news is i have found a true friend across the road who looked after me and the kids while i was ill, if she hadn't i dont know where we would be now, she fed and watered us every day for 6 weeks! we pooled resourses and did the shopping together, i cooked if felt good but wasnt a problem if i didint.
well thats it in a nut shell, feeling much better now just need my lappy back and i will be ok!
Ok thats it for now,
thanks for reading,
love you all
Having completed my transcription and posts on the 801st MT Coy, I am now looking at the units they supported, particularly the Yeomanry, in this case the Surrey Yeomanry and the Derbyshire Yeomanry. I have acquired copies of their regimental history books, read the Surrey one and I have started a new thread 'Yeomanry in Salonika' on the 'Salonika and Balkans' sub forum, if anyone is interested.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Command on the Western Front: A reminder for me to re-read the 27th - 29th Sept 1918 attack around St Quentin Canal. Consider Prior & Wilson's comments in view of Terraine's argument that Haig improved. Also in view of my own concensus that Rawlinson generally learnt from his mistakes.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Robert Romanis was stationed near Ypres in Belgium when the Kaiser Slacht started but his Division, the 35th received orders on the 22nd of March to reinforce the British line south near the Somme. The Division was taken the 100 miles or south to Heilly station on trains. Each of the 9 battalions on a separate train. The trains consisted of 1 carriage for the officers, 17 flat wagons for carts and stores and 40 covered wagons which would either contain Soldiers or Horses. The 12th Highland Light Infantry (HLI) Roberts Battalion left Proven at around 9pm on train No. 7 and arrived at their destination at about 1 pm the next day. A 16 hour trip. They were then bussed 10 miles or so to Bray sur Somme where they marched to the village of Maricourt arriving in the early morning of the 25th and took up position along the D197 north from Maricourt as far as a Brickworks near Bernafay Wood (the brickworks is gone but it’s location is marked by patch of rough ground alongside the road which can be seen on google maps). The Germans attacked from the east at 7:45am on the 25th and at multiple times during the day using artillery, rifle and machine gun fire. The attacks finally ceased at 8pm but the 12th HLI had suffered a number of casualties including Robert. His body was never identified and he is remembered on the Poziere memorial but at the Commonwealth War Grave Commission cemetery in Maricourt there are over 150 graves of unknown soldiers – one of these may well be the grave of Robert Romanis
Robert Hope served in the Highland Light Infantry as well as Robert Romanis but he was in the 2nd Battalion which was part of the 2nd Division and stationed further North near Baupame. He started the battle in reserve but by the 22nd of March was in the front line just to the south of where Gordon Tait and George Frier were serving. His unit then began a long retreat to maintain the British line. On the night of the 24th they were allowed 2 hours sleep in the village of Ligny Thilloy. They continued to retreat the next day over the old Somme battlefield, the shell holes covered in long grass did not make for easy going. During the retreat they formed the rearguard and came under enemy fire just North of Le Sars and it likely that this is where Robert was killed, his unit then continued their retreat. He left a wife in Edinburgh who was paid a war gratuity of £8 10shillings
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
I have finally written up the story for my 3 x great grand father John Edwin Barnes, thanks again for everyone's help on here that have helped make this possible, cheers everyone.
One of my “Heroes” and Favourite Ancestors the fourth in my series of blogs about my 8 great-grandparents The Life and Times of John Edwin Barnes
- Read more...
- 0 comments
MIKAN 3329308: Amiens Front - Ecourt St. Quentin, Apr. & May 1919.
Église St.Léger, dating from the twelfth century, Saudemont, 19th April 2018 at 8:49 AM.
- Read more...
- 0 comments
IWM 319: PONT REMY SPORTS [MAIN TITLE]
Click here for the video.
The competition between Army Forestry Companies from Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand at the Forestry Camp at Pont-Remy, France, 15th September 1918.
The soldiers watch several forms of contest. A pillow fight between two men sitting astride a log suspended over water. A tree-stump felling contest, in which the four representatives each have to cut down a stump about three metres high. A similar competition to cut through a short log lying on the ground, won by the Australian whose fellows rush forward to cheer him. He poses in his shirt, shorts and bush hat with his axe beside the trunk. A third contest, including New Zealand Maoris, in chopping down medium-sized trees. Finally a 'log rolling' contest for men keeping balance standing on a log on the river, which they cross by rolling the log forward.
whole: Number Of Items/reels/tapes 1
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Our Growing Departments
With our ever-increasing beds, all the departments in the hospital increase accordingly. In the early days we had R.A.M.C.T. men entirely in the offices, stores, post office, etc. Now nearly all – or at least the greater proportion – of the men have disappeared. Some have gone abroad with the R.A.M.C., others have transferred to fighting units, and many are on hospital ships. Then the problem was, who was to replace them?
I remember, a very long time ago, one of the heads of the Red Cross Society coming down and discussing with us how women could be employed. Gradually a scheme evolved, and the first military hospital to try it was the 3rd London.
The lady orderlies came, were approved of, and proved the greatest help to us; gradually, lady clerks, typists, postwomen, enquiry department, linen storekeepers, steward store assistants, telephone operators, cooks and charladies became installed; and today the ever green picture, “Can Women do our Work?” is answered, I think, by everyone concerned – Yes.
From a Matron’s point of view I looked on the influx of women with a sinking heart. I already had over 300 women for whom I was responsible; and when the War Office decided that all women employed in a military hospital should come directly under the Matron I nearly wept – and felt certainly that it was more than one could bear. Now when I look back over all those changes I still marvel how it was done. But the fact remains today that we have somewhere about 500 women employed in the different departments of the hospital; and, apart from this making my office work very heavy, I do not feel the responsibility any greater. This in itself, I think, speaks volumes for the loyal help we get.
The different departments all run smoothly. The Quartermaster’s office has two lady clerks, the C.O. has one, the Matron one, the Registrar’s office has many. I shall never forget poor Captain Gosse’s face when he first heard that ladies were going to be admitted into his office. He looked hopeless. And until the day he went away he always referred to them as “the little bits of fluff in my office.”
Two ladies are responsible for the card index where, within a few minutes, you can look up any patient who has ever been in the hospital. Another does the typing, another helps with the discharges. Three ladies answer all enquiries in the front hall, and seem to me to spend half their time directing people to the D corridor. I often hear, “Yes; left, right, left, right, then you had better enquire again”; and I wonder whether the visitor ever finds his way to D at all.
We have two ladies on the telephone and four in the post office. The postal arrangements are to my mind perfect, and hardly ever is there complaint of letters going astray of being misdirected, which is wonderful, considering the thousands of letters and parcels that pass through this office. Then in the pay office we have a lady clerk. Next along the passage is the massage room. I see that a very excellent article has already been sent about this department, so there is no need for me to say anything. I hope, however, it won’t be long before Miss Layton and her helpers will get their new room.
Then we come to the stores. All clean linen is given out by ladies who work under the supervision of the Quartermaster, much of the work is now done by ladies, who all come under what we call the General Duty Section. The kitchens too, now have many women replacing men. In the general kitchen we still have the staff-sergeant cook, who is responsible, but in the sick officers’ kitchen there is a V.A.D. cook, and also in the orderlies’ kitchen.
The scrubbers are also a great feature – and it is astonishing how easily they lose themselves in this huge place and what a lot of finding they require sometimes!
I feel that this article sounds rather like an essay on “Women’s Rights.” I am not a suffragette, and no one will welcome men back to their old jobs more than I shall, but I do feel that women have shown how much they can help, in this war, as well as men. And I know they will continue as long as they are needed. When we are not needed, then we shall just let the men have their own back again, and look after us as they used to – and it will be very pleasant to be looked after again, I think!
Edith Holden, Matron.
Well, about three weeks later than expected, the proof copy of the book dropped through the letter box this morning (slightly untrue that. It's so damn big it was left in the porch, but never mind). It's a strange feeling to have something you have worked on for six years resting in one's hands. Lump in the throat time. From my days in the music business I have plenty of albums on which I played and co-wrote songs but this book means more to me than they do - this is, after all, all my own work.
Anyway, I have placed an order for an initial print run (in the tens not the hundreds!) and now hope that I might come close to breaking even on the project.
Seeing this project come to fruition has helped me make a decision about doing another one. I have already started work: the list of files at the National Archives, Liddle Collection and IWM is already complete and visits are being planned. Several battalion histories and other relevant books have been located. A Roll of Honour of the men who died is complete apart from the CWGC details. Bloody hell, the first 2,500 words have even been written. This time, though, I am going to try to work to a more precise timetable and have set myself a deadline of next May (which is a bit optimistic as this is one one sixth of the time 'Pro Patria Mori' took!). And the subject? Well, it only seems fair to complete the 'other half' of the Gommecourt attack. So, '"A Lack of Offensive Spirit" - The 46th (North Midland) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916' will be the next off the production line. And disproving Gen Snow's disgraceful slander of the men of the North Midlands will be high on the agenda!
Off to work we go...
Web site: http://www.gommecourt.co.uk
'Pro Patria Mori: the 56th (1st London) Division at Gommecourt, 1st July 1916' available from May '06
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
The following extract is taken from “MI 7b, the discovery of a lost propaganda archive from the Great War”.
A Trench Raid
At last, after what seemed years of waiting, the long-expected signal came, and we filed into the sap, and then crawled cautiously across No Man’s Land to the shelter of some friendly shell-craters about forty yards from the Boche wire. The signal for the final rush was to be an intensive bombardment on the flanks of the position we were to attack.
We did not have to wait long. Punctual to the second, the artillery strafe commenced and simultaneously a blinding sheet of flame and an earth-shaking roar told us that H.E. had completed the work of our wire cutters in blasting a gap in the entanglements. The next few minutes were crowded in the extreme. The whole party made a dash for the opening in the wire, scrambled over the parapet, and, as had been arranged, divided their forces, and bombed their way, right and left, down the trench. A sentry, who had been posted quite close to the point of entry, had been blown backwards off his perch by the force of the explosion, and was no longer in a condition to dispute our passage. The only real resistance we encountered was on the right where a machine gun team hurriedly dismounted their gun from its emplacement, and directed a stream of bullets down the trench in the hope of catching the attackers unawares when they rounded the traverse. But the Bombing Sergeant, crawling along the parapet, dropped a couple of Mill’s Bombs in the middle of the party, and then jumped down afterwards lest there should be any mistake. So it was that a battered machine-gun, plus a pair of stout Bavarians, very much the worse for wear, were shortly being passed to the rear.
Naturally the time is limited on a raid, and it is prudent to get back to the shelter of your own trenches before the enemy has time to recover from his surprise, and starts to retaliate. But before we turned back we lighted the fuse of an “infernal machine” which had been part of the R.E.’s contribution to the night’s entertainment, and placed it in an unobtrusive position at the foot of the traverse, with the object of discouraging any Huns from annoying us in our retirement. We returned to the original starting point to find the “moppers-up” had lured several unwilling captives from their under-ground funk-holes, and had already started to shepherd them across No Man’s Land on the first stage of their journey to England. As we picked our way through the shell-holes on our way home, our machine-guns were sweeping the Boche parapet on our right and left to restrain any vulgar curiosity on their part as to the fate of their brethren. The last of the excursionists dropped over our friendly parapet just as two infernal machines, in quick succession, rent the night with the roar of their explosion, and a salvo of “woolly bears”, the first fruits of retaliation, burst high up in the air over the ground we had just vacated.
The article, “A Trench Raid” was written by Lt J.P. Lloyd of the Welch Regiment in September 1917, and is one of 150 or so articles and stories he wrote. His work is the sole surviving archive of military propaganda from a secret outfit designated MI 7b. All the official documents of MI 7b were thought to have been destroyed at the war’s end.
Lt James Price Lloyd was my paternal great uncle and as a Second-lieutenant, he had been shot and wounded in the first Battle of the Somme in the fighting at Mametz on Friday, the 7th July 1916. Whilst recuperating, he responded to a War Office trawl for officers to write articles about the war. His work was accepted and on 7th July 1917, a year to the day since he had been wounded, he reported for duty with MI 7b.
He thought he was joining a unit set up to counter Hun propaganda, but that was just a cover story. Although he didn’t know it at the time, he was joining a strategic propaganda offensive aimed directly at the Home Front, and the home fronts of the Empire, her dominions and colonies. Allied nations too were targeted, as were neutral nations who needed to be swayed towards our cause.
MI 7b (1) had been set up in response to the perceived threat that support for the war was waning, that revolution was in the air, that there was discontent in the factories, and saboteurs active amongst us! In the autumn of 1916, through to the dread dark days of early 1917, disaster loomed. The nation, traumatised by the horrendous losses on the Somme front, faced insurrection in Ireland, revolution abroad, and was in danger of losing the battle at sea. The fear of losing the war and the prospect of famine brought home the reality of a modern, total war. To have any hope of preparing the nation not only to accept the huge losses that the strategy of attrition would inevitably demand, but also to sustain their faith that the cause was just and noble, and the sacrifice necessary, there had to be a counter-balance to the Roll of Honour.
The authorities recognised that they had to seize the agenda, set the tone, improve and sustain morale. To that end, the War Office trawled for officers with some time on their hands to write about the war, especially the human interest side. Capt Alec Dawson (Border Regt) fielded their submissions and set up what became MI 7b (1).
It attracted some of the finest literary talent of the day, many of whom were serving in the Army and had connections to the popular newspapers and magazines of the time. Similarly illustrators and artists were recruited and so it was that MI 7b (1) was able to produce high-grade propaganda material in both graphic and text media from the outset. Given its connections and the newspapers’ insatiable appetite for war news, MI 7b (1) became a major source of news that was then reported by the press all over the English speaking world.
From August 1917, Lt James Lloyd wrote first-hand accounts of battles and daily life in the trenches, and Captain Bruce Bairnsfather provided cartoons and illustrations that gave the imagination a visual hook. It is clear that their work was integrated as a result of a clearly developed editorial strategy. Bairnsfather’s cartoon character “Old Bill” and his “Fragments from France” were a national sensation – Old Bill became the archetypal “Old Contemptible” and a much loved figure world wide. Lloyd’s retrospectives on fighting in France, along with Bairnsfather’s illustrations, allowed those on the world’s home fronts to identify with the men at war, and get that much closer to what they thought the war may be really like.
Lloyd had much to learn about writing propaganda as many of his drafts were too close to reality to have been passed fit for publication. Some of the most poignant and moving accounts he wrote, never made it beyond the manuscript. These “rejected” articles contain much that would otherwise remain hidden. In my view, these articles are that much more interesting and shed a truer and brighter light on events that went unreported.
As the propaganda agenda moved on, Lloyd was tasked with producing “Tales of the VC”, and so that his reports on the fighting in France weren’t stale, he was sent back to the Western Front to observe first hand. It is clear that Lloyd wasn’t the only MI 7b officer to undertake such travels, as A A Milne, too, undertook secret work in France at some time during 1918. Officers from MI 7b travelled the Western Front extensively witnessing, as opposed to taking a further active part in, the battles and major campaigns of the war from early 1917 onwards. Those accounts were their main source of war news reporting and were then distributed for publication around the globe. There are examples of newspapers carrying 2 or 3 articles sourced from MI 7b on a single page.
With War Office support, what had started out as a “one man and his dog” operation in early 1916, became a highly successful broadcast medium with global reach within 18 months or so, producing an estimate of 7,500 articles for syndication world wide. Had the “Green Book” – the secret valedictory house journal of MI 7b (1) - not been discovered by chance, those writing for MI 7b (1) would have remained incognito, and its secret work only imagined, as so little of its official archive is known to exist. A A Milne is now the best known member of MI 7b, and the current media interest in his role risks eclipsing the wider story. Milne was not the only surprise to be found on the inside cover of the Green Book, posted elsewhere on this forum. The list of members and their literary achievements is truly astonishing.
The 150 remaining articles in the archive are of a high literary standard and the articles and stories each stand on their own merit. They would be interesting enough on their own, but in the context of their being examples of a secret campaign, they are an invaluable source. Written by someone who had served and been wounded in the front line trenches, Lloyd’s stories provide a fascinating glimpse into the realities of the fighting, and of life in France. His published work for MI 7b (1) is extensive, and I am very grateful to everyone who has helped me find examples. However, not everything was published, and the unpublished drafts provide tantalising glimpses into the realities as perceived at the time and written in the lingua franca of that era with its richness of slang, its wry observations on the detail of daily trench life.
It is also fascinating to view the propaganda production process in action; from idea to pencil draft, to manuscript and green-ink correction and censorship, to the typing pool and beyond to the higher echelons of the War Office food chain where it may be “Passed for publication.” Then, the article is there on the page of a Tasmanian journal, sitting alongside other articles from MI 7b. Each of the articles are under the name of the serving officer who wrote them giving no indication that they are the principal parts of a highly secret and sophisticated propaganda offensive.
If the newspaper articles indicate the scale and reach of the operation, the discovery of the Green Book indicates the calibre of its operatives and like the Rosetta stone, unlocks some of the mystery.
Why were so many talented and intelligent men willing to write propaganda in support for a war that each of them knew would result in further widespread slaughter? I believe that that they knew it to be their duty. They were recruited ostensibly to take part in a counter-propaganda offensive, and although that may have been plausible for a while, it is clear from what is written in the Green Book, that by the war’s end, some of these were men who felt that their integrity had been compromised.
If all their work was meant for publication, what was the secret? The real secret of MI 7b (1) was that the Crown and Parliament had a very great need for it, far greater than history may yet have acknowledged.
Why was it disbanded so quickly? The rapid disbandment of MI 7b did not affect its role and function, for that carried on. I think that Lords Northcliffe and Beaverbrook recognised that MI 7b (1) was a first class news agency with global reach, in effect, the information superhighway of its day. They took control of its infrastructure to further their newspaper interests, and MI 7b’s role and function morphed via the Ministry of Information through to the BBC.
From Adelphi House to Bush House!
With its records destroyed, and all its members bound by the Official Secrets Act, the story of MI 7b (1) might have remained an interesting, but obscure, footnote in history. With any luck, this discovery may yet inform our thinking about the First World War, and play a significant role in our understanding of the true nature of the conflict and the context in which it was reported.
“Tales of the VC”, 96 of the 150 or so articles can be found on:
 21 September 1917
- Read more...
- 0 comments
Recent EntriesLatest Entry
I have decided to begin blogging on my research which I started a couple of years ago. The journey has been interesting and taken many twists and turns and I would like to keep a record of what have done and what I intend to do.
In order to do this I must first back-track to the very beginning...
My mother in 2007 and at that time in her 69th year and in seemingly good health asked me to find out 'what happened to your granddad in the First World War', my granddad being her father. My responses were:
We already know what happened, he was a 6th Seaforth Highlander, under-age, reported and made to be a stretcher bearer, was wounded and captured as a POW. He also joined up as a runaway about two weeks after the war started.
And, as she insisted she wanted to know how he was captured, where he had been as a soldier and POW - I don't have time to find this stuff out right now.
I had asked tons of questions as a child and got the answers. I didn't think there would be anything more to find out. However, she didn't let it drop and in 2009 I began to do some searches on the internet based on what she (and my grandma previously) had told me. 'He was captured at Arras in 1917'. I couldn't really make sense of the information I found and the truth was, I still didn't really have time - always too busy.
In 2010 my mother died unexpectedly from an undiagnosed heart condition/disease and in amongst all of the grief and torment, I also felt I had let her down. For I had loved and worshipped my granddad while he was alive because to me he had always been a hero and yet as a grown-up, I no longer had time for him or my mother who wanted to know what her father really did.
After the funeral a cousin asked me to take her to another kirk so we could visit her mother's grave too and on that visit she told me she knew where our old family graves were and would show me. As it turned out she couldn't find them and so some weeks later, I returned to look alone. I had almost given up after quite a while of looking and started to walk away. On reaching the gates, I checked my watch and decided to allow another 15 minutes but doubted I would be successful. Some of the grave stones were completely illegible due to the erosion. I only went another row down when I found two of them, side by side.
My attention was caught by an inscription on the grave of my great, great grandparents 'and also their grandson William Proctor Duncan who was killed at Beaumont Hamel November 13, 1916 aged 31. Buried in Maillet Wood cemetery...' I asked myself several questions. Who was he? How had I not heard of him? How did he tie into granddad and the war? He must have been highly thought of but now forgotten. He needed, like granddad, to be remembered once again.
That was the start of the journey in the summer of 2010 when I began some serious ancestry research on my granddad's side of the family and in particular, the enigmatic William Proctor Duncan.
Six weeks after my mother died, my father died. He had emigrated to Cape Town in the late 1980s and had remarried my step-mother died ten months after him. Because of the distance and circumstances of funerals taking place immediately, I could not attend either. Instead in the spring of 2011, I found myself on a train to London having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work, to collect the belongings of my father that were being brought back from South Africa after the death of my step-mother, by her granddaughter whom I had never met.
I had managed to accumulate quite a lot of information on my great, great grandparents, their ten children and their grandsons William and George (my granddad). The day before leaving for London, I did something quite strange, I typed the words William Proctor Duncan into the Google search engine, not really expecting anything at all. What a shock I got. I found he was being discussed on something called The Great War Forum...
There was a conversation on the Forum and as I recall, it was entitled A Service Number on a Spoon.
It appeared that a spoon had been found by an amateur archaeologist near what had been the sight of a CCS at Poperinghe. It had been engraved with the letters SEA. and a number 3936. The feeling was that the letters denoted a Seaforth and the number was a service number. They had identified that William Proctor Duncan, a Seaforth, had that service number. However, it appeared from the conversation, he was not the only Seaforth with that number.
I must admit, I was very shocked that a relative of mine was being discussed on the Internet. When the initial shock subsided it was also quite exciting that having found out nothing about my granddad, here I might be able to find out more about the war service of his little known cousin. I checked what I had found out about him again. Just to make sure there was no mistake and they were actually discussing the right man.
So far, I had found him on two census aged 5 and 15 at the home of his grandparents at the Tugnet, Spey Bay. He had been born in Corstophine, Edinburgh the illegitimate son of the eldest child and daughter of the 10 Duncan children, according to his birth certificate. She was at lodgings and gave her usual address as Tugnet. She had been a servant in Fochabers but how she had ended up in Edinburgh, I didn't know at that time. I thought that his name, William Proctor Duncan was a nod to who his real father might be, a clue to be followed later.
The CWGC had yielded more information and his service number. It was definitely him. I needed to make contact...
A medal recently came into my hands with an intensely human story behind it that I feel compelled to share. It is just one of the 6.5 million British War Medals that were produced at the end of the Great War of 1914-19, and is therefore nothing special in itself. As with so many of these, it’s true value can only be found by discovering the story that lies behind it.
As always, my start point came from the meagre details that the mint had punched into its rim, telling me that the medal was issued to recognise the service of “950. PTE. A. COOK. NOTTS & DERBY”. The actual Medal Rolls proved to be much more informative, revealing to me that he had in fact served with their 1st/8th battalion. Alfred Cook was therefore a member of the newly formed Territorial Force which had emerged from the reorganisation of the old volunteers units that came about with the implementation of the Haldane Reforms in 1907.
Born at Sutton-in-Ashfield (near Mansfield), in November of 1891, he was the fifth surviving child in a family of six. His older siblings were Annie Elizabeth, Hannah, John William and Harold, whilst Robert, the final addition to the family, had been born when Alfred was two. It is however the special relationship which seems to have existed between Alfred and Harold that will occupy much of our story. He was just a year older than Alfred, and they seem to have been very close.
So far as is known, Harold was the first member of the family to join the Territorial Force, which he must have done around the year 1909. In those days Sutton-in-Ashfield had its own Company of what was then simply known as the 8th Battalion. Still organised on the old “8 Company system” until after war was declared, their unit had several bases scattered around north Nottinghamshire. There was “A” Company at Retford, “B” at Newark, “C” at Sutton-in-Ashfield, “D” at Mansfield, “E” at Carlton, “F” at Arnold, “G” at Worksop and “H” at Southwell. It would seem that Harold enjoyed the experience enough for some of his enthusiasm to rub off onto Alfred, who followed in his footsteps and joined in his own right on 22nd August 1910. The battalion had actually returned from their annual summer camp earlier in that same month, and perhaps the tales of Harold’s 2 week adventure had been a major factor in influencing Alfred to sign up himself.
The boys were however growing up in other ways too, and it was not long before Harold had both found himself a bride and started a family of his own. This young couple would go on to have 3 children before the war, who they named as Lilian, Alice and, perhaps significantly, Alfred. It is easy to see that, with a young wife and growing family, Harold may have begun to find his commitment to the Territorial Force a little irksome and, despite their training being part-time, it would certainly have eaten into the time that couple had for each other. Whatever the reasons that lay behind it, we do know that Harold did not extend his contract with the unit, and handed back his uniform when his 4 years were up.
The two brothers would still have had lots of time together with “C” Company before then, and doubtless went on several annual camps in each others company. If Alfred at all missed his brothers’ presence in the unit, perhaps he consoled himself with the thought that his own contract would terminate at the end of August in 1914. Unfortunately however, by that date the Kaiser already had other plans for both of them.
The 4th August 1914 actually found Alfred at summer camp with the entire Territorial Brigade of the Sherwood Foresters, where the outbreak of the European war apparently took very few of their number by surprise. In fact, it is recorded that the men were so gripped by “war fever” that it rendered any prospect of them following their planned training schedule completely impossible. Once the formal declaration of war became known to them, their summer camp at Hunmanby near the Yorkshire coast was broken up and the men were sent home. Alfred would doubtless have been exceptionally eager to talk things over with Harold as soon as he arrived back at the family home in Park Street.
Things then began to move very quickly, and as early as Friday 7th August, the entire battalion had been mobilised and concentrated at Newark, where their men were briefly billeted in the local schools. With their strength recorded at 29 officers and 852 other ranks, a Church Parade and official send-off was held for them in the market square on Monday 10th before they marched off to their designated war station.
Harold also acted quickly, and signed a new attestation document with his old unit on August 9th. It would appear that, despite his family commitments, he may have been determined to take part in what he perhaps thought promised to be a great adventure. It is also possible however that he was equally motivated by wanting to try to look after his younger brother.
Alfred’s destiny actually became sealed on 3rd September, when he signed Army Form E624 and volunteered for overseas service. As with many other battalions of the Territorial Force, the issue of overseas service had not been given much emphasis in the 8th before the war, though 80% of their men readily accepted the commitment shortly after they had been mobilised. The brothers would almost certainly have discussed this issue, and we know that Harold also stepped forward to join the majority.
Part of the first full Division of the Territorial Force to be sent to France, the brothers landed at Le Harvre in early March of 1915. After moving up country towards the front line they engaged in an intensive training programme that culminated in them being sent into the trenches near Messines at the end of that month under the watchful eye of seasoned regulars. Despite the deep seated and widespread suspicions held about the Territorial Force amongst many of the full time professionals of the regular army, who frequently disparaged them as “Saturday night soldiers”, the 8th were judged to have performed well. So well in fact that, from the beginning of April, the battalion were detailed to take over a stretch of the front at Kemmel in there own right.
Up to this point the 8th had been lucky. Whilst 3 of their number had been wounded, their familiarisation had taken place in a quiet sector where they had not yet been exposed to the full grim reality of the war. All this began to change with the death of 18 year old Jack Hyde on Tuesday 6th April. Originating from Arnold but serving in “A” Company, he was shot through the head by a sniper and buried at the nearby Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery. In fact, as the days passed, and their casualties grew in number, Rows D and E in this cemetery began to assume the appearance of a plot reserved purely for the men of the 8th battalion. By Monday the 14th June, and after several tours in the trenches, it had already become the final resting place for no fewer than 43 of them.
Tuesday the 15th should have brought relief for the battalion, who were due to be replaced by anther unit thereby affording the 8th an opportunity to spend some time in one of the safer rear areas. It was reported as a quiet day until 21:00 hrs when, quite suddenly, with the unexpected detonation of three huge German mines, all hell broke loose. These acted as a signal that started a hail of artillery shells, trench mortars, rifle grenades and machine gun fire that then swept across the British trenches for over an hour. The enemy infantry proceeded to use this covering fire to advance into one of the mine craters that had been created within feet of where Alfred Cook had been standing, though they were swiftly driven out of this new position at the point of the bayonet. Major John Becher (a native of Southwell) was then able to supervise the reconstruction and reorganisation of the British defences, the coolness and efficiency with which he completed the task contributing towards him becoming the first man of the battalion to receive the DSO. By 23:00 hrs the situation had stabilised enough for the battalion to carry on with its planned relief but, by that time, both Alfred and another man from “C” Company, Oliver Bryan, were missing.
When greeted by this news, it would appear that Harold became beside himself. Joining forces with two of Oliver Bryan’s brothers, who were also serving with the battalion at that time, the three of them together swiftly sought and received permission from one of their officers to go back and search for their missing kinsmen.
In the darkness however they soon found that they were unable to conduct a proper search and, being in close proximity to the enemy, were at last reluctantly forced to abandon the enterprise. A court of enquiry later came to the conclusion that both Alfred and Oliver must have been buried under the front wall of their trench at the very start of the attack, when the German mines had been detonated. Neither of them were ever seen again and, having no known graves, they later became the first 2 soldiers from the 8th battalion to be remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial to the missing.
The story however does not end on that particular date, there being an equally sad postscript. Harold would lose his own life just 4 months later, during the same action which also saw Major Becher become fatally wounded. In a cruel twist of fate for the Becher family, two of his brothers-in-law, who were also serving as officers with the 8th battalion, were also killed on that same date. Becher eventually lost his own struggle for life at one of the base hospitals on the 1st January 1916, eleven weeks after he had been injured. The remaining Bryan brothers fared better, Charles went on to both win the MM and be promoted to the rank of Corporal, before being invalided out due to sickness in August of 1917. Stanley Bryan however was perhaps the most fortunate of them all, he was the only one of the 5 brothers that went on to serve until the end of the war, and was finally demobilised from the Labour Corps at the end of February in 1919.
Well dear reader,
As you can tell from the entry dates of this blog i have not been very good at keeping things up to date.
Anyroadup........Just returned from a four day stay at Chavasse House with six other like minded chaps. Left home at around midnight on Monday 17th and had a nice quiet mini bus (Ford Toureno) ride down to the Chunnel.
As you can imagine we arrived nice and early so instead of the 08:20 crossing we got onto a much earlier departure, thus giving us even more time in France.
Once across (under) the channel it was full steam ahead to Vimy Ridge, a place I had not been to before. Impressive monument and with one of our party having a relative named on the walls we spent a fair amount of time there. We also took the underground tunnel tour which was most informative and gave us all an insight into the underground conflict.
As we had to wait until about 1500 hrs to get into Chavasse we indulged in our first taste of French food......Yes it was into Alberts Maccy D's for a Grande Mac and Frites, then a wizz down the road to the Super U supermache for supplies (read beer & BBQ meats)
Up to Chavasse and bag a bedroom........Now, knowing what a bunch of snorers we had I managed to sort the larger of the ground floor double bedrooms to myself. Made up the bed, put on the kettle and made a brew. It was then time for the BBQ to get fired up and a few bottles of beer to get quaffed. Off to bed at about midnight. Day one over.
Day two..........Up at about at just after 07:30, breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausage and baguette...(The bread van arrives at Chavasse at about 0800) Out and about by 10:00 and off to Thiepval and Ulster Tower......Did a quick look at the cemeteries ext to Ulster Tower and booked a tour of the woods with the new 'tenants' Don & Maureen (who we named Rapunzel, cos she loved living in the tower)
We met Don for the walk and were joined by a coupe of other guys, one wearing sunnies and a baseball cap and the other a quite tall guy, they were clearly together but I took no particular notice of either.
Anyway after a fantastic tour by Don (I have done similar with Teddy, but this was even better) one of our group said "That's Alexi Sayle in the baseball cap" Well courage was drawn and an approach made. Guess what Mr Sayle was very good had his picture took with our group and chewed the fat back at the Tower. Funny but 'Rapunzel' was serving behind the counter and never even knew he had been a visitor.
A quick tramp to the Popes nose observation point, a field walk that gave up a live 303 round (left where it was) then back on the bus to travel the short distance to Pozieres and the tank memorial and the windmill site. By now we had also visited a fair few cemeteries along the way and it was almost 17:00 hrs so a blast back to Chavasse for scoff and an evening of shooting the sh*te in the Rum Ration bar. at about 00:30 it was the end of day two.....
Day three....Up again at 0730 quick 3 S routine and breaky was a repeat of day two.....Out again by 10:00 and off to visit Sunken Lane, Hawthorn Crater and Redan Ridge number 1 cemetery where 'we' had a local boy buried. I always find sunken lane such an atmospheric place, quite spooky to be where those lads were asking "are we in the right place?" Up to Hawthorn Crater and a couple of lads go down inside to have a loser look while I did a bit of a field walk. (nowt found) We then went up to Redan Ridge and traced cemetery number 1, where a local lad (from Swindon Nr Dudley) is laid to rest. Private 689 Sidney Henry Garston was in the Royal Fusiliers and died on 14th November 1916 aged 23. He has a grave in Swindon that states he died at Beaumont Hammel.
From there it was a trip to see the Sheffield Pals memorial and Railway cutting cemetery etc. As we were then moving back past Ulster Tower one of our party uttered the fateful words "I wonder what Iain Mchenry is doing now" The van driver then uttered the fateful phrase " Goodness me (or similar) there he is in the front of that coach" The coach came to a halt at the Tower and we were duly re-united with Iain who's services we had hired some years before when we were on the Salient. So it was time for a brew and sarny at the Tower and a rejoining with Don, Rapunzel and Iain. To close the day we drove to Peronne and visited the museum. From there we re-stocked on essentials and returned to the Rum Ration and another BBQ......We adjourned back into Chavasse House at about 23:30 and just had to drink the rest of the beer/wine as we couldn't bring it back home.. So a late night was had, got to bed at about 0100 ...End of day three.....
Day four....Up again at 0730 (bit knackered) the 3S's and brekky, packed up and left the house at 10:00 for a quick trip to Corcelette (sp?) where the guy who had a relative remembered at Vimy also had a relly remembered here. Then we went off to Delville Wood and made a trip around the South African memorial. Fantastic place.
Back on the minibus and off to Lochnagar crater and a drive past the site of the dig at La Boiselle then back towards the Chunnel...Got there early and again took advantage of an early crossing. Back in Blighty at 15:30 but due to crashes/roadworks or whatever the problem was we didn't get back 'home' till 2200. Grrrrrrrr....
Well that's the trip for another year, so where next for 2013?