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Remembered Today:

Lt Val Braithwaite


Guest david fox

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Guest David Fox

A wooden cross in the crypt of Winchester Cathedral has the inscription "Lt Val Braithwaite, 1st Battlion SLI, died near this spot 1 July 1916." His body was never found, so it is not a War Graves Registration Unit cross.

So where did it come from? After three months of searching the only clue is the stone cross near Serre No 2, which bears his name. (It is maintained by the CWGC using funds provided by the Braithwaite family). There is one reference to his father, General Sir Walter Braithwaite searching the battlefield in early 1917 "looking for his son's body...."

Any suggestions or information please?

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Guest Alessandro Milan

Hello David!

I guess the first name of this soldier would be Valentine, right? If you run a search on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at http://www.cwgc.org, or just copy and paste this very link into your browser(http://www.cwgc.org/cwgcinternet/casualty_details.aspx?casualty=767442), you can retrieve information that match 99% with the dead person you are mentioning. I hope this can help you a bit!

Cheers!

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Lt Braithwaite won one of the first MC's of the war at Mons.

He died on the first day of the Somme close to where the cross stands in an attack on the Quadrilateral.

Bob.

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The cross you have seen was the original placed well into the field where the Quadrilateral was located; it was replaced by a stone cross, which itself was moved in the 1950s onto the site we all know alongside Serre No 2 cemetery; indeed both crosses were near to where the recent BBC Owen dig took place. Val was never found; his MC was for Plugstreet, I believe (1st SLI didn't fight at Mons) and he was a platoon commander in Bertie Prowse's company in 1914. In 1915 he went to Gallipoli with his father as an ADC, and return to 1st SLI in time for the Somme. His father commanded 62nd (West Riding) Div in this sector in early 1917 and searched, in vain, for his son's body; the cross was put up in 1918/19.

There is a little about him/it in my book Walking The Somme.

I have never seen this cross - any chance of posting a photo of it here?

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his MC was for Plugstreet, I believe (1st SLI didn't fight at Mons)

Paul,

Like Bob, I too have come across a reference to Val Braithwaite and Mons:

On Gallipoli, he was often in the company of Compton Mackenzie and the latter mentions him several times in his ‘Gallipoli Memories’ including the following:

“He could hardly have been more than nineteen, a subaltern in the Somerset Light Infantry, who had fought through the Mons retreat. He had been awarded one of the first Military Crosses in the war, and they were not given in those days for anything except very conspicuous gallantry.”

If this doesn’t check out then it seems we might have an early example of what Tom Morgan calls a factoid – something repeated often enough to be accepted as a fact

I have been unable to raise Val’s MC citation from the LG; do you have it?

Regards

Michael D.R.

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As always, it is best to go back to original source material rather than rely on more recent publications...

The regimental history confirms the MC was for bravery at Plugstreet, on 30th October 1914; he was MID for the same episode when his men captured a trench and erected a barricade "from behind this 2/Lt Braithwaite's men inflicted great slaughter on the Germans."

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Paul,

Many thanks for checking this one out

I wonder where Compton Mackenzie slipped-up?

He came into the war only the next year and perhaps fell into the trap of referring to ‘Mons’ as a cover-all for any battle in F&F during 1914? Even today, some people refer to the 1914 Star as the ‘Mons Star’ don’t they.

One for Tom’s collection anyway

Regards

Michael D.R.

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David

The Wesern Front Assocation has published(1999) abook called Private Memorials of the Western Front . Author Barrie Thotpe.Pages 25 and 26 give details of Braithwaits cross and its story,including a picture.

If you are not a member of the Western Front Association then I strongly recamend that you join.Their web site is www.westernfrontassociation.co.uk

Give it a try.I am sure this book is still avaliable from them.

CHEERS.

JOHN. :D

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  • 5 months later...

Thanks to all those who replied to my enquriry. Now, some months later, I have the full story of the Braithwaite Cross.

Briefly, the wooden cross in the Crypt of Winchester Cathedral was originally placed on a small rise on the site of the Quadrilateral in 1917/1918. Its presence was reported by Brig General Ludlow in March 1918, who found the inscription that is on the stone cross.

Comparing the wooden cross with the stone cross which is outside Serre No 2, the similarities are striking. Much the same size each has chamfered edged, and the inscription is identicakl, even down to the way in which the date of death is given.

A photograph of the wooden cross is attached.

Crypt_Wooden_cross___1a.tif

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