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Remembered Today:

Soldiers at Stonehenge


Moonraker
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There's lots of media publicity for the exhibition at Stonehenge that opened yesterday evening:

Daily Mail

Salisbury Journal

BBC TV

The latter link features one of the images your humble poster provided for the exhibition - Canadian troops marching through Shrewton. No, I'm not the good-looking guy talking to the interviewer, that's another GWF member, Simon Jones, who curates the exhibition. (And I know that he's put in a tremendous amount of work.)

My poor night-vision prevented me from driving to yesterday's opening ceremony, but I hope to be visiting the exhibition next week.

Moonraker

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A friend's account of a rehearsal earlier in the week http://londonantiquarian.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/soldiers-at-stonehenge.html

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I’ve just returned from this exhibition – in which I have to declare my minor involvement in that I provided several contemporary photographs. It has some (other) very good content, embracing Great War camps and airfields in much of Wiltshire, including RFC Yatesbury and Chisledon Camp (both a little way from Salisbury Plain).


At the beginning of the war Stonehenge was owned by the Antrobus family, but after Lieutenant Edmund Antrobus was killed on active service, followed by his father dying at home, the monument was purchased by Cecil Chubb, who in 1916 reduced the admission fee for those in uniform from 1s to 3d.


One panel is devoted to author Dennis Wheatley, who messed at Heytesbury House and suffered atrocious weather in training on the Western Plain, but found solace with a supply of port found at a Tilshead pub – and with a local woman. There are several orders for exercises in which he took part, a mess bill and a sketch map of the area around Yarnbury Castle, augmented by an aerial photograph of the practice trenches there. (Yarnbury Castle is the earthwork one drives past on the A303 six miles west of Stonehenge.)


Bruce Bairnsfather also features prominently. He trained at Sutton Veny Camp, during which time his “Better ‘Ole” cartoon made him a national celebrity.


A rare artefact on display is one of the very few surviving MacAdam trench shovels that were foisted on the First Canadian Contingent and which proved so impractical that they were later sold for scrap.


Of particular interest to me was a photograph showing soldiers and women harvesting and another of kilted Canadian soldiers arriving on the Plain by double-decker bus from Plymouth!


To accommodate road improvements, Airmen’s Cross has been moved to very close to the entrance to the Visitors’ Centre building. This commemorates Captain Eustace Loraine and Staff Sergeant Richard Wilson, the first two members of the RFC to die, following a crash nearby in 1912. (Should one walk along the former A344 from the visitors’ centre to the monument, one passes on the left the monument to another pilot, Major Alexander Heweston, who crashed and died in 1913. If one can’t manage the 25-minute walk, the land-train conveying visitors does pause very near the monument to allow passengers to alight and walk up to Stonehenge.)





Moonraker

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Thank you Moonraker, your generosity with expertise and photographs was absolutely invaluable. You will have spotted both your Great War books on sale in the shop.

It may be useful for people to know that a National Trust as well as an English Heritage card will gain you free admittance.

I did an interview last night with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Western Plains radio morning show about the story of Wiltshire-born Private Frederick Burges, whose grave marker is usually in St Thomas Becket Church in Salisbury but has been lent to the exhibition. He emigrated to Australia in 1913, enlisted with the AIF in early 1916 and returned Wiltshire when he was sent to train at Rollestone Camp. He died of wounds on 1 March 1917 within a few weeks of being posted to the 20th Battalion AIF. I was able to trace his great niece, who found his campaign medals in the attic and provided a very poignant photograph of the last family reunion in Salisbury before he was sent to France.

Simon

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Simon, I know how hard you and the designers worked to set up the exhibition, and the results speak for themselves.

I didn't mention the large map of Salisbury Plain and the Great War infrastructure that features in the exhibition. Having had a go at a very small-scale version myself, I know only too well how much patience is needed, and that's just for placing the camps. You went to a great deal of trouble to show the boundaries of individual camps and ranges.

May one hope that after the exhibition closes the map will find a good home, perhaps remaining at the Visitors' Centre or being offered to Salisbury or Devizes Museum?

Moonraker

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Not seen the exhibit, but in one of my courses I use the pre-WW1 balloon photo of the monument as an example of early aerial photography, before going on to discuss how this lead to its application in WW1 and then, of course, thanks to the experiences of OGS Crawford and others, how archaeological aerial photography developed. So, is that photograph included?

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I don't think so, Trajan, though there was at least one aerial photograph attributed to O G S Crawford, of the practice trenches next to Yarnbury Castle, I think. No doubt Simon Jones will see your post and correct me if necessary.

Moonraker

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Hello Trajan (and Moonraker)

There was actually far too much to cover about what occurred during 1914-18 on Salisbury Plain, plus the tragic impact that the war had on the ownership of Stonehenge, to include Sharpe's famous 1907 photo of Stonehenge, although it may have been used elsewhere in the Visitor Centre. The history of aviation on Salisbury Plain deserves an exhibition in its own right, as does the story of aerial photography and archaeology for that matter. Incidentally, have you seen Martyn Barber's excellent book on the latter subject? The photograph of the practice trenches and Yarnbury Castle Iron Age hillfort that we included was taken in 1923 although I wasn't aware that it was attributed to O G S Crawford.

Simon

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Thanks Moonraker and Simon - and thanks especially for the link to that book on aerial photography which I had missed!

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