In memory of those who died this day during the Great War

  • 1916 282555 George Gordon De Laney, Infantry
    Buried at St Mary Churchyard, Bramshott, Hampshire
  • 1916 724248 John James Fitzgerald, Infantry
    Buried at St Joseph RC Church, Grayshott, Hampshire
  • 1916 135170 Harry Reginald Jackson, Infantry
    Buried at Lawns Wood Cem, Leeds, Yorkshire
  • 1916 136366 Thomas Munro Niven, Engineers
    Buried at Craighton Cemetery, Glasgow, Glasgow
  • 1916 331888 William Rudland Wells, Field Artillery
    Buried at Milford Cem, Witley, Surrey
  • 1917 490290 John Albert Drake, Railway Troops
    Buried at Cemetery, Brighouse, Yorkshire
  • 1917 722087 Henry George Giles, Labour Corps
    Buried at Efford Cemetery, Plymouth, Devon
  • 1917 886428 Harry Hoye Knutson, Infantry
    Buried at Cemetery, Norwich, Norfolk
  • 1919 2499367 Christopher Connery, Forestry Corps
    Buried at St Patrick RC Cem, Leytonstone, Essex
  1. Road Trip part 3: Autumn 2018

    We have recently completed a nine day Road Trip covering just over 1,000 miles to the Midlands and north of England, the Isle of Man and Wales in our search for 13 casualties who were on our Outstanding Visits List. With only two exceptions, the casualties were all buried and mourned in their local communities.

     The final resting place for ten of the casualties was ‘Unknown’ when we embarked on our project in Autumn 2007. Six names were recorded on the Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial Wall (Bwd), three in the Canadian Book of Remembrance (CBR) and one in the UK Book of Remembrance (UKBR). The CWGC holds the Books of Remembrance in Ottawa and Maidenhead respectively.

     The burial place of these casualties has been established through the efforts of many individual researchers and voluntary organisations. The Far From Home project has been able to submit documentary proof for five of these casualties (names in italics below) to the CWGC. We felt a special bond with each of these five men when visiting them and are delighted to see those names are now displayed at their final resting place on the CWGC website.

     With the exception of our hotel on the Isle of Man, we otherwise relied on the welcome facilities of the Travelodge group throughout our Road Trip.

    Day 7

    Our ferry departed from Douglas at 08 45 and landed us in Heysham just before 12 30. Heading south through Lancashire, we passed through our second rainfall of the trip but left it behind before crossing into Wales.

    Norman David Roberts (Bwd) was finally traced in October 2017 to the Fron Cemetery at Llangollen in Denbighshire. The cemetery is situated on a hillside above the small town which has a population around three thousand and hosts the Llangollen International Musical Eisteddfod in July every year, annually attracting around one hundred and twenty thousand visitors. The private headstone for Norman David and Claudia, his wife, is now tilted at quite an angle but the CWGC marker already installed at the foot of their grave clearly marks the final resting place of Norman David.

     

    Day 8

    We drove through rain from Wrexham to the now closed St Cadfarch Church at Penegoes in Montgomeryshire (now renamed as Powys) and arrived during a brief hailstorm. ‘Rab’ Jones has been working with us to provide sufficient documentary evidence to the CWGC that Thomas Owen Davies (UKBR) is buried in the churchyard.

     

    His headstone also records the burial of his father and mother in the same grave, but the Burial Register can not currently be traced. Rab showed us Thomas Owen’s name on the War Memorial and in the Tabernacle at the nearby town of Machynlleth.

     

     

     

     

    We would like to record our thanks to Rab for the time he spent with us and for his generous gift of a limited edition book “Machynlleth and The First World War 1914 – 1919”.

    Our final destination took us over the spectacular mountains south of Machynlleth and down through central Wales to Penarth, west of Cardiff in Glamorgan. The town is popularly regarded as a favourite retirement location for merchant naval officers. Born at Montrose in Scotland, Frederick Charles Dakers (CBR) a ship’s Master and only one of two casualties with the Canadian Merchant Navy identified in the Far from Home project. His private headstone is badly damaged but a CWGC marker has recently been installed at the foot of his grave.

     

    Day 9

    On the final Saturday, we had hoped to visit the London Road Cemetery at Reading on our way home from Cardiff. The final resting place of James Robert Pullen (Bwd) in an unmarked family grave was confirmed in December 2011. Due to a variety of administrative problems over the years, his CWGC headstone was still not in place. Ironically, it was installed on Thursday 1st November, six days after our Road Trip had been completed. A case of so near but yet so far!

     

    We have now visited and recorded 3882 of the 3902 Canadians in the Far From Home project. Of the remaining twenty casualties, thirteen have already been visited once and photographed (for example, James Robert Pullen’s unmarked grave).

    Our objective is to have visited all twenty casualties by the Autumn of 2019. This final Road Trip will include locations in England, Ireland and Scotland.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  2. On this day in 1915……Sinking of the Hospital Ship Anglia – loss of 25 Canadians

    Sinking of the Hospital Ship Anglia 1915

    Online ref: (http://www.epsomandewellhistoryexplorer.org.uk/HMHSAnglia.html)

    Steam Ship Anglia in 1905
    Steam Ship Anglia in 1905
    Image source Wikipedia

     

    The Steam Ship Anglia was built in 1900 by Wm Denny & Brothers of Dumbarton in steel with twin propellers and displaced 1862 gross tons. It was first used by the London and North Western Railway on the Hollyhead to Dublin ferry route, and then from 1908 on the Hollyhead to Kingston ferry route.

     

    During WW1 it was requisitioned and refitted for use as a hospital ship and put to use ferrying the injured from France to England. In late 1915 it was mentioned in the national press that it had been used to evacuate King George V from France following a riding accident.

     

    HMHS Anglia
    HMHS Anglia
    Image source Wikipedia

     

    Only a few days after the journey transporting the King, the HMHS Anglia was sunk. The Anglia was carrying 13 officers and 372 other ranks when, just after midday on the 17th November 1915 about a mile east of Folkestone Gate, it struck a mine that had been laid by the German U-boat, UC-5. The ship was holed on the port side forward of the bridge and immediately began to sink bow first. The bridge was blown to smithereens and her Captain, Lionel John Manning, was thrown from the bridge to the deck below by the force of the explosion. He managed to pick himself up and went straight to the wireless room to send an SOS but after finding the operator injured and the equipment wrecked, went to help with getting his wounded passengers to safety.

     

    Meanwhile the ship was quickly taking on water and it was now listing heavily to the port side. The first two wards had gone under the water almost immediately and there was no hope of rescuing anyone from there. Other wards were also awash but, with the help of some of the more able bodied patients, the brave nurses and crew helped many other patients to safety.

     

    Because of the angle the ship was listing, the crew could not use any of the starboard side lifeboats but did manage to launch just one of the port side lifeboats, so saving about 50 people, before the angle of the ship made launching the others impossible. There was no major panic on board, just calm determination to help get the wounded to safety. Many of the survivors later praised the nursing staff for the help they gave the wounded, getting them into life belts and up on deck, without thought of their own safety.

     

    A collier called the SS Lusitania was nearby and was just west of the Anglia. The Lusitania put about and was quickly able to reach the stricken Anglia and launch two rescue boats. But the situation was already bad as the Anglia was now at an angle with its bow submerged and it’s fore funnel and boat decks already at the waterline. The engine was still working and the propellers were racing away in mid air but it is reported that despite the sleep angle of the deck, some 40 men were able to jump to safety when one of the rescue boats bravely passed under the Anglia’s stern with its spinning propellers.

     

    Escaping the Sinking Ship
    Escaping the Sinking Ship
    Image source Illustrated London News 27 November 1915

     

    The returning two rescue boats from the Lusitania had managed to picked up many survivors but, just as these survivors were being helped aboard, there was a terrific explosion from under the Lusitania, causing it to flounder. The two small boats quickly rescued the Lusitania’s crew, along with the survivors from the Anglia, before the Lusitania turned turtle and floated for a while with its keel upwards. The people in the two small boats were then transferred to a larger vessel. Other vessels raced to the scene to help with the rescue including HM Torpedo Boat No. 4, HMS Hazard, HMS Ure, War Department vessel Langton and the SS Channel Queen.

     

    Within 15 minutes of being mined, the Anglia gave a sudden lurch and turned partially on her side and went down settling, almost upright, on the seabed with the tops of her masts standing just above the level of the water.

     

    Photographs of the sinking of the Anglia - click image to enlarge
    Photographs of the sinking of the Anglia – click image to enlarge
    Image source Illustrated London News 08 January 1916

     

    In addition to the Anglia ship’s own crew there were 385 patients as well as doctors, nurses and some ‘able bodied’ stretcher bearers etc., on board. Despite the closeness to shore and the speed that the rescue vessels managed to reach the scene, some 164 people are thought to have died. This included 1 Nursing Sister, 9 R.A.M.C. Staff, 4 Army Officers, 125 Other Ranks and 25 Crew. [I have not been able to track down all the names but 4 officers, one nurse and 129 men were listed in the Times of 29 November 1915 and one more soldier on the 22 January 1916.] Bearing in mind that this was a hospital ship with possibly as many as 200 bed-bound patients and many others who had lost limbs or had major trauma and blast injuries the losses could have been much, much, higher.

     

    Within a few hours, survivors were placed on board hospital trains with many arriving in Epsom to be treated in the local War Hospitals. J.R. Lord, in his book The Story of the Horton – Co. of London – War Hospital: Epsom, describes the arrival of some of the survivors:

     

    Survivors of the “Anglia” admitted. – The night of 17th November, 1915, will never be forgotten, for it was the occasion of the admission of 112 soldiers and two sailors, survivors of the hospital ship Anglia, which had been mined and sunk in the Channel. A cabin boy, from the collier Lusitania, was also admitted, his ship having been sunk while engaged in noble rescue work. The disaster took place about mid-day, and shortly after 8 p.m. I had the worst of the survivors safe in the wards. All, more or less, were suffering severely from immersion in the sea, and many were severely wounded. Their condition on arrival was most pitiable. I had a huge pile of blankets waiting at the station, in which the patients were at once wrapped, and the journey to the hospital was made in record time. On arrival there every means were taken thoroughly to restore life, many being dazed and others partly or completely unconscious. They had gone through a terrible experience; some had been twice immersed, and had lost all they possessed; some even lost their pyjamas and were admitted quite naked but for blankets. Two of them it was impossible to identify, one of whom died very soon without ever returning to consciousness or uttering a word. It was not until the day fixed for the funeral that, with the assistance of the War Office Casualty Department, and the ring the patient was wearing, I was able to surmise who he was. I postponed the funeral for a day, and sent for the relatives, who satisfactorily identified him just before he was buried. The other “unknown” was suffering from a fractured skull, and in his delirium uttered words which belonged to no language we were acquainted with. I suspected paraphasia, but on the night of admission it was rumoured he was a German from his appearance and language, and some ugly threats were heard from other patients in the ward, who were highly incensed at the whole affair, especially as the survivors were convinced that the ship had been torpedoed. The story was that the Anglia had been dodged (sic) by a strange foreign-looking vessel, which had done the dastardly deed, and that the “unknown” speaking the foreign language had fallen overboard and been rescued with those from the Anglia. It was known there were no German prisoners on board the Anglia. However, though the story was scarcely credible, I wished to avoid any trouble with the other patients, so I had the patient moved to a wing of “A” hospital, and put in safety under an armed guard from a neighbouring camp for a few days, and set about the work of identification. It took some days, and several missing soldiers’ relatives were sent for without success. At last, however, the right relatives were found and he was correctly identified. We had good ground for our mystification regarding his language, for he was a paraphasic Welshman trying to speak his native tongue. He never regained consciousness, in spite of every effort to repair his skull, and died on December 7th.

    Message from the King. – On the morning following the arrival of the survivors of the Anglia, I received by telephone the following gracious message from H.M. the King, which I read to the patients congregated in the recreation hall and published in a special order :- “His Majesty the King desires that a special message of sympathy be conveyed to all Anglia patients, and has expressed the hope that they may quickly recover from their trying experience.”

    Lady St. Helier’s “Anglia” Relief Fund. – Lady St. Helier, made an appeal in the Press for funds to relieve the more urgent necessities of these men on discharge, and succeeded in raising £364, from which grants were made to all the survivors in this hospital and elsewhere. She was ably assisted by the Press, to whom she was very grateful, the Anglia patients much appreciating the visits of its many representatives, including, among others, those of the it “Daily Telegraph,” “Daily Mail,” “London Illustrated News,” “Illustrated News Agency,” “Daily Mirror” and “Daily Sketch.”

     

    Daily Mail 20/11/1915
    Daily Sketch 20/11/1915
    Daily Sketch 20/11/1915
    The Great War W/e 01/01/1916
    Some of the survivors being treated in Horton (County of London) War Hospital, Epsom

     

    We know that one of the wounded men on board the Anglia survived the sinking and after recovering returned to France only to die on the battlefield – read about Private John Thomas Branston WOODWARD on the Rutland Remembers website.

     

    The Rev Herbert Butler Cowl, an Army Chaplain, had been severely wounded during heavy enemy bombardment at the front and was onboard the Anglia when it was attached. For his part in saving lives on that fateful day he was awarded the Military Cross Medal. The story of his experiences during the Great War are recounted in The Half-Shilling Curate, a personal account of war & faith 1914-1918 which was written by his grand daughter Sarah Reay – for more details see www.halfshillingcurate.com/.

     

    Written by Peter Reed in September 2012
    following a suggestion by David Brooks
    Updated August 2017

     

    Major Sources:

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  3. Road Trip Part 2: Autumn 2018

    We have recently completed a nine day Road Trip covering just over 1,000 miles to the Midlands and north of England, the Isle of Man and Wales in our search for 13 casualties who were on our Outstanding Visits List. With only two exceptions, the casualties were all buried and mourned in their local communities.

     The final resting place for ten of the casualties was ‘Unknown’ when we embarked on our project in Autumn 2007. Six names were recorded on the Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial Wall (Bwd), three in the Canadian Book of Remembrance (CBR) and one in the UK Book of Remembrance (UKBR). The CWGC holds the Books of Remembrance in Ottawa and Maidenhead respectively.

     The burial place of these casualties has been established through the efforts of many individual researchers and voluntary organisations. The Far From Home project has been able to submit documentary proof for five of these casualties (names in italics below) to the CWGC. We felt a special bond with each of these five men when visiting them and are delighted to see those names are now displayed at their final resting place on the CWGC website.

     With the exception of our hotel on the Isle of Man, we otherwise relied on the welcome facilities of the Travelodge group throughout our Road Trip.

    Day 3

    The well maintained Manchester Southern cemetery at Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Lancashire was a hundred acre multi faith facility which opened in 1879, then extended by a further 90 acres in 1926. Stanley Barke (Bwd) was buried with four other members of his family and his grave is marked with a private headstone. Despite the size of the cemetery, a map prepared for us by the cemetery management lead us directly to his grave.

       

    Our visit to the grave of Henry Brierley (CBR) in St John Churchyard at Abram was the most poignant of all our visits. Abram is a former coal mining village south east of Wigan. In 2015, we had been asked by David Brierley a Toronto resident, to assist him in his search for the final resting place of his great uncle who had died in 1919. We found that Henry had been buried in the same grave as his aunt, Martha Benson. Sadly, David passed away before he was able to travel to England to visit his great-uncles grave, but he was able to see a photograph of the new CWGC headstone. It marked a successful outcome to his search.

      

    After we left Abram, it started to rain for the first time on our Road Trip. Our third visit of the day was to the ornate private grave of Fred Baron (Bwd) on a hillside in the Old West cemetery at Darwen, on the southern outskirts of Blackburn.

          

    Adjacent to Fred’s grave, there is a magnificent pictorial screen wall commemorating the contribution and sacrifices which the town made during the Great War.

      

    By late afternoon, the rain had moved away.

    Day 4

    We caught the 14.15 Isle of Man Ferries departure from Heysham in Lancashire and arrived at Douglas on the Isle of Man as the daylight was beginning to fade just before 18 00.

    Our accommodation was at the Sefton Hotel which has a bar & restaurant dedicated to the English film star and comedian Sir Norman Wisdom (1915 – 2010) and a resident of the Isle of Man for the latter years of his life.

     

    Day 5

    The final resting place for all three casualties on the Isle of Man has been well documented for many years.

    Joseph Cheatley was born at County Donegal in Ireland and is buried in Douglas cemetery. His grave is marked with a CWGC headstone which now looks across to the start and finish line of the TT motorcycle races. The inaugural race was held in 1907 and this festival of speed will be held from 25th May to 7th June 2019.

        

    We headed westwards to St Runius Kirk Marown Church which is on the outskirts of Glen Vine, between Douglas and Peel. David Joseph Lewin died at Moore Barracks Hospital at Shorncliffe in Kent on 14th October 1917. His private headstone records “In loving memory of David Joseph beloved husband of Mary Lewin”.

      

     Our third casualty took us down to the southern most part of the island. St Lupus Kirk Malew Churchyard is on the road between Ballasalla (where Sir Norman Wisdom died) and Castletown, the birthplace of William Quayle who was killed in a cycling accident and is buried in a family plot. A photographic display in a pew inside the church individually commemorated each casualty of the Great War and included John Edward Quayle, William’s younger brother. Although William has a CWGC headstone, John Edward is listed on the family’s private headstone but is not commemorated by the CWGC  because, as a Merchant Seaman,  he did not die at sea as the result of enemy action.

     

     

     

    Day 6

    As it was the first time for either of us on the Isle of Man, we decided to give ourselves a day off from driving and left our faithful Meriva in the hotel car park, taking the hour and a quarter trip on the Manx Electric Railway from Douglas to Ramsey in the north of the island. The journey took in some breath-taking scenery. From Ramsey, we returned by bus via Peel on the west coast to Douglas on the east coast of the island. Effectively, we had completed a round trip of the island over two days.

    We will be posting days 7 to 9 in the next few days.

  4. Road Trip: Autumn 2018

    We have recently completed a nine day Road Trip covering just over 1,000 miles to the Midlands and north of England, the Isle of Man and Wales in our search for 13 casualties who were on our Outstanding Visits List. With only two exceptions, the casualties were all buried and mourned in their local communities.

    The final resting place for ten of the casualties was ‘Unknown’ when we embarked on our project in Autumn 2007. Six names were recorded on the Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial Wall (Bwd), three in the Canadian Book of Remembrance (CBR) and one in the UK Book of Remembrance (UKBR). The CWGC holds the Books of Remembrance in Ottawa and Maidenhead respectively.

    The burial place of these casualties has been established through the efforts of many individual researchers and voluntary organisations. The Far From Home project has been able to submit documentary proof for five of these casualties (names in italics below) to the CWGC. We felt a special bond with each of these five men when visiting them and are delighted to see those names are now displayed at their final resting place on the CWGC website.

     With the exception of our hotel on the Isle of Man, we otherwise relied on the welcome facilities of the Travelodge group throughout our Road Trip.

    Day 1

    Our first stop was at the picturesque Warwickshire village of Ratley, just over the Oxfordshire county boundary. Shem England (Bwd) was one of 17 members of the extended England family who served in the Great War and are remembered on a plaque inside St Peter ad Vincula Church. Shem has a private headstone surrounded by several graves of other England family members. Along with other casualties from the parish, he is also commemorated on the War Memorial adjacent to the church door.

              

    Next, we moved on to St John the Divine Church at Horninglow, Burton on Trent in Staffordshire. We supplied the CWGC with a copy of the page from the Burial Register for George Taylor (Bwd) but the church is unable to specify where he is buried in the churchyard. Between us, we spent three hours checking all the marked grave plots, many of which are in a poor or often illegible condition, but were unable to locate him. In all likelihood, the CWGC will decide to erect a headstone with an inscription reading “Buried elsewhere in this churchyard”. George will now be revisited by us at a later date when his commemoration is in place.

    Day 2

    The morning was spent at the 150 acres National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, a few miles south of Burton on Trent. The site was gifted to the British Legion and “is the UK’s year-round centre of Remembrance; a spiritually uplifting place which honours the fallen, recognises service and sacrifice, and fosters pride in our country. It is a living and lasting memorial”. (http://www.thenma.org.uk/about-us/who-we-are/). The site is dominated by the circular Armed Forces Memorial which is reached up a series of steps and is usually featured by television as a part of their outside broadcasts on Remembrance Sunday.  One of the photographs shows a split in the wall. At the 11th hour on the 11th day and the 11th month each Remembrance Day, the sun beams its light through this gap and strikes the wreath at the centre of this Memorial.

        

    One special section was the paving stone walk which commemorates all of the 145 overseas-born World War 1 recipients of the Victoria Cross.  This was only unveiled in March 2015 and fifteen are Canadians. One of these is Captain Francis Scrimger, Canadian Army Medical Corps who helped save thousands of men from the lethal first gas attack in 1915. Realising that it was chlorine gas, Captain Scrimger called for his men to urinate on a piece of cloth and hold it over their faces – thus reducing the devastating effects of the gas.

          

    The Shot at Dawn memorial to the 326 WW1 soldiers executed by the British Army had a particular resonance for us, having written a two part article about the 23 Canadians which was recently published in Stand To! Magazine by the Western Front Association. (See ‘Published Articles’ here on our Far From Home website (https://www.canadianukgravesww1.co.uk/published).

    It was a hugely moving but particularly disturbing experience. The first of the Canadians to be Shot At Dawn was Private Fortunat Auger on the 26th March 1916.

    Alfred Johnson (Bwd) is buried in a large war grave section to the left of the entrance into Eccleshall Road cemetery at Stafford. As with George Taylor, it proved to be impossible to identify the actual location of his grave within the cemetery and his CWGC headstone notes “Buried elsewhere in this cemetery”.

    After passing the Jodrell Bank Observatory, a part of the University of Manchester, we met Mike Akerman in Prestbury, a Cheshire village near Macclesfield. As Archivist at St Peter Church, we had been in touch with him in 2014 when it had been established John Henry Mayers (CBR) had been buried in the churchyard. At that time, he had offered to take us to the grave whenever we visited Prestbury. Without his generous offer, it would have been hugely time consuming to comb the large and wooded churchyard.

    Later Mike also took us to his own parish church, St Christopher at Pott Shrigley, Cheshire to see the stunning and poignant congregation of seated Perspex “There But Not There” Tommy silhouettes. We are hugely grateful to Mike for making our visits so fulfilling.

    We will be posting Days 3 to 9 in the next few days.

     

  5. “Shrouds of The Somme” Exhibition, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, London.

    On Saturday 10th November 2018, we visited this site in east London as part of our own personal remembrance weekend.

    Nothing can prepare you for the sight of 72,396 shroud covered figures laid out in rows of 198 and covering an area the size of one and a half football fields. The figures are not all identical as the movable joints had allowed Rob Heard the Artist, to arrange them in different poses before covering them in calico fabric.

    The 72,396 Shrouds represents each name at the Thiepval Memorial in France on which is inscribed all of the names of the missing British and South African Forces who died in the Somme Sector. The majority died during the Somme Offensive of 1916 and all have no known grave.

    The experience of walking around this Remembrance event was profoundly moving. In a separate area, there is a Field of Remembrance with British Legion crosses, each one marks a day in the Great War and commemorates one single casualty of that particular day.

    There is also a continuous broadcast of the names being read out by volunteers. It is a sombre and poignant Roll Call.

    Before leaving the exhibition, there is an area which displays a complete listing by name and regiment for every single one of the casualties commemorated by Shrouds of the Somme, making it possible for visitors to find and photograph the name(s) of any ancestors who died on the Somme.

    This exhibition runs from 10am to 7pm daily until next Sunday, 18th November. If at all possible, it is something that everyone should try to see for themselves.

             Rob Heard – Artist

    The Shrouds of the Somme at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London 8th – 18th November 2018

     

  6. “There But Not There” Tommies

    These silhouettes are to be found all over Great Britain and we would like to share the few we found.

    At the teashop by the South Foreland Lighthouse on the Dover Cliffs.

    St Pancras Rail Station, London.

    Reading Motorway Services

    Buffs Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral 

    The Parish Church of St Christopher, Pott Shrigley, Chester, Cheshire.These are very special as they are are perspex and seven of them are to be found sitting in the pews within the church.

    These two silhouettes were found above a store in Canterbury High Street.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  7. Remembrance at Canterbury in England.

    Last Friday, 2nd November, we strolled around Canterbury on a lovely sunny but chilly day to see the different sites of Remembrance that have recently been installed in the City. Each eye-catching display attracted groups of passers-by to pause, reflect and admire the unique pieces of artwork.

    First, we discovered this giant Poppy wreath with a ‘There But Not There’ black Tommy silhouette on either side of it above the ‘Next’ clothing store at the Whitefriars shopping centre. The poppies used for the wreath had been lovingly knitted and donated by hundreds of local people.

    Then, we strolled the short distance into the Marlowe Arcade to see the Weeping Cascade on either side of the entrance. The information boards explained that the cascade was formed of 10,000 knitted and crocheted poppies created by a legion of volunteer Canterbury women.

               

    Approaching the Westgate Towers at the far end of Canterbury High Street, we were treated to the sight of an impressive Weeping Window cascading from the left hand tower. The poppies for this stark display were made from the bottom of plastic bottles which were then sprayed red. An ingenious use of otherwise useless waste material destined for disposal by the local authority.

     

    Following an enjoyable meander through the back streets of Canterbury, we made our way to Canterbury Cathedral. There we found not one but three remembrance events.

    Inside the Cathedral, there is the St Michael’s Memorial Chapel, which was dedicated to The Royal East Kent Regiment. Familiarly known as ‘The Buffs’, this regiment traced its history back to 1572 when 300 men had volunteered for service in Holland. They were armed as pikemen, dressed in buff-coloured leather jerkins and assisted in a struggle against the Spanish They were officially linked to East Kent during 1782 and their first “depot” was established at Canterbury in 1817. The regiment has taken part in nearly all of the major conflicts over the centuries. In 1958, the Buffs began their last operational tour in Aden. Amalgamations with other regiments and battalions followed and finally it became The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment in 1992.

    Since 1926, at 11am each day in the chapel, a page in the Book of Life is turned  on which is inscribed the names of ‘Buffs’ who have given their lives for their country. There were 6,500 casualties from the First War alone.

    In years past, a single soldier would march down St Martin’s Hill from Howe barracks to the Cathedral each day, ready to turn the page at 11 am and then march back to the barracks. Sadly, amid heightened security concerns, the tradition which began in 1926 and observed every day throughout the Second World War was discontinued in the latter half of the twentieth century. Today, the act of remembrance is normally carried on by members of the Queen’s Own Buffs Regimental Association and the nearby bell from HMS Canterbury is still rung.

    Standing inside the chapel is a There But Not There Tommy silhouette alongside the regimental drum dressed with poppies.

                    

    We were fortunate with the timing of our walk. When approaching the east end of the Cathedral Precincts, we came upon a gathering of the Clergy, British Legion members, Flag bearers and members of the public. A Field of Remembrance had been set out on the grass and was about to be dedicated during a short service. There were already over 500 hundred wooden crosses displayed in the field, each one dedicated to a casualty listed on the Canterbury War Memorial. This memorial stands in the Buttermarket just outside the main gates of the Cathedral.

           

    We joined in with the service of dedication and were especially moved when the haunting sounds of the Last Post were played to a silent congregation all dwarfed by this magnificent 8th Century structure. Some of the tradesmen working on the restoration of the Cathedral took a time out from their labours and joined in the service.

    Adjacent to the field of remembrance, there was the twenty-foot tall War Horse which was built in the Precincts last month. Led by Sculptor Clive Soord, students and staff from Canterbury School of Visual Arts at Canterbury College have created a large-scale wooden horse for the Cathedral Precincts Uniquely, the horse’s tail is made from several lengths of rope which swayed in the gentle breeze.

    The Canterbury War Horse’s head is bowed in respect, facing oncoming visitors to the cathedral. Under its feet, there was a large carpet of poppies also made from recycled plastic bottles and shaped by children from across the Diocese. The installation was a really magnificent and unforgettable sight.

    We felt the magnificent old city of Canterbury had responded with dignity and creativity to commemorate the centenary of the end of The First World War.

     

Search this blog

Blog categories

Blog archive

November 2018
M T W T F S S
« Oct   Dec »
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Article tags

Latest from our Twitter feed