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.
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.
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.
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.