Tag Archives: Great War

Horse Blog Link

Here’s the link to the horse blog I mentioned on Sunday – Sense and Sentimentality.

Sorry it took me so long to find, I’m not very organised.

I have a number of horse-based stories from the Great War, which all confirm in my mind that it’s better to be shot at than be anywhere near a horse. However, it’s still an interesting subject, despite my misgivings.

Have a look – I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Nottingham Badges of the Great War

I’ve been taking pictures of Nottingham-related badges recently. You probably guessed that from the photographs of Nottingham-related badges in this post.

The “Comforts for Troops” badge in the header picture opens up some interesting sites on the net, including this one, with the story of Beatrice Whitby, who seems to have been an exceptional woman, even from the age of eleven. Interestingly, given the times in which she grew up, she did all that work without even having the right to vote.

There is an archive preserved in the Imperial War Museum, which includes many personal papers, and 209 postcards from soldiers who received parcels from the fund whilst prisoners of war. I will let you read the link if you want more detail, for now I will just say that they sent 40,000 parcels to prisoners of war, which was a huge effort.

My Dad and his two brothers raised money for comforts, with a penny a week fund and various other events during the Second World War,  so this is an area that I’m quite interested in.  Dad never mentioned it, I found out by accident when researching  family history in newspapers a few months ago.

This is an Australian article on knitted comforts as I can’t find anything on knitted comforts from Nottinghamshire. It’s interesting, though it does seem a bit ungrateful in places when discussing the quality of socks.

I can’t find anything on the Relatives Association badge so far, or the Hospital badge, though I can tell you that I bought the badge in a mixed lot at the J. Tanenbaum Collection at Neales Auction (Nottingham) on 28 February 1991. It was incidental to the things I actually wanted and it was the badge that set me off collecting badges, so it has a lot to answer for.

A Hundred Years Ago…

Sorry, this is a bit of a downbeat post, but it relates to events 100 years ago today, and it seems appropriate. This is from the Clitheroe Advertiser on 21st December 1917.

Obituary notice - Wm H Wilson

Obituary notice – W H Wilson

It’s not quite accurate, as he’d originally volunteered in 1914 but been turned down (my grandfather went with him to volunteer that day but claimed to be less than nine months younger than him – this was hailed as a medical miracle by the recruiting sergeant, who also rejected my grandfather.) The fact that he wasn’t called up until  a year after conscription could indicate that he was needed on the farm as part of the war effort, but there is no indication on his card.

He joined the battalion in July 1917 and was wounded in action on 22nd October, a slight gunshot wound to the head according to his medical records. Slight? They were obviously tougher in those days.

He rejoined the battalion on 5th December, and was, as reported in the paper, fatally wounded whilst in trenches in the Ypres salient on 12th December.

He is buried in Lijsssenthoek Militart Cemetery and is unusual amongst the three members of the family killed in the war in having a marked grave.

 

This is the lisy of personal effects sent home to his mother – photos, wallet, cigarette case, cards, 2 cap badges, 2 numerals (probably shoulder titles), 9 carat gold ring (WHW), 1 farthing, bag.. They would later send a tin case containing a safety razor and blades. Shaving was a complicated subject in the trenches.

WHW Effects

He was, according to one of my great-grandmother’s letters, walking out with a local woman, before being sent to France. At that point he had only five months to live and was to be wounded twice and mentioned in despatches in that time.

    

The war memorial in Slaidburn (currently being restored) features his name, as does my great-grandmother’s gravestone (which also mentions my great-grandfather). If you compared the war memorial  figures at Clitheroe and Slaidburn you will see that they are the same, something I learned whilst pteparing the previous post on Clitheroe. She never recovered from Billy’s death (he was Billy to the family – William to record-keepers) and threw out anything that reminded her of the war. That, we are told, is why there is no existing photo of him.

Great-grandmother is buried in Chatburn, the village where my mother was bombed, and where I later went to school less than 100 yards from the gravestone, which I never knew about until a few years ago.

This closes the circle as her son-in-law is commemorated on Chatburn war memorial – something else I never knew when I went to Chatburn school – the school is the building in the background of this photograph.

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Low Cunning and Bidding on ebay

Last week I bid £120 on a medallion. I’ve already had a discussion on thrift, common sense and my sanity with Julia, so we’ll gloss over that. My defence is that collecting is a mental condition rather than a hobby.

It’s like the one in the header picture but the reverse has the coat of arms of Skegness. The one in the picture is the commoner one with the coat of arms of Lincoln on the reverse.

There is a picture of the Skegness medal and much other material here.

I didn’t get it, and was annoyed to be the underbidder to a winning bid of £122. I was a bit shocked to be honest, as I really thought it should only be £80 – £90. The extra was the safety net to ensure I got it.

Ah well, some you win and some you lose.

Then it immediately reappeared for sale, using the same photographs, but this time with a reserve. Curiouser and curiouser as they say. Well, Alice said it in Wonderland, and there’s a lot in ebay that reminds me of life through the Looking Glass.

I watched it. I considered writing to ask what was happening. I thought of reporting it to ebay, because it looked like someone had bid it up and bought it back themselves by accident. Such things have been known, though I can’t say for sure. I can only say that I was suspicious, and that there were certain indications that this was the case.

Anyway, I didn’t bid. I watched, I compared the bidders with the bidders on the previous “sale” and I waited. Eventually I decided what to do and put a bid on it. Someone outbid me. It was the same bidder that had outbid me last time.

This was where my low cunning came in.

I bid again, just another £2.

They bid again and outbid me again.

But, I think they got the message – that there would be no big bid this time – and they didn’t bid again when I added an extra couple of quid. After all, how many times do you want to buy your own stuff back? It gets expensive when you have commission to pay.

Nobody else bid either and I closed the sale at £87. It’s enough, but it’s £33 cheaper than I bid on the previous one. Assuming my earlier suspicions were justified I’d like to think of it as both a result (better price) and a lesson (greed doesn’t pay).

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies

Bicycles and the Military Cyclists

Today, the image of soldiers on bicycles seems incongruous, but in the late 19th century we were not blessed with quite so much technology. We take personal transport for granted, but at this point in history you either walked or, if you were rich enough, used a horse. Bicycles, in their way, were a quiet revolution.

The earliest cycle design dates back to 1534 when Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, sketched a design. The first modern cycles, without pedals, were used in the early 19th century and pedals appeared in 1863. The Scots were at the cutting edge of bicycle design at that time (a fact I throw in for Tootlepedal). Designs moved on to the “ordinary” or “penny farthing” design.

Thomas Stevens used a penny farthing on his trip when he became the first man to ride round the world on a bicycle in 1884-6. Annie Londonderry was the first woman to travel round the world with a bicycle, in 1894-5.

The first British military cyclists to see action were the messengers attached to the Jameson Raid in 1895-6. They appeared again during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, when one unit was equipped with specially adapted tandems to ride along railway lines and guard them from sabotage. Both sides used bicycle troops as couriers, scouts and raiders.

Unlikely as it may seem to a generation that needs four wheel drive to cross open country, bicycles were seen as the solution to moving quantities of troops rapidly across open ground and in Switzerland they were able to travel on terrain that horses could not. With a network of roads available to them bicycle troops were seen as cheaper, quieter and easier to train than cavalry.

Both sides used bicycles in the Great War and they were also a feature of the Second World War (the Japanese using 50,000 bicycle troops in Malaya),  Vietnam and the Tamil Tigers’ uprising in Sri Lanka. The Swiss disbanded their bicycle troops in 2001, whilst the Sri Lankan army still has bicycle troops.

At the beginning of the Great War the British Army had 14 battalions of bicycle infantry ready for use. Many were used on coastal defence in the UK, and others served on the Western Front, though they were not particularly useful until the resumption of open warfare at the end of 1918.

Although this may not seem like good value it was at least as effective as the cavalry, and bikes, unlike horses, didn’t need food or stables and didn’t produce manure.

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Painted enamel brooch of the Northern Cyclists – about three times life size, which is why some of the detail looks a bit blurred.

The Kent Cyclists served on  the North West Frontier during the war and, along with the 25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion served in the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

The 2/10th (Cyclist) Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) served in the North Russian campaign.

The Army Cyclist Corps was disbanded in 1920 and all the units were redeployed by 1922.

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Sweetheart brooch of the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion. They spent most of their war guarding the Yorkshire coast. The fact that it is still there speaks highly of their efficiency and a job well done.

Book Review – Now All Roads Lead to France

Now All Roads Lead to France – Matthew Hollis

Paperback: 432 pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (5 Jan. 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 057124599

ISBN-13: 978-0571245994

Now all roads lead to France
And heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead
Returning lightly dance:

Roads – Edward Thomas

 

It’s a book about the final years of Edward Thomas, covering the rise of Georgian Poetry, modernism, war poetry, Dymock and Robert Frost.

It also covers the question of his punctuation. I don’t know about you but in some of Thomas’s verse, like the quote at the top of the page, the punctuation seems at variance with the natural rhythymn of speech. This is intentional, though my personal feeling is that it doesn’t improve the piece.

The “Georgian” refers to George V and was meant to show the modernity of the new poetry as it emerged from the time of Victoria. It may have done at the time, but it always makes me think of George III. The fact that the modernists took over after the war also tends to make the Georgians look old-fashioned, despite their intentions.

You’ll need to read the book to get the full details – Matthew Hollis is much better at explaining than I am.

To summarise, as the war came, Thomas was a well-known (and over-worked) literary critic and a difficult husband. He moved to Dymock to be amongst the poets who had congregated there and under the influence of Frost (who had come to England to advance his poetry career) started writing poetry. After much soul-searching, he joined the army, bacame an instructor and, instead of staying in the UK instructing, applied for a commision and went to France . I don’t think I’m giving too much away if I say it didn’t end well.

Hollis covers a lot of ground in this book, and does so in depth. Despite this it’s almost always interesting and moves along at a decent pace.

The exception to this is several of the passages dealing with the theory of poetry. However, they aren’t long and don’t hold things up too much. That’s what happens when you have a book about poets written by a poet – the style is good, the information is well handled and you get all the passion you could ask for. But you do get a bit too much discussion of poetry.

It’s an excellent book, with an interesting in-depth view of Thomas’s poetry career and family life set within the literary life of the UK in the lead up to the Great War.  You can read it as history or biography or literary criticism.

If you get a chance do read it. I mean, how often do you hear me being this enthusiastic about a book?

Of course, if you aren’t interested in the Great War or poetry, it might not be the book for you.

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Photo of books – it fills a space.