With the centenary fast approaching and most of the big planned events being more Bloodshit and Poppycock than truth the smaller moments that made up the great War will be ignored.
This is just one small act, an ordinary man, not even worth a byeline. So it it is going to be a short blog, but they both deserve a mention.
Everyone in the UK knows the Great War started on the 4th August 1914, we just ignore the days of conflict before then. Britain depended on the sea, it was our lifeblood, we depended on the supplies brought in by the Merchant Marine. With the size and strength of the Royal Navy it should not have been surprising the Germans would resort to then new weapon of the U-boat. Nearly 5000 ships were sunk, 13 million gross registered tons were sent to davy Jones’s Locker by the U-boats. The first British merchant ship sunk, however, was not sunk by torpedo, gunfire, or indeed U-boat. The first ship was not even sunk in the Great War. It was sunk the day before. On the 3rd august 1914. the SS San Wilfrido, a British tanker owned by Eagle Oil (Now part of Shell), hit a German mine off Cuxhaven and sank. The crew became Prisoners of War, the first of many. Ben Baxter was one of them. Ben , who hailed from London, was the wireless operator on the SS Wilfrido. While he was interned at Ruhleben POW Camp in Germany. Ben built a model of the SS Wilfrido. I think this model is now part of the Imperial War Museum’s collection. Ben spent the war years mostly at Ruhleben although the last period of his internment was spent at Schweidnitz Camp.
It has been said that history is made by great people, it isn’t. It is made by ordinary people such as Ben Baxter, it is made in small acts, sometimes collected together, sometimes by themselves. Without great men there would still be ordinary men such as Ben, doing ordinary things. Without ordinary men though, there would be no great men.