Category Archives: Christmas

Chinese Labour Corps, First and Last #FWW #WW1 #WWI

I keep saying I will never write another blog on the Chinese Labour Corps, so…

The Chinese had been labourers in the British Empire for a while. They were miners in South Africa, railway navies in Canada and worked in other roles throughout the Empire. Prior to the First World War, there was a Chinese Regiment in the British Army There were Chinese civilians on Royal Navy warships in the Falklands War in the eighties. They are often forgotten, as are the British Soldiers who volunteered to serve in the Chinese Labour Corps.

The recruiting area for the Chinese Labour Corps was centred on Weihai, Shandong, China. The first known recruit in my records is Bi Xuzhong. Bi Xuzhong came from a village in Rongcheng, Shandong.  Bi Xuzhong survived the war and almost certainly returned to China.

The last, again in my records is Ch’un Ch’ih Wang. While not the first or the last Chinese man to be executed for murder by the British in France, they are my records and I have put him last. Ch’un Ch’ih Wang was executed in the small square at Poperinghe Town Hall.  His execution site is one of the most visited places in Poperinghe yet few could tell you a Chinese man was executed there. Ch’un Ch’ih Wang is buried in Poperinghe Old Military Cemetery, it is a mile down the road from the New Military Cemetery. For at least one reason this is a shame because busloads stop at the New Military Cemetery and place at sometimes seems armfuls of poppies on the graves of those who were shot at dawn there and ignore Ch’un Ch’ih Wang’s grave a mile down the road.

One of the basic premises behind the then  Imperial War Graves Commision, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commision’s treatment of Imperial/Commonwealth war dead is they should all be treated equally. Something we seem to have “Unremembered”, No matter the rank, age, sex, race, what they did or how they died. Death is the great equaliser. We just don’t,  we put armfuls of poppies on some. I tell people go to any of the CWGC cemeteries in the tourist season and walk down the row ends look along the rows. The mounds of poppies mark the grave of a VC holder, Boy Soldier, shot at Dawn, or a poet. We say we treat them all with the same respect. It is time we did.

Merry Christmas.


Enlisting and Trains “Train Window Death” #FWW #WW1

“Train Window Death” A very recent tragedy. It reminded me of Private 2778 James “Jas” George, 2/6th Seaforth Highlanders death over a hundred years ago. Jas had his head out of the window chatting to friends in another carriage. The train was approaching Grantown-on-Spey when he hit his head on a viaduct. He died shortly afterwards at Ian Charles Hospital in Grantown-on-Spey. Jas was 31 years old with four children. He is buried in Elgin New Cemetery.

Mind you getting a train wasn’t that easy.

Andrew Simpson was killed a few weeks before Jas. He was on his way to enlist and was killed in a railway accident in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. Andrew is not on any memorial that I know of.

Another man who had problems getting to a train was Alexander Cumming.

Alexander was born at Baillieward, Grantown-on-Spey, 11th October 1883. The son of John and Isabella McMillan Cumming of Garth Green, Grantown-on-Spey. He was a student at the Grammar School in Grantown-onSpey. Alexander’s first job was as an apprentice clerk in Lord Elgin’s Estate Office in Dunfermline in Fife. Then he emigrated to Canada. Here he became a rancher in Alberta.  In 1915 Alexander decided to enlist. Easy, walk downtown and sign on the dotted line. Or get a bus or a train to the nearest city. Alexander decided on a train. So he walked. Well, when I say “walked” that was only part of the way to the station. He then boarded a raft. This brought him a bit closer. He still had a way to go. He did what any self-respecting rancher would do. he completed the last part of the 300-mile journey to his nearest railway station by bullock waggon. This was by no means the end of his journey to enlist. That was just to get to the station. Alexander then crossed the Atlantic and made his way to his parents and then on to Elgin. Here he enlisted. His travels were not over. The army sent him to Salonica. Salonica was the end of his journey. Private S/18408 Alexander Cumming died of illness on Christmas day 1916. He is buried in Salonica, at Lambert Road Military Cemetery. He is commemorated on Grantown-on-Spey War Memorial, Grantown-on-Spey’s Grammar School’s War Memorial, and a family gravestone in Cromdale Churchyard.

Jas, Andrew, and Alexander are all included in my book Poppies from the Heart of Strathspey



Merry Christmas

No new blog this week do to events outwith my control, ie Christmas/New Year

I will be researching cholera in Sinai during 1916, the invasion of Palestine in 1917, and the Chinese contribution to the First World War.

Cholera in Sinai because both General Murry and Allenby had to fight two wars, one with men the other with medicine.

The invasion of Palestine, a long running exercise, I now have the two books Allenby used to plan the invasion.

The Chinese contribution, because I promised someone I would. The first First World War site I can remember visiting was Outram Road in Singapore. The Chinese contribution to the First World War is often just ignored, not forgotten, ignored. Sometimes things in front of our eyes are. If you have the time over the holidays visit the Imperial War Museum, it is closed 24th-26 inclusive but open other days. Have a look at the First World War exhibits. You will see something that the Chinese gave to the British Army nearly a hundred years ago. They are still used by the British Army today. I doubt if the vast majority of visitors to the museum know what “they” are, but most visitors will look at “them”.

My better half is working both Christmas and boxing day, so hopefully I will have the time.

Have a Merry, Happy, Peaceful Christmas, and may your God, gods, or source of inspiration, peace and love, be with you.

Faith in the trenches a better God by far #FWW #IWW #WW1

Many years ago while on my road to Damascus I found myself in a Cathedral of Wellingtonia in the high Sierra. A few yards  away from the track and I was awe struck. Here amongst the Giant Redwoods I understood why John Muir found his better God. I could see and touch be inspired. If God lived anywhere it was here. Here in the midst of those truly amazing trees, here on the high Sierra where streams are crystal clear, here where the bright sun shone through the Cathedral of trees canopy it was possible to believe one could hear God’s voice in the breeze. Here then was a reason to turn John Muir from a harsh Scots Calvinist to a saviour of the forest and creator of National Parks.

John Muir died on the 24th December 1914, he lived long enough to see the start of the Great War, a war in which many Scots Calvinists would fight and die. Here are the names of some of them. They are from Stow, a village some 30 or so miles from Dunbar as the crow flies.

John H Anderson, 9th Battalion Royal Scots, died 12th April 1917, buried in Brown’s Copse Cemetery, Roeux.

Alex Bell, K.O.S.B. (Could be anyone of four killed/die in the Great War.)

Chas Chisholm, Gordon Highlanders, died 25th September 1915, commemorated on the Loos Memorial.

James Brydon, 46th Battalion Canadian Infantry, died 10th April 1917, Commemorated on the Vimy Memorial

Robert G Crombie, 5th/6th Cameronians, died 20th May 1917, commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Robert Frier, 1st/4th K.O.S.B, died 18th April 1917. commemorated on the Jerusalem Memorial.

Walter Linton, Life Guards? other details unknown

Gordon Lumsden 12th Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, died 9th May 1917, Commemorated on the Doiran Memorial.

Robert Johnston 12th Battalion Cameronians, died 15th March 1916, buried in Bethune Town Cemetery.

Walter Nicol 2nd Battalion K.O.S.B. died 30th July 1916, commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Robert Oliver, 11th Battalion Cameronians, died 19th September 1916, Commemorated on the Doiran Memorial.

Alex Rutherford 1st/4th K.O.S.B. died 12th july 1915, Commemorated on the Helles Memorial.

John Stuart attch 4th/5th Bn Black Watch died 28th July 1918, buried Buzancy Military Cemetery

James Waters Unknown

Archibald R Wood 1st/4th K.O.S.B. 29th October 1918 Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery

and Chris Young, Unknown

The above are all on one memorial and all belonged to a Calvinist Church. it is known what they believed before 1914. Keep the Lord’s day holy. Walk to the kirk, only read the bible on Sunday, Do not celebrate Christmas day. Take the king James version literally. They had a disdain of Catholicism, Roman, or Inglish-that is how they would have spelt and pronounced it, and kept the Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Church of Scotland at a distance. These men would have regarded the very idea of a truce on Christmas day as Inglish Popery and would have winced at the idea. Their view of life was harsh, after all they had came from the same mold as John Muir. It is also known how difficult it was for some men to keep a faith in God in the trenches. Life with the dead and dying, seeing men wounded and maimed day in day out. they died in different battles at different times. men from their church fought everywhere the Empire did. The Western Front, Dardanelles, Palestine Mesopotamia Most men from their Church survived and returned to Stow where most resumed their pre war lives. all had experienced first hand the horrors of war, a collective hell. Very different from the experiences of John Muir. Indeed a different time as well as a different place. Yet the men who returned had also found a better God, in a decade the old kirk had embraced Christmas, there would be hymns, singing, a happier church. Those men went away to fight for an old world order and returned to seek a better way.

Leave Calvin and the Bible
To the parish o’ Dunbar
Give a blind man back his eyes to find
The brightest o’ the stars
They lead him to the altar of a better God by far
(Brian McNeill.)

It is remarkable where some men find a better God, and others see only death and desolation.

IWW, WW1 will be continued, but not today.

From tonight 9 September 2014 I will be offline for a fortnight. For those who are not sure what a fortnight is, I am sorry your country decided to leave the Empire when they did, and/or, I am sorry your country did not join the Empire. After all we are so much better together. Which brings me to the reason for my being offline for the next two weeks. I am tied of it and need a break. If you can vote do.

Plenty of research to keep me busy. It is time I wrote something on those deservedly shot at dawn, (SAD). Time to study a bit for an MA/PHd, Book, or just because I enjoy it. Time for me. My research has always been free, i have found lost war graves, researched family histories, forgotten soldiers, and a probable mass grave of German IWW soldiers. Invited to a conference for post graduates. Is it only me who can see the irony here? I need a rest.

Iolaire, SAD, Richborough, Folkestone, and German War Guilt, can all wait-Look upon it as an early Christmas Truce.

It is a long way from Alberta to Lambert Road WW1 in 3 Minutes.

S/18408 Private Alexander Cumming was born at Baillieward Grantown-on-Spey on the 11th October 1883. He was the son of John and Isabella Cummings of Garth Keen, Grantown-on-Spey. Alexander first worked at the Strathspey Estate Office as an apprentice clerk, after this he worked at Lord Elgin’s Estate Office in Dunfermline. Life in Scotland did not for-full Alexander’s hopes and ambitions and like so many afore him he left for a new life in Canada. He became a rancher in Alberta. Sometime around the beginning of 1915 Alexander heeded the Empire’s call and decided to enlist in the Argyy’s. in Elgin, Scotland. not for him a simple walk to the recruiting office. For Alexander it was a three hundred mile trip on foot, then raft,  thirdly and finally by bullock wagon, just to get to the nearest railway station.  He made it across the Atlantic and scotland to Elgin in November 1915. it was here he enlisted in the Argyll’s on the 16th of November 1915. His travels were not yet over, after training he was posted to the 12th Battalion Argyll’s in Salonika.  It was there, at the 4th Canadian Hospital he died of an internal malady on Christmas Day 1916. He is buried in Salonika (Lambert Road) Military Cemetery.