Tag Archives: British

Only 14 years old, youngest soldier buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery

I really only do the First World War. Can barely afford that, without embarking on another war. So this is less of a blog than just an observation. Often when talking about the FWW the subject gets around to boy soldiers and John Condon. I have no idea of how many 14-year-olds enlisted to fight for the empire in the FWW or indeed the reasons why. I do know that John Condon was at least 18 when he died. The soldier in John Condon’s grave is almost certainly not him either.  That said people do go and pay their respects and the grave is easily found just by looking for a large number of poppies and crosses placed in front of the gravestone.  It is one of the things that is quickly learnt on visits to the Commonwealth war cemeteries. Lots of poppies and or crosses mean it is a VC holder, Shot at Dawn, or a Boy Soldier.  It tends to be something we only think of Over There. I regularly visit Shorncliffe Military Cemetery and get to learn quite a bit from other visitors. Know where the Gurkhas are buried or remembered. Who was killed by the IRA, Military Intelligence failures, died in Afghanistan, Malaya, walk along the wall at the lower end and say “I knew him” or “I worked with him”. I also find the youngest.

In Shorncliffe the youngest soldier buried there is only 14, the same age as John Condon was thought to be. The name of the soldier is Antony B Croucher, (Boy) he died in Winchester on the 20th November 1939. I have no idea how he died. No poppies or crosses on his grave, no bus companies do tours to visit him, very few people arrive to pay their respects. After all, he is not a FWW soldier and we don’t think of Boy Soldiers in the Second World War.

21985652_10155765357189190_903861371_o(Photo, Joni Anderson)

In my haste, I forgot to thank Annie Petrie (@annepetrie6) for letting me know that Antony died in Winchester, and for the time spent trying to find out more for me. Humble apologies, and many thanks.


A Little Campaign Lost in A Great war.

In April 1915 an old man with a beard went to pay his land tax. Tired of waiting he went home and urged the peasants who looked up to him and admired him by following suit and doing the same. The event started a rebellion.

The place was Kelantan in Malaya. A new tax had been introduced in the Unfederated Malay States by the British. It was a “Land” Tax Land ownership would now be taxed. The tax was to replace the tax on produce. What the land produced and the quantity now no longer mattered. The new tax was not explained it was just imposed. On page 27 0f (7) Kheng, Cheah Boon points out  that John Maxwell the acting Colonial Secretary blamed  the Kelantan Government for not pointing out the differences and the benefits of Land registration. The Malay peasants around Pasir Puteh seemed to think it was an addition, not a replacement. Like people everywhere they were probably not happy about taxation but paid anyway. When a local worthy said basically, I’ve had enough, not waiting any longer to pay tax. I’m going home. People followed. On the 29th of April.(1)  A police serjeant Che Wan, was dispatched to arrest To’Janggut-the man with the beard and investigate reports of a planned attack on government buildings in Pasir Puteh.  To’Janggut then allegedly killed the police serjeant by stabbing him in  the neck with his dagger.(2) The attack on Pasir Puteh led by To’Janggut and Ungku Besar, a local feudal lord went ahead the next day.(3) The police station was raided and prisoners released. Some of the prisoners joined the rebels. Perhaps they were forced. Others just went home. Other government buildings were touched. someone then requested help from Singapore. the “Who” is not clear. So far we have looked at a brief overview of the initial events. Cheah Boon Kheng’s book, To’Janggut: Legends, Histories,and Perceptions of the 1915 Rebellion in Kelantan. does exactly what it says on the tin. We are left to make up our own minds. To’Janggut was a Muslim who had been to Mecca. Going to Mecca is one of the obligations of a Muslim. so the first question that arises is,”Was he radicalised?” Doubtful there seems to be no record of him being anything. he was wealthy. We know that because he went to Mecca. There were no cheap flights or boats back then. He  was though a landowner. For the first time, he now had to pay tax. Killing or at least being involved in the killing of the police serjeant would have put him on the wrong side of the law. Almost certainly he would have been hanged for this.  The next question that arises is, “Why did he kill the police serjeant?” The answer is who knows? Kheng’s book indicates it may have been for revenge. To’Jangget’s father had apparently run off with one of the Sultan’s concubines and, the Sultan had him killed. In all probability, To’Janggert had wanted to pay the land tax. It seems strange to have gone with the intention of not paying, and the police serjeant was killed during the arrest attempt.  So the next question is was this a riot or a rebellion? the involvement of Ungku Besar who was a feudal lord suggests it was a rebellion.

So why then? The attack was a few months after the Singapore mutiny which was quelled with the help of non-empire troops. Ungku Besar may have thought there were not enough British Troops in Singapore to spare and the 29th April was an opportune moment.

Who asked for help and why. The simple answer is only the Sultan could have asked for help. He could ask because the District Officer asked. The British Adviser “Asked” that would be tantamount to an order. Or the Sultan asked off his own bat. The next question is why? The Sultan would have had enough levies under his command to deal with a riot or minor rebellion. Perhaps the answer is the Sultan was hedging his bets. With the new land Tax the Sultan for the first time had to pay tax too. If there was the slightest chance of the rebellion succeeding he had more than anyone something to gain. With this in mind, he would have been quite happy for the Malays to think he had to ask for help. Farrer the political Office doest think the Sultan was implicated. ( Page 27 of (7) )

The British Response.

Ten planters (4) Messrs Templer, McPherson, Haughton, Stephens, Green, Belton, Gardner, Bone, Osbourne, and Dobson, joined together. along with the labourers from the Taku estate marched to hunt down some of the rebels. The group were armed with 4 guns, rifles, revolvers and parangs (a machete-like, long knife) That night they marched fifty miles over one night and three mornings to intercept rebels they thought were heading to Kamuning. Returning disappointed that no one had had the chance to use their parangs.(4)Meanwhile, the wifes of the British officers were evacuated to Siam. The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 29th May 1915 printed an article probably written by the Acting Colonial Secretary for the Straits Settlements John Maxwell on the 29th May 1915. 22 Malays and Sikhs had taken the earth road to Gunong from Kota Bahru to intercept rebels heading to Pasir Puteh but were recalled shortly after their arrival.This must have happened on or about the 30th April. The same article mentions the Tinggi estate bungalow owned by a Mr Marks had been looted. the only recorded wounding of a European was when a certain Mr Morrison stumbled on a beach and shot himself. This is also mentioned in the article.

The SS Calypso arrived with 250 Malay States Guides at Kota Bahru on the 5th May. The same day HMS Cadmas arrived off the coast and nearly 239 Officers and men from the RGA, RE and the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) (6) plus 20 Malay policemen landed from her(5) and occupied Pasir Puteh.  The KSLI waited at Pasir Puteh for nearly two weeks before returning to Singapore,  waiting for the rebels to attack. It was an attack that never came. Page 71 of To’Janggut: Legends, Histories, and Perceptions (1)  mentions a Royal Navy Warship fired 4-inch shells over Pasir Puteh, circa after anchoring off the coast near the mouth of the Semerak River. It is not known if this was HMS Cadman or exactly what date, or why,  this incident occurred.The rebels fought a series of Hit and Run engagements mostly with the Malay States Guides but no large-scale actions. On the 27th May, the Malay States Guides attacked about 50 rebels and killed them all, including To’Janggut included. To’Janggut’s body was hauled to the banks of the Kelantan River and strung up by the ankles for the local people to see.(5) This battle is described in The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (6) as occurring on the 24th. Major Borton and a force of 60 Sikhs and 7 Europeans pursued 50-60 men to a village about 4 miles from Pasir Puteh. The men were able to take cover behind trees and fences. Major Borton’s force fought in the open from the padi-fields. The Major’s forced charged the Malays fled. Three bodies were picked up plus one wounded Malay. To’Janggut’s body was later buried just across the river from the site of where it was hung. Photographs still exist of the hanging and are easily found on the web.  The Campaign in Kelantan was over.

The Campaign was an Imperial sideshow. Largely ignored in the narratives of the Great War. Its significance is it was a successful counter-insurgency campaign in the jungles of South East Asia. The British Army was to spend over a third of the next hundred years fighting other counter-insurgency campaigns and wars in other parts of those jungles. 1928  Terengganu, 1942-45 WW2, 45-46 Vietnam, 45-46 Indonesia, 47-49 Sarawak, and 48-77 Malaya, to name a few.

More details of the politics of the rebellion can be found in. (7)

Notes, Sources, References.

(1) To’Janggut: Legends, Histories, and Perceptions of the 1915 Rebellion in Kelantan. from page 110,  By Cheah Boon Kheng (Web, https://books.google.com.my/books?id=2n6LhfSDVnwC&pg=PA114&lpg=PA114&dq=tok+janggut+The+attack+on+Pasir+Puteh+police+station+(1915)&source=bl&ots=F5FfIR2qYk&sig=wtyn9tpqa_FfRxNHkJ7N1X4GQ88&hl=en&sa=X&ei=bdljUo_xOYWJrQeXuYGwCg&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=tok%20janggut%20The%20attack%20on%20Pasir%20Puteh%20police%20station%20(1915)&f=false.)

(2) other accounts claim the fatal wound was caused by a spear.  The dagger would have been a keris.This weapon is more likely as it was a weapon normally carried.

(3)page 110 To’Jangget : Legends…

(4) CM Hawksley PhD Thesis, Administrative Colonialism Chapter 6. University of Wollongong 2001.

(5) http://www.christopherhalemedia.org/2012/06/some-early-rebels-against-british-rule/

(6) The Kelantan Outbreak The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 29th May 1915, page 10

(7)   Kheng, Cheah Boon. “Hunting Down the Rebels in Kelantan, 1915: The Sultan’s ‘Double Game'” Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 68, no. 2 (269) (1995): 9-32. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41493643.

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



Observations on the 1st July 1916 #FWW #WW1

IMG_8041There will be plenty written about the 1st of July  on the Somme in 1916. most of it repeated from previous years with the same tales, the same blame game. that is not the purpose of my blog though. There are plenty of books on the subject. plenty of views.  This blog is called Scarce Heard Among the Guns. The views and stories are mine, and hopefully rarely heard. two observations on the Somme, and the 1st July 1916. H ere is the first. The Somme was more than the 1st July 1916, and the dying continued long after the killing  was done. The photo above is the grave of Elliot Hector . He crossed to France from Southampton with the Middlesex Regiment on the 12th of March 1915 as a private. On the 12th May 1916 he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. Wounded in action he died from wounds on the 7th February 1925. He is not commemorated by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. As far as I know he is not on any war memorials. He is one of the many forgotten dead of the Some, yet hundreds walk past his grave. 2nd Lt EH Macintosh is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery near Folkestone.

Not only is the Somme is not all about the 1st July 1916, as seen above. My second observation. Despite the  mass killings the nearly 20,000 British dead. The world did not end on that day.

On the 1st of July 1916 the the Grant Arms Hotel, The palace Hotel, and the Strathspey Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey, provided brakes, a type of bus, to take the children of Inverallen on their annual School picnic at Grant Castle.  There were games for the children, and plenty of food. Local accounts mentioned that even the sun managed to shine. At around 7pm the tired happy children were taken home on the brakes that had brought them to the castle.

These children grew up in one of the most exciting periods of history. Some lost fathers in war, a few were killed in war. The majority lived to see the first man on the moon. The age of transatlantic air travel. Free universal health care, a standard of living their parents would not have dreamed of. The dawn of an amazing world. yes the Somme saw an end of a certain predictable self reassured world. For others though their life was only just beginning, it would be an incredible hundred years.

#FWW #WW1 The Man Who Sells Coffee.

Singapore as a child was a magical place. Seemingly full of little stalls and shops owned and run by people from everywhere. The food from the eateries was quite simply amazing in many ways it was the commonwealth in miniature. None of the big multinationals here,  there was but as a kid I never noticed. No Starsucks, or Cafe Zero. it was small independent, self made traders who stopped and chated to their customers. Despite the Japanese occupation Singapore was relatively unchanged from the Great War. Then it was a microcosm of Empire. An Empire ruled by and large by bluff, or power by proxy. occasionally this system broke down, the bluff was called. The Empire would called for help and as in the case of the Singapore Mutiny, foreign help would duly appear. In this case, French, Japanese and Russian warships with their marines. After the incident a few trials and British rule would be seen to be reimposed. There would be stories told of the valour of British soldiers, and a few heros added to books about deeds that thrilled the empire. Few mention the guy that sells the coffee, in Singapore that man was Kassim Mansur.

Mansur was a successful coffee shop proprietor from Bombay. He also own a small estate on the side of Pasir Panjang Road. His coffee shop was very popular with soldiers from India. A touch of home in a foreign land. On the way home in his gharry Mansur used to stop at the small guard and often went inside to talk to the troops. He also chated to the troops in his coffee shop. All good customer service. This small acts were very much part of service during those days and were good for business. Mansur also wrote letters on behalf of the soldiers. Very probably he never gave much thought to those letters. He would write them, they would sign them, and almost certainly post them.  One of these letters,   posted on the 28th December 1914, was intercepted by the authorities. on the 23rd January 1915 Mansur was arrested.(1) He was held at the civilian prison on Outram Road awaiting trial.

On the 15th February a few hours before they were due to sail, half of the 5th Light Infantry, Indian Army, mutinied. The mutiny itself had two ringleaders Subadar Dunde Khan and Jamadar Christe Khan. Both of the 5th Light Infantry. Christe is recorded as ending his talks to his men with the phrase, “You take care, there is very little left of the English kingdom now.” The plan for the mutiny was to seize the principal military centres of Singapore. These were the barracks at Alexandra and Tanglin. after capturing the Guard Room at Alexandra some of the mutineers marched on Tanglin. At Tanglin they released the Germans, mostly sailors from the SMS Emden, held in the Prisoner of War Camp. if there was an expectation the Germans would help the mutineers it did not materialise. The Germans did help the wounded British soldiers and civilians. Several did escape to Java and Sumatra. Apart from that the Germans gave no help to the mutineers. The rapid deployment of other soldiers rapidly contained the threat posed by the mutiny. Perhaps the crucial part was the capture of a practice trench on Keppel Road by the mutineers. Here they stayed awaiting the arrival of a German Warship. A British survey ship, the Cadmus, arrived instead.  90 marines disembarked and made their way in lorries to Keppel Road. After a brief skirmish the mutiny was effectively over. Although clearing up operations with the help of French, Japanese and Russian marines were to last for just over a month. The mutineers were also detained in Outram Road Prison.

Mansur could hear the sound of the mutineers being executed, but it did not seem to worry him. He was being charged with 9 counts of treason, 1 charge of giving away intelligence to the enemy, and 1 charge of attempting to wage war against his majesty the king. He had Vincent Devereux Knowles in his defence team.

Mansur was eventually brought before the Field General Courts Martial on the 3rd May 1915 for his trial, confident he would be acquitted. He was after all just the man who sold coffee. His defence team argued that Mansur was a civilian and the court had no jurisdiction over him. They also argued they had no knowledge of the grounds on which the charges were based. During the trial the 9 charges of treason were dismissed. Then the letter that was to hang  Mansur was produced.

The letter was with other letters to his son. There was a covering slip in Mansur’s own handwriting asking his son to take care unless the handwriting could be traced back to him. Addressed to his son with a request for it to be forwarded to the Turkish consul in Rangoon the letter was written in Urdu and translated as follows;

“There is a regiment here belonging to the English in Singapore called the Malay States Guides. In it is a mule battery, and all the members are Mohammedans and are not willing to serve the English.                                                                                                                                                                                 They say “We want to join the Turkish Forces, and we want someone to be kind enough to enable us to join the Turkish Forces. We have the money to meet our travelling expenses, and do not want one pie even for expenses, but we want someone to show us the way whereby we may reach Turkey. That is what we want. ”                                                                                This letter is written to you as on your side Ahmad  Madin is the Turkish Consul, so as to enable that gentleman to write to the German Consul at Bombay on direct to Stamboul in order that a man of war may be sent to Singapore.  Then the sepoys can board the Turkish man of war and be ready to fight in the battle of Europe.                                                         The manager of the German firm of Behn, Meyer and Company was the German Consul in Singapore, but as all the Germans have been arrested and imprisoned on a hill opposite Singapore, so that they are helpless.                                                                                               Those Mohammedan sepoys are prepared to risk there lives. If the Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment tries to exert his authority by force, at once we are prepared to fight. But we do not desire to fight against the Turks on behalf of the English. On behalf of Turkey we are willing to fight both the English and the Russians. Therefore, they entreat some Mohammedan to help them for God’s sake and enable them to reach the Turkish Forces.. All we ask is not to let us fall into the hands of the English while leaving Singapore.                                                                                                                                                                                 Accordingly as you are the Turkish Consul, kindly let us know by which way these sepoys my leave Singapore and where they might go. You sir will get much honour. if we fight against the English on behalf of Turkey and die then we will become martyr. Therefore be kind enough to pay attention to our petition and reply soon. Address as follows to write to us.”

The address was for a Bengali baker who lived in one of the houses on  Mansur’s estate in Pasir Panjang.     It was signed by two “Havildars” from the Malay States Guides, Osman Khan and Sikandar Khan.

It was enough for the court to find Mansur guilty of the charge of  guilty of the charge of    attempting to wage war on the King. (2) He was hanged at 8 am on the 31st May 1915.

Kasim Mansur in all probability was a simple man caught up in complicated times, he sold coffee, and befriended Indian soldiers. He was from Bombay, so what. Apart from serving them coffee he had no connection to the mutiny by the 5th light Infantry. this was the second time the 5th had mutinied the first was in 1857 when the regiment was known as the 42nd Bengal Native light Infantry. coincedently half the regiment mutinied then to. This is the reason it was not disbanded. After the Singapore Mutiny the regiment fought in Africa.

Mansur also appears to have no connection to the leading Indian Independence activist and member of the Ghadar movement Nur Alam Shah   although he may have attended the mosque where    Shah was Iman.    Nur Alam Shah was not put on trial, but was detained and then deported. was there a Ghadar conspiracy? doubtful although the enquiry into the mutiny suggests there was. It is more likely the mutiny was caused by distrust of the officers and a refusal to believe they were being sent to Hong Kong but to Europe.   It is not good policy to hang Iman’s. and the British needed someone to hang to make it seem that their authority had been reimposed .  Apart from which Mansur was only the man who sold coffee, no one would really miss him, or start another rebellion if he died.


Behn Meyer and Co was founded in 1840 by two men from Hamburg. It is still in business today.                                                                                                                                                                     Ghadar Movement, militant indian independence movement founded on the west coast of America. May have had links to Irish Nationalists.                                                                                 Gharry, horse drawn cab.                                                                                                                  Jamadar, Junior officer in Indian Army                                                                                        Vincent Devereux Knowles,  Knowles  was a well respected defence lawyer. His book  “Evidence in Brief” is still readily available in the second hand book market. knowles had once successfully defended a  pawang, accused of trying to poison two suspected thieves in a poor Indian part of Singapore.  Perhaps this is how Munsar had first heard of knowles.  Malay States Guides, refused to serve overseas as their terms of enlistment was for alaya only. After the mutiny they were sent to the north of Malaya were they forcibly put down a local rebellion in Kelantan. They pioneered many of the techniques used in modern counter insurgency. The insurgents were Muslims.                                                                                Pawang,  magician/shaman  type figure.                                                                                    Subadar, officer in Indian Army.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1915_Singapore_Mutiny. http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19371121-1.2.110.aspx


(1) Between 2 Oceans (2nd Edn): A Military History of Singapore from 1275 to 1971. By Malcolm H. Murfett, John Miksic, Brian Farell, Chiang Ming Shun, page 130                                (2) http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19150531-1.2.56.aspx

#Folkestone/Shorncliffe, and the American Connection #FWW

This is a repost. The Grass was slightly greener than it is today. The nine all have connections to the USA and are all listed in “The Foreign Burial of American War Dead” By Chris Dickon, I only received a copy of the publication after I had posted the original blog.


Much has been written about the Canadian connection with Folkestone during the Great War. the connection is still commemorated every year on the 1st of July in a touching ceremony at Shorncliffe Military Cemetery. The Shorncliffe Trust is also doing sterling work promoting the links between Shorncliffe and Canada.

The links with Canada’s southern neighbour are rarely mentioned. Indeed it is difficult to find any acknowledgement that there was an American connection.

John, “Black Jack” Pershing the Commander of the American Expeditionary Force, (A.E.F.) traveled through Folkestone on his way to France. Also remembered for not saying “Lafayette we are here”. With him was Charles Stanton, chiefly not remembered for his famous remark,  “Nous voila, Lafayette“.

Americans also stayed at No.3 Rest Camp on the Leas before marching down Slope Road to the harbour and the ships waiting to take them to France. Two soldiers from the United states 11th Engineering Regiment (Railways) who were to become the first casualties from the A.E.F. were at the rest camp on the Leas. There is also another almost forgotten connection with the United States.

The United States is well known for the respect Americans pay to their war dead. American Great War Cemeteries are impressive places. They are very proud of the role their soldiers played. Yet there is a lost almost forgotten army of American dead. Those that fought in other nations uniforms. They are buried in cemeteries all over the world and ignored by Americans. For some the connection to the United States begs the question of, how do we define nationality, and does it matter? Others there is no doubt of their nationality. These are the Folkestone/Shorncliffe dead with an American connection. All are buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery, all are listed in The Foreign Burial of American War Dead by Chris Dickon.

James Desmond McNulty                             IMG_8054Born in Valley City, North Dakota. killed in the Air Raid 25th May 1917


John Lucius Rumsdell                                                                                                                                       IMG_8051The husband of Letitia M Ramsdell, Brooklyn New York.

George Bates

IMG_8049Son of Norman and Sally Bates of Arkansas. Served in Mexico, presumably with the US Army. Married and lived with his wife in Vancouver. After his enlistment his wife moved to North Wales.

David Gordon, died of wounds received in France.                                                                                                                                                     IMG_8047

Born in Belfast, he was the son of James Gordon of 1 Bunker Hill Court, Charleston, West Virginia.

Ottawa GladmanIMG_8046

Born in Canada, and lived in Chicago. Died of Meningitis.

Charley HansonIMG_8045

Born in Norway, lived in Saskatchewan, married to Caroline Hanson of Fairchild Wisconsin, USA. Dad to six children. Charley had arrived in England on the SS Scandinavian. on the 5th February 1917. He died from illness.

David Gray


Married to Annie Gray of Detroit, Michigan. Wounded on the Somme, he died at Manor Court Hospital, Folkestone.

Bert Arbuckle                                                                                                                                                     IMG_8043

Born in Indiana. Injured in the air raid on the 25th May 1917, he died of wounds the next day.

George Wheeler Armstrong.IMG_8042An American Eagle of the First World War. lots of references to the Americans who flew in the Lafayette Escadrille, few for those who flew with the RAF during the war. Born in the US Virgin Islands. Died in an accident while flying a Bristol F2b.

All nine were fighting for Britain, and it is only important to remember that, and them. When push comes to shove, and you need a helping hand, where people are from doesn’t matter one iota.



A Folkestone (ish) In a Perfect World, would have been a Love Story

An American boy meets an English girl. He is a few years older and he sweeps her off her feet. A few weeks after he arrives in England they marry. It is now for them a perfect world. Nothing else matters they are young and so much in love. Love that they hoped would last for their forever.

It is straight out of an Imperial Romance novel, it captures everything belief,love, and romance. A belief in a just cause, love between two people, the romance of a wartime encounter.

He was an American, 25 years old and lived in Cleveland, Ohio. The “Buckeye State”, The British Empire was now at War with Imperial Germany. The British had gone to the aid of plucky little Belgium. The cause was good, just and right. So he left his home and enlisted in Canada. In many ways he was just what the Empire was looking for. Ex-US Army he had seen service, a trained soldier. The Empire, of which he now was a part, was sending troops as fast as they could to Britain. He was sent to Salisbury plain. possible on leave, or an a day pass, he met his English Rose in London.

She sees in him the romance of America, a real American from the West. All American heroes are from the American West. Sent by the Empire to save her from the Hun. He would save her, the King, and the Empire. Together they would sail away to their new home in the sun. A perfect world in the midst of a tragic one. They married in Hampstead in December 1914.(1)

In a book there would be a moment of tragedy, the hero would get killed performing a deed of unquestioning valour and glory. Death in his moment of triumph. Glory for King, Empire and his young English wife. She would spend her days in black. Weeping for the loss of her forever love. They would be immortalized and remembered for ever.

In this story the hero does indeed go to France, and dies in a hail of bullets. But it is not a perfect story in a perfect world. It is at times dark, evil, and sickening time.  First to name the hero and heroine. He is Freddie, she is May Alexandra, together they are the Arnold’s.

Freddie, did live in Cleveland USA with his mom. He did serve in the US Army. He also did enlist in the 1st Battery of the Artillery Brigade of the Canadian (Overseas) Expeditionary Force, as a Gunner/Bombardier in 1914. Being in the first contingent it is known he was on Salisbury Plain. After their marriage in December 1914 their address was 100 Risborough Road, Bayswater, London. Freddie did die in a hail of bullets in Belgium. He was shot by firing squad in Boulogne.(2)  Possibly the only American citizen executed by the British Army in the First World War. Between February 1915 and January 1916 Freddie had been admitted to hospital on two occasions as being sick, and once for shell shock. The third stay in hospital was from the 2nd January until the 22nd of May. On discharge he was posted to the Marlborough Details Camp. From here he went absent on the 5th June 1916. Possibly on the 7th June, or maybe on the 27th June Arnold was caught in civilian clothes. He had deserted. Freddie would be tried by Field General Courts Martial on the 5th July 1916. There never is a good time for a deserter to be recaptured. In a perfect world he would not have been tried four days after the start of the Somme offensive. That and to be captured and tried by the British. Freddie and May’s perfect world was now disappearing With over 19,000 dead on the first day the British were not going to show any mercy. Freddie was executed on the 27th July 1916 at Le Portel.

Life was to become even more cruel. This was not a perfect world. Freddie’s Mom received a letter from the Canadian Record Office.


With deep regret, I have the honour to inform you that a report has been received to the effect that the soldier marginally noted was tried by Field-Martial at Boulogne, France, on the 5th of July, 1916, on the charge of “When on active service deserting His Majesty’s Service” and was sentenced by the court to suffer death by being shot”. The sentence was duly carried out at 4:37 a.m. on the 25th July 1916.

I have the honour to be…”

May had moved to Folkestone by this time and lived at 4 Radnor Park Crescent. Why did May moved to Folkestone? No idea. It might have been to be closer to her husband. Perhaps she had plans to try and get to Boulogne. May might have come from Folkestone. She, for whatever reason, had decided that Folkestone was the place to be. After Freddie had been executed, Army  May moved again. This time to number 19 Bouverie Road East. It seems life might settle down in Folkestone. The war was still going on it was now ten months since her husband was executed. Grief never truly ends, it get slightly easier with the passing of time. Ten months had gone by it was not a perfect world but…

That but was to arrive on the 25th May 1917. A German Gotha bomber had dropped a bomb on Tontine Street in Folkestone dozens had died. Another Gotha had dropped a bomb on 19 Bouverie Road East May was seriously injured by this bomb. The medically people in Folkestone were overwhelmed by the Tontine Street explosion and couldn’t cope. May was rushed to Moore Barracks Hospital Shorncliffe. It was here that May died.

Opposite the War Memorial in Folkestone on the cliff top there is a little sign on the railings. This is what it says:-

“After WW1, Folkestone wanted to record the names of its dead and details were requested from relatives. Mrs Butcher replied, believing her son had been killed in action. She received a Municipal Certificate of Glory and his name was inscribed on Folkestone’s War Memorial. I fact private Frederic Butcher of the East Kent Regiment  refused to go over the top he was tried by Court Martial. On 27th August 1918 he was shot by a firing squad. Probably his mother never realised how he died. It may not have been unique for a disgraced soldier to be included on a War Memorial but it was very rare. Today those wronged men have now been given a full pardon and their names are now recorded alongside those of their comrades.”

Crossing over to the War Memorial there is Private F Butcher’s name with his comrades. His name has been there since the memorial panel was inscribed in the early 1920s.

Freddie’s name, the wife of May of 4 Radnor Park Crescent and, on her death in 1917, of 19 Bouverie Road East Folkestone, is not there.

May is not commemorated by name in Folkestone either

(Freddie) C/40124 Bombardier Frederick Stanley Arnold, Canadian Field Artillery is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery.(6)

May Alexandra Arnold is buried in Shorncliffe Military Cemetery.

Sitting at May’s graveside today, chatting away, as you do. Gazing at the other graves it was tempting to be sad and tearful. Then I realised May and Frederick had, in a world of terror death and destruction, had had their day in the sun. May had died so young, 21 years old. Just though, a hundred years ago, fleetingly,  they had found their perfect world.



  1. Free BDM UK web site
  2. Service Record
  3. Details from, For Freedom and Honour, by A.B. Godefroy
  4. Shot at Dawn, by Julian, Putkowski and Julian Sykes
  5. May Alexandra Arnold Gravestone Shorncliffe Military Cemetery
  6. CWGC web site

Corporal Duncan Begg Mackintosh, Died of Wounds 21st June 1927.

No. 10618 Lance Corporal Duncan Begg Mackintosh

7th Battalion Queens Own Cameron Highlanders,

Highland Light Infantry, and the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)

Died of Wounds 21st June 1927.

Duncan Mackintosh was born in Grantown-on-Spey on the 19th November 1883. He was the eldest surviving son of of Peter and Margaret mackintosh of Rosemont, Grantown-on-Spey. Duncan enlisted in Inverness during October 1914 and joined the 7th Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in Glasgow. He arrived in France with the battalion on the 8th July 1915. Duncan took part in the Battle of Loos in 1915 where on the 25th September 1915 he was wounded in the shoulder. After his recovery Duncan went on to serve in Mesopotamia, now modern day Iraq. He was reported in the Strathspey Herald, as being dangerously ill, on the 1st June 1916. During the Battle of San-I-Yat a bullet entered his left lung and exited through his spine. After a tiring journey by boat down the river Tigres he was transported by Hospital Ship to Bombay in India. Here he lost his left lung. Eventually Duncan returned to Scotland and married Mary Robertson. They lived at 5 Kings Street Coatbridge. Duncan worked as a Master Watchmaker. Eleven years after being shot Duncan Begg Mackintosh died on the 21st June 1927. His death certificate records that he died from “Gunshot Wounds” On the Family Memorial in Inverallan burial ground Duncan is commemorated as “Dying from the effects of wounds received in 1917.” Duncan was awarded the 1915 Star, British War Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Silver war Badge. 1 2

1 Morayshire Roll of Honour 1914-1918

2 Poppies from the Heart of Strathspey, Peter Anderson, 2010.


As far as war horses are concerned there is a tendency to disregard the Middle East and only think of the Western Front. Horses that served in other theatres get forgotten, (not by me) So here is a short story of one of the Empire’s Horses that served in Mesopotamia. His name was Ragtime.

Ragtime was born at an army farm in the Punjab. Mum’s name was Gladrags, dad’s Geneva. Geneva was an Arab, no idea what Mum was, but the Empire’s horses were multi-cultural a long time ago. Ragtime lived a normal military horse’s life. Basically three years of relative free running on the farm before being sent to Jhansi and the garrison there. At Jhansi Ragtime learnt all the skills required of an Army horse. Parades, riding school, and of course Polo. In 1914 Ragtime, and Galopia the horse stabled with him, was posted to Baluchistan, any guesses as to why I don’t tell stories about horses yet? His rider at Baluchistan was Lord Middleton.

Middleton became very fond of Ragtime, and when Middleton’s regiment was sent to Mesopotamia Ragtime was soon to follow. Ragtime’s war was basically the same as the other horses war. The army not only fought the Turks, but a Guerrilla war against Arab tribesmen. Added to this was the heat, long marches, food and water shortages. Lord Middleton was sent back to India and the government brought ragtime. So Ragtime and Middleton were separated and I doubt they ever thought they would see each other again.

After the war Ragtime was one of the horses in a polo match in Baghdad. Lord Middleton was in the opposing team. There was instant recognition between man and horse. Ragtime had a scar on one of his legs just above the hoof, this enabled Middleton to identify the horse as Ragtime. Lord Middleton then exercised a right to buy his old mount. Ragtime’s military career was not over though. Middleton was still a serving officer and Ragtime was his horse during an Arab insurrection. Most of a horse’s life was the stereotypical life of a British colonial officer’s horse. polo. hunts and state occasions. Now circa 1922 Ragtime and Middleton were in Calcutta, and Ragtime was a trumpeters mount in the Governor’s bodyguard. Still with Lord Middleton who was in command of the bodyguard. Lord Middleton returned to England in 1923, Ragtime followed in 1924. For the rest of Ragtime’s life Lord Middleton looked after Ragtime at Birdsall House in Yorkshire.

For his army service Ragtime carried five medals on the band over his brow, Pip. Squeak, Wilfred, one for the Arab insurrection, and one for long service and good conduct.

Second Lieutenant W. G. R. Murphy, (Chinese) Labour Corps.

William Murphy was born in the Parish of Northwood on the Isle of Wight. His father was a Scot from Edinburgh. On his attestation papers his nationality would be listed as “English”. Educated at Northwood and Newport William moved to Shanghai and worked as a Merchant’s assistant in a firm of importers. At Shanghai William and his wife settled down as ex-pats. In 1915 William joined the Shanghai Volunteers. He remained a member of the Volunteers for 2 years before he, at his own expense, crossed to Canada on the 22nd December 1916. He attested in the Canadian Army Service Corps in the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force at Vancouver, British Columbia on the 25th January 1917. After basic training in Canada Private W. G. R.. Murphy No. 200222 was posted to Shorncliffe, near Folkestone. Here on the 4h August 1917, William applied for a Commission in the Chinese Labour Corps. On his letter of application he listed his qualifications as follows:

“5 1/2 years business experience in Shanghai during which period I  personally supervised a large  staff of native workpeople.  2 years Shanghai Military Vol unteers through which I frequently  worked with the native company both on Parades and in camps.

I have a fair knowledge of Mandarin  and am conversant with the best methods  of producing results from these people.”

His certificate of recommendation was signed by Major General steel who was the Major General Commanding Troops, Shorncliffe, on the 17th August 1917. The Certificate of Nomination to a Particular Unit was signed by the Officer in Charge, Chinese Section, Labour Concentration Camp, Folkestone

Upon acceptance William Murphy was to be discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force enabling William to take up his commission. He was appointed temporary Second Lieutenant on the General List for employment with the Chinese Labour corps with effect from the 7th of September 1917, and was struck off the strength of the Overseas Military Forces of Canada on his Commission in the Imperial Army on the 8th September 1917. 2nd Lt W. G. R. Murphy first crossed to Boulogne, on the 26th of September 1917, when he was posted to Labour Corps Base Depot at Boulogne. On the 18th December 1917, while at Aberville, William was admitted to hospital with Bronchitis. A long standing perforation of the tympanic membrane, not caused by shell shock was also diagnosed. He was granted leave to an Officer’s Hospital from the 29th December 1917 until the 4th March 1918. He embarked from Le Havre on the 29th of December and disembarked at Southampton on the 30th December 1917. William survived the war and was released from service on the 31st May 1919 and relinquish his commission. He was to retain the rank of Lieutenant. William’s claim for travel expenses, presumably, from and to Shanghai, was deemed time barred in 1919.