Tag Archives: Great War

Here is a soldier who will be in “The Book” Thomas Kenny. #Folkestone, #Castleford, #FWW.

Like the majority of British Soldiers who fought in the First World War Thomas Kenny returned home and a normal civilian life. In Thomas’s case, this was as a working collier.

13th (Service) Battalion Durham Light Infantry. A K3 Battalion in 68th Brigade, 23rd division. 3 A and B Companies entrained at Liphook at 7:55 pm., C and D Companies at 8:25 pm. On arrival at Folkestone they embarked on transport 2031.4

Private 17424 Thomas Kenny

13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry.

Thomas Kenny was a collier and lived at 23 Queen St Castleford. He attested on the 25th February 1915 and crossed to France from Folkestone with the 13th Battalion Durham Light Infantry. He is awarded the Victoria Cross for an action on the 4th November 1915. The Citation reads as follows:

No. 17424 Private Thomas Kenny, 13th (Service) Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry. For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the night of 4th November 1915, near La Houssoie. When on patrol in a thick fog with Lieutenant Brown, 13th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, some Germans, who were lying out in a ditch in front of their parapet, opened fire and shot Lieutenant Brown through both thighs. Private Kenny, although heavily and repeatedly fired upon, crawled about for more than an hour with his wounded officer on his back, trying to find his way through the fog to our trenches. He refused more than once to go on alone, although told by Lieutenant Brown to do so. At last, when utterly exhausted, he came to a ditch which he recognised, placed Lieutenant Brown in it, and went to look for help. He found an officer and a few men of his battalion at a listening post, and after guiding them back, with their assistance Lieutenant Brown was brought in, although the Germans again opened heavy fire with rifles and machine-guns, and threw bombs at 30 yards distance. Private Kenny’s pluck, endurance and devotion to duty were beyond praise.”5

Thomas may have transited through Folkestone to France on one more occasion as he was presented with the VC at Buckingham Palace by King George V. on the 4th March 1916.6 He is the first soldier from the Durham Light infantry to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.7 During 1917and again in 1918, this time a gunshot wound to the lower back. He returned home on the 30th October 1918 and was discharged from the army on the 26th September 1919. 8

Thomas was also awarded the 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and the Victory Medal.9 Thomas Kenny V.C. Died on 29th November 1948.

3British Regiments 1914-1919 page 101

4 13th DLI Battalion War Diary

5 London Gazette, 7th December 1915, Supplement:29394,Page:12281

8 Pension Record.

9 Medal Card.

Funeral in Bidadari. #FWW #WWI #WW1

Mr and Mrs Gordon Woolcombe were newlyweds. They had only been married a few days when the Singapore Mutiny broke out. Unaware of events as they were unfolding Mr and Mrs Woolcombe were driving along the Pasir Panjang road. Stopped by sepoys they were likely asked if they were “Inglees” and answered “Yes”. The sepoys then fired at Gordon. It is thought that Mrs Woolcombe died trying to protect her husband as her body was found lying across the body of her husband.(1)  A brave lady trying to protect the man she loved and dying a heroine’s death in the process.

Mrs Woolcombe is buried along with her husband and the others killed on the 15th. On the 17th 16 are named in the newspapers. C.F. Anscombe (2) name was added to the list Mr A Drysdale, J. Love Montgomerie, Dr E.D. Whittle, Mr C.V. Dyson, Dr P.N. Gerrard, Mr George Wald, Mr J.B. Dunn, Mr D. McGilvray, Mr J. Harper, Mr C Smith, Mr Marshall (of Sun Insurance), Mr A. J. G. Holt (Paterson Simons), Mr Lawson, Mr B.C. Cameron, Mr Clarke (Warder) and Mr D. Legg.  The caskets containing the bodies were brought to Bidadari cemetery by two lorries and a hearse.(3)  The Bishop of Singapore and other clergy officiated.(4) The Strait Times published the names and more details about which section of Bidadari cemetery victims were buried in on the 18th. Included in the additional names was Senftleben, the German killed at the prison compound in Tanglin Barracks.

For the regular (as opposed to the local volunteer) military dead things were a little different. They were not named until their next of kin had been notified. It was decided to hold a graveside service for them on the 3rd April.(5) Starting at 5 p.m.  This is to be followed by a thanksgiving service at St Andrew’s Cathedral just for the military on the 11th. More details on the timing and order of service for the 3rd April were given in the Straits Times on the 1st April.

The graveside service for the military was an impressive event. People arrived in cars, carriages, gharries, rikishas as well as on foot.  The firing party was formed by men from the Navy, Royal Garrison Artillery, Royal Engineers, and the Singapore Volunteer Corps. At five o’clock, the Governor, Brigadier General Ridout, and Admiral Sir Martyn Jerram arrived accompanied by their entourages. The Colonial Chaplin, Clergy from the Cathedral, choir, and hundreds of relatives, mourners and members of the public were also there. The choir sang the first verse of “Rock of Ages”

 Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
Rock of ages, cleft for me
Let me hide myself in Thee
While the procession including the firing party made its way to the graveside. On the other three sides were sailors troops from the Garrison, men from the Singapore Volunteer Corps, Wardens from the prison and Special Constables. The firing party split into two, one-half going to each side of the graves and standing in front of the men already there. Over each grave lay a Union Jack each covered in flowers.  Readings were read, John chapter 9 verse 25, 26 and Job, 14 verse 25, 26, and 27. A prayer was said for the fallen, one for the relatives and mourners, and one for everyone else who was there.. a lesson was then read, followed by the apostle’s creed and the hymn “On the resurrection morning was sung.
On the resurrection morning
Soul and body meet again;
No more sorrow, no more weeping,
No more pain …
After the blessing, the names of the soldiers the service was held for were read out.
Major R.H. Galwey, Royal Garrison Artillery.                                                                             Captain F.V. Izard, Royal Garrison Artillery.Died 16/02/1915                                                             Captain M.F.A Maclean, Royal Garrison Artillery attached Malay States Guides.             Captain P. Boyce, 5th Light Infantry,                                                                                             Captain P.N. Gerrard,  Malay States Volunteer Rifles.*                                                             Captain H. Cullimore, Johore Military Forces.                                                               Lieutenant H.S Eillot, 5th light Infantry.                                                                               Lieutenant A.F. Legge, Singapore Volunteer Medical Corps. Died 16/02/1915                               2nd Lieutenant J.H Love Montgomerie, Singapore Volunteer Rifles.*                                 Sergeant G. Wald, Singapore Royal Engineers Volunteer (Reserve).*                                               Corporal R.V. Beagley, Royal Garrison Artillery.                                                                         Corporal D MacGilvray, Singapore Volunteer Rifles.*                                                             Corporal G.O. Lawson Cyclist Scouts.*                                                                                             Lance Corporal J.C. Harper Singapore Volunteer Rifles.*                                                                 Stoker CF Anscombe Royal Navy.*                                                                                                               Gunner Barry, Royal Garrison Artillery.                                                                                       Gunner P. Walton Singapore Volunteer Artillery, di                                                                               Private A Drysdale**, Singapore Volunteer Rifles.* died 16/02/1915                                               Private A.J.G.Holt, Singapore Volunteer Rifles.                                                                                     Private W.H. Leigh Malay States Volunteer Rifles,                                                                                 Armed Civilian F. Geddes
*Known to have been buried at the same time as Mrs G. Woolcombe.
**CWGC records Private Drysdale’s  initials as F.S.
After the service, the firing party fired a volley over the graves and the last post was played.  The firing party fixed bayonets and presented arms. The last post was again played and the graveside service was concluded.(6) The Straits Times for the 5th April on page 10. records that three Volleys were fired and the volleys fired over the Roman Catholic graves which were in another portion of the cemetery at Bidadari sounded like an echo. (There was another report in the Straits Times the following day, 6 April, page 8. which emphasises the spiritual aspect of the service)
Officialdom had not yet finished with the dead. While the Government were quite happy to pay for the military funerals. They did not feel any obligation to pay for the funerals of the civilians killed in the mutiny and individual bills for the cost of the burials were sent to the employers or the executors of each of the civilian dead. The Government took no responsibility for civilians killed. Their attitude was that the military and volunteers were killed while on active service during the mutiny. The deaths of civilians in the same mutiny were regarded as being no different to deaths caused accidentally or old age. Officer’s relatives were also expected to pay for their funerals too. This caused more than a little resentment. (The Mutiny Victims, The Straits Times, 16 June 1916, page 9) The Singapore Free Press reported on the 17th June, page 4 that they were told that the “Government is afraid of creating precedents that may lead to invisible lengths.” The Government did just that without knowing it and not in the way they expected.  The paper replied, ” Does the Government expect an annual Mutiny as a reasonable contingency?” The argument was put forward in the same article, “that the 5th Light Infantry were the sworn servants of the Imperial Government.” The response was “The mutineers, it is granted were Government servants-but they were not carrying out their function as such when they took to lawless murder on the roads.” The Singapore Free press also asked in the same article if the mutineers were no longer Government servants in the military why were they tried by Courts Martial and executed in public as though they were?  The debate continued if not in public, at least in the papers. The Malaya Tribune on  26 June, page 4, carried an article criticising the Government for its lack of responsibility for the payment of compensation due because of the mutiny.
The cost of the burials was again raised in the Legislative Council on the 26th June.  The reply was “On the 16th February owing to the confusion caused by the mutiny it was feared that some of the dead might be left unburied, and an officer was told off to see that this did not occur. That officer arranged with an undertaker for the various funerals, and accepted liability on behalf of the Government for the expenses incurred. When these expenses had been settled, letters were sent to five firms in the following terms…”  The letters were telling the firms that Mr X…worked for them and would they pay the bill for their funeral. The Council also said that if the relatives were unwilling to pay for the funerals what the dead civilians would end up with is a pauper’s burial.
Both the Imperial Government’s and the attitude of the council would haunt the dead in the years to come. The military graves would come under the care of the Imperial War Graves Commission, now the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
After WW2 it was decided to move the remains of the servicemen killed in the First World War to the Kranji War Cemetery as maintenance of the graves at Bidadari could not be guaranteed. Included with the servicemen was Senftleben the German was killed at Tanglin. The graves of the civilians including Mrs G Woolcombe were left undisturbed. In 2001 the next of kin were asked to claim the remains. Most were not claimed. The UK Government having negated its responsibility in 1915.  Following this until 2006 the majority of the remaining graves, including the mutiny victims at Bidadari, were exhumed and then cremated. The ashes were then committed to the sea.(7) Mrs Gordon Woolcombe’s, who died a heroine’s death, ashes are thought to be amongst them.
  1. Singapore Mutiny, Harper and Miller. page 78
  2. Anscombe was added to the list on the 18th, Straits Times 18 February 1915, page 6
  3. Singapore Free press and Mercantile Advertiser, 17th February 1915, page 4. and the Straits Times page 10.
  4. Malaya Tribune, 17 February 1916, page 4
  5. Special Military Service, Malaya Tribune, 25 March 1915, page 8
  6. In Memoriam, The Singapore Press and Mercantile Advertiser, 5 April 1915, page 12.

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.

Saying Goodbye to Joseph’s Dad and Ireland 1916.

Joseph Mallin was two and a half when he said goodbye to his dad in 1916. Joseph’s mum, granny, brothers, uncle, they were all there. His granny told Joseph’s dad she was proud of him. It takes a lot for a mother not to be proud of her son. Like many farewells, it was a tearful event. All knew they would not see Joseph’s dad again. Holding your loved ones and knowing it is for the last time must have been heartwrenching. It was the 7th May 1916/

Joseph’s dad was not going off to war. Nor was he dying of wounds. Joseph’s dad was not a soldier. He had been in the Army. He had served for twelve years in the Royal Scots Fusiliers. Joined up as a Boy Bandsman. After 12 years spent mostly in India. During which there was a spell in South Africa fighting the Boer.  Joseph’s dad had left the army as a serjeant.

Joseph’s dad had been tried by a British Army Court Martial two days earlier, on the 5th May.  There were three judges. Colonel E.W.S.K. Maconchy, Lieutenant Colonel A.M. Bent, and Major F. W. Woodward. Joseph’s dad was prisoner number Seventy-eight. He was charged with: 1) Did an act to wit did take part in armed rebellion and in waging of war against His Majesty the King, such an act being of such a nature as to be calculated to be Prejudicial to the Defence of the Realm and being done with the intention and for the purpose of assisting the enemy. 2) Did attempt to cause disaffection among the civilian population of His Majesty.

Found not guilty of the second charge. He was found guilty of the first charge and sentenced to death.  He was executed by firing squad sometime between 3.45 and 4.05 am on Monday 8th May 1916

Today we would call Joseph’s dad a terrorist, and a very important one at that. (1)

He was second in command of the Citizen Army, along with the Irish Republican Brotherhood, one of the predecessors of the IRA.

Prisoner 78 was one of 15 men executed as being leaders of the 1916 Rising in Dublin.

Up until the executions of the leaders, there seems to have been very little support for the rebellion in Ireland. -It was suppressed very quickly.

The executions changed all that. It turned the men into Martyrs. Martyrs become heroes in the popular psyche.  Frozen in time they are regarded much in the same way as the Rebel Alliance is in the Star War Films.  Underdogs fighting the technologically superior evil  empire.

The ideas behind the rising got turned into stone and stopped evolving.  you can’t have a conversation with, Marx  because Marx is dead. death is the point the individual’s ideas stop, but the words and actions live on.

When the leadership of an organisation is taken out you have no idea who is going to take over.  It is the middle that runs a war. The Top Directs. Without the middle, direction is lost. Without the Top the middle just promotes itself. Then the war just goes on.

In 1916 Britain won the 1916 Irish insurrection but ultimately lost the Republic, and the war continued for generations in the North.

References and notes

Joseph is Joseph Mallin, who is still alive and will be 103 years old tomorrow 13th September 2016

Joseph’s Dad was Michael Mallin

(1) In the Irish Republic, he is remembered as a “Freedom” Fighter. The difference between “Terrorist” and “Freedom” Fighter is down to are they shooting, or throwing bombs at you, or are they shooting or throwing bombs away from you.-If you are with them they are “Freedom” Fighters, if you are against them, they are terrorists.

(2) Charges and judges are from “The Secret Court Martial Records of the Easter Rising, by Brian Barton

(3) Information about Joseph and his dad is from various Web Sites

Isobel Esson #FWW #WWI

William Philip Esson is a dream to research. There is a Medal Card. He died, killed in action. A look at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Webpage gives yet more detail. Although he has no known grave. He was buried behind the lines. William is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. The Commission’s website also reveals he was the father of Isobel M Esson. William married her mother,  Helen Stephen Rennie, in 1909. Sadly a typical story of the times. Young man, when you are sixty they are all “Young Men”, goes to war. Killed so close to the end. Another child grows up without their dad. Isobel was not yet 7 years old when her dad died. She lived near Strathdon in Aberdeenshire. A beautiful part of the world. William went to war at the beginning of January 1917. Isobel would have been 5 years old. Around February 1918 William managed to get home leave so he, hopefully, would have spent some time with his daughter.  There was another daughter, Helen Stephen. No mention of her on the Commission’s webpage, which is sad. Helen would have been 3 when their dad went off to France to fight in the Great War. Helen is mentioned in William’s service record, which also survives. There is also mention of Helen in de Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour 1914-18.  As yet I have been unable to find any more information about Helen.  Apart from Helen was named after her mother. Can not imagine how the family coped. Or what could be worse? That is where the stories of those killed in action usually end. we are left to imagine and contemplate.  For Isobel, it could not have got any more tragic. On the 19th September 1918 her dad was killed. Least we forget, although soldiers are never forgotten. Just two years and six days after her mother had died.

Helen Stephen Rennie died 13th September 1916. RIP.SDC10118Helen’s grave at Strathdon  (photo Peter Anderson)

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



Folkestone’s “Few” #FWW #WWI

It is a rarely told, not unknown, nor forgotten, part of Folkestone’s First World War history.  Untold and overlooked.  Theses are just some of the few who took part in the air war. The first is from Folkestone’s Old Cemetery and is named on the War Memorial. Not all are on the War Memorial. This is Folkestone and they do things differently here.


This is the grave of Leslie Cecil Wraight. I went up to the cemetery yesterday to  have a chat with him. A task I found impossible, they are tree clearing and you can’t really shout in a graveyard. I like the inscription on his grave,

“Now peace reigns over the countryside.

Our thanks are to the lads that died.

Clever, and noble, loving and kind.

A beautiful memory left behind.”

This is from the  Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – Saturday 22 June 1918. Lieut. Leslie Cecil Wraight, R.A.F., second son of Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Wraight, of 31, Albion-road, Folkestone, formerly of Ashford, has been killed in an aeroplane accident at Lincolnshire. He was the younger brother of Mr. Clarence Wraight, who is well-known in the district as a professional roller skater. In an earlier stage of the war Lieut. Wraight was in the Kent Fortress Royal Engineers. The funeral took place yesterday, the deceased being buried with military honours at Folkestone Cemetery. (As reproduced on the  Sussex History Forum at , http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/) As far as I have been able to ascertain there was only one aircraft accident in Lincolnshire on the 17th June 1918. A Sopwith Camel suffered engine failure on take off at RAF Scampton, and crashed killing one.(http://www.bcar.org.uk/world-war-one-incident-logs) This must therefore have been Leslie Wraight.

There is another grave close by where Leslie Barron is buried. Leslie the son of Sydney and Mercy E. Barron, of 12, Beachborough Villas, Folkestone. Served in France, the Dardanelles, and Palestine, before returning to the UK. He died on the 28th July 1918.The inquest into his death was held in Lincoln. Possibly this was near where his flying accident occurred. If so he must have been flying an Avro 504. Two crashed on the same day, but it is not possible to narrow it down to a particular aircraft. Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – Saturday 03 August 1918  (As reproduced on the  Sussex History Forum at , http://sussexhistoryforum.co.uk/)

“Second Lieutenant Leslie Barron, R.A.F., son of Mr. S. Barron, of High-street, Folkestone, and 1, High-street, Hythe, was killed whilst flying a new type of machine at an English aerodrome on Sunday. He was 22 years of age… …Lieutenant Barron was buried with full military honours at the Cemetery on Thursday, the first part of the service being held at All Souls’ Church, the Rev. J. W. Davisson officiating. The body, conveyed on a float drawn by a motor, draped with the R.A.F. colours, was followed by a detachment of the Corps to which deceased belonged, including eight pilots. A large number of Canadian soldiers followed also. The chief mourners were deceased’s father and mother, Mrs. Floyd, Mrs. Rowlands, and Miss Rowlands. A party of Canadians fired three volleys over the grave, and the buglers sounded the “Last Post.” There were many wreaths.”

Not buried in Folkestone, but someone who would have known the Old Cemetery is Allen Sandby Coombe. He was the Son of Dr. and Mrs. Sandby Coombe, of “Brownswood,” Cherry Gardens, Folkestone. He was killed in a flying accident possible while flying an Avro 504. He was a probationary Flight Officer, and 504’s were the aircraft they trained on. Coombe died when the plane  he was flying crashed into Chingford Reservoir. Allen Coombe is buried in Chingford Mount Cemetery (from the find a grave web site) He does not appear to be named on the War Memorial.

Another whose name is not on the War Memorial is Folkestone’s “Ace” Dennis Henry Stacey Gilbertson. The son of Albert Stacey and Ethel Hoole Gilbertson,  62 Shorncliffe Rd., Folkestone. Gilbertson was killed in action on the 4th September 1918, and is buried in Villers-Aau-Tertre Communal Cemetery.He was just 21.

Gilbertson scored his first victory on the 30th May 1918 when he shot down an Albatros DV south-east of Albert., a month later he shot down his next, followed by two on the 1st July 1918. His last was a Fokker DVII on the 4th September 1918. Gilbertson was also killed in the same dogfight, although not by the pilot he shot down.

Another pilot, also not named on the War Memorial is Captain Durham Donald George Hall MC. The son of Mrs Hall ( possibly remarried and known as Gaskell), White House, Broadfield Road Folkestone Captain Hall’s MC was gazetted 11th December 1916

” For conspicuous gallantry in  action. He has flown in the worst of weather and often at very low altitudes On one occasion he flew very low and under heavy fire to range our artillery.”

Hall was wounded during a ground attack mission on the 26th March 1918 and died the next day. His death was reported in Flight Magazine 11th April 1918.

Eustace Bertram Low R.F.C., the third son of the Rev. A. E. and Mrs. Low, of St. John’s Vicarage, Folkestone, killed on active service on March, 24th, 1917, aged 18.  His death was reported in Flight Magazine 5th April 1917 as being ” accidently killed on active service”. Eustace Bertram Low doesn’t appear to be on the town’s War Memorial either.

Note on War Memorials.

There was no hard and fast rule about War Memorials-nothing was written in stone, so to speak. Each community decided who and why a name was listed. Some of the reasons included, – there was no one left to put a person’s name forward, no one knew until after a memorial was dedicated that they had died, no one liked the person and therefore saw no reason to put a name forward. 

In Folkestone, if a person was named on a memorial elsewhere in the town, their name was not on the town War Memorial. Not sure if all of the pilots mentioned are named on other memorials in the town.




Virgin Soldiers. #FWW #WW1

Lots, volumes, has been written about the needs of the British army and her soldiers going to war. unsung heroes who worked in unglamourous jobs. Heroines who worked long hours in factories, mills, buses, trains, hospitals. all will and are being commemorated. It was, after all, a very new experience.

“…In this new experience you may find temptations both in wine and women.

You must entirely resist both temptations, and, while treating all women with perfect courtesy, you should avoid any intimacy.”

The above is a quote from Kitchener’s letter to each of his soldiers going off to war.

A bit idealistic, and very naive. Most men in Kitchener’s army we happy to fight and die for King, Country, and Empire. They just wanted to get laid first.  At home the young soldier went to a prostitute, overseas a brothel.

Brothels were part of French life and soon they were yet more of them. Red Lights for soldiers, Blue Lights for officers.  Money was being spent on loose women and wine. The rest of a soldier’s pay packet, very often, was just wasted.  Some women made fortunes, others died penniless.

The wives back home were given a separation allowance and expected to just get on with things.

There is a disconnect here that is not talked about. Prostitutes are not a separate life form. They are people. times were difficult. Then as now some people have very little option, some liked the money, others just enjoyed the work.  They came from all sorts of backgrounds. Some were wives, their names have vanished from history.  Although I do know of one.

Her name is Annie.1) Annie worked Saville Road/Tottenham Court Road area of London. No idea of how successful she was. I like to think Annie was happy. Prostitutes are looked down upon. Regarded as “Tarts” We forget that the word very likely originated as an abbreviation of the word sweetheart.  I’m also sure Annie did not remember the names, if she ever knew them, of her clients.  I bet though, the soldiers she serviced were now a lot less unhappy about going to war. Her country needed soldiers. Her country’s soldiers needed her, and ladies like her. Unnamed heroines, so here is to you Annie, and others like you.

1)I’m keeping mum about her surname. it will be revealed in my book, “Poppies To Oblivion” When I can raise the funds to publish it. (Need an editor too.)


For others Death goes on, in memoriam.

Reminded earlier today of a lament,  Sgt MacKenzie’s lament. It is the only lament written for an individual soldier killed in action during the Great War. That said it is comparatively well known. It is on the soundtrack to the film, “We Were Soldiers”. A Lament is written in memory of.  Here are a few other things written in memory of soldiers who died in the Great War..

In Memoriam

The first is on a gravestone in the churchyard at Alvie in Scotland.  the grave belongs to  Jessie Maclauchlan. Jessie lived to be a 100 years old and died on the 9th January 1990.

“The beloved wife of Charles Asher.”

Charles Asher died of wounds on the 25th July 1918.

The rest are taken from the Strathspey Herald.

This one is for John, KIA April 1915 and Alex Clark, missing presumed killed April 1917. Posted by their auntie April 1919.

 They are not dead, but only sleeping.                                                                                                    On the calm refuge of their saviour’s breast.                                                                                             And far from care and sin and bitter weeping                                                                                           Are sweetly taking rest

For James shaw KIA May 1915, from his parents sisters and brother May 1916, Middle verse of three.

No loved one stood around him,                                                                                                                  To bid a last farewell.                                                                                                                                        No words of comfort could he leave.                                                                                                        To those he loved so well.

“Jas” Grant, KIA   June 1915. from his parents sister and brother. June 1917

We little thought when he left home                                                                                                            He would no more return                                                                                                                                That he so soon in death would sleep                                                                                                          and leave us here to mourn.

Just when his life was brightest,                                                                                                                   Just when his hope seemed best.                                                                                                                 He was taken from a word of sorrow                                                                                                           To a home of eternal rest.

His warfare o’er, his battle fought,                                                                                                                The victory won, though dearly brought.                                                                                                  His fresh young life could not be saved,                                                                                                      He slumbers now in a soldier’s grave

These are the second and third verses the  parents, sister and brother posted in June 1918. As well as the sadness of bereavement, they reflect the uncertainty of the future.

The hardest part has yet to come                                                                                                                 When warriors return                                                                                                                                And when we miss the cheering crowd                                                                                                      The face we loved so well

When we think of all the changes                                                                                                    Which these last few years have brought,                                                                                           We are glad the world they’ve gone to.                                                                                                     Is the world that changes nought.

This one was published twice. Once in 1917 and again in 1918. It is for John Lawson KIA  September 1915

He fell where fall the dying brave,                                                                                                                Among the noble slain,                                                                                                                                   Nor kindly love nor tender care,                                                                                                          Could light that couch of pain.

Nor loving hands may kindly tend,                                                                                                             The sod above his breast,                                                                                                                                 But tender thoughts will ever haunt,                                                                                                           His far of place of rest.

This one is for a soldier thought to be buried in Green Hill Cemetery, Dardanelles. george |MacRobert, Scottish Horse. It is from his mother and sisters

Sleep on beloved, for thee the strife is ended,                                                                                         Thy task accomplished, and the conflict o’er                                                                                   Thine is the gain, thy trials all transcended,                                                                                    Ours is the grief to see thy face no more,                                                                                                    Yet oft in love across the wave,                                                                                                                     Our thoughts shall linger round our soldiers grave.

The next one is for Anslie Wood, KIA 31st July 1917    it is the last one I will post   It was posted in the Strathspey Hearld by his child, Jessie

Better in heaven daddy                                                                                                                                     yes, far better than here.

And here is… Following the Footsteps

We have all done it, so don’t feel guilty. I’ve done it, and I feel guilty. That is enough guilt.

So what is it I have done? It is very simple. I have followed the footsteps of…

This is how it is done.

  1. Name the soldier/unit
  2. Go to where they died
  3. Go to the grave/memorial, and say and here is the grave of/memorial to
  4. Go home.

Apart from a few steps the actual following in, is a bit vague. Soldiers were carried to, thrown in, or laid in their graves. They did not walk to the them. Most died elsewhere some nearby, some very close by, but elsewhere. So a few yards maybe. or, if feeling energetic a few hundred yards, and that is it. Don’t want to follow to closely.

So you want to follow in some one’s foot steps. Here is how to do it.

Gather as much information as you can. See if his Pension or Service Record survive Find out where your soldier lived. That is the first place you should visit.  The school he went to, where he worked. Go and visit these places.  Your soldier had a life before the army. Give that life back. Go to where he enlisted, then trained.Get hold of the war diary, follow it.  How many people who followed their Gt Gt Grandad included Aldershot, Ripon, Salisbury Plain, Shorncliffe, or anywhere that soldiers trained before going to the war, in their trip? The soldier spent as much if not more in these places than they did at the Front.  Find out where they left the UK from. Go there, they are great places to visit.  Visit the places they stayed in on their arrival in theatre, Boulogne, Etaples, or wherever.

Then go to the grave and or memorial.

After which go home and be grateful it was them, and not you.

While it is more of a rant than a blog. There is just one other thing. The Grave, and or the Memorial is very often regarded as the end of the soldier’s story.  For some maybe it is, for others death goes on, in memoriam. Going to write a blog about that. ,