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Wednesday 27 February 2008

Returning to Ypres: the Holy Ground of British Arms

The Ypres Salient … belongs henceforward to history and will for evermore be a sacred place for pilgrims to the graves of the heroic dead.
Henry Beccles Willson

The Great War saw the death of over a million British and Empire troops. Of these the vast majority were on The Western Front in France & Flanders. Here the focus for grieving would eventually come to be centred on The Somme & the Belgian town of Ypres.

By Christmas 1914 the trenches immediately east of Ypres formed a huge bulge thrusting into the German lines. For the following four years it was fought over relentlessly as the German army tried to clear it. The casualties were horrendous - by 1918 these few square miles held close to quarter of a million British & Imperial dead. In 1920 a Canadian Lieutenant Colonel, Henry Beckles Willson, described it as The Holy Ground of British Arms. However, as I grew up old men who were there spoke with pride and bitterness of The Immortal Salient.

The uniqueness of this place in British & Commonwealth history, and perhaps the inspiration for Willson, was expressed by a sign erected among the shattered ruins of the town in the immediate aftermath of the conflict.

This is Holy Ground.
No Stone of This fabric may be taken away.
It is a Heritage for all Civilised
Town Major

Visitors started making their way to Ypres very soon after the armistice to pay respects to lost husbands, fathers or sons or all to often simply to try and trace a body. For the luckier ones there would be a grave, marked initially with a battlefield cross and later with an Imperial War Graves Commission headstone, where wreaths could be left and a connection made with the dead. But vast numbers of the dead were lost - the memorials at Tyne Cot & the Menin Gate bear 89,187 names of the missing of the Ypres salient.

The first visitors to the battlefields, initially an expensive and complicated business, were gentry who had the resources to make the journey. Editha Bigland of Bigland, near Cartmel visited Festubert in a vain search for the grave of her only son, George, killed in 1915. In July 1920 Edith Squarey MacIver of Wanlass How, Ambleside and widow of David MacIver of Birkenhead set out to visit the graves of her two sons and a stepson. She was accompanied by Albert, the chauffeur, her surviving son, Alan McIver M.C., late of the 20th Lancashire Fusiliers, and Hugh ‘Cherry’ Sanderson. Edith kept a journal of the trip.

We went into Ypres by the West entrance and then out by the south to see a farmhouse, called by the Brigade Woodgate House, where Alan's Brigade H.Q. were for a time in 1918. The ruin of Ypres is indescribable, there are no houses left in the town and the place us full of Army huts of all sorts and sizes.

At Pilckem Ridge,

Barbed wire and all sorts of debris, bits of accoutrement, broken trucks, dud shells lay about, and here and there tanks pounded out of all likeness to themselves, and here and there a solitary cross among the grass. Silent and solemn tokens of what the place was like two years ago and since 1914. These remains were even more frequent when we went to Langemarck along the Poelcapelle road. Before getting to Langemarck we turned off along a little road to look for a concrete German pillbox, which was Alan's Brigade H.Q. for about two months in 1918, which they called "Varna Farm". Here the shells etc lay about thickly. It was some time before Alan found it but he did at last. He picked up a rusty English rifle and I an English helmet, but it had a hole in the side and a bullet must have gone through it into the man's
head, so I put it down again and left it.

They made their way to La Clytte and the grave of Captain Andrew Tucker Squarey MacIver, Edith's eldest son,

The cemetery is not so near the church as I expected and is of course full of crosses in neat rows. English soldiers were working in it: one soldier was an inspector of cemeteries. An Englishman married to a French woman is in charge now. We soon found Andrew’s cross in the earlier part. His cross has been touched by shell fire, a bit of the circle broken and the top too. The grass is long but it is the light flowering kind and there were tiny pansies and
pimpernel among it. The soldier got a bit of turf off in front of the cross for me to put in the Manor Hill pansies and Wanlass earth. He stood beside me all the time. I sent one or two wild anspy roots to Wanlass and they have flourished in the rockery.

They went on to visit the graves of Robert & Reg MacIver. Edith acquired Reg's cross and put it in the garden at Wanlass How. I presume it rotted away years ago. All three MacIver brothers have brasses in the small and now redundant church at Wray, above Windermere and are commemorated on various other memorials around the Lakes and in the Wirral.

As the 1920s progressed 'pilgrimages' became accessible to the masses, culminating in the great 1928 British Legion Pilgrimage to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the armistice. At some point during these years these Lakeland veterans, bemedalled, bowler hatted and accompanied by their wives, returned to the scenes of their youth. This photo inscribed on the back - Vimy Ridge - is one of my most treasured possessions. I found it in the early 1980s among a pile of burnt household junk, fly tipped in an old quarry near Coniston.

Charlie Keith, Lindale

There are probably two or three hundred memorials to individuals scattered across the county. Most commemorate officers, but there are some that were erected to the memory of private soldiers.

In Lindale churchyard there is a CWGC headstone standing over the grave of 1856 Private Charlie Keith, a young soldier of the 1/4 Kings Own Royal Lancasters. Charlie was the youngest son of William Keith of Yew Trees. Lying in front of the headstone is an inscribed shield,

In lasting memory
of Private Charlie Keith
A Co 4th Batn KORL
Killed at Slough October 21st 1914
Aged 19 Years
A Memento From His

The manner of Charlie's death is alluded to in the book The Fourth Battalion The Kng's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and The Great War, written by two former officers, Lt Col Wadham & Captain Crossley in 1919/20.
It was not to be expected that men fresh from the country, many of whom had never seen an express train before, could carry out these duties on a section ofline such as the one for which the Battalion was responsible, without some casualties occurring. During the time the Battalion was employed on this duty several good men lost their lives in the service of their country, who could no doubt have preferably made the same sacrifice, had the opportunity been given them, against a more vulnerable foe than an express train.

A press report of the funeral suggests that virtually every house in the immediate district was represented in the church and many others from surrounding villages had to stand outside as Boy Scouts wheeled in the bier holding Charlie's coffin, draped with a union flag.

The plaque lay forgotten for years until it was rediscovered by the late Mr Frank Brooks of Grange in the 1990s. However, since being exposed to the elements it has unfortunately weathered heavily and the inscription visible on this photo taken by Howard Martin of Cartmel is now barely legible.

The provision of small memorials, paid for by subscription to honour the memory of men who served in volunteer units, which the 1/4 King's Own was heir to, follows a long tradition. Gardner's at Urswick created in 1821 and illustrated below is another example. Indeed, prior to the Great War they were just about the only form of memorial naming the common soldier to be erected. The death of Regular Soldiers or Sailors was very rarely acknowledged.

Saturday 23 February 2008

Battlefield cross of Lt Col CG Buckle DSO, MC, 2nd Northamptons

The degree of interest in the Great War in recent years is quite staggering. As a child my family and I used to visit my grandfather's grave on The Somme and I remember my father's sadness in the 1950s & 1960s that so few people paid their respects to the legions of dead in France & Flanders. Now it is quite different. Indeed, it is an industry.

This vast interest, coupled with the internet, is a great boon to the historian, be it professional or casual. Many people are producing quality research on every aspect of the conflict and the goodwill between such folk means much of it is freely available.

A case in point relates to this rather forlorn battlefield cross displayed in the porch at Warcop church. It originally marked the grave at Juvincourt, Chemin des Dames of Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Galbraith 'Garry' Buckle DSO, MC who was killed on 27 May 1918, aged 30; By coincidence my grandfather was killed the following day. Buckle is now buried at La Ville-Aux-Bois British Cemetery, near Rheims. It is a concentration cemetery established after the armistice and many isolated battlefield graves such as Buckle's were brought here.

The cross bears a roughly inscribed plaque with his name, rank, regiment, decorations and the date of his death. The Debt of Honour Register at the CWGC website provides the names and addresses of his father, mother & wife.

However, a search on the Great War Forum using the searchwords 'Buckle' or 'Warcop' produces a huge amount of information on the man's life and his career both before and during the war that has been researched by individuals and including this photograph....

Buckle was the son of Major General CR Buckle, CB., CMG., DSO, (Royal Artillery). Educated at Marlborough he was commissioned to the Northamptonshire Regiment from Sandhurst in 1907. In 1914 he was a Lieutenant, seconded to the Colonial Office in West Africa and was only posted to France after Aubers Ridge in 1915. He soon rose to become Brevet Major and acting Lt Colonel commanding the 2nd Northamptons. He was wounded three times and mentioned in dispatches three times. A married man, the family home was at 'Steelbacks', Overstrand, Cromer, Norfolk. Steelbacks was the nickname of the Northamptonshire Regiment. His son, Christopher - 'Dickie' - , became a stage designer and ballet critic.

Buckle's mother visited the Western Front after the war and found her son's grave beside the dug-out where he was killed and subsequently wrote a book about him, A Kingly Grave in France.

There are quite a number of battlefield crosses in the county. They were offered to the relatives of the dead by the IWGC when permanent cemeteries and headstones were erected during the 1920s, their transport to the UK undertaken by the Church Army.

While writing this post I put a query on the Great War Forum & within 24 hours there were two replies. One guy photographed 4 pages of Dickie Buckle's autobiography, describing the events surrounding his father's death another posted a brief piece from Edward Short's autobiography, 'I Knew My Place' describing events at the unveiling of Warcop War Memorial....

.....Garry Buckle ..[was].. a popular, dashing man. His young and beautiful wife who lived at The Fox, a cottage over the beck from the war memorial and who was related to the Chamley's at Warcop House, was there with her son Dickie, and her husband's parents. Great and obvious was Mrs Garry's embarrassment when 'old' Mrs Buckle stepped forward and kissed her son's name. It was a moment of drama and anguish such as Warcop, an undemonstrative place, had rarely, if ever, known before....

Thursday 21 February 2008

World War 2 rolls

Many of the precedents set in the years following the Great War were again adopted after 1945. The creation of rolls was one such. The two illustrated here, Wythburn at the top and Westward below, are examples of the listings of names that were created.

Wythburn roll which covers the parishes of St John in the Vale & Castlerigg with Wythburn is peculiarly antiquated in design, employing a vaguely neo-gothic & Christian iconography that would seem more appropriate to a high Victorian city church than to a isolated lakeland chapel. The names of four dead in the central panel are sanctified by an associated cross in the central altar panel. The considerable number of those who served fill the side panels.

Westward is without symbolism and simply calls itself a Roll of Service. It is similar to Wythburn in the separation of the names of the dead but differs in the gender split and the details of service. Neither is signed though both were probably created by professional or semi-professional illuminators.

I find rolls like this fascinating. They illustrate both differences in the way the two wars were fought and perceptions of service. WW2 rolls have numbers of names of guys who fought and died in the Merchant Marine which are generally lacking in WW1 lists. They also show how the RAF, primarily bomber command, took huge numbers of men away from the Infantry Regiments that dominate earlier rolls. Nor did those that did serve in the infantry serve with 'Pals' type units whose losses cut swathes through local communities in 1916.

A further difference is in the gender of those commemorated. Though there are women named on WW1 rolls, primarily nurses, they do not appear in the same numbers as in the later rolls, a reflection of the growth of the women's armed services.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Wooden crosses

Located in a number of churches in the south and east of the county are large oak crosses with brass plaques bearing the names of the dead, normally of both world wars, and occassionally of later conflicts. The example at Old Hutton is shown here.

Their limited dispersal and uniformity intrigues me. Who made them, and why the distribution? There are clues. At Crossthwaite a short history associated with the cross states that it was made from village oak and was until 1998 outside the church. A press report from the early '20s further indicates that the example at Skelsmergh was in the lych gate. A faculty for the placement of Heversham cross in the church was granted in May 1920. Their origin was suggested to me after I delivered a short paper at a study day for the Centre for North West Regional Studies. A member of the audience said that they were made at the Sedgewick Gunpowder Works at Gatebeck, Kendal under the auspices of Colonel Weston of Enyeat, the MP for (I think) Westmorland.

Thus it appears likely, though unproven, that these crosses were initiated by Colonel Weston about 1916 for parishes within his constituency, perhaps using oak provided by individual communities. Most, if not all, were placed in the open and served as memorials for the dead until more substantial memorials were erected when they were generally moved into the church. Some were mounted on the wall and others were furnished with rather elegant bases and frames, as at Crosscrake, above.

The individual brasses are also informative. The style of lettering is not always uniform suggesting that they were probably added as the men died. Documents from Holme suggest that the brasses there were made by W Middleton of Kendal and paid for by the families of the dead, the cost being reimbursed from the village's Patriotic fund around the same time as the memorial was created in 1923.

At Milnethorpe the cross serves as a focus for what is to all intents a small memorial chapel or shrine with the village roll above and places for flags, probably originally union flags but now only a standard of the Royal British Legion.

Unusually the Trench Art vases, that were commonly provided for memorials and rolls, remain unstolen.

I have documented crosses at Witherslack, Crossthwaite, Crosscrake, Heversham, Holme, Preston Patrick, Skelsmergh, Old Hutton. Kirkby Stephen, Milnethorpe. There is a smaller cross at New Hutton and the brasses from a former cross at All Hallows, Kendal were recorded in the early 1990s before the church closed, but I have not traced them. There are certainly others and I would like to know of them.

Thursday 14 February 2008

Waterloo veteran perhaps?

If the recording of 'war memorials' is interpreted quite loosely, as appears to be the policy of the UKNIWM, then some interesting stories emerge.

On the south wall of the chancel at Urswick parish church, facing the graveyard, is an old and rather weathered neo-classical funereal monument. The inscription on the central panel, inscribed in fine copper-plate, reads;

The non-commissioned Officers and Privates of the Furness Cuirassiers erected this monument in the memory of THOMAS GARDNER their Drill Sergeant formerly of the first Regiment of Life Guards who was killed by a fall from his Horse on the 21st Day of April 1821 in the 32nd Year of his Age

After the French Revolutionary wars and the defeat of Napoleon the armed forces were disbanded. Many of the veterans, particularly officers, subsequently raised units of volunteers. One such was the Furness Troop of Yeomanry known as The Furness Cuirassiers. They were raised at Ulverston on 22nd September 1819 under the command of Captain Thomas Richard G. Braddyll, formerly Captain and Lieut. Colonel in the Coldstream Guards. On 15th May 1828 the troop amalgamated with other local volunteer units to become the Lancashire Yeomanry Cavalry.
Given his age and the date of his death it is reasonable to assume that he may have fought in the Peninsula or at Waterloo. However, various early nineteenth century rolls, available online, do not include a Thomas Gardner serving with the Life Guards during the Napoleonic wars so any certainty about his service history must reamain unresolved.

Wednesday 13 February 2008

'Once we were young...'

As I dig around, researching these Lakeland memorials I am sometimes confronted with their purpose in a very immediate way.

Before Christmas I was privileged to receive a couple of communications from the late Canon Gervaise Markham of Morland, near Penrith. During the last war he was a padre with the Eighth Army in North Africa, Italy and Northwest Europe. It was good to receive his encouragement with my endeavours, but comments he made about burying many friends was a salutory reminder of why memorials exist. They are about real people - sons and brothers, fathers & husbands, sisters and daughters.

A couple of years ago I came across this battered postcard tucked away in a box, long forgotten in a damp cellar. It shows a group of Furness & Cartmel Territorials of the 1/4th Bn, Kings Own Royal Lancasters at Denbigh camp in August 1913, just a year before the outbreak of war. Most of these these guys are so young and yet, within a few years, some would be dead, others maimed in body & mind.

The same box produced the photo below. An associated bit of writing describes them as the Furness 'Old' Contemptables at Ulverston Drill Hall on Wednesday September 27, 1978 for a Diamond Jubilee celebration of the events of 1918. A bit of doggerel accompanies it,

No thought of Glory to be won
There was this duty to be done
And they did it
'Bless them All'

The youngest of these men would be about 78. Many wear the '14-15 star, so were probably 1/4 Kings Own men, some wear WW2 medals showing a life of service. One or two may well be on the earlier picture. Such is the stuff of history.

I have no name for any of these old soldiers. Do you?

Tuesday 12 February 2008

New Hutton - a lost memorial

After reading obituaries of fallen soldiers and press reports of unveilings from 1914 through into the 1920s it becomes clear that appreciable numbers of rolls of honour and sometimes even more substantial memorials have disappeared over the years. Indeed, they continue to be lost. This leaves a gap in our understanding of styles and purpose. But occasionally a stroke of luck allows the gap to be filled.

New Hutton's principal Great War memorial is the lych gate that stands on the main road at the bottom of the path leading to the churchyard. Stone panels built into the structure bear the dedication and the names of the village dead.

Within the church there is also a small wooden cross with three name brasses which was almost certainly served as the community's memorial prior to the erection of the lych gate.

However, much more interesting to me is a small dedication brass on a small and quite modern organ indicating that a predecessor was gifted grateful memory of those who fought in the Great War.. by John & Helen Rankin of 'Hill Top' in June 1920. I was intrigued by this but resigned to the probability that it would not prove possible to find an image of this earlier instrument. Then a couple of weeks ago I discovered an old postcard showing the interior of the church decorated for a harvest festival and by the altar an imposing organ.

Is this the one presented to the church by the Rankins or an even earlier one? Local knowledge is required!

I believe that there is also a roll in the village hall which I have not yet seen, so again, local knowledge please!

Clifton - The last battle on English soil

Check out this posting for more pics.

War has been endemic in the history of Cumbria; the blood of many people has flowed into its soil not least as a consequence of its being the borderlands between two sovereign nations.

A reminder of the turbulent politics of the 17th & 18th centuries that followed the Union of the two Crowns is to be found in St Cuthbert's churchyard, Clifton, south of Penrith where a memorial commemorates the dead of Bland's Regiment who were killed here on the occasion of the skirmish at Clifton, fought on the afternoon and evening of December 18, 1745. The stone resembling a standard CWGC headstone was placed here in 2004 by The Queen's Royal Hussars, the lineal regimental descendants of Bland's Regiment.

The skirmish at Clifton, which is commonly celebrated as the last battle fought on English soil, took place between a rearguard of Prince Charles Edward Stewart's Jacobite army as they retreated from Derby and elements of the Duke of Cumberland's Hanoverian forces that were in pursuit. During the action about a hundred government soldiers were wounded and killed, ten of whom lie beneath this memorial. Twelve Jacobites, Scots Clansmen, were also killed and a Captain Hamilton captured 'much wounded'. The dead are buried beneath The Rebel Tree on the southern edge of the village.

At the foot of the tree a brass plate mounted on a stone reads,
Here lie buried the men of the army of
Prince Charles who fell at Clifton Moor 18 December 1745

A footnote makes clear that the plaque and presumably the stone were placed here by Georgina & Wilbert Goodchild in 1936. But who were they? A Wilbert Goodchild was a celebrated mineralogist in the mid years of the 20th century - was he a closet Jacobite?

The tree remains as a site of pilgrimage for Scots, there are always posies of flowers & heather at the foot of the memorial. In 2006 a group of patriots cleared up the site, rebuilt the fence & dedicated another memorial plaque - see this link for the full story.

Googling 'Battle of Clifton' will throw up numerous links describing events. A particularly interesting eyewitness account written by the Quaker,Thomas Savage of Clifton End Farm, can be found here. One of the better published accounts was that of the Chevalier Johnstone of c1820. This wonderful book contains a map of the battle.

It is rather confusing. In the book south is at the top so I have rotated it 180 degrees. In addition the distance between Penrith, Eamont Bridge and Clifton has been truncated. However, if you download the map and compare it to Google Earth the events can be traced on the modern landscape.

By coincidence the Rev. Robert Patten a former curate in Penrith & chaplain to General Forster in the rebellion of 1715 was buried in Clifton church in 1733. Forster commanded the Jacobite forces under the Earl of Derwentwater.

There are few reminders of the Jacobite wars in Cumbria apart from a variety of blue plaques commemorating lodging places of the Bonnie Prince or Butcher Cumberland. The mediaeval choir stalls in Carlisle Cathedral are quite heavily disfigured by crude carvings of symbols and initials. When I was a schoolboy in the town the verger at the time seemed undecided as to whether these were done by 16th century Reivers, Jacobite prisoners or by captured Royalist soldiers during the civil war. I don't know what present thinking is. In Lancaster Castle there are a number of long wooden staves that were apparently left in the town by retreating Highlanders some days before Clifton skirmish; poignant reminders of a forgotten war.

The transactions of the CWAAS for 2003 (Third Series, Vol III) includes a paper on the siege of Carlisle in the days following Clifton skirmish and the 2006 edition describes the events of the '15 in the county. Copies may still be available through the website. The Centre for North West Regional Studies @ Lancaster University have also produced an account of the Jacobites in the North West available thro' their website.

More Beattie Memorials

Just to be awkward and to make up a posting, here are three more memorials by Beattie of Carlisle. The top one is at Bewcastle Congregational Chapel, the central one at Crosscanonby and the lower one at Raughton Head.

As can be seen, my statement that martial emblems, of swords, rifles and helmets are a trademark of Beatties' work holds good for the first two but collapses on the third where the design reverts to a sort of composite funereal monument Celtic Crossness!

I think the first two are signed, certainly that at Raughton Head is. What these do show is the difficulty of ascribing a designer to a memorial simply on the grounds of style. Communities were pretty fussy in their requirements and the surviving committee minutes held in the various record offices in the county illustrate how pedantic some were in details of design, naming and placing and how matters of finance and local sensitivity set limits on ambition.

WG Collingwood made repeated visits to Ulverston with drawings that he was constantly required to revise on grounds of both cost and taste and there were months of argument about where the memorial should be placed.

At Haverthwaite and Lindal in Furness long and heartfelt discussions were held as to which names should be included or rejected, while at Kendal tremendous effort was put into making the list of names to be inscribed on the memorial's plaques as accurate as possible through the following up of every suggestion by the personal visit of an officer of the town council to friends and relatives.

I think it is self evident that monumental memorials such as those shown here are effectively funereal monuments. Designs very similar if not identical to these and simply lacking the iconography of war, are to be found in cemeteries the length and breadth of the county. Obvious really. Masons such as Beattie simply adapted stock designs and they were happily adopted as memorials because of their comforting familiarity as statements of remembrance.

Monday 11 February 2008

Turner window, Armathwaite

What does and does not constitute a war memorial can be contentious. Some may also provide a mystery.

An example of both is this window in the parish church at Armathwaite created by A L Moore of London from a painting by Rubens.

It is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Charles Rushton Turner, 3rd Reserve Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. The CWGC register shows that he died on October 30, 1915, aged 40 (and incidentally described as 2nd Lt), at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Southampton from a Potts fracture sustained by falling off his horse while on parade. A Potts fracture is, in extreme cases, a compound fracture of the ankle, hardly fatal in itself. Is it thus probable that he actually died of septicaemia? A doctors opinion would be appreciated.

Given the accidental nature of the guy's death, can this still be considered a war memorial simply because he died in 1915? Many memorials contain names of men and women who died during or even after conflict from both accidental and natural causes. Those that were erected in the early 1920s commonly include victims of the post war influenza epidemic and there are other, later memorials commemorating people who died through all sorts of accidents, in many instances as civilians. It would thus seem churlish to discount Turner's memorial through a cruel accident of fate.

The mystery arises by the fact of Turner's name appearing on one of the panels of the Hollybrook Memorial, Southampton. These panels are reserved for the names of those primarily lost at sea in home waters who have no known grave. Earl Kitchener is among them. Why is Turner's name included when he died in hospital? Where was he buried? At Armathwaite? At sea? A mystery indeed.

Saturday 2 February 2008

And now for something completely different!

Every community in Russia has a memorial but they are are almost exclusively a creation of the Great Patriotic War, 1941 - 45, during which the Soviet empire suffered a loss beyond parallel. The war museum in Moscow displays books of remembrance listing in excess of 26 million names of those known to have died and that is considered by many to be an underestimate, the figure might be 32 million.
Although more millions died during the Great War they have not, until recently, been commemorated. The only memorials from that era are those such as the one shown here which lists the names of four men from the village that preceded the industrial sprawl of Elektrostal who died fighting in the Red Army during the civil war.

The small park surrounding this obelisk commemorates the dead of 1941/45 and is pretty much representative of small town memorials. It is dominated by a female figure representative perhaps of a universal mother, or Mother Russia. Close by is a plinth upon which, I believe, are inscribed the names of men and women from the town who became Heroes of the Soviet Union. In front of these are six stainless steel artillery shells that contain soil from the six major battlefields of the second world war; Moscow, Leningrad, Stalingrad, Kursk, the Dnieper and Berlin. It is a convention to list the names of these and other sites of memory, such as Sebastopol, Vitebsk, Smolensk as part of a standard iconography.
The large letters above the steps read Pomnitye o nas - Remember Us -the universal sentiment of remembrance. The Red Star is also evident and since the collapse of the Soviet Union memorials such as this have had a small orthodox chapel added to one side. All memorials of any size have an eternal flame.

The vast numbers of dead preclude listing outside of the smallest villages. At Naginsk a community some miles from Elektrostal, numbers on the memorial describe a casualty rate of near to 50% from its total pre war populace. A staggering loss.

This vast conflict is still a major part of Russian consciousness. Kids go to summer school with the intent of disintering war dead from anonymous battlefield graves for re-burial. While there I visited a saturday market. Walking around I noticed a frail old man with a stick and a row of medals on his jacket. He was a veteran and it was rather moving to see the reverence with which people treated him, holding the crowds aside to facilitate his passage, softly greeting him and offering him tea.
Thanks for the translation Em x