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Thursday 18 June 2009

St Catherine's church, Crook

On the road from Bowness to Kendal there is a small roadside church serving the dispersed rural community of Crook. The church itself was built in 1882 to a design by Stephen Shaw replacing an earlier Manor Chapel, the tower of which still stands in the fields some way away.

The principal war memorial is an unascribed brass in the nave of the church. It bears four names from the Great War; two Borderers and two Colonials, a New Zealander and a Canadian.

The memorial states that 21176 Pte Robert Barker served with the 16th (Waikato) Regiment of the New Zealand Infantry although the CWGC registers describe him as serving with the 1st Auckland Regiment. He was 28 when killed at Messines in June 1917 leaving a widow, Louisa, living at Maehau, Cape Colville, Cabbage Bay, Auckland. What does AIB signify ?

Just over a month earlier 26 year old 150681 Pte George Walker had been killed in the great Canadian attack at Vimy Ridge, or Vimmy as the memorial describes it, while serving with the 5th Bn (Saskatchewan Regiment) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was farming near Brandon, Manitoba when he joined up in November 1915. His father, Richard, remained in Crook.

The two lads who stayed at home were killed at Thiepval on the third day of the Somme offensive and on the Italian front in 1918.

Many of the guy's contemporaries are named on the pre-printed roll which hangs in the church. It is an early one, probably 1915; there are no Japanese or American flags.

After the 39/45 war another name had to be added to the principal brass memorial, that of Derrick Read, son of Richard and Annie Read of Crook.

Though there was just enough room for '1939 - 45' on the original memorial Read's name had to be inscribed on a piece of brass that was then inserted into the existing memorial. I imagine that there was originally an inscription which had to be cut out.

Unusually Read is also remembered on a stone memorial at the south west corner of the church, effectively the village's WW2 memorial commemorating their only loss. The flowers show that he is still very much remembered.

Temporary Leading Airman Derrick Read was killed in an air crash while flying with the 771 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm from HMS Tern, a lonely airbase at the unfortunately named village of Twatt on the Orkneys. His pilot, Louis Weatherall, Temp Sub Lt (Air) Royal New Zealand Volunteer Reserve, was also killed and is buried at St Olaf's, Kirkwall. He was the 22 year old son of Francis William and Louisa Culf Weatherall, of Ettrick, Otago, New Zealand. Derrick Read's body was never recovered. His name appears with those of some 2000 others of the Fleet Air Arm with no known grave on the memorial at Lee on Solent.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Sgt John Longmire of Bouth

I gave a talk some months ago to a group of people in Ulverston. Some time later there was a knock on my door and a lady who had been at the talk handed me a carrier bag. Inside were some old photographs and a hand written document.

The photographs were of Sergeant John Longmire of Bouth, a long time member of the 1/4th Battalion, Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

The document was a handwritten citation, bearing the Regimental crest, that was presented to John by members of Tottlebank Baptist Church and the Methodist congregation at Sparkbridge to commemorate and celebrate ten years of service to 'God and the Empire'.

Great that they remain valued by the man's family and also very satisfying that I can bring memories of John Longmire and his service to a wider audience.

Monday 15 June 2009

Crosthwaite in the 1920s

The memorials that I find in the villages and landscapes of Cumbria are now firmly embedded in the great continuum of English history. The raw emotional impact that they had in the days of their creation is lost, we are three or four generations on from the people who created them. Thus it is always very poignant and, I am bound to say, thrilling, when I discover something that transports the imagination back in time to a period when the memorials had an immediacy and intimacy for people and their communities.

A couple of weeks ago I was driving through the Lyth valley and found that the Memorial Hall was open with a sort of village market in progress. On a table were the last two available copies of a book, 'Cameos of Crosthwaite & Lyth', published in the valley in 2002/3. It is profusely illustrated with pictures of the communities and people of this delightful place.

On browsing thro' it I was astonished and immensely pleased to see one image which I had been hoping to find for many years.

It clearly shows a memorial service being held around a wooden cross, made from village oak and erected in the churchyard in 1916, that was Crosthwaite's first memorial. Many of those seen here will have been thinking of their fathers, brothers and husbands. The dead were commemorated with brass plaques that were pinned to the cross by the bereaved as and when the men were killed or died.

This cross remained in the churchyard until 1998 when, following restoration, it was moved inside the church, first to the south transept and subsequently to its present position by the chancel arch.

In the 1920s the village acquired a more imposing memorial in the form of a large brass plaque which, rather surprisingly, they purchased from Harrods of London.

Sunday 7 June 2009

D-Day - 65 years

65 years ago today Allied forces stormed ashore in Normandy. And contrary to popular Hollywood belief, the British were there.

I am not aware of a significant number of memorials in Cumbria commemorating these events. There is certainly one on the West Coast and I am sure many others. Check out this link to hear Jos Mark, a West Cumberland Veteran, talking about his experiences on the beaches.

In South Cumbria there is a memorial in Grange over Sands. Just to the west of the ornamental lake, beside the main car park a large stone monolith stands in a formal garden.

It bears a plaque informing the traveller that the stone was erected by Number 8 (Cumbria with Lancaster) Branch of the Normandy Veterans Association.

The garden itself is on the site of the ancient barn or grange belonging to Furness Abbey (I think) that gave the town its name.

For some reason a commemorative service was held last Sunday, May 3oth, rather than today. Maybe the Vets were off to the beaches? I was talking to an elderly resident today who told me that there were only five standards and that the band seemed to outnumber attendees. When the garden was dedicated (when?) there were standards around the garden.

Is it memory dying or just the men? But there are some fine old men still around in the county, check out the link Cumbrian Vets which will take you to some biographies.

As I write this a BNP candidate has been elected to the European Parliament. Memories are short.