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Thursday 26 November 2009

Sudan 1884 - 5 - on holiday!

My mate Rod has just returned to a damp North Lancashire after spending a week cruising along the Nile looking at the antiquities and eating humous. True to form he kept an eye cocked for war memorials and, by golly, he found one!

One of the trips was to the Temple at Philae in southern Egypt, one of the monuments that was moved, stone by stone, during the construction of the Aswan dam. The pic here dates dates from the later 19th century.

Throughout history it has been a military post on the boundaries of Egypt and Sudan, for Egyptians, Macedonians, Romans and British. It is a beautiful place I imagine - somewhere I would much like to go.

During the Gordon relief expedition of 1884-5 Philae was a base area for British forces advancing southwards into the Sudan to confront the Mahdist forces who had invested the residency under the command of Chinese Gordon. One of the principal brigades employed was a column of Camel troops, volunteers, drawn from a number of regular mounted and infantry Regiments of the British Army. During the course of its advance into the Sudan it was engaged in a series of engagements with native forces during which a number of men were killed.

In remembrance of these losses their comrades carved a memorial on a wall of the Philae Temple listing those who died from 'The Heavy Camel Regiment'.

Typically of memorials commemorating the dead of Britain's myriad Imperial conflicts only the Officers are named. All are listed in two columns; killed in action on the left, died of disease on the right. They are further listed under their original Regiments, Scots Greys, Lancers & Dragoon Guards

Don't know if there are any Cumbrians here, but likely!

The campaign that these men were engaged in culminated in the Battle of Omdurman. See here for my posting on a Cumbrian fatality at this action.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Lost memorial found

Got round to visiting Sir John Barrow junior school in Ulverston where a memorial, walled up thirty years ago, re-emerged during recent building works.
It was both disappointing and fascinating!

The memorial, if such it is, was painted directly onto the wall and clearly shows the Arms of King George V and the date 1917. Unfortunately there is more disappearing into the ceiling that has not emerged during recent renovations. If there is a list of names or a clear indication that it is a memorial then it must be hidden there.

A small panel at the bottom tells the viewer that it was presented by J Martin Esq on March 9th 1917.

As can be seen on the lower pic it is quite badly damaged by people using it as a notice board of some sort. It is badly pitted with holes from, presumably, drawing pins and such.

Monday 9 November 2009

Remembrance 2009 - Cecil & Gerald Spring-Rice

The origin of the lyrics of this hymn is a poem written in 1908 by Cecil Spring-Rice, a diplomat in the British Embassy in Stockholm.

Called Urbs Dei or The Two Fatherlands, the poem described the Muscular Christianity and deep patriotism that is so much a part of the ethos and ritual of post 1919 Remembrance. The second verse is rarely sung.

I vow to thee, my country, all earthly things above,
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.

I heard my country calling, away across the sea,
Across the waste of waters she calls and calls to me.
Her sword is girded at her side, her helmet on her head,
And round her feet are lying the dying and the dead.
I hear the noise of battle, the thunder of her guns,
I haste to thee my mother, a son among thy sons.
And there's another country, I've heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace

In 1912, Spring-Rice was posted as Ambassador to the USA. After the Americans entered the war in 1917, he was recalled to Britain but shortly before his departure in January 1918 he re-wrote and renamed his poem, significantly altering the first verse to concentrate on the huge losses suffered by British soldiers during the intervening years. Also, presumably, the second verse.

In 1921 the English composer Gustav Holst adapted the music from a section of Jupiter from his Planets Suite to create a setting for the poem.

The music was extended slightly to fit the final two lines of the first verse; the resulting melody or hymn tune is usually referred to as Thaxted, named after the the quintessential English village in Essex where Holst lived for many years.

The hymn was first performed in 1925 and very soon became an English anthem.

Cecil Spring Rice had a younger brother, Gerald, who was killed serving with the 11th Lonsdale Bn, Border Regiment, on May 26th 1916. He is buried at Authuille on The Somme but commemorated by a couple of memorials in The Lakes; at Watermillock on the western shore of Ullswater and on the lower bridge at Aira Force. The upper bridge is a memorial to Cecil.

Gerald's Watermillock memorial is a beautifully executed copper plaque, on oak, on the north wall of the nave; probably Keswick School. At the time of his death he was living with his wife at Mell Fell House, a delightful residence just yards away from the church.

Friday 6 November 2009

Newly discovered memorial in Silverdale

(If Bill Brabban of Durham reads this again can he check out the comments at the bottom please!?)

My mate Rod who has a vast collection of stuff on the history of Silverdale sent me an email this week about a local pamphlet he holds,

"Silverdale - The Loveliest Spot on Morecambe Bay" published by the Silverdale Advancement Association. The copy has no date but a subsequent edition was published in 1936.

Both describe the purchase in 1921 of Bleasdale House by The Bradford Dyers Association as a convalescent home and as a memorial to 707 members of the association who had died in the war and also as a memorial to 37 killed when Low Moor Munitions Co Ltd suffered a disastrous explosion in 1916.

The house was built for the Sharp family but during the war had been used as an auxiliary hospital.

The pic below shows Cpl William Brabban with a couple of nurses. Cpl William Brabban, 18th Northumberland Fusiliers, was injured on 1st July 1916 on the opening day of Battle of Somme. Shrapnel in lower spine and shell shock.

Happily he survived and went on to marry Nurse Hilda Florence Dunn, of Haslingden nr Sandbach, at St Johns church in Silvedale in July 1917.

Monday 2 November 2009

Great Musgrave

Hidden away on the banks of the Eden at Great Musgrave is the magical church of St Theobald. There have been a number of churches around this site since at least the late twelfth century, and probably long before. Prior to 1248 the living was under the patronage of St Mary's, York.

There are a number of interesting memorials.

At the east end of the nave is a rough hewn table with two small dedicatory brasses on the edge commemorating members of the Fawcitt family.

The earlier of the two is;

In Memory of
Sub Lieut Bernard Fawcitt RNVR
Licata Sicily 10th July 1943

Temporary Sub Lt Fawcitt was killed, aged 20, in the invasion of Sicily - operation Husky - while serving aboard the Landing Ship Infantry HMS Princess Josephine Charlotte, a converted Belgian cross channel ferry.

Prior to Husky the ship had served as a commando carrier at St Nazaire. Young Fawcitt had been Mentioned in Dispatches sometime prior to his death, perhaps at St Nazaire. But why is he commemorated in this obscure corner of Cumbria? On the CWGC website his parents are named as Norman and Ethel Fawcitt, of Rothley, Leicestershire.

The Licata landings in which Fawcitt was killed was a predominantly American operation at the far western end of the landing beaches.

As well as the Fawcitt table there are two Great War memorials placed on the south wall of the nave. They still have their, probably, original brass candlesticks and vases on a shelf below, altogether a simple village war shrine.

The large Roll of Honour is painted on board and lists all of the parish who served 1914 - 19.

Sadly the paint used a lot of black pigment of a type that is now cracking and discolouring the gilding in which the names are painted. There is a nurse (her unit is I M N S R?) and guys from the district who served with the Canadian and Australian Expeditionary Forces.

Five men are listed on the Roll as having died but only four appear on an accompanying brass plaque produced by F Osborne & Co of London, church furnishers.

This plaque is identical in form to WW1 & WW2 memorials in the Methodist church at Ousby and, possibly, to one in the parish church there. Ousby church is now redundant, up for sale and permanently locked.