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Thursday 9 December 2010

Memorial on Great Carrs

Throughout Cumbria there are hundreds of sites where aircraft have crashed over the years. Some of these were civilian but most were military. Of the latter a significant number fell to earth during the second world war.

Perhaps the most famous crash site is that on Great Carrs, a wild fell lying to the south of Wrynose.

On the night of October 22 1944 Handley Page Halifax LL505 FD-S was on a night training exercise flying out of RAF Topcliffe, Yorkshire. It was part of 1659 Heavy Conversion Unit in No 6 Group, Bomber Command. 

On the fateful night Pilot John Johnston flew low over the hills in an easterly direction so that the navigator could get a ground fix. However, the aircraft hit the ridge between Great Carrs and Swirl How before plunging over the crest. All 8 crew were killed.

 The crew were:

Pilot - F/O John A Johnston, RCAF (C/29783), aged 27, of Carp, Ontario, Canada.

Navigator - F/O Francis A Bell, RCAF (J/39888), aged 33, of Hampton, New Brunswick, Canada.

BA - P/O Robert N Whitle, RCAF (J/38243), aged 20, of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Flight Eng - Sgt Harvey E Pyche, RCAF (R/225354), aged 21, of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Flight Eng - Sgt William B Ferguson, RAFVR (1826294), aged 19, of Caldercruix, Scotland.

Wireless Op / AG - Sgt Calvin G Whittingstall, RCAF (R/198207), aged 20, of Mount Dennis, Ontario, Canada.

AG - Sgt Donald F Titt, RCAF (R/271259), aged 19, of Rockwood, Ontario, Canada.

AG - Sgt George Riddoch, RCAF (R/259938), aged 20, of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada.

Ferguson was buried at New Monkland Cemetery, Lanarkshire. The rest of the crew were buried together at Blacon cemetery, Chester.

 At some time a cairn was constructed on Great Carrs and bits of the aircraft brought to it, specifically the under carriage. More recently a memorial plaque was placed at the site.

Sunday 5 December 2010

The dispossessed

We in Britain celebrate victories over our enemies, the Axis & Japan, in 1918 & 1945. But we lament the loss of influence in the world, moving from global superpower to American poodle, by way of Suez & Butcher Blair. And while watching a stiff upper lipped Sir John Mills winning the battle we give little thought, beyond sometimes rather tasteless jokes, to the defeated peoples. The systems they fought for, certainly between 1939-45, were truly evil Empires. Russian POWs, Poles, Gypsies, Gays, Jews, Far East POWs, Chinese, the natives of many Asian countries and myriad others will affirm that. So it was OK to defeat them.

But I am reminded sometimes of how we, the Allies, behaved like Avenging Angels. The true purpose behind the bombing of the ancient towns of Germany or Japan has yet to be honestly addressed.

Mediaeval Konigsberg was one such, bombed in 1944. The historic districts of Altstadt, Löbenicht and Kneiphof was obliterated, with the dome, castle, university (old and new), the old quarter and all the churches blown away. So much of Europe's achievement was destroyed for little or no gain.
What a price to demand of our foes.

In those acts we, the victors, stand accused. 

Nor did it stop there.... 

Germany lost so much. Only through Google Earth did I come to fully realise that East Prussia was entirely stripped from the country. Indeed after 1945 Konigsberg became Kaliningrad, a wholly Russian Oblast, fully endorsed at Potsdam by Churchill, Roosevelt & Stalin. It is now as Russian as Moscow or Volga/Stalin-grad. It was ethnically cleansed. The entire surviving German population of more than 200,000 was forcibly expelled by the Russians in 1945/6 and the great city and its landscape was resettled by Russians, Byelorussians & Ukrainians. Today only some 0.6% of the people are of German  ethnicity

And its German heritage, the churches, great houses and villages, in the landscape for 700 years, crumble to dust. Such is the stuff of history.

 In the former German village of Mulden, now Russian Perelavo, the Lutheran village church stands abandoned & derelict - how very sad.

The former home of a Prussian landowner has no name.

There must be a deep wound in the German soul - to have lost so much.

But as I browse the thousands of pics on Google Earth I am suddenly presented with the grief of and for the common soldier - the tools of politician's weird Messianic visions.

The German army fought like lions to hold Konigsberg, to allow the evacuation of its women & children. In so doing it suffered horrendous casualties.

In a wood some miles south of Kaliningrad city, close to a ruined castle, there are these two crosses, with very German wreaths. On one is a rusting German helmet. Both crosses are new, made from a length of silver birch. There appear to be name tags. Who are these guys? Is it one of the mass graveyards ploughed over on Stalin's orders after 1945 or just a couple of guys who died for their mates & their country? Dunno.

But they are remembered. By grieving family? Or by ethnic Germans, some of the 0.6% honouring their country's dead? Or treasure seeking Russians?

I found this a deeply moving image.

Friday 26 November 2010

Millom & district men in South Africa

For some reason Millom and district has a number of  memorials to those who died in the Boer War. Why I wonder? It is a small town but it did have a huge iron mining & smelting industry in the 19th century and as a consequence of this and its relative isolation, a strong sense of community. Some 37 men from the district fought in South Africa & 9 died. Three of these have individual memorials at Whitbeck, Haverigg & Millom Holy Trinity.

However, the most impressive is that which stands outside the east end of St George's church in the town upon which are listed all nine fatalities.

The cross was unveiled on a sunny summer day in 1904. In so many ways these Boer War memorials set a precedent for 1918; the form, the elevation of the common man & the 'elevated rhetoric', a language of service & death, was soon to be ubiquitous.
The long talked of memorial erected in St. George’s Churchyard from a design of Mr. W. (sic) Collingwood of Coniston, and supplied by Mr. Miles, sculptor, Ulverston, at an estimated cost of £300, was unveiled this afternoon at 2 o’clock by Colonel Bain M.P. for this division.....
Well, ladies and gentlemen, we who live in this county of Cumberland, and especially we who reside in this immediate neighbourhood, are proud – naturally proud – to do honour to those brave me who did their duty, and there is something more than that. We appreciate, we admire, their brave deeds, their patriotic devotion, but what they did, giving their lives, will live after them. It will be a memory, it will be an example and an incentive to those who come after them, when the occasion arise, to do their duty as these brave men did..
An interested spectator at the unveiling ceremony to-day was Mr. Richard Hodge, aged 74 years, and late seaman on the “Agamemnon.” He had the distinction of wearing four medals, two for service in the Crimea, including Sebastopol, one for Abyssinia, and one for good conduct and long service, covering over 21 years. He is the father-in-law of Sergt.-Inst. Jones, of the local Volunteer Corps, and for a man of his years is remarkably well preserved and vigorous.
For the rest of the memorials, two are of men who fought in the same unit, at the same action.

At Haverigg church a large marble plaque commemorates John Park of Hemplands who was wounded at Faber Spruit on May 30th 1900 and died the following day.

At Whitbeck, below, some miles to the north of Millom, a very similar plaque describes John Crayston of Monk Foss who was killed in the same action and fighting with the same unit, The Westmorland & Cumberland Yeomanry.

Faber Spruit was a bit of a sideshow and the casualties largely a consequence of the tactical incompetence of the column's CO, General Sir Charles Warren.

As the main British offensive neared the Transvaal capital of Pretoria, other forces, 'colonial' and Imperial Yeomanry, pursued Boer forces in the northern and western Cape Colony. One of these columns halted on the evening of May 30 to wait for supplies at Faber's Put. The choice was not a good one, as a number of ridges within rifle range overlooked the farm buildings.

That evening, 600 Boers surrounded the position and a party crept past the British outposts. At dawn the Boers poured fire into the mounted infantry lines, killing men and scattering scores of horses. In the Canadian lines, next to the British, the gun detachments ran to their guns while the drivers harnessed the horses and led them to safety. It was still too dark to aim the guns, so the gunners lay prone beside them.

As the sun rose, a British unit recruited in South Africa counter-attacked, while the Yeomanry engaged the Boers at close range. Two Canadian nine-member gun teams manhandled two guns across a fire-swept field and brought them into action, losing one man killed and seven wounded in the process. The combination of the counter-attack and the artillery fire was too much for the Boers, who abandoned the battle. Although Warren claimed victory, down-playing the 27 killed, 41 wounded and the loss of a large number of horses, the engagement was, in fact, a defeat.

The third memorial is in Holy Trinity, Millom's ancient parish church that stands next to Millom Castle, the one-time seat of the Huddlestones. I think the plaque has been re-located here from Kirksanton, a small community near to Whitbeck that lost its church some years ago.

The plaque commemorates George Mason Park of the Royal Lancaster Regiment who was killed on Spion Kop. See here for a comprehensive description of the battle and its consequences. It was a bloody affair that left 1500 casualties including some 243 dead. In terms of the Great War an insignificant number but devastating in 1900.

The dead were buried in the trenches where they had fallen in such numbers.

The action at Spion Kop was largely fought by men of the north & its memory is kept alive at a number of football grounds that have stands named after it, most famously, perhaps, at Liverpool FC's ground.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Mary Kynaston Watts Jones @ Winster & Beatrix Potter

The first post I put on this blog a few years ago (!!) described the memorial at Winster, probably my favourite in south Cumbria. In spring the beautiful red sandstone cross stands in a carpet of wild daffodils. Stunning! Orginally it was much taller - how imposing it must have been - though it still is.

Unusually it is signed, by Mary Kynaston Watts-Jones (nee Potter) - her grave stands immediately behind her creation.

Known in the family as 'Dot' due to her diminutive size she died in 1951 aged 73 at Bannon Hey, Windermere. In 1903 she married her first cousin, Hector Lloyd Watts-Jones, a Captain in the Royal Navy (died Jan 1933 aged 61). She is further described on her gravestone as the daughter of Edmund Potter. 

One day when I was in the churchyard a local lady informed me that she was a relation of Beatrix Potter and I questioned what the relationship was, but she did not know. However, a family tree that has appeared online clarifies the position. Mary K was the daughter of Edmund Potter who was first cousin to Rupert Potter, Beatrix's father. So Mary K & B are second cousins. The Watts-Jones, Kynastons & Potters were all engaged in the Lancashire cotton industry in some manner and which made the family fortunes.

So there we have it ...

Mary was a sculptress & miniaturist, though I find no reference to her online or anywhere else easily accessible. However, an email correspondent sent me the following pic out of the Illustrated London News of July 19 1919.

I am unaware of whether this memorial was actually erected somewhere or whether Mary K W-J has any other memorials in the country.

I imagine she was called upon to design the Winster cross because she was living within the parish during the Great War, at Bowfell and she was a woman of some status -- well connected! Her grandfather & her husband's grandfather were both MPs and industrialists so she will have been well acquainted with the Holt & Higgin-Birkett families, both of whose son's names appear on the memorial and who will in turn have had some say within the community as men of property & influence. But that is not to detract from her evident skills as a designer and artist.

Sunday 21 November 2010

A hazardous operation

This blog owes a great deal to Mr Andy Moss; as I have researched memorials he has researched the names - at astonishing length! Some of the stories he has come up with are extraordinary.

I have barely covered Barrow memorials in either my researches or in this blog - a fact that I regret. But the probable numbers of them and the fact that all the churches and chapels in the town are locked makes the task rather daunting.

There are hundreds of names on Barrow's war memorials, specifically that in Barrow Park, the towns primary place of commemoration.

One name has a remarkable tale attached; that of Flying Officer (navigator) Alfred John Baythorp, RAFVR, who died on July 14, 1944 while flying aboard RCAF Handley Page Halifax JN 888 of 624 (Tiger) squadron out of Blida, North Africa. The aircaraft crashed high in the Pyrenees, above the town of Nistos, while engaged in the dropping of supplies to the French Resistance. 

624 was a special squadron that conducted clandestine operations over France, Yugoslavia, and other occupied countries in Europe. From its base in northern Algeria, it utilised the long range and large load capacity of the Halifax to drop weapons, ammunition, radios, supplies and agents to local resistance units. The details of flights by other crews provide further hints about the nature of the operations: 

"Not successful–incorrect reception at Panane;" "Not successful–no recognition at Diddle...;" "Successful at Accorduer–stores dropped; reception doused at other targets; nickels (leaflets) dropped;" and at Taille Crayon "Successful–15 agents and stores dropped."

Halifax JN 888 was piloted by PO Leslie Arthur Peers of Chatham, Ontario a married man of 27 and father of a young son. To fulfill their missions Peers had to fly at very low level and on the night of July 14, 1944 was flying over the peaks and forests of the Pyrenees peparing to drop supplies to a group of Maquis.

Let the Mayor of Nistos tell the story ...(left click mouse)

The men were buried in a clearing close to the crash site and after the war the CWGC decided that the bodies were too inaccessible to be recovered so they were left where they lay, on beds of French bracken. In 1994 the Canadians and the French built a permanent memorial garden which is maintained by local people who continue to have a great reverence for the men, who died for The Liberty of France.

Apart from Baythorp & Peers the other crew were as follows:

BROOKE, Sergeant JACK, 1451393. 624 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 14th July, 1944. The Runnymede Memorial.

CLARKE, Sergeant HARRY, 1592499. 624 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 14th July, 1944. Age 22. Son of Harry and Elsie Clarke, of Sheffield. The Runnymede Memorial.

GOBLE, Sergeant CHARLES SPENCER, 145381. 624 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 14th July, 1944. Age 21. Son of David and Clarice Alma Goble, of Portsmouth. The Runnymede Memorial.

WALSH, Sergeant JAMES EDWARD, 1652695. 624 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 14th July, 1944. Son of John and Ann Walsh; husband of Elsie May Walsh, of Grange, Cardiff. The Runnymede Memorial.

WHARMBY, Sergeant WILLIAM RONALD, 1248157. 624 Sqdn. Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. 14th July, 1944. Age 23. Son of William and Florence Wharmby; husband of Jessie Elizabeth Wharmby, of Bulwell, Nottinghamshire. The Runnymede Memorial. 

 The crew of RCAF Halifax JN 888.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Ireleth & Askam St Peter's

Grace recently asked for a pic of the memorial inside St Peter's parish church, Ireleth ... Here it is ...

Askam & Ireleth war memorial committee's initial proposals, were wildly over ambitious at a time of financial restraint (!sounds familiar!). Eventually the trustees, probably through the offices of the Reverend Ridley, approached Mowbray and Company of London, an established firm of church furnishers, requesting a design for a memorial plaque. This was produced and displayed in the window of Askam co-operative society’s shop in Duke Street through the course of September 1920. On October 4, a special parish vestry meeting was called to discuss the sanctioning ‘or otherwise’ of a faculty for the placing of the plaque on the south wall of the nave of St Peter’s parish church. In chairing the meeting the vicar noted that both the design and the suggested location of the memorial had ‘the sanction and support’ of the relatives of the named dead. The proposal for the faculty was unanimously accepted.

The memorial of cast bronze mounted on a pale cream marble slab was installed in the church by John Baxter Riley of Sea-View, Ireleth; undertaker, sexton, monumental mason, joiner and parish clerk. The plaque was formally unveiled on Sunday, March 19, 1921 by Captain J. M. Challinor, M.C., of  ‘Nether Close’, Ireleth. It cost something in excess of £150 of which £101.14s had been raised by public subscription up to that time.  Challinor was the son in law of Henry Mellon, chair of the war memorial committee.

Captain Johnson McMillan (Jack) Challinor was the son of Sam Challinor, the village doctor in the late 1800s. He had won the Military Cross serving with the King's Own Scottish Borderers at Hill 60 in 1915.

He was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during the Battle of St Julien on the 5th May, when the Battalion, part of a sorely depleted 13th Infantry Brigade, was ordered to retake a section of Hill 60 that had been retaken by the Germans. Two companies, 'C' and 'D' led the assault, but heavy fire forced them to retire to the trenches from which their attacks had been launched. However 2 platoons under the command of Lieutenant Challinor managed to gain a somewhat tenuous position, and stuck it out until only the officer and 3 men were left. This party only withdrew when the flanking forces were ordered to retire. He was promoted to Captain in May.

He  and his wife, Hilda, lost their son, Neil, to meningitis at new year 1919/20 when the boy was only 6 months old. He himself died in 1928 of heart failure, aged 41, and was buried in St Peter's churchyard.

Friday 29 October 2010

Lost memorial - Rampside

I was recently trawling through the archives, looking at old newspapers. After 1918 there are almost daily entries about war memorials; meetings, fund raising, proposals and unveilings. One very short article I came across was so very poignant.

Captain Birnie was Edward D'Arcy Birnie son of Isabella and Robert Birnie of Sycamore Terrace, High Harrington, Cumberland. He died of wounds aged 26 on March 22, 1918 while serving with the 8th Bn Border Regiment. Before being commissioned in November 1915 he served as sergeant, 845, with the 5th Borders. He was in France from October 26 1914.

His father, Robert, a Scot, was a Head Gamekeeper who in 1901 was living at Winscales, the community largely obliterated by the Nuclear Industry.

Edward was clearly a fine young officer ...

On December 8 1916 the London Gazette carried a notice of the award of the Military Cross to Temp- 2nd Lt E D'A Birnie, Borders ..
For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a successful bombing attack against an enemy strong point, himself killing at least 8 of the enemy.

Again, on July 23 1918, the London Gazette carried the report of the young acting-Captain's award of the Distinguished Service Order ...

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. When hard pressed by the enemy he led several counter attacks against their bombing parties, and for hours kept large forces of the enemy at bay. At one time he took up a position on the parapet,and (being a marksman) accounted for many of them with a rifle. Finally, when his position became untenable, he successfully withdrew his men. He displayed exceptional skill and courage in face of great odds.
So upon his death he got a memorial gate light from his young fiance, at Rampside, an isolated church above The Bay on the coast road outside Barrow in Furness.

Who was Miss Pollitt? There was a Pollitt family living at 85 Rampside in 1901.

Thomas, the head of the family, was a Hatter, Hosier and Gents outfitter. Although there is no young girl with a name starting 'M' living with the family at the time there is a Margaret Henrietta, born Barrow in 1894, staying with her Grandparents in Ulverston. Perhaps this is her.

Sadly there is no sign now of a gate light in the churchyard at Rampside today. And no doubt Miss Pollitt is herself long dead - as is the memory of her love of a young officer. But this post remembers it.

The Shap road - Skelsmergh

An iconic place in the the North is Shap, the old A6 that runs over the high fells between Kendal and Penrith. In former days, prior to the construction of the M6, it was the only western route up Britain often packed with vehicles nose to tail. In winter the road was regularly blocked with snow drifts, sometimes for days at a time. Lorry drivers and any others caught had to sleep in isolated farm houses or at the once legendary ' Jungle Caf', now merely a caravan retailers.

Coming south off Shap, a couple of miles north of Kendal, a church appears on a slight prominence. This is St John the Baptist, Skelsmergh, a chapel of 1869/71, built on an earlier site and close to a Holy well.

The entrance to the church is through an elegant lych gate - designed by John Flavel Curwen??

It has an Art-Deco feel about it.

The rafters bears an  inscription, 'Gate of Remembrance', that betrays its purpose as the primary parish memorial of the Great War.

Inside the church itself is one of the Oak Crosses that it seems were given to the parishes of his Westmorland constituency in 1916 by Colonel Weston JP, MP of Enyeat. Like at Crosthwaite and elsewhere it was placed in the churchyard as the wartime memorial, where families might nail a brass plaque with service details and date of death of their men and boys. 

The central brass bears a dedicatory inscription ...

Forget us not O land for which we fell
May it go well with England - Still go well
Keep Her bright banners without blot or stain
Lest we should dream that we had died in vain

The repousse copper plaque to the left carries Binyon's elegiac words,

They shall not grow old
As we that are left grow old ....

It is perhaps the 2nd World War Memorial.

Google Earth image of High Hesket

It is quite productive in terms of War Memorials to take a tour of Cumbrian villages via Google Earth, quite a number are plain to see. A typical image is that of the church and memorial at High Hesket on the old road between Carlisle & Penrith.

The chancel arch of the chapel is apparently of 12th/13th century date but the main body is probably 16th century. Many corpses were interred here following an outbreak of plague about 1530 and a chapel was erected or enlarged about the grave pits. What is seen now is largely Victorian.

The sundial bears a wonderful inscription, download image for a clear view;

The memorial is an example of the work of Beatties of Carlisle, a prolific provider in the north of the county. Note the signature sculpture of military items on the base ..

It bears the names 'In Proud and Affectionate Memory ...' of both Great War & Second War dead.

'They Rest From Their Labours'

Sadly the church was locked when I was passing but there is probably a roll inside.

Thursday 30 September 2010

A matter of status at Barbon.

I have made the point in other postings that many memorials of the Great War and earlier were unequivocal statements of status. In the post war years the class divide in the shires of England was still pretty rigid. There was a degree of social mobility, through education, plain hard graft or through marriage but most people still lived and died as they were born. At Barbon there are three memorials that stand as examples of this social divide and the ways in which families bridged it. Each make very different statements about 'their man'.

St Bartholomew's church lies at the the western end of lonely Barbondale, which itself leads to Dentdale and on into The Yorkshire Dales. It is a beautiful church of 1893, the best of Paley & Austin and always closely associated with the Kay-Shuttleworth family who had a house close by.

Inside are a number of windows, all except one (by Powell) being the work of Shrigley & Hunt of Lancaster. One of these is a memorial to Claude Gifford Jeffery, Captain, 2nd Bn Princess of Wales Own Yorkshire Rgt, killed on 24 October 1914 aged 34.

Jeffery was a regular soldier, he had joined the army in 1901 and served throughout the South African War. His unit landed at Zeebrugge on the 6th October 1914 as part of the BEF, the contemptible little army that Britain put into the field at the outbreak of war.On the 22 October he was wounded in the groin leading an attack near Becelaire, Belgium and died in hospital two days later. See here for more details.

The window was provided by his wife Nellie, nee Anketell-Jones, of Coldingham, Winchfield, Hants  whom Claude had only married in the early months of 1914. It depicts two allegorical classical figures; of Fortitude with spear and shield surrounded by oak leaves, & Pax bearing a lamb beneath a canopy of laurel. Above are the figures of the crucified Christ and a Madonna and child, perhaps in reality Nellie holding her and Claude's baby daughter. Captain Jeffery was of a middle class professional family,  'the middling sorts', as academics describe them. His father, Herbert, was a Bradford solicitor and public notary. His wife's family were probably minor Irish gentry.

The window is unpretentious and, lacking armorial or Latin inscription, it does not exclude the commonality. It is a simple statement describing the virtue of the man and sentiments of loss. Its middling status is in its existence; such windows did not come cheap. Only those having some wealth could afford even a relatively small window such as this. I don't know why it is here at Barbon.

The second memorial is altogether different. In the churchyard, to the east of the church there is an enclosed garden/cemetery plot. This is the private burial ground of the Kay-Shuttleworth family. See here for their full story. The Kays were a family of no great note but in 1842 James Kay, a self made Rochdale man, married Lady Janet Shuttleworth of Gawthorpe, sole heiress of an ancient Lancashire family. James assumed his wife's name and arms. Through ambition, hard work and astute mating he was now an elite.

Within this patch of ground are a considerable number of memorials and gravestones commemorating members of the extended family. At its centre is a stone cross.

Around the side of the pedestal on which it stands are carved the names of Captain the Hon. Lawrence Ughtred Kay-Shuttleworth, 'D' Battery, 11 Brigade, RFA and Temp Captain the Hon. Edward James Kay-Shuttleworth, Rifle Brigade. Lawrence married Selina Adine Bridgeman, grandaughter of the 4th Earl of Bradford and was killed near Vimy on 30 March 1917. Edward - Eton & Balliol - married Sibell Eleanor Maud, daughter of  Chas RW Adeane of Babraham Hall, Cambs, a family related by marriage to many of the higher nobility. He died at home and was buried here at Barbon. Both men were Barristers.

The memorial is quite subdued but there was no requirement for ostentation. The family effectively owned the village, their status was taken for granted and well understood. Even so the cross has its Latin, speaking only to the educated, and its position in an extensive and private family plot proclaims the exclusivity of the named dead.

Third and last is an aspirational brass plaque erected in memory of Thomas Arthur Airey. A difficult memorial to photograph even with Rod's camera!

At the top, within a border of laurel, is the cap badge of 1/14 London Regiment, London Scottish. Beneath this is the inscription;

In Loving Memory Of
T. Arthur Airey, aged 21 Years
Exhibitioner of Christ's College, Cambridge
Serving with the 1st Batt London Scottish
Killed in Action at Gommecourt July 1st 1916
Only son of Thomas and Fanny Airey of Moorthwaite, Barbon

                                          Nothing but well and fair
          And what may comfort us in a death so noble

Mea Gloria Fides

Young Thomas Airey died in the mass slaughter of the 'diversionary attack' at Gommecourt on the First Day of The Somme. He has no known grave.

When I first discovered this memorial I read it, took notes and moved on thinking sad thoughts about this young Officer. Only later did it dawn on me that there is no mention of rank. Thomas Arthur was in fact a private soldier but the memorial with its quote from Milton, use of Latin - My glory assured - and description of scholastic achievement is that of an educated elite, an Officer. It excluded the uneducated commonality.

Thomas senior was a farmer and grain merchant. Moorthwaite is a comfortable but modestly unpretentious Edwardian family house on the edge of the village. His grandfather, however, was simply a hill farmer. The family had, through hard work, risen in the world, they had become middling sorts. Young Thomas attended Kirby Lonsdale Grammar School, where his name is on the War Memorial, and there obtained a scholarship to Cambridge. Had he survived he may have joined the Shuttleworths as a Barrister, married into the gentry or lesser nobility and have thus achieved elite status. His memorial, clearly thought thro' by proud and devastated parents, retrospectively looked forward to this.

For the rest of Barbon there is also a marble plaque in the church but I lack a decent photo of it. In the centre of the village a cross, designed by Paley, has a wonderful and uncompromising dedication!

The cross was unveiled on October 1, 1921.

Sunday 19 September 2010

Quaker War Memorial from Wigton!

I guess the idea of a Quaker war memorial seems a bit odd - but two have turned up and one, a chair, has come to a temporary rest at Swarthmoor Hall while a permanent home is found.

The memorials were at Brookfield School, Wigton, a Quaker school founded in 1815. The premises were originally at Highmoor and moved to Brookfield in 1827. The school closed in 1984 and passed out of Quaker hands. It was presumably at this time that the memorials were removed, I believe, to Wigton Meeting House.

The chair bears a plaque naming the old boys of Brookfield School who died between 1939 - 45.

The men named:

Rowland S Armstrong is named on the CWGC website as Roland Scott Armstrong, son of George Lee & Margaret of Carlisle. He was posted 'missing believed killed' aged 22 as an Acting Sub Lt RNVR, 854 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, flying Avenger IIs on January 29, 1945 while serving aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious. The carrier was part of Force 63 making a raid on Soengi Gerong oil refineries near Palembang. Casualties were incurred by stray anti aircraft shells fired by HMS Euryalus which was engaging Japanese Kamikaze attacks. 11 were killed and 22 wounded. Was Rowland one of these or was he killed while flying?

Edward Coward is probably Edward Mason Coward, First Radio Officer, Merchant Marine. The only man of this name on the CWGC Register died serving aboard the SS Traveller of Liverpool on January 26, 1942 aged 20. She was torpedoed by U106 in the North Atlantic with the loss of 50 lives.

113798 Selby Greenop, Flight Lt, RAFVR, son of Harold & Janet Greenop of Carlisle. Selby was killed on November 7, 1944 in one of the many forgotten tragedies of the war when Landing Ship Tank 420 carrying No 1 Base Signals & Radar Unit to France hit a mine off Oostende. 14 Officers & 224 other ranks were lost; just 31 men survived. The unit was wiped out. Selby is buried at Oostende New War Cemetery. LST 427 is seen below, they carried huge amounts but sank like stones.

Leutenant Stanley Learmouth Haydock, RN, died aboard the Portsmouth destroyer HMS Acasta on June 8, 1940 aged 25. He was the son of Hugh & Isabel Haydock of Upminster. The Acasta was lost off Norway while sailing with HMS Glorious, see here for a posting about the terrible events of that day.

23 year old Flying Officer Gordon Noble Leach, RAFVR, was piloting Stirling LK 502 on a night photo training mission from RAF Wigsley on May 27, 1944. The plane developed Engine trouble and crashed at Cliffe Park, Rudyard, Leek, Staffs. Four crew were killed, four survived. Gordon was the son of James and Janet Noble Leach of Newcastle on Tyne. He was cremated at Newcastle Crematorium. This is the crash site.

927407 John Watson Leathes, aged 31, served in India as a Serjeant with 51 Battery, 69 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery. He died of unknown cause on November 1, 1944 and is now buried at Kirkee War Cemetery, nr Poona.

George Robertson & David Smith must, for the present, remain anonymous. Their names are too common to be easily identified.

Many Quakers struggled with their consciences at the outbreak of WW2. Though committed to pacifism Hitler was sufficiently bad news for some to put this principal to one side. Others did not. There is no way that I can easily ascertain how many of the men were Friends and how many simply attended the school as non Quakers.

I have just had the following email:

The chair was made by Stanley W Davies (see Wikipedia) for the Old Scholars Association of the Friends' School Wigton shortly after the war. I was a younger pupil at the same time as some of  people commemorated.George S Robertson was a pupil from 7/1934 to 12/1939 and served in the RAF. He was the elder son of  Robertsons who were the foremost bakery firm in Carlisle. David Smith is recorded in the School history as coming from Low Fell.  He was a pupil from 5/1933 to 7/1937. Unfortunately I do not have any information about which service he was in. I hope this may be of some use in identifying them.

There is a WW1 memorial in the form of an oak plaque presently in the Meeting House at Wigton. The building is shortly to be sold and the plaque will be removed to Ackworth School.

As a consequence of receiving this email Robertson can now be identified as 1821069 Sergeant (Air Gunner) George Smith Robertson RAF Volunteer Reserve, 106 Squadron. A Lancaster in the Squadron's markings is seen here.

Robertson was killed on 31st March 1944 in the great raid on Nuremberg.

... This would normally have been the moon stand-down period for the Main Force, but a raid to the distant target of Nuremberg was planned on the basis of an early forecast that there would be protective high cloud on the outward route, when the moon would be up, but that the target area would be clear for ground-marked bombing. A Meteorological Flight Mosquito carried out a reconnaissance and reported that the protective cloud was unlikely to be present and that there could be cloud over the target, but the raid was not cancelled.

795 aircraft were dispatched - 572 Lancasters, 214 Halifaxes and 9 Mosquitos. The German controller ignored all the diversions and assembled his fighters at 2 radio beacons which happened to be astride the route to Nuremberg. The first fighters appeared just before the bombers reached the Belgian border and a fierce battle in the moonlight lasted for the next hour. 82 bombers were lost on the outward route and near the target. The action was much reduced on the return flight, when most of the German fighters had to land, but 95 bombers were lost in all - 64 Lancasters and 31 Halifaxes, 11.9 per cent of the force dispatched. It was the biggest Bomber Command loss of the war.