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Sunday 13 June 2010

Great Gable

Pretty impressive place, the Lake District. Had a drive out yesterday to reconnect with the fells after two weeks with my daughter in Pompey; Hampshire is a very different, more gentle landscape. Up here the hills are magnificent. Among the better known is the pyramid of Great Gable at the head of Wasdale.

It really is an impressive lump of rock, owned by the National Trust and a War Memorial!

Every year people make their way to the summit on Remembrance Sunday for a service and to lay crosses and wreaths around a bronze plaque at the summit.

The plaque was designed by William Gershon Collingwood and depicts the hills around Great Gable in relief. It was unveiled on Saturday June 8, 1924 by Dr Wakefield, President of The Fell & Rock Climbing Club of Great Britain to the memory 20 of its members who were killed in the Great War. Great Gable lay at the centre of a huge swathe of central Lakeland that the club had bought and given to the National Trust as a memorial.

It was a typical Cumbrian summer day, thick mist and driving rain but even so some 500 - 600 people were on the summit. The dedication was read by the Quaker, Geoffrey Winthrop Young of Heversham and Cartmel who lost a leg as second in command of a (French) Friend's Ambulance Unit based at Dunkirk. He had been in France from the last day of October 1914. The article in The Times describing the unveiling can be seen below - click to open.

What an amazing view from the summit! If you're looking at this from the US of A, Canada or anywhere else - come and take a look!

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Lt John Arnold Archibald, Rusland

There is an awful loneliness and sadness about war memorials. Names appear that once made a person; someone loved and cared for, with a life of joy and love and sadness. And now, in 2010, they are simply letters etched onto brass, bronze, wood or stone - long forgotten outside of family and if of no family then mere ghosts of men. Thus it is a strange but edifying pursuit to build up a picture around a name, to rebuild the story of a man's life, however incomplete.

Lakeland is largely a land of valleys, some better known than others. One of the lesser known is the Rusland Valley, running up from The Bay towards Grizedale and the southern fells. Some way up is the parish church where are buried Arthur Ransome of Swallows & Amazons fame and also the wife & son of George Romney the 18th century society painter.

The church has three memorials, an illuminated Roll, a kneeler bearing the names of two parish men who died 1914-18 and a brass plaque commemorating Lt John Arnold Archibald, Croix de Guerre, 11th Bn ANZAC.

He appears to have a strange story that I cannot complete but documents on the Australian War Memorial website allow a glimpse of the man.

John Arnold Archibald was born on 24 August 1892 in Taloumbi, New South Wales. In his youth he attended Scotch College, Perth and Claremont Teacher Training College, WA, where he qualified as a teacher. After serving as a 2nd Lt in the Cadet Force he joined the Australian Army as 137, 'G' Company, 11th Bn AIF, on August 24, 1914, his 22nd birthday giving an address at The Railway Hotel, Kilgoorlie where his next of kin & brother, O A Archibald, was also living ... and here it is!

The day after joining he was promoted Corporal and in November Lance Sergeant.

The 11th Battalion embarked for Egypt in December 1914. At Gallipoli it formed part of the 3rd Brigade which was the covering force for the ANZAC landing on 25 April 1915 and so was the first ashore at around 4:30 am. Archibald was shot in the right shoulder on this day and evacuated to Malta. He rejoined his unit at Gallipoli on June 20th. In August the Bn made preparatory attacks at the southern end of the ANZAC position before the battle of Lone Pine and Archibald was commissioned as 2nd Lt.

This extraordinary image available from the Australian online archives shows the trenches at Quinn's Post, Anzac Cove, Gallipoli. John Arnold Archibald is the Officer just visible on the right hand side of the picture. The soldier in the foreground is Cpl HM Longmire & the other man is Cpl HA Goodall.

In April 1916 Archibald returned to Australia with septic poisoning. On 7th August 1916 he embarked at Freemantle for France aboard HMAT Militiades with the 19th reinforcement detachment of the 11th Bn. Around this time a group photo was taken of the unit's Officers. Archibald in 7th from left on the middle row. He was promoted to full Lt on November 21 1916.

The reinforcements were shipped to France to make up for the appalling losses suffered by the Australians at Pozieres on the Somme.

In August 1917 at Ypres Archibald was Mentioned in Anzac Orders - in October he suffered a gunshot wound.

Archibald was again recommended for an award in August 1918 - as a consequence of which he was Mentioned in Despatches.

A final recommendation in September 1918 led to the award of the Croix de Guerre.

Archibald was hospitalised for dysentrey at Gallipoli and wounded on three occasions before receiving 'multiple wounds' on 23rd September 1918. He died the following day. Upon his death he left his estate to his Mother, Clara Amelia Archibald of 99a Freyburg St, Lyall Bay, New Zealand and Otway St, Osborne, Charles Falcon Archibald, his sister Lilian Jackson, 2 Blenheim St, NSW and others. Many of the Archibald clan are buried at Rusland but I fail to make the connection between Aus & South Lakes!

Lt Archibalds full service record can be viewed here

Les Poilu

My daughter has just returned from some months teaching English at the old town of Riom near Clermont Ferrand, France. While there she haunted the local flea market and on Christmas morning I received a great little pressie, the result of her rooting about. It was a box of glass plate negatives of people and places in the Auvergne around the time of the Great War.

One of the best images is of this group of Poilu of the 261st Regiment. How many of these brave Frenchmen survived Verdun? Who were the 261st Regiment?

Maybe one of the guys was married to this pretty lady and father to her young daughter. Who are they?

The French losses in the War were staggering, 1,397,800 combatants plus some 300,000 civilians; about 4.27% of the population. How did these people taking a stroll on the hills above Clermond Ferrand deal with their loss?

French memorials are pretty much Gallic versions of Cumbrian memorials; the soldier, victorious marching into a world of peace or the small stone in the village square with a list of names.

The differences are in the number of names, far more in France, plus the addition of civilian dead. An added difference in many instances is the addition of the names of resistance fighters, shot by the Germans between 1940-45. The Countryside is littered with such small memorials. French memorials often have shells and other, similar hardware.


One of the best bits of blogging is when people get in touch and provide snippets of information.

I recently received a series of snapshots dating from 1931 showing the Johnson family in and around Ireleth and Askam. The first images, below, show the family outside the Railway Inn and then standing around in Dale St. The lady holding the coat is Elizabeth Johnson, nee Holmes.

This delightful pic shows Mabel Johnson standing beside the recently unveiled War Memorial.

The darkness of the name panel suggests that the gilded letters of the names of the dead remained unweathered. It also suggests that the wreath and cross may have been partially gilded. The gold leaf was provided by the architect free gratis.

The final image is of the Johnson family on Askam Railway Station. They have put their coats on, it must have got cold!