Search results for Illustrated Article.

Major 'Alastair' Soutar, M.C.

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One of the well known 'classic' accounts of the First World War is 'Twelve Days' published in 1933 (and more recently republished as 'Twelve Days on the Somme') by Sidney Rogerson, an officer on the staff of 23 Infantry Brigade (part of the 8th Division). Less well known is his second book, about his experiences in May 1918 on the Aisne. This accou…


'From Private to Major via the Foresters Arms': The life, death and rediscovery of Octavius Darby-Griffith, MC

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British visitors to the south of France will often take the A26 'Autoroute des Anglais' out of Calais. Some 140 miles down this autoroute, they will see on a prominent hill to the right the towers of the medieval cathedral at Laon. Some may turn off the autoroute to pay a visit, others will press on towards Rheims and further south. If the opportu…


The Battle of the Selle, October 1918

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The Battle of the Selle, October 1918 The Centralisation of Command Sir Douglas Haig always believed in the judgement of the man on the spot, but after the losses to the BEF during the actions of 1914 and 1915, the BEF was ‘deskilled' in this judgement process during the build up to the Battle of the Somme of 1916. The lack of experienced comma…


Henry May VC : October 1914

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Henry May VC was one of five servicemen to win a VC on the Western Front in October 1914 and will have a commemorative paving stone dedicated to his memory at a ceremony to be held in the City of Glasgow on or around 22 October 2014. His stone will be the second one laid to a Glasgow VC, the one of Capt Harry Sherwood Ranken being the first. Both m…


The First Tanks at Elveden by David Fletcher

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Drive up the A11, through Suffolk, as if you are heading for Thetford in Norfolk and if you can take your eyes off the road for a moment you will see the massive US Air Force base at Mildenhall, on the left. Then, you will see, sticking up above the trees, the tall War Memorial, commissioned by Lord Iveagh to commemorate those from the three adjace…


Pension Record Cards and Ledgers: some examples of dependents' cards

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Just part of one load of the records being transferred to the WFA's storage facility. Three HGVs were eventually required to complete the transfer. One of the numerous types of record that comprises The Western Front Association Pension Record Card and Ledger Archive is a 'run' of about one million cards representing soldiers, sailors and airmen…


Understanding the Ledger Indexing

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This article aims to set out some of the technical aspects of the indexing of - and subcategories that make up - the 'ledgers' in The Western Front Association's collection of Pension Record Cards. These ledgers have been scanned and digitised by our partner, Ancestry.co.uk and are available on their fold3 website. These are now available for WFA…


The Heilsberg 39: A New British First World War Cemetery in Poland

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Between August and December 1918 a number of British Prisoners of War died at Heilsberg Prisoner of War camp in the east of Germany. It is likely their deaths were a result of insufficient food, overwork or one of the diseases that often swept through these overcrowded and insanitary camps. Conditions in Germany at this time were harsh. Food was sc…


Pension Records: Famous, Infamous, Extraordinary and Ordinary

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The Western Front Association's Pension Record Card and Ledger archive which has been published online by Ancestry is a magnificent set of never-seen before material which massively helps those looking for 'Great Uncle Bill' to not track down their relative but also put a little bit of extra information on the serviceman's story. It has been said …


Biggles’ Last Flight: the flying career of Captain WE Johns

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This piece originally appeared in the 100th edition of the WFA's landmark print journal 'Stand To!' The author has enhanced this digital version to include links and more photographs. To read back copies of Stand To! online, members will need to go to the Login page Biggles, as many readers will know, was a fictional character created by William …


'In the event of my death': An analysis of what can be gleaned from soldiers wills

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During 2013, David Tattersfield, a trustee of The Western Front Association, provided First World War historical advice to HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), part of the Ministry of Justice. The reason for this advice being sought from the WFA relates to a project to make available online 277,450 wills of soldiers who were killed between the …


'One Hell of a Row': A War widow's pension

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Grandfather was killed 7 weeks before the end of the First World War.  His immediate family, that is his wife and three sons, never knew how nor where.  Neither did they know he was commemorated on Panel 5 of the Memorial Wall at Tyne Cot Cemetery.  This we had from two of his sons, our Father and his brother, our Uncle Tom.  Towards the end of the…


Finding Great Uncle George

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The following message from David Jenkins relates to the way the Pension Records can help find 'missing' relatives who were thought to have served in the First World War. As a First World War genealogist I must say a big thank you to you and your organisation for the work that you have put into getting the Pension Ledger records made available …


The Loss of the Britannic : 21 November 1916

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Some years ago there was much publicity around the 100th anniversary of the loss of the RMS Titanic, which sank in April 1912 after striking an iceberg. What is less well know is that the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic was also lost during the course of the First World War on 21 November 1916. Britannic was almost identical to the Titanic, m…


Drunk as a Lord? The dismissal and redemption of Lord Edward Seymour

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Cambrai - Attack and stalemate The British attack at Cambrai on 20 November 1917 is well known for the mass-use of tanks for the first time. This operation, initially highly successful, was originally intended to be little more than a large-scale raid, but evolved into a much more ambitious affair. Whilst the use of tanks has made this action famo…


New Year's Day 1915: The unknown 'Battle of Broken Hill'

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Whilst the vast majority of First World War actions took place in France and Belgium, there were other theatres of war in which British and Commonwealth soldiers and sailors fought. These so called ‘side shows’ in obscure theatres of war took place in many different countries, from Turkey (the Gallipoli Campaign) to off the coast of Chile (the Batt…


Battle of the Falklands 1914

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 “We landed to bury our dead.  The dignified memorial service in Port Stanley Cathedral, and the sight of four boy buglers of Invincible, with tears streaming down their cheeks, blowing the Last Post over the graves of their comrades, are imperishable memories.”  Thus wrote Lloyd Hirst who, as Assistant Paymaster in HMS Glasgow, was one of the of…


The world’s largest pre-atomic explosion: Halifax Harbour 1917

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Not all fatalities that occurred in the First World War were as a direct result of enemy action. There are many examples of incidents and accidents throughout the Great War that resulted in injury, loss of life or damage to property. Perhaps the most significant of these accidents is surprisingly also one of the least well known – even to this day.…


We Rest Below the Waves

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Stoker 1st Class Herbert Allcorn had already served five years in the Royal Navy and was on Reserve when he was called back to duty in 13 July 1914 as there was a possibility of England going to war and drafted to the armoured cruiser HMS Good Hope. His ship carried a complement of 900 crew and was powered by 43 coal fired Belleville boilers capabl…


Medo and Mbalama Hill, Portuguese East Africa, 12 - 24 April 1918

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In late November 1917 Colonel Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck and his men crossed the Rovuma River from German territory into Portuguese East Africa (today named Mozambique). The Schutztruppe was now a carefully selected force of about 300 Europeans, 1,700 Askari and 3,000 followers. The British did not directly pursue the Germans because supply lines, dep…


Zeppelins Over Norfolk

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The First World War was a conflict of many firsts. While the Great War saw the debut of mass public recruitment as well as the implementation of tank warfare, it was also the first time heavier-than-air flying machines had been used in a military offensive. As German airships attacked the east coast of Britain in January 1915, it was civilian targe…


The discovery and identification of the Beaucamps Ligny Fifteen : October 1914

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In the autumn of 2009, during excavation work for a building project, human remains were discovered between the villages of Radinghem and Beaucamps Ligny in northern France. The discovery was made near a road junction about four miles southeast of Bois-Grenier and seven miles northeast of La Bassée. This area had fallen into German hands shortly af…


A training exercise goes horribly wrong: The tragedy at Gainsborough, 19 February 1915

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At the turn of the last century the Heavy Woollen area of the West Riding of Yorkshire, centred around Dewsbury, was a hive of industrial activity, specialising in the production of heavyweight cloth. One of the main activities in the town was the production of Shoddy and Mungo - this involved the recycling of wool from rags. In 1860, the adjoining…


The British Route to War

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Britain's entry into the Great War is far more complex than the reason for the country embarking on the Second World War. The following factors were mentioned by Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Secretary) in Parliament on the eve of war:[1] "Present Balkan Crisis" (ie assassination) Moroccan crisis Friendship with France Possible risk to (French) c…


'Rikki' Little: Australia's Greatest Ace

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As the ‘Camel’ pilot approached dark shape in the gloom of the late May evening, he recognised it as a Gotha bomber – one of those that had been reported in the area that evening. Captain Robert Little - ‘Rikki’ to his comrades at 203 Squadron - could make out enough of the enemy machine in the moonlight to be confident that he would be able to bri…


One of the last true cavalry charges: The Charge of The Dorset Yeomanry at Agagia, Western Desert, 26 February 1916

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Britain's declaration of war on Turkey on 5 November 1914 created a threat to the Suez Canal, a vital artery of the British Empire. Whilst the main threat to the Canal came from the east (across the Sinai desert) the Turks and their German allies recognised that a threat to the British from the west could assist their ambitions of cutting off the S…


The VC that never was: Colonel Souter's gallantry against the Senussi, 1916

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Colonel Hugh Maurice Wellesley Souter was born in India in 1872. Originally commissioned into the Manchester Regiment, he joined the 14th Murray's Jat Lancers (of the Indian Army) in 1896, and served in the Tibetan Campaign of 1903-4, being mentioned in dispatches. Photo: Lt-Col Souter In the First World War Souter served in France, Belgium, Ga…


Escape from the Desert : October 1915

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This article could almost be taken from a 'Boy's Own' story of Great War adventures. It features a daring raid by one of the world’s richest men to rescue a group of sailors whose ship had been torpedoed and who had been handed over to a group of North African tribesmen, by whom they were held in deplorable conditions for over four months. At the …


The Battle of Dogger Bank : January 1915

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The naval arms race between Britain and Germany had, in the early years of the 20th Century, been a major contribution to the increasing tensions in Europe. On the outbreak of the First World War it was uncertain how the Imperial German Navy would be used. Would the Germans challenge the British in the hope of eliminating the Royal Navy's superiori…


The loss of HMS Bulwark : 26 November 1914

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Losses of life in the First World War are more often than not attributed to engagements in battle or enemy action of some sort. However, this is not always the case. One of the most significant events during the early part of the war that caused a major loss of life to military personnel was an accident. HMS Bulwark was part of the 5th Battle Squa…


Two men with five names: The Curious Case of Cornelius Costello

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The image of the headstone below, which is in Dover (St James's) Cemetery, is perhaps not terribly unusual. It names an unknown sailor of HMS Glatton and another sailor - Cornelius Costello who 'served as' a stoker on HMS Glatton. The headstone is somewhat odd in that it does not give the name that Costello served under - this is revealed by his en…


The (other) man who shot down the Red Baron

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By far the most famous ‘ace’ of the Great War was Manfred Albrecht von Richthofen, popularly known during the war in Germany as Der Rote Kampfflieger (The Red Battle Flyer). Above: Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron.  By late winter of 1917 von Richthofen was already one of the leading German fighter pilots, having shot down no fewer than tw…


The Coldstream Guards and Irish Guards at Cuinchy 1915

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Cuinchy is a village astride the La Bassée Canal and is referred to by Robert Graves in his classic memoir Goodbye to All That: 'Cuinchy bred rats. They came up from the canal, fed on the plentiful corpses, and multiplied exceedingly. While I stayed here with the Welsh, a new officer joined the company... When he turned in that night, he heard a s…


The Battle of the Boar's Head

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Lord Kitchener's famous call for volunteers 'Your Country Needs You' resulted in an overwhelming response with hundreds of thousands of men stepping forward. This has often been portrayed as a north of England phenomena. The roots of this misconception may be as a result of the attack made at Serre on 1 July 1916 by 'pals' battalions from Accringto…


The Chatsworth Rifles raid at Richebourg

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An ideal way to obtain an understanding of the First World War is through reading the memoirs of those who served in the conflict. Examples of these are numerous, Goodbye to All That (Robert Graves, 1929) and Old Soldiers Never Die (Frank Richards, 1933) are well known, but not so There’s a Devil in the Drum (John Lucy, 1938). All of these were fir…


Aubers Ridge 9 May 1915: The Unpleasant Truth

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For it appears ridiculous to call it so, the 'battle' of Aubers Ridge fits perfectly the stereotypical vision of the British in the Great War: men cut down in their thousands for little or no gain, with only the bravery of the men offering any kind of distraction from the scale of the disaster. Although largely fought by units of the old pre-war r…


The Execution of the 'Iron Twelve'

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The early weeks of the First World War saw the Germans advancing across most of Belgium and large parts of northern France, although these mobile conditions were not to last as static trench warfare started to be the norm by the middle of September. During these first weeks of 'open warfare' the Allies were generally in full retreat and this led to…


'Aces Low': The Wimbledon Champion at Aubers

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In the years leading up to the First World War, one of the most famous sportsmen of the Edwardian era was Anthony (Tony) Wilding. An excellent all-round sportsman, Wilding had been born in New Zealand but returned to England in 1902 (from where his parents had emigrated) in order to study with the intention of making a career in the law. He visite…


Absolution at Aubers : May 1915

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Although the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915 had given grounds for optimism, in the weeks following this battle,  the Allies had been frustrated in their plans. First of all, the Gallipoli landings had not gone to plan, and stalemate was setting in on this front. Virtually simultaneously to the amphibious attack in the Dardanelles, the Germa…


The Baron and the Barmaid

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Sir John French, the commander-in-chief of the BEF until December 1915 was one of the many Anglo-Irish who served in the British Army in the Victorian and Edwardian period. Sir John's family was related to the French/De Freyne family which had settled in County Wexford in the fourteenth century. A distant cousin of Sir John's was Arthur, the 4th Ba…


The first footballer killed in 1914: Larrett Roebuck of Huddersfield Town

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Huddersfield Town full-back Larrett Roebuck was the first professional footballer from the English Leagues to be killed in the First World War. This is his story... Larrett Roebuck was born at Jump, near Barnsley, in South Yorkshire, on 27 January 1889. By 1901 the Roebuck family had moved to Rotherham and were living in Barker's Yard, off the m…


General Maude and the Recapture of Kut

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With temperatures ranging from freezing to 130ºF (50ºC) the campaign in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) was undertaken in one of the most inhospitable climates imaginable. Despite being a side-show to the main battles of the First World War in France and Belgium, the Mesopotamian campaign lasted virtually the entire period of the war. A mission had …


The 1/7th Royal Scots and the Quintinshill Rail Disaster : 25 May 1915

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At the time of the First World War, Britain had a large number of railway companies each owning varying amounts of track and junctions. Often the point where companies’ tracks met became bottlenecks. One such junction was on the English-Scottish border at Gretna. In order to alleviate difficulties, a set of loops, sidings and signal boxes were cons…


Royal Automobile Club Volunteer Force 1914

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In August 1914 the British Expeditionary Force embarked for France and was considered the most professional army ever to have left these shores. Also on board one of the many vessels leaving, the SS Gloucester Castle, were twenty five civilian motorists and their cars, all members of the Royal Automobile Club. Above: The Royal Automobile Club, …


The Easter Rising - Dublin 1916

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The Battles of the First World War took place in many countries and across various continents - from China to Lake Tanganyika in Africa; from off the coast of Chile to the files of France and Flanders. While these battles were being fought overseas, in April 1916 a rebellion broke out in one of the principle cities of the British Isles.  Prior to …


The golden locket, the hidden grave and the forgotten soldier : Ireland April 1916

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On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, as the independent Irish Republic was being declared from the steps of the General Post Office in Sackville Street (now O' Connell St), Dublin, Ireland, a young British army officer was preparing to go on duty. Lieutenant Guy Vickery Pinfield was twenty-one years old and was a rugby-playing, former student of Cambr…


The Final Whistle: Rosslyn Park - a Rugby Club at War

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This is the story of fifteen men and more from one London rugby club who answered the call to arms in the Great War; they did not live to hear the final whistle that ended the game. Their history begins with their names lost in mystery. Rosslyn Park Rugby Club was established in 1879, the year that some British soldiers died and others won Victoria…


The Battle of the Bees

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The First World War was a global conflict. Although the vast majority of the fighting took place in France and Belgium, there were countless further battles fought in other parts of the world. In November 1914, one of the more obscure of these battles, characterised by a run-in with a series of beehives, took place in East Africa. Although large …


The Advance Beyond Kilimanjaro German East Africa (now Tanzania), March 1916

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Whilst the 2nd East African Division under Major General M J Tighe prepared to fight the battle of Latema-Reata Nek, General Smuts also had other formations on the move in early 1916. From the north Indian Army Brigadier General J M Stewart's 1st East African Division advanced from Longido with the task of blocking any German withdrawal along the M…


Official correspondence following a death in the Great War – Private Cornelius Hayes, Cheshire Regiment

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The improved availability of online records has made tracing of the life and service of a Great War soldier relatively easy compared to the situation only a few years ago. The records available from free and commercial websites include Medal Roll Index Cards, for every soldier who served overseas.  The Campaign Medal and Silver War Badge Rolls …


‘The Women of Westfield - picking up the pieces after the First World War’

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Dr Martin Purdy (Lancs and Cheshire WFA branch) recently managed a Heritage Lottery funded project at the Westfield War Memorial Village Lancaster as part of the 'Then and Now' funding stream available for WWI related undertakings. It culminated in this short documentary. ‘The Women of Westfield - picking up the pieces after the First World War’ l…


A Farewell to the Army Service Corps: The story of 'another' Ernest on the Piave

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Many of those with a passing interest in the First World War may be familiar with the semi-autobiographical account 'A Farewell to Arms' written by Ernest Hemingway which was first published in 1929. This tells the story of the activities of a soldier of the American Red Cross (in effect a thinly disguised Hemingway) on the Italian front in 1917-18…


11 April 1918 : Pte Jack Whiteley

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Youngest of five children and of three boys: William and Allen and then Jack.  Parents, Fenton (a foreman at a woollen cloth manufacturer) and Ann Elizabeth (née Relsish), at the time of her son’s death his mother was living at 273 Scout Hill, Dewsbury. At the 1911 Census, the family of seven lived in a 4 roomed dwelling in Ravensthorpe. Jack's…


Lewes War Memorial by Dr Graham Mayhew

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Erected in 1922, following a design competition judged by the Slade Professor of Fine Art at Cambridge University, Lewes War Memorial stands twenty-seven feet high in the middle of Lewes High Street, at the top of School Hill. Its Portland Stone obelisk is topped by a bronze winged victory looking straight down the hill. At its foot are two more …


‘Kitchener of Khartoum’ and HMS Hampshire : 5 June 1916

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Within Lyness Royal Naval Cemetery, on the Island of Hoy on the Orkney Islands, is a memorial to the officers and men who were lost on board HMS Hampshire; in addition to the memorial (pictured below) are the graves of 123 men of the Royal Navy who died on 5 June 1916 when the Hampshire went down. For those who regularly visit Commonwealth War Grav…


Rex Warneford and the downing of LZ37

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Zeppelin raids on London had started as early as January 1915 when towns in North Norfolk came under attack. Although this first raid was misdirected and caused minimal damage the fact that an attack had been made encouraged the German Kaiser to authorise further raids. For various reasons many of these attempts in early 1915 failed, and it was not…


The Liverpool Scottish at Bellewaarde

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This article is intended to briefly tell the story of one not particularly well known action that took place on 16 June 1915. The starting point in the story is this photograph.   Taken near Hooge, a photo of the first attack on Bellewaarde Farm by the Liverpool Scottish, 6 am, 16 June 1915. Photo by Private F.A. Fyfe, 'Z' Company, 1/10th King's …


The Battle of the Somme - A Royal Flying Corps perspective

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On 1st July 1916, the Battle of the Somme opened. With 60,000 casualties (including 20,000 dead) on the first day, this battle continues to fascinate and appal in equal measure. One aspect of the Battle of the Somme which is less well covered than others is that of the airmen who flew over the area during the summer and autumn of 1916, and later in…


Leonard Maidment: missing, found, now remembered

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As Serjeant Leonard Maidment nervously waited in the pre-dawn gloom of the morning of 20 July 1918 preparing for his first combat on the Western Front, his thoughts would have turned to his family, safe at home in Andover. His father, Edward and mother, Bessie would be oblivious to the fact that Leonard’s battalion, the 2/4th Hampshire Regiment, wa…


The day my family came

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The 20th August 2013 was a hot day. Probably not as hot as the 20th July 1918. Despite these dates being separated by nearly 95 years, the echoes of that day in 1918 resonated loudly down the decades. It was on that day that a soldier’s family returned to Marfaux, near Reims. Leonard Maidment, from Andover, was probably an ordinary soldier. It is …


The Real Birdsong: The Kilian Tunnel

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In the BBC adaptation of Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong we have seen how the character Stephen Wraysford escaped in a somewhat surprising way from a tunnel. In reality, the risk of permanent entrapment was far more likely than escape, as vividly shown by a recent discovery at the very southern end of the Western Front. In October 2010, construction …


Pension Record Cards - claims for soldiers who were killed

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The next major release of images of the Pension Record cards saved by the WFA has now been made available to WFA members. This article is intended to orientate members around these cards which represent claims for pensions for those men who were killed in the First World War. As WFA members are probably aware, these records are available for WFA m…


Aubers Ridge 9 May 1915

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  At the end of April 1915 the Sussex Express carried a cheering report from one of its former reporters, Private W G Horton of the 5th Royal Sussex. Seated on a straw bale in “glorious sunshine” at a rest billet 10 miles from the Front, he expressed the optimism of Lewes’s territorials on a beautiful spring day, that the war would soon be over an…


Cyrus Peck, Piper Paul and the Canadian Scottish at Amiens

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This article looks at one battalion's action on 8 August 1918, and is largely based on a chapter of the battalion's history by H.M.Urquhart, published in 1932. The battalion in question was the 16th Battalion, CEF the Canadian Scottish, a 'kilted' battalion which was led for a large part of the war by Lt-Col Cyrus Peck. It is fair to say he had str…


Following in R C Sherriff’s footsteps – the path to his own ‘Journey’s End’ in the Great War

/world-war-i-articles/following-in-r-c-sherriff-s-footsteps-the-path-to-his-own-journey-s-end-in-the-great-war/

  Crescent Trench - British front line, 31 July 1917 8th Battalion Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, 72 Brigade, 24th Division had attacked from this trench, left to right, on 31 July 1917 – the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres. They managed to advance about 1000 yards then were forced to fall back to Jordan Trench (see later photogra…


Aftermath: Ireland

/world-war-i-articles/aftermath-ireland/

Amongst those commemorated on Lewes War Memorial is Lance-Corporal Sidney Wright 1/6th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment, aged 22. One of three brothers lost during the Great War, he was serving in Ireland when he accidentally drowned just outside Wicklow whilst bathing at Travilahawk Strand, between the military camp near the harbour entrance an…


19th July 1919 Peace Day in Britain

/world-war-i-articles/19th-july-1919-peace-day-in-britain/

This article first appeared in Bulletin 114, the internal news and information magazine for members of The Western Front Association. [Available in print or digital formats]. Comprising a military procession that wound its way for seven miles through central London, crossing and re-crossing the Thames, where warships formed a Naval Pageant, alon…


Finding Horace: A two minute search of the WFA's Pension Records provides the answer

/world-war-i-articles/finding-horace-a-two-minute-search-of-the-wfas-pension-records-provides-the-answer/

The Pension Cards and Ledgers that were saved by The Western Front Association are a valuable resource which will massively assist those undertaking research into aspects of those soldiers who served in the British Army in the First World War. In September 2019 a further set of 1 million records, Soldiers Who were Killed, were published by the WFA…


An overview of the Pension System immediately after the War

/world-war-i-articles/an-overview-of-the-pension-system-immediately-after-the-war/

The following article by Craig Suddick takes an overview of the pension system immediately after the First World War. With the release of The Western Front Pension Records to Ancestry, the record set has generated a large amount of research potential, the preliminary works for this research being undertaken by David Tattersfield on The Western Fro…


The Crew of Deborah : Tank D51 at Flesquieres, near Cambrai

/world-war-i-articles/the-crew-of-deborah-tank-d51-at-flesquieres-near-cambrai/

One of the more remarkable discoveries in recent years is that of tank D51 ‘Deborah’ at Flesquières, near Cambrai. Prior to its involvement at Cambrai, ‘Deborah’ was in action at Ypres. On 22 August 1917, ‘Deborah’ was commanded by 2/Lt George Ranald Macdonald and was waiting to go into action in the area of Poelcapelle when she was hit by a shell…


An analysis of the Mercantile Marine index cards

/world-war-i-articles/an-analysis-of-the-mercantile-marine-index-cards/

Within the millions of documents the WFA have saved was a small metal set of four drawers that - in the scale of the archive - is minute, constituting less than 0.1% of the total archive. The cards in this set of drawers (see photo below) numbered less than 4,300 and were - as can be seen - labelled 'Mercantile Marines in the Great War'. These card…


Pension Records for 'non-UK' soldiers

/world-war-i-articles/pension-records-for-non-uk-soldiers/

It was initially believed that the WFA's Pension Cards and Ledgers were only for claims for pensions for men who came from the British Isles. As the new set of cards for pension claims for men who were killed is investigated, it has become clear that the original 'UK only' description needs to be expanded. A number of what can loosely be described…


Some numbers (and images) around the WFA's Pension Records

/world-war-i-articles/some-numbers-and-images-around-the-wfas-pension-records/

The Western Front Association recently saved from destruction around 8 million pension records of First World War Soldiers. These unique records massively help genealogists, military historians and those researching their family history to find hitherto unknown details about those who were killed and survived the Great War.  Here's a few of the nu…


The Disaster at Hooge

/world-war-i-articles/the-disaster-at-hooge/

One of the most frequently heard misconceptions about the First World War is that British and Commonwealth generals and their staff officers shared neither the hardships nor the dangers of the average front line soldier. The excellent Bloody Red Tabs by WFA members Frank Davies and the late Graham Maddocks has been an important rebuttal of these ar…


The Red Baron - his 'other rank' victims

/world-war-i-articles/the-red-baron-his-other-rank-victims/

There are many ways that The Western Front Association's pension records can be used for research purposes. In this article, I wish to take a brief look at the 'other ranks' that became victims of Manfred von Richtofen - the Red Baron. Probably more books have been written about von Richtofen than any other individual who served in the First World…


"When Did Armistice Day Become Remembrance Sunday?" by J P Lethbridge

/world-war-i-articles/when-did-armistice-day-become-remembrance-sunday-by-j-p-lethbridge/

[This Article first appears in the April 2004 Edition of Stand To! Edition 70. The entire digital archive is open to members of The Western Front Association using their Member Login details]. Readers may sometimes wonder exactly when and why Armistice Day ceased to be marked on 11 November each year, and came to be held on the nearest Sunday inst…


The Armistice in Bijar and Dunsterforce in Baku

/world-war-i-articles/the-armistice-in-bijar-and-dunsterforce-in-baku/

The Armistice, which brought an end to the fighting in the First World War was, as everyone knows, signed on 11 November 1918. The news of Germany’s capitulation and the Kaiser’s abdication two days earlier led to banner headlines in newspapers and scenes of jubilation in many cities throughout the world. This, however, is just part of the story as…


Street Memorials in South West Rocks, NSW

/world-war-i-articles/street-memorials-in-south-west-rocks-nsw/

South West Rocks is a small town with a population of about 5000 on the mid north coast of New South Wales, about 400 kilometres north of Sydney.  Located where the Macleay River enters the Pacific Ocean at Trial Bay (named after the brig Trial, which was wrecked in the area in 1816 after being seized in Sydney Harbour by escaping convicts), the to…


The Prince and the Pilot

/world-war-i-articles/the-prince-and-the-pilot/

On a windswept hill overlooking the Yorkshire mill town of Halifax stands the area's most visible landmark: the Wainhouse tower. This is a Victorian-era construction and a 'folly'. It was, theoretically, built as a chimney for a local industrialist's factory, but it was never used as such. Above: The Wainhouse Tower at dusk.  Adjacent to the Wa…


Revealed: The soldier with two families. How The Western Front Association's Pension Records helped unravel a family mystery

/world-war-i-articles/revealed-the-soldier-with-two-families-how-the-western-front-associations-pension-records-helped-unravel-a-family-mystery/

This story of discovery begins with researching the life of my Great Grandfather Alfred Nelson William Beckley BAKER. This research was undertaken as part of the wider exploration of my family’s history. The story comes full circle at the end with the information found on The Western Front Association's Pension Index Cards and Ledgers that have rec…


The New Zealanders at Polderhoek Chateau : November 1917

/world-war-i-articles/the-new-zealanders-at-polderhoek-chateau-november-1917/

The Third Battle of Ypres officially ended on 10 November 1917, but this did not mean fighting in Flanders stopped. Although at the end of the battle the high ground of the Passchendaele ridge was taken by Canadian troops, the front was still active. Only three weeks after the capture of the ridge, the highly regarded New Zealand Division was to be…


The Sinking of the Anglia: 17 November 1917

/world-war-i-articles/the-sinking-of-the-anglia-17-november-1917/

[This article originally appeared in Gun Fire number 57 and has been lightly edited for website reproduction. All of issues of the Gun Fire magazine are now available to WFA members' via the Member Login. Joining the Western Front Association gives you access not only to the 59 editions of Gun Fire but also to all 110+ issues of the WFA's in house …


Sentenced to Death. The Public Record Office Court Martial Files.

/world-war-i-articles/sentenced-to-death-the-public-record-office-court-martial-files/

[This article originally appeared in Gun Fire No.31. It has been lightly edited for the purposes of publishing on the WFA's website. Illustrations have been added that did not appear in the original. All of these magazines are now available to WFA members via the Member Login. Joining the Western Front Association gives you access not only to the 5…


Hooge Tunnel, Essex Farm and other drawings by Tony Spagnoly

/world-war-i-articles/hooge-tunnel-essex-farm-and-other-drawings-by-tony-spagnoly/

Tony Spagnoly sent the following drawings. They were made in 1917 by a member of the 69th Field Ambulance and have to do with the Ypres area in 1917. The first has some notes on it which might be difficult to decipher, so here they are The School Mennin [sic] Gate This School has been the dumping ground for German shells for over three years. Sit…


Some instances of the award of the Albert Medal in the First World War

/world-war-i-articles/some-instances-of-the-award-of-the-albert-medal-in-the-first-world-war/

During the Great War the Albert Medal was awarded to fewer than one hundred servicemen. Less than one third of these awards were made posthumously, so finding examples of men awarded this medal in CWGC cemeteries is difficult. Below are two citations for acts of supreme bravery during the First World War. It will be noticed that the circumstances …


The Action at Rafa: 9 January 1917

/world-war-i-articles/the-action-at-rafa-9-january-1917/

The Battle at Rafa, (or more accurately the 'Action at Rafa') which took place on 9 January 1917, was a small affair that rarely receives any mention in accounts of the First World War. It was, however, a victory that ended the Sinai campaign of 1916. During 1916 British and Commonwealth forces under General Sir Archibald Murray began pushing east…


1917: Right Story, Wrong Location

/world-war-i-articles/1917-right-story-wrong-location/

The following piece, by military historian Andrew Rawson discusses the location implied in the new film '1917'. I am no fan of the majority of modern World War I films, because errors and inconsistencies with the facts irritate me. However, they do bring pleasure to a great many and even introduce new people to this important period of history. I …


Captains Frederick ‘Fred’ C. Selous and Frederick ‘Freddie’ H.B. Selous - The father and son killed on the same day

/world-war-i-articles/captains-frederick-fred-c-selous-and-frederick-freddie-hb-selous-the-father-and-son-killed-on-the-same-day/

There are of course lots of coincidences in the First World War, but one that is quite remarkable is that of the father and son both of whom were killed in action on the same day - 4 January - but a year apart. What is even more remarkable is the unusual unit to which the father was serving when he was killed. Captain Frederick Courtney Selous F…


Truth in the Telling: A Review of 1917

/world-war-i-articles/truth-in-the-telling-a-review-of-1917/

There is much to write about the film 1917. But in the interest of those prospective cinema-goers who will journey to the trenches for Sam Mendes’ ode to his grandfather (Rifleman Alfred Mendes M.M., 1st Rifle Brigade, 4th Division), I will do my best, for now, to say little. The problem is one of expectations. Some audience members have made th…


Identifying the Dead: a Short Study of the Identification Tags of 1914-1918

/world-war-i-articles/identifying-the-dead-a-short-study-of-the-identification-tags-of-1914-1918/

Introduction to Identification Discs and Tags of the First World War   Perhaps one of the most personal of all issue items to be carried by the majority of soldiers of the Great War, yet they appear to be one of the most understudied and neglected also. Maybe they’re not as “pretty” as a medal, but they are just as researchable (if not mor…


The Infamous Dutch Lady And Other Famous Espionage Agents of the Great War

/world-war-i-articles/the-infamous-dutch-lady-and-other-famous-espionage-agents-of-the-great-war/

Arguably the two most famous, or infamous, individuals engaged in espionage during the Great War were a tall exotic dancer of Dutch/Indonesian extraction and the sender of a telegram who was a German official of the highest rank. There were others who, perhaps, we would call today 'celebrity spies'. Very little is known about the details of their e…


'1917' - using the Pension Records to track down the characters in the film (if they'd been real!)

/world-war-i-articles/1917-using-the-pension-records-to-track-down-the-characters-in-the-film-if-theyd-been-real/

The new film '1917' by Sam Mendes is about to be released in the UK (and has already been released in the USA). It has been widely acclaimed for its authenticity, and the cinematography. But what does it tell us about the men who took part? We can learn very little from the film about the men - our ancestors - who served in the war, but this does …


The Wood Brothers of Stacksteads, Lancashire

/world-war-i-articles/the-wood-brothers-of-stacksteads-lancashire/

Back in 2014, I was helping to plan my brother's stag party. We planned to go to Ypres to visit many of the First World War sites and particularly the Menin Gate. It dawned on me that once there, as a group, we would wonder how many of our fellow Townspeople of Clitheroe were commemorated on Menin Gate and Tyne Cot Memorials. I did some research an…


Deborah Tank Descendants Return : 92nd Anniversary of when the tank was knocked out

/world-war-i-articles/deborah-tank-descendants-return-92nd-anniversary-of-when-the-tank-was-knocked-out/

This article by Rob Kirk first appeared ten years ago in Bulletin 86 : Feb/March 2010 pp 11-12. Members receive Bulletin, the member magazine of The Western Front Association, three times a year. It is also available to Digital Members as a PDF.  Deborah Tank Descendants Return : 92nd Anniversary of when the tank was knocked out  Regular readers …


The Disabled First World War Soldier : how his pension was calculated

/world-war-i-articles/the-disabled-first-world-war-soldier-how-his-pension-was-calculated/

A man who was discharged as medically unfit where that unfitness was certified as being either caused by or aggravated by military service was eligible to apply for a disability pension. Later in the war, as men were being demobilised, they were given the chance to put forward any disability for assessment by the Ministry of Pensions. Any disabilit…


Iron Clad. The Service of 202081 Pte Frank Reece Beresford, H Bn Tank Corps by Charles Reece Beresford

/world-war-i-articles/iron-clad-the-service-of-202081-pte-frank-reece-beresford-h-bn-tank-corps-by-charles-reece-beresford/

[This article first appeared in Stand To! No.40 Spring 1994 (pp13-14) The entire archive of Stand To! (up to the last 12 months) is available online for Western Front Association members to browse and download].  Pte Frank Beresford Having been turned down by the Royal Navy on account of 'defective colour vision'. Frank Beresford volunteered fo…


Pension Claims: Same Man, Different Claim

/world-war-i-articles/pension-claims-same-man-different-claim/

The following article, by Craig Suddick, looks at a fairly uncommon scenario: the pension claim for a deceased serviceman coming from two different sources, in two different regions. The issue, identified by the Ministry of Pensions potentially arose due to pension claims being administered regionally. Because of this regional administration, it so…


Pension Record Cards and Ledgers: how they fitted in to the bigger picture (part 2)

/world-war-i-articles/pension-record-cards-and-ledgers-how-they-fitted-in-to-the-bigger-picture-part-2/

In an earlier article we looked at some cases of Pension records and compared the WFA's pension cards to files that are retained in The National Archives in the 'PIN26' class.  This is the second of three articles that will look to examine these records, and enable researchers to compare the files to the WFA's records.  Joe Bridgewood The first …


Iris Hotblack and Alan ‘Balmy’ Morton : love letters from the Front

/world-war-i-articles/iris-hotblack-and-alan-balmy-morton-love-letters-from-the-front/

At the outbreak of war in 1914, 20 year old Miss Iris Hotblack was at home with her family. They lived in a large, detached seven room house called The Boltons, on King Henry’s Road, Lewes, East Sussex. Used to living away from home, she had been sent to school in Cheltenham, she wrote regularly to her brothers, and various other male and female…


Further Hints and Tips to assist with finding Pension Records

/world-war-i-articles/further-hints-and-tips-to-assist-with-finding-pension-records/

The following may assist WFA members in the search for pension records 1) If using a regimental number as one of the search criteria, and there are no 'hits' try inserting commas: For instance instead of 110953 try 110,953. This may then come up. This is due to the Ministry of Pensions quite often inserting commas into the regimental numbers, whic…


The Iron 12 : The inauguration of the Iron Memorial and Commemorative Plaques in Guise

/world-war-i-articles/the-iron-12-the-inauguration-of-the-iron-memorial-and-commemorative-plaques-in-guise/

This article first appeared in Bulletin No.91 October/November 2011. Bulletin and Stand To! are the two magazines of The Western Front Association, each are sent to members alternatively, each three times a year, either in print or digitally.  INTRODUCTION Between October 1914 and February 1915 Iron sheltered eleven British soldiers trapped beh…


Lewes Casualties : September 1918 and the impact of 'Spanish Flu'

/world-war-i-articles/lewes-casualties-september-1918-and-the-impact-of-spanish-flu/

  September 1918 brought a further 14 Lewes casualties, 10 on the Western Front where the arrival of the Americans had helped change the balance of forces firmly towards the Allied side and four others, one from Baku on the Caspian Sea, one from a submarine attack off Brittany, one the result of tuberculosis and one from influenza. Private Albert…


Pension Record Cards and Ledgers - how they fitted in to the bigger picture (part 3)

/world-war-i-articles/pension-record-cards-and-ledgers-how-they-fitted-in-to-the-bigger-picture-part-3/

This is the third of three article intended to show what is available at The National Archives ('TNA') at Kew in the PIN26 series. As has been detailed in the first article and expanded on in the second article, PIN26 provides an insight into the soldiers' files from the Great War which have been destroyed, but which are referenced in the WFA's 'Pe…


Operation Michael, The Thirty Worst and an Advanced Dressing Station

/world-war-i-articles/operation-michael-the-thirty-worst-and-an-advanced-dressing-station/

March 1918 was arguably the most critical month of the First World war for the British and Commonwealth forces in France. On 21 March, the Germans launched a massive attack with the aim of knocking the British out of the war. Above: Left to right - Chief of the General Staff, Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg; Kaiser Wilhelm II; 'First Quarterma…


The Kaiser's Battle by Martin Middlebrook - how accurate are the statistics?

/world-war-i-articles/the-kaisers-battle-by-martin-middlebrook-how-accurate-are-the-statistics/

I am sure that many members of The Western Front Association were introduced to the subject of the Great War by reading Martin Middlebrook's The First Day on the Somme, which was first published 53 years after the end of the war in 1971. It is sobering to realise that nearly as many years have elapsed since its original publication to the recent an…


Ernest Brooks and the photograph of The 'Forty Thieves'

/world-war-i-articles/ernest-brooks-and-the-photograph-of-the-forty-thieves/

With recent developments in technology, the colourisation of monochrome images from the Great War has come on in leaps and bounds. The obvious example is the film 'They Shall Not Grow Old' by Peter Jackson. Others have been doing similar work but obviously on a much smaller scale. One example of this is an excellent image of the famous photograph t…


Major Willie Redmond MP

/world-war-i-articles/major-willie-redmond-mp/

William Hoey Kearney Redmond was born on 13 April 1861 to a Catholic father and a Protestant mother. After leaving school at Clongowes Wood College in Kildare he was commissioned as an officer in the Wexford Militia before becoming actively involved in politics. He campaigned for Charles Stewart Parnell in the 1880 General Election and two years la…


Albert Ball, VC

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/albert-ball-vc/

Capt A Ball, VC, DSO**, MC 7/Sherwood Foresters, attd 58 Sqn, RFC Killed in action 7 May 1917 Buried at Annoeullin Communal Cemetery, German Extension. (About 20Km East of Béthune)Memorial: Small stone column in a field about 800m NNW of the Cemetery.Car access to within 300m.Location on Google Map.Guardian: Nottingham High School. Captain Alber…


Henry Anthony Birrell-Anthony

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/henry-anthony-birrell-anthony/

2/Lt H A Birrell-Anthony 1/Bn Monmouthshire Regt.Killed in action 8 May 1915. No known grave. Remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) MemorialMemorial: Oblong stone with CWGC pattern stone wall, 1km NW of Wieltje. Car access.Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC Henry Anthony Birrell-Anthony, of Thame in Oxfordshire, was one of 13 officers and 382…


Geoffrey Vaux Salvin Bowlby

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/geoffrey-vaux-salvin-bowlby/

Capt GVS Bowlby, Royal Horse Guards. Killed in action 13 May 1915. No known grave. Remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) MemorialMemorial: A stone cross next to the Skrine Memorial (qv) on Cambridge Road, N of Menin Rd and Railway Wood, 2.5km W of YpresLocation on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Born in London on 1st December 1883, Geoffrey Vaux Salv…


Harold Alexander Boyd and James Cousins

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/harold-alexander-boyd-and-james-cousins/

2/Lt H A Boyd and Private J Cousins, 2/Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.Killed in action 7th September 1914.Buried together at the Ferme des Arceries, La Haute-Maison (30km E of Paris). Grave: In field by road S of farm. Visible from roadLocation on Google Map Guardian: Landowner / CWGC 2nd Lt Harold Alexander Boyd had only just arrived with another …


James Boyle

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/james-boyle/

Capt The Hon J Boyle, 1 Bn Royal Scots Fusiliers.Killed in action 18 October 1915. No known grave. Remembered on Le Touret MemorialMemorial: A stone cross on N side of the N41 road NW of La Bassee, nearly opposite the German Cemetery. Location on Google Map Guardian: Family / Souvenir Francais The Hon James Boyle who was born in Scotland on 11t…


Valentine Braithwaite

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/valentine-braithwaite/

Lt V A Braithwaite, MC, 1/Somerset Light Infantry. Killed in action 2 July 1916. No known grave. Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Memorial: A stone cross outside the east wall of Serre Road No 2 Cemetery, Somme Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC Valentine Ashworth Braithwaite, known as Val, was born in 1896 the son of General Sir Walter…


Ewen James Brodie

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/ewen-james-brodie/

Captain E J Brodie, 1/Cameron Highlanders.Killed in action 11 November 1914. No known grave. Remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.Memorial: Stone column in Nonnebossen, N of Menin Rd, 5km W Ypres. Car access rough. Location on Google MapGuardian: CWGC Born in 1878, Ewen James Brodie of Lethen was the son of the Lord Lieutenant of Nairn…


George Edward Cecil

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/george-edward-cecil/

2/Lt G E Cecil, 2/Grenadier Guards.Killed in action 1 September 1914. Buried at the Guard's Grave, Villers-Cotterets.Memorial: Stone column in Nonnebossen, N of Menin Rd, 5km W Ypres. Car access rough. Location on Google MapGuardian: CWGC George Edward Cecil, born on 9 September 1895 the son of Lord and Lady Edward Cecil, had a life-long ambitio…


Edward James Vibart Collingwood-Thompson

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/edward-james-vibart-collingwood-thompson/

2/Lt E J V Collingwood-Thompson, 2/Royal Welsh Fusiliers.Died of wounds 10 September 1914.Buried at Perreuse Chateau Franco British National Cemetery, Plot I Row 3 Grave 4.Memorial: Plaque on a house with a dwarf stone column below, in La Ferte-sous-Jouarre.Location on Google Map Guardian; Town of La Ferte-sous-Jouarre. Edward James Vibart Collin…


Cyril Alfred William Crichton

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/cyril-alfred-william-crichton/

2/Lt C A W Crichton, 1/3 Bn. London Regt (Royal Fusiliers).Killed in action 10 March 1915.Buried at Le Touret Military Cem, Richebourg-L'Avoue, Plot IV Row C Grave 34. Memorial: Cenotaph shaped stone outside west wall of the Indian Memorial, La Bombe, Neuve Chapelle. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC Educated at Marlborough College and Ex…


Cedric Charles Dickens

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/cedric-charles-dickens/

Major C C Dickens, 13/London Regt Kensington Battalion.Killed in action 9 September 1916. No known grave. Remembered on the Thiepval MemorialMemorial: Wooden cross, signposted 'Dickens Memorial' to the north of the Guillemont to Combles road. Old position marked. Location on Google Map Guardian: L'Office Culturel d'Albert / Family. Cedric Char…


Francis Dodgson

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/francis-dodgson/

Capt F Dodgson, 8/Yorkshire Regt Killed in action 10 July 1916. Buried at Serre Road Cemetery No 2. Plot XXXVIII Row K Grave 8.Memorial: Small stone column near Bailiff Wood, 300m S of the La Boiselle road beside track, 400m W of Contalmaison. Old position marked.Location on Google Map Guardian: Family. Born on 10 May 1889, Francis Dodgson was …


Harry Fellows

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/harry-fellows/

L/Cpl H Fellows, 12th Bn Northumberland Fusiliers and RFC.Died 1 September 1987.Memorial: Headstone in Mametz Wood.Location on Google Map (approximate - the memorial is on private land)Guardian: M. le Marquis de Thezy. Harry Fellows was born on 5 May 1896, the son of a Nottingham coal miner. He became a butcher' boy and delivered the washing his m…


Charles Fletcher Hartley

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/charles-fletcher-hartley/

2/Lt C F Hartley, 2/Coldstream Guards Killed in action 27 November 1917.No known grave. Remembered on the Cambrai MemorialMemorial: Stone cross with concrete fence in a field to the E of Bourlon Wood, W of Fontaine-N-D, Cambrai.Location on Google Map Guardian: Harrow School. Charles Fletcher Hartley, the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Harry Hartley of…


Richard Heumann, Bertram Mills, Alfred Torrance

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/richard-heumann-bertram-mills-alfred-torrance/

Capt R Heuman Company Sgt-Maj B Mills Sgt A W Torrance 1/2 London Regt Killed in action 10 September 1916.Buried in an isolated grave at Faffemont Farm, Combles. Grave: Flat stone with kerb, in a field at Faffemont Farm, Combles. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Richard (Dick) Heumann was born in Brixton on 9th July 1887, the only chi…


Hillyar George Edwin Hill-Trevor

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/hillyar-george-edwin-hill-trevor/

Lt H G E Hill-Trevor, 1/Scots Guards Killed in action 21 December 1914.No known Grave. Remembered on the Le Touret Memorial Memorial: A large stone memorial with kerbed surround in front of a house in the residential area of Givenchy-les-la-Bassee. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC Hillyar George Edwin Hill-Trevor was the only son of the H…


Charles Stewart Holland

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/charles-stewart-holland/

Major C S Holland, 120 Battery, Royal Field Artillery Killed in action 23 August 1914.Buried at Hautrage Military Cemetery, Plot 1 Row B Grave 2.Memorial: Plaque on a column outside the Hotel de Ville, St Ghislain, near Mons. Location on Google Map Guardian: Hotel de Ville, St Ghislain. Charles Stewart Holland was born on 28 December 1875 the s…


Henry Rowland Isaacs

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/henry-rowland-isaacs/

2/Lt H R Isaacs, 7/Suffolk Regt Killed in action 9 April 1917.No known Grave. Remembered on the Arras MemorialMemorial: Cross and statue in the copse adjacent to the Feuchy-Chapel roundabout on the S side of the Cambrai Road E of Arras. Location on Google Map Guardian: Souvenir Francais. Henry Rowland Isaacs, born in 1897, was the only child of…


Paul Adrian Kennedy

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/paul-adrian-kennedy/

Capt P A Kennedy, 2/Rifle Brigade Killed in action 9 May 1915.No known grave. Remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial. Memorial: Wooden cross with tall hedge beside the road N to VC Corner Cemetery from Fromelles. Location on Google Map Guardian: Commune of Fromelles / Family. Paul Adrian Kennedy was born in 1887, the third son of Sir John Kenn…


Pulteney Malcolm

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/pulteney-malcolm/

Capt P Malcolm, 1/Grenadier Guards Killed in action 25 August 1918.Buried in L'Homme Mort British Cemetery, Ecoust-St.Mien Memorial: A granite block just outside the cemetery wall. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Pulteney Malcolm was born in August 1894 the only child of Lt Col P Malcolm MVO DSO, Chief Constable of Cheshire, and his wif…


George Futvoye Marsden-Smedley

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/george-futvoye-marsden-smedley/

2/Lt G F Marsden-Smedley, 3/Rifle Brigade Killed in action 18 August 1916.No known Grave. Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Memorial: A stone surrounded by a low wall in the field W of the Guillemont to Longueval Road, Somme. Location on Google Map Guardian: John Smedley and Sons Ltd. George Futvoye Marsden-Smedley was the second son of John…


Herbert Percy Meakin

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/herbert-percy-meakin/

Capt. Herbert Percy Meakin, 3/Coldstream Guards, Attd Guards Trench Mortar Battery Killed in action 25 September 1916.No known Grave. Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial Memorial: A stone column beside the Ginchy to Lesboeufs Road, south of the Guards Cemetery.  Location on Google Map Guardian: L'Office Culturel d'Albert. Herbert Percy Meakin …


Francis Leopold Mond and Edgar Meath Martyn

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/francis-leopold-mond-and-edgar-meath-martyn/

Capt F L Mond Lt E M Martyn 57 Sqn, Royal Air Force Killed in action 15 May 1918.Buried at Doullens Cemetery Extension, Plot I Row B Graves 29 and 28 Memorial: A broken stone column by the Hamel Road at Bouzencourt, S of the Somme River, N of Le Hamel. Location on Google Map Guardian: Commune of Hamel. Francis Leopold Mond was the eldest son…


Anthony George Atwood Morris

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/anthony-george-atwood-morris/

Lt A G A Morris, 1/King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment Killed in action 13 October 1914.Buried in a private grave at MeterenGrave/Memorial: A tiled roof building 600m SW of Meteren Church. Location on Google Map Guardian: Commune of Meteren. Anthony George Atwood Morris was the youngest son of Mr and Mrs F A Morris of Rugby. He was educated at …


Nine Brave Men

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/nine-brave-men/

Sapper Thomas Blakeley Sapper Richard Choat Sapper Charles Ellison (or Ellisson) Sapper William Haviland Sapper John Higgins Sapper James Joiner Sapper Ambrose Robotham Pioneer Fred Tregidgo Sapper Charles Vernon 82 Field Company, Royal Engineers Killed in Action 29 - 31 July 1916 Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial: Blakeley, Choat, H…


Arthur Poulter VC

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/arthur-poulter-vc/

Private Arthur Poulter, VC 1/4th Bn. Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment.Died in Leeds, 29 August 1956.Buried at New Wortley Cemetery, Leeds.Memorial: Brick plinth at the south end of the Rue Delpierre, Erquinghem-Lys, Armentieres. Location on Google Map Guardian: Commune of Erquinghem-Lys Born in East Witton, Middleham, in 1894 Arthur P…


Thomas Keith Hedley Rae

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/thomas-keith-hedley-rae/

2/Lt T K H Rae, 8/Rifle Brigade Killed in action: 30 July 1915.No known Grave. Remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) MemorialMemorial: A Stone cross on the grass verge outside Sanctuary Wood Military Cemetery. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Born on 24 May 1889 in Birkenhead, Thomas Keith Hedley Rae was the youngest son of Edward Rae, a s…


Robert George Raper

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/robert-george-raper/

Major R G Raper, 8/South Staffordshire Regt Killed in action 2 July 1916.Buried at Fricourt British CemeteryMemorial: Street named after him between the church and war memorial, Fricourt, Somme. Location on Google Map Guardian: Commune of Fricourt. Robert George Raper was a family solicitor in Battle, Sussex, son of Mr and Mrs W A Raper of Batt…


William Hoey Kearney Redmond

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/william-hoey-kearney-redmond/

Major W H K Redmond, 6/Royal Irish Regiment. Killed in action 7 June 1916. Buried near Locre (now Loker) Hospice Cemetery Grave: Stone cross 50m W of the Cemetery. Car access to 100m. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. William Hoey Kearney Redmond was born in Wexford in 1861 the son of an Irish Member of Parliament who came from a long li…


Henry Langton Skrine

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/henry-langton-skrine/

Capt H L Skrine, 6/Somerset Light Infantry Killed in action 25 September 1915.No known grave. Remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) MemorialMemorial: Stone cross next to the Bowlby Mem. (qv) on Cambridge Road, N of Menin Rd and Railway Wood, 2.5km W of Ypres. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Born on 12 November 1880, Henry Langton Skrine w…


Cecil Robert Tidswell

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/cecil-robert-tidswell/

Capt C R Tidswell, 1/Royal Dragoon Guards and Royal Flying Corps Killed in action 16 October 1916.Buried in an isolated grave WSW of Etricourt Grave: A stone cross mounted on a base with kerb and wrought iron fencing. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Cecil Robert Tidswell, the only son of Mr and Mrs R H Tidswell of Wimbledon and Bosmere H…


Houston Stewart Hamilton Wallace

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/houston-stewart-hamilton-wallace/

Capt H S H Wallace, 10/Worcester Regiment.Killed in action 22 July 1916.No known grave. Remembered on the Thiepval MemorialMemorial: An oak crucifix on a cairn beside the Upper Road to High Wood from Bazentin-te-Petit, Somme. Location on Google Map Guardian: Commune of Bazentin Born on 22 June 1892 Houston Stewart Hamilton Wallace was the son of…


Albert Edwin Wheeler

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/albert-edwin-wheeler/

Gunner A E Wheeler, RFA.Died 7 May 1982.Memorial: Headstone at Herenthagestraat, Zillebeke, SE of Ypres. Location on Google Map Guardian: Vanhove and Wheeler Families. Albert Edwin Wheeler was born on 19 August 1897 and died on 7 May 1982. In those eighty four years he had fought in the Great War, married Violet May Wilton, had a family and emig…


Herbert Wheelwright Windeler

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/herbert-wheelwright-windeler/

Lt H W Windeler, 4/Grenadier Guards. Killed in Action 27 November 1917.No known Grave. Remembered on the Cambrai MemorialMemorial: A stone column in the Wood on S side of the footpath from Fontaine to Bourlon. Location on Google Map Guardian: The Compte de Francqueville. Herbert Windeler's mother Laura was American and his parents spent much of…


Malcolm Roy Wingate

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/malcolm-roy-wingate/

Major M R Wingate, 459th Field Company, Royal Engineers.Killed in action 21 March 1918.No known grave. Remembered on the Arras MemorialMemorial: A stone column with railings and lawn beside track from Beugny to Lagnicourt. Location on Google Map Guardian: CWGC. Born on 28 August 1893, Malcolm Roy Wingate was the second son of Gen. Sir Reginald W…


Arthur Leonard Wrenford

/world-war-i-articles/private-memorials-on-the-western-front/arthur-leonard-wrenford/

Lt-Col A L Wrenford, 4/East Lancashire Regt.Killed in action 21 March 1918. Buried in Cabaret Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Plot XXX Row F Grave 17.Memorial: A tall stone cross beside a footpath W of Villeret, S of Hargicourt, 13 km NNW of St Quentin. Location on Google Map Arthur Leonard Wrenford was born Kensington 25 April 1881. He was the…


The Battle for Latema-Reata Nek, British East Africa, 11-12 March 1916

/world-war-i-articles/the-battle-for-latema-reata-nek-british-east-africa-11-12-march-1916/

By early March 1916 the British forces in British East Africa (BEA - now named Kenya) had been ordered to abandon the defensive operations that characterised their 1915 activities. A new theatre commander, General J C Smuts, had arrived with thousands of reinforcements from South Africa and with a mandate to invade German East Africa (GEA - now nam…


Out on a Limb - the road through Tunduru: German East Africa, May to November 1917

/world-war-i-articles/out-on-a-limb-the-road-through-tunduru-german-east-africa-may-to-november-1917/

In May 1917 the 1st Battalion of the Uganda-based 4th Regiment of the King's African Rifles (1/4 KAR) was in Fort Johnstone, Nyasaland (now Malawi). The battalion had marched down through German East Africa (GEA - now Tanzania) from Mwanza on Lake Victoria via Iringa to Old Langenburg, now named Lumbira, on Lake Nyasa.  1/4 KAR had fought and skirm…


Fighting For The Rufiji River Crossing: The British 1st East African Brigade in action German East Africa, 1 to 19 January 1917

/world-war-i-articles/fighting-for-the-rufiji-river-crossing-the-british-1st-east-african-brigade-in-action-german-east-africa-1-to-19-january-1917/

In September 1916 the British theatre commander in East Africa, General J C Smuts, had been forced to halt his advance when he reached the Mgeta River. The reason for this halt was the collapse of the British logistical support system that was dependent on undernourished and overworked African porters, many of whom dropped dead on the job or succum…


November 1918 in East Africa

/world-war-i-articles/november-1918-in-east-africa/

At the end of September 1918, the German commander Paul von Lettow-Vorbeck had made a clean break from his Allied pursuers in Portuguese East Africa (now Mozambique) and had crossed the Rovuma River back into German East Africa (now Tanzania). The German force had suffered around 15% attrition in recent battles and was losing more men to a bronchia…


John Shirley - the soldier with two commemorations

/world-war-i-articles/john-shirley-the-soldier-with-two-commemorations/

The 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles was a regular battalion, which for most of the war was part of the 8th Division. As a consequence of the re-organisation of the BEF in February 1918 it was moved across to the 36th (Ulster) Division. During the course of the war, the battalion had fatalities in excess of 1200 officers and men. Of these fataliti…


Memories of Verdun by Francois Wikart

/world-war-i-articles/memories-of-verdun-by-francois-wikart/

The following article is based on the recollections of General Caloni and recollections of the authors’ grandfather’s experience of Verdun.  Most people know the battle of Verdun started on the 21st February 1916. The city lies on both banks of the River Meuse in North-eastern France. In 1916 the fortress of Verdun was stripped of its guns and …


Stewart McVey: The soldier with TWO aliases

/world-war-i-articles/stewart-mcvey-the-soldier-with-two-aliases/

One of the many names listed on Le Touret Memorial to the Missing is that of Corporal Stewart McVey. Aged just 18 he was killed on 9 May 1915 at the Battle of Aubers Ridge, whilst serving with the 1st Battalion Black Watch. Unusually, but by no means uniquely he had a pseudonym, the CWGC noting he 'served as' (Stewart) Elder.  But this is not as s…


Oddities in the Pension Records

/world-war-i-articles/oddities-in-the-pension-records/

Within the Pension Records that The Western Front Association have saved are hundreds of thousands of cards for pension claims for soldiers who lost their lives during the Great War. Some cards, however, are notable for a variety of reasons. First of all , the card below, this clearly states the soldier was 'kia' in the Boer War. But his card is a…


The loss of HMT Dane

/world-war-i-articles/the-loss-of-hmt-dane/

Like most youngsters growing up in the 60s and 70s The Great War was a long time ago, and although my Grandad, Fred Booty, had medals in his china cabinet, along with an old photo of his brother Arthur, in Army uniform (who was the subject of a “Centenary of Relatives Lost in the Great War” article in the May 2016 Suffolk Branch Newsletter), the on…


German Memorials on the Western Front

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One of the consequences of the German occupation of France during the First World War was that their occupation became formalised with the establishment of well constructed laagers and camps. Often these became associated with specific units which were based there for months and even years and, as a consequence, the units sought to create a sense o…


One of the ‘Forty Thieves’ Identified - Percy Fussell MM – Northampton Saints and the ‘Liverpool Irish’

/world-war-i-articles/one-of-the-forty-thieves-identified-percy-fussell-mm-northampton-saints-and-the-liverpool-irish/

It’s a photograph we had seen before, without perhaps looking at it properly.  An extraordinary image of hardened men, just back from a successful attack on a German trench, an iconic picture from April 1916 of the 1/8 King’s Liverpool trench-raiding party. They pose as if in a sport team-photo but some sporting pickelhaubes as trophies instead …


The Man with Two Aliases - the explanation

/world-war-i-articles/the-man-with-two-aliases-the-explanation/

I read with great interest the recent 'Trench Lines', especially the articles on hard-to-decipher writing, and the man who served as Stewart Elder, but had the aliases of McVey and Palmer.  Unusual indeed.  So, being a keen family historian, I decided to try and unravel the mystery. It is necessary in the first place to go to the parents of Stewar…


The Soldier who never was: An example of a Change of Name in the Late-Victorian Army

/world-war-i-articles/the-soldier-who-never-was-an-example-of-a-change-of-name-in-the-late-victorian-army/

Every student who undertakes research into the personal histories of soldiers who served in the Victorian Army will have come across a name which turns out to be an enigma. Assuming the integrity of the available research, for example, an entry on the medal roll, the researcher has to conclude that something else has caused the difficulty in establ…


Across from the Parade Ground Soldiers: assessing the French performance at the Somme

/world-war-i-articles/across-from-the-parade-ground-soldiers-assessing-the-french-performance-at-the-somme/

The bulk of this article is a long explanation as to the finding of a brief answer: despite suffering slightly under one-third of the Entente’s casualties at the Battle of the Somme, the French inflicted 48% of Germany’s losses. In Parade Ground Soldiers, the late Dr. Elizabeth Greenhalgh presented a French impression of British efforts of the Som…


A Tour of Mesopotamian War Cemeteries in 2003

/world-war-i-articles/a-tour-of-mesopotamian-war-cemeteries-in-2003/

In the early summer of 2003, fortunately or not, I found myself and the Battalion I was commanding at the time, 7 Air Assault Battalion REME, based just outside of Al-Amarah in what had once been the British front line in Mesopotamia. Wherever I am in the world if there is an opportunity to visit a CWGC site then I will. A quick look on the map and…


Further examples of unusual Pension Claims

/world-war-i-articles/further-examples-of-unusual-pension-claims/

As the various projects WFA members are working on move forward, it seems a good time to update members on just a couple more examples of unusual pension claims that would not have been identified had 'Project Alias' and 'Project Hometown' not been set up. Previous reference has been made to cases where multiple brothers have been killed in the Gr…


Officers Pension Record Cards digitised and now available

/world-war-i-articles/officers-pension-record-cards-digitised-and-now-available/

Two more sets of Pension Record Cards ('PRCs') have been digitised and made available by the WFA's partner Ancestry. These records comprise a relatively small percentage of the entirety of the archive that the WFA saved. The newly released records relate to officers pension awards (both officers who survived and claims made by widows of officers wh…


Interesting examples of Officers Pension Record Cards

/world-war-i-articles/interesting-examples-of-officers-pension-record-cards/

Below are a few examples of officers cards and officers widows cards located in the WFA's Pension Record Cards archive. The first example is that of an officer who served in the Mercantile Marine, but who used an alias. At the time of writing, this officer has not been found within the CWGC database.  The officer's card below is revealing.  The…


The Battle of Jutland : May 1916

/world-war-i-articles/the-battle-of-jutland-may-1916/

Of the countless acts of gallantry took place during the First World War, only a small proportion were recognised with the Victoria Cross.  Many of those who were awarded the VC were not out of their teens, for example Thomas Ricketts of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment earned his in 1918 when aged 17. The youngest winner of the VC in the Great War…


Walter Tull: Pioneering Black Sportsman and First World War Soldier

/world-war-i-articles/walter-tull-pioneering-black-sportsman-and-first-world-war-soldier/

Over the years Stand To! editor Jon Cooksey has been involved in co-writing and producing several documentaries for the BBC in collaboration with BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist and Sports Editor Graham McKechnie. These have now been made available with permission for members during the period of lockdown.  In the broadcast which we have made av…


The 'Engineering' Scottish Rugby international

/world-war-i-articles/the-engineering-scottish-rugby-international/

George Lamond is one of the many thousands of officers who lost their lives in the Great War. Before his war service, he had excelled at sport (being a Scottish Rugby international) and also been heavily involved in raising the height of the original Aswan ('Low') Dam in Egypt. This engineering skill meant he was - during the war - involved in much…


Queen Victoria’s Last VC

/world-war-i-articles/queen-victoria-s-last-vc/

26 June 2020 marks 120 years since Private Charles Ward delivered a message through a storm of bullets, an action that would later see him receive the Victoria Cross (VC). Charles was the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’s only VC winner of the Boer War, and the last VC winner to receive the honour from Queen Victoria herself. Charles was welcom…


Celebration the 100th Edition of 'The Camera Returns'

/world-war-i-articles/celebration-the-100th-edition-of-the-camera-returns/

Celebrating its 100th instalment over 33 years, ‘The Camera Returns’ has become the most enduring feature of the journal of The Western Front Association. In Stand To! 17, summer 1986, Mr R.B Grundy had an article published entitled ‘Q744’. Imperial War Museum Q744 is the well known photograph of the 1st Lancashire Fusiliers apparently fixing ba…


Hawthorn Ridge : a forensic investigation into the archaeology and history of Hawthorn Crater

/world-war-i-articles/hawthorn-ridge-a-forensic-investigation-into-the-archaeology-and-history-of-hawthorn-crater/

A podcast from the team at the Hawthorn Ridge Crater Association  The Hawthorn Redoubt was an formidable defensive position for the Germans which was blown up on the morning of 1 July 1916 by a mine that had been placed beneath the German stronghold on the ridge. The explosion, ten minutes before the whistles blew at 7:30am, destroyed the positi…


The Five Baldock-Apps brothers from Hurst Green

/world-war-i-articles/the-five-baldock-apps-brothers-from-hurst-green/

Some people will know of the sacrifice of the Souls family from Great Rissington in the Cotswolds. The family's tragedy was recounted by Ian Hislop in the TV series 'Not Forgotten' on First World War memorials in 2005 and told again in a book that supported the series of the same name by Neil Oliver. Annie and William Souls of Hurst Green, Eas…


A Tragedy at Glamis Castle 1915

/world-war-i-articles/a-tragedy-at-glamis-castle-1915/

In 1915 an R.F.C. aeroplane, crewed by two newly-qualified pilots, crashed in the grounds of Glamis Castle in Scotland, witnessed by a teenage girl who went on to become a Queen and, later, Queen Mother.  Here we look at the story behind that fatal accident. The Castle and the Bowes-Lyon Family Glamis Castle (below), sometimes described as Scotla…


For the Fallen - the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in many lands

/world-war-i-articles/for-the-fallen-the-commonwealth-war-graves-commission-in-many-lands/

Whilst it is unimaginable for any battlefield tour not to include at least one cemetery, the sad fact is that all too often many commercial tours degenerate into simple ‘ABC tours’ (‘Another bloody cemetery’) which follow a predictable list of cemeteries and specific graves. Obviously these graves have a story attached but the range and variety of …


Colour patches in the Australian forces

/world-war-i-articles/colour-patches-in-the-australian-forces/

It is often difficult to identify the units men served in from the photographs that are available. The grainy black and white images from 100 years ago do not really assist with unit identification, even if unit colour patches can be seen.  In an effort to help with the identification of soldiers from photographs, we are reproducing below a seri…


The Battle of Jutland: A Boy Telegraphist : 31 May 1916

/world-war-i-articles/the-battle-of-jutland-a-boy-telegraphist-31-may-1916/

On 31 May 1916 the largest naval battle of the First World War took place off the coast Denmark. the Battle of Jutland is now easily the most remembered of the First World War naval engagements. HMS Queen Mary put to sea with the rest of the Battlecruiser Fleet to intercept a sortie by the High Seas Fleet into the North Sea. The British had bee…


Man Alive! The case of Stoker Joseph Brown

/world-war-i-articles/man-alive-the-case-of-stoker-joseph-brown/

On 26 July 1917 the obsolete cruiser HMS Ariadne was minelaying in the English Channel, a role for which she had not been designed.  Above: HMS Ariadne.  IWM Q 38161 Ariadne was the seventh (by completion date) of a class of eight similar ships (the Diadem class) that had been designed for trade protection and intended to be "capable of dealing…


The Raid on Yarmouth : 3 November 1914

/world-war-i-articles/the-raid-on-yarmouth-3-november-1914/

The raid took place on 3 November 1914, and was an attack by the Imperial German Navy on the British North Sea port and town of Great Yarmouth by the German battlecruiser squadron under the command of Admiral Franz von Hipper. The intention was to lay mines off the coast of Yarmouth and Lowestoft and to shell Yarmouth. Little damage was done to th…


Britain's Most Decorated Soldier in the First World War

/world-war-i-articles/britains-most-decorated-soldier-in-the-first-world-war/

There are many categories and definitions of ‘hero’, but the main thread is associated with physical and moral courage, usually envisaged with aggression and typically armed action. This is only part of the story. There have only been three VCs with Bar awarded, and two of those were earned during the First World War and both by Royal Army Medical …


“He spent his dear boy’s life for England” - The tragic story of 2/Lt Stewart Ridley

/world-war-i-articles/he-spent-his-dear-boy-s-life-for-england-the-tragic-story-of-2lt-stewart-ridley/

Engine failure was a persistent hazard for fliers during the Great War, often with fatal consequences.  Here we have the story of a gallant young airman who met his end in a dreadful way due to a malfunctioning engine. Stewart Ridley was born on 6 July 1896, the second son of Mr and Mrs T. W. Ridley of Willimoteswick, in Redcar, North Yorkshire, a…


David Cohen Former Chairman of The Western Front Association, Gallery Owner and War Art contributor

/world-war-i-articles/david-cohen-former-chairman-of-the-western-front-association-gallery-owner-and-war-art-contributor/

War Art (David Cohen) Introduction Deputy Chairman:  [Stand To 14 Summer 1985] Chairman: [Stand To 19 Summer 1987] Retired as Chairman of The WFA - A tribute [Stand To 27 Winter 1989] Book Reviews for Stand To! No Man’s Land: A postwar sketch book by George Pratt (reviewed by David Cohen) [Stand To 38 Summer 1993] The Sculpture of Charles …


The Camera Returns No.26 by Bob Grundy and Steve Wall

/world-war-i-articles/the-camera-returns-no26-by-bob-grundy-and-steve-wall/

[This article first appeared in Stand To! No.44 in September 1995. Members receive the magazine three times a year and have access to the entire archive.]   Views of the battlefield after the third Battle of Ypres, 1917. A soldier look across devastated country near Ypres showing a derelict Mark IV Tank, shell-splintered trees and general batt…


The Yorkshire Landings at Suvla : 25 April 1915

/world-war-i-articles/the-yorkshire-landings-at-suvla-25-april-1915/

It is often thought that the first time the volunteers raised by Lord Kitchener went into action was at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. Whilst this was the first time in the Great War that Kitchener’s men had been used in large numbers, their first action took place nearly a year earlier. The ‘Lancashire Landing’ at Gallipoli is very well kn…


G Battalion 1st Tank Brigade at St. Julien on 19 August 1917 by Peter Arscott

/world-war-i-articles/g-battalion-1st-tank-brigade-at-st-julien-on-19-august-1917-by-peter-arscott/

Peter Arscott relates the exploits of G Battalion 1st Tank Brigade at St. Julien on 19 August 1917.  [This article first appeared in Stand To! No.37. Members received three issues of Stand To! - the Journal of The Western Front Association, and Bulletin, or in-house member-magazine a year and access to the full Stand To! Archive online].  The dev…


Amongst the First To Fall - Early Casualties of the Royal Flying Corps in August 1914

/world-war-i-articles/amongst-the-first-to-fall-early-casualties-of-the-royal-flying-corps-in-august-1914/

Death was not a stranger to the Royal Flying Corps even before the British Empire commenced hostilities against Germany on 4 August 1914.  Between the founding of the Corps on 13 May 1912 and the outbreak of War twenty-seven months later the Military Wing suffered the loss of twenty airmen in aeroplane accidents. Nevertheless, the RFC carried on wi…


The Battle of Hill 70

/world-war-i-articles/the-battle-of-hill-70/

The Third Battle of Ypres (commonly, but inaccurately known as ‘Passchendaele’) commenced on 31 July 1917. High hopes of success soon evaporated as the attack bogged down in the mud caused by torrential rain. In an attempt to draw German troops away from the Ypres sector, a diversionary attack was planned to take place to the south in the Lens/Loos…


The Battle of Hill 70: Victoria Cross awards

/world-war-i-articles/the-battle-of-hill-70-victoria-cross-awards/

A number of Canadians earned the highest award for valour during the Battle of Hill 70. Private Harry Brown, 10th Battalion, 1st Canadian Infantry Division From The London Gazette For most conspicuous bravery, courage and devotion to duty. After the capture of a position, the enemy massed in force and counter-attacked. The situation became very…


'Waiting for the Wounded' by Sir David Muirhead Bone (1876-1953)

/world-war-i-articles/waiting-for-the-wounded-by-sir-david-muirhead-bone-1876-1953/

['War Art' was a regular featured in Stand To! the journal of The Western Front Association between 1993 and 2016. This is No.5 and appeared in Stand To! No.43 April 1985. 69 such reviews were written either by David Cohen, or by David Cohen with his wife Judith Cohen. Members receive Stand To! three times a year and have access to the full digitis…


The Camera Returns No.25 by Steve Wall and Bob Grundy

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  A battery of 18-pounder guns of the Royal Field Artillery moving up towards Mailly-Maillet to meet the German advance, 26 March 1918 (IWM Q8631) [https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205216157]    The view in 1984 outside Maily-Maillet looking towards Forceville. © Steve Wall and Bob Grundy    Go…


Who was the first British soldier to be killed in the First World War in 1914?

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It is often asserted that the first British soldier to be killed in the war is buried very close to the last soldier to be killed, at St Symphorien Military Cemetery, Belgium. Indeed, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission note that Private John Parr, who was killed on 21 August 1914, is 'Believed to be the first British battle casualty of the war.…


Major John Noble Jephson of 'Jephson's Post' : 29 August 1915

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On 29 August 1915 a Major John Jephson died of his wounds which had been sustained in the fighting at Gallipoli. One of thousands to die in this campaign, he has been remembered by a strong point that was a vital position in the Suvla landings of August. This is just a brief overview of the story. Above: A map of the Kiretch Tepe ridge showing J…


Biggles, the Battle of the Flowers and the RAF in the First World War

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In the rarely visited Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Charmes (some 25 miles due south of the city of Nancy) are several graves of men from the RAF. The reason for this is this was the area from which the Independent Force (sometimes called the Independent Air Force) operated against Germany in the later stages of the First World War…


Accidentally killed by one of his own : 5 June 1918

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It won't be a surprise to anyone to know that patrols could be dangerous. We have heard recently about 'Patrolling' in this presentation by Fraser Skirrow: 'Fighting Spirit: Patrolling and Raiding with the West Yorks’.  During the work that is currently being undertaken by a large group of 'Project Alias' and 'Project Hometown' volunteers, the pen…


Francis McLaren, Liberal MP for Spalding : Gallipoli and RFC

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On 30 August 1917, Francis McLaren, who was a Liberal MP for Spalding, was killed in an Avro 504 A which fell into the sea off Montrose. He was on a training flight at the time. Second Lieutenant McLaren was undergoing pilot training with Number 18 Training Squadron (RNVR).  Although rescued by a fishing boat, Francis did not regain consciousnes…


Gunner Mustill and the hair dressing salon at Arras

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Although the Great War is now more than 100 years ago, sometimes signs of the conflict can be observed in unexpected ways. In Arras, on the Rue due Temple, stands a house which is not particularly different from others. However, on closer inspection there can be seen some graffiti which reads '1st DCLI' and 'Hair Cutting Salon'. The brickwo…


The Camera Returns (19) Chinese Labour Corps, Noyelles-Sur-Mer by Bob Grundy and Steve Wall

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[This article first appeared in Stand To! No.36 Winter 1992. The authors, Bob Grundy and Steve Wall have since complete 100 editions of 'The Camera Returns' which feature in every edition of Stand To! to the present day. Members of The Western Front Association are able to view all previous editions in the Stand To archive as part of their membersh…


Wyndham Lewis The War Writer 'The Bull Run' by Robert Edward Murray

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[This article first appeared in Stand To! No. 31. Spring 1991. Stand To! is sent to all members three times a year and the digital archive of all 118 editions is available online]. Although there is no comprehensive collection of the war writings of the British modernist writer and painter Percy Wyndham Lewis, it is possible to divide his literary…


One Man’s War : with the Chinese Labour Corps France 1918 by Norman Mellor

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[This article first appeared in Stand To! No. 29 Summer 1990. Members receive three copies of Stand To! each year and have access to the entire digital archive of al l118 editions via their member login]. It was in March 1918 that I was posted to the 4th Bedfordshire Regiment, 190th Brigade, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division, on my 19th birthday. I wa…


The Camera Returns (13) Mailly Maillet by Bob Grundy and Steve Wall

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[This article first appeared in Stand To! No.31 Spring 1991. Members of The Western Front Association received this magazine three times a year and have access to the entire digital archive online].         Whippet Tanks of the 3rd Battalion at Maillet-Mailly. The advancing infantry are of the New Zealand Division. © IWM Q 9821 …


Pension Cards made available for 'Widows and Dependents of Other Ranks Died'

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Members of The Western Front Association will be delighted to learn that another massive release of Pension Record Cards has been made available by our partners Ancestry.co.uk via their ‘Fold3’ platform. As ever, these cards are freely available to WFA members who log into the WFA website. What has been released? The cards comprise well over a mi…


The War at Sea in Home Waters

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The war at sea was wide ranging from engaging with the German High Seas Fleet when it put to sea to maintaining the supply of food and materiale to the UK. Part of this strategy involved the Admiralty utilising domestic fishing vessels to defend our waters against the submarine menace. Often this was a perilous task both from the U-boats themselves…


How the Pension Cards and Ledgers interconnect

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The recent publication of well over a million extra Pension Card from the 'Widows and Dependents' series has been detailed in an article on The Western Front Association's website, however it is likely further examples of these cards will assist with an understanding of exactly what has been published.  The 'widows and dependents cards' were creat…


George Peachment: one of the youngest recipients of the Victoria Cross : 25 September 1915

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George Peachment was, when he enlisted, not much different from many other young volunteers in that he lied about his age to try to 'do his bit' for King and Country. His first attempt to enlist was unsuccessful (according to a family member, to try to make him look older, he borrowed his father's bowler hat when he tried to enlist aged 17 years an…


PG Wodehouse, the real 'Jeeves' and his Great War

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One of the greatest writers in the English language is PG Wodehouse whose books are still a joy to read well over one hundred years since he started his literary career. ‘Plum’ as he was known had poor eyesight and as a result did not serve in the armed forces in the Great War. It is thought that in all of his books he hardly mentioned the Great W…


Cpl. Henry White and HMHS Anglia

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Cpl. Henry Richard White signed up early in the war joining the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 6th Nov 1914. He was 17 and came from Charlton, a small farming hamlet 1 mile NE of Wantage in Berkshire. What thoughts he had as he prepared to serve his country can only be imagined coming from such a rural background. However he was soon to see action aft…


The sinking of HMS Hawke : 15 October 1914

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Margaret Lyness died on 10 April 1987 and with her went one of the last connections with a major incident in the early weeks of the war. Margaret was born on 16 March 1915 and christened 'Margaret Hawke'. Her parents were Joyce (an unusual name for a man) and Maggie Power. What is striking is the middle name that was chosen for Margaret. She was na…


The Royal Naval Division at Passchendaele 1917

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The Royal Naval Division at Passchendaele 1917 The following account is a short extract from the 7 part memoirs of Leading Seaman Thomas MacMillan of the Benbow Battalion, Royal Naval Division His full story can be found in the new 'R.N.D. Journals section' of the members-only pages of The WFA website. Produced by Len Sellers between 1997 and 2003…


Rupert Brooke - The Hood Battalion of the R.N.D.

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This is a heavily cut-down version from the 'Letters of Rupert Brooke' which were published across four issues of Len Sellers' Royal Naval Division journals. It's only a small fraction of the letters which are included and which are illustrated with photographs, hand-drawn maps and sketches, mostly unseen elsewhere. These extracts have been selecte…


I escape from Groningen!

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After the fall of Antwerp in 1914, an R.N.D. Able Seaman is interned in Holland but escapes to England. The following is an extract from the account of Able Seaman John Henry Bentham, Benbow Battalion, Royal Naval Division which, for reasons of brevity, omits many photographs and details of camp life, incidents during the escape, and his eventual …


Spring Forward, Fall Back. The changing of the clocks and the First World War

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Tonight (31 October 2021), those of us in the UK will be putting our clocks back by one hour as we move from British Summer Time to Greenwich Mean Time. It may be useful to ponder, in the extra hour that is made available to us a few facts around this ‘changing of the clocks’. The introduction of Daylight saving time is largely due to the campaign…


The 'Old Lag' VC: John William Mariner

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In Gun Fire edition number 33, there is a short paragraph in the 'Notes and Queries' section dealing with a First World War memorial within the prison at Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight. This paragraph in Gun Fire reads as follows: Perhaps the most unique and interesting war memorial in the country is that placed in the Prison Chapel at Parkhurst,…


The Ministry of Pensions during and after the Great War

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The Ministry of Pensions was a truly monolithic organisation, by the end of 1920 it had 19,121 staff, was paying 1,600,000 pensions, and spending more than £23,000,000 per year. Above: The Bromyard Avenue site in Acton that was the Ministry of Pensions offices (built in about 1921) seems now to be a residential complex.  What is often lost in t…


Death on the shoreline: The foundering of HMHS Rohilla off Whitby : 30 October 1914

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For the vast majority of members of the British public, the outbreak of the First World War was not something that meant much in the early weeks, Other than crowds of men responding to Kitchener’s call for volunteers, the war was probably something that was only read about in the newspapers. It was obviously different in France and Belgium where mu…


The Youngest Colonel?

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When we think of ‘young soldiers’ in the Great War, we often think in terms of those who were killed aged 17 or younger. There are many claims and counterclaims about the ages of some of these boys who were killed. But there is also another factor to look at, and that is of those officers who achieved high rank in their early to mid 20’s. One examp…


The Aristocrats' Cemetery at Zillebeke

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(This article is taken from Stand To! No 90, published Dec 2010/January 2011. You can receive copies of Stand To! by becoming a member of the WFA.) The author's first visit to the Zillebeke Churchyard Cemetery came about almost by accident. He was driving through the village in February 2006 when his attention was drawn to a small cluster of Commo…


Billy Brewer, the Wiltshire footballer : 13 November 1914

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William Arthur Brewer was born in Chippenham, Wiltshire and was the son of George and Sarah Brewer of 81, Wood Lane, Chippenham. William had worked as a woollen cloth weaver and served in the Territorial Army for three years. On 1 September 1914, a week after the outbreak of the First World War, he re-enlisted in the Wiltshire Regiment in Devizes a…


The loss of Royal Navy monitor 'M-15' : 11 November 1917

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HMS 'M-15' was a First World War Royal Navy M15-class monitor. She was sunk off Gaza by German Submarine UC-38 on 11 November 1917. Above: HMS M-15 November 1917 saw the key battles that allowed British and Australian forces to break through from the Sinai Peninsula and into Palestine. Turkish and German defences extended from the Mediterranean…


Two brothers, but in different armies

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It is not unusual to find brothers who were killed in the Great War. It is, however, unusual to find brothers who fought in different national contingents. One example of this is the case of Homer Emmett Smith who died on 10 November 1917 whilst serving in the 20th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force. His brother Leon also served and was killed…


The Battle of Mughar Ridge: One soldier's story

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By the autumn of 1917, the allied forces had advanced from Egypt and were on the verge of advancing into Palestine. Two attempts had been made earlier in the year, but a third attack under General Allenby was planned. On 27th October 1917, the British started a bombardment of Gaza. The Turks had been fed reports indicating that a third frontal atta…


Lieutenant-Commander Frederick 'Sep' Kelly - Olympic Gold 1908, Performer and Composer

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Frederick 'Sep' ‘Cleg’ Kelly, the Olympic gold medal rower, pianist and officer in the Royal Naval Division who was killed on 13 November 1916 on the opening day of the Battle of the Ancre. The seventh child (and this his name) of a wealthy wool magnate from Australia, 'Sep' along with five of his brothers was sent to England to be educated at E…


SS Laurentic: A story of Gold Bullion, Crime and Intrigue and loss of life that helped change the course of WW1.

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This story begins with an ordinary Pension Card that relates to a 20 year old Royal Marine named Frederick Went. Frederick Arthur Moat Went (CH/18255) served with the Royal Marine Light Infantry on H.M.S. 'Laurentic'. He lost his life on 25 January 1917 when his ship sank. He was the son of Frederick and Eliza Went and is commemorated on the Chath…


Death of a Spy: Charles Simon : 7 June 1915

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‘Project Hometown’ has brought to light many fascinating, tragic and sometimes uncomfortable stories. However, one of the most unusual cards is that of a civilian who received an award for gallantry and whose dependants were granted a military pension. Adam Charles Simon (who preferred to be known as Charles) was born in Bangkok on 4 June 1880…


Capt The Hon Neil Primrose: son of a Prime Minister

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When asked if the sacrifice in the First World War was shared equally between the highest in society and the lowliest, it is often the example of HH Asquith, the Prime Minister, who springs to mind. Asquith's son, Raymond, was killed during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. It is less well known that another (former) Prime Minister lost his son in …


Kanturk - the Great War Pension Records of a small town

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Thanks to the efforts of the Western Front Association, the pension records of over six million surviving soldiers were saved from destruction. These are now gradually being made available for examination. During the war many men were discharged when it was determined that they were no longer physically fit to serve. Such men were paid a pension. A…


Luke Leadbeater - remembered by the fiancée he never married 100 years on

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On 22 November 1917, there occurred in Belgium the death of Private Luke Leadbeater. A single man, it would normally have been the case that few remember him after more than 100 years. This is not, however, the case. Luke was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1898. After his father (also called Luke) died, his mother (Sarah) remarried and became Mr…


Captain Prideaux and his Box Brownie at Ploegsteert

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Photography had already established itself as a popular hobby by the time of the Great War, and ‘The Brownie’ series had brought the concept of ‘snap shots’ to the masses. Despite this, the number of informal photos taken during the conflict remained small. There were, of course, obvious risks in allowing photographs to be taken by your troops - i…


Memories of the child of an Imperial War Graves Gardener

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In November 1999, a WFA member called Frank Burns of Scruton, Yorkshire, was invited to address a local branch of Probus on the subject of ‘Visiting the Battlefields of the First World War’. Enjoying a coffee before the meeting began, he was approached by a man carrying a plastic bag containing old photographs and newspaper cuttings. The man was ca…


From the Archives: Lost and found in France

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This is a story of two great French artefacts: one lost and one found. In an edition of the WFA Bulletin of October 1992 a short item appeared under the heading ‘Returned to Albert’. It was accompanied by an image of a damaged work of religious art. The shrapnel damaged painting returned to Albert The painting is one of the fourteen Stations o…


The Shot At Dawn Memorial

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In May 2001 HRH the Duchess of Kent officially opened the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas, Staffordshire, after a seven-year fundraising campaign in which many members of the WFA had been highly active. Some 150 acres of land had been gifted for the project at this time and more than 40,000 trees planted. In addition, a visitor centre and M…


Don’t forget the ‘War Donkey’

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There are many books, dramas and films that have brought different aspects of the Great War to the fore over the years, but few have been as successful as ‘War Horse’. Having entered the popular consciousness as a children’s book by Michael Morpurgo in the early Eighties, it was its reworking as a stage production by the National Theatre in 2007 ­–…


The Abandoned St Quentin Memorial to the Missing

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In 1926 the French government raised serious concern at the number of free-standing memorials being proposed by the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) to honour the missing  and among those to be sacrificed would be the one planned for St Quentin. It was a challenge to create the necessary number of structures to carry the many names of the m…


The Indian Cavalry at Cambrai : 30 November 1917

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Cavalry in the First World War was rarely used, at least in its traditional mounted role. A famous exception to this is the mounted attack towards High Wood on the Somme in 1916.  It is fortunate that cavalry divisions, held for the hoped for exploitation after the attack at Cambrai were still available when, on 30 November 1917, the Germans launc…


The Men in felt hats : Secretary of State for War R.B.Haldane and the creation of the Territorial Force Reserve

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In March 1910, two years after the formation of the Territorial Force (TF), R.B.Haldane, the Secretary of State for War, announced the creation of the Territorial Force Reserve (TFR). The reserve was to have three elements: a reserve for the TF itself; a Technical Reserve (TR), and the Veteran Reserve (VR). The reserve for the TF was to prove so…


From Schoolboy to Battalion Commander: Cecil Crichton-Browne : 13 December 1918

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Captain (Acting Major) Cecil Harold Crichton-Browne was aged just 22 when he died on 13 December 1918. At the outbreak of the war he had joined his father’s regiment, the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. In just four years he was promoted from Second Lieutenant to acting Major and briefly commanded the 1st Battalion. This is his story.  Cecil Chri…


The Raid on Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool : 16 December 1914

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Much has been written about the German naval raid on the East Coast on 16 December 1914. A lot of this has concentrated on the raid on Scarborough. Two other towns were hit in this raid, which took place on 16 December 1914, being Whitby and Hartlepool. The German vessels were commanded by Admiral Hipper.  Admiral Franz Ritter von Hipper He co…


A Sobering Aspect of the Christmas Truce : 25 December 1915

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Many of the accounts of the Christmas ‘Truce’ in 1914 focus on the exchange of gifts and the supposed playing of football…but in at least one instance, there was a more serious and sobering aspect to the fraternisation that took place. Above: British and German officers meeting in No-Man's Land during the unofficial truce. (British troops from t…


The First Phosgene Attack on British Troops : 19 December 19015

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The first use of phosgene gas against British troops by the German army took place on 19 December 1915. The gas attack took place north of Ypres where the 49th (West Riding) Division was in the line. This attack had been ‘given away’ when a German prisoner had been interrogated. As a result an artillery barrage on the German trenches was ordered o…


A Christmas Party then Tragedy : 30 December 1915

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The band of the Royal Marines played, a film show ran and then tragedy as a  series of explosions ripped through HMS Natal on the afternoon of 30 December 1915 in the Cromarty Firth.  The ship sank within 5 minutes with the loss of 421 lives, some of them being the Captain’s invited guests including a local family and nurses from a nearby hospital…


The Loss of HM Yacht Iolaire 1st January 1919

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Hogmanay 1918 and many families in the Western Isles awaited with great anticipation the imminent return of husbands, fathers and sons after four long years of war. Such was the demand to get returning servicemen home, the mailboat ‘Sheila’ could not cope with the demand and therefore the Admiralty drafted in the Yacht Iolaire to assist. But when t…


The First World War paid off?

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[This article was originally published in 'Stand To!' number 104 in September 2015. Members of The Western Front Association can access all back-issues of Stand To! via the 'members' area' of the website. ] It is appropriate to re-publish this article as the Covid-19 pandemic is causing questions to be asked about the level of national debt, which…


The Road to Sheik Sa’ad

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On the outbreak of war, the 1st Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders were in India but were ordered to move to France, in the Dehra Dun Brigade, Meerut Division of the Indian Corps, under the command of Lieutenant General Sir James Willcocks. Above: Sir James Willcocks and his personal staff in the garden at his headquarters at Merville, France…


From cruiseship to armed merchant cruiser and spy catcher….

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The ship that was HMS Viknor was built in 1888 as a passenger liner, the ‘Atrato’, for use on routes between Britain and the West Indies. In 1912, she would be renamed as the ‘Viking’ and was used for cruising. However, on the outbreak of war, she was requisitioned by the British Admiralty, renamed ‘HMS Viknor’ and armed as a merchant cruiser taske…


The Battle of Neuve Chapelle 1915

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Despite the disappointments in the opening months of the First World War when the idea that "It will be over By Christmas" met with the reality of modern warfare 1915 began with optimism. The commander of the British Expeditionary Force, Field Marshal Sir John French, was convinced that a major effort would bring about an early victory. To this end…


Morning Attack Neuve Chapelle. A reminiscence from Fred Dixon

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I have never seen it mentioned anywhere that 'C' Company 2nd Leicestershire Regiment made an attack on the enemy trenches on March 10th 1915 at Neuve Chapelle. We were told what was to happen on the evening of 9th March. A big bombardment was to take place on their trenches early on March 10th and we were to attack 8.00 a.m. prompt. The C.O. Capt.…


A soldier of the Cheshire Regiment - thrice missing: Private Peter Mahon

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On the day I began writing this article, 11 November 2020, I reflected, as did we all, upon the burial of the 'Unknown Soldier' on this day a century ago at Westminster Abbey. He was, of course, one of the many 'Missing – Known unto God'.  What follows is an attempt at revealing something of the story of a soldier. Again, one of the 'Missing. Kill…


The workhorse of the staff: The Vauxhall D-Type staff car

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If asked to suggest the most numerous (or even preferred) type of ‘Staff Car’ used by British Generals and other officers to drive around during the First World War, most people will immediately say "Rolls Royce”. But that would not be correct. Even King George V was not afforded this make of vehicle when he visited the western front. Surprisin…


Eton Street 'Shrine' in Hull and the loss of the Earl

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At the corner of Eton Street and Hessle Road in Hull stood until recently a branch of the Yorkshire Bank. As with most cities, the closure of bank branches has accelerated in recent years leading to further declines in local services. This is nothing new - this area of Hull has been subject to changes and ‘slum clearances’. It was during these c…


Do WWI helmets protect against shock waves as well as modern designs?

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Medical engineers from Duke University have demonstrated that, despite significant advancements in protection from ballistics and blunt impacts, modern military helmets are no better at protecting the brain from shock waves created by nearby blasts than their World War I counterparts. And one model in particular, the French Adrian helmet, actually …


The ‘Battle' of May Island January 1917 and K-Class Submarines of the First World War

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This was neither a ‘battle’ nor an engagement of any kind with the enemy, but nonetheless, it left over a hundred families grieving the loss of a loved one in a series of mishaps: yet another tragic chapter in the short history of the ill-fated K Class submarines. Above a Royal Mail commemorative cover (dated 31 January 1993 - being the 75th Ann…


First World War Memorial at Galle, Sri Lanka

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The Great War of 1914-1918 was a truly global conflict which was felt in countries like Sri Lanka (then known as Ceylon), an island nation in the Indian Ocean located thousands of kilometers away from Europe. Since Sri Lanka was under the British rule at that time the war had an impact on Sri Lanka in many sectors including its trade and economy. …


Friendly Fire: The Life and Death of Frank Downes

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Paul Brant, who has done splendid work in recording and preserving memory of the Great War in North Staffordshire, recently sent me a photograph of the stained-glass windows war memorial of Longport Methodist Church in Stoke-on-Trent. While Paul was taking the photographs he spotted another memorial stone that had apparently been placed in the chur…


Other Ranks Survived: The Final Release of Pension Records

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The final set of Pension Record Cards has just been published by our partners 'Ancestry.co.uk' on their Fold3 platform. As with all the other cards and ledgers these are freely available for WFA members via the 'library edition' on the WFA's website.  The following article is intended to give an overview of this final set of 'Other Ranks Survived'…


The Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department

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Perhaps one of the most unusual items to be found within the Ministry of Pension card index are the surviving slips for a 'Proposed Grant by the Military Service (Civil Liabilities) Department’. It appears that these slips originally formed part of a separate index and were later amalgamated into the main Ministry of Pension index. In early March …


The tale of four lads from Buckie, Banffshire

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The fishing community of Buckie responded enthusiastically to the call for recruits on the outbreak of war in 1914. Although initially it was reported that fishermen were not sure what arm of the British forces in which to enlist, the creation of the Royal Naval Division resulted in more than 100 men enlisting in October 1914. Before leaving on a s…


Gott Strafe England

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The 'withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line' of February 1917 enabled allied troops to occupy previously German-held towns and villages. The advance was not easy, the Germans left behind booby traps and other 'presents' that would today be termed 'IEDs' (Improvised Explosive Device). Following a 'scorched earth policy' they also reportedly cut down orch…


Cases of 'insanity' revealed in the Pension Records

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The Pension Records which have been saved by The Western Front Association reveal an incredible array of information. In this piece we will briefly look at the mental health issues that are revealed on these cards. Many Pension cards reveal shocking cases of physical injury, but there are a substantial numbers of cards that let us glimpse into non…


‘A Worthless Scamp’: The Great War of Vincent Riley by John Bourne

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During the Great War Centenaries, Stoke-on-Trent’s local newspaper, the Sentinel, published many good and interesting features, often in its popular nostalgia section, ‘The Way We Were’.  But one recurring story annoyed me. The theme was summed up in a headline on 28 July 2018,‘Great War horrors turned brave soldier into the town drunk’.  The ‘town…


HM Submarine H5: The Submarine Cover-Up in Caernarfon Bay 2 March 1918.

/world-war-i-articles/hm-submarine-h5-the-submarine-cover-up-in-caernarfon-bay-2-march-1918/

HMS H5 was a Royal Navy H-class submarine built by Canadian Vickers, Montreal and launched in June 1915. She was soon in action sinking the German U-boat 51 in July 1916 but was herself sunk after being rammed by the by the British merchantman S.S. Rutherglen when mistaken for a German U-boat on 2 March 1918. Sadly, all on board perished but are co…


The Kinmel Park Riot of Canadian Servicemen March 1919

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The events at Kinmel Park in North Wales in March 1919 were the most serious instance of a number of riots or disturbances that took place in the UK involving Canadian servicemen between November 1918 and June 1919. With the Armistice signed on 11 November 1918, many troops eagerly anticipated their repatriation, none more so than Canadians troops…


The 2nd Northants at Neuve Chapelle

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The initial impetus behind this article was research on Lieutenant George Duff Gordon, who hailed from Elgin. During the course of this it became apparent that 2 Northamptonshire Regiment had suffered heavy losses over the period between 10 and 13 March 1915, with the war diary identifying that of 20 officers, 10 were killed, 7 wounded, with one mi…


What got you interested in the First World War?

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Tom Thorpe's opening question on the ‘Mentioned in Dispatches’ podcast series - at least for the last 80+ editions, has been to ask his guest to say who they are and say what got them interested in the First World War. The answers given are as varied as the speakers themselves.  At University Most are published historians or authors so it is no…


Sergeant Alexander Edwards VC : 24 March 1918

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Alexander Edwards was born in Lossiemouth on 4 November 1885, the son of Alexander and Jessie Edwards. A cooper, he enlisted in the 6 Seaforth Highlanders in September 1914, going to France with the Battalion on 1 May 1915. Above (top image) Sgt Alexander Edwards, and immediately above: Alexander and his brothers The battalion was in action …


Census 1841 to 2021

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Anyone researching a person who served during the First World War will have some methods in common, and some of their own related to the context and purpose of their search. Over the last five years one of my responsibilities has been to research and refresh those we feature in the daily item ‘Remember On This Day’. This has been running for at lea…


Brothers Buried Together during the First World War

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The Western Front Association’s Pension Record Cards have been very useful in numerous ways – one of these is in being able to identify brothers who were killed – this is because the pension claims by parents detail the two or more sons that they lost in the war. This line of research has led onto the situation of brothers who were killed in the w…


A Family at War

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One of the most persistent and annoying heresies about the past is that it was much simpler than the present. We, the people of now, live complex, challenging lives; they, the people of then, lived simple, uncomplicated lives. There is a word to describe this, but I do not wish to bring the WFA into disrepute by placing it in print.  Perhaps I may …


The Sinking of the RMS Falaba, 28 March 1915.

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The RMS Falaba was sunk by a German submarine on 28 March 1915. This incident, and that of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania some weeks later, nearly brought the USA into the war in 1915. Above: The passenger steamer Falaba, sunk 28 March 1915, with the loss of 104 lives. Many were West African crewmen. Source: State Library of Victoria, Australi…


Devils in Skirts: The Story of George Findlater VC

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The tradition of pipers leading soldiers into battle was not a Great War phenomenon. It had developed during the 19th Century with pipers playing a role in a number of battles and skirmishes, some of these ‘devils in skirts’ would go on to enlist in the First World War, as was the case with George Findlater VC. On the outbreak of war in 1914, Geor…


A German cemetery in the Vosges battlefield

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In the early days of the war, burials in the Vosges battlefields often took place in the forests where the soldiers fell, in simple graves marked by a cross decorated by their comrades. These temporary graves were easily lost as the landscape was destroyed by shellfire and they were hard to maintain. The pictures below show two examples of battlefi…


Those 48 hours of torment

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James William Thornton was born in Bethnal Green London in 1895 and worked initially as an indoor messenger boy for the General Post Office. His Attestation papers for the Territorial Force survived and show that on 11 February 1914 he was deemed fit to join up. Above: James in army uniform 1914 The Post Office Rifles were initially formed in 1…


Holzminden ‘Colditz’ of the First World War?

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The Second World War is probably more associated with escape exploits of prisoners of war, but there were a number of daring escapes (some more successful than others) during the Great War. The escape of 29 officers from Holzminden PoW Camp is probably the first ‘great escape’. Holzminden was a prison camp situated sixty miles south west of Hanove…


The first French observation balloon of the Great War shot down

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    October 9,1915; 7am on the Somme-Suippe-Perthe, Marne, Part of the champagne region. 20th company commanded by Captain Perrin in the misty air a balloon had been in the air for 2 hours at 800m altitude.  From behind a cloud suddenly the staccato of a machine gun was heard, then the noise of an engine and an aircraft appears looking very big…


The Search for Daniel Lightfoot

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The search began with the war memorial on the wall of a former pub, the Dog & Partridge, 5 Hot Lane, Burslem, which was opposite my primary school and at the back of the brickworks where my father worked.  I have known it virtually all my life. Only when my friend Mick Rowson and I decided to compile a Great War Roll of Honour for Burslem did I…


The Cavalry at Monchy-le-Preux

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The Battle of Arras started on 9 April, Easter Monday,  1917. The most famous action in this battle is the storming of the heights of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps on the left of the British attack. Success elsewhere on the front was good, if not quite so spectacular. Cyril Falls (who wrote the volume of the Official History covering 1917) state…


John Duxbury of 'The Miners Battalion'

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Many local organisations were motivated to assist the war effort. They did this by recruiting men who were associated with the organisation or area, and formed these recruits into battalions. The majority of these battalions were recruited geographically, and such battalions as the Leeds Pals, Bradford Pals and Grimsby Chums were formed. Other batt…


The Labyrinth and the 6th Seaforth Highlanders

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The Labyrinth was a maze of trenches at the southern end of the Vimy Ridge, north east of the villages of Anzin and Maroeuil. On the right the ground sloped down to the ruined village of Roclincourt. Above: The Labyrinth (Ashdown Forest Research Group) Above and below: Stereoscope images of the Labyrinth The area had been the scene of fie…


John Christie Wright - Artist and Sculptor

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Behind every name on a war memorial there is a story, but that of John Christie Wright, commemorated on the Rothiemay war memorial – a small community in what was formerly Banffshire – is particularly remarkable. Above: Rothiemay war memorial (c) Moray Council 2021  John Christie Wright was born in Aberdeen on 22 August 1889, the son of Moses, …


Life and Death on the North Sea during the First World War

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Perhaps the subtitle of this piece should be 'Just One Week', for that was the length of time one of my paternal uncles had served aboard HMS Queen Mary before she sailed out into the North Sea to meet the German Fleet. Although most of my other family members served in the Army during the Great War, the twist of fate that caused James Ringland to …


Chelsea and the disabled soldier

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At the outbreak of war in 1914 each of the two great military departments, the War Office and the Admiralty, dealt with their own pensions. It was soon clear, however, that this system would be difficult to manage. This was especially so in the case of the War Office who used the Chelsea Hospital to calculate and pay any disability or widows pensio…


The life and death of soldiers of West Indian Regiment at Seaford Camp, East Sussex during the First World War

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Not such a pretty postcard from the seaside camp at Seaford during the First World War Set up in a hurry in the opening months of the First World War Seaford Camp in Sussex on England's south coast wasn’t ready for its first 10,000 trainees in September 1914 so the men, new recruits into Kitchener's Army from southern Wales and east Lancashire f…


St George’s Day at Zeebrugge

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One of the reasons for Britain and her Empire going to war in 1914 was because of the perceived danger to the UK’s maritime trade posed by a hostile Germany controlling the ports on the European side of the English Channel and North Sea. The German conquest of much of Belgium, including the Belgian coast line, brought about this feared scenario wit…


The Landings at Sedd-el-Bahr, Gallipoli

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One of the most difficult military operations that can be undertaken is that of an opposed amphibious  landing on an enemy shore.  When asked to give an example of this kind of operation, many people will automatically think of the famous and successful 'D-Day' landings in Normandy in 1944. However, April 2021 marks the 106th anniversary of an earl…


William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse – the first aviator VC

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One of the original ‘magnificent men’, the story of William Barnard Rhodes-Moorhouse is truly fascinating. What may not be widely known is that he was of Maori descent from his grandmother. His paternal grandfather was William Barnard Rhodes, a Yorkshireman, who by the early 1830s was Master of his own ship. Above: William Barnard Rhodes He so…


The Story of the 62nd (West Riding) Division by Everard Wyrall

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Depending on how one would define a Divisional History, approximately forty British Divisional Histories were published between 1919 and 1939.[i]  Care does need to be exercised with this number, as certain titles listed by Dr Bourne are stories of sub-units[ii] or seemingly merely lists[iii] or cover only a brief period of the division’s war servi…


'A Grant to Buy a Drum' what Acting-Sergeant Jesse Byford's Pension Card Reveals

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Acting-Sergeant Jesse Byford was given a pension when he was discharged on the 31st October 1917, as “no longer physically fit for War Service”. He was 44 years old and with the Road Troops Depot of the Royal Engineers, although he had been a regular soldier for many years before the war. Prior to enlisting in February 1917, he had worked for two y…


The Forgotten Front: East Africa 1914-1918

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In Britain, most of the commemorative anniversaries held to mark events or battles or the First World War have been mainly focussed on Europe and the heavy fighting that took place there. In contrast, the remembrance of faraway theatres has been much more subdued despite the enormous impact and devastation the conflicts had on the societies that it…


Blacks v. Whites 29 April 1919 Winchester, Hampshire

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Blacks v. Whites Fight at Winchester Camp. A dozen men wounded. This shocking headline appeared in the Hampshire Telegraph on 2 May 1919 to describe events of the previous Monday 29th April 1919 when violence broke out between black British West Indian soldiers and white American soldiers serving with British forces who were housed in barracks at…


A Suitable Woman for the Job

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It's rare to find any reference to the background of women who served as military nurses during the Great War. Published sources often fail to highlight the differences between the small number of nurses who were part of the ‘regular' Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service [QAIMNS] and those who joined the Reserve after the outbreak o…


Stereoscope images from the Western Front and elsewhere

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Having just published the initial batch of stereoscopic images on The Western Front Association's website, it is perhaps a good time to pick out just a handful of these to show the kind of images that are available. There is no 'science' to the selection of the following images, it is merely a selection of some that have caught my eye as being of …


The Irish Struggle for Home Rule by Dr Graham Mayhew

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The Irish struggle for home rule and subsequently independence can be traced back to the Act of Union of 1800 when the Irish Parliament, from which Catholics were barred, voted to dissolve itself. Daniel O’Connell’s successful campaign for Catholic Emancipation, passed by Act of Parliament in 1829 and the support he received for his public agitat…


The Manchester United v Liverpool match fixing scandal of 1915

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Association football had, despite the outbreak of the First World War, not been suspended by the time the season ‘kicked off’ in the summer of 1914. This brought much criticism on clubs and indeed players. The season 1914-15 was destined to be the last until the 1919-20 season. Above: A photo of the 1909 FA Cup Final Bristol City (in blue) v Man…


The Loss of the HMT Transylvania 4 May 1917

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The liner Transylvania was completed just before the outbreak of the First World War and was to have served the Anchor Line, which was a subsidiary of the Cunard Line.  Transylvania was taken over for service as a troop transport on completion and the Admiralty fixed her capacity at 200 officers and 2,860 men plus her crew. On 3 May 1917 she left…


Different Truths from the Same Battle

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As dawn broke on the morning of 6 May 1915, the men of the 1/6th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers became the first British Territorial Army unit into action at Gallipoli. Although the number wounded was high, the fatalities from the first encounter were low. What is striking is the very different tone of the first-hand accounts recorded within…


Sir John Edward Fowler – the Last Repatriation from The Western Front in 1915?

/world-war-i-articles/sir-john-edward-fowler-the-last-repatriation-from-the-western-front-in-1915/

By April 1915 the exhumation of bodies from the Western Front and their repatriation was banned.   Historian Richard van Emden identifies the last ‘official’ case of repatriation of a fallen British soldier to be that of Lieutenant William Gladstone, the grandson of former Prime Minister William Gladstone. This took place in April 1915, nine da…


Tragedy and Heroism in the Davidson Family in March 1916

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On 28 March 1916, a pharmacist in Montrose, Scotland, dropped dead. The man’s wife duly wrote to the War Office to ask if her eldest son, Ronald, could be granted a short compassionate leave to come home from the Western Front and sort out his father’s business affairs as her two other sons were still of school age. Tragically, the widow’s appeal m…


The Grimson family and the First World War

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As with many spheres of life, the arts suffered many losses as a result of the First World War as exemplified by the Grimson family. Samuel Dean Grimson, described as a Professor of Music in the 1881 Census, and his wife, Maria Bonarius, brought up a musical family in London. All seven children (an eighth child died in infancy) became musicians an…


Captain Thorold A. Stewart-Jones at Aubers Ridge 9 May 1915

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Son of Edward and Emily Pauline Stewart-Jones. (Born 10 July 1873 in Liverpool) A barrister of the Inner Temple, Thorold moved to Lewes in 1908 when his mother had bought Southover Grange. At the 1911 Census, the widowed matriarch Mrs Emily-Pauline Stewart-Jones lived at Southover Grange with son’s family, her daughter-in-law Mrs Eva-Joan Stew…


The Great War Memorials to the Bowlby Brothers

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Captain Geoffrey Bowlby of the Royal Horse Guards (The Blues) was killed leading his squadron in a charge across 1,000 yards of open country north of Bellewarde Farm, during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, on the afternoon of 13 May, 1915. His commanding officer wrote: "I cannot tell you what a loss he is to the Regiment; he was as gallant as he could be…


An Original First World War RAF Hangar and the story of 'RFC Bramham Moor'

/world-war-i-articles/an-original-first-world-war-raf-hangar-and-the-story-of-rfc-bramham-moor/

Anyone driving along the A64 dual carriageway between York and Leeds may have noticed at a significant barn-like structure set back in the fields from the road on the York side of Bramham junction. The building that is just visible from the road was an original World War One aircraft hangar and 33 Squadron was the first squadron to be based at the …


The First Canadian Nurses killed by Enemy Action during the First World War

/world-war-i-articles/the-first-canadian-nurses-killed-by-enemy-action-during-the-first-world-war/

A number of Canadian nurses died on active service, largely as a result of disease. The first Canadian nursing casualties as a result of direct enemy action took place in May 1918, claiming the lives of three nurses over the following days. All were serving at 1st Canadian Hospital near Etaples, France, an area where there were many hospitals and c…


Battlefield Clearance and a Chinese revolt

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“Private Smith, one of the ordnance men in our team, was killed tampering with a 106 fuse. Chinese now totally frightened of job and there is every possibility of their refusing to carry on until an inquiry is carried out.” The above is a diary entry dated November 21, 1919, from Lt Frank Coxon (formerly of the 7th Royal Fusiliers) who was spendin…


Childhood memories of Gallipoli in the 1920s

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The passion of members of the Western Front Association is such that few fail to recognise an important historic account when they come across one – and thanks to member Edward Lever, a rare first-hand account and photographs of early commemorative work and commemoration at Gallipoli would be recorded for posterity. As part of our ongoing explorat…


George Horey's Parents’ Pilgrimage to the Somme 1923

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Some of the most moving photographs in the 40-year archive of The Western Front Association are those featuring the bereaved – the people forced to pick up the pieces and continue with their lives having lost a loved one in the war. Their pain all too often appears visceral. That is very much the case with these pictures of London tram conductor G…


From ceremonial duties to First Ypres and beyond: The 1st Life Guards and their single worst day of the war

/world-war-i-articles/from-ceremonial-duties-to-first-ypres-and-beyond-the-1st-life-guards-and-their-single-worst-day-of-the-war/

This is a brief account of one cavalry regiment's war which reached its nadir in unlikely circumstances whilst they were in a supposedly safe location on the French coast re-training for a new role. The story starts and ends at Etaples Military Cemetery. The cemetery is – as those who have visited it – a vast and (for its size) relatively rarely v…


Betty Stevenson – ‘the Happy Warrior’

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Within days of the war being declared the YMCA established recreation centres in the United Kingdom – largely near railway stations and other places where large numbers of troops were likely to be gathering. By the end of 1914, similar centres had been established at Le Havre in France and later in other areas of France. Above: The first YMCA H…


The Arras and Loos Trenches at Blackpool

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One of the lesser-known legacies of the First World War is the impact it had on charity – it is estimated that the number of charitable concerns in Britain doubled during the conflict, resulting in stiff competition for funds and a need for greater professionalism across the sector. Many new and enduring ideas were born (including the concept of ‘t…


The Original Long Distance Bombers of the First World War

/world-war-i-articles/the-original-long-distance-bombers-of-the-first-world-war/

Most of us are familiar with the RAF bombing campaigns of the Second World War, but few are aware that such cities as Cologne, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Stuttgart had already been targeted two decades earlier during the First World War. The reward for building an organisation like The Western Front Association on a foundation of reputable research i…


Riding through the ruins of war on the Circuit des Champs de Bataille

/world-war-i-articles/riding-through-the-ruins-of-war-on-the-circuit-des-champs-de-bataille/

In April 1919, barely six months after hostilities had ceased, the toughest bicycle race in history was staged across the former battlefields of the Western Front. It was an event that proved so hard it would never be staged again. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Western Front Association we have been dipping into the archives; what foll…


Remembering Grandad’s war : Sergeant James Fleming

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For many people interested in the First World War, initial enthusiasm can often be traced back to an old sepia photograph. What did ‘dad’ or ‘grandad’ do? It is a similar story for many members of this Association, and their research has provided some captivating first-hand accounts over the course of our 40-year history… In 2015 one of our Lancas…


One Man’s Lifelong Link to Vimy - Donald Wood's Story

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In July 1936, the impressive Canadian National Vimy Memorial was unveiled by King Edward VIII in front of a gathering measured in the tens of thousands. More than 15,000 would then gather for its rededication in 2007 following extensive repairs - and the crowds would again return in numbers in 2017 for the centenary of the battle that resulted in t…


General Sir Henry Wilson and the Disaster at Vimy - The German attack on IV Corps

/world-war-i-articles/general-sir-henry-wilson-and-the-disaster-at-vimy-the-german-attack-on-iv-corps/

If anyone who has an interest in the Great War is asked name an event associated with Vimy Ridge, it is likely that 9 out of 10 will immediately think of the Canadian attack of April 1917. This brilliant feat of arms is something that will always be remembered, but there is far more to Vimy Ridge than this battle. Throughout the First World War, t…


Howitzers, wounds and a pension

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“The war of 1914-18 was an artillery war: artillery was the battle winner, artillery was what caused the greatest loss of life, the most dreadful wounds, and the deepest fear.”        John Terraine,   White Heat – The New Warfare 1914-18 This is the story of 374104 Sgt. John Danton Mayhew, M.M., 163 Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery In 201…


‘Two years in the making. Ten minutes in the destroying’ – A Sheffield soldier at the heart of ‘Covenant with Death’.

/world-war-i-articles/two-years-in-the-making-ten-minutes-in-the-destroying-a-sheffield-soldier-at-the-heart-of-covenant-with-death/

John Harris’s 1961 book, ‘Covenant with Death’, is a well-known ‘fictionary’ account of the Sheffield City Battalion, taking it from formation to catastrophe at Serre on 1 July 1916. Harris (1916-1991), a Rotherham-born journalist, cartoonist and fiction writer (his list of publications is lengthy), worked for the Sheffield Telegraph both befor…


Capt James Donaldson Boswall: Boer War to Great War

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James Donaldson Boswall was born in Madras, India in November 1870, the only son of Major-General Roper Boswall and his wife, Eleanor. By 1881, the family was living in Scotland, at Ingleston House, Wardie, Midlothian, with James attending Edinburgh Academy from 1881 until 1884. He later attended Fettes Academy and the University of Edinburgh, from…


From the Suvla Plain to Victory: William Ralph Peel

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On the 16 November 1918, Lt Col William Ralph Peel and the men in his 10/Manchester Regiment were lined up smartly in the main square of a sprawling village on the outskirts of Maubeuge. Its population, only days earlier, had finally been relieved from a German occupation that had begun over four years previously in August 1914. The purpose of th…


Courage and devotion to duty: 62357 Sgt. Ernest Bashford, 199 Siege Battery

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Family history research revealed at least five relatives who served in the Royal Garrison Artillery in the Great War, and an episode recorded in Ernest Bashford’s military papers deserved further investigation.  Great Uncle Ernest was the son of Edward and Sophia Bashford, one of a family of ten, born at Bayham Abbey, Kent in 1880.  His normal occu…


The Curious Case of Thomas Brown who served as Thomas Smith and the Dewsbury Roll of Honour and War Memorial

/world-war-i-articles/the-curious-case-of-thomas-brown-who-served-as-thomas-smith-and-the-dewsbury-roll-of-honour-and-war-memorial/

In 2014 a group by the name of Dewsbury Sacrifices was formed with the primary intention of researching the 1053 names in the Dewsbury Roll of Honour and the War Memorial in Crow Nest Park. As these were inaugurated in 1923/24 it meant verifying all the names and endeavouring to find newspaper articles from the war years and later so that photogr…


The Censuring of Lieutenant Colonel John MacCarthy-O’Leary

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In February 1918, 55th (West Lancashire) Division took over trenches in the Givenchy sector. The division’s units had sustained severe losses during the German counter-attack at Cambrai at the end of November and had since been rebuilding and training in the rear. During that counter-stroke, 1/5th South Lancashire, of 166 Brigade, had been almost w…


Chilwell – the VC factory explosion 1 July 1918

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In 1914 the British armaments industry was primarily geared to supplying the needs of the Royal Navy, export markets, and a small regular army. The Navy’s and Army’s relatively modest armament needs were largely met by state-owned factories and a handful of private firms. But by autumn 1914, it was clear that the essentially static trench warfare o…


A Mother’s pilgrimage to Ypres 1921

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Private Joseph French was born in Dallas, Morayshire in December 1895, the son of William and Elizabeth French. The family later moved to live in Garmouth, Morayshire. Joseph enlisted in the Morayshire Territorials – the 6th Seaforth Highlanders – in 1912. Above: Joseph and his friends at camp, pre-war. Joseph is sitting, front row left, holding…


The Entertainer - Frederick Lauraine

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During Project 'Big Push', an interesting looking pension card was brought to the team leader’s attention by one of the checkers who thought it possibly had an interesting story to tell. Frederick William Day, alias F.W. Lauraine served as Pte. 085384 R.A.S.C. and 698541 Labour Corps. The Abbey Hotel address in Westminster Bridge Road seems no …


The Gotha Air Raid on London – 13 June 1917

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German air raids on Britain during the First World War began in early 1915 when Zeppelins were used to bomb coastal targets in Eastern England. The use of Gotha bombers began in May 1917 - these aircraft were capable of long distance flights and were used to make daylight raids on South East England. On 13 June 1917, German Gotha aircraft carried…


Vivian Hicking - a Grimsby Chum in India, drowned 3 June 1919

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After the armistice, many men would have been returning to their homes after receiving their discharge from the army, however men were still required not only for the occupation of part of Germany, but also for the continuing garrison duties in the far-flung corners of the Empire. It was in India in June 1919 that tragedy was to strike, causing the…


The First Non-Stop Transatlantic Flight Alcock and Brown’ Alcock and Brown 1919

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In 1913, the Daily Mail newspaper offered a prize of £10,000 to ‘the aviator who shall first cross the Atlantic in an aeroplane in flight from any point in the United States of America, Canada or Newfoundland to any point in Great Britain or Ireland in 72 continuous hours’. The competition was suspended with the outbreak of war in August 1914 but …


A Liverpool Lad at Ypres Pte Joseph Gough KIA 31 July 1917

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“The Valley of the Shadow, 31 July 1917. Down in the valley the Steenbeek flows, A brook you may cross with an easy stride, In death’s own valley between the rows of stunted willows om either side. You may cross in the sunshine without a care, with a brow that is fanned by the summer’s breath, Though you cross with a laugh, yet pause with a pr…


Great War Crested China militaria of the Great War

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Webinars which have been produced by The Western Front Association and watched live or via the Facebook page have been a rich source of information, giving us access to wide ranging subjects during these difficult times, and thanks must go to those involved in their production.  At the same time they have also allowed a sneaky peek into the homes o…


'Roasting a sausage': Balloons, their crews, and those who shot them down

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Although observation balloons had been used as early as 1794 the static nature of the conflict in the First World War provided the backdrop for the balloons to come into their own and play an important part in the war. The idiom ‘the balloon’s going up’ derives from the raising of a balloon signalling the beginning of an artillery barrage, guided b…


'Gilbert the Filbert' during the Great War RIP 20 August 1916

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Captain Basil Hallam Radford, No 1 Army Kite Ballon Section, Royal Flying Corps was born on 3 April 1888 and lived on Cromwell Road, South Kensington. He was at the public school Charterhouse from 1903 to 1907. Basil Radford became an actor and went on stage as 'Basil Hallam'. He became a star of the Music Halls and was known in particular for his …


Running the Rufiji Gauntlet: The destruction of SMS Königsberg

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Early on the morning of 6 July 1915 two warships slipped away from Tirene Bay on Mafia Island, and slowly headed towards the coast of Tanzania, less than 30 miles away. The vessels were small, at 265 feet in length, and sat very low in the water: there was only three feet of freeboard fore and aft. However, they were heavily armed, each carrying tw…


Balloonatics during the First World War 1914-1918

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There are many groups of combatants who could claim to be the ‘unsung’ heroes of the First World War. One group with a particularly strong claim are those men who operated the observation balloons. Not for them the glamour of flying Sopwith Camels or even DH4’s, but they still had to face the dangers of being suspended several thousand feet in the …


The Restoration of a ‘Lost’ War Memorial – Woodborough Road Baptist Church, Nottingham

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The Woodborough Road Baptist church in Nottingham was an imposing late Victorian building, designed by the eminent architect, Watson Fothergill, and opened in February 1895. Sadly, the church closed in the 1970s and the Great War memorial tablets to the men who served and those who died, were removed from the premises before its sale. The UK invent…


The Air Raid on Chatham Drill Hall 3 September 1917

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On 3 September 1917, the Chatham Drill Hall, then a glass roofed building, was being used as a temporary overflow dormitory for sailors and there were 698 men asleep or resting in their hammocks in the Drill Hall. The Drill Hall formed part of the Royal Navy’s HMS Pembroke barracks at Chatham. Above: the main gate to HMS Pembroke thought to have…


Was Lord Kitchener Gay?

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Ever since the publication of the biography entitled ‘Kitchener: Portrait of an Imperialist’ by Philip Magnus in 1958 there have been repeated rumours about Lord Kitchener’s sexuality.[1] The article below by Jeremy Paxman was first published on his website (https://jeremypaxman.co.uk/revelations/was-kitchener-gay) in 2014. Footnotes and photos hav…


U-36 and the Prince Charles

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SM U-36 was a type U 31 submarine, commissioned on 14 November 1914 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Ernst Graeff. Above: U Boat (U-38) of the U 31 type Her first war patrol in Heligoland Bight was at the end of March 1915, with no sinkings of ships reported. Above: U-36 pictured in April 1915 By the end of April that would change, wit…


Pantomime at Sea: Q-ships in WW1

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The use of deception in warfare at sea was not new to the First World War – as an example, in 1681, HMS Kingfisher was designed to counter the attack of pirates by masquerading as a merchant ship, with her armaments hidden behind false bulkheads, and with various means of changing her appearance.  Conversely, the tactic of making merchant ships loo…


The Quest for Grandad’s photo: Pte James Cooper, 1st. Bn. Essex Regiment

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'The grassy slopes that crown the cliffs are carpeted with flowers.  The azure sky is cloudless and the air is fragrant with the scent of wild thyme. In front, a smiling valley studded with cypress and olive and patches of young corn, the ground rises gently to the village of Krithia standing amidst clumps of mulberry and oak.   On the left, a mile…


Argentina in the Great War

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Argentina was a neutral country during World War I. However, one-third of its population was made up of foreign citizens, including those of countries currently at war. The area was prime for German propaganda and for German agents. One of these agents apparently poisoned a large number of mules which were due to be shipped to Mesopotamia The effo…


Q-21 - HMS Prize and William Sanders VC

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HMS Prize also Q-21 was previously known as HMS First Prize and originally the German ship Else. She had the distinction of being the first ship captured in the war in August 1914 (hence the name First Prize). Auctioned off by the Admiralty, her new owners, the Marine Navigation Company, later offered her to the Navy for decoy work in November 1916…


Major Mick Mannock KIA 10 July 1918 and the ongoing mystery of his grave

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On 10 July 1918, Major Edward Mannock, who had recently been appointed to command 85 Squadron of the newly created RAF, heard that his friend James McCudden had been killed in a flying accident. This news seriously depressed ‘Mick’ as he was known, but also motivated him into a killing spree. On top of his already impressive haul, he shot down six …


Southampton: The Gateway to War

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When Britain entered the First World War in August 1914, there was no question as to which port was going to be the focus of activity – secret planning had been ongoing for years in relation to the city of Southampton. Previously used as the point of embarkation for troops bound for both India and the Boer War, in 1912 a practice mobilisation had …


The Mobilisation of Britain’s Military Nurses 1914

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The day after Britain entered the First World War, a ward sister at Charing Cross Hospital, Maud Hopton, signed a War Office contract agreeing to serve with the military nursing service 'at home or abroad' for a period of one year. Three days after this Maude found herself at Aldershot with 43 other nurses preparing to embark for France as part of …


The Safe Passage of BEF Troopships August 1914

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Comparatively little outside of the Official History has been written about the defensive measures established to cover the initial transport of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to the continent in August 1914 and that may well be because of their success. The Royal Navy, with its traditional global perspective, had held little enthusiasm for…


Finding the Horses for War

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Horses and mules were not a marginal resource for the Army during the First World War - they were to play a crucial role in the Allied victory. Whilst motorised vehicles had started being introduced into the ranks in 1903, the horse still reigned supreme for artillery and cavalry. In 1914 the Army had a completely integrated transport system feat…


‘The Scum of the Earth’

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In 1813 the Duke of Wellington, angered by incidents of looting amongst his army, wrote sourly: ‘We have in the service the scum of the earth as common soldiers.’ The words were harsh, but not altogether inaccurate, for the British Army had a long tradition of recruiting primarily amongst the poorest and most desperate of society. Above: The Duk…


The First RFC Pilot to land in France 13 August 1914

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At 6.25am on 13 August 1914, No.2 Squadron Royal Flying Corp mobilised for France. They were to follow their commanding officer Major C J Burke, a pioneer of military aviation who was noted for his courage and who had not only insisted that his squadron be the first to leave – but that his aircraft be the first to land. Above: Major Charles Burk…


Cecil Patrick Healy: the only Australian Olympic Gold medalist to die in war KIA 29 August 1918.

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Cecil Patrick Healy - the only Australian Olympic Gold medalist to die in war – was a prominent figure in the swimming world in Australia and beyond, for more than 15 years. An early proponent of the new crawl stroke and the side breathing technique, he contributed articles to the press about swimming and surf-bathing. Above: Cecil Healy picture…


The Camera Returns No.7 by Bob Grundy and Steve Wall

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[This edition of The Camera Return was originally published in Stand To! No.29 in the Spring of 1989. Bob and Steve had taken their photographs to match the view in December 1988.] Then >  Nine British soldiers resting in the main street of Aveluy, 2 km north of Albert. 25 March 1918 © IWM  Q8640. To make a match for present day comparisons u…


The Baralong Incident 29 January 1917

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The Baralong was a 'three island' tramp steamer built in 1901 by Armstrong & Whitworth. She was requisitioned by the Navy in 1914 intended as a supply ship but in early 1915 was identified as a potential decoy ship. Modification works to equip her for this role, including the installation of three concealed twelve pounder guns, were carried out…


Using the RFC to unlock the workings of widow’s pensions

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It was only in early 1915, 6 months in to the war, that the War Office began paying pensions to the widows of those soldiers who had been killed. This wasn’t down to any lack of a pension system, it was down to an inherent 6-month delay between death and a pension being paid to allow time for the man to turn up alive, and any necessary paperwork to…


The Low Moor Munitions Factory Explosion

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Monday, August 21 in 1916 was a fine and sunny day, but would be remembered in the area of Low Moor - which is a small town to the south of Bradford, in West Yorkshire - for many years. However, over the decades, the memories of this day have faded and the unimaginable horror that took place is now largely forgotten. A clue as to the events of thi…


The 'fake' French Aristocrat at Etaples

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In the vast expanse of Etaples Military Cemetery are thousands of headstones. Each of these represents the last resting place of a casualty of the war. No doubt all stories are unique, but to misquote George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’, some are 'more unique than others'.   Above: Etaples Military Cemetery Below is the image of a headstone of what wo…


The R38 disaster 24 August 1921

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At the start of the war, in contrast to Germany, the British had limited experience of airships. Under the Royal Naval Air Service there were only a handful of airships in service but with increasing U-Boat activity and the resultant impact on shipping, the Navy began to further develop its use of airships to counter the U-Boat threat. The R.38 c…


Ministry of Pensions Regional Offices

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After the First World War, the Ministry of Pensions (for a short time) created a number of regional offices in order to deal with the administration of pensions paid to disabled soldiers. The location of these offices had been a bit of a mystery. Until now.  It is of interest to know where the administration of these pensions took place. Some of t…


‘A Gallant Duel’ : SS Otaki and the Moewe

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During the war, the Germans used merchant ‘raider’ ships against Allied shipping. The Moewe (also known as Mowe) previously Pungo, built in 1915, was designed as a refrigerated ship, originally intended as a freight ship for the transportation of bananas from Togo to the German colonies in Africa. As the Moewe, she would become one of the most succ…


The George Cecil Memorial at Villers-Cotterets by Michael Aidin

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[This article first featured in Stand To! No.74 September 2005 pp 35-36. Some additional images have been added]. The memorial (below) to Lieutenant George Cecil by Francois Sicard (1862- 1945) is one of the finest private monuments erected on the Western Front. Situated in the extensive Foret de Retz at Villers Cotterets, about 20 miles from Co…


A Century Old 'Thank you' : Frederick Clark KIA 21 March 1918

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The events of World War I have burned themselves into the national consciousness - especially during the past four years, when every battle, every incident, every death has had its 100th anniversary. With the centenary of the end of the war in sight, many are the stories that have been told and are waiting to be told. This is just one. My father […


Mutiny in North Russia 7 July 1919

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In the early morning of 7 July 1919, four British Officers were killed by men in their battalion – one further officer subsequently died of his wounds a few days later. All were serving in Dyer’s Battalion of the Slavo-British Legion in the North Russian Expeditionary Force and are now buried in Archangel Allied Cemetery. Above: Archangel Allie…


A Royal Navy rating discharged as epileptic and destined for the Asylum

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George Henry Howlett was born in Shoreditch the son of George William Howlett, a metal worker from Norfolk, and Alice Harriet Davis from Gloucestershire. George’s first period in the Royal Navy was from 1906, his civilian occupation on enlistment being a gas fitter. His initial posting was to the training ship HMS Impregnable, a 121 gun ship of 1…


Ivor Thord-Gray - Mercenary, Spy? Thief? … and CO 11th Northumberland Fusiliers

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Ivor Thord-Gray was a man for whom war (to paraphrase Lord Reith) was ‘in his bones’.  A Swede, born Ivar Thord Hallström (the change in name being for reasons unknown) in Stockholm on 17 April 1878, he set out on a life that would have made good fiction if it were not actually true. After two years on merchant ships (1893-5), he landed in Cape Tow…


Submarine operations at Gallipoli in 1915

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When we think about submarine warfare in the First World War, most people’s thoughts turn to the German use of unrestricted submarine warfare, this being was one of the factors that ultimately brought about the entry of the USA into the war in 1917. The British and Empire nations’ use of submarines is largely a forgotten subject. However, during t…


A short and unequal engagement: HMS Strongbow and HMS Mary Rose

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HMS Mary Rose and HMS Strongbow (two M-class destroyers) were routinely deployed on convoy duties for merchant vessels carrying coal between Scotland and Norway in 1917. The job was usually fairly mundane – described as ‘mail runs’ by one of the survivors ... but the events of 17 October 1917 would change all that. HMS Mary Rose was the seventh su…


Max Immelmann – the ‘Eagle of Lille’

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The first German air ace of the war was Max Immelmann – known as ‘Der Adler von Lille’ – ‘the eagle of Lille’. Over a period of just over a year, he would claim 17 victories until his death on 18 June 1916. Above: a commemorative coin Born in Dresden on 21 September 1890, Max enrolled in Dresden Cadet School in 1905. By 1912, he had left the ar…


RNAS Caldale, Orkney and the loss of two airships

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Situated a couple of miles from Kirkwall on the island of Orkney in the Parish of St. Ola, Royal Naval Air Station Caldale (also known as Icarus) was home to four Submarine Scout Pusher (SSP) airships, engaged in anti submarine and mine spotting duties, as well as kite balloons. In November and December 1917, the Air Station suffered the loss of tw…


A Father’s Search

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For many families of ‘the missing’, the absence of a known grave in the immediate aftermath of the war was unbearable. It would, of course, be some years before the Memorials to the Missing were constructed after the war. Field Marshal Lord Plumer, when unveiling the Menin Gate in 1927, acknowledged the void that many families of ‘the missing’ woul…


The Sinking of the RMS Apapa 28 November 1917

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It was towards 4 o'clock on the morning of 28 November 1917 with a choppy sea running - cold, dark and wintry - that the R.M.S. Apapa, one of the 7,000 ton mail steamers of the Elder Dempster fleet, was steaming a good 13½ knots off Point Lynas, bound to Liverpool from West Africa. Everyone was in bed; no one save the lynx-eyed officers of the w…


Christmas Day 1914 – Goodwill to all men?

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Much has been written about the Christmas Day ‘Truce’ on 25 December 1914 – while the popular image of Christmas Day 1914 might be that ‘peace reigned’, this was not universal across the western front. Above: the Christmas Truce 1914 Indeed, the CWGC records the deaths of 78 men on the western front on 25 December 1914 – whilst just over 30 of…


The strangest dog fight of the war?

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The German Albatros aeroplane shown here is preserved at the AWM in Australia. It was shot down during what is perhaps one of the strangest combats in flying history on 17 December 1917. Above: Albatros D.Va, Serial D.5390/17, at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra This German Albatros D.Va (numbered 5390/17) was being flown by Leutnant Rud…


Arnold Ridley aka Private Godfrey of Dads Army

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[This short profile of the actor and playwright Arnold Ridley first appeared in a piece by Mark Bristow titled 'Seven British Actors Who Served during the Great War'. It appeared in Firestep Vol.7. No.1 The Western Front Association London Branch magazine, all volumes of which are available for access by members using their member login]. Arnold…


Lieutenant Philip St John Basil Rathbone aka Sherlock Holmes

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[This short profile of the stage, film and later TV actor Basil Rathbone first appeared in a piece by Mark Bristow as 'Seven British actors who served during the Great War'. It appeared in Firestep Vol.7. No.1 The Western Front Association London Branch magazine, all volumes of which are available for access by members using their member login]. W…


Ronald Colman : London Scottish, British Stage Actor, Broadway, Film Actor, Radio and TV Star

/world-war-i-articles/ronald-colman-london-scottish-british-stage-actor-broadway-film-actor-radio-and-tv-star/

[This short profile of the actor Ronald Coleman first appeared in a piece by Mark Bristow titled 'Seven British Actors Who Served during the Great War' in Firestep Vol.7. No.1 The Western Front Association London Branch magazine, all volumes of which are available for access by members using their member login]. On 31 October 1914 the London Sco…


John Laurie : Shakespearean actor and Private Fraser in the BBC's Dads Army

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John Laurie was born 25 March 1897 in Dumfries and was destined to be an architect before the Great War intervened. He admitted that he never expected to survive the conflict; in fact, he was invalided out of the service and became a sergeant-of-arms at the Tower of London.   In 1919 John Laurie’s passion for Shakespeare inspired him to become …


Mervyn Johns, First World War RFC Pilot and film actor

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Mervyn Johns was born on 18 February 1899 at Pembroke. He was a medical student at a London Hospital before the war, then enlisted into the Royal Flying Corps and became a pilot. He later recalled the demands that repeated combat patrolling made upon the young and inexperienced pilots and observers. He declared “I don’t think there was a single…


Robert ‘Bobbie’ Loraine M.C. : Actor-Airman

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The once-renowned Robert ‘Bobbie’ Lorraine is now an obscure figure. Born on 14 January 1876 in New Brighton, Merseyside, he was known in his heyday as the ‘Actor-Airman’. He became a matinee idol before gaining his Royal Aero Club pilot’s certification in 1910 at the age of thirty five. The first man to land an aircraft on the Isle of Wight in …


The Short, Sad Military Career of Thomas Adams by John Bourne

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My collaborator in compiling a Roll of Honour for Burslem, Mick Rowson, was recently attempting to maintain his sanity in these strange times by doing some ‘tidying up’ of our database.  His eye fell upon the name of Thomas Adams.  Our basic resource in compiling the roll of honour was Soldiers Died in the Great War [SDGW]. Above: The Cover of P…


Turkey for Christmas Dinner, 1915

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Christmas Day in the front line trenches was (with the possible – partial – exception of 1914) likely to be almost identical to any other day of the year. In terms of a soldier's ‘Christmas Dinner’ – other than the contents of parcels from home – this was again more than likely going to be identical to all other meals: a mixture of Bully Beef, Maco…


The Munitionette’s First Heavy Shell. The Struggle to produce Munitions 1915 to 1918 by John Hughes-Wilson

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If, in modern warfare, fuel is the blood of victory, then munitions – in all their varied forms – are the muscles and sinews. This raw truth was first understood as the First World War deteriorated into a crude slogging match dominated by guns, shells, machines and the power of industrial output to support soldiers on the battlefield. The Germans e…


Swanky Syd and the Bunny Girl

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Last summer [2021] a friend gave me a copy of Bombshell: The Night Bobby Kennedy Killed Marilyn Monroe (London: Ad Lib Publishers, 2021). This is not a book I would have bought myself, but I make it a point of honour to read anything gifted to me.  I’m glad I did.  I have no idea whether Bobby Kennedy killed Marilyn. The case is based on hearsay…


Frontline or Field ambulance? Where were Chaplains best placed to help?

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On 25th April 1915 Father William Joseph Finn became the first British military chaplain to be killed in action in the First World War. His death ignited a debate that continues to resonate with chaplains who serve the Armed Forces in the present day – where are they best placed to help?   Above: Father William Finn and the cemetery at V Beach at…


Daring to be different to help the disabled

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At the time of writing this item, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich finds himself in the headlines as the result of a war in Ukraine, but back in 2018 he courted controversy by seeking to purchase a plot of land steeped in the history of an earlier conflict. The site that the owner of Chelsea Football Club was keen to buy was part of the Stoll Mans…


Harry Lauder: The World's First Musical Superstar and Broken Parent of the First World War

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“Have you news of my boy Jack?" Not this tide. "When d'you think that he'll come back?" Not with this wind blowing, and this tide.’ Kipling’s poem about his fallen son is one of the most well-known expressions of parental pain of the Great War, but few were more open about their grief at the loss of a child than ‘The World’s First Musical Superstar…


Field Artillery and Infantry on the Western Front during the FIrst World War

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In August 1914, and again in November 1918, the Royal Field Artillery of the British army was fighting in partnership with the forward divisional infantry, directing accurate targeted fire onto enemy strongpoints to facilitate infantry objectives. For various reasons, both practical and doctrinal, this cooperation was partially lost, on the Western…


Brothers in Arms: Three Died and Three Survived the First World War

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The First World War resulted in terrible suffering for many families, but the Willis family was among those that paid the highest of prices: six brothers went to war, but only three came home. Of the surviving siblings, one had lost a leg and the other two also left with recurring health problems. The Willis family had travelled from Nottingham to…


The Controversy of Commemoration in Ramsbottom after the First World War

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War memorials are contentious: the commissioning of large public sculptures has often divided communities, with stories of bitter discord surfacing both during the Great War and in the years that followed. Disputes about the control of war memorial committees, as well as the decisions made by them, often made local newspaper headlines. The main c…


Private Alfred Berry and the Zeebrugge Raid 1918

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The Zeebrugge Raid of St. George’s Day 1918 was an audacious attempt by the Royal Navy to neutralise the activities of the German U-boats that were intent on bringing Britain and her allies to their knees. They were creating havoc in the English Channel, at least a third of allied shipping carrying food, munitions and other equipment – amounting to…


Death of a Princess: The Destruction of HMS Princess Irene 27 May 1915

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In May 1913 the Canadian Pacific Railway had placed an order with Denny’s of Dumbarton for two new ships for their route on the Pacific coast between Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. The ships were elegant and well appointed three-funnelled vessels 350 feet long with a 54 foot beam and displacing 5,500 tons. Oil-fuelled boilers drove two propellers…


The Real Winslow Boy

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In 1946, Terence Rattigan wrote the play ‘The Winslow Boy’ – a story of a father’s fight to clear his son’s name of a charge of stealing a 5 shilling postal order whilst a cadet at the Royal Naval College at Osborne. It would later become a film in 1999.   Above: the first edition of the play, published by Hamish Hamilton and a publicity poster…