Sunday, 17 July 2022

Hugh Seymour Walpole (1884 - 1941) - British writer

Walpole, c. 1915
The writer Sir Hugh Walpole, CBE (13 March 1884 – 1 June 1941) had a very interesting First World War. Poor eyesight meant he could not join the British Armed forces or the Police, so he accepted an appointment with “The Saturday Review” and “The Daily Mail” to travel to Russia to report on their WW1 Fronts. Walpole was appointed an officer in the Russian Sanitar, which is part of the Red Cross and deals with the evacuation of wounded from the trenches, as well as assisting at Base Hospitals.

While in training for that, Walpole learnt Russian. In the summer of 1915 he served on the Austrian-Russian Front, assisting at operations in Field Hospitals and collecting the wounded and dead from areas of combat. As Walpole wrote to his friend Arnold Bennett: "A battle is an amazing mixture of hell and a family picnic – not as frightening as the dentist, but absorbing, sometimes thrilling like football, sometimes dull like church, and sometimes simply physically sickening like bad fish. Burying dead afterwards is worst of all." (Walpole was friends with writers Henry James and Arnold Bennett, who encouraged the young Walpole with his writing.)

During a battle in June 1915 Walpole single-handedly rescued a wounded soldier who his Russian comrades had refused to help. Alone, he carried one end of the stretcher and dragged the man to safety. For this action Walpole was awarded the Russian Cross of Saint George.

Russian Cross of
St. George

In late 1917 it became clear to Walpole and to the British authorities that he was no longer much use in Russia. His departure on 7th November 1917 meant that he missed the start of the Revolution. In London, Walpole was appointed to a post at the Foreign Office in its Department of Information, headed by John Buchan. Soon after returning, he volunteered for the British Army but failed the medical examination due to poor eyesight. Walpole continued to work in the British Propaganda Department when it was reconstituted under Lord Beaverbrook in April 1918, and remained there for the rest of the war, resigning in February 1919. He was awarded a CBE for his services during WW1.

Walpole received a knighthood in 1937.

The Cross of Saint George is a state decoration of the Russian Federation. Initially established by Imperial Russia and officially known as the Decoration of the Military Order of Saint George between 1807 and 1913, the Cross of Saint George was reinstated into the Russian awards system in 1992.


The British CBE

The CBE - The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - is a British order of chivalry, rewarding contributions to the arts and sciences, work with charitable and welfare organisations, and public service outside the civil service. It was established on 4th June 1917 by King George V and comprises five classes across both civil and military divisions, the most senior two of which make the recipient either a Knight if male or a Dame if female.


Photos: Walpole c. 1915, the Russian Cross of St. George and the British CBE

Sources: Wikipedia



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Monday, 20 June 2022

The Reverend Canon Frederick George Scott, C.M.G., D.S.O. (1861 – 1944) - Canadian WW1 Army Chaplain & poet

 With thanks to Daryl G Hudson, Admin on the World War One Facebook Group who gave me permission to share his post about Canadian poet The Reverend Frederick George Scott who I wrote about in a post on my weblog Forgotten Poets of the First World War 

https://forgottenpoetsofww1.blogspot.com/2019/05/canon-major-frederick-george-scott-cmg.html


At the time of writing my previous post, I was unaware of Scott's search for his missing son.  Daryl Hudson says:

The Reverend Frederick George Scott  was serving as a Chaplain with the First Canadian Division in France when he learned of the death of his twenty-four-year-old son Henry, killed in October 1916 while leading an attack on enemy lines near Albert. After the chaos of battle, Henry’s body had been hastily buried between the lines, but could not be recovered. 

Scott was able to return to the area near Regina Trench over a month later in mid-November, and with a runner, he found a cross marking his son’s grave. They began to dig until they exposed a hand wearing Henry’s signet ring. Removing the ring, the chaplain read the burial service, then “made a small mound where the body lay, and then by quick dashes from shell hole to shell hole we got back at last to the communication trench…. It was a strange scene of desolation, for the November rains had made the battle fields a dreary, sodden waste.”° 

A working party brought Henry Hutton Scott’s remains back behind the lines on Nov. 24. His father was there as they "laid my dear boy to rest in the little cemetery on Tara Hill …. I was thankful to have been able to have him buried in a place which is known and can be visited .… In June of the following year, when the Germans had retired after our victory at Vimy Ridge, I paid one more visit to Regina Trench. The early summer had clothed the waste land in fresh and living green. Larks were singing gaily in the sunny sky. No sound of shell or gun disturbed the whisper of the breeze as it passed over the sweet-smelling fields. Even the trenches were filling up and Mother Nature was trying to hide the cruel wounds which the war had made upon her loving breast. One could hardly recall the visions of gloom and darkness which had once shrouded that scene of battle. In the healing process of time all mortal agonies, thank God, will finally be obliterated."


Frederick George Scott, known as the poet of the Laurentians, was an Anglican priest before the war. He volunteered as an Army Chaplain in August 1914 and recalled his thoughts when he stood in the pulpit that same Sunday: “When I was preaching at the service and looked down at the congregation, I had a queer feeling that some mysterious power was dragging me into a whirlpool, and the ordinary life around me and the things that were so dear to me had already begun to fade away.”

In Scott’s memoir, “The Great War as I Saw It” (1922), he recalls his time in Flanders: 

The wood [Ploegsteert] in those days was a very pleasant place to wander through. Anything that reminded us of the free life of nature acted as a tonic to the nerves, and the little paths among the trees which whispered overhead in the summer breezes made one imagine that one was wandering through the forests in Canada. In the wood were several cemeteries kept by different units, very neatly laid out and carefully fenced in. I met an officer one day who told me he was going up to the trenches one evening past a cemetery in the wood, when he heard the sound of someone sobbing. He looked into the place and there saw a young boy lying beside a newly made grave. He went in and spoke to him and the boy seemed confused that he had been discovered in his sorrow. “It’s the grave of my brother, Sir,” he said, “He was buried here this afternoon and now I have got to go back to the line without him.” The lad dried his eyes, shouldered his rifle and went through the woodland path up to the trenches. No one would know again the inner sorrow that had darkened his life.

My source:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/787823817901556/posts/5954372394579980/?comment_id=5954474914569728&notif_id=1655733194862859&notif_t=group_comment_mention    20.6.2022 

“The Great War as I Saw It” by Canon Frederick George Scott, C.M.G., D.S.O. (F. D. Goodchild Co, Toronto, Canada, 1922) is available to read as a free download on Project Gutenberg:

https://www.gutenberg.org/files/19857/19857-h/19857-h.htm






Friday, 17 June 2022

British Army Chaplains in the First World War and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

The British Army Chaplains' Department (AChD) was formed by Royal Warrant of 23rd September 1796; until then chaplains had been part of individual regiments, but not on the central establishment. Only Anglican chaplains were recruited until 1827, when Presbyterians were recognised, but not commissioned until 1858. Roman Catholic chaplains were recruited from 1836, Methodist chaplains from 1881, and Jewish chaplains from 1892. During the First World War some 4,400 Army Chaplains were recruited and 179 lost their lives on active service.

In recognition of their dedicated service, in 1914 King George V conferred upon the Army Chaplains’ Department the prefix “Royal”.

According to my on-going research, quite a few Army Chaplains were awarded the Military Cross (MC) during WW1. Here is the list of those I have found so far:

Rev. W.R.F. Addison VC - Army Chaplain and poet; also awarded the Order of St George-Russia.

Rev. Theodore Bayley Hardy, VC, DSO, MC (20 October 1863 – 18 October 1918) 

Rev. Captain Herbert B. Cowl, MC

Rev. Geoffrey Anketell Studdert Kennedy MC (1883 –1929) – known as “Woodbine Willy”; Army Chaplain and poet 

Rev. Noel Mellish VC, MC

Rev. Basil Pemberton Plumptre, MC (1883 - 1917) – British Army Chaplain

Rev. David Railton MC (1884 – 1955) - British Army Chaplain who had the  idea for creating a British Unknown Warrior memorial  

Rev. Edward John Thompson, MC, MiD - Poet and Army Chaplain (1886 – 1946)  – 7th Division, Mesopotamia

Rev. Morgan Watcyn-Williams, MC


The Military Cross


The British Military Cross. The Military Cross award was created on 28th December 1914 for commissioned officers of the substantive rank of Captain or below and for Warrant Officers. Awards were announced in “The London Gazette”.  From August 1916, recipients of the Cross were entitled to use the post-nominal letters MC, and bars could be awarded for further acts of gallantry meriting the award. 

 The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior 


  

The idea for a British Unknown Warrior memorial came to one of the chaplains who served on the Western Front during the First World War – the Reverend David Railton MC (1884 – 1955).  Ordained in Liverpool in 1908, he then became Curate of Edge Hill in Liverpool.   Serving alongside soldiers in the front line during WW1, burying many, he was awarded a Military Cross (MC) for attending wounded men under heavy enemy fire.

In 1916 the Rev. Railton noticed, in the garden of a ruined house, a single grave, marked by a rough wooden cross, with the words “An Unknown British Soldier” written on it in pencil.   Deeply moved by this and conscious that each man lost left behind someone who loved him, he wondered how he could “ease the pain of father, mother, brother sister, sweetheart, and friend.

The Unknown Warrior came home through the port of Dover on 10th November 1920,  and was buried the following day, among the monarchs in Westminster Abbey. The coffin was covered with a Union Flag flag, which the Reverend Railton had used as an altar cloth during services he held on the Western Front.  That flag now hangs in Westminster Abbey, near the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

Sources:

http://www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk/Information/Newsletters/FF%205.pdf

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Army_Chaplains%27_Department


Monday, 25 April 2022

Alfred Charles William Harmsworth, 1st Viscount Northcliffe (1865 –1922)

With thanks to AC Benus* for suggesting I research Alfred and for finding Alfred's WW1 book.

 
Born in Chapelizod, County Dublin, Ireland, on 15th July 1865, Alfred Charles William Harmsworth ‘s parents wereAlfred and Geraldine Harmsworth.   He was educated at Stamford School in Lincolnshire, England, from 1876 and at Henley House School in Kilburn, London from 1878.  One of the masters at Henley House who was to prove important to his future was J. V. Milne, the father of A. A. Milne, who according to H. G. Wells was at school with him at the time and encouraged Harmsworth to start the school magazine.

Alfred began his newspaper career as a freelance journalist and started his own newspaper.  He seemed to have a sense for what people wanted to read and during the 1890s set up a series of cheap magazines, among them “Comic Cuts” and “Forget-me-Not”. On 4th May 1896, Alfred published the first edition of “Daily Mail” newspaper in London. It was an instant success and held the world record for daily circulation until his death on 14th August 1922.

Created a Baronet, of Elmwood, in the parish of St Peters in the County of Kent in 1904, during 1905 Alfred was raised to the peerage as Baron Northcliffe, of the Isle of Thanet in the County of Kent.  During the First World War, Alfred criticized the British government in 1915 over the lack of shells to send to the Fronts. He was in charge of a mission to the United States during 1917, and was director of enemy propaganda during 1918. Alfred’s influence on anti-German propaganda during WW1 was so great that a German warship was sent to shell his house – “Elmwood” in Broadstairs, Kent, in an attempt to assassinate him. The house still bears a shell hole because the wife of the gardner was killed during the attack.

In 1918, Alfred was made Viscount Northcliffe of St Peter's in the County of Kent, for his service as the director of the British war mission in the United States.   He died on 14th August 1922.

"Lord Northcliffe's War Book - with chapters on America at war, was published in 1916 by George H. Doran & Co. and was sold in aid of the Red Cross. This is from the Introduction:

FOR THE RED CROSS

This assembly of some of my letters, telegrams,

cablegrams, and other writings about the war,

and kindred matters, has been made at the re

quest of the British Red Cross Society and Order

of St. John.

The generosity of the publishers will permit

any profit that may arise to pass to the Joint

Committee of those Societies.

NORTHCLIFFE .

https://archive.org/stream/lordnorthcliffes01nort/lordnorthcliffes01nort_djvu.txt

The Portrait of Alfred Charles William Harmsworth in 1895 is by  Sir Leslie Matthew Ward (1851 – 1952).

*AC Benus is the author of a book about German WW1 poet Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele : “The Thousandth Regiment: A Translation of and Commentary on Hans Ehrenbaum-Degele’s War Poems” by AC Benus (AC Benus, San Francisco, 2020). Along with Hans's story, the book includes original poems as well as translations.    ISBN: 978-1657220584
https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1657220583


Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Book Review: “Reported Missing in the Great War 100 years of searching for the truth” by John Broom, with a foreword by Paul Reed (Pen & Sword Military, 2020)

“ … over half a million men remained missing upon the signing of the Armistice on 11 November 1918, and searching and exhumation work began in earnest on 21 November, with men volunteering for this grisly work being paid an extra allowance of 2s. 6p.* a day.” P. 30

“The missing continue to remind us of their presence, and the yearning for closure amongst their families remains unabated.”  P. 39.

When the First World War broke out, Great Uncle James from Northfleet, Kent, UK, joined the Royal West Kent Regiment. He had been transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers when he was reported missing on the first day of the Battle of Arras, 9th April 1917 – which was Easter Monday that year.  This book is therefore of particular interest to me, as it goes into great detail about just some of those reported missing, the effect it had on their loved ones and the efforts of their families to find out what happened to them. And I can certainly relate to that "yearning for closure".

Although primarily about the missing of WW1, the book is filled with extremely interesting details – for instance, I discovered a female poet hitherto unknown to me - Emma Backhouse. And for the Fascinating Facts of the Great War section of my WW1 exhibition project, I discovered that two of Emma’s sons – Tom, b. circa 1885, and his brother George Harry, b. circa 1890 - went to live in the United States of America and became naturalised citizens in 1913.  Tom Backhouse joined the American forces in WW1 and was killed in action while serving in the Argonne with the 325 Infantry, 82nd Division of the U.S. Army.  (pp. 36 – 38).   His body was repatriated to Britain because he served with the U.S. Army - which is why he was included in the book.

Another fact I did not know was that, as a conscientious objector in the First World War, the British writer E.M. Forster served as a Chief Searcher (for wounded and missing servicemen) for the British Red Cross in Alexandria, Egypt, from November 1915 until January 1919.  He wrote: “It is depressing in a way, for if one does get news about the missing, it is generally bad news”. p. 2. 

On page 62, I discovered some of the artwork done by a soldier artist of WW1 – Frank Mead for the Artists of the First World War section of my project.

In fact, there is so much of interest in this book that I find it very hard to put down!  

Even if you are not among those who have family members who were reported missing during the First World War, this is an extremely interesting book and another must read for anyone interested in the history of the First World War.

For further information about this and other publications from Pen & Sword, please visit their website https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/

* NOTE: In the spending power of 2022, 2s. 6p. (two shillings and six pence = half a crown) would equate to around £25. 

Lucy London, Commemorative First World War Exhibition Project, January 2022


Friday, 19 November 2021

Richard Bell-Davies, VA (1886 - 1966) Royal Naval Air Service aviator who later became Vice Admiral Richard Bell Davies, VC, CB, DSO, AFC

Found on Twitter from Revd Nicholas Pye @RevdPye

Born in Kensington, London, UK in 1886, Richard enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1901, took flying lessons in 1910 and in 1913 joined the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) as a pilot.

On 19th November 1915, during a raid in Bulgaria, Richard Bell-Davies rescued pilot Fl SLt Gilbert Smylie, who had been shot down near Ferrijik Junction.

Richard swooped down in his plane, landed, grabbed hold of Symlie and hauled him on board his plane to safety, as the Ottomans attacked again.

That was the first ever combat search and rescue operation and Richard Bell-Davies was awarded a Victoria Cross (V.C.) for his action.


Artwork: "Richard Bell-Davies, VC, Rescues Gilbert Formby Smylie at Ferrijik Junction, Bulgaria, 19 November 1915" painted by Kenneth A. McDonough (1921–2002)

Credit: Fleet Air Arm Museum




Sunday, 14 November 2021

Book Review: “Royal Flying Corps Kitbag: Aircrew Uniforms & Equipment from the War over the Western Front in WW1” by Mark Hillier (Frontline Books – an imprint of Pen and Sword Books Ltd., Yorkshire, 2020)

Having read several books about First World War aviators and researched aviator poets for my commemorative exhibitions, I was very keen to find out more about the equipment needed in those early days of flight.  In this book, Mark Hillier has collected the most wonderful information about the uniforms and equipment that aircrew required to stay safely in the skies over the Western Front.

After admiring the front cover photograph, the first thing I discovered was on one of the first inside pages that the Latin motto of Britain’s Royal Air Force – “Per ardua ad astra” (Translation By hard work we reach the stars), which was the motto used by my primary school when I was there – was approved as the motto of the Royal Flying Corps, as the RAF was initially known, by King George V on 15th March 1913, and confirmed by Army Order No. 111”.

As an aside, due to my interest in the role of women in WW1, I was interested to note on page vi that the book is dedicated to the author’s family members, among them Nurse Memie Gwendolin Stephenson, who was a volunteer ambulance driver with the Red Cross.

Although Mark goes into great detail about equipment, he also explains the history of Britain’s military aviators and the background to the formation of the Royal Flying Cops.  

In the Introduction I noticed that “keeping warm was not just about creature comforts, but maintaining alertness which meant the odds of surviving increased on long or high-altitude sorties.”  Mark explains that “The focus was on the art of flying, and it was an art form at this time rather than a science.” (pp. viii and ix).

I found the chapters on flying clothing, flying equiment, unforms, rank, badges, insignia and buttons utterly fascinating.  They are chock full of the most wonderful photographs – many of them from Mark’s private collection - information, explanations and contemporary advertisements. “It seems that by August 1917 the RFC had started to adopt some electrically heated clothing.” (p. 93).   It is a real eye-opener to read about the trials and tribulations involved in finding out which clothes, goggles, gloves, helmets and boots, etc. were the best in those early days of flight, which were difficult enough without being shot at, and the research and testing necessary to manufacture them.

There are also chapters on paperwork and documents and on the transition from the Royal Flying Corps to the Royal Air Force.   With appendices, notes and an extensive bibliography, this is a book you will want to refer to again and again.

For further information about this and other wonderful books from Pen & Sword please see their website: https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/

Lucy  London