Thursday 25 September 2014

Exhibition at Winchester Discovery Centre 4 October - 27 December 2014

'Trench Coat: From Field to Fashion' The story of an enduring classic, at Winchester Discovery Centre - 4th October 2014 - 27th December 2014. An exhibition that the Artists Rifles Association has assisted with. Many images were provided from the wartime copies of the Artists Rifles' Journal.

Wilfred Owen the famous WW1 soldier poet, was based at the Gunnery School in Fleetwood, Lancashire in November 1916.  On the advice of his mother, Susan Owen, he travelled to Blackpool to purchase a Trench Coat before going to the Western Front in December 1916.

Winchester Discovery Centre
Jewry Street
SO23 8SB
Tel. 0845 6035631

Opening Hours:

    • 9am to 7pm except:
      Saturday 9am to 5pm
      Sunday 11am to 3pm
    • Closed on public holidays

Wednesday 24 September 2014

WW1 Airman poet - Geoffrey Wall from The Wirral

Browsing through Catherine W. Reilly's wonderful "English Poetry of the First World War A Bibliography" the other evening, my eye caught the word "Liscard" which is a town on the Wirral Peninsula.  WW1 poet, 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Geoffrey Nelson Wall was born in Liscard and his birth was registered in June 1897.  He was the son of Arthur E. Wall formerly of Bromley, Kent and his wife Mary.

Geoffrey was educated at Sea Bank Road High School with Mr Wrigley.  The family moved to Australia in 1907, travelling on the 'Moldavia'.  Geoffrey went to Wesley College, Melbourne University.   He returned to the UK at the outbreak of WW1 and joined the Royal Flying Corps.  He trained at No 7 Training School in Netheravon, Wiltshire and was killed in a flying accident on 6th August 1917 at Netheravon.

Geoffrey Wall is commemorated at Raikes Lane Cemetery in Wallasey, Wirral, UK

His poetry is collected in two volumes - "Letters of an Airman" and "Songs of an Airman".

With grateful thanks to Yvon Davies and Les Highton via Facebook for their help in finding out more about Geoffrey.

If anyone has any further information about Geoffrey and a photograph, please get in touch as I would like to produce an exhibition panel about him.  Thank you.

Friday 19 September 2014

Maoris in the First World War

This WW1 commemorative project is in memory of my maternal Grandfather, who was an Old Contemptible with the Royal Field Artillery who survived the war and went on to serve in WW2, and my Great Uncle who was killed at Arras on Easter Monday, 9th April 1917, the same day as the poets Edward Thomas and R.E. Vernede.

I began researching just over two years ago when Dean Johnson of The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral asked me to produce an exhibition for his museum.   Since then I have not stopped and have been amazed at the huge amount of information there is.  I have barely scratched the surface.  I even dream about the project and quite often wake up in the middle of the night thinking of a name.

On 14th September, I woke up thinking of Tonga and the islands in the Pacific and the part they played in the first conflict that affected the entire globe.  So I had to look up their involvement in WW1.  I mentioned this on Facebook and Sonia sent me a photograph of one of her beautiful works of art.  

The work of art in question is a wall hanging showing the horrific journey of the islanders to the western front via Egypt.  Sonia also included the poem "Despise not the day of small things" written by E. Mary Cruttwell, which was featured in 'The Fiery Cross' WW1 Poetry Anthology, edited by Mabel C. Edwards and Mary Booth and published in 1915 by .

Sonia says :  "I was so moved to indignation I did this wall hanging showing the islanders' horrific journey to the western front via Egypt. I also included the poem by Mary Cruttwell.

The yellow represents Egypt see pyramids.   The central section is the Western Front.  The photo shows the Nuiens on trench digging, then the top is the white cliffs of Dover and Hornchurch " Horns from coat of arms "where they were sent to recover or die.  The photo of a grave Card in the left hand corner is "A long way to Tipperary" as sung in Maori."

With many thanks to Sonia, who is a Textile Artist and Storyteller who lives in Scotland, where she is well known for her unusual interpretations of myths and legends, folklore and traditions.  She designs and makes wall hangings incorporating fabric, weaving and objets trouvés.

The photo on the right shows Sonia's wall hanging for the poem by Winifred M. Letts entitled "Screens".  Winifred was a nurse and a member of the Almeric Paget Military Massage Corps - the team who in the First World War pioneered the work now knows as physiotherapy

To find out more about Sonia's wonderful work, please see 

Thursday 18 September 2014

Paul Klee (18 - 1940) - German Artist and Soldier in WW1

While I was looking for information about one of the Female Poets of the First World War, I found this German Artist so I thought I would feature him under the Fascinating Facts of the Great War section of the exhibition project. Paul Klee may be known to those of you who are art fanatics but he was new to me and I feel in love at once with his work, which you can find on the Internet. 

Klee was born of German parents in Switzerland in 1879. He was conscripted into the German Imperial Army in 1915, survived the war, worked at Bauhaus, became famous, had exhibitions in London and Paris and had to flee to Switzerland in 1933 due to persecution by the Nazis. He died in Locarno in 1940. His work inspired many musical interpretations. 

I suppose what fascinates me about Klee's work is the combination with poetry which he began to experiment with in 1916. 

Sources: Wikipedia, Google Images and Pictures: Klee (with beard) in the German Army 1916 and his painting "Beginning of a Poem.

Friday 12 September 2014

Australian Soldiers in the UK in WW1

At the outbreak of The First World War, there became an urgent need to accommodate the increasing requirements for Military Training and Transit camps. Towards the end of 1914, John Combes, of East Farm at Fovant in Wiltshire, was informed that part of his land was to be requisitioned for one such camp. 

Subsequently, land to the east and west of his farm was also commandeered and an area stretching from Compton Chamberlayne to Sutton Mandeville became one vast Military Camp. A single track railway connected the camps to the main line.

The camp located at Compton Chamberlayne became known as Hurdcott Camp, as it was on land that was part of two farms - Hurdcott and Naish's. In March 1916, this section of the camp was taken over by the Australian Imperial Forces and became their No. 3 Command Depot.

Chalk Badges on the Downs - Rising Sun & Map of Australia

In remembrance of their colleagues that had not returned from the War, many of the Regiments staying at the Military Camps carved replicas of their cap badges into the chalk hillsides near the village of Fovant. By the end of WW1 there were some 20 badges, the largest of which was the Australian Commonwealth Forces Badge - The Rising Sun. A large map of Australia was also carved into the Downs above where Hurdcott Camp was situated at Compton Chamberlayne. Sadly, the chalk map of Australia is no longer financially supported and is being left to nature. 

George Herbert Cross (1884 – 1972) was my paternal Grandfather’s friend and business associate and also Father’s best friend.

After the death of Father’s stepmother in 1960, Mr Cross contacted us to send his condolences and so renewed his friendship with Father.   Until Mr Cross’s death in 1972, my family went regularly to visit him at his home in Compton Chamberlayne, Wiltshire, having moved to Salisbury in 1967 to be closer to him.

In the chapter of his memoirs "Suffolk Punch" entitled “Wiltshire” George Cross shares with us a “very human record of Australia’s share in the Great War.  On a number of beech trees in Compton Park, probably planted before the discovery of Australia, are the names or initials, wrought with their own hands, of young men who came from that far-distant land to give themselves to the Empire in her hour of need.  They were encamped in their thousands at the foot of the Wiltshire Downs, in Compton Chamberlayne and the adjoining parishes, and many a strong man’s thoughts as he sauntered through the silent woods and saw the smooth grey skin of the beeches must have turned to his dear ones, and he felt irresistibly impelled to leave some record of himself before he faced annihilation.

George wondered “how many of those fine fellows are alive and well today?  Of some hundreds of names and initials, many partly obliterated, I mention a few:

C. Delarvillers was no mean woodcarver, R.M. of Sydney was madly in love with his Nina; her name in his hand-carving is still all over the wood.  I trust he survived and between them they now have grown-up children.  J.A.B. was a good designer as well as a carver;  C.D. climbed twenty feet up the tree to leave his mark.  C.A.W. of London, NSW, had a big bulbous heart; let’s hope he proved a better lover than a woodcarver!  Tom May – I suppose it is Tom May? – the design is ingenious but rather cryptic – is a man of ideas and if he lives has probably made a fortune. Private G. Penny and E.J. Rowlands were evidently great chums.

On the Downs overlooking the main road these handy lads outlined in the chalk a map of Australia as large as St. Paul’s Cathedral, and although overgrown by grass it can still be clearly seen.

Some of the AIF have, dead or alive, left their tangible mark behind – those strong, dare-devil, handsome cousins who had come to our aid from beyond the seas.  In the little cemetery off the village street rest the bodies of thirty or forty who died before they were vouchsafed an opportunity of firing a shot for their motherland.” (pp 419 – 420).

From the autobiography “Suffolk Punch A Business Man’s Autobiography” by George Cross. Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1937.

Note:  The badges are still clearly visible on the Downs but the map of Australia was too expensive to maintain.

Compton Chamberlayne Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery

Compton Chamberlayne Commonwealth War Graves cemetery is located on High Street. The War Graves Cemetery contains the graves of thirty four (34) World War 1 soldiers - Twenty eight (28) Australian Soldiers of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF), three (3) Soldiers from the London Regiment of the Royal Fusiliers, one (1) Soldier from Royal Engineers, one (1) Soldier from Royal Irish Fusiliers and one (1) Soldier from the Royal Irish Rifles.

The graves date from February, 1916 through to February, 1919. 33 of the graves are commemorated with a Commonwealth War Graves Headstone. The graves are laid out in three rows, with a stone plinth or cairn located at the front of the burial ground.

From the engraved lid of the cairn - "The severe winter of 1916-17 caused hardship amongst the troops encamped around Salisbury Plain. Between December, 1916 and April, 1917, eleven AIF deaths were directly associated with respiratory disorders. The majority of the casualties had only enlisted six months earlier and two of the months since enlistment had been spent on a sea voyage from the Australian summer to the British winter."

 Australian Soldiers:  W.J. Arnold, Allan Ernest Evans, P.W. Haywood/Amoore, A. Le Tisser, W.J. Park, T.J. Skipper, I.H. Turnbull, T. Cass, C.W. Ferrow, H. Howard, H.W. McCarthy, W.E. Riley, W.C. Snell, S.H. Turner, J.E. Cook, W.R. Finn, E. Jones A.H. Oliver, S. Ross, J.H. Trengove, J.T. Wehrmann, A.A. Dreckow, W. Gilbert, P.R. Knowles, A.G. Pairman, Roy Allen Sillar, C. Tull, T.H.W. White.

Cathy Sedgwick (see post on 17th March 2016) has researched all the Australian soldiers buried in Wiltshire and posted details on this website  Cathy is currently researching Australian nurses who died serving during the First World War and has kindly given me permission to share her research with you.

Photo of Badges taken in 1917 by George Donohue courtesy of the Facebook Group Mud, Mining, Medals

Thursday 11 September 2014

Owen/Britten War Requiem to be performed Sunday, 2nd November 2014, Selwyn College, Cambridge

News just in:

To mark the centenary of The First World War, Roger Williams  will perform Wilfred Owen/Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, accompanied by the Choir in Selwyn College Chapel, Cambridge.  You can read more about the War Requiem here:

Wilfred Owen was educated in Birkenhead, Wirral and in Shrewsbury.  He joined the Artists' Rifles on his return from France where he had been working as a private tutor.  He was commissioned into the Manchester Regiment and was killed on the Sambre Canal in France near Ors, on 4th November 1918.

There is a museum to the memory of Wilfred Owen at 34 Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral.  This will be open on Saturday, 13th September 2014 as part of National Heritage Week from 11 am until 2 pm.

The Wilfred Owen Story
34 Argyle Street
CH41 6AE

Tuesday 9 September 2014

A First World War Soldier Poet from Germany

I am certain that many of you will know the WW2 song "Lilly Marlene" but did you know that it was in fact originally written during the First World War as a poem?  It was written by a young German school teacher.   His name was Hans LEIP and he was born in  Hamburg in 1893 the son of a former sailor.  Educated in Hamburg, Leip became a school teacher but his dream was to become an artist.

In 1915, Leip was conscripted into the Imperial German Army and served on the Eastern Front and in the Carpathians.  He was wounded in 1917 and invalided out of the army.  After the war, Leip travelled to Paris, London, New York and Algiers. He wrote novels, plays, short stories and, of course, poetry.  He was also a talented artist and sculptor.

The poem was called "Das Lied wines jungen Soldaten aug der Wacht" - 'The Song of a Young Soldier of the Watch' and Leip wrote it combining the names of his girl friend and a nurse who looked after him.  Leip's poem was set to music in 1938 by Norbert Schultze and recorded in 1939 by a young German singer called Lale Andersen with the title "Das Mädchen under der Lanterne" - 'The Girl under the Lamps'.   The song was played on a German radio station and the song became a hit.  It appealed to all soldiers world wide during the Second World War and was sung in many languages.

Hans Leip died in 1963.

Photo:  Google Images - Hans Leip before his departure to the Front in 1915

Saturday 6 September 2014

WW1 Soldier Poet I had not heard of - Will Streets

With thanks to Margaret McKenzie of Wiltshire who has just told me about Will Streets, who was based at a training camp in Wiltshire during WW1.

I will be researching Will and bringing you more information and some of his poems as soon as possible.