Thursday 17 March 2016

Australian WW1 Soldiers buried in Wiltshire Villages, UK

I have recently been in touch with a lady called Cathy Sedgwick from Australia who has been researching Australian soldiers who died during the First World War and are buried in the United Kingdom.  I posted some information about those in the Wiltshire village of Compton Chamberlayne some time ago and will re-post shortly in the light of what I have since found out.  This is what Cathy said:

"My name is Cathy Sedgwick. I am a 54 year old stay at home housewife with 2 adult sons – aged 23 and nearly 20 and I live in Sydney, Australia.  I started researching my Family tree on my father’s side almost 10 years ago as my parents had divorced when I was around 12 years old and I knew very little about my father’s side of the family – except for his brothers and sisters and my grandmother.

Then I moved on to my husband’s side to research. He was born in England and moved to Australia when he was 7 years old. After researching the Sedgwick name back to 1750’s I then moved on to my mother-in-law’s side of the family tree. Her grandfather lived in Dinton, Wiltshire around 1920 until his death in mid 1960’s. He was Chauffeur and right hand man to Bertram Philipps, who bought Dinton House which was later renamed ‘Philipps House’.

While researching the parish of Dinton, I came across a family history website based on the county of Wiltshire, where you “adopt” a village and therefore the page on the website. So I volunteered to take on the Dinton page.  As there is very little information as in Census etc. for the time period between 1920-1960, I learnt a lot about the village itself by doing research – through newspaper articles, persons of interest, listed buildings, names on the War Memorial and photos.

While researching Dinton, I came across the nearby village of Compton Chamberlayne which had 28 Australian Soldiers buried there. Being an Australian I felt a need to explore this and as the tiny parish had no-one looking after it on the website – I took that on.   Thankfully, a lovely man by the name of Andrew Stacey (who I had contacted out of the blue to ask permission to use his photos of Dinton) went to Compton Chamberlayne on one of his visits to the area and took photos of all the graves in the cemetery. I then research all the War Graves and completed 5-7 page biographies on each of the Australian Soldiers.

I then discovered that another village – Codford had 31 Australian Soldiers and 66 New Zealand soldiers buried in one of their cemeteries. I emailed around and a lovely lady by the name of Romy Wyeth – an author of several books on Codford - went & photographed all the War Graves for me. So I completed biographies on all those.

I then discovered that Durrington had 141 Australian Soldiers so took that on as well as Baverstock – 29 Australian Soldiers - and then Sutton Veny which has 141 Australian soldiers and 2 Australian nurses. I have completed biographies for all 169 War Graves in Sutton Veny which will soon be available on the Sutton Veny village website.

I am no longer volunteering on the family history website – due to issues with the Administrator. I did have 13 parishes that I was looking after and completed biographies for the names on the War Memorials in the villages I looked after.

I am almost finished researching all 227 War Graves in Durrington, Wiltshire as a favour to Dave Healing from Durrington who helped me out many times with the Durrington page. I hope that the biographies will be available on the Durrington Council website – but have had some interest from Amesbury History Museum.

In between completing the Durrington War Graves - I am working my way through the Australian soldiers who died in WW1 and are buried in England. There are almost 2,500. My work is now being accepted on the Australian website – WW1 Australian Soldiers & Nurses who Rest In The United Kingdom:

Saturday 12 March 2016

The Coffee Stall at Rouen Station an extract from Huyton College School Magazine 1915

A letter from Miss Hunter a volunteer at The Soldiers’ Coffee Stall, St. Sever Station, Rouen dated 3rd March 1915.  It is not clear whether Miss Hunter was a former pupil or teacher at Huyton College.

“Here one gets really in touch with the men who have been out ever since the war started, and who have been up in the trenches several times. They come down here to the base camp for a rest, after having been out at the front.  They much appreciate anything we do for them.  They all say it is one of the best canteens, or, in fact, the best canteen they have come across over on this side.

Cigarettes they never seem to have too many of, and the amount of “Woodbines” that “Tommy” consumes in incredible.  We have to limit the packets to two or else we should always be out of stock.  Peppermints and cough lozenges they also love, and the latter are especially acceptable, as so many have bad coughs and colds with being out in the damp so much.

We have been very busy at the stall lately as a good many troops have been going through. Just before a train starts for the firing line, we have to feed as many as a thousand or fifteen hundred in about an hour.  It is what we call a “rush”, and one sees only a mass of khaki and a blur of faces, all clamouring for food or drinks on the other side of the counter, while one hands over sandwiches, cake, and coffee as quick or quicker than possible.

When Boy Scouts came through the other day, I was able to make them up a parcel of various things for them to take in the train with them.  It is a thirty-six hours’ journey to the front from here (very slow trains, of course).

I am on night duty this week, so am writing this at 3 a.m. – which is rather a slack time, as only a few men come in between 1 and 5 a.m.  However, we make a point of having the stall open night and day, so that the men know there is some place where they can always get a hot drink – of course, the men on guard in the station here come in at all hours.  Also, there is always a fire – or at least a hot stove – round which they can sit, and we provide as many illustrated papers as possible, and forms and tables, where they can read or write.  An officer told me the other day that a warm place where they can write is so much appreciated by the men.  We can never have too many illustrated papers – so if any of you have any you have read and finished with, they are most acceptable.”

From the School Magazine of Huyton College, 1915, page 25. 
Huyton College or, to give the school its correct title, The Liverpool College for Girls, Huyton, was founded in 1894 as an independent day and boarding school for girls and was a sister school to Liverpool College.   Huyton College merged with Liverpool College on 27th July 1993, shortly before its centenary.

Friday 4 March 2016

Preparations for the Battle of the Somme May 1916 - Aerial Contact Patrol

Contact Patrol

Contact Patrol was carried out by planes and was designed to provide aerial liaison between the Front Line and the Battalion and Brigade Headquarters during battles when other means of communication became impossible.  In spite of endless practice before the big day, this initially proved less effective than hoped, due to the necessity for ground troops to use flares to signal to their planes which also meant giving away their position.   However, later on Cecil Lewis tells us, “… we got used to the dangers of low flying over the front line, and used to go right down to a few hundred feet and find the position of our men by actually seeing them in their trenches.”

“The war below us was a spectacle. We aided and abetted it, admiring the tenacity of men who fought in verminous filth to take the next trench thirty yards away.

Echoing the feelings of WW1 soldier poet Wilfred Owen, Cecil described the “horrible futility of war, the mountainous waste of life and wealth to stake a mile or two of earth.  A caricature of common sense, both sides eager, when they had licked their wounds, to fly at each other’s throats again.” (p. 93)

Source:  “Sagittarius Rising” by Cecil Lewis (1898 – 1997), published by Warner, London 2000 with a new Foreword by Cecil Lewis;  first published by Peter Davies in 1936.