Digital Heritage Station
Porthcawl Museum and Historical Society has been accepted as a Digital Heritage Station for the Peoples Collection Wales
When I took this photograph in Monet's Garden in June this year I did not realise the significance of the blue flower growing alongside the Poppy, Until last week when we received from our friends at the Flanders Field museum in Belgium some copies of a newspaper they published to mark the centenary of the Great War ( pick up a free copy at the museum) in the paper I found the answer.
The Corn Flower or Le Bleuet like the poppy is the French symbol of the Great War.
The blue colour referred to the colour of the French uniform worn by the conscripts in 1915. A battlefield nurse Suzanne Lenhardt was instrumental in It being accepted as the French national symbol of remembrance
The Flanders Field Post August 2014 p6
How do you spell your surname
Well with a name like Swidenbank I have been asked that question so many times that I tend to spell my surname immediately after saying it. However, it can also be quite entertaining, when sitting in a waiting room, to anticipate which variant of pronunciation will be used when my turn comes around.
The same applies to correspondence, with many an important document having to be re- issued when my name has been mis-spelled. So when the family historians of the future build my family tree, they may run into a few problems finding the real me.
If I have these troubles today, just think how it would have been for past generations, when you add poor literacy and local dialect to the mix. For today’s family historian, it is important to understand how these variations occur and how they were recorded.
Research suggests that the name came as a result of an occupation, similar to those we may be more familiar with such as Smith or Baker. Swinbank may mean the bank where the swine were fed; or, from the old Norse "sviethinn", (middle English "swithen"), meaning land cleared by burning; and the old Norse "bakke", (middle English "bank"), a bank or slope. So, a person named Swinbank may have been someone who cleared banks of land by burning or a keeper of pigs. Given the choice, I think I prefer the idea of being occupied as a professional fire raiser over that of a pig farmer.
In 1875, a report by the Registrar General noted that 16% of men and 22% of women could not sign their name in the marriage register and had to resort to using a mark. This statistic, however, did not indicate true levels of literacy; with many having learned to write simply what they believed was their name in the written form. So it’s not surprising that there are many variations to surnames to find and research. Examples found during my research are Swinbank, Swynebanke, Swinbanck, Swinbancke, Swithenbank, Swedenbank, Swainbank and, of course, Swidenbank. I believe that Swinbank is likely to be the basis of all the others; it is recorded as far back as the 1500s, originating in the South East corner of Westmorland (Cumbria) and the South West of Yorkshire. One such record shows that a Cuthbert Swinbank was the vicar of Kirkby Steven from 1568 to 1620. During his time the parish registers listed seven of the possible name variants, with four being recorded in a single register in less than a decade.
It is, of course, possible that in these early records a different scribe recorded each event in the way he felt was the correct one.
Accepting that these variations often make it difficult to prove anything other than a circumstantial link, it is a pursuit I would recommend to the family historian, as without it parts of my family tree would be little more than saplings.
Women on the Home Front
Following the British war press office lead of using images of women helping the war effort by replacing men in the factories, heavy industry and transport, the Germans also realised that the home front was a rich source of propaganda
The entrance of women into the workforce in Britain at first provoked a hostile reception for the usual sexist motives male and female gender roles entered public debate with the male work force and the unions claiming women were deficient as workers, owing to family responsibilities: that they were physically weaker and lacked a tradition of work expertise. However, as the army recruitment drive advanced and the inevitable need for conscription arrived, the number of women working in industry grew. Propaganda was used to give the impression that women replaced men in factories wholesale. Dilution officers toured the country demonstrating the ease with which skilled work could be reorganised for the unskilled, with exhibitions of photographs, machines and women actually at work. This wartime march towards sexual equality did, however result in a post-war backlash against the employment of women, in particular married women, with ex-servicemen reclaiming the jobs that had been performed by women during the war years. Women also now found themselves in competition with disabled ex-servicemen for jobs that had before been considered women’s work before the war On the positive side, this newfound freedom for women further galvanised support for the eventual right for British women to vote.
Women doing such work at first sat uneasily with German nationalist policies and a growing welfare state intended to support the family. However the German Government did not foresee how the scarcity of goods, especially food, put pressure on the home front and created discontent that would change the way women supported the war effort. The message seen in the image reads “Made with the heart and hand for the Fatherland”
In Germany working women were more often discribed in 1914 as potential or actual mothers rather than as workers
British munitions workers
German munitions workers
The message seen in the image reads “Made with the heart and hand for the Fatherland”
Boots the Chemist John Street
While talking to local traders about our planed events for the August Centenary we received from Boots the Chemist in John St an interesting artefact on loan for our new exhibition. in 2010 a doctor’s medical kit was given to the store following a house clearance.
After some research the kit has been identified as belonging to Major Stanley Alwyn Smith Who possibly used the kit judging by the content while serving on the front line.
This extract is his obituary dated 1935 published by the BMA
STANLEY ALWYN SMITH, D.S.O. O.B.E. MI.D., M.CiI., F.R.C.S.ED.
Consulting Surgeon, Ministry of Pensions, Wales Region; formerly Orthopedic Surgeon in Chief, Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital
Stanley Alwyn Smith was the son of Lieut.-Colonel T. F. Smith of Leek, Staffordshire, in 1884
He entered Edinburgh University as a medical student soon after graduating M.B., Ch.B. in 1905
he became house-surgeon, and then personal assistant, to Sir Robert Jones in Liverpool, in collaboration with whom he laid the foundations of that knowledge which made him one of the world's leading authorities on disorders of the knee-joint and their surgical treatment. He proceeded M.D. in 1908, and in 1911 obtained the M.Ch. degree and he diploma of F.R.C.S.Ed.
Alwyn Smith went to Canada by invitation in 1912, and practised as a consulting orthopedic surgeon to the Winnipeg General Hospital and the Children's Hospital. Immediately on the outbreak of the great war, he was mobilized with the Canadian Army Medical Corps, and served in France all through 1915. He was awarded the D.S.O. at Festubert in recognition of his devotion to his work, when his power of intense concentration, combined
He was twice mentioned in dispatches. He returned to England in 1916 to take charge of all Canadian orthopedic cases, and was appointed surgeon in-Chief of the Granville Special Hospital at Ramsgate.
This was the first orthopedic hospital started in England during the war, and was a model of efficiency and organization. In 1917, by special request, he was transferred to the British Army, and was placed in charge of the Welsh Metropolitan War Hospital at Whitchurch, (Whitchurch Hospital) Cardiff, as orthopedic surgeon-in-chief. After the war Alwyn Smith became consulting surgeon to the Ministry of Pensions and surgeon-in-chief to the Prince of Wales Limbless Hospital, which later became the orthopedic hospital for Wales.
His son Peter was also a Doctor and lived at Orchard Cottage Newton Porthcawl during which time he was appointed Principal Medical officer at the Welsh office.
Below are some of the contents of the box
Just the other day during a conversation at the museum the subject of food rationing came up and while we are familiar with the stories about shortages, ration books and the black market during World War Two, less seems to be recorded as to how the problem of shortages was dealt with during the First World War. So following some research I would like to share with you some the memories of shortages and rationing recorded by the Imperial War museum
Formal rationing was not introduced in Britain until February 1918. The Defence of the Realm (DORA) was used to ensure that food shortages never occurred.
Up to that point in the First World War food shortage had a profound effect on the lives of civilians. Agriculture felt the strain of war; production declined and prices rose.
As a grocer’s assistant in Yorkshire, Walter Hare soon noticed there was less food available.
"Now, the first thing we were short of was sugar. Because I don’t think we grew sugar beet in this country, in those days, and most of our sugar came from… We had cane sugar, of course, the canes came from South America – I think Tate and Lyle’s produced cane sugar. But no beet sugar, as far as I know, and beet sugar came from Austria so we were without beet sugar. That was the first thing we were short of. Lard later on, because that mostly came from America. Then everything began to be short. We had to sort of – we’d no ration cards or aught like that – you had to ration it out, you see, divide what we had. So that everybody got a fair share of whatever there was".
The early months of the war saw some panic buying and hoarding of food.
The situation then worsened when Germany began following a policy of ‘unrestricted submarine warfare’ which reduced the volume of supplies reaching Britain.
Vera Waite recalled how the food shortages affected her village near Bristol.
"I well remember a certain person in the village who hoarded a sack full of flour, which there was going to be a great shortage of flour. Because we had bread made with potatoes, potato flour. This person had a sack of flour, which she put into her bath and kept it and boasted about that. Well, the consequence was, that flour got little maggots and it was no use to her. I know that several people – my mother included – said it serves her right for trying to… If she’d shared it out, it would’ve been much better. But no, she thought that, she boasted about this sack of flour that was no good to her".
It wasn’t only Britain that was affected by shortages. Across Europe, war soon influenced the production, movement and supply of foodstuffs.
Helena Reid noticed a gradual scarcity of provisions in the German-occupied city of Lille in France.
"At the beginning we had very little shortage, because we had plenty of food. But afterwards it became very, very serious. All we had was a ration of, oh, I can’t remember the bread. I remember it was something very dark and very… it didn’t taste like bread at all. There was no milk – we did have some milk, we had Carnation milk, or something like that, which was really on ration. The three adults with me really went short, to give it to me. Because I remember I used to say, ‘Don’t you have some?’ ‘No, no we don’t want it.’ And of course I was having the best. I was the only child, you see".
At least food could be found in Britain and France. In Germany and Austria, people were starving.
Britain’s naval blockade of Germany severely restricted the amount of goods that reached German civilians.
As Walter Rappolt recalled, "it got so bad that substitute foodstuffs were introduced.
It got more and more serious. So that people got asleep hungry. It got worse and worse. If I may refer to the rationing in Germany during the First World War, and the rationing of Britain in the Second World War, it was all the difference of the world. The coffee was not made of coffee beans, which were unavailable, it was made, I suppose, of some sort of vegetables. I never got to know that. Of course, no taste of coffee whatsoever, it was a hot drink. If we were thirsty, it quenched our thirst but it had no taste whatsoever. Not disagreeable but not agreeable either".
In Britain, the increasing shortages resulted in goods being unevenly distributed. When a shop had new stock in, everyone rushed to buy up what they could. If you didn’t get there quickly, you missed out.
Queues became a common sight. Edgar Waite lived in Sunderland.
"There was no rationing at the early part of the First World War. The result was it was very difficult getting hold of food, especially meat. And women had to queue up very early in the morning. Somebody would say, ‘Now, there’s a butcher’s shop up the road there; they’ve got some meat.’ And they would queue up hours before the butcher’s shop opened, on the off chance of perhaps only getting a bone with a bit of meat on. They had to just accept anything that’s going. It was the same with cigarettes. Somebody along the street would see a chap, he’d say, ‘By the way, there’s some cigarettes to be had down such and such a place.’ And there’d be a mad rush there and you had to accept anything they offered them. There’d be a man standing up inside the shop saying, ‘I’ve got a packet of Woodbines here; anybody want a packet of Woodbines…?’ Mad rush. Or he’d perhaps got a packet of some fancy cigarettes… Through no ration scheme in operation, it made things very difficult to purchase either cigarettes, beer or food. For a long stretch of the war it was very difficult, especially buying meat and that sort of thing".
Queuing for food was a time-consuming business, so many housewives sent their children to monitor local shops.
Dorothy Lester did so for her mother while a schoolchild living in London.
"There was no rationing at first and it was pretty awful to get food. And there were three boys who lived next door to us and Earley was the same age as I was. He and I used to roam the streets looking at the shops and I can remember seeing a queue in the shop – forgotten its name – and some of us would stay in the queue, not really knowing what there was, and sent the other person home to tell our mothers to come with some money. And our mothers would come and there would be margarine or something that they’d get from the shop. As a child of course we were given everything that was available. And my mother no doubt went without herself, to feed my father and the two of us".
With Thanks to The Imperial War Museum Archives
Following the recent find after the winter storms this posting will perhaps provide some historical information about navel cannon
With thanks to
The Smooth Bore Cannon
For centuries naval warfare at sea consisted of sailors boarding enemy ships and fighting hand to hand. The early naval guns were anti-personnel weapons, mounted on the stern and forecastle that discharged all manner of shot.
It wasn’t really until the 16th Century that the English Tudor Navy adapted French culverins for use at sea, These were fairly light guns with long barrels, and fired round shot. The Mary Rose was the first purpose built English warship with a mixture of brass and iron ordnance, and the first ship to fire a broadside.
The word “cannon” is believed to be derived from the word cane, tube or reed in several different languages. It actually refers to a size of gun and was the next in size to the largest “Cannon Royal”, a 12 foot gun capable of firing 48 pound shot. Before standardization in the 18th Century there was an enormous range of calibres and lengths of guns.
“Guns” are “ordnance”, and there is “brass ordnance” (actually bronze), and “iron ordnance”, both used on land and at sea.
“Muzzle-loading” guns are loaded from the front, with everything rammed down the barrel. “Breech-loading” guns are loaded from the rear. The earliest wrought-iron guns were breech-loaders, but these fell into disuse by the late 16th century. Breech-loaders were re-introduced in the late 19th century, and went on to become the standard method for sea and land based guns.
A description of the parts of a cannon
The Cascabel originally referred to the round knob at the breech end of the gun, but later came to represent the entire area behind the Base (or Breech) Ring, the round knob known as the Button. Iron guns incorporated a Cascabel Loop in the neck of the Cascabel (see the George III gun).
The breech (or breech chamber) is the area within the vent field where the powder is ignited. Gun length is measured from the muzzle to the rear end of the Base/Breech Ring. The Vent (or Touch-Hole) is a hole at right angles to the breech through which the gunpowder is poured and ignited to set off the charge and to fire the gun.
The first part of the gun barrel from the Base/Breech ring to the trunnions is called the First Reinforce. This is this thickest part of the gun, necessarily to withstand the pressure generated by the exploding charge in the breech. The Second Reinforce is the next tapered section of the barrel and is where the Trunnions are fitted. On bronze cannon, lifting handles were also fitted here, often elaborately ornamented as dolphins or similar.
The final section of the barrel, ending in the muzzle and face of the gun.
The junctions of the Reinforces and the Chase are marked by wide flat rings (Reinforce Rings), which sometimes have adjacent Ogees and Fillets. Astragals are another type of moulded ring which has a semicircular section.
The muzzle is the section at the open end of the Chase. The narrowest part of the barrel, the muzzle neck flares out to the swell before narrowing again to the muzzle face of the gun. At this point there may be muzzle mouldings – Astragals, Ogees or Fillets.
Trunnions are cylindrical projections from either side of the barrel, just forward of the centre of gravity, that enabled the gun to pivot up and down in its carriage.
The vertical position of trunnions relative to the bore, however was subject to change, and some debate. When they were first conceived in about 1450 they were quite logically positioned with their horizontal axis coincident with the vertical centre of the bore. Because at that time there was no elevating mechanism to hold the gun in place, it tended to rock up and down when fired. To prevent this, it was calculated that the trunnion should be moved so that it was aligned with the bottom of the bore, in so doing the forces generated upon firing would hold the breech down. This worked, but often resulted in the wedged shaped quoin used for achieving elevation, being ejected backwards. The trunnions remained in this position right up until the middle of the 18th Century when the Board of Ordnance were finally convinced that the best position where they were originally, and moved them.
Early gun design was largely based upon the rules of proportion with the various dimensions expressed in units of the calibre, the diameter of the round shot the gun fired. For example, trunnions were made the same diameter as the calibre, and were placed at 4/7ths of the length from the muzzle. The walls of the barrel were one calibre thick at the breech, and a half calibre at the chase. The circumference at the breech was 9 calibres, 7 calibres at the trunnions, and 5 calibres at the muzzle. There do not appear to be any logical reasons these dimensions, for the designers had no means of gauging bore pressures, muzzle velocity, or strength of materials.
At the beginning of the 18th Century, armies and navies started standardizing the dimensions and calibres of their artillery. Sometime after the succession of George I to the English Throne in 1714. the Board of Ordnance set out to rationalise the Royal Ordnance, and appointed Albert Borgardto develop a uniform pattern of cannon of varying sizes, including their carriages and shot.
Borgard was born In Holbech, Holland, and fought in the Danish, Polish and Prussion armies, before becoming Chief Fire Master at Arsenal, Woolwich in 1712. He was the first and last person to design a complete system of artillery. Fundamental to his designs, he dispensed with the naming of cannon as Culverin, Minion, Saker etc. and the guns became known by the weight of their round shot, with weights of approximately 4lb, 6lb, 9lb, 12lb, 18lb, 24lb, 32lb, and 42lb. The designs were accepted by the Board of Ordnance in 1716, and although later redesigned when John Armstrong took over as official designer in 1722, Bogard’s standards for the size of the cannonballs were to remain firmly established for their future use.
After Borgard’s departure, John Armstrong succeeded to the position of Surveyor General of Ordnance, and he was to control the develpoment of British ordnance for the next twenty years. By 1725 he had completely redesigned Borgard’s artillery systems with a complex serious of proportions for every section of the gun. The early craftmanship and elaborate decoration was dispensed with in favour of cast iron barrels that could be readily cast by any foundry.
In 1741, the Royal Military Academy was founded at Woolwich to train artillery and engineering officers.
The next major changes were to come in 1780 when a 36 year old artillery captain, Thomas Blomefield, was appointed as Inspector of Artillery and Superintendent of the Royal Brass Foundry. His first act was to condemn 496 pieces of new artillery as being unsuitable for delivery. Three years later he was entrusted with the complete reorganisatiion of the Ornance Department, and at the same time, embarked on experiments that enabled a new system of ordnance to be designed.His system, based on the calibre of the weapon, specified the length, wall thickness and other dimensions of the muzzle-loader gun. They were designed to use newly the improved "cylinder powder" developed by which apparently increased chamber pressures, bursting "old pattern" guns during testing.
The new Blomefield guns had the characteristic cascabel ring, thicker breeches and thinner chases. This gave a stronger gun without an increase in weight. Decorative elements were removed from the Blomefield pattern ordnance.
Although the Royal Navy also carried out their own experiments, and trialled variations on the Blomefield design against designs by Colonel Congreve (the inventor of rocket artillery), they ultimately adopted Blomefield’s designs and by 1794 the Blomefield pattern gun was the standard in the navy, although Armstrong’s were still on ships in 1808.
A typical firing procedure
A wet swab was used to mop out the interior of the barrel, extinguishing any embers from a previous firing. Gunpowder, either loose or in a cloth or parchment cartridge pierced by a metal 'pricker' through the touch hole, was placed in the barrel and followed by a cloth wad, was rammed home. Next the shot was rammed in, followed by another wad (to prevent the cannonball from rolling out of the barrel if the muzzle was depressed.) The gun in its carriage was then 'run out' — men heaved on the gun tackles until the front of the gun carriage was hard up against the ship's bulwark, and the barrel protruding out of the gun port. This took the majority of the manpower as the total weight of a large cannon in its carriage could reach over two tons, and the ship would probably be rolling.
The touchhole in the rear ('breech') of the cannon was primed with finer gunpowder ('priming powder'), or a 'quill' (from a porcupine or such, or the skin-end of a feather) pre-filled with priming powder, then ignited.
The earlier method of firing a cannon was to apply a linstock - a wooden staff holding a length of smoldering match at the end - to the touchhole of the gun. This was dangerous and made accurate shooting from a moving ship difficult, as the gun had to be fired from the side, to avoid its recoil, and there was a noticeable delay between the application of the linstock and the gun firing In 1745, the British began using flintlocks fitted to cannon).
The gunlock was operated by pulling a cord, or lanyard. The gun-captain could stand behind the gun, safely beyond its range of recoil, and sight along the barrel, firing when the roll of the ship lined the gun up with the enemy and so avoid the chance of the shot hitting the sea or flying high over the enemy's deck. Despite their advantages, gunlocks spread gradually as they could not be retrofitted to older guns. The British adopted them faster than the French, who had still not generally adopted them by the time of the Battle of Trafalgar (1805)
Evolution of the British Gun in by Clive Sweetingham
World Naval Ships Forums
For the official photographers a war on such a massive scale was new and a recurring problem for them was how to convey this magnitude. Frank Hurley, the Australian photographer, resorted to combining negatives in order to convey the multiplicity of action. Hurley was a household name long before the war owing to his photographic work on the Shackleton expedition to Antarctica. He felt that the horror of the Western Front needed to be represented and only embellishment of the kind that composites permitted would allow the reality of the scale and suffering to be communicated.
This only incurred the wrath of the generals who felt that such tampering amounted to faking and that the point of official photographs was that they should be scrupulously genuine
Hurley’s largest ‘composite photomural’ titled ‘The Raid’ which was created by overlaying 12 different negatives taken during training exercises or secured battlefields after the action had finished.
Hurley however was soon moved to photograph military efforts in the Middle East but not before creating many composite images that conveyed the massive size of the war.Later in London prints which measured over 20 ft. x 15’6″ were exhibited to large demanding audiences who had queued for hours to see for the first time the full scale of war.
Frank Hurley puts the finishing touches to a giant enlargement of one of his controversial photomontages of the Western Front, which formed part of an exhibition of Australian official war photographs at the Cartwright Hall, Bradford.
Porthcawl museum An update on our campaign to save the museum
David Swidenbank Vice Chairman.
Below is from the debate in the House of Commons on how the UK will mark the centenary of the First World War 7th November 2014
Madeleine's story is a very personal one which Ceri at the museum has researched and filled a number of missing gaps for her. Just another part of the work that may be lost should we lose the fight with BCBC .
Well done Ceri keep up the good work
Mrs Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): John Morris said that all history is local. If ever we should respect that saying, it is during the commemoration of the great war.
Last weekend, I was asked by Andrew Hillier and David Swidenbank to visit my local museum in Porthcawl because it is facing closure. They showed me around rooms full of uniforms and artefacts that they had collected in preparation for the commemoration of the war. Sadly, the local council is facing £36 million of cuts over the next two years. There will be cuts to school transport and other essential services. Unfortunately, the museum also faces closure. I hope that the Heritage
Lottery Fund will come to the rescue and that that tragic loss to the community of Porthcawl and the history of south Wales will be avoided.
The other reason I visited the museum was that Ceri Joseph, who was taking a history walk that weekend, had often been in touch with me. My inbox is full of communications from Ceri, who has a passion for history that is reminiscent of an amateur detective. I have talked to her over many years about the names on the Porthcawl war memorial. She has spent months and years researching the stories and uncovering who the people on the war memorial were. In the words of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, she has brought them “in from the cold”. Some of them were local and some had relatives who lived locally. It is not necessarily just local people who are named on war memorials, because anybody could put a name forward. Some people appear on several war memorials. The names of some local people who died do not appear at all.
Mr Gray: What the hon. Lady is describing strikes a chord with the work that is being done by my constituent Richard Broadhead to research the lost dead of the first world war. About 60 men from Wiltshire and no doubt many from south Wales died shortly after the end of the first world war of wounds and other causes associated with the war, but are not commemorated on war memorials or on Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones. That is something we ought to correct.
Mrs Moon: I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman has seen the information that has been sent out by the war heritage all-party parliamentary group this week, which identifies where there are war graves in our constituencies, but I have found it very moving and extremely helpful. I was grateful to be able to pass that information on to my local history society. The museum intends to do a lot of work with schools and present exhibitions around the town, and put together a world war one trench so that people can get some idea of what local people and volunteers experienced.
Ceri also helped me personally with my family history. I have lived all my life with two faded photographs of Albert Edward Ironside, my grandfather. Apart from a small pocket diary written during active service in France and Belgium, I have his “Soldiers’ Small Book”, the two photographs, his will, and the King George memorial penny that was sent to the families of those who served and died on the front line. My grandfather was a member of the Royal Engineers and responsible for providing signals communication. Ceri and her husband plan to visit all the graves of those from Porthcawl who died, and they have generously offered also to visit my grandfather’s grave. I, too, have visited that grave, mainly because I wanted to take my son and so that my grandfather would somehow know that his life had carried on with four grandchildren and, to date, eight great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren—none of them mine so far.entries for the next few days record lots of rain and a unique experience of the first train journeys to the front:
“Station platforms were all crowded with people to see us go by. We got chocolate and cigarettes in galore and splendid reception.”
On 23 August he records:
“We rested for the day. The war commenced around here at 12 o’clock, the firing was terrible to stand all day and all night. We are about 2 miles from the firing line. Saw 2 German aeroplanes above our head.”
This was the start of the first battle of Mons, and in the next few days the British Army was in retreat. He records:
“Passed through Mons at Bavay stayed at Wwaso for a rest, we were exposed to shell fire for 3 hours before we retired. The shells fell in the town as we were leaving it. We had to leave everything behind us, cables and communications lines as we could not pick them up on account of the closeness of the Germans. We were lucky to get away at all.”
Then the diary jumps.
Bob Stewart (Beckenham) (Con): Most people retreated from the battle of Mons, but two battalions did not—the Norfolks and the Cheshires. They were surrounded and they fought to the last. Even the commanding officer was killed.
Mrs Moon: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that moving information.
It is less well known that the soldiers who fled lived without food and water, their boots filling with blood from bloated feet. When they arrived at Monthyon, my grandfather records that they
“stayed there for the night properly knocked out both horses and men. We found this place upside down with the people, their houses its terrible to see these poor people on the road in a large cart and they don’t know where to go for safety. It’s heartbreaking to see them.”
We need to remember all those civilians who suffered horrific experiences during the first world war.
The entry for 17 October is revealing:
“Very fine morning, all my chums congratulated me on my birthday. We got a blanket served out to us. We have had nothing to cover us since we came out. Severe fighting is going all along the canal.”
On 29 October he says:
On 29 October he says:
“Terrific firing all day and night. The Indian troops came here to relieve us. They look a fine lot of men—Ghurkhas, Sikhs and Punjabs.”
The diary covers only the first year of the war, and I knew little of the rest of his experience. Ceri, however, helped me uncover more information, and I hope that that is the sort of work that local museums and societies will do for many, bringing their family members back to them.
Ceri also brought to my attention the fact that my grandfather’s first world war medal had recently been sold. I thank the hon. Members for Beckenham (Bob Stewart) and for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Tim Farron) for their help in trying to get Britannia Military Antiques and Collectables to bring that medal back to the family. Sadly, despite all the efforts, including letters, e-mails and telephone calls, so far I have not been successful.
Families need to take ownership of the family members who died on behalf of their communities and their country. This is a chance for the country to honour those people and bring them back from the cold.
David Swidenbank Vice Chairman of Porthcawl Museum