Posts Tagged ‘ww1’

The Anzacs

September 9, 2016

Many men of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps came to my home county of Wiltshire to be trained for fighting in World War One. They fared as well as other troops – which is to say badly. But we do remember them in many ways. We have seen the military graveyard at Sutton Veny – a sad memorial to the many men who died of injuries or off a strain of flu they had never experienced before. Today we’ll look at a chalk mark – a cut out shape on a chalk hill. It is of the Australian badge and is a bit hidden by trees. We associate this badge with the Anzacs.


This is viewed from Stockton, a lovely little village in the Wylie Valley but the badge is onLamb Down, Codford. It is more visible in winter.

image004However, there is an explanation board.



Of course, we are still marking the 100th anniversary of WW1 events. So we paid our respects here, whilst passing at the end of August.

A Canadian Soldier

May 28, 2016

A while ago I did a post about a somewhat distant relative called Harriet Selden . She was a part of my Mallion tribe and today’s post is about one of her grandchildren. His full name was William Caleb Selden Mallion and he was born in 1892 in Eastbourne in Sussex. William was truly a distant relative – a third cousin three times removed. We have to go back to my five greats grandfather, born in 1765, to find our common ancestor.

When William was born his dad, Caleb Mallion, was a plasterers labourer and his mother was a laundress.

On Feb 28th 1907 young William set sail for Canada on the Dominion Line ship, Southwark. Other members of the family made the crossing at different times. I think the family may have been fragmented for a while but they are all together on the 1911 Canadian census.

In 1915 William signed up for the Canadian Army – to come back to Europe and join World War One. We have his attestation papers.


These are great documents. They sort out a bit of family history although I wonder why William gave his mother as next of kin rather than his father. Page two gives a brief description of William.image004So we know William, by today’s standards was of slight build – not all that tall and certainly not big around the chest. We know he had a light complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair. As far as religion was concerned he was a salvationist.

It is good to report that William returned to Canada and at the time of the 1921 census he was married, with a daughter and was working, as far as it can be read, as a painter.

To my dear wife

January 4, 2016

Well of course, I could send this to my dear wife as we approach 45 years of married bliss, but in fact I think this was sent to a wife from a fairly newlywed husband. It is a postcard of a type popular during World War One.


A piece of thin material has been embroidered with the message and scene and formed into a kind of envelope. Inside the envelope there is a small fan.


No message is written, but I am fairly sure this was a message from my grandfather to my grandmother. They married in 1916 – 100 years ago this year. Grandad, as a young man, was compelled to be in the forces and thus overseas. To use modern parlance, my grandparents had been ‘an item’ for years, since mid teenage days. I’m sure the separation really hurt them.

But why no message? Well clearly this could not be sent as a postcard for the fan would have been lost so if sent at all it would have gone in an envelope. Maybe grandad sent it with a letter. Or maybe grandad brought it home with him. But as this is one of several similar styled cards that Granny kept, I suspect they were sent and treasured.

They are still treasured.

Sutton Veny Graveyard

October 10, 2015

Effects of Spanish Flu

If you are asked ‘what killed 50 million people just before 1920 the answer is not World War One. It is Spanish Flu.

It was a different world when the ANZACS came over here to fight in World War One.  Louis Bleriot’s rather shaky aeroplane had not long crossed the English Channel. It was only after the end of the war that Alcock and Brown managed to get a plane across the Atlantic – and that by only a whisker landing ignominiously in Derrigimlagh Bog in Connemara, Ireland.

Soldiers from Australia and New Zealand had to travel long journeys on ocean going ships to reach Europe. It was something people just didn’t do and that meant that most of our Southern Hemisphere fellows had never encountered anything like Spanish Flu and they hadn’t developed antibodies to help fight off such infections.

Sad to say they perished in droves throughout 1918 and 1919.

Some of them chanced to be in Wiltshire and are buried in the churchyard at Sutton Veny.

image002This burial ground has 169 war  graves of which more than 140 are of Australians. A goodly 100 of these succumbed to the flu pandemic which swept across Wiltshire through late 1918 and 1919.

To me there is something particularly poignant about a family man – and clearly a successful soldier for he had earned a Military medal, coming to the end of his life on the very day the armistice was signed.


His wife probably had to pay for the message at the bottom.

There is also something particularly poignant about a teenager laying down his life, quite some time after the war itself had ended.


Again an extra message has been paid for by a grieving family.

And of course the whole graveyard is poignant and redolent of the futility of that war and maybe wars in general.


How sad that these young men and women had to die far from home and loved ones.

A Death Penny

October 3, 2015

These plaquettes were given to relatives of those servicemen and women who died as a result of World War One. Sadly, they are very common. One million three hundred and fifty five thousand such plaques were issued. One of them was given to relatives of my Great Uncle Harry Stevens who was gassed on the Belgian/French border in 1916.

image002Although rather light heartedly called a penny. They were not penny sized. They were much bigger.


As we can see they are about 5 inches in diameter, and quite chunky. In fact 450 tons of bronze was used to make them all.

The design was decided after a competition. Here we have Britannia holding a laurel wreath. The lion represents the strength of Britain and the dolphins represent the naval power. In the little sector at the bottom a British lion is tearing a German eagle to shreds. Personally, I hate that symbolism which implies, for that First World War that one side was right and the other was wrong. Personally, I believe it was all wrong.

The competition winner was Edward Carter Preston. His initials appear just above the front paw of the lion.

So great granny, whose sampler we saw a couple of days ago, lost her only son and was given about 12 ounces of bronze as compensation. It has to be said that Harry Stevens joined up in 1914 as a volunteer. I daresay he fancied some adventure and seeing overseas. Well he is still overseas, in the graveyard at Bailleul in France.

I have written about Harry before on this blog. You can click here and also here to read about his life cut short.

The death penny has only just come into my stewardship having been cleared from my late sister’s house.


August 8th 1918

May 26, 2015

August 8th 1918

This day was oft called the black day of the German army. It was the first day of the Battle of Amiens and it really was the beginning of the end.

It was also the day on which my wife’s grandfather won a Military Cross. He was, by then, a captain in the Tank Corps. We know his tank was hit and caught fire. Still under fire he rescued as many as he could of his crew – but sadly, not all of them. Grandfather’s tank had been attached to a Canadian regiment and using their wonderful on line diaries we have been able to trace just where grandfather went on that fateful day. Near the point where his tank was hit there is a cemetery and it contains Tank Corps men. We don’t know, but maybe they were with Grandad and failed to escape from the blazing inferno of his tank.

Grandad, of course, survived but like so many Great War veterans, he never talked about it. My wife never knew he had been awarded such a high bravery award until long after his death.  So of course we do not know the names of his tank crew.

But here is one of the graves in the Beaucourt British Cemetery.


Note it has two names on it. We know nothing of Private J Oliver or Private W Barrett who sadly, along with so many others on both sides of this conflict, paid with their lives.

Frederick Pickup

November 11, 2014

Frederick Herbert Pickup was born in 1879. His birth was registered in the June quarter of that year at Wakefield but he was born at Normonton. His parents were Henry Pickup, a 37-year-old blacksmith and Sarah Jane (nee) Peel. Amongst baby Frederick’s elder siblings was Clara Pickup – my wife’s great grandmother.

In 1881 Frederick was still the youngest in the family, with five elder brothers and sisters. The family lived at 7 Buxton Yard in the Hunslet area of Leeds. Dad was working as a blacksmith and Frederick’s eldest brother, James Henry, who was 18, was at work as a Lithographic Artist’s apprentice. Frederick’s eldest sister, 14-year-old Emma Louisa was nominally at work as a domestic servant, but at the time of the census she was unemployed.

In 1882 Frederick’s young sister, Annie was born – the last child of Henry and Sarah Jane.

We next encounter Frederick at the time of the 1891 census. The family now lived at Number 2 Hapwell Terrace in Hunslet. Just possibly the family were quite well off at this time. Father, Henry, was working as a nut and bolt maker. Also there were four children at home who were working. Susannah, aged 24, was a hat finisher. Clara, aged 22, was a cloth weaver, George, aged 17, was a clerk at an engineering works and Walter was a lithographic printer.

Frederick, in 1891, was a 12-year-old scholar.

By 1901 the family had moved to a new address, being at 20 Whitehouse Street in Hunslet. Henry, the nut and bolt maker and his wife Sarah still had three children at home. All were working and Frederick was a packer of tin ware goods.

Frederick married Lelia B Marriott in the June quarter of 1910, in Leeds. We believe they had two sons. Frank was born in 1911 and Edward in 1914

In 1911 Fred was a storekeeper living in Leeds with his wife and son.

Frederick joined the West Yorkshire Regiment. We are told that his number 15/1094 makes him one of the ‘Leeds Pals’ who signed up at the start of the war.

In December 1915, The Leeds Pals were in Egypt, defending the Suez Canal, but in March 1916 they were sent to France.

Frederick was killed on 10th June 1916 – a fortnight before the battle of The Somme started. He was 37 years old. His death came at a time when it was considered that not much was happening but in fact Frederick was just one of 125000 British casualties in this ‘quiet’ period.

Frederick was laid to rest at the Sucrerie Military Cemetery near Colincamps, some ten miles from Albert. We visited this cemetery on October 26th 2003.


It is, of course, immaculately kept and features a sweet chestnut tree (and others) standing sentinel over the graves.


And here is  Fred’s grave.


Le Tommy Café

November 6, 2014


It was just about ten years ago that my wife and I visited Le Tommy Café. This eating house is at Pozieres, the site of fierce fighting in the battle of the Somme in World War One. The café recreates (or did ten years ago) a little bit of trench life for diners and drinkers to see.


Here we peep into a trench or dug out and see the soldiers awaiting their turn to go over the top.

And here’s debris and junk scattered near the trench.


As you can see Le Tommy is a café and a museum in one. Apart from the recreations outside, the walls inside are a mass of photos. It is (or was) a very handy visit for we folks finding where our ancestors had to fight.


A Cimetière Chinoise

October 12, 2014

Were Chinese people involved in the Great War of 1914 – 18? The answer is yes, they were. After the battle of the Somme in 1916, Britain was so short of manpower that it effectively bribed Chinese people to come and do labouring jobs behind the lines. They were offered far more money than they could earn back home and they came in droves.

Although the Chinese people were never front line soldiers, quite a lot were killed or died of sickness. There are Chinese cemeteries in various places in Northern France.

This one, between Calais and St Omer and is called Ruminghem. It contains the bodies of some 75 Chinese men.


Now I may be more international in attitudes than some people. I like to remember that, in war, there are many losers. One loser is the side that gets defeated, of course, and they tend to be forgotten, but in The Great War both sides believed they had God on their side.

The Chinese worked for what proved to be the winning side in that war, but really there were only losers back then.

It was the year 2000 when we came across this graveyard, quite by chance. Like most people, I had no idea that the Chinese had been involved. I found it singularly moving to find graves of people so far from home brought down by a war which was nothing to do with them.


At least the graves are well kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Number 20546 was, of course, somebody’s son and may have been a husband and father as well. A waste of a life, I say. This is not the only Chinese cemetery. 20456 is one of 2000 of his countrymen who perished.

Hadlow Down

October 8, 2014

We were on our way to my sister’s funeral and our route took us past Hadlow Down Church. It isn’t a building I like all that much. It dates from the 1830s and was built in Gothic Perpendicular revival style. I would pass it by if it weren’t for family connections.

I have two relatives buried there – great grandfather James and his daughter Hephzibah.


The wooden memorials are long gone – never seen by me – but they live on in my mind and I think I know where these two graves were. In an earlier blog post I showed an orchid on the spot where great grandad was buried. I’m not sure what the 2014 flower is.


Hadlow Down graveyard is regarded as a prime wildflower and wildlife spot. A red admiral butterfly was enjoying the blooms.


Inside, the church is actually quite decent.


Yes – a pleasing simplicity. Now inside the church there is a war memorial – or rather two different ones. One recalls the people killed in the world wars. Another lists all those from the parish who fought in WW1.

There’s a fair chance I have actual relatives amongst the 88 men listed on this document but I shall pick on a small group, related to me by marriage. My grandad’s only younger sister married Walter Pope of this parish.


The couple married soon after the end of the war, in December 1919 and emigrated to Oz in 1921. I have quite a collection of second and more distant cousins in Oz.

The other Popes listed are all Walter’s brothers and so were two more, listed a bit further down.


I can find relatives in all sorts of places in East Sussex.