Archive for January, 2010
I have been busy this week with publicising the Tunnellers Memorial. This is to be unveiled on Saturday 19 June and we would like as big an attendance there as possible. We certainly don’t want charges of ‘I would have come but wasn’t aware of it’ levelled at us – the more people who know, the better as far as we are concerned.
Knowing the huge number of police officers interested in the Great War, I contacted NARPO who were very helpful and added a piece to their News Section. The Guild of Battlefield Guides did likewise. There followed the large task of contacting as many regimental museums as possible with the aim that they spread the word to their contacts. So far I have had some really positive responses back and people seem genuinely delighted with the proposed memorial. Next up is to contact the various contacts in the South Wales press and TV with the aim of publicising our search for descendants of Private Thomas Collins of Swansea. Collins was the wounded man who Hackett refused to leave and it would be fantastic to trace any family members to attend the unveiling ceremony. More news on this as and when…
I went to my first WFA meeting at the Avon Branch in Kingswood last night to hear a talk given by Michelle Young on Vera Brittain in the Great War. Despite a mad dash to get there in time and arriving with literally a minute to spare I was made very welcome and really enjoyed the talk. As I sat there listening a good amount of the detail of Vera Brittain’s life came back to me – I had read her work, Testament of Youth and the Letters from a Lost Generation ‘First World War Letters of Vera Brittain and Four Friends’ edited by Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge over ten years ago.
The loss she endured through the war, losing her fiancée Roland Leighton at Christmas 1915, two friends Victor Richardson and Geoffrey Thurlow in 1917 and her own brother Edward in 1918 does not even bear thinking about. Michelle clearly had empathy with the subject and had visited many of the locations associated with Vera’s life as well as the graves of men she had known. Despite being a member for some time it was my first visit to a WFA talk and was a great experience. Having received a list of talks planned for 2010 I look forward to further visits.
Back in early December I spent a long day on a research jaunt to Ypres with friends and Fields of Discovery colleagues, Peter Barton and Nigel Steel. We had a number of stops planned but still had time to stop in at Railway Chateau Cemetery to witness first-hand the experimental work carried out there. This work, in the words of the CWGC meant the “cemetery has completed its transformation: geotextile and a dolomite limestone surface have been laid and borders planted.” What this means is that the grass has been removed and a part-gravel, part hardcore put in its place. I noticed that the surface has been rollered with no care at all and it was easy to see and feel underfoot the rise and fall of the ground where the aggregate has been pushed. The plants looked in a sorry state and the whole place has the air of desolation about it. The worst bit was that the surface is a compromise – it was neither pea shingle or hard standing. So, the surface moves under your feet and it is easy to kick divots out of it (as happened when Nigel nearly tripped over).
The CWGC visitors’ book was terrifyingly like reading the Daily Mail but, for once, I agreed with the sentiments written. They have made a beautiful cemetery look a right mess. One can only hope that they regard this purely as an experiment. CWGC info on the project is available here.
Following a nod from some kind soul on the Great War Forum I spent a few happy hours downloading free books from the excellent website: http://www.archive.org/
I had come across this site in the past when Googling for various books and had downloaded a few over the years. However, that was on a ‘as you need them’ basis. I had never sat down and really searched for Great War content available – and all for free!
It is amazing what is available and I have downloaded over 70 books in pdf format (totalling over 1GB). These range from personal memoirs I had never heard of before through to regimental, brigade and divisional histories. And the best bit? As they are in pdf format, it is easy to search for specific words. This makes research that much easier. However, don’t expect to see daylight for days. Searching for “1914-1918” yields over 10, 000 results! A pat on the back from me to all those who scan these books so we can all share the knowledge.