Posts Tagged ‘Bristol’
Through my work for Historic England I have come to know many stories of Bristol’s soldiers in the war. A few years ago I met Clive Burlton, a local historian and writer with a superb knowledge of Bristol’s role in the war. Clive and I have given talks at the same venue on a number of occasions and over a post-talk beer often discussed the possibility of running a coach tour to the battlefields for people who want to find out more about Bristol’s wartime story.
So, here we are! I am pleased to announce that, with our partners at Bakers Dolphin, we are running a special tour:
The three night, four day tour will visit key sites where soldiers from Bristol fought, earned bravery awards and lost their lives.
Travelling by executive coach we will depart from Bristol on 7 October and travel to the sacred Ypres salient, the wartime cauldron for so many of Britain’s soldiers. That evening we will attend the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate that night. The next day sees us visiting sites around the salient including Ploegsteert (known as Plugstreet to the Tommies) to see where Bristol’s Territorials first went into the trenches before heading south to Arras, our base for the remainder of the trip.
On Saturday 9th we will spend a day on the Somme battlefields, visiting key sites such as Newfoundland Memorial Park, Thiepval Memorial and the Lochnagar Mine Crater. We will also look at the story of the 12th Gloucesters (Bristol’s Own) in their actions at Longueval and Guillemont. The morning of our final day will be spent on the Arras battlefield, looking at the events surrounding the 12th Gloucesters (Bristol’s Own) action at Fresnoy on 8-9 May 1917.
Accommodation is based at the following 3-star hotels – Novotel (Ypres) and Holiday Inn Express (Arras). Evening meal and continental breakfast are included. If there is demand then I will give a talk on the tunnellers’ war after dinner one night and Clive on a particular Bristol story the next night.
Individual visits can be accommodated if time permits and locations are close by.
The cost is a competitive £560pp, based on a shared room. For more details please contact me HERE or Mandy Havill, Group Travel Manager on 01934 415 000. I look forward to meeting you on the tour and sharing in Bristol’s fascinating history.
I have been working with the schoolchildren from a local Bristol school, Fishponds Church of England Academy, for the past couple of years as part of my work with Historic England’s ‘Heritage Schools’ scheme. This has involved taking them on First World War themed heritage walks around the local area, including visits to the nearby local war memorial and the Glenside Campus of University of West of England (UWE), the former mental asylum which, in its wartime guise at Beaufort War Hospital, had over 30,000 wounded service personnel pass through its gates.
During this period it was discovered that the striking Fishponds War Memorial was not ‘listed’ by Historic England. The idea was formed to engage the local schoolchildren to work on getting their memorial listed. If successful, it would be the first time schoolchildren would play such an active role in this process. Furthermore, it would be a wonderful way for local children to engage in their community. The project began with high hopes as Historic England has pledged to protect 2,500 war memorials by 2018 to mark the centenary of the First World War.
In November 2015 I accompanied Michael Gorely, who manages the ‘Heritage Schools’ programme for Historic England, and a number of Year 6 children to the war memorial. The task was to carry out a condition survey; recording factual details such as the memorial’s physical appearance, what materials it was made from, its shape, size, setting and any changes from its original design. Also noted were details of plaques and additional inscriptions. The children also researched its history and wrote persuasive letters asking the memorial be listed to the Designation Department at Historic England. It was the department’s decision whether to grant listed status with the final ratification made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. A selection of comments from the children’s letters can be found below.
“When we went to see the site, everybody had a fantastic time learning about it.”
“It is a great piece of history and most people would agree that it should be listed.”
“People would be devastated if anything happened to this historical memorial.”
“This amazing piece of history means something to everybody even if their family did not go to war…”
“Our memorial is a unique statue with lots of names carved down on it.”
“It is a part of the local community and we want to remember those who died for us.”
In March we heard the news their appeal had been successful; they are the first school in the country to achieve this! I was invited into the school on 22 March for a special assembly followed by a small wreath laying service at the memorial attended by standard bearers from the local Royal British Legion. The story made the Bristol Evening Post and we gave some interviews for BBC Radio Bristol’s breakfast show. The newspaper article can be read here: https://twitter.com/heritagemikeg/status/713032323537707011
The original memorial had been designed with a bayonet on the end of the soldier’s rifle but had been repeatedly vandalised. As a consequence the bayonet was eventually removed. The children and staff at the school are now working on getting a replacement bayonet added. Ironically, this is much harder now due to the memorial’s listed status!
A small number of Fishponds Church of England Academy children will be visiting the Houses of Parliament next week to speak to an All-Party Group about their success.
I have also recently heard that I heard yesterday that Historic England’s ‘Heritage Schools’ scheme has won the European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage at the Europa Nostra Awards 2016. Press release: http://www.europanostra.org/awards/209/
Everyone who has been involved with this scheme has played a part in ensuring that pupils can learn about, connect with and enjoy their local heritage. So, let’s hope it continues and more children reap the benefits. And a huge congratulations from me to all of the children involved.
This morning I was invited to speak on BBC Radio Bristol on the subject of the new £2 coin to be issued by the Royal Mint. This coin depicts Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, from his famous ‘Call to Arms’ poster from 1914 – ‘Your Country Needs You’. The Green Party are calling for Kitchener’s image to be removed in preference to one denoting peace. Their argument is that the use of this image glorifies war. See http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Kitchener-2-coin-face-glorifies-war-say-Greens/story-20415940-detail/story.html
Removing Kitchener in preference to a design honouring peace would be a strange decision at this time. It is worth remembering the coin is one of five to be created in the period 2014 – 2018. It is hard to think of a more appropriate design to remember the events of one hundred years ago than this iconic image. Kitchener’s links to our colonial nineteenth century past are undeniable. However, it is not those events the coin is recognising. Neither is it celebrating the man himself, even though he did much to raise an army and organise sufficient munitions to prosecute the war effort. The design is a clear symbol of 1914 and the beginning of the war. I am sure that by 2018 the calls to have a design denoting peace will be strong but that time is not now.
The poster, one of the most iconic of the twentieth century, symbolises the Call to Arms in which men enlisted in the hundreds of thousands into what became the ‘New Army’ or ‘Kitchener’s Army’. That those men went off to various theatres of war to fight is undeniable; inevitably a proportion were killed or wounded in action. However, that is the reality of fighting a modern industrial war. It is a bloody, vicious, all encompassing process which the entire country is part of. As such, large scale casualties are inevitable. Men’s enthusiasm to enlist (for a myriad of reasons and not simply patriotism) and duty ensured the British, for so long reliant on the Royal Navy, could form an army of sufficient size to fight the Germans in continental Europe.
I have read suggestions that an image of Harry Patch be used on the coin as an alternative. Harry was the ‘Last Fighting Tommy’ and won a place in the hearts of many around the world due to his passionate advocacy for peace. I was lucky enough to know him well, looking after him on his pilgrimages back to Flanders. However, whilst he was the last survivor of the trenches, the question remains, was he symbolic of the way that all old soldiers thought? Not at all. As hard as it may be for us to stomach, many of those who went to war enjoyed it, revelling in the experience; the camaraderie, regular food, exercise and the chance to escape their humdrum or dangerous industrial civilian life. These men would never live their life in the same way, never living on the edge again. It would be wrong to say that all soldiers thought like this but, neither did all men who fought share Harry’s views. With millions of service personnel it is inevitable there were many different views. So, would it be a good idea to have Harry on a coin? Only if his views mirror those of every serviceman and woman who did ‘their bit’. Clearly, they do not.
What we are talking about here is a coin – one of five to be created over the next five years. Does it remind me of ‘jingoism’ and the dark days of British colonial expansion? No. It brings to mind 1914 and the mass enlistment of a new army. The irony is that in many ways I am ambivalent to it. It is a coin, that is all. I doubt many could say what image adorns the loose change rattling in their pockets or purses. However, unless a brilliant new design is pushed through that strikes a particular chord then I’ll be happy to go with Lord K and his Call to Arms. If I ever get to see one in my change then my first reaction will probably be to think of that wasted morning I spent talking and writing about it. Which brings me on neatly to my next point….
Like many who spend their life researching and learning about the First World War, either guiding on the battlefields, researching in archives or speaking to schoolchildren I am increasingly disheartened by the events of the first week of 2014 which has seen an ugly war of words between various political parties. I am not alone in finding these arguments, started by Michael Gove in his Daily Mail article, unedifying. Clearly, the centenary offers a perfect opportunity for political parties of every persuasion to have their say on upcoming events, using it for their own political benefit. Making cheap political capital out of this period is opportunistic but, sadly, unsurprising. With the social and economic injustices in this country haven’t we more pressing issues in this country for politicians to deal with?
For many of us with a deep-seated and long-standing interest in the war the focus will remain the men who served, their families who remained at home and that legacy – that is what is important, not political jousting and ‘what if’ history. It is sad to say but after just ten days of the new calendar year I am already looking forward to 2018 and the lessening of media and political interest. At this rate, it cannot come too soon.
The discussion on the Steve Le Fevre BBC Radio Bristol Breakfast Show can be heard via iPlayer for another seven days HERE. The piece starts from 1:49.20 in.
Over the past few months I have been in touch with people at the Bristol Evening Post (whose stories also feature in the Western Daily Press and Bath Chronicle) after they ran the story about Alfred Flux’s graffiti in the Bouzincourt Caves on Armistice Day 2010. I had mentioned that the revised version of the Somme panorama volume was out in February and had arranged for a copy to be sent to them for review.
I have just spent weekend away but was texted yesterday by a neighbour who congratulated me on the book being ‘Bristol Book of the Week’. Luckily she had saved me a copy of the review which is attached below. My thanks to Suzanne Savill for organsing this.
I have been researching certain members of this family after I spotted some graffiti of a Great War soldier, Bombardier Alfred Flux from Hambrook, whilst exploring caves under the church in Bouzincourt on the Somme in May last year. Whilst the caves were covered in graffiti from soldiers from all over the world I was intrigued by this local man and endeavoured to find out more about him.
Full details of this can be found on the newspaper link below as the story was featured in the Armistice Day editions of the Bristol Evening Post, Western Daily Press and Bath Chronicle.
832011 Corporal Alfred Ernest Flux, serving with “Y” 61st Trench Mortar Battery, Royal Field Artillery was killed on 21 March 1918, aged 25. He was the son of Alfred William and Emily Flux, of Walton Farm, Hambrook, Bristol and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial to the Missing.
Alfred had served in 1916 in the Laventie area with involvement in the Battle of Fromelles on 19/20 July 1916 and stayed in this sector until his Division moved south to the Somme in mid-November 1916. The war diary says they were billeted in caves under Bouzincourt Church on 28 November and the graffiti is dated 30 November. The Battery stayed at Bouzincourt until January 1917 and then they went back for rest. February 1917 saw a move to Harbonnieres, south of the River Somme until May 1917. By June 1917 the battery was near Arras and then moved up to the Ypres sector where they were employed as stretcher bearers for the 38th (Welsh) Division in the Canal Bank sector on the first say of the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). They stayed in the salient until September when they moved back down to the Arras front, holding the dreaded Chemical Works and Greenland Hill sectors for the next two and half months. They then moved down to the Somme area and in January 1918 were ensconced in the Holnon Wood sector west of St Quentin. It was whilst holding these positions against the German Spring Offensive on 21 March 1918 that Alfred Flux was killed.
Since the article being released I have been in further touch with members of the Flux family, notably Judith Pike (who lives in Bristol) and Geoff Hedditch from Echuca, Victoria in Australia. I had done a fair bit of research into the family so knew that Alfred was one of a family of five children but Judith explained that Alfred’s younger brother, Francis Charles (but known as Charlie until his death at the ripe old age of 86 years) had also served as an artilleryman in the Great War. I volunteered to find out as much of his service as I could and was able to produce a detailed report for the family. Luckily, Charlie’s service record had survived and so I could piece together his service with 47 Brigade, RFA and then various Trench Mortar Batteries of the 19th Division. Other than suffering from dysentery in 1915 he appears to have been unwounded and was demobbed in February 1919.
I was both amazed and delighted by the huge amount of detail you have unearthed. Your information has opened up that era in a fascinating way I never expected to happen. I would like to say a big thank you for your diligence in researching my grandfather, and of course, initially finding out so much about his brother Alfred. Thank you for all you have done to bring real colour into our family history, and I want to wish you every success with your work as a researcher of the Great War. Judith Pike, Frenchay, Bristol
I was delighted to receive some post this morning from Geoff Hedditch in Australia. Enclosed in the envelope was a copy of his local newspaper, the Riverine Herald, which included an article about Geoff and his delight at the work I had done. I would like to thank Patrick, Judith and Geoff (all members of the Flux family) and Alan Freke and his fine colleagues at Frenchay Village Museum for their help. It just goes to show what a spark of interest coupled with a bit of determination can achieve – quite amazing that this story could travel all the way to Australia.
Please also remember the Flux boys themselves – Alfred and Charlie – who both answered their country’s call when needed and who, for one, paid the ultimate price.