Author Archives: ukniwm

There’s an interesting article on the BBC News website today about a mountainous region of North West Pakistan called Waziristan.  Bordering Afghanistan, Waziristan is known to be occupied by pro-Taleban and al-Qaeda militants and is believed by some to be the hiding place of Osama Bin Laden.

Back in 1919, when a young officer in the British Army, Captain Francis Stockdale, was stationed in the region, Waziristan was no less dangerous.  Stockdale wrote a book about his experiences called ‘Walk Warily in Waziristan‘, which was published by his family in the 1980s.  Many of the local tribesmen were hostile and regularly attacked British troops and encampments.  Unfortunately they were also renowned as excellent shots.  The area was remote and inhospitable, a terrain of barren mountains and ravines, where temperatures could rise as high as 55°C (131°F).  Not without reason was it known as ‘Hell’s door knocker’.

Read more from BBC News

Running up the engine of Bristol F2B Fighter Mark II at Dardoni, before taking off on a bombing sortie to Spinwam in North Waziristan, early 1923.The British employed modern warfare techniques  against the tribesmen, using planes such as this Bristol F2B MkII fighter to drop bombs.

We have a good number of memorials that refer to Waziristan.  17 have been recorded so far, dating between 1894 to 1937, which indicate just how dangerous the region could be. 

A plaque in St Giles Church, Wrexham, remembers 18 men of the 1st Battalion The Royal Welch Fusiliers who lost their lives on active service in Waziristan between 1920 and 1923.

Others, like Captain Stockdale, lived to tell the tale.  One such was Major Charles Davies Vaughan DSO, who served in Waziristan in 1894, as well as in South Africa during the Boer War, but died at Gallipoli in April 1915, at the age of 46.  A memorial to Major Vaughan can be found St Michaels Church, Ystrad, Wales.

‘Useful’ war memorials are certainly less common than the purely symbolic form, but plenty still exist.   Practically anything can be purchased, installed and dedicated as a war memorial.  From bird baths to ambulances, writing desks to horse troughs.

Among the many structures serving as memorials are hospitals, nurses’ homes, libraries, schools, sports and social clubs, bandstands, swimming baths and a mountaineers’ hut.  Despite the diverse forms, their purpose was the same – to improve the quality of life for those still living, rather than standing solely as a monument to the dead.

Some, no doubt, will prove to be more durable than others.  The summit of Scafell Pike – the tallest mountain in England – was donated by the 3rd Lord Leaconfield as a war memorial in 1919.  Others, such as cottage hospitals, may eventually become unsuitable for the use for which they were intended and be demolished or converted.  In these cases, a dedicatory inscription may be all that remains to remind us of the community’s intention, decades before.

Thetford hospital memorial tablet. Image copyright Norfolk NHS

In Thetford, Norfolk, after the end of the First World War, the local people chose to erect a memorial to their war dead that would benefit the whole town.  They decided on a new wing for the cottage hospital and installed in it the very latest medical technology – x-ray apparatus.  Last year the cottage hospital closed when a new healthy living centre was opened, but the dedicatory tablet has been saved and will be re-erected by the Town Council once a suitable location has been found.

A new memorial plaque has been unveiled at Llanelli District Cemetery for a local soldier who died in action in Iraq on 7 July 2007. 

Lance Corporal Francis was the driver of a Warrior armoured fighting vehicle that was hit by a roadside bomb while on patrol in northern Basra.  He was 23 years old and on his third tour of duty in Iraq with the 2nd Battalion The Royal Welsh.

Read more about the unveiling ceremony from Llanelli Star 

Read more about Lance Corporal Francis from the Ministry of Defence

A new grants scheme is being launched today by Historic Scotland and War Memorials Trust.  Funding will be available to ensure that freestanding memorials across Scotland are preserved in recognition of the contribution service men and women have made for their country.

Historic Scotland will provide £30,000 annually to War Memorials Trust who will provide additional funds and be responsible for distributing the grants.  War memorials eligible for conservation grants are freestanding monuments such as obelisks, crosses and statues. 

The scheme can grant aid up to 75% of the total eligible cost of the works to a maximum of £7,500 per project.  See the press release for further information about the launch of the scheme.

Anyone interested in applying for a grant in Scotland (or elsewhere in the UK) is advised to visit the WMT Small Grants Scheme information page to learn more about the available funding or to contact the Conservation Officer on 020 7881 0862 or or the Trust Manager or Administrator on 020 7259 0403 or

I was reading an interesting book on the bus on the way into work this morning – Tracing Your Family History: Merchant Navy’.  It’s one of a series of guides to tracing military ancestry (Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force being the others) published by the Imperial War Museum.  

The Merchant Navy played a crucial role in both world wars.  Not only did it transport vital supplies and personnel but many ships were converted for war work.  Some were armed, others carried out tasks such as minesweeping.

One major memorial to the Merchant Navy is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial at Tower Hill, London.  It is inscribed with the names of 36,000 members of the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets who died during the First and Second World Wars and ‘have no grave but the sea’.

Another memorial is the site of the Church of Holy Rood, in Southampton.  Erected in 1320, it was known for centuries as the church of the sailors.  When it was damaged by enemy action on 30 November 1940, the ruins were preserved as a war memorial dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy and lost their lives at sea. 

Where you find the names of members of the Merchant Navy on memorials, you may also find their wonderfully evocative ranks: Donkeyman; Greaser; Fireman; Trimmer; Boy.

The MELBOURNE STAR enters Grand Harbour, Valletta.

This photo shows troops cheering the arrival of the merchant ship Melbourne Star into the Grand Harbour, Valletta, Malta.

The Melbourne Star arrived on 13 August 1942, after an epic voyage across the Mediterranean (only 5 of the original 14 merchant vessels made it) as part of convoy WS21S (Operation Pedestal) to deliver fuel and other vital supplies to the besieged island.

1915. Ocean or North Beach, north of Ari Burnu and Anzac cove looking towards Suvla. In the foreground is No 1 Australian Stationary Hospital, in the centre the Ordnance Supply Stores, and No 13 Casualty Clearing Station in the distance.There will be a number of services and ceremonies taking place around the UK to commemorate Anzac Day on 25 April. 

Anzac Day is the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War.

On 25 April 1915, an allied expedition (including Australian and New Zealand soldiers) landed at Gallipoli. The intention was to capture the peninsula and open up a naval route to the Black Sea. They met fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders and what had been expected to be a swift campaign dragged on for eight months. The allied forces were finally evacuated at the end of 1915, leaving tens of thousands dead on both sides.

Read more from the Australian War Memorial

If you want to start the day early there will be a dawn service and wreath laying at 5.00am at the Australian and New Zealand war memorials,  Hyde Park Corner, London.  Despite the early hour, this service is always well attended.

Read more about the events taking place on the 25 April on the Gallipoli Association’s website.

This is a fascinating photograph I discovered in our collection.  It shows a temporary memorial, constructed from white-painted wood.  Although unfamiliar to us today because they have not survived, temporary memorials were relatively common immediately following the end of the First World War.  They were often erected in towns and cities to provide a focus for remembrance activities before a permanent stone memorial could be erected.

Black and white photo of temorary wooden First World War memorials

The other intriguing thing about this photograph is the annotation:

Comrades of the Great War
(Woolwich and District Branch)
Childrens’ Xmas Treat

A Child’s tribute to dear Daddy
Your tribute to the child

From this we can assume that the little boy to the left of the photo had lost his father in the war and the trip to visit the memorial had been organised as a Christmas treat by the local branch of the ‘Comrades of the Great War’, one of the forerunners of the Royal British Legion.  The last line is rather more enigmatic – ‘Your tribute to the child.’  Perhaps the postcard was sold to encourage donations for a permanent memorial? 

Not all war memorials feature the names of those who served or died but, if they do, the very least information displayed will be the surname of the person being remembered.  Invariably this is accompanied by their first name or initial. 

Some memorials include further information such as rank, date and place of death, place of birth, age or manner of death.  In some areas – most notably Wales – so many men had the same first name and surname that the first line of their home address is sometimes included to distinguish between them.

Yesterday, in our archive, I discovered a memorial that only has the first name.  I’ve never seen this before.  It’s a small inscribed stone in the garden of a Working Men’s Club in Partington, Manchester.  Click here to see record

The inscription simply reads


Who was Taffy?


After we posted this entry, a reader got in touch with the following comment.

“I would suggest that the name ‘Taffy’ could refer to an animal adopted as a mascot. There could have been a Working Mens’ Club member who brought the animal (dog or cat) back to Manchester with them. Otherwise, a search of regimental mascots of the Army/Navy/Air Force of the time engaged in Palestine could prove useful. (I believe that the Welch Regiment’s goat is traditionally called ‘Taffy’.)”

Today is also the 100th anniversary of the Territorial Army, (TA) the British army’s reserve forces.  Read more from BBC News

We’re not yet aware of any memorials to the Territorial Army as a whole, but there are several to specific units.  One of these is a plaque at the TA base in Farnham, Surrey, commemorating that town’s long association with the Territorial Army and some members who died during the Italian Campaign in the Second World War.

To celebrate the anniversary, here are a couple of ‘then and now’ photos.

British Territorial Army soldiers at summer camp, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.


This first photo shows British soldiers, working in the horse lines at a Territorial Army summer camp, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.  The image is a rare autochrome colour photograph.





Territorial Army soldiers of the Royal Rifle Volunteers pose for the camera in front of Army Snatch Landrovers at ISAF Headquarters, Kabul, 2006

This second photo shows Territorial Army soldiers of the Royal Rifle Volunteers, posing for the camera in front of Army Snatch Landrovers at ISAF Headquarters, Kabul.  Deployed for six months on Force Protection duties in Afghanistan in 2006, this photo was taken shortly before they flew home.

It’s 90 years to the day that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service were merged to form the Royal Air Force (RAF).   There are a great many war memorials that commemorate the members and actions of the RAF – over 800 if we search the database for ‘RAF’.

One notable, recent memorial (unveiled in 2005) is the Battle of Britain Memorial on Victoria Embankment, London.  It features friezes cast in bronze depicting scenes from the Battle, during 1940.  These include: pilots at rest; members of the Observer Corps watching for an attack; ground crews arming hurricanes; pilots scrambling; pilots sharing stories in the mess hall; hop pickers in Kent watching an aerial battle; anti-aircraft gunners; women working in an aircraft factory; a pilot closely pursued by a Luftwaffe plane; St Paul’s Cathedral surrounded by smoke from the Blitz; people searching the ruins after an air raid; and a family making tea in an Anderson shelter.   The memorial also lists the names of 2935 members of the RAF who served or died during the Battle of Britain.

Battle of Britain Memorial

Also in London, you will find many RAF memorials in St Clement Danes church.  The church was gutted by fire in 1941 and rebuilt by the RAF to become their central church, commemorating personnel killed on active service.

Another very significant memorial is the Air Forces Memorial to the Missing at Runnymede, built and managed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  It is a large shrine that commemorates over 20,000 airmen by name, who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe, and who have no known graves.

On a window of the shrine, is a poem written by Paul H Scott.

The first rays of the dawning sun
Shall touch its pillars,
And as the day advances
And the light grows stronger,
You shall read the names
Engraved on the stone
Of those who sailed on the angry sky
And saw harbour no more
No gravestone in yew-dark churchyard
Shall mark their resting place
Their bones lie in the forgotten corners
Of earth and sea.
But, that we may not lose their memory
With fading years, their monument stands here,
Here, where the trees troop down to Runnymede.
Meadow of Magna Carta, field of freedom,
Never saw you so fitting a memorial,
Proof that the principals established here
Are still dear to the hearts of men.
Here they now stand, contrasted and alike,
The field if freedom’s birth, and the memorial
To freedom’s winning.

As the evening comes,
And mists, like quiet ghosts, rise from the river bed,
And climb the hill to wander through the cloisters,
We shall not forget them. Above the mist
We shall see the memorial still, and over it
The crown and single star. And we shall pray
As the mists rise up and the air grows dark
That we may wear
As brave a heart as they.