Archive

Unusual memorials

By Michael Gordon, Project Assistant

The 16th and 17th of May this year mark the 70th Anniversary of Operation Chastise, better known as the “Dambusters” raids. These raids saw 19 modified Avro Lancaster bombers of 617 Squadron embark on a daring mission to destroy the dams within the Ruhr valley, in an attempt to cripple German industry.

Derwent Dam today (14270 and 14271 ©IWM, 2012)

Derwent Dam today (14270 and 14271 ©IWM, 2012)

617 Squadron was formed for the specific purposes of this mission and was equipped with a bespoke weapon, the now famous Bouncing Bomb codenamed ‘Upkeep’, designed by Barnes Wallis. This highly specialised mission required training and preparation unlike anything the crews had previously experienced. To prepare, the crews were sent to practise their technique at suitable locations within the UK.

Although the crews did not know the specifics of their mission during the training phases, it was quite obvious that they had been selected for a unique task due to the very specific topography of the practice locations. The crews were sent to four different locations to practise low level flying over water and precision targeting. We have recorded three memorials to these events which are located on the practice sites.

Eyebrook Reservoir in Stoke Dry, Rutland was mocked up with canvas towers to resemble the profile of the German targets. It was also used beyond the raids for further training with the ‘Upkeep’ bomb. A plaque at the site commemorates the reservoir’s importance in preparing the crews for the raids on the Mohne and Eder dams in Germany.

617 Squadron, Derwent Dam (14270 and 14271 ©Roy Branson, 2010)

617 Squadron, Derwent Dam (14270 and 14271 ©Roy Branson, 2010)

At Derwent Dam (14270) in Derbyshire, chosen because of its close resemblance to the Ruhr dams, there is a stone tablet inside the gatehouse recording the use of the dam by 617 Squadron.  In 1988, a further tablet was added, commemorating those who died during the raid. In 2008, a 65th Anniversary event was held at the Derwent Dam, involving a flypast by a Lancaster from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, which made low level passes over the dam at 100ft.

The exploits of 617 Squadron during Operation Chastise inspired their famous title of the Dambusters, and earned them a reputation as a precision bombing squadron for future operations.

The names of the 204 men of the Squadron who died in raids during the Second World War are inscribed upon the memorial wall to the Squadron at Royal Gardens, Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire. The wall has been purposely shaped to resemble a dam.

617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa (20485 ©Rachel Farrand, 2012)

617 Squadron, Woodhall Spa (20485 ©Rachel Farrand, 2012)

By Richard Graham, Office Volunteer

Looking at war memorials, especially in small communities, I am often struck when the same family name recurs. Might they be brothers, or cousins, or even father and son? Local research, aided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, can often provide answers and it is encouraging to see the number of local booklets published in recent years to honour the fallen of their communities.

St Andrews Church, Penrith (IWM 3064 ©Jean Norris, 1998)

St Andrews Church, Penrith (IWM 3064 ©Jean Norris, 1998)

After 14 years volunteering for IWM’s War Memorials Archive (formerly UKNIWM), I am almost convinced there is no war memorial which can correctly be described as unique.

The other day though I was updating the record for the Men of Penrith, in Cumbria and came across thirteen instances where there was a forename followed by ‘and’, and either one or two further names followed by the family surname, eg ‘Ronald and Thomas Richardson.’ covering two lines, but distinguished from the next entry, another Thomas Richardson.

Does anyone know of any other community memorial on which the names of relatives are shown this way?

Capt A Ridgway portrait window (IWM 42896, 2000)by Ashley Garber, Project Assistant

By Ashley Garber, Project Assistant.

We recently received an inquiry asking us how rare it is for the portrait of an individual casualty to be memorialised in a stained glass window. Whilst the names of the fallen usually serve as the focus for commemoration on memorials, some memorials do include a portrait of the dead, and stained glass windows are particularly expressive examples of this.

Portrait windows would have been very expensive, and only a few families would have been able to afford the cost of such a memorial. Even so, we have recorded 11 definite examples.

These include a window in St Peters Church, Oughtrington, Cheshire, which depicts Captain Althorp Ridgway, who died 12th May 1915. Ridgway is dressed in the armour of a medieval knight and his portrait actually appears twice in the window: as the face of the more prominent standing knight, and also in profile as the kneeling knight below. Local lore claims that the artist, Archibald K Nicholson, not having met Ridgway, relied on a photograph of him in order to complete these portraits.

Wilson brothers window (©IWM)

The Wilson brothers memorial window in St Andrews Church, Chippenham, Wiltshire is a poignant family portrait.

All three brothers – Herbert Raymond, Evelyn Seppings, and Geoffrey Mervyn Underhill – were killed in the First World War. They appear in uniform in the window, yet they do not constitute the focus, which is dominated by Archangels and scenes of war, regimental devices and references to Flanders.

Instead, the portraits appear in the background in the far left light, behind the figure of a grieving woman, which may be their mother.

The medium of portrait windows allows an opportunity to define relationships visually in a way that other memorial types cannot.

East window, Church Norton, Chichester (©The Friends of St Wilfrids Church Norton, 2006)

An example of this is the East window in St Wilfrids Chapel in Church Norton, Chichester. This window was commissioned by Captain Maurice Wingfield, owner of the nearby Norton Priory, and commemorates, in portraiture, his wife Stephanie Agnes, who died in 1918; his brother Captain John Wingfield, who died of wounds 29th April 1915; and his close friend, Captain the Honourable Thomas Agar-Roberts MP, who died on 30th September 1915, also of wounds.

Both men appear dressed in armour in the window and Stephanie Agnes is depicted as the Agnes Dei.

By Frances Casey, Project Manager

One lesser known fact is that the UK National Inventory of War Memorials  records memorials to those who died whilst in active service as a result of accident or disease as ‘non-combat’ deaths. One such case of note is that of Captain Robert Falcon Scott, who died one hundred years ago today on 29th March 1912, whilst attempting to return from the South Pole during his British Antarctic Expedition.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott and the Antarctic Expeditionary Team (©ukniwm, 2011)

The expedition, also known as the Terra Nova Expedition, named after the ship in which the party sailed, was a private venture for which Scott was responsible.

In 1909, released on half-pay from his position as naval assistant to the Second Sea Lord, Scott began to plan and then took command of the expedition, which he intended to be the first to reach the South Pole.

On 1st November 1911, the party set off, yet the five-man team that eventually succeeded in reaching the Pole on 18th January 1912 were disappointed to find that the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had been there before them. Returning home, they faced severe weather conditions, scant rations and failing health.

Captain Scott was on active service in the Royal Navy when he died, weakened by hunger and unable to proceed due to blizzard conditions, and that is why, despite the fact that he did not die in war or conflict, we include memorials that commemorate his death. Of his four companions, all of whom perished, three were in service at the time of their deaths.

Captain Lawrence E G Oates is listed in the Army List (1913) as previously employed with the British Antarctic Expedition since 1910 and in ‘Special extra-Regimental employment’ (29 March 1910). Oates, an officer with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, saw action in the Second Boer War, during which time he received a wound to his leg.

On the return journey from the South Pole, Oates suffered severe frostbite to his feet and his old wound was aggravated by this condition. Fearing that his ill health was a burden on the other members of the party and would slow their progress, on 16th March 1912, he left the tent in which they were sheltering with the words, recorded by Scott in his diary, “I am just going outside and may be some time”. Captain Oates is thought to have died on 17th March 1912, the date of his 32nd birthday. Memorials to Oates include one erected this year, on the anniversary of both his birth and death, on the wall of his family home in Meanwoodside (now Meanwood Park), Leeds.

Plaque to the Antarctic Expeditionary Team (©ukniwm, 2011)

Lieutenant Henry Robinson Bowers, who played a key role in navigating the team to the Pole, was serving with the Royal Navy and Royal Indian Marine at the time of his death, which is also thought to be around the 29th March 1912. Edgar Evans, who died on 17th February 1912, was a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. The only civilian in the ill-fated return party was Dr Edward Adrian Wilson, who, as well as acting as the party’s medical doctor, was a talented artist and naturalist. Wilson’s paintings survived the expedition and show the wildlife encountered as well as portraits of members of the party battling the elements.

The most striking memorial to Scott is perhaps that which shows him in Arctic weather clothing. Sculpted by his widow, Lady Scott, a professional sculptress, it was commissioned and paid for by officers of the Royal Navy and is in memory of all five members of the expedition who died. Lady Scott also sculpted the memorial to Dr Edward Wilson in his home town of Cheltenham, which we have not recorded in the Inventory due to Wilson’s civilian, non-war related status.

Other notable non-combat death memorials are to Captain Cook , who was killed in Hawaii in 1779 whilst conducting an exploration of the Northern Pacific, Captain Francis Crozier, who is thought to have died in 1848 when attempting to return from the 1845 expedition with Sir John Franklin in search of the North-West passage, and Major General Henry Havelock who died in 1857 of dysentery contracted during the Indian Mutiny (1857-58).

 

by Irene Glausiusz, Office Volunteer

‘Many war memorials commemorate people who have died’ said Rabbi Dr Abraham Levy, Head of the Spanish & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, when he spoke at City Hall in London during the recent 2012 Holocaust Memorial Day event, hosted by Mayor of London Boris Johnson. What is different about the monument in the Bulgarian town of Plovdiv, Rabbi Levy observed, is that it is dedicated to those that ‘Did Live!’.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2012, City Hall, Anita Lasker-Wallfish calls for individuals to 'Speak up, Speak out'.

On 10th March 1943 the Jewish residents of Plovdiv were to be deported to the Nazi death camps, but an official from the Greek Orthodox hierarchy protested.  Lo and behold, deportation was cancelled and the people were told to go home.  In 1998 a marble pillar was raised to remember this event and sited on the very spot from which deportation had been scheduled.  Tragedy was averted because someone did ‘Speak Up, Speak Out’. It was this call to action that formed the theme of this year’s event.

A few of those who were spared, now in their eighties and nineties, are still living in Plovdiv in a retirement home. The keynote speaker, 84 year old Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, was arrested by the Nazis after it was discovered she was forging documents for prisoners of war. 

She was taken to Auschwitz and in all likelihood would have been killed, but her life was spared because she was an accomplished cellist and the camp orchestra needed one. To this day, she cannot imagine how it was that she survived.  Subsequently transported from Auschwitz to Bergen Belsen, she felt her life was ebbing away until miraculously, just in time, the camp was liberated by the British Army. She made the point that ‘Genocides arise when despots seek land or power. The victims had neither.’

Anita Lasker-Wallfisch said that sometimes TV viewers are warned about sights they might prefer not to watch.  Her contention was ‘Don’t look away.  You should know what is happening in war zones even now in the 21st Century.’ Later, Anita’s grandson Abraham gave a short cello recital which echoed his family’s musical virtuosity.

Testimonies were given by young people who had visited Auschwitz, sponsored by the Holocaust Educational Trust.  They would never forget the experience which opened their eyes to the evils of anti-Semitism, racism and prejudice, which regrettably are still prevalent in today’s society linked to hatred and discrimination.

Plovdiv Monument of Gratitude, 2012

Boris Johnson, addressing the gathering, said ‘This event is our chance to remember lives lost, as well as the remarkable resilience of survivors and everyone affected by one of the darkest periods in human history’.

 The Plovdiv memorial is named Monument of Gratitude and the dedicatory inscription in Hebrew is: To the memory of the man who assisted in the saving of the Jews of Plovdiv on 10th March 1943. The English inscription reads: To all who helped to save us on 10th March 1943, from the grateful Jewish community of Plovdiv.

This is a blog by Project Manager Frances Casey

A beautiful hand-illustrated First World War Roll of Honour from the Lake District village of Levens has been discovered in an attic in the village. The Menin Gate, Menin Road and Arras Road are all illustrated above the inscription to men of the village, and a detailed scene from Railway Wood, Ypres, 1917 can be seen below the names.

Levens Roll of Honour (ukniwm 61491, ©Stephen Read)

When the Roll came to light, the Levens Local History Group set about trying to find out more about it and the men commemorated, but so far the mystery has deepened. Most of the men named were in the Border Regiment and according to the Group’s research it appears that this regiment did not play a prominent part in Ypres in 1917, and the men are not commemorated on the Menin Gate which is a memorial to the missing of Ypres, so why choose these illustrations for the Roll?

The illustration of the Menin Gate does help date the Roll of Honour though, as the Gate was unveiled in 1927, so the Roll must have been created around or after this time. It is signed Jackson Art Studio on the right hand lower corner but, as yet, the Levens researchers have not found any information about this company. If you have any ideas or come across anything in your research to help solve these mysteries let us know and we will pass on your thoughts to the Levens Local History Group, who are continuing with the search and would welcome any leads.

 

The memorial at Ramsey on the Isle of Man is quite a feat of craftsmanship.  The intricate celtic design, carved out of red sandstone, stands to commemorate 108 islanders who fell in the First World War and 49 from the Second World War. Despite the dedication, this elaborate cross had not always been intended as a war memorial.

When Parson William Kermode died in 1890 his son Philip designed the cross as a memorial to him, to be erected at Kirk Maughold near Ramsey. Mr T. H. Royston was engaged to carry out the carving. It is uncertain when Mr Royston started the project, although it would most likely have been within the 1890s, yet it was still unfinished in 1914, some 24 years after Parson Kermode’s death. When, in 1919, the people of Ramsey decided to erect a war memorial an arrangement was made to take over the Kermode cross, which was still a work in progress, for that purpose.

Source: Isle of Man, Natural History and Antiquarian Society

By office volunteer, Annette Gaykema.

Another remote memorial is that of the Elliot brothers, William and Alistair, which is located by the shores of Loch Glencoul in Sutherland, Northern Scotland. Since the nearest public road is approximately 8 miles away, this memorial is only accessible by foot or by boat.

Photo courtesy of Mick Garratt

The Elliot brothers memorial

The story behind it is an interesting one. The memorial itself is on a hill overlooking an isolated house. This two-storey stone house was built around 1880, by the Duke of Westminster for his estate keepers. The Elliot family were working on the estate and living at Glencoul House when the brothers enlisted for the First World War.

Photo courtesy of the Elliot family

Glencoul House with the cross just visible on the hill to the left

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This article was submitted by Derbyshire Volunteer Co-ordinator, Roy Branson

Many aeroplanes crashed in the UK during the Second World War, some as direct casualties of conflict shot down by anti-aircraft fire or in aerial combat, some because they just could not get back to base after sustaining earlier damage. What is lesser known is that in the years immediately following the war navigational and weather problems also led to crashes and the Peak District of Derbyshire seems to have had more than its share of these.  

Bleaklow crash site on skyline

Bleaklow crash site on skyline

Several years ago I became intrigued by a story about a wartime aeroplane crash site featured in Blood on the Tongue, a crime novel by Stephen Booth.  Set in the Peak District, Booth’s geography is fictional, based on a mixture of features drawn from all over the area, but a possible inspiration for the story may have been wreckage still to be found on Bleaklow, east of Glossop.  Intrigued by Booth’s fiction, I decided to visit this crash site, which is known to have a memorial.

In 1948, a United States Air Force (USAF) Superfortress crashed near a remote moorland hilltop. It was delivering mail from RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire to USAF Burtonwood in Cheshire. The crash occured by a cruel trick of fate: if the aircraft had been ten metres higher it would have cleared the hilltop and would probably have reached its destination.

In view of the location, careful preparations had to be made for my visit to the crash site. Amongst the problems of walking in the Peak District are weather conditions, which can change very quickly, and the sheer isolation. After postponing the walk on the first attempt due to heavy rain, I set off with a colleague equipped with walking gear, maps, compass, gps equipment and whistle (no mobile phone signal in these parts) and emergency rations. The moorland is not called Bleaklow for nothing and we were not keen to become the subjects of one of Derbyshire’s several mountain rescue teams.

Wreaths and tributes form a shrine at the crash site

Wreaths and tributes form a shrine at the crash site

In the event, weather conditions were good and leaving Snake Pass, good progress was made along the Pennine Way. After walking for one and a half hours the crash site was reached. The last kilometre was off the path and through boggy peat moorland. Wreckage still covers a huge area and is in remarkable condition after sixty years. Some of the steel components of the undercarriage and engines are now quite rusty but most panels merely possess the patina typical of oxidised aluminium. A few stainless steel components seemed as bright and shiny as the day they were fashioned.

Final destination: reading the memorial

Final destination: memorial to the thirteen airmen

Despite its remoteness the site receives many visitors and has developed the characteristics of a shrine. Many crosses have been constructed; some by repositioning pieces of wreckage, but others are formed from rocks placed in patterns on the bare peat. At least one of these is visible from the air, as users of Google Earth can confirm!

One large piece of panelling forms a rudimentary shelter over a mound of peat which has become covered with wreaths, tributes and small British Legion crosses. Amongst this scene stands the subject of the visit: a sandstone pillar bearing a bronze plaque commemorating the thirteen airmen who lost their lives in a tragic accident.

This article was submitted by UKNIWM volunteer fieldworker Gordon Amand

You may wonder what have Roman remains got to do with war memorials. Well, it would appear that in Prospect Park, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire a chance investigation has led to the discovery of a strange coincidence.

It began in the summer of 2007, when after a period of heavy rainfall (a feature that seems to have characterised that summer), the 18th century wall dividing the church cemetery from Prospect Park collapsed. The park, on slightly higher ground than the cemetery by about 5 feet, overlooks a U bend in the River Wye. It is here that Ross district chose to site their war memorial in 1920, with a commanding view of the river and surrounding countryside.

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the war memorial

Excavation of Roman remains found beneath the Ross District war memorial

After a discussion between the Church authority and County Council, repair work to the wall commenced in early 2008, but it was not long underway when remains of an ancient occupation were found in the ground layers of the park and it was discovered that the war memorial had been erected directly on top of a Roman settlement. The war memorial, a rough hewn plinth and cross with the names of the district’s fallen was dismantled and stored, whilst archaeologists investigated the area, recovering a number of artefacts. It would seem that both the Roman settlers and the town’s people of 1920 valued the view, but for different reasons.

Following the excavation, the site was re-covered to preserve it for future investigation. As November approached, people in the town began to ask if the annual remembrance service would be held as usual in the Prospect. A surprisingly quick decision was made to reposition the memorial approximately 50m from it original location. The annual Remembrance service then took place on a cold and wet Sunday morning. Interestingly, this was the second time in 2008 that a memorial was rededicated in this area. In March, the Greytree memorial was re-dedicated, having been refurbished. I am not sure if there are many other towns in the UK where two memorials have been re-dedicated in the same year.

The re-sited memorial in Prospect Park

It is now hoped that the newly discovered Roman remains will be further explored, and will eventually prove a visitor attraction for the town. Meanwhile, a little way along the hillside, the war memorial stands, once more overlooking the towns and fields from which those it commemorates came.