Category Archives: Remembrance

Wootton Bassett to be given Royal prefix

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A cortege passes through Wootton Bassett (Image by stuff_and_nonsense via Flickr)

The town of Wootton Bassett is to be known as ‘Royal Wootton Bassett’, the Prime Minister announced earlier today. The honour has been personally approved by the Queen.

David Cameron told the House of Commons that the Queen had agreed to the tribute as “an enduring symbol of the nation’s admiration and our gratitude to the people of that town”. He also told MP’s:  “Their deeply moving and dignified demonstrations of respect and mourning have shown the deep bond between the public and our armed forces.”

Mary Champion, Mayor of Wootton Bassett, said: “This is a great honour for our community as the repatriations move away from Wootton Bassett.Whilst we have never sought recognition for our simple act of respect I am certain that this will serve to reinforce the pride and gratitude we feel for the members of our armed services who will always be in our thoughts.”

Fallen British servicemen and women are repatriated from Afghanistan to nearby RAF Lyneham. A cortege – and there have been over 150 of them to date- then carries them through Wootton Bassett on their way to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, via the M4. Initially the corteges drove through the quiet streets. Then several ex-servicemen turned out with medals to pay their respects, and before long the whole town was coming out to mark the return of fallen servicemen and women. Now, thousands of people travel from all round the country to pay their respects, in what has become an incredibly moving ritual. Its impossible not to be moved by the sight of so many people lining the streets.

RAF Lyneham is due to close in 2012, however, and as from September this year repatriation flights will be moving to RAF Brize Norton. This is a fitting tribute for a remarkable town in modern British history, and is only the third time that a town has been given the royal prefix, after Royal Leamington Spa and Royal Tunbridge Wells. Bognor was granted the suffix ‘Regis’ by George V after he recovered from illness in the town. It is thought that initially the people of Wootton Bassett had refused the honour, but that the looming closure of RAF Lyneham has fortunately brought about a rethink. I’m glad – it puts down a lasting marker for history.

I think its fair to say that until recently the British Government – and indeed the British public – did not really get remembrance. Sure, we all wore our poppies every November, but when the Iraq War took place in 2003 the vast majority of people felt a serious disdain for the then Government and how it committed the military to action on very dubious grounds. There was a very real risk of the reputation of the military becoming entangled in that, and the remembrance of today’s casualties could have so easily been forgotten.

Yet alongside initiaties such as Help for Heroes, Wootton Bassett has been at the forefront of a real shift in British culture. There is a very clear dividing line now between what we think of the Government on the one hand, and what we think of our serving sailors, soldiers and airmen on the other. People really do care now about our men and women on the front-line. The last time you could have really felt this was back in 1982 immediately after the Falklands War. It must make a world of difference to know that millions of people back home really do give a damm about you.

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A research-based dilemma…

I’m currently in the phase of doing some more primary research for my book on Portsmouth’s Second World War dead. I’ve been looking at doing some research in the Archives of a small, independent military Museum (line infantry Regiment, shall we say). I enquired by email about visiting the Museum to do some research…. no problem. The cost though? £25… AN HOUR! So for a days research, which is the minimum I would need, I would be looking at something in the region of £150! That would be a sizeable percentage of the total money I would make out of selling the maximum print run of my book!

I just think its wrong. All I want to do is write about some brave men who didn’t make it home, but I’ll now have to do it without the help of their Regimental Museum. I know its expensive to run Museums – hell, I know that more than anyone, I pay the bills and process the income for six – but why charge such a prohibitively high cost? If you need to make money, think outside the box and get your income generation hat on rather than hitting people who are trying to do good work. It obviously doesn’t cost £25 an hour to have somebody visit to do research, so why penalise? It’s not as if researchers ever make money out of what they do… only the big-shot historians like Max Hastings or Anthony Beevor really make any money. At best I’m looking at covering my costs. At best.

I always thought the idea of the Regimental Museum was to preserve the memory of those who have died serving with it? Or am I missing a trick – is it that some Museum’s just don’t want any tom, dick or harry turning up poking their noses in, so they set the costs prohibitively high? I’m just at a loss to understand why there is such a barrier to access, study and commemoration. And especially with budget cuts, institutions will be unable to carry out research and projects that they might like to, making it all the more important to encourage and enable individuals to do so instead.

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The location of War Graves: some aspects considered

My map of Portsmouth War Graves locations gives a pretty interesting insight not only into the conduct of the war between 1939 and 1945, but also into other factors, such as the policy of the War Graves registration units and the CWGC. Thinking about these issues helps us place in context war casualties, and probably goes a long way to solving a lot of mysteries about the location of war graves.

You can see from the location of War cemeteries and individual war graves where most of the heavy fighting took place – Northern France, in particular Normandy and the Pas-de-Calais, Belgium and southern Holland, Italy, North Africa, in particular Tunisia and Egypt, and the Far East, especially Burma, Thailand and India.

There are also some interesting variances in policy, it would seem. In some theatres, there are a large number of smaller cemeteries. In Normandy, for example, there are a relatively high number of war grave locations. In Burma and Thailand, however, almost all men were reburied in larger central cemeteries, even if they were some distance from their original burial site.

RAF casualties are also commemorated differently. Army dead were usually buried in larger war cemeteries, even if it meant exhumation and reburial after the war. Indeed, most men killed in action on land were invariably buried in a field grave near to the site of their death, and the details recorded for later reburial.

On the other hand if a Bomber crashed over occupied territory its dead crewmembers were almost always buried in the local churchyard, and most remain there to this day. Therefore many burials in parts of France, Belgium and Holland are in small local churchyards. You can almost plot the flight routes from their locations in relation to that nights target. Almost all Bomber sorties – and there were many from 1942 onwards – had to fly over parts of Northern France, Belgium or Holland. And these were where the Kammhuber line defences swung into action.

A large proportion of Portsmouth men are buried in Italy – this is due to the presence of four Battalions of the Hampshire Regiment in the Italian Campaign, compared to only two in North West Europe from Normandy onwards.

You can also tell how far-flung British forces were during the war years. Servicemen are buried in outposts such as The Gambia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Uganda, Australia and New Zealand. None of these countries saw any fighting, but they were important stopping off points, for Royal Navy ships or for convoys. A number of British airmen are also buried in the US and in Canada – they were almost certainly there for training, and died either in accidents or of illness.

But by far the most casualties are buried at home in Britain. They died at home of natural causes, illness, wounds received in action, or were victims of Bombing while on leave. Normally the authorities allowed families to bury their dead in their local cemetery – and happened with my Great-Uncle – but there do seem to have been exceptions. For example, the dead recovered from the sinking of the Royal Oak were buried in a nearby churchyard – the public health implication of transporting a large number of bodies around Britain from Scap Flow did not bear thinking about.

I also suspect that where men were the victims of explosions, for example, they were buried quickly in a local cemetery rather than being handed over to the family. This may have been to prevent the family from having to go through the ordeal of seeing the body. Also, when a large number of people were killed in one go – say in a bombing raid, for example – the priority of the authorities was to safely bury bodies to prevent disease spreading.

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Using Google Maps to plot War Cemeteries

I had a brainwave whilst browsing google maps the other day. Why not use the drop-pin feature on Google Maps to plot the location of War Cemeteries where Portsmouth casualties are buried?

Using the CWGC‘s directions, and with a bit of searching, I have begun to plot the locations of a number of war cemeteries, beginning with Germany, Belgium, Czech Republic, Poland, Algeria, Tunisia, and some of the Far Eastern Countries.

Hopefully its something I will be able to use to help people locate exactly where they relatives are buried. It also helps us appreciate how the war was fought – in what countries, and the locations of war cemeteries as campaigns were fought.

Take a look at my customised map here.

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The Squires Brothers

OK, I know I’m supposed to be working on my book on Portsmouth’s WW2 dead, but I thought I would ring the changes for a day by doing a bit of work on my parallel WW1 database. And just in processing a few names in the S’s, I found three brothers from Landport who were all killed during the Great War.

Rifleman Albert Thomas Squires was serving with the 1/8th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in Palestine when he was killed on 19 April 1917. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Jerusalem Memorial.

Private Charles Squires was serving with the 4th Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment in the Ypres Salient when he was killed on 9 October 1917. He has no known grave and is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

Lance Corporal Harry Reeeves Squires was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment when he was killed on 24 August 1917. He is buried in Dozinghem Cemetery, near Poperinghe in Belgium. Dozinghem was used as a burial ground by Casualty Clearing stations set up to treat wounded from the 1917 offensive in Ypres, better known as Passchendaele. This would suggest that he died of wounds. Harry Squires was awarded a posthumous Military Medal, announced in the London Gazette on 16 October 1917.

Thus John and Ellen Squires, of Landport, lost three sons within the space of six months.

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They died on Christmas Day (1914-1919)

Last year on Christmas Day I made a blog post about the men from Portsmouth who were killed on Christmas Day during the Second World War. Out of 2,549 men and women, 3 men died on 25 December.

Yet when I went to search through my WW1 Database, something remarkable transpired. Not one man out of the 2,101 I have so far researched died on Christmas Day between 1914 and 1919. Given the extreme number of casualties suffered by the British Army on the Western Front and elsewhere, this is quite a surprise to say the least.

Many men did die very close to Christmas, however:

Private Arthur Frederick Merriot, 1st Bn Gloucestershire Regiment, 19 and from Boulton Road, Southsea. Killed on 23 December 1914, and remembered on the Le Touret Memorial.

Private Edward Victor Emis, 2nd Bn South Staffordshire Regiment, 20 and from Forton Road, Kingston. Killed on 26 December 1914, and remembered on the Le Touret Memorial.

Driver Sidney John Walter Budden, 5th ‘C’ Reserve Brigade Royal Field Artillery, 22 and from Craswell Street, Landport. Died on 26 December 1916, buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth.

Bombardier William Davey, Royal Field Artillery, from Lucknow Street, Fratton. Killed on 24 December 1917, buried in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth.

Corporal N.S. Gibson, 1/4th Bn Hampshire Regiment, 24 and from Eastleigh. Killed on 26 December 1917, buried in Baghdad North Gate War Cemetery.

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Portsmouth WW2 Dead: Foreign Fields

I’ve been working on a list of the Cemeteries where Portsmouth’s WW2 Dead are buried. Now I’ve completed the database of names, the idea is to try and build up as much information about each person as possible. I know some people might think that grave photographs are slightly macabre, but I’ve heard some really touching stories. In one case, a woman had never seen her fathers grave as it was on the other side of the world, and somebody who collected grave photographs of his Regiment was able to forward her a picture of her fathers grave. Hopefully I might be able to do something similar for the men and women from Portsmouth who died in the Second World War.

This is a list of all of the Cemteries ABROAD where men are buried, and the Memorials where men with no known grave are commemorated. I would be very grateful indeed if anybody would be able to help in obtaining photographs from some of these locations. I appreciate of course that some of the countries – Burma, Libya, Iraq, Zimbabwe etc – are slightly inaccesible! I can produce a list of the men buried in each of the Cemeteries, along with names, grave reference and all other information.

Algeria

Bone War Cemetery, Annaba

Dely Ibrahim War Cemetery

El Alia Cemetery

La Reunion War Cemetery

Le Petit Lac Cemetery

Australia

Sydney War Cemetery

Rookwood Crematorium, Sydney

Austria

Klagenfurt War Cemetery

Bahamas

 Nassau War Cemetery

Bangladesh

 Maynamati War Cemetery

Belgium

Aaigem Communal Cemetery

Adegem Canadian War Cemetery

Assesse Communal Cemetery

Avelgem Communal Cemetery

Brussels Town Cemetery

Chievres Communal Cemetery

Comines (Komen) Communal Cemetery

Coxyde Military Cemetery

Dinant (Citadelle) Military Cemetery

Enghien (Edinghen) Communal Cemetery

Florennes Communal Cemetery

Gosselies Communal Cemetery

Heverlee War Cemetery

Leopoldsburg War Cemetery

Ooike Churchyard

Oostduinkerke Communal Cemetery

Schoonselhof Cemetery

Burma

Kohima War Cemetery

Rangoon War Cemetery

Rangoon Memorial

Taukkyan War Cemetery

Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery

Canada

Grand Prairie Cemetery

Yarmouth (Mountain) Cemetery

Halifax (Camp Hill) Cemetery

Halifax Memorial

Goderich (Maitland) Cemetery

Ottawa Memorial

Saskatoon (Woodlawn) Cemetery

Czech Republic

Prague War Cemetery

Ethiopia

Addis Ababa War Cemetery

Egypt

El Alamein War Cemetery

Alamein Memorial

Alexandria (Hadra) War Memorial Cemetery

Alexandra (Chatby) Military Cemetery

Cairo War Memorial Cemetery

Fayid War Cemetery

Heliopolis War Cemetery

Ismailia War Memorial Cemetery

Kantara War Memorial Cemetery

Moascar War Cemetery

Port Said War Memorial Cemetery

Suez War Memorial Cemetery

France

Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension

Argenta Gap War Cemetery

Banneville-la-Campagne War Cemetery

Bayeux War Cemetery

Bayeux Memorial

Ryes War Cemetery, Bazenville

Boulogne Eastern Cemetery

Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery

Brouay War Cemetery

Cambrai (Route des Solesmes) Communal Cemetery

Candas Communal Cemetery

Champignol-lez-Mondeville Churchyard

Chehery Communal Cemetery

Choloy War Cemetery

Janval Cemetery, Dieppe

Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery, Hautot-sur-Mer

Dinard English Cemetery

Dunkirk Town Cemetery

Dunkirk Memorial

Equilly Churchyard

Essars Communal Cemetery

Fontenay-le-Pensel War Cemetery, Tessel

Giverny Churchyard

Guilers Churchyard

Haguenau French National Cemetery

Hermanville War Cemetery

Hottot-les-Bagues War Cemetery

Houdan Communal Cemetery

Houdetot Churchyard

La Bernerie-en-Retz Communal Cemetery

L’aiguillon-sur-Mer Communal Cemetery

Lavannes Churchyard

Le Doulieu Churchyard

Ste. Marie Cemetery, Le Havre

Les Moeres Communal Cemetery

Liesse Communal Cemetery

Lignieres-Orgeres Communal Cemetery

London Cemetery and Extension, Longueval

Magny Churchyard, Eure-et-Loir

Malo Le Bains Communal Cemetery

Marigny-en-Orxois Communal Cemetery

Marquise Communal Cemetery

Mazargues War Cemetery, Marseille

Nantes (Pont-du-Cens) Communal Cemetery

Pihen-les-Guines Communal Cemetery

Pihen-les-Guines War Cemetery

Pont-de-Metz Churchyard

Pornic War Cemetery

Ranville War Cemetery

Rennes Eastern Communal Cemetery

Romescamps Churchyard

St Charles de Percy War Cemetery

St Desir War Cemetery

St Hilarion Communal Cemetery

St Manvieu War Cemetery, Chieux

Tilly-sur-Seulles War Cemetery

Ugny-sur-Meuse Communal Cemetery

Vieux-Conde Communal Cemetery

Vignory Communal Cemetery

Gambia

Fajara War Cemetery

Germany

Becklingen War Cemetery

Berlin 1939-1945 War Cemetery

Cologne Southern Cemetery

Durnbach War Cemetery

Hamburg Cemetery

Hanover War Cemetery

Kiel War Cemetery

Munster Heath War Cemetery

Reichswald Forest War Cemetery

Rheinberg War Cemetery

Sage War Cemetery

Gibraltar

 Gibraltar (North Front) Cemetery

Greece

 Athens Memorial

Phaleron War Cemetery

Suda Bay War Cemetery

Holland

 Ameland (Nes) General Cemetery

Amersfoort General Cemetery

Amsterdam (Oud Leusden) General Cemetery

Apeldoorn (Ugchelen-Heidehof) General Cemetery

Arnhem-Oosterbeek War Cemetery

Bergen-op-Zoom General Cemetery

Brunssum War Cemetery

Cadzand General Cemetery

Druten (Puiflijk) Roman Catholic Churchyard

Eindhoven (Woensel) General Cemetery

Gaasterland (Bakhuizen) Roman Catholic Cemetery

Goirle Roman Catholic Cemetery

Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery

Groesbeek Memorial

Harderwijk General Cemetery

Heemskerk Protestant Churchyard

Jonkerbos War Cemetery

Mierlo War Cemetery

Mook War Cemetery

Noordwijk General Cemetery

Overloon War Cemetery

Raalte General Cemetery

Schoorl General Cemetery

Staphorst (Rouveen) New General Cemetery

Uden War Cemetery

Valkenswaard War Cemetery

Venray War Cemetery

Voorburg Eastern General Cemetery

Wieringhen (Hippolytusheof) General Cemetery

Zelhem General Cemetery

Zwollerkerspel (Voorst) General Cemetery

Hong Kong

Sai Wan Cemetery

Sai Wan Memorial

Stanley Military Cemetery

India

Madras War Cemetery

Delhi War Cemetery

Kirkee War Cemetery

Calcutta (Bhowanipore) Cemetery

Imphal War Cemetery

Ranchi War Cemetery

Gauhati War Cemetery

Indonesia

Ambon War Cemetery

Jakarta War Cemetery

Iraq

Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery

Habbaniya War Cemetery

Israel

Khayat Beach War Cemetery

Haifa War Cemetery

Ramleh War Cemetery

Italy

Ancona War Cemetery

Beach Head War Cemetery, Anzio

Anzio War Cemetery

Arezzo War Cemetery

Argenta Gap War Cemetery

Assisi War Cemetery

Bari War Cemetery

Caserta War Cemetery

Cassino War Cemetery

Cassino Memorial

Catania War Cemetery, Sicily

Coriano Ridge War Cemetery

Faenza War Cemetery

Florence War Cemetery

Foiano Della Chiana War Cemetery

Forli War Cemetery

Gradara War Cemetery

Meldola War Cemetery

Milan War Cemetery

Minturno War Cemetery

Montecchio War Cemetery

Moro River Canadian War Cemetery

Naples War Cemetery

Orvieto War Cemetery

Padua War Cemetery

Ravenna War Cemetery

Rome War Cemetery

Salerno War Cemetery

Sangro River War Cemetery

Syracuse War Cemetery, Sicily

Udine War Cemetery

Japan

 Yokohama War Cemetery

Kenya

Mombasa (Mbaraki) Cemetery

Kisumu Cemetery

Nairobi War Cemetery

East Africa Memorial (Nairobi)

Libya

Knightsbridge War Cemetery, Acroma

Tobruk War Cemetery

Tripoli War Cemetery

Benghazi War Cemetery

Malaysia

 Labuan War Cemetery

Malta

Imtarfa Military Cemetery

Malta (Capuccini) Naval Cemetery

Malta Memorial

Pembroke Military Cemetery

Morocco

Ben M’sik European Cemetery

New Zealand

Auckland (Waikumete) Cemetery

Nigeria

 Kaduna Civil Cemetery

Norway

Bergen (Mollendal) Church Cemetery

Sola Churchyard

Stavanger (Eiganes) Churchyard

Trondheim (Travne) Cemetery

Pakistan

Karachi War Cemetery

Papua New Guinea

Lae War Cemetery

Poland

Krakow Rakowicki Cemetery

Serbia

Belgrade War Cemetery

Sierra Leone

Freetown (King Tom) Cemetery

Singapore

Kranji War Cemetery

Singapore Memorial

South Africa

Johannesburg (West Park) Cremation Memorial

Cape Town (Maitland) Cemetery

Cape Town (Plumstead) Cemetery

Durban (Stellawood) Cemetery

Pietermaritzburg (Fort Napier) Cemetery

Spain

St George’s British Cemetery (Malaga)

Sri Lanka

Colombo (Liveramentu) Cemetery

Colombo (Kanatte) General Cemetery

Trincomalee War Cemetery

Kandy War Cemetery

Sudan

Khartoum Memorial

Syria

Damascus War Cemetery

Thailand

Chungkai War Cemetery

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

Tunisia

 Beja War Cemetery

Enfidaville War Cemetery

Massicault War Cemetery

Medjez-el-Bab War Cemetery

Medjez-el-Bab Memorial

Oued Zarga War Cemetery

Sfax War Cemetery

Tabarka Ras Rajel War Cemetery

Thibar Seminary War Cemetery

Uganda

Jinja War Cemetery

USA

Asheville (Riverside) Cemetery [North Carolina]

Everett (Woodlawn) Cemetery [Massachussets]

Long Island National Cemery, Farmingdale [New York]

Miami (Woodlawn Park) Cemetery [Florida]

Montgomery (Oakwood) Cemetery Annexe [Alabama]

Philadelphia (Northwood) Cemetery [Pennsylvania]

Portsmouth (Cedar Grove) Cemetery [Virginia]

Seattle (Washelli) Cemetery [Washington]

Zimbabwe

 Harare (Pioneer) Cemetery 

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