Saturday, 23 November 2013

Fascinating Facts of the Great War - Australian Troops camped out on the Wiltshire Downs

Photo taken by George Donohue, 1917
As those of you who follow my weblog will know I have added a section entitled 'Fascinating Facts of the Great War' in order to be able to include topics other than poetry and inspirational women.

Here is one such fact about the Australian troops camped out in WW1 on the Wiltshire Downs in Compton Chamberlayne, near Wilton in Wiltshire, England, before leaving for the various theatres of war on the Continent of Europe and elsewhere.

If anyone knows of a relative of any of those mentioned below, please could they get in touch. Thank you.

My grateful thanks to Yvon Davis of the wonderful Mud, Mining, Medals Facebook Page for her continuing support of my project.

When George Gross took over Compton Park in Compton Chamberlayne, Wiltshire - the manor house had been built rebuilt during the 1500s by Sir Edward Penruddocke and remained in the same family until the early 20th Century - the estate was in need of a great deal of repair.

In the chapter of his book entitled “Wiltshire” George shares with us a “very human record of Australia’s share in the Great War.  On a number of beech trees in Compton Park, probably planted before the discovery of Australia, are the names or initials, wrought with their own hands, of young men who came from that far-distant land to give themselves to the Empire in her hour of need.  They were encamped in their thousands at the foot of the Wiltshire Downs, in Compton Chamberlayne and the adjoining parishes, and many a strong man’s thoughts as he sauntered through the silent woods and saw the smooth grey skin of the beeches must have turned to his dear ones, and he felt irresistibly impelled to leave some record of himself before he faced annihilation." 

George wondered, “how many of those fine fellows are alive and well today?  Of some hundreds of names and initials, many partly obliterated, I mention a few:

C. Delarvillers was no mean woodcarver, R.M. of Sydney was madly in love with his Nina; her name in his hand-carving is still all over the wood.  I trust he survived and between them they now have grown-up children.  J.A.B. was a good designer as well as a carver;  C.D. climbed twenty feet up the tree to leave his mark.  C.A.W. of London, NSW, had a big bulbous heart; let’s hope he proved a better lover than a woodcarver!  Tom May – I suppose it is Tom May? – the design is ingenious but rather cryptic – is a man of ieas and if he lives has probably made a fortune. Private G. Penny and E.J. Rowlands were evidently great chums.

On the Downs overlooking the main road these handy lads outlined in the chalk a map of Australia as large as St. Paul’s Cathedral, and although overgrown by grass it can still be clearly seen.

Some of the AIF have, dead or alive, left their tangible mark behind – those strong, dare-devil, handsome cousins who had come to our aid from beyond the seas.  In the little cemetery off the village street rest the bodies of thirty or forty who died before they were vouchsafed an opportunity of firing a shot for their motherland.” (pp. 419 – 420 "Suffolk Punch").

From the autobiography “Suffolk Punch A Business Man’s Autobiography” by George Cross. Published by Faber and Faber Ltd., London, 1937.

Note:  The badges are still clearly visible on the Downs and as far as I know they are very carefully tended, however, I understand that the map of Australia has unfortunately been allowed to grass over which is such a shame.

The photograph of George Herbert Cross is one that has been in our family for a very long time.  It must have been taken around 1910 -  the name of the photographer has faded.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

In memory of WW1 Munitions Workers - The Devil's Porridge Museum need our help

The Devil's Porridge Museum, which commemorates the state of the art WW1munitions factory in Gretna needs our help.  They have been short-listed for the People's Millions and will go head-to-head with another good cause on Border TV. Eastriggs Primary School have combined forces with their volunteers to make a short film to be broadcast on 26thNovember 2013.

They need as many votes as possible to win £50,000 towards our new inter-active museum which is set to open next year. It will ensure that the amazing story of how Eastriggs and Gretna were built in WW1 for the greatest munitions factory of the time, is told to future generations. It will also be a lasting commemoration to those who died in both world wars.

You can phone in your support from 9.00am to midnight on Tuesday, the 26th of November. The number will be available on the People's Millions website from early morning and also on Border TV News at 600pm where supporting films will be aired.

Please, please vote (10p) and vote often. Thank you.

Photo from The Devil's Porridge showing volunteers stirring a replica "Devil's Porridge"  - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle coined the phrase.  Munitions factories were vital to the cause of winning the war.  The soldiers said that those who worked in munitions factories faced as much danger as those who were fighting.   Many munitions workers were killed or injured.
You can also Like their Facebook page here

The Devil's Porridge Museum, Daleside, Butterdales Road, Eastriggs, DG12 6TQ.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Female Auxiliary Nursing Yeomanry

I have been searching for a women's re-enactment group from WW1 for the past 18 months for my Inspirational Women exhibition section.  Today I found these on Facebook

They look extremely interesting.  I will try to find out more and bring you an up-date.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Marie De Page (1872 - 1915) - Belgium

I am indebted to Mary, a nurse from the Unites States of America, and to Stanley Kaye of the Facebook Group "", for bringing Belgian nurse Marie De Page to my attention.

Marie was born in Belgium in 1872 and trained as a nurse.  Her story is amazing and she is definitely going to be one of the Inspirational Women to be featured in my next exhibition.

Marie died in the Lusitania disaster in 1915, after helping to save children from the sinking ship.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Luxembourg, Lise Rischard and "The Secrets of Rue St. Roch"

I have been searching for some time for a Female Poet from The Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.  I am very grateful indeed to all of the people in Luxembourg I have contacted - they have all replied to me with helpful suggestions but I am still without a female poet to represent Luxembourg.

The Germany Army went into the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg on 2nd August 1914.  During WW1 people from Luxembourg fought on both sides.   Luxembourg was important as, due to its geographical position and the railway system, trains from Germany to France went through there.

In her wonderful book "The Secrets of Rue St. Roch" Janet Morgan tells us about the activities of a lady from Luxembourg who was recruited by the British Secret Service and whose exploits during WW1 are amazing.   Please try to read this fantastic book - I could not put it down!

So Lise Rischard is there among my list of Inspirational Women of WW1 - representing the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

"The Secrets of Rue St. Roch" written by Janet Morgan, published by Allen Lane Penguin Group, London, 2004.