Tuesday 13 October 2015

Battle of Loos and the 46th (North Midland) Division

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

At 1400 hours on the 13th October 1915 a whistle blew. The men of the 46th (North Midland) Division began their attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt. 137th Brigade went first and were immediately hit by heavy machine gun fire. The attacking battalions were annihilated without achieving anything.

Of the two companies of the 1/5 South Staffords, every single officer and man was hit as they tried to advance.

138th Brigade attacked at 2.05 p.m.. They managed to reach their first objective with fewer losses. Then, as they carried on, heavy fire cut across them resulting in very high casualties. The attack came to a standstill within ten minutes. Trench fighting continued, but once again the shortage of bombs proved decisive. The Division lost 180 officers and 3,583 men within ten minutes, and achieved absolutely nothing.

The ceremony of remembrance, attended by the Mayor, was held at the 46th (North Midland) Division Memorial close to the Redoubt at 2,00 p.m. on the 13th October 2015. 

Wreath of the Leicestershire Regiment

After the laying of wreaths

Leicestershire Regimental Wreath
To read more about the 46th (North Midland) Division, please click here and for further information about the memorial, click here

To read For the Fallen  by Robert Binyon, follow this link

Their Name Liveth for Evermore

Monday 12 October 2015

Women of the Great War. 2 Edith Cavell

 Nurse Edith Cavell
 4th December 1865 - 12th October 1915

Edith Louisa Cavell was born on the 4th December 1865 and live at The Vicarage in Swardeston, Norfolk, England. Her mother and father were Louisa and Frederick Cavell. She had two younger sisters, Florence (born 1868) and Mary (born 1871) and a brother, John (born 1873).

Edith worked as a governess in Belgium, but returned to Swardeston to nurse her sick father. This may have been the catalyst for her to become a nurse and she trained at the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, London. Edith returned to Bussels in 1907, initially to nurse a sick child and went on to become Matron of the first Nursing School in Belgium.  

In 1914 Edith was in Norfolk visiting her widowed mother when the First World War broke out. When she returned to Brussels she found her clinic and nursing school had been taken over by the Red Cross.

After the German occupation of Brussels in November 1914, Edith Cavell helped to hide British, French and Belgian soldiers from the Germans and get them to the Netherlands with false papers. The Germans authorities became suspicious and on the 3rd August 1915 after being betrayed by Gaston Quien, Edith was arrested and charged with ‘harbouring Allied soldiers’. She was held in Saint-Gilles prison for ten weeks. Whilst in custody she was questioned in French, but the session was recorded in German., which may have given the questioner an opportunity to misinterpret her answers, although she admitted that her house had been a shelter for British, French and Belgians, helping them to reach the safety of the Netherlands and make no effort to defend herself.

She was court-martialled and sentenced to death for treason (rather than espionage). The night before her execution she was Holy Communion by an Anglican chaplain and she told him “Patriotism is not enough, I must have no hatred or bitterness towards anyone.”

At 7.00 a.m. on the 12th October 1915 Edith Cavell and four Belgian men were executed by firing squad at the Tir national shooting range in Schaerbeek.

At an international First World War conference in London in August 1914 one speaker was German and briefly mentioned Edith Cavell by saying “what did you expect? She was helping the enemy.”

The German response in 1915 was:

It was a pity that Miss Cavell had to be executed, but it was necessary. She was judged justly...It is undoubtedly a terrible thing that the woman has been executed; but consider what would happen to a State, particularly in war, if it left crimes aimed at the safety of its armies to go unpunished because committed by women.

 After the war Edith's body was brought back to England and on the 19th May, 1919, she was re-buried at Norwich Cathedral.

Monday 21 September 2015

Blackberries in the First World War

Photograph by Syd Spence

We are all familiar with the concept of food rationing in the Second World War, but it also happened during the First World War. Food rationing was introduced in 1918 and a committee was formed to consider how best to use ‘natural resources’.

One way was to use children from rural and countryside schools to go out into the countryside and pick blackberries during school hours. These would be sent to the ‘Government jam-making scheme’ and pots of blackberry and apple jam were made to send to the serving soldiers. Other reports say that the juice was sent to them as it was high in vitamins and fibre. Blackberry vinegar, too, may have been made for those serving both at home and on the various fronts. Blackberry vinegar is known for being taken medicinally in hot water when a head-cold strikes. 

The Women’s Institute was formed in 1915 and they produced and preserved food during the First World War. Their ‘rallying cry’ was:'Though the boys and men are gone, the furrows shan’t be fallow, while the women carry on’ – a sign that women were stepping into the shoes of the men who had gone to serve their country. The WI continued their work and made blackberry and apple jam for the troops in the Second World War.

In Kent on the 7th September 1918, the Kent Messenger reported that school children had been given three half-days each week to go out and pick blackberries for the National Blackberry Collection. Local food control committees were appointed to take in all the blackberries that the children collected. These were not small amounts and some schools collected as much at 2,000 lbs of fruit over the weeks they were gathering them; that’s just under one metric tonne.

At Willingdon Village School in East Sussex the log book recorded 17 days when the children were blackberry picking. On the first afternoon (9th September 1918) they collected 73 lbs for jam making. The 123 children were paid for their efforts and to read how much and more about the blackberry picking at Willingdon Village School, please click here.

However, a great number of school log books record children going blackberry picking much earlier than 1918. In Barnstaple boys from the Holy Trinity School were collecting blackberries in September 1914 to ‘make jam to send to the “Jam Committee” of their local distress fund'.

To find out more about blackberries, just click here.

Monday 27 July 2015

Women of the Great War: 1. Nellie Spindler

Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler
Killed in Action, 21st August 1917, aged 26

Nellie Spindler was born in September 1891, the daughter of George and Elizabeth Spindler of 104 Stanley Road, Wakefield in Yorkshire. George was a Sergeant, and then an Inspector, with the local police force. She was baptised on the 11th November 1891 as Nellie (not Ellen or Helen). She had a sister, Lillie, who was five years younger.

In 1911 Nellie was a hospital nurse at the City Fever Hospital, Park Lane, Wakefield and from 1912 to 1915 was working at the Township Infirmary, Leeds. From November 1915 until May 1917 she was a staff nurse at Whittington Military Hospital in Litchfield. Nellie Spindler then worked as a Staff Nurse with the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, which had been formed in1902 from the Army Nursing Service of 1881. From May 1917 she was a staff nurse at Stationary Hospital in Abbeville, France.[1]

Neillie Spindler also worked as a staff nurse in No. 44 Casualty Clearing Station; a British evacuation hospital located at Brandhoek, a small hamlet between Poperinghe and Vlamertinghe.  It specialised in abdominal wounds that needed to be treated urgently because of the amount of blood loss and infection. It had a high mortality rate and No 44 CCS was closer to the front line than most and was close to a railway line and munitions ‘dump’. It was shelled often as the enemy tried to destroy the rail network thus preventing more munitions reaching the front line.

On the 31st July 1917 the Third Battle of Ypres began and on that day a total of 6869 casualties were registered in the four Casualty Clearing Stations and surgeons carried out 582 operations.

On Tuesday, 21st August, 1917, private communications from Abbeville stated that the hospital was shelled all day and at 11 o’clock in the morning Nellie was hit, it is thought in the back, but other reports say in the chest, by shrapnel. She became unconscious immediately and although tended by her fellow nurses she died just twenty minutes later in the arms of Nurse Wood, who was also from Wakefield.[2]  The Field Hospital at Brandhoek was evacuated immediately.  321 patients, and Nellie Spindler’s body were taken to Lijssenthoek.  Nellie was buried, with full military honours the next day, Wednesday, 18th August 1917. The ‘Last Post’ was sounded and it is thought that over one hundred officers, four generals and the Surgeon-General attended the funeral.

Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler is the only woman amongst 10,000 men in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, the second largest Commonwealth cemetery in Belgium (the largest being Tyne Cot).  9,901 British and 883 Commonwealth casualties rest there. She is also one of only two women members of  the QAIMNS to be buried in Belgium, the other being Sister Elsie Mabel Gladstone who died on 24th March 1919 aged 32 and is buried  in Belgrade Cemetery, near Namur, Belgium.

[1] Early on in the war 3,000 nurses with the QAIMNS were mobilised for duty with the British Expeditionary Force. (By 1918 there were 23,000 nurses.)
[2] Nurse Nellie Spindler, ‘Our Roll of Honour’ in The British Journal of Nursing, 179, September 8, 1917.

Painting of Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler by Soren Hawkes

Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery

See more here:  http://www.wakefieldfhs.org.uk/Nelly%20Spindler.htm