On this day……. 100 years ago; 06/08/1914

Remembered today:

 

CH/17226 Private William Thomas Lacey, Royal Marine Light Infantry

 

A Chatham Royal Marine, who died aboard “HMS Hussar”, possibly from disease near Malta.

On this day……. 100 years ago; 04/08/1914

Remembered today:
CH.8671 Private G. Davies Royal Marine Light Infantry
A Chatham Division Royal Marine, he is buried in Middlesex at St.Pancras cemetery.

Home Guard…. Not always a cushy number….

I have been rather busy lately with work and other commitments, however I still try to keep up with my hobby and while nosing through some interesting paperwork on Home Guard (HG) awards, I was struck by the thought that people often mistake the HG for a “cushy little number” of old men guarding Britain from a non-existent invasion; However this is completely untrue and these men served a valuable purpose and often put themselves into harms way in order to save others from injury.

Here are just a few examples:

British Empire Medal:

Sergeant W. DAVIES and Private G. E. REES; 15th GLAMORGANSHIRE (GOWER) BATTALION

“On 11th December 1942 a report was received indicating that Royal Air Force personnel were in danger off Burry Holmes. Sergeant Davies instructed Private Rees to accompany him and they went to the point indicated where they saw five men clinging to the rocks in the sea some distance from the mainland. These five men had been there for three days in a rubber dinghy without food and were totally exhausted.  “In extremely dangerous conditions, at high spring tide, and in a raging storm Sergeant Davies and Private Rees plunged into the open sea to render assistance. Sergeant Davies and Private Rees reached the five men, rendered them first aid and remained with them for two hours until the tide had receded sufficiently for them to be helped to the mainland. But for such assistance all five men would unquestionably have lost their lives as they were in imminent danger of being washed away in the storm.
“The actions of these two men called for the greatest bravery and determination and resulted in the saving of the lives of the five Royal Air Force personnel.”

Sergeant W. R. GREEN; 1st HAMPSHIRE (ANDOVER) BATTALION

“On 3rd October 1943 Sergeant Green and an officer were conveying a projectile, which was thought to be defective, for demolition. A short distance from their destination the projectile exploded. The truck in which they were travelling continued on its course until it hit a hedge. Sergeant Green, though badly wounded, bleeding heavily and in great pain and unable to walk, succeeded in getting the officer out of the truck as he was too seriously wounded to move himself. Sergeant Green then crawled about one and a quarter miles to a farm for assistance. It is considered that unless Sergeant Green, by. his fortitude and presence of mind under circumstances in which he might have thought the condition of the officer to be hopeless, had striven to crawl that long distance to secure help the officer would not have survived to receive medical attention.”

Volunteer S. W. ANTHONY; 1st BATTALION ‘P’ ZONE, LONDON [later 51st KENT BATTALION]

“In October 1940 at Bromley a house received a direct bit from a bomb. When Anthony was told that people bad been trapped he went through a ground floor window, although the house was collapsing, and found an injured man trying to rescue his child. He helped the man out and then, with the aid of another helper, began the work of rescuing the child.”

Lance-Corporal E. T. MONK and Corporal E. C. SARGENT; 7th SURREY (DORKING) BATTALION

“In April 1944 an aircraft flew over Home Guard personnel training near Lowfield Heath, Surrey and was seen to crash; a terrific explosion followed. The aircraft had come to rest on its back and caught fire. Second Lieutenant Walker and Corporals Monk and Sargent rushed to the scene and, regardless of the burning wreckage and the possibility of exploding bombs and petrol tanks, Second Lieutenant Walker crawled under the wing and, assisted by the two n.c.o.’s, succeeded in releasing the pilot from his harness and dragging him clear of the flames. Had it not been for the prompt and courageous action of these three men the pilot would undoubtedly have been burned to death.”

3178648 Company Sergeant-Major E. SMITH, K.O.S.B. 1st DUMFRIESSHIRE BATTALION

“On 3rd June 1942 C.S.M. Smith was supervising live grenade practice by members of the 1st Dumfries Battalion, Home Guard, to which he was attached. During the practice a grenade hit the top of the parapet and fell back into the priming bay. He closed the lids of the fuse and grenade boxes and kicked the grenade round a corner into the passage. The grenade exploded almost immediately, severely wounding C.S.M. Smith, whose action undoubtedly averted very serious consequences and probably saved the life of the soldier who was present in the bay. Had C.S.M. Smith not contrived to kick the grenade round the corner there would have been a grave chance of it coming to rest and exploding with very serious consequences at the entrance to the shelter, which contained forty men. His courageous conduct is enhanced by the fact that he was aware that the grenade was fitted with a four second fuse. He is now making a good recovery from his wounds.”

George Medal:

Platoon Commander R. HAIGH; 9th BIRMINGHAM (PUBLIC UTILITIES) BATTALION [later 29th WARWICKSHIRE (BIRMINGHAM) BATTALION]

“At about eight p.m. on 22nd November 1940 a number of incendiary bombs fell on the Wagon Repair Shops and on Washwood Heath Gas Works. Haigh was P 19 Company Duty Officer and after one or two small fires in P 19 area had received attention, he proceeded, with Volunteer S. A. Tyler, to the Gas Works. They found two fires in the coal stack and extinguished them. Two smoke screen containers had been ignited and were burning with considerable flame. These, in the absence of equipment for dealing with oil fires, were extinguished with some difficulty. There was a plume of flame in the crown of one gasholder; at the time the crown on the gasholder was some 200 feet high. Haigh, taking the initiative and with three other men, ascended to the crown of the holder carrying sacks, and after considerable effort extinguished the fire and partially stopped the escape of gas with bags and clay. Another aperture in the crown of the holder, through which gas was escaping but not burning, was dealt with in the same way. No protective equipment was carried. The raid was still in progress, with bombs dropping in the vicinity, and the flame from the holder must have provided a continuous beacon. The action taken by Haigh and the other three men not only promptly removed the beacon, but also saved a considerable quantity of gas from escaping.”

George Cross:

Lieutenant W. FOSTER, M.C., D.C.M.; 7th WILTSHIRE (SALISBURY) BATTALION

“When Lieutenant Foster was instructing a class in throwing live grenades a Mills bomb rebounded to the firing position. Without hesitation Lieutenant Foster threw himself on the bomb one second before it exploded, thus saving the lives of his comrades nearby. This officer’s gallant action was not carried out in the heat of battle, but deliberately in cold blood, and with full knowledge of the consequences. As a result of this action Lieutenant Foster lost his life.”

 

Military Medal:

Volunteer G. JONES; 3rd MONMOUTHSHIRE (NEWPORT) BATTALION

“On 12th/13th July 1940 Volunteer Jones was a member of a guard posted in defence of a vital point. The post was bombed, one man being killed and another seriously wounded.
“Volunteer Jones, who was himself in a place of safety, heard the groans of the wounded man and at once left shelter and carried him on his back under cover. During this time bombs, debris, large pieces of steelwork and heavy glass were still falling and Volunteer Jones carried out his task with complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous behaviour set a fine example to all those present.”

 

All very gallant men, and there are many more than this, around 1000 awards in total; If you want to read more: http://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/med.html please check out this website, 🙂

The Reverend who brokered peace……… a forgotten piece of news.

I was listening to the radio the other day at work and caught in passing the end of a news article about a reverend who had brokered peace dying, and thought little more of it, until I got home and realised that this news had not made it much outside Ireland, and a postscript on the BBC news (it is there if you look, but someone like this should really have taken precedence over what some nameless celebrity is upto…), and it seemed to have been somewhat overshadowed in the popular press.  I have a personal interest in Northern Irish modern history, as my family lost at least one member to the troubles (Gabriel Mulally).  So I thought after some digging that my blog would be the perfect place to give Father Alec Reid the recognition he deserves.

Alec-Reid_2743188bFr Alec Reid, who was a key figure in the Northern Ireland peace process, acting as a go-between between the IRA and politicians

_71280633_alecreudcropHere we see in 1988; Fr Reid, pictured praying over the bodies of Army corporals Derek Wood and David Howes who had been dragged from their car, beaten and shot by the IRA.

The Daily Telegraph ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10468267/Father-Alec-Reid-Obituary.html ) writes:

Father Alec Reid, who has died aged 82, was a Redemptorist priest who played a pivotal role in the early stages of the peace process in Northern Ireland when he acted as an intermediary between the IRA and the Irish government.

For almost 40 years Father Alec Reid lived and worshipped at the Clonard Monastery off the Falls Road in West Belfast. As feuds between Unionists and Nationalists raged on his doorstep, he worked behind the scenes to broker peace and offer comfort to those affected by the violence. He first came to prominence in Northern Ireland in 1982, when he visited Gerry Adams, then joint vice-president of Sinn Fein, to try to persuade the IRA to release a kidnapped member of the Ulster Defence Regiment. The mission failed and the IRA murdered the man,

In 1988, during some of the worst of the Troubles, when there seemed to be no hope of a political or military solution, a shocking photograph of Father Alec, his hands clasped in prayer, his face smeared with blood, kneeling over the body of a British soldier – one of two who had been lynched by a frenzied Republican mob, seemed to indicate that Northern Ireland was about to descend into new depths of inhumanity.

The picture was beamed around the world, but no one knew until years later that beneath his coat the priest was carrying a secret Sinn Fein document for the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) leader John Hume on how to resolve the crisis. After the photograph was taken Reid returned to his monastery and changed the envelope because the blood of one of the British soldiers was on it.

Despite the failure of his earlier attempt to persuade Gerry Adams of the need to pursue peace, Reid remained in close contact after Adams became Sinn Fein president, and in 1987 was asked to act as go-between when the IRA first made guarded suggestions of a ceasefire to the then Irish Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

The BBCs Mark Simpson tweeted;

He was met in some cases with plainly “?”; this for a man who whilst he may not have been perfect, saw fit to provide the last rites in a dangerous situation, and to try do what he could to bring an end to a century of fighting and bloodshed, a man who should be known about more.

This man was as one twitter follower said “one of the first to come out of the trenches”, a man who was not afraid for himself, but one who knew he had to do the right thing.  In recent years, he was according to the BBC; involved in talks with Basque nationalists seeking independence from Spain.  His giving of the last rites to the two soldiers of 1988 epitomised faith and the nations strength of conviction and showed religion need not be part of the problem, but a part of the solution.  He carried messages between both sides in an attempt to help bring the troubles to a close, and although there have been several flareups, he helped to douse the flames.

Question…..

Whilst listening to the radio on the way home from work yesterday, I turned to Radio 4 and was enjoying the “Moral Maze”, and they were debating the differences between public and private life and if public figures should live with total transparency and that someone who has made bad decisions in their personal life could not lead effectively in their public life.  I got thinking that if this were true, then we should have undoubtedly lost at Trafalgar and that someones poor decisions in their personal life did not necessarily mean they were not a great leader.  If this were true, then Nelson, who had an affair and a bastard child with Emma Hamilton, would today have been lynched and vilified in the press and would therefore never have lead us at Trafalgar, and in that case we would have lost the Napoleonic wars…… We can look at Alexander III king of Macedon, conquered untold lands and his military tactics are still taught today, he had his name applied to over twenty cities, and his influence in the Hellenic society was felt into the 15th century; yet today his private life, and sexual orientation would have been bigger news…. after all he was married twice and had a close relationship with Hephaestion, no different to the insinuation about some cabinet ministers who have left office in disgrace in the past.

 

We could perhaps conclude from this that the media, and their ideology of exposition and public do-goodery is more of a hindrance than a help.   After all, can one say with complete honesty that the fact a man is unfaithful to his wife means he will not be some great military leader, or hold the key to curing the NHS of it’s ills?  Albeit we may well draw some inference from the fact that if he is not honest to the ones they love, can he be honest to the public at large?  Well would we not rather a sinner who has confessed his sins than one whose sins are as yet not found?

 

It is of course a severe moral point, rather than an historical one, but a point I thought that as historians we can perhaps shed some light on, for they discuss whether or not a true leader can lead or rule without total transparency.  All I could think of this was that all the leaders who have lead the longest over the largest empires have been ones who have ruled with total opacity, rather than transparency.  They all had a cult of personality, and covered much up, which I believe helped cement them as rulers, and leaders.  Those who failed at this opacity were the ones who failed to last long, for instance take the fact that King James VII attempted to sell the United Kingdom out to the French and the Catholic church, when this was discovered he was deposed in the Glorious revolution of 1688, and William and Mary took his place, this “transparency” (it need not be a voluntary transparency), caused his downfall.  So perhaps we can conclude that whilst transparency can be a good thing, that perhaps it needs to be tempered with civility from the press and to resist whipping up a storm in a teacup over things that really mean little to public life?

We Shall Remember Them…….

Today I shall be laying the wreath on behalf of the British Red Cross Society at the remembrance parade in our local town. I was asked to write something for the note in the wreath, and whilst researching what to write, I found out that during the Great War, 56 of my fellow British Red Cross volunteers gave their lives;

 

BALDWIN, J

BARKER, MAURICE THOMPSON

BEAN, ARTHUR ROBERT

BLATCH, H

BOOTH, W F

BORLAND, G

BOYS, HERBERT

BRADBURY, FREDERICK GEORGE

BRITTAIN, FRANK MORRIS

BROWN, CHARLES SEPTIMUS

BULLIMORE, JOHN THOMAS

BURNETT, ARTHUR (CHICK)

BURT, ECEMETERY

CLARK, ARTHUR RUSSELL SAMUEL

COATES, WINIFRED STANLEY

CONNOR, JAMES

CRIGAN, ERIC CLAUDIUS DAVISON

CURNOW, CLIFFORD

DAVIS, CHARLES FREDERICK

DEAN-PITT, DOUGLAS C.

ELLEN, BERNARD LIONEL

ELLIS, J E

FIELDING, JOSHUA

FLEMING, M B

FRAME, WILLIAM McCLYMONT

GOODYEAR, ROLAND THORNTON

GRAYSON, LEWIS

GRINDLAY, JAMES

HARDIE, SAMUEL WHITE

HARMAN, ALBERT VICTOR

HARTRUP, HENRY

HEAD, FREDERICK JOHN

HILDER, W

HURST, GEORGE E.

INNES, JOHN ALFRED

JARVIS, L G

KING, WILLIAM

KITCHING, FREDERICK OVEREND

LEE, H S

LODGE, FREDERICK WILLIAM

LYTTELTON-ROGERS, CAMERON WATERS

MELROSE, J

MEREDITH, EDMUND RICHARD

PACE, FREDERICK

PEAPLE, WILLIAM LEONARD

PIERPOINT, JOHN ARCHIBALD

PROCTER, CHARLES LEWIS

REES, JOSEPH

ROBERTS, E

RUSS, C

SMITH, ROLAND HADFIELD

TAYLOR, ERNEST

TOSH, J

TRAVERS, A

WALLIS, W

WELLS, RICHARD LESLIE

 

These men and women, were serving with the British Red Cross Society overseas; http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx?cpage=1&sort=name&order=asc The majority were serving in France, others were serving in Iraq, and India. Of these there were 3 Croix De Guerre (France), a Medal for Military Valour (Italy), and numerous other awards, with many of the volunteers having formerly been regular army or holding medical qualifications in civilian life, that they felt could be of use.

 

As I lay the wreath at 11.00 today, I shall be thinking, not only of these 56, but of all the volunteers; my fellow volunteers, who have served with quiet courage, going out into danger completely unarmed, and tended to those in need.