Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pte. Harold McMean, Royal Warwicks Regt.

(Top): Private Harold McMean, Royal Warwicks. Regt.
[Courtesy of Mrs Maud Smith, Great Niece]

(Bottom): Headstone of Private Harold McMean,
Royal Warwickshire Regiment, Service No. 3602481
(Died in service, 9 March 1945)
Whitehaven Cemetery (Grave Ref. 5/O/382)

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LAC Francis W. Dummigan, RAFVR

(Top): Leading Aircraftman Frank Dummigan, RAFVR
(Killed on active service, 7 April 1943, aged 20)
[Courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News']

(Bottom): Headstone of LAC Frank Dummigan & family
Whitehaven Cemetery, Cumberland (now Cumbria)
[Grave Ref. 6/L/202]

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LAC John Metcalf Brannon, RAFVR

(Top): LAC John Metcalf Brannon, RAFVR
Died on active service, 1 June 1942, aged 22 years
[Courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News'

(Bottom): CWGC Headstone of LAC John M. Brannon
Whitehaven Cemetery, Cumberland [Grave Ref. 6/N/65]

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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Whitehaven Grammar School Memorials

The Whitehaven Grammar School war memorials
(Also known as 'Whitehaven County Secondary School')
Now in St James' Church, High Street, Whitehaven

(Top): The WW2 memorial (45 casualties)
(Bottom): The WW1 memorial (6 names listed)

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Friday, November 18, 2011

Able Seaman Lancelot Thomas Bell, R.N.

(Top): Entrance to St Bees Parish Church, Cumberland
Lancelot T. Bell was baptised in this church (20.04.1917)

(Middle): St Peter's Church, Kells, Whitehaven
Where Lancelot Bell married Elizabeth Birkett (31.03.1940)

(Bottom): Able Seaman Lancelot Thomas Bell, R.N.
M.V. Empire Gem, (Died 24.01.1942)

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

World première of 'Keep Smiling Through'

Advertising poster and ticket for 'Keep Smiling Through'
A musical stage show by Lisa Evans
Its world première was at Keswick, Cumbria
(Summer season 2011)

The world première of a play about rationing, refugees, evacuees - and 'Rodents'- in the Cumbrian town of Keswick was held at the Theatre by the Lake, Keswick in 2011. The press preview was on Friday 29 July 2011, with the public première the following evening. Normally, the summer season of plays at the theatre ends at the beginning of November. However, this play with wartime songs contained within the storyline, was extended by a week. Thus, the final performance of the play's first season took place on Friday 11 November 2011.

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Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sergeant Joseph B. Hayton, R.A.F.V.R.

Headstone, St. Mary's, Harrington Churchyard, Cumbria
It commemorates a casualty from each World War:
Corporal Robert C.F. Blair (died 08.05.1919)
Sergeant Joseph Banks Hayton (died 16.11.1943)
(Harrington Churchyard, nr Workington, Cumbria)

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Monday, November 07, 2011


If I should die, think only this of me

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England.

The Soldier by Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

This post, as a reminder that Armistice Day, or Poppy Day, as you call it in England, is not a date the meaning of which everyone knows.

You’d be surprised at the answers some might give to the question: “What does it celebrate?’’ especially in my country, France.

Apart from the various veterans, historians, and of course politicians, few people in France will take the time to think of the meaning of the date. On November 11, of course, there will be ceremonies, but before and after that, it will be radio silence again - whereas, in Britain, in Canada and in the US, you do much more than just talk about it. It is amazing to the rest of the world to see the crowds of people marching all over the place, on the tube, on the streets, appearing on TV, and in public, wearing a poppy on their lapels. Of course every one of you knows where the idea came from, but just in case some passing foreign visitor might wish to know, here is the information:

At the origin of the tradition, there was a poem, In Flanders Fields, written by John Mc Crae a Canadian physician and poet, himself a soldier in WW1. Note that it was meant to encourage the soldiers to go on fighting for freedom.

Even though, originally the celebration was supposed to honour the memory of the dead of WW1, (and the donations meant to help the survivors) it now celebrates all the victims of the ensuing conflicts, and unfortunately, there have been many since 1918.

Not all poets were as… optimistic as John Mc Crae. Siegfried Sassoon, for one, was able to conciliate publicly a pacifist’s and a fighter’s stand, and to survive the Great War, contrary to Wilfred Owen,whose poems tell so stunningly of the small lies, the blindness of all those who were not up on the front, and the horror of dying at twenty something, were it for one’s country. In this poem in particular:

Even though Owen was shell-shocked and hospitalized, he went back to the front, where he was killed a week before this very Armistice Day that we’ll be celebrating this week.

Here is a poem by Sassoon, taken from this site.

I knew a simple soldier boy

Who grinned at life in empty joy,

Slept soundly through the lonesome dark,

And whistled early with the lark.

In winter trenches, cowed and glum

With crumps and lice and lack of rum,

He put a bullet through his brain.

No one spoke of him again.

You smug-faced crowds with kindling eye

Who cheer when soldier lads march by,

Sneak home and pray you'll never know

The hell where youth and laughter go.

The words of all those poems still ring to our ears.

To honour their authors again and again, let us try not to drown our emotion in the cart of the supermarket on November 11, maybe we could, instead, answer the little children’s questions, and maybe also remember for a minute those poets who never had the time to feed on the beauty of any poppies, since they found themselves pushing up the daisies, early, far too early.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

St Nicholas' War Memorial, Whitehaven

The WW2 War memorial,
St. Nicholas' Parish Church,
Whitehaven, Cumberland (now Cumbria)

This article updates a BBC "People's War" story about the WW2 War Memorial of St Nicholas' Church, Whitehaven, Cumbria. The BBC "People's War" story (Article ID A4188657) can be found by clicking on the following link:

BBC People's War: WW2 St Nicholas' Church War Memorial

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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sergeant (Pilot) Thomas Fee, R.A.F.V.R.

(Top): Sergeant (Pilot) Thomas (Tom) Fee, RAFVR
[Killed whilst on flying duties, 13 April 1943]
(Middle): Headstone of Sergeant Tom Fee
[Whitehaven Cemetery, Cumbria]
(Bottom): Sgt Tom Fee remembered by his hometown
[Listed in the Whitehaven 'Book of Remembrance']

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