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Keeping up the recent theme of lesser known poets of the Great War, here's The Sinai Desert: A Curse by Captain John More.
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Apologies that this is a day later than usual, but yesterday got eaten up with a board meeting and meeting a school inspector.

I love the way that so many of the commemorative events for WWI beautifully combine the old and the new. This video installation in Wales to remember Hedd Wyn looks stunning. It reminds me of the terribly moving Passchendaele events.

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There was an excellent documentary on BBC 4 last week (thanks Jay Lewis Taylor for the heads up because I'd missed it). When the Whistle Blew, which was beautifully presented by world cup winner Josh Lewsey, explores rugby and football in WWI and the different reactions of the two codes to the outbreak of war. It's still available on the iplayer.

This was part of a series, World War I at home, which I need to work through!

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14-18 Now are the people behind the 'living' Somme commemoration that made such a powerful statement last year. Their excellent website lists where you can see the 'waves' and 'weeping windows' of poppies. They are always dreaming up new ways of making the past relevant now so keep dropping in to see what's new.

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The Passchendaele commemorations turned up many stories of heroism. I was very taken by the story of Denis Hewitt, from Hampshire. Only 19 when he gave his life, earning the Victoria Cross in the process.

We shall not forget.
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We stopped for coffee at Wareham today, then went for a walk. I saw the Commonwealth war Graves Commission sign...

2017-08-03 10.52.43 2017-08-03 10.55.06

2017-08-03 10.56.33 2017-08-03 10.58.53
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Watching a rerun of the Passchendaele programme, I was very taken with the groundsmen at Tyne Cot when they were interviewed. They spoke of keeping the cemetery as a garden for the soldiers to take their final rest in, a little piece of England in Belgium. They also spoke of feeling close to the men buried there.

That's how I feel about 'my' soldier and his grave. It doesn't look this untidy after today's sprucing up!

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When I woke this morning, almost the first thing I thought of was Edgar Mobbs. He died at the third battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) one hundred years ago today. "Even as he lay dying, he scribbled out the machine gun post’s map reference for HQ to eliminate it, asked for reinforcements, and finally added: “Am seriously wounded”.

There's still disagreement about how many - on both sides - died in this battle, and while Edgar Mobbs was just one, for me he represents all those aspirations and possibilities  cut off in their prime. Another casualty on this day was Hedd Wyn, the Welsh bard. War does not discriminate.
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At Twickenham, there's a painting based on a photo of the England rugby team just pre-war. The red roses of those who died have been greyed. One of these chaps (scrum cap in the back row, I think) is Arthur Harrison, or - to give his rank - Lieutenant Commander Arthur Leyland Harrison VC.

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That VC was posthumous, gained in the raid on Zeebrugge, which he'd volunteered for. A notice pinned at Scapa Flow had asked for single, athletic men to put their names down for 'a show' and Harrison had taken up the challenge. He was killed leading his men along a parapet under machine gun fire; that wonderful lantern jaw had already been smashed by a shell.
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Have seen a couple of wild flower patches recently in which both the poppies and the cornflowers have been stunning. It was only last year I discovered that the cornflower was the French remembrance equivalent of our poppy, but now every time I see them together, I'm moved. These are from Jersey zoo.

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I picked up 'The Shell House' in the local Red Cross Shop, simply on the strength of the cover and blurb. I rarely read young adult books, nor do I often read this sort of 'relationship' fiction but this one was a worthwhile exception. It's an interesting exploration of sexuality and faith in two parallel stories set the best part of a hundred years apart.
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When we were at Twickenham on Tuesday for a stadium tour, I got very excited. Not just at sitting in the royal box or in the England changing room, but in the reminders of those players who gave their lives in the Great War.

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This is a painting on display near the royal box, a reproduction by Shane Record of a famous photograph of the England team of April 1914, about to play France. The players with their roses 'greyed' rather than red died during the war.

The guy in the natty headgear is Arthur Harrison, VC, who volunteered for hazardous service and died in the Zeebrugge raids. Almost hidden in the back row is Robert Pillman, who was shot during a night raid near Armentieres. A contemporary photo of Pillman shows a remarkable resemblance to the current England captain, Dylan Hartley.

Also in that row is Jimmy Dingle, who died retaking Scimitar Hill near Suvla bay (having already taken it and been ordered to relinquish it.) Right at the end is James Watson who was a doctor (I wonder if he was ever heaved into touch at Old Deer Park). He served as naval surgeon on the Hawke when she was torpedoed and sunk. Down on the front row is Francis Oakeley, a submarine lieutenant on the HMS D2, which disappeared at sea after being rammed by a German patrol boat.

And who's that in the middle? Has to be the lovely Ronnie Poulton Palmer, who was shot by a sniper near 'Plugstreet' Wood. My favourite quote from "The Greater Game" concerns RPP, and his friend, the army chaplain Dick Dugdale who said he loved Ronnie more than anyone else and told his sister, 'each year passing merely means one year less to wait for Ronald'.

 

 

 
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I'm sure there are a number of mystery/crime books set in WWI but my poor old brain can only think of one, but it's a good 'un.

I read Andrew Martin's The Somme Stations a couple of years ago and enjoyed it hugely. He writes a cracking mystery, does Mr. Martin, and the Jim Stringer books are always entertaining.

#MysteryWeek
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I'm a great fan of the series of books which started with "Where the Poppies Now Grow", so I was both delighted and moved to find this gem from the creators:

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How on earth did I not know about this splendid group - thank goodness the Royal Star and Garter Home magazine had a feature about them.

Shame they're not local to me - I really fancy some of the events listed here, especially Carols in the Trenches.
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This wasn't the post I'd planned, but after England's stunning victory today, including a hat trick by Jonathan Joseph, I had to commemorate another Calcutta cup hat trick three quarter, Cyril Lowe. Not only an ace of the Royal Flying Corps, Lowe is also one of the names in the frame for the original of Biggles.

And funny how RAF pilots seem to feature heavily among England's record scorers...
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Some of you may have noticed I like rugby. Just a bit. So I was delighted to discover this site, dedicated to preserving the stories of Saracens players and their contribution to the Great War.

I've been discovering all sorts of stuff about players I'd never heard of. Norman Brabazon Dick, Frank Pilley (from my old neck of the woods, Stoke Newington), the adorable Charles Dearing and many others. It's a fantastic resource - I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

 
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Appropriate to the day, remembering some of the great rugby internationals who died in the Great War (the ones I haven't yet mentioned at length).

What about Dave Gallaher? His All Black shirt is among the memorabilia at the Saracens stadium.

Or Jimmy Dingle, one of several internationals from the England team who never made it home.

And the marvellous David Bedell-Sivright who once held up the traffic in Edinburgh by laying down on the tram tracks - nobody dared to shift him.

Check out some of the other heroes of battle, whether it be fifteen man a side or millions.

 
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I put Code Breakers (by James Wyllie and Michael McKinley) on my Christmas list because while I'd read loads of stuff about the codebreakers of Bletchley, I'd not delved so deeply into the world of Room 40, and the feats of the redoubtable Blinker Hall. I have learned so much, not just about the volume and nature of decoded material that was produced - and the usual inter departmental squabbles about who should be in charge of making use of it - but also about the events across the Atlantic that drew the USA into the conflict. Highly recommended book.

Of course, Jonty and Orlando both spent some time working for Room 40, thanks to Mr. Stewart's friendship with Blinker. Both of them have been very cagey in terms of telling me exactly what they did, but this book has given me some definite clues. Part of Jonty's role had to be acting as the sort of decoy MIib also had, somebody who could provide a front to the office and give 'the impression of a typical British idiot'. Orlando would have been doing the decoding, no doubt irritated by being surrounded by linguists and classicists.

 
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One of my WWI 'heroes' is Wilfred Jesson; local Southampton lad, rugby player and cricketer (played against Ranji at Lord's). Like one of my other lads, Wilfred Owen, Jesson was hardly any taller than I am, and he features in one of the best (IMHO) books about the war, Stephen Cooper's The Final Whistle. As I was doing some further research on Jesson, I discovered this from the Sherborne old boys, which details a number of those who feature on the school's roll of honour. His private papers are listed on the Imperial War Museum site.

BTW I love connections; Sherborne was Turing's school and the writer of the flyer has links to the local Remount depot.

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