Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Getting home after a few jars of ale

Recalling conversations just after the First World War of how to get home after a few jars of ale:-

In 1919 I remember my elders discussing how a farmer got home after market and drinks in the pub, when he was tipsy. The relative merits of the familiar pony and trap or the new-fangled car were aired and I remember it being said that the farmer’s own pony was a good conveyance home for him, for they just clicked the word to the pony, which would then take him several miles safely home – but it was not like this with the car. I also remember being driven in a pony and trap and the only protection from the rain was a big umbrella held over all the occupants of the trap – a pleasant idea on a sunny summer day, but very cold on a cold wet day.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

ANZAC Day - Shrapnel Gully an Account

For ANZAC Day - An personal account of 26th April 1915 in Shrapnel Gully :-

Corporal Robson D.C.M., 4th Battalion, AIF, saw ‘a young fellow get shot in Shrapnel Gully while putting a cross over his brothers grave’. Another time he offered to help ‘a young fellow crawling down to the beach with his hand and half his leg off but he said there were plenty more needed help more than be did and, “Anyway,” he said, “I don’t think I’ll last more than an hour.”

Robson was awarded the D.C.M, “For carrying water and ammunition under heavy fire, taking charge of 50 men, and shooting 13 Turks with a rifle.’ 

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Queen Victoria's Carriage Horse

In the 1890’s Queen Victoria paid a visit to Bristol. Driving up Park Street, one of her carriage horses cast a shoe, which cab cause irreparable damage to the horse’s foot. The situation was saved by Herbert William Smith, a young farrier, perhaps still an apprentice, who, travelling between jobs, was watching the scene. He had the tools of his trade with him and volunteered to shoe the Queen’s carriage horse. This he quickly did and was rewarded with half-a-crown, a tidy sum in those days. Mr. Smith, who was born in 1878, cherished the coin for the rest of his long life.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Salvation Army Riots

There were ‘Salvation Army riots’ in Worthing, East Sussex in the 1880’s and in Eastbourne in the early 1890s as the evangelical movement clashed with publicans and members of the public who resented the attack on their drinking habits.

In Eastbourne the authorities attempted to enforce a law banning the Salvation Army from ‘marching bands’ on Sundays, but the brave Salvationists carried on anyway – being physically attacked by angry mobs and then being thrown into prison. They were vigorously opposed by the major, William Epps Morrison, who went so far as to ask the home secretary for permission to leave the ‘Salvationists’ to the mercy of the ‘Skelton army’ organised to attack them, but this callous approach was refused. The case of ‘unlawful assembly’ against the Salvationists eventually reached the High Court in London, and was thrown out. In 1892, Parliament repealed the clause in the Law which had caused all the trouble, and the Salvationists were able to claim a great and hard-won victory.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

The Railway Arrived In Brighton

The railway arrived in Brighton, East Sussex in 1841, four years after Queen Victoria came to the throne, and it changed the town for ever.

On a day in October 1833, a fleet of stagecoaches had bought 480 visitors to the town from London. That seemed a prodigious figure at the time, but on Easter Monday a single train bought all 1,100 holidaymakers down from London Bridge.

This is how Brighton’s population exploded

1841        47,000
1861        78,000
1881        99,000
1901     123,000

Friday, 19 April 2013

Barbed Wire in the German Trenches

In his book The Old Front Line, John Masefield describes the German trench defences in the Somme battlefield and their use of barbed wire.

Dug-outs and barbed wire in La Boisselle. Usna-Tara Hill, with English Support Lines in Background. At Extreme Left is the Albert-Bapaume Road.

"The defences of the enemy front line varied a little in degree, but hardly at all in kind, throughout the battlefield. The enemy wire was always deep, thick, and securely staked with iron supports, which were either crossed like the letter X, or upright, with loops to take the wire and shaped at one end like corkscrews so as to screw into the ground. The wire stood on these supports on a thick web, about four feet high and from thirty to forty feet across. The wire used was generally as thick as sailor's marline stuff, or two twisted rope-yarns. It contained, as a rule, some sixteen barbs to the foot. The wire used in front of our lines was generally galvanized, and remained grey after months of exposure. The enemy wire, not being galvanized, rusted to a black colour, and shows up black at a great distance. In places this web or barrier was supplemented with trip-wire, or wire placed just above the ground, so that the artillery observing officers might not see it and so not cause it to be destroyed. This trip-wire was as difficult to cross as the wire of the entanglements. In one place (near the Y Ravine at Beaumont Hamel) this trip-wire was used with thin iron spikes a yard long of the kind known as calthrops. The spikes were so placed in the ground that about one foot of spike projected. The scheme was that our men should catch their feet in the trip-wire, fall on the spikes, and be transfixed.

In places, in front of the front line in the midst of his wire, sometimes even in front of the wire, the enemy had carefully hidden snipers and machine-gun posts. Sometimes these outside posts were connected with his front-line trench by tunnels, sometimes they were simply shell-holes, slightly altered with a spade to take the snipers and the gunners. These outside snipers had some success in the early parts of the battle. They caused losses among our men by firing in the midst of them and by shooting them in the backs after they had passed. Usually the posts were small oblong pans in the mud, in which the men lay. Sometimes they were deep narrow graves in which the men stood to fire through a funnel in the earth. Here and there, where the ground was favourable, especially when there was some little knop, hillock, or bulge of ground just outside their line, as near Gommecourt Park and close to the Sunken Road at Beaumont Hamel, he placed several such posts together. Outside Gommecourt, a slight lynchet near the enemy line was prepared for at least a dozen such posts invisible from any part of our line and not easily to be picked out by photograph, and so placed as to sweep at least a mile of No Man's Land.

When these places had been passed, and the enemy wire, more or less cut by our shrapnel, had been crossed, our men had to attack the enemy fire trenches of the first line. These, like the other defences, varied in degree, but not in kind. They were, in the main, deep, solid trenches, dug with short bays or zigzags in the pattern of the Greek Key or badger's earth. They were seldom less than eight feet and sometimes as much as twelve feet deep. Their sides were revetted, or held from collapsing, by strong wickerwork. They had good, comfortable standing slabs or banquettes on which the men could stand to fire. As a rule, the parapets were not built up with sandbags as ours were.

In some parts of the line, the front trenches were strengthened at intervals of about fifty yards by tiny forts or fortlets made of concrete and so built into the parapet that they could not be seen from without, even five yards away. These fortlets were pierced with a foot-long slip for the muzzle of a machine gun, and were just big enough to hold the gun and one gunner.

In the forward wall of the trenches were the openings of the shafts which led to the front-line dugouts. The shafts are all of the same pattern. They have open mouths about four feet high, and slant down into the earth for about twenty feet at an angle of forty-five degrees. At the bottom of the stairs which led down are the living rooms and barracks which communicate with each other so that if a shaft collapse the men below may still escape by another. The shafts and living rooms are strongly propped and panelled with wood, and this has led to the destruction of most of the few which survived our bombardment. While they were needed as billets our men lived in them. Then the wood was removed, and the dugout and shaft collapsed. "

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