Tag Archives: Cambridge

The Hen Harrier in Victorian Nottinghamshire

The Hen Harrier is a bird of prey which is called in North America the ‘Northern Harrier’ or the ‘Marsh Hawk’. These days it is becoming an increasingly rare and endangered bird in England because of the activities of the large shooting estates. Hen Harriers are harmful to Red Grouse, the quarry species for the man with a £3000 shotgun, so, completely illegally, many gamekeepers kill Hen Harriers on sight. Prosecutions are extremely few and far between because effective evidence needs to be gathered in very remote places where trespassers are far from welcome:

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In Great Britain we have the wild spaces for more than a thousand pairs of breeding Hen Harriers, but this illegal killing for commercial reasons has limited the number to fewer than ten pairs. There are those, myself included, who think that the law should be changed. Instead of trying to prosecute individuals (who are quite often disowned by the estate owners), the estates themselves should be brought to account. Any estate found guilty should have their enormous subsidies of taxpayers’ money withdrawn.

Interestingly enough, just after I wrote this article, a fine example of what happens to Hen Harriers in northern England came to light. It is totally typical of the contempt which the moneyed classes have for the ordinary person who lives his or her life not to accrue wealth by any means whatsoever, but instead to delight in the wonders of the natural world. And look too at what the police managed to do after other people had done more or less 99% of their job for them.

In Nottinghamshire, therefore, the Hen Harrier is not a particularly common bird. The male is very distinctive, but the female or the young bird, the so-called “ringtail” stands out a lot less:

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In 1857 William Sterland recounted how, on an unrecorded date this year:

“I was walking past Lord Manver’s poultry yard at Perlethorpe, which adjoins Thoresby Park, when a ringtail came sailing over, evidently intent on plunder. Three times she soared around the large enclosure , which contains several hundred head of poultry, and although it is bounded by a high wall, and is surrounded by the dwellings of the gamekeepers and others, she was only deterred from carrying off a chicken by the presence of some of the men.”

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In 1866 William Felkin spoke of birds of prey in general:

“On the whole, this noble tribe of birds is fast decreasing, and some species, if not yet extinct, soon will be, under the deadly warfare waged against them by trap and gun; and thus the finest ornament of English forest scenery will be for ever lost, for the paltry gain of the few head of game they might possibly destroy.”

How true that has turned out to be. The Hen Harrier is well on its way to extinction as a breeding bird in this country, and before their recovery in modern times, both Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Osprey had been exterminated by gamekeepers from most of the country.

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William Sterland wrote in his “Birds of Sherwood Forest”:

“…the blue hawk as the male is called, is not by any means uncommon ; and both male and female being considered, and I fear not unjustly, as very destructive to game, are visited, whenever opportunity offers, with condign punishment, and their once buoyant forms are seen nailed up in terrorem amongst others of their order, in grim companionship with stoats, weasels, polecats, and other vermin.”

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Indeed, by the end of the nineteenth century, polecats themselves were extinct in England. And only the departure of all the gamekeepers to the trenches of the First World War prevented the extinction of the ordinary fox from many areas, especially in East Anglia.

Before 1907 Joseph Whitaker had seen only five or six Hen Harriers in thirty years of birdwatching.
He relates how:

“…one of the Hen Harriers I saw close to my home in Rainworth, was a male in full plumage, coloured pale lavender slate.”

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Whitaker took great pleasure in this, and other birds of the same species. Rather like William Felkin, he thought that:

“An odd harrier or two do very little harm, and the graceful flight, which I may describe as a cross between that of a Hawk and an Owl is always pleasant to see and adds immensely to the delight of the country walk.”

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In his own copy of “The Birds of Nottinghamshire”, he has written of his own sighting:

“About  Xmas 1914 a Hen Harrier female flew over the road at the head of my pond within 20 yards. It had been seen earlier by Blackburn (keeper) today, March 19 it again passed over the same road, but at the top of mill by our gate it looked grand in a clear sun light. I am so glad it has escaped the keepers snare + hope it may like to lay a clutch of Cambridge blue eggs amongst the heather of the windswept Orkney Islands.”

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Filed under Criminology, History, Nottingham, Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

The Avro Lancaster at Duxford, January 28th 2009

A few years ago, when I was still a teacher, along with four other teachers and more than a hundred members of Year 9, we all went in two coaches to Duxford near Cambridge to see the Imperial War Museum.  Look for the orange arrow:

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None of you will be surprised that the very first plane I rushed to see was the Avro Lancaster. The planes are rather crowded together, but there it was:

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There were trolleys and a little tractor to transport the bombs to the bomb-bay:

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The bomb-bay is enormous, and eventually would be capable of taking a ten ton bomb, the “Grand Slam”:

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The green cylindrical bomb in  the background in the below photograph is a blockbuster bomb or “cookie” and weighs 4,000 pounds which is around two tons. Quite often two of them were strapped together to make an 8,000 pound bomb. On occasion three of them would be bolted together to make things go with a real bang:

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This is the mid-upper turret, armed with two .303 Browning machine guns. The gunners were seldom particularly happy that a target was provided underneath for the Luftwaffe night fighters to aim at:

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This is the radome, behind the cockpit canopy. On more than one occasion my Dad would stand there. looking out, as the bombers all taxied out to the end of the runway for the take-off. My Dad was abundantly aware of the enormous casualty rates in Bomber Command, and more than once he wondered to himself how many of the aircraft he could see slowly making their way to the runway to take off would be coming back in the morning:

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Overall, Bomber Command lost 8,325 aircraft to enemy action. A total of 55,573 young men, all of them volunteers, were killed, a casualty rate of 44.4%. Of every hundred airmen, 55 were killed, three were injured on active service, 12 became prisoners of war, two were shot down and made their way back to England and 27 survived. One of the two reasons my Dad was one of those 27 fortunate young men was the fact that he flew in Lancasters. “A Lanc will always get you back” he told me on more than one occasion. I owe my own existence, therefore, to the excellence of the Avro Lancaster.

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Sooooo….when the moment was right, a fat old man quickly jumped over the rope, walked up to KB889, gave it a good pat and said “Thank you for my life”.
There will, however, always be some idiot child who is seduced by the flighty, undependable glamour of fighter aircraft and who will stand there taking photographs of Spitfires until the bus leaves. Just look at him in this photograph here:

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Filed under Aviation, Bomber Command, History, Humour, The High School, Writing

Hallowe’en Tales : Numbers One and Two

Today I begin a series of articles which will lead up to Hallowe’en.

A zombie’s dozen of ghostly tales.

They are all within my experience. That is to say, they may have happened to somebody else, but that somebody else then told me their tale directly, man to man.

The vast majority of these ripping yarns, though, actually happened to me.

Number One

The Vampire

Over forty years ago, when I was a student, my friend Nick and I used to visit the Horse and Groom pub in King Street in Cambridge, on a far too regular basis:

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One freezing cold foggy dark November night, we went over to our favourite drinking hole where we consumed perhaps a couple of pints, which was a far from an excessive amount for us. We then decided to return to college a little earlier than normal, to finish our evening in perhaps, rather more luxurious surroundings. It was still cold outside, and the fog was perhaps even thicker, as we walked back along a wide asphalt path which crossed the park. The wide asphalt path is designated by the narrow orange arrow:

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The path was absolutely straight and lit by a number of old Victorian street lights. They created pools of light perhaps eight or ten feet wide but, as the lights were about ten or twelve yards apart,  there was still a lot of darkness there, not helped by the thickening fog:

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As we got out into the very middle of the park, we gradually became aware of the crisp click-clack-click noise of approaching footsteps, and the tip-tap-tip of a cane on the hard surface of the path. At first, we were unable to see anyone, but suddenly the stranger stepped out of the darkness into the pool of bright light provided by the street lamp.
He was in full evening dress, with dark hair. He carried a cane, and, most striking of all, he was wearing a sweeping black cloak. It was lined with what appeared to be bright red silk:

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We watched open mouthed as he strode purposefully past us, and then back out into the darkness. The noise of his footsteps, and the tapping of his cane gradually became fainter and fainter until they finally disappeared into the darkness:

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Number Two

The Time Travellers

I have always had a lot of trouble sleeping. In summer, I seemed always to wake up around four o’clo0ck and then find it impossible to get back to sleep again. That was one of the main reasons I started marking GCSE Papers every June and July. It was fairly well paid, and it always seemed a good way to make some money at a time when, in all probability, I would have been lying awake anyway.

In the late 1980s, therefore, I took to s1eeping on my own in the front bedroom. This seemed a good way to get a full night’s sleep before I got up at ten to five to brew some coffee and make a start on the vast piles of cassette tapes, all containing GCSE French Oral Examinations. At the time, our daughter was just two or three years old, and the last thing  wanted was to interrupt my slumbers between ten o’clock and five o’clock the next morning.

One brilliantly bright sunlit summer’s morning, I woke up even earlier than normal, at around four o’clock. It was already well past dawn, and I was lying with my face towards the bright bay window:

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The bedroom door was directly behind me, and as I gradually became more and more awake, I had the strongest feeling that somebody was standing behind me in the doorway, looking at me. The strongest feeling.

Somehow, I knew that I was going to have to pluck up courage to turn over and have  zaa look to see if there was, in actual fact, anybody there. Slowly, slowly I was acquiring the courage to turn around.

Suddenly, I heard a child’s high pitched voice say, “There’s one in here, and he’s still asleep”. From the landing outside the bedroom came a female adult’s reply, “Come away, you’ll waken him.”

Then there was silence:

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I turned over to look towards the bedroom door. There was nobody. I got up and had a look around all the rooms in the house. Nobody.

Then, just for a moment, I had the strangest feeling that I had just taken part in a Year 10 Social History class visit from the 25th Century. Walking around in what to them was the distant past. Our distant descendants in our house.

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The Incredible Story of Frank Mahin, Volume I, 1887-1909

As well as John Francis Haseldine, another High School footballer has carved his initials on the stone mantelpiece of the ground floor fireplace between the General Office and the entrance to the Assembly Hall. This footballing vandal is “F.C.Mahin”.

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Frank Cadle Mahin is one of the most interesting of the school’s pupils. He was born on May 27th 1887, in Clinton, Iowa, the son of Frank W. Mahin, who was a retired United States Consular Officer at the time. Frank W. had graduated from Harvard University in 1877. Frank C.’s mother was Abbie Anna Cadle, who was born in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1857 to Cornelius Cadle and Ruth Lamprey.
This was Abbie’s second marriage. She had previously been married to Frank Mann with whom she had one child. With her second husband, Frank W., she had two more children, Frank C., and a daughter, Anna, who was born in 1880.

Anna was to meet a young English doctor during the family’s stay in Nottingham, and she remained with him after her parents eventually left England for Amsterdam in Holland. I have been unable to trace Anna’s husband’s surname, although he was to become Frank’s Uncle Alec. As an Englishman, Alec was to fight in the Great War well before Frank and his fellow Americans became involved in the hostilities. Alec was certainly in combat as early as 1915, and I believe that he survived the conflict. The year of Anna’s death has not been recorded. Her mother, Abbie, died in 1941 at the age of 84.

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Frank Cadle Mahin entered the High School on September 15th 1902, at the age of fifteen. The Mahin family lived at 7, Sherwood Rise, on the opposite side of the Forest Recreation Ground from the High School. His father was by now the United States Consul in Nottingham. Look for the orange arrow:

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Despite a comparatively short stay at the High School, Frank Junior seems to have been an accomplished sportsman, and appeared for the First XI at football in a fixture against Loughborough Grammar School on Wednesday, October 25th 1904 at Mapperley Park. The High School began very slowly and had quite a fright before they eventually ran out victors by 4-1. The team was M.J.Hogan, J.P.K.Groves, R.Cooper, R.E.Trease, R.G.Cairns, F.C.Mahin, H.E.Mills, S.D.M.Horner, R.B.Wray, L.W.Peters and P.G.Richards.
Frank played a second match on the afternoon of Saturday, December 3rd 1904. Again, it was at Mapperley Park against Notts. Magdala F.C. 2nd XI. The game finished in a 1-3 away win as:

“a weakened team, who ought really to have won, but did not play as well as they might have, against opponents who themselves were rather poor.”

This time the team was  M.J.Hogan, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper, R.E.Trease, R.G.Cairns, F.C.Mahin, H.E.Mills, J.Henson, L.W.Peters, C.R.Attenborough and P.G.Richards.
Frank’s only away game was against Worksop College at Worksop. The entire team doubtless travelled by steam train from Nottingham’s Victoria Station on the afternoon of Saturday, March 11th 1905:

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According to the school magazine:

“The High School fielded a weakened team, but played well, and did not deserve to lose by such a wide margin as he 0-5 final result would suggest.”

The team was M.J.Hogan, J.P.K.Groves, W.E.Williams , F.C.Mahin, R.B.Wray, R.E.Trease, H.E.Mills, C.S.Robinson, S.D.M.Horner, L.W.Peters and P.G.Richards.

This photograph shows the First Team in the 1904-1905 season. It was taken at Mapperley Park Sports Ground, opposite the old Carrington Lido on Mansfield Road. Serjeant Holmes is present, and on the back row are S.D.M.Horner, C.F.R.Fryer, M.J.Hogan, R.E.Trease and J.P.K.Groves. Seated are R.G.Cairns, R.B.Wray, R.Cooper (Captain) and L.W.Peters, Seated on the grass are H.E.Mills and P.G.Richards. On the right is the so-called twelfth man, the reserve player, who is Frank Cadle Mahin. I believe that the photograph was taken on the afternoon of Wednesday, October 12th 1904, just before the High School played against Mr.Hughes’ XI. The School won 12-5, and we know that Cooper in defence was the outstanding player, but the whole team played well, and the forwards’ finishing was particularly deadly. This year, the team was amazingly successful. Their season began with victories by 5-4, 2-1, 23-0, 12-5, 9-0, 15-0, 3-1, 4-1, 11-0, 16-1. They had scored exactly 100 goals by November 3rd, in only ten games:

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The detectives among you will notice that it is warm enough for the changing room windows to be open, and the design of the ball is very different from nowadays. Young Horner has forgotten his football socks, and, because this game marked his début for the side, Mr Fryer’s mother has not yet had the time to sew his school badge onto his shirt. Frank is, in actual fact, in the full school uniform of the time, which was a respectable suit or jacket, topped off with a neat white straw boater, with a school ribbon around it.

Frank also performed as a linesman, or assistant referee, in First XI football fixtures on several occasions in 1904-1905:

“Referees during the season were Mr.W.T.Ryles, Mr.R.E.Yates, Mr.M.R.Hughes and Mr.A.G.Onion. F.C.Mahin and K.M.Brace also performed as linesmen.”

Frank was perhaps a better cricketer than footballer, and he was, in actual fact, the regular captain of the Second XI at cricket.

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This photograph shows the First XI cricket team, in an unrecorded year, probably 1905. The individuals are thought to be on the back row, Mr.A.G.Onion, (Groundsman and Coach), S.D.M.Horner, R.G.Cairns, C.F.R.Fryer, unknown and F.C.Mahin.  In the middle row are P.G.Richards, L.W.Peters, W.G.Emmett (Captain), M.J.Hogan and R.B.Wray. Seated on the grass are J.P.K.Groves, H.E.Mills, and an unknown player.
In his time at the High School, Frank played for the First XI cricket team only sporadically. We know that he batted once in the 1904 season, and scored five runs, and then batted once more in 1905, and obtained the same score.
In addition, we also know that, on Saturday, June 24th 1905, which was School Sports Day, Frank dead-heated for first place in the Open Long Jump, managing a jump of fifteen feet nine inches, exactly the same distance as C.F.R.Fryer.
In the academic world, Frank won the Mayor’s Prize for Modern Languages, and, most significant of all, perhaps, he reached the rank of sergeant in the newly formed Officer Training Corps.

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Frank left the High School in July 1905, and returned to the United States where he was in the Class of 1909 at Harvard University.

The university’s proud boast nowadays is that they produce the most highly paid university alumni in the United States:

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Frank’s close contemporaries included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and two sons of the current President of the time, Theodore Roosevelt. They were called Theodore and Kermit.

Both of these men had the same interest in the military as Frank.  In 1917, Kermit Roosevelt, although he was obviously an American, joined the British Army to fight in Mesopotamia during the Great War. He was awarded a Military Cross on August 26, 1918. Theodore Roosevelt served as a Brigadier General in the United States Army during the Second World War. He died in France in 1944, a month after leading the first wave of troops onto Utah Beach during the Normandy landings.  This brave act was to earn him the Medal of Honor. To me, it would seem ludicrous to suggest that they were not, at the very least, among Frank’s acquaintances at Harvard, if not friends.

Hopefully, Frank had little or no association with another famous member of the Class of 1909. This was Ernst Hanfstaengl, a prominent member of the German Nazi party in the 1920s and early 1930s. A close personal friend of the Führer, Hanfstaengl provided part of the finance for the publication of “Mein Kampf”  and the Nazi Party’s official newspaper, the “Völkischer Beobachter“. Using his experience of Harvard football songs, he composed many Brownshirt and Hitler Youth marches and also claimed to have invented the “Sieg Heil” chant. Eventually, “Putzi” was to defect to the Allies and to work as part of President Roosevelt’s “S-Project”, providing information on some 400 prominent Nazis.

During his time at Harvard, according to the Secretary’s Second Report on the Harvard College Class of 1909, Frank married Miss Carrie Knight Whitmore on December 10th 1906. Alas, the poor lady was to die on February 11th 1907. Details are lacking, unfortunately, but this was an era where women could die not only giving birth to a child, but even of morning sickness in the early part of a pregnancy. The same source reveals that Frank remarried on August 18th 1908 in New York, New York State. The lucky lady was called Miss Sasie Avice Seon.

Frank represented the University at football on a number of occasions. Here is one of them:

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On November 30th 1906, Frank was selected as a goalkeeper against Columbia University:

“Tonight at 6 o’clock the University association football team will leave on the Fall River boat for New York, where they will play Columbia tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. While in New York the team will stay at the Murray Hill Hotel. On Sunday, they will leave for Ithaca, play Cornell on Monday afternoon, and return to Cambridge that night. The following men, accompanied by Manager E. B. Stern ’07 and Assistant Manager P. Woodman ’08, will be taken: G. W. Biddle ’08, W. M. Bird ’08, P. Brooks ’09, E. N. Fales ’08, W. A. Forbush ’07, H. Green ’08, O. B. Harriman ’09, F. C. Mahin ’09, C. G. Osborne ’07, A. N. Reggio ’07, A. W. Reggio ’08, L. B. Robinson ’07, W. T. S. Thackara ’08.”

Further details followed in “The Crimson Banner

The association football team will play its first game of the season with Columbia this afternoon at 2 o’clock on Alumni Field, New York. Individually the team is strong; but, as several of the men have only recently joined the squad, the team work is not well developed. Captain Thackara will be in the line-up today for the first team this year. Columbia finished second in the intercollegiate league last year and defeated Yale last week in a well-played game by the score of 4 to 0.
The line-up will be: HARVARD.  COLUMBIA. Mahin, g.  g., Graybill Green, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Voskamp Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Fairchild Biddle, l.h.b.,  r.h.b., deGarmendia A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dickson Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Rocour Forbush, l.o.f.  r.o.f., Billingsley Brooks, l.i.f.  r.i.f. Simpson Osborne, c.f.  c.f., Hartog A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Dwyer Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Cutler
Tomorrow the team will leave for Ithaca, and will play Cornell on Monday afternoon, returning to Cambridge that night.

Frank did well:

“The association football team defeated Columbia on Saturday at Alumni Field, New York, by the score of 1 to 0. With only ten men in the line-up, Columbia was unable to block the clever attack of the University team, and was on the defensive during most of the game. The single goal was scored in the first half after a series of speedy passes by the forwards to A. N. Reggio, who sent the ball into the net. Osborne, the University team’s centre forward, played an excellent game, and continually broke up the Columbia attack before it was fairly started. Two 30-minute halves were played.
Harvard vs. Cornell at Ithaca Today.
This afternoon, the team plays Cornell on Percy Field, Ithaca. Last month Cornell defeated Columbia by the score of 2 to 1, and has a fast, aggressive team.
The teams will line-up as follows: HARVARD  CORNELL. Mahin, g.  g., Wood Green, l.f.f.  r.f.b., Van der Does de Bye Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Sampaio Biddle, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Malefski A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dragoshanoff Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Wilson Forbush, l.i.f.  r.o.f., Van Bylevelt Brooks, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Deleasse Osborne, c.f.  e.f., MacDonald A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Samirento Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Chryssidy ”

On December 4th, Frank appeared against Cornell University:

“ITHACA, N. Y., Dec. 3.–On a field covered with snow the association football team defeated Cornell this afternoon on Percy Field, by the score of 5 to 1. In spite of the unfavorable conditions, the University team played well and showed a marked improvement in team work over the form in the Columbia game. Cornell’s defense was unable to check the hard attack of the University forwards, and but for the snow which made accurate shooting impossible, the score would have been larger. Of the five goals, Osborne made three, and Biddle and A. N. Reggio one each. Cornell’s goal came after a hard scrimmage in front of the net, following a kick out from the corner of the field. Two thirty-minute halves were played.
The summary follows: HARVARD.  CORNELL. Mahin, g.  g., Wood Green, l.f.f. r.f.b.,  Van der Does de Bye Thackara, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Sampaio Brooks, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Malefski A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Dragoshanoff Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Wilson Forbush, l.o.f.  r.e.f., Van Bylevelt Biddle, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Delcasse Osborne, c.f.  c.f., MacDonald A. N. Reggio, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Samirento Robinson, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Chryssidy
Score–Harvard, 5; Cornell, 1. Goals –Osborne, 3; Biddle, A. N. Reggio, Dragoshanoff. Time–30-minute halves.”

This is the Harvard team for an unknown match in the 1906-1907 season:

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On December 8th, news came of an important game:

“The University association football team will play Haverford this afternoon at 2.30 o’clock in the Stadium. As neither team has been defeated this fall, the game today will decide the intercollegiate league championship.
The University team has improved steadily during the season and has developed an effective attack, as shown in the Cornell game last Monday. Haverford has a well-balanced, team of experienced players, many of whom played on last year’s championship team. Last month they defeated Columbia by the score of 2 to 1, while the University team defeated Columbia, 1 to 0.
The line-up will be: HARVARD.  HAVERFORD. Mahin, g.  g., Warner Kidder, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Brown Green, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Godley Thackara, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Drinker A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Rossmaessler Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Windele Brooks, l.o.f  r.o.f. Bushnell A. N. Reggio, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Furness Osborne, e.f.  e.f., Baker Robinson, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Shoemaker Biddle, r.o.f.  l.o.f, Strode
The privileges of the Union are extended today to all Haverford men.
D. J. Pryer has been elected captain of the Brown University football team for next year.
The novice revolver shoot, finished last night, was won by M. R. Giddings ’08 with a score of 329 out of a possible 500.”

Frank duly appeared as the goalkeeper for Harvard on December 10th:

“The University association football team was defeated by Haverford on Saturday in the intercollegiate championship game by the score of 2 to 1. Haverford’s light forwards were very fast and displayed better team work than the University players, who depended almost entirely on individual work. On the defense, the University backs were not given enough assistance by the forwards.
For the University team, Brooks and A. N. Reggio played especially well. In spite of a constant guard of two Haverford players, Osborne played his usual good game. In the second half, several opportunities to score were lost by the University forwards through inaccurate kicking. Baker, Haverford’s centre forward, played brilliantly and was the most untiring player on the field.
Haverford won the toss and chose to defend the north goal with a strong wind behind them. During the first half, Baker made two goals, aided by fast team work on the part of the other forwards. Shortly after the beginning of the second period, A. N. Reggio scored Harvard’s only goal.
The summary follows: HARVARD.  HAVERFORD. Mahin, g.  g., Warner Thackara, l.f.b.  r.f.b., Brown Kidder, r.f.b.  l.f.b., Godley Brooks, l.h.b.  r.h.b., Drinker A. W. Reggio, c.h.b.  c.h.b., Rossmaessler Bird, r.h.b.  l.h.b., Windele Forbush, l.o.f.  r.o.f., Bushnell A. N. Reggio, l.i.f.  r.i.f., Furness Osborne, c.f.  c.f., Baker Robinson, r.i.f.  l.i.f., Shoemaker Biddle, r.o.f.  l.o.f., Strode
Score–Haverford, 2; Harvard, 1. Goals–Baker 2, A. N. Reggio. Referee–J. H. Fairfax-Luey. Linesmen–D. V. Leland ’10 and F. R. Leland ’10. Time–25-minute halves.”

On October 25th of that year, Frank had taken part in the university rowing:

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This was in the “first bumping races” and Frank rowed for a crew called “Brentford”. The latter were classified as fifth out of six, in the third division out of three:

“Brentford–Stroke, C. L. Hathaway ’10; 7, J. F. Frye ’09; 6, J. A. Curtis ’10; 5, W. F. Doake ’09; 4, P. N. Case ’09; 3, I. E. Willis ’09; 2, F. C. Mahin ’09; bow, H. F. Bingham ’10; coxswain, E. B. Gillette ’10.

The full details were:

“This afternoon at 3.45 o’clock the first division of the Dormitory crews will race upstream over a one and three-eighths mile course, starting at the Boylston street bridge, and rowing up the river to the beginning of the long stretch, leading up to the Brighton bridge. A stake boat will be placed at this point and all the crews will finish at the same place. Immediately after, the second division will row over the same course, and as soon as the shells are returned, the third division will start. The divisions of the crews and the order in which they will start follows:
Division I–1, Claverly; 2, Mt. Auburn street; 3, Dunster-Dana-Drayton; 4, Randolph; 5, Westmorly; 6, Craigie-Waverley; 7, Russell.
Division II–1, Thayer; 2, First Holyoke; 3, Hampden; 4, Holworthy; 5, Perkins; 6, Matthews; 7, Weld.
Division III–1, Foxcroft-Divinity; 2, Grays; 3, Second Holyoke; 4, Hollis-Stoughton; 5, Brentford; 6, College House.
On the two days’ racing, which will follow, the order of the crews in the divisions will change; the crews securing a bump advancing in position, while the crews against which a bump is scored, will be put in the rear, one place for each bump.”

On March 17th 1906, Frank had volunteered to play cricket:

“At the meeting of candidates for the cricket team last night, the following handed in their names: W. P. Phillips 2L., R. M. Gummere 3G., N. L. Tilney ’06, C. G. Mayer 2L., C. G. Osborn ’07, A. W. Reggio ’08, R. N. Wilson 1G., A. N. Reggio ’06, H. R. Waters ’07, N. B. Groton ’07, T. E. Hambleton ’07, L. C. Josephs ’08, E. M. B. Roche ’09, A. E. Newbolt ’09, A. L. Hoffman ’09, F. C. Mahin ’09.
For the present the men will be divided into two squads, which will practice in the old baseball cage in the Gymnasium on alternate afternoons between 3.30 and 5 o’clock. Outdoor practice will begin as soon as the condition of the ground on Soldiers Field permits.”

Frank was really quite bored with life at Harvard though. He wanted to be a soldier. After two years of university life, he left Harvard to join the Regular Army, not as an officer, but as a private soldier. I will take up his fascinating tale in another blog post.

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RAF Elsham Wolds: Part Six: a few loose ends

While I was doing the researches for these sad and grim tales of Bomber Command, I came across a number of interesting details which I would like to share. Perhaps one or two loose ends might be tied up.
The first is only loosely connected with the collision of the two unfortunate Lancasters returning from Leipzig on February 20th 1944.  I noticed that one of the casualties, Flying Officer Ronald Harry Fuller, was buried in Cambridge City Cemetery. Given that Cambridge is not particularly close to Marylebone in London, where Ronald lived, I decided to look up the details of this cemetery on the Internet. I was genuinely shocked by what I found about the war casualties there. Their names and most basic of details occupy fully an unbelievable 68 pages on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Just enter the words “Cambridge City Cemetery” in the line marked “Cemetery or memorial” and press “Search”:

cambrigde vity cem

The very last page is grimly ironic. It lists four Australians, all of them obviously interred a long, long way from home.
One is from the Great War, George Ernest Young of Camberwell, Victoria, Australia. He was aged 28 and died only 12 days from the end of the conflict. The other three interments are all Second World War flyers:

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Flight Sergeant George Louis Yensen was a Mid Upper Gunner aged just 20. He was killed on August 31st 1943 in a Short Stirling I of No. 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit of Bomber Command, Serial Number N6005,Squadron Letters probably F-D2. Here is a flight of three Stirlings:

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The name of George’s unit means he must have perished well before his training for heavy bombers was even complete. George died along with eight other young trainees on board this aircraft. Two of them were from the Republic of Ireland. Apparently the plane took off from Downham Market near Cambridge at 9.30 pm. presumably just as the daylight was beginning to fade. Suddenly, ten minutes after takeoff, for no apparent reason, the aircraft banked steeply and then spun into the ground just a mile or so north of Shippea Hill on the Cambridgeshire-Suffolk border, and around seven miles from Ely. The orange arrow marks the crash site:

yensen
The next Australian, Alan Geoffry (sic) Young was 21 years old when he was killed. A member of the RAAF’s 460 Squadron, he was returning from a bombing raid on Stuttgart. His Lancaster was caught in a blizzard and crashed some ten miles south of Grantham at North Witham. All seven members of the crew were killed. By coincidence, young Alan perished on February 21st 1944, the very next day after the Leipzig raid which inspired the first of these articles:

lanc crash
Flight Sergeant Ian Bailey Yorkston was killed in an accident on March 4th 1945, flying in a Lancaster  I, Serial Number PD431,Squadron Letters H4-V. Ian was in No. 1653 Heavy Conversion Unit RAF, and he was just 25 years of age. His parents were Christian missionaries and had worked in China where Ian grew up. Seven other young men perished in the crash. The plane had taken off from North Luffenham for a cross-country training flight at 11.30 in the morning, and returned to base at 4.00 pm. As the aircraft landed, it bounced quite severely. The pilot increased the power and prepared to go round for a second landing attempt. As it climbed away, the aircraft’s undercarriage hit an obstruction and then ploughed into the tops of several trees. It finally crashed near the village of Edith Weston, just four miles south east of Oakham in Rutland. The orange arrow marks the crash site:

yorkston
This was not Ian Yorkston’s first crash. On August 18th 1944, with “D” Flight of No. 1651 Heavy Conversion Unit he was flying in a Short Stirling III, Serial Number LK519, Squadron Letters QQ-O. Taking off on a night exercise from Wratting Common at three minutes to ten the previous evening, the crew were returning at six minutes past two. They requested, and were given, permission to land, but then there were problems with the Stirling’s immensely lofty and complicated undercarriage:

_giant_Stirling_modzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

For forty minutes, a tense dialogue took place between the aircraft and Flying Control. At three minutes to three, a garbled  message came from the aircraft which was heard to contain the phrase “crash land”. The Stirling came in at tree top level, flying towards No 4 runway which already had a second Stirling parked on it, having suffered a burst tyre. In the resulting collision, the Trainee Pilot, Flight Sergeant Alan Woodbridge (aged 23) was killed. He was buried in his native village Up Nately, in Hampshire. Alan had himself already been in an accident on July 26th when a slightly misjudged landing resulted in part of the Stirling’s undercarriage being ripped off. Three weeks later, as we have seen, he was dead.
Ian Yorkston’s brother, Flying Officer Gordon Cameron Yorkston, was also killed, not in training though, but in combat with No. 251 Squadron. He was only 21 years of age when he perished on March 17th 1945, in the icy waters off Iceland. The squadron was tasked with carrying out Air Sea Rescue and Meteorological Flights out of Reykjavik This was only 13 days after his elder brother, Ian, had been killed. Gordon’s remains were never found and his sacrifice is commemorated on the Air Forces Memorial at Runnymede near Egham in Surrey. This memorial is dedicated to RAF personnel who died in World War II and who have no known grave anywhere in the world.  Many were lost without trace. There are an amazing 20, 310 names on the memorial:

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I actually found a website which listed all of the brothers who had died in service with the RAAF in World War Two. There were at least fifty pairs and included three Sandilands, three Eddisons and four brothers called Bernard. What a sacrifice to be asked to make!

The second final, grim, point concerns the unfortunate collision witnessed by Driver Marie Harris. This took place on December 16th 1943, as the two aircraft took off to bomb Berlin.
What I found really quite shocking was that there is another memorial very close by in what is actually only a very small area of Lincolnshire. It pays tribute to yet another crashed Lancaster, a plane from No 12 Squadron at RAF Wickenby, which was shot down by a German night intruder just before half past midnight in the early hours of March 4th 1945.

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This was Lancaster PB476, Squadron letters PH-Y, and the brave young men remembered were the Flying Officer Nicholas Ansdell (Pilot, 21 years old, from Churt in Surrey), Flying Officer Alexander Hunter (Navigator, age 33, from Dunfermline, Scotland), Flying Officer Freddie Heath (Bombaimer, aged 22, from New Malden, Surrey), Sergeant Ronald Schafer, (Flight Engineer, aged 23 of Earley in Berkshire), Sergeant Robert Parry, (Wireless Operator, aged only 19 from Dagenham, Essex), Sergeant Arthur Walker, (Mid – Upper Gunner, aged only 20, of Risley, Derbyshire) and Sergeant William Mellor (Rear Gunner, aged just 19,from Hatherton, a hamlet in Cheshire.)

Here is the lane next to the field where the aircraft crashed and the monument on the left:

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They were victims of a German night fighter initiative called “Unternehmen Gisela” or “Operation Gisela
This involved large numbers of twin engined German night fighters, armed with Lichtenstein radar:

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The aircraft left the Continent and flew across the North Sea to England in an effort to destroy as many of the vulnerable bombers as possible as they arrived back from Berlin:

Junkers_Ju88

The fighters flew at low level, under a storm front and in heavy rain, to remain under the British radar defences. They were then able to attack over a wide area, looking for RAF navigation lights and then flying underneath the bomber to make use of their upward pointing Schräge Musik twin cannons. In this case, the cannon are just behind the cockpit, clearly offset for some reason:

Junkers_Ju_88G-6

 

Around 25 Lancasters or other bombers were either destroyed or severely damaged in this operation. A total of 78 aircrew were killed and 17 civilians perished. The Germans lost 45 airmen.

One final word. All of the websites I have used can be reached through the links above. I could not have produced this article, however, without recourse to the superb books by W.R.Chorley. Their detail is almost unbelievable and I would urge anyone interested by the bomber war to think seriously of purchasing at least one of them. The books bring home just how many young men were killed in Bomber Command during the Second World War. When the first book arrived, my daughter thought it contained all the casualties for the whole war, but, alas, it was just 1944.

 

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The Great Storm of 1703. Get your kite!

The Great Storm of November 1703 was reckoned to be the most severe storm ever recorded. The hurricane that struck the English Channel and the south of England was beyond anything in living memory:

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Unlike today’s storms, when we have advanced warning and can prepare for the worst, the poor souls of 1703 had very little idea about what was about to hit them, other than the fact that the country had been buffeted by a persistent south westerly wind for quite a few weeks. Sailing ships could not sail against it and had therefore been confined in great numbers to whichever port they happened to find themselves near. Inland though, people were largely innocent of the catastrophe they were about to experience. Furthermore, the Great Storm persisted not just for a few shocking hours, but for nine terrible days. How could anything, buildings, ships, farm animals or men stand up against well over a week of wind speeds like those recorded in the eastern part of the English Channel or East Anglia? They would have approached 100 mph for long periods.

It has been variously estimated that between 8,000 and 15,000 people were to perish. John Evelyn, the seventeenth century diarist, described it in his diary as:

“not to be paralleled with anything happening in our age or in any history … every moment Job’s messengers brings the sad tidings of this universal judgement.”

The inhabitants of London felt the first strong breezes during the morning of Wednesday, November 24th 1703, (December 5th 1703 in our current calendar). By four o’clock in the afternoon the winds had noticeably increased. In London, recently out of prison, Daniel Defoe, the journalist, pamphleteer, spy, trader, writer and author, of course, of “Robinson Crusoe”, had a narrow escape in the street when part of a nearby house fell down and luckily missed him. On Friday the 26th, the wind began to blow with even greater ferocity and when the Great Man checked his barometer, he found the mercury had sunk lower than he had ever seen it. After midnight the gale increased to such strength that it was almost impossible to sleep. The noise of the chimneys of surrounding houses crashing into the street made the whole family afraid that their own solid brick townhouse might collapse on their heads. When they opened their back door to escape into the garden, they saw roof tiles scything through the air, some landing thirty or forty yards away, embedding themselves eight inches or more into the ground. The Defoe family decided to stay in their house and trust in the Lord.

That night of November 26th-27th was catastrophic for the Royal Navy which lost 13 major warships, which were, for the most part, moored along the south coast.  HMS Resolution was driven onto the shore at Pevensey but the ship’s company was lucky and all 221 sailors were saved:

HMS%20ResolutionNot so fortunate were the men on board HMS Restoration, HMS Mary, HMS Northumberland, HMS Stirling Castle and the quaintly named HMS Mortar-bomb, who were all shipwrecked on the Goodwin Sands off the Kent coast:

Sandbanks_Credit_Ben_Salter

In the aftermath, when the tide fell, the sailors of the wrecked vessels who were able to find a foothold on the huge sandbar, were all wandering around knowing that when the tide rose they were certain to be drowned. It was said that a man called Thomas Powell, a shopkeeper in Deal, organised the rescue of some two hundred of them. Supposedly Powell was so appalled by his neighbours’ reluctance to help that he gave them five shillings each for their support. Certainly, the greedy citizens of Deal were widely accused of being more interested in plunder from the unfortunate ships than in helping to rescue the crew members. Indeed, some sources say that only three fortunate individuals survived the Goodwin Sands catastrophe. Supposedly, about 1,500 sailors in total were left to die.
Lots of other naval ships were driven through the Straits of Dover and out into the storm tossed expanses of the North Sea where some survived to return days later but many others were lost without trace:

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Ships were so driven by the wind that not only did sails have to be lowered but the masts had be cut off level with the deck. Well in excess of a hundred merchant ships were sunk in the North Sea, many of which were colliers from the fleet which at the time was used to transport cargoes of coal down the east coast from Newcastle to London. Some of these ships would have been empty, moored or at anchor when the incredible tempest struck, casting them out into the open sea. Most were ill-prepared and foundered, and their crews perished to a man:

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The storm caught a convoy of 130 merchant ships and the six Men O’ War escorting them as they sheltered at Milford Haven. The warships included HMS Dolphin, HMS Cumberland, HMS Coventry, HMS Looe, HMS Hastings and HMS Hector. By the middle of the following afternoon the losses amounted to thirty vessels. Overall it was estimated that more than 8,000 sailors perished as the storm annihilated the Royal Navy. Around 20% of its sailors were drowned. The first Eddystone Lighthouse was completely destroyed:

Destruction of the Eddystone Lighthouse, 1703

Its erection had been started a mere seven years before, and  its light had been lit for the first time only on November 14th 1698.  Now all six of its occupants were killed, including the brave builder Henry Winstanley.

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This lighthouse was of inestimable importance and stood 120 feet tall,  some twelve miles to the south of Plymouth, one of England’s most important naval harbours. Even the French valued it, when during the period of construction, a French ship took Winstanley and his men prisoner. King Louis XIV, “le Roi-Soleil” ordered their release, explaining that “France is at war with England, not with humanity”, « La France est en guerre contre l’Angleterre, non contre l’humanité! »:

Louis_XIV_of_France

The Great Storm reached its appalling apogee, its catastrophic climax, during the following night, that of November 28th-29th (December 9th-10th 1703). Between the south coast and the Midlands, entire villages from Northamptonshire in the north to Suffolk in East Anglia were devastated  as the winds of the Great Storm rampaged across the country, striking hardest in the south and east of England, sending house roofs flying, flattening barns, razing everything in its path. Both men and animals were lifted off their feet and carried for long distances through the air. Roofs were ripped from more than a hundred churches, the lead was rolled up like a sheet of paper and dumped hundreds of yards away.
Millions of trees were blown over or uprooted; knocked flat in their tens of thousands, they lay prostrate in rows like soldiers mown down in battle. It was said that more than 4,000 oak trees crashed down in the New Forest.  An attempt was made to count the flattened trees in Kent but the count was abandoned at 17,000. The diarist John Evelyn lost in excess of 2,000 trees on his own Surrey estate.
Every kind of building was totally demolished and salt spray was driven almost as far inland as Tunbridge Wells. Animals refused to eat the resultant salty grass.
The maximum wind speeds were similar to those of the Great Storm of 1987 but the bad  weather lasted for much, much longer, well over a week, and thereby increased the enormous loss of life. Here is one of the enduring images of 1987:

1987

People could not decide whether it was safer to stay in their house and risk its collapse or to go into the street where flying tiles killed large numbers.
In East Anglia the wind reached over 80m.p.h. and killed well over a hundred people.  More than four hundred windmills were blown down. Many of them  burst into flames because the friction of their sails spinning round at high speed caused their wooden machinery to catch fire. In Cambridge, part of St Mary’s Church fell down and the falling stones completely flattened the organ. It had only recently been installed at a cost of £1,500. Kings College Chapel was equally badly damaged with stone pinnacles toppled and many of the wonderful stained glass windows destroyed.
In the capital, around 2,000 massive chimneys were blown over. The roof was blown off Westminster Abbey and the Queen, Queen Anne, had to take shelter in a cellar at St James’s Palace to avoid falling chimneys and tiles whizzing off the roof. Daniel Defoe told how the Reverend James King of London wrote him a letter about a chimney which crashed down and buried a maid. She was thought to be literally dead and buried, but she came out the following day from a small cavity in the rubble.

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Floods devastated the whole country, especially in the east of England and along the Severn Estuary. In the West Country in general, flooding was extensive and prolonged, particularly around Bristol where just under a thousand houses were totally destroyed. Hundreds of people were drowned on the Somerset Levels, where uncounted tens of thousands of farm animals, mainly sheep and cattle, perished. One lost ship was found fifteen miles inland. At Wells, Bishop Richard Kidder was crushed when two chimneys in the palace collapsed onto him and his wife, both peacefully asleep in their bed. Part of the Great West Window in Wells Cathedral was blown in and smashed to smithereens. At Fairford the church’s west window, facing the raging anger of the oncoming wind, bulged inward and crashed into the nave. In Wales, major damage occurred to the southwest tower of Llandaff Cathedral at Cardiff.
The storm began to die down around December 2nd, and on December 3rd,  Daniel Defoe visited the Pool of London, where, in the section downstream from London Bridge, he saw more than 700 sailing ships all piled up into heaps one on top of another:

vvvvvv Daniel_Defoe_Kneller_Style

Daniel Defoe told the tale of the captain of a leaking ship who tried to escape what seemed to him at the time to be an inevitable death by drowning, and instead committed suicide—only for his ship to survive. One possibly taller tale related how a sailing ship at Whitstable in Kent was blown out of the foaming sea and then deposited more than a quarter of a mile inland.
Unsurprisingly, in the aftermath of the Great Storm many special newspapers and publications appeared with information and eyewitness accounts:

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Conceivably this disaster became “national news” in a way that had seldom, if ever, happened before. It was just like a modern “big story”.
Daniel Defoe himself sought out testimony from as many witnesses as he could find.  When the weather ameliorated, he the whole country assessing the damage. He then produced what was subsequently described as “the first substantial work of modern journalism”, a book of more than 75,000 words, which was called “The Storm”.  It was the first proper book of Defoe’s career.

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http://historicaltrinkets.blogspot.co.uk/2013/10/the-great-storm-of-1703-eyewitness.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Storm_of_1703

http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/great-storm

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Casualty rates in the Great War

Years ago I wrote a worldwide best-selling book about the history of football in the High School from 1870-1914.(Just kidding). In the foreword, I revealed the identity of the Old Boy who had won an Olympic Gold Medal for the United Kingdom at Association Football. I made public which Old Boy had scored more goals in a single F.A.Cup tie than any other player in the history of the competition. I listed the eight Old Boys who had played international football for England. I recalled the Old Boy whose refereeing in an F.A.Cup tie led the F.A. to introduce the concept of the neutral referee, an idea which has spread worldwide since that biased performance. I described an occasion when the High School goalkeeper let in the winning goal as a protest against the refereeing of the game, and the day when the referee refused to give a penalty because “penalty kicks were unknown in amateur football”. The reader could find out which team lost 0-13 and did not get the ball into the opposition half at any point during the game. In another fixture, against Nottingham Asylum, “the presence of so many lunatics unnerved the school team, for it did not come up to its normal form.”  I remembered the day when “The School Six defeated the Masters by three goals to one. The masters, who, like Hamlet, were somewhat “fat and scant of breath”, then demanded to play two fat men extra, to compensate for their want of nimbleness. This unfortunate challenge was accepted, and the School won again by ten goals to one.”

Overall,  this book provided many examples of extraordinary, and, indeed, often amusing events on the football pitches of Victorian and Edwardian England.

villa-cup

When I first started my researches, looking through issue after issue of, firstly, “The Forester’, and then “The Nottinghamian”, it seemed that this would ever be the case. Here was a football spectators’ paradise, where goals rained into the net in every single game, as Leicester Wyggeston School  were beaten by 23-0 on two separate occasions. Deadly goal poachers scored hat tricks past defenders made slow-witted by heavy leather boots, and referees, and their decisions, grew ever more eccentric by the year.

 

My suspicions, though, were initially aroused by the story of William Norman Hoyte who was at the High School from 1904-1913, when he won an Open Scholarship to Jesus College, Cambridge to read Natural Sciences. William represented his college at rowing and appeared in the Second May Boat. His studies, and his rowing, though, were interrupted by his military service as a Lieutenant in the Sherwood Foresters in the Great War. He was a very brave young man and won the Military Cross twice. When he returned to Jesus College in 1919, though, he was unable to continue with his rowing. After the appalling carnage of the Great War, William Norman Hoyte M.C. and Bar was Jesus College’s only remaining rower from the pre-war years. All the rest had been killed.

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Morbid curiosity then caused me to wonder what were the eventual fates of those familiar names whose footballing deeds were recorded in perpetuity in their School Magazine, especially those who would have been of an age to have been sucked into the flesh shredding maelstrom of the Great War. where, on average, every single metre of trench was to be hit by a total of one ton of explosives. What I found, quite frankly, astounded me, and I do not feel that any reader, safe from harm, here at the beginning of the twenty first century, can begin to comprehend either the numbers of men involved in this war, or the enormous casualties which the nation suffered.

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During the Great War, for example, British forces lost 887,711 men killed and 1,663,570 men wounded. Of these 118,941 were officers. The British Empire had casualties of 1,244,589, with French deaths counted at 1,737,800. Italy lost 1,737,800 me killed and the Russians 3,394,369. Germany had 2,800,720 killed, the Austro-Hungarian Empire 2,081,200 and the Ottoman Empire 3,271,844. The United Kingdom lost as many as 2.20% of its total population, the French 4.39% and the Germans 4.32%.

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In individual battles, the loss of human life could be even more astounding. On the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on July 1st 1916, the 8th Division lost 218 of its 300 officers at Ovillers in just two hours. Of 8,500 other ranks, 5,274 men perished. On this single day, the total casualties of the British Army were 57,470 men. German casualties were just over 300. In the first three days of the Battle of the Somme, the average daily casualties per division were 101 officers and 3,320 men. During the second week, 10,000 men a day were lost, and for the remaining four or five months of the campaign, casualty rates were in the range of 2,500 men per day. Overall, this battle was to cost the lives of 420,000 British and Commonwealth troops, with a total of 220,000 French casualties. German losses remain unknown but were at least 450,000, and may have reached 600,000. In the photograph below, the tiny squares are all graves:

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Nor is this necessarily an isolated set of statistics. In the Second Battle of Ypres, in April 1915, the 149th Brigade lost over three quarters of their complement, a total of some 42 officers and 1,912 men. The 10th Brigade more or less ceased to exist, losing 73 officers and 2,346 men. In the Third Battle of Ypres, between August and November 1916, British infantry repeatedly advanced against German machine gunners, with casualties totalling 244,897. On the second day of the Battle of Loos, twelve battalions, numbering some 10,000 men, attacked the German machine guns. In just over three hours, 385 officers were lost, along with 7,681 men. On July 31st 1917, when the 1/1st Hertfordshires attacked the Langemarck Line, every single officer was a casualty and eleven of them were killed. The other ranks suffered 459 casualties and drafts of men had to be made to rebuild the battalion. Not until May 1918 was the 1/1st Hertfordshire Regiment fully reconstituted by absorbing thirty officers and 650 men from 6th Bedfordshire Regiment. In the Battle of Aubers Ridge, General Rawlinson, irritated with the lack of progress, complained to his Brigadier-Generals,

“Where are the Sherwood Foresters ?  Where are the Sherwood Foresters? ”

Brigadier-General Oxley replied, “They are lying out in no-man’s-land, sir, and most of them will never stand again.” Many of these particular casualties, especially the Lieutenants and Second Lieutenants, may well have been Old Nottinghamians, but nowadays, there is no way of being any more precise than that.

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One thing of which we are certain is that Robert George Hopewell played in the High School First Team from 1897-1899. Robert was the son of Noah and Margaret Hopewell, of Old Basford and the devoted husband of Gladys Eleanor Hopewell.  They lived at West Brook in Mansfield, Robert was killed at Thiepval during the Battle of the Somme on September 3rd 1916, at the age of 33. A stretcher-bearer’s description of Thiepval in 1916 has survived to the present day…

“The trenches were knee-deep in glueing mud and it was the hardest work I have ever done…The banks on each side were full of buried and half-buried corpses and the stench was appalling. As one was carrying a wounded man down, one perhaps got stuck in the mud and staggered whilst one extricated oneself or was extricated. You put out a hand to steady yourself, the earth gave way and you found that you were clutching the blackened face of a half-buried German.”

Revelon, gefallener Deutscher

Nowadays, Thiepval is the scene of a huge memorial dedicated to those British soldiers who have no known grave. There are 73,000 names listed on it.

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Thomas Cripwell Wilson was an Old Nottinghamian who served as a Private in the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Carr Wilson, of 5, Mount Hooton Terrace, Forest Road, just a five minute walk from the High School. Thomas was wounded in 1915, but returned to France in 1917.

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He was killed in action in November of that same year. His war could be described in equally frank terms…

“All those picturesque phrases of war writers are dangerous because they show nothing of the individual horror, nothing of the fine personalities suddenly smashed into red beastliness, nothing of the sick fear that is tearing at the hearts of brave boys…a thing infinitely more terrible than physical agony.”

The earliest High School football players to be involved in the Great War were four boys who played in the 1891-1892 season, namely Blackwall, Hadfield, Senior and Wallis.

Ten years later, the 1901-1902 season was to provide a full team, eleven brave individuals called Constantine, Cooper, Cullen, Emmett, Hore, Johnson, Marrs, Millward, Settle, Watson and Woollatt.

By 1913-1914, even more footballers were destined to risk their lives on the Western Front. They were now a full tem with a generous selection of substitutes, including Barber, Boyd, Cleveland, Fleet, Harlow, Hind, Lyon, Munks, Nidd, Page, Parr, Prince, Sadler, Taylor, Telford, A.G.Wilson and W.M.Wilson.

Old Nottinghamians, both footballers and non-footballers, volunteered in huge numbers for the Great War. At least one thousand five hundred boys and staff went willingly from a comfortable, safe, and usually well-off  family background in Nottingham, to what was arguably the bloodiest war in human history.

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