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No Flypast This Day

Posted By on November 11, 2021

Soldier's Corner...the Victoria War Memorial. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

Soldier’s Corner…the Victoria War Memorial.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

The day seems to bring few words and then…

I slip upon mon tete my hat from Juno Beach, place the camera bag over my shoulder and adjust my poppy. It is time to take up the trail.

I start the walk towards the memorial. This day it wants to rain…it wants the cold…elements I do not care for, (but others endured and so will I – this is truly not that bad – it is the years upon my person finding their edge). I continue to turn the corners towards my destination. Perching myself beside one large and familiar tree I wait…I watch…near 90 minutes as the crowd fills the view before me. Few programs, we are told, were produced…we were not expecting such a large crowd. It is with this voice I see them…on this day from before…those familiar edged faces here amongst the gathering, on these same grounds, about these same trees we stood…today…just different faces…some I will try to remember.

Sentries this day. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

Sentries this day.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

In my soft eyed way my eyes close as the black beret of a Desert Rat returns…the aged sailor whose cap of the Atlantic, like him, is no longer with us and the elder swagger of the pilot whose awards danced swing mounted from his chest. Many I knew to speak to…to share, sometimes once a year, sometimes often, tea and beverages, biscuits, kindness, laughter and heartfelt reminiscences. At our gathering this day I would welcome services canteens brimming with coffees and teas, a warm biscuit…follow the queue…wait your turnwill the rations shorten today’s supplies…I return to my perch of today.

The cold and the damp and still we came. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

The cold and the damp and still we came.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

Umbrellas break open reaching above persons, keeping mother, junior and dad dry, The leaves are my overhang for the day as solitary twigs break away finding my Juno topper on regular intervals…squirrels or birds they have voice too (hmm). The colours on my immediate horizon now mostly dark, but colour is welcome. Blooms of floral print…abstractions and single red flowers on these bumbershoots, caps and lapels and so it begins. The camera is on – the snaps will follow.

And No Birds Sang...nature's flypast. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

And No Birds Sang…nature’s flypast.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

There is no flypast this day but in the distance a gathering of birds finds flight attempting to find direction for themselves…Not so out of place methinks, as we struggle with all before us this day, and still we came. I am reminded in this flight And No Birds Sang. My eyes reopen, the birds now gone perhaps upon a perch to sit and bring birdsong…we can hope…

From my perch the camera is on...the snaps will follow. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

From my perch the camera is on…the snaps will follow.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

I listen to new homage in voice and benediction. The padre finds his words this day…ones I appreciate for the seemingly way of finding truth from caricature of words and heart. The lament , the bugle, wreath and poppies remain with me…and then…we can go.

Sentries, wreaths, poppies and memorial. The camera finds the places. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

Sentries, wreaths, poppies and memorial. The camera finds the places.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

The droplets find their way to our persons as I linger below my tree but soon advance on soldier’s corner. I feel the damp, the cold…and the ache has returned…soon I will need to find the comfort of a chair. As I return to the path, back to hearth I still think upon what words this day? Today I have felt I have not contributed as much as usual…other doors will open and I as I wander…a bit of upward lift…a passing woman smiles and provides two thumbs up…I smile as we pass…I think its the hat…Juno Beach…Normandy…France. What days she knows I wonder of this beach and its stories and soon words will come with this day…this fable of birds and self.

The good cap from Juno Beach. The camera bag from across Gallipoli and the Western Front. (P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

The good cap from Juno Beach. The camera bag from across Gallipoli and the Western Front.
(P. Ferguson image, 11 November 2021)

I arrive at hearth and home and remove Juno…take from my shoulder the camera bag and soon find my thumb has found the needle point of a poppy pin. A small droplet of life delivers itself to my surface…deep red in colour…and in this small bit of hurt I find the birds have sung…I have found my way this day…they gave their all…and indeed….I have remembered.

—————◊—————

Published earlier this Day Short Days Ago website.

11 November (1918)…

Posted By on November 11, 2021

Private George Edwin Ellison 11 November 1918 St. Symphorien Military Cemetery (P. Ferguson image, September 2006)

Private George Edwin Ellison
11 November 1918
St. Symphorien Military Cemetery
(P. Ferguson image, September 2006)

Private George Edwin Ellison
L/12643
5th (Royal Irish) Lancers

Son of James W. and Mary Ellison, George Ellison was born in York and raised in Leeds where today a memorial to him has been placed at Leeds Railway Station. The commemorative plaque, normally blue in colour, is olive green representing the British soldier uniform of the time. George was married to Hannah Maria Ellison and together they had one son – James Cornelius. George Ellison, age 40, is believed to be the last British battle casualty of the Great War.

Located 2 Kms east of Mons, Belgium, St. Symphorien Military Cemetery was established by the German Army for the burial of German and British troops killed during the Battle of Mons. The first British fatality of the Great War, 21 August 1914, is buried here – Private John Parr, Middlesex Regiment (grave 1.A.10) faces the grave of Private Ellison (grave 1.B.23). The cemetery remained in German hands throughout the war and it was not until after the Armistice that the burial ground was placed into the care of the Imperial War Graves Commission. St. Symphorien includes 284 German and 229 British burials, 105 are unidentified soldiers of the Great War.

George Edwin Ellison (Wiki Image)

George Edwin Ellison
(Wiki Image)

Much has been written about Private Ellison who was killed by a sniper while on patrol in a wooded area at 9:30 AM, ninety minutes before the Armistice came into effect. Private George Lawrence Price of the 46th Canadian Infantry is the last known British Empire soldier to fall at 10:58 AM. Ellison served throughout the Great War fighting at the Battle of Mons, Ypres, Armentières, La Bassée, Lens, Loos and Cambrai. Ellison’s brother, Skipper Frederick Thomas Ellison, age 40, of H.M. Trawler Towhee was killed 15 June 1917 when his vessel was lost in the English Channel and is commemorated on the Chatham Naval Memorial. Frederick left behind his wife Maud and two sons.

And so….

…this brings to a close this year’s inaugural November series. As I think upon all these images I have taken (and those not taken), all these wanderings – wondering …what stories remain to be told…I think one more thought about these 11 days of writing and what these soldiers endured through four years and 106 days of the Great War….Perhaps, just perhaps Ellison (11 November 1918), Wilkinson (10 November 1914), Cordner (9 November 1914), Wilcox (8 November 1915), Dolphin (7 November 1915), Merrill aka Stanley (6 November 1917), Allen (5 November 1914), Norris (4 November 1918), Davies (3 November 1915), Rogozinski aka Rosen (2 November 1914), and Foy (1 November 1914) would have me consider…all of the others…the ones I have not written about and so too the survivors but perhaps especially those soldiers whose graves are marked Known Unto God. We will remember them…we will remember them all.

This Day
11 November 1918
910 Fatalities

The Great War
21 August 1914 – 11 November 1918
994,309 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war. King George V. 1922 Pilgrimage (P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth through the years to come, than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.
King George V. 1922 Pilgrimage
(P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

10 November (1914)…

Posted By on November 10, 2021

Private Harry Wilkinson 10 November 1914 Prowse Point Military Cemetery, Belgium (P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

Private Harry Wilkinson
10 November 1914
Prowse Point Military Cemetery, Belgium
(P. Ferguson image, September 2005)

Private Harry Wilkinson
8850
2nd Lancashire Fusiliers

Eternal Rest Give to Him O Lord and Let Perpetual Light Shine Upon Him…Harry Wilkinson…whose body was found in a Flanders field in 2000. Previously commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Harry now rests at Prowse Point Military Cemetery, Belgium, grave 1.A.7. along with 242 burials of his comrades. Reburied 31 October 2001 with his next of kin present…Harry’s medals were worn by his 9-year old great-great grandson Ian…and…at the Menin Gate Memorial the Last Post was played in his honour the week previous.

Private Wilkinson’s remains were discovered with a Lancashire Fusiliers cap badge and his identity discs or dog tag as they are known to many. These identity discs are an important record in tracking soldier losses. In late 1916 soldiers were issued with two identity discs, one red and one green in colour. If a soldier was killed or when their body was found much later, the discs provided for the identification of remains. The red disc was removed from the cord for maintaining records and the green disc stayed with the body for burial. Discs were prone not only to the hurt and fire of warfare weapons but were also prone to disintegration, if they were not found in time – being claimed by the harsh non-weapon elements of the Western Front.

The 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers landed at Boulogne, France 20 August 1914 and took part in the early battles of the Great War. On 10 November 1914 Harry Wilkinson was killed and for many years his body lay undiscovered in a Flanders field until found by a Belgian historian near Warneton. Harry was 29 years old.  Three other British soldiers were found in the same field as Harry Wilkinson in March 2006. Private Richard Lancaster of the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers was identified by his identity disc and killed the same day as Harry.

Prowse Point Military Cemetery was used from November 1914 until April 1918. The cemetery is named for Major Charles Bertie Prowse D.S.O. whose heroism was noted at this location. Prowse, a veteran of the Second Boer War (1899-1902) and to become a Brigadier General was killed on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916 when the British Army suffered 57,540 casualties. 19,240 men were killed.

Markers near Warneton, Belgium  commemorating the discovery of Harry Wilkinson's body in 2000.  The first identifiable remains found on the Western Front in 25 years. (P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

Markers near Warneton, Belgium commemorating the discovery of Harry Wilkinson’s body in 2000.
The first identifiable remains found on the Western Front in 25 years.
(P. Ferguson image, September 2004)

In the muddy fields of Flanders they struggled together to conquer fear and pain…
October 2001
Chaplain Ray Jones, St. George’s Memorial Church, Ypres
(Special thanks to Andy Tonge for taking two Canadians on tour 2004 and 2005)

This Day
299 Fatalities
10 November 1914
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

9 November (1914)…

Posted By on November 9, 2021

Private Thomas Cordner 9 November 1914 Strand Military Cemetery (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Private Thomas Cordner
9 November 1914
Strand Military Cemetery
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Private Thomas Cordner
11254
Royal Irish Fusiliers

We return to Strand Military Cemetery this day with the story of Thomas Cordner, a soldier who lost his life in attempting to save the life of his friend, Private William Hanvey. This is the tale of three Portadown men and sister Thomas’ sister Christina.

Private Cordner’s story appears thanks to the online records of the Seagoe Parish Archives whose magazine of January 1915 provides details and published letters. One letter was written by Private Edward Burns who witnessed Thomas Cordner’s attempt to save the life of William Hanvey. Burns wrote, You ask me to let you know how poor Thomas Cordner met his death. Well it was in trying to save W. Hanvey. After Hanvey got wounded Thomas went out to try to bring him into the trenches, when he also met the same fate. Both died shortly after. He was my best chum. He and I used to lie awake at night and talk how we would spend Christmas in Portadown. Little did he think he was so near his end.

Thomas Cordner arrived on the Western Front with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers 23 August 1914, taking part in the Battles of Le Cateau, the Marne, Aisne and the First Battle of Messines. During these early Great War days, the Race to the Sea (17 September – 19 October 1914) led to the rapid development of trench systems on the Western Front. Thomas Cordner lost his life 9 November 1914 one day short of his 19th birthday…his memory forever treasured by his sister Christina.

Thomas Cordner Shorncliffe Camp (Seagoe Parish Magazine via The Evening Telegraph)

Thomas Cordner
Shorncliffe Camp
(Seagoe Parish Magazine via The Evening Telegraph)

Often when visiting Great War cemeteries one will see evidence of friends, families, and those unknown who have left reminders – perhaps additional markers, pictures, wreaths, flags, poppy crosses and visitation stones at the fallen’s grave. Thomas Cordner rests at Strand Military Cemetery grave IX.9.4 and it was there that I saw the additional marker recording Christina’s treasured memories of Thomas. Within the same pages of the parish magazine are published letters to Thomas’ mother and his concern for the others including sister Christine (sic). One letter provides his thoughts of home…You are putting yourself about sending me so many things, but I would give you anything for a piece of home-made bread.

Like many communities across Allied nations the Seagoe Parish organized an emergency committee, the Soldier’s Helpers whose work was also published in the same January parish magazine having provided…88 pairs Socks, 25 Shirts, 1 pair Pyjamas, 11 Body Belts, 2 Kit Bags, 14 Mufflers, 5 helmets, 2 full Kit Bags, 1 pair Bed Socks, 9 pairs Mits, 1 pair Cuffs, 8 Petticoats (for Belgians) as well as additional items such as Lint [purpose unknown], Cigarettes, Boracic (sic) Ointment (for the treatment of injuries), per. of Potash [use unknown].

Private William Hanvey, age 21 is buried at grave II.I.32 Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck, France – 7.4 Km away from the grave of his friend Private Thomas Cordner. Christina Cordner died in 1993.

This Day
9 November 1914
240 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

8 November (1915)…

Posted By on November 8, 2021

Captain Kenneth Theodor e Dunbar Wilcox 8 November 1915 Reninghelst Churchyard Extension (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Captain Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox
8 November 1915
Reninghelst Churchyard Extension, Belgium
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

2nd Lieutenant Kenneth Theodor Dunbar Wilcox
8th Battalion The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment)

These past days of commemoration bring us another story of a son whose remembrance is recorded elsewhere and can be best accessed by reading of him at Westminster School and The First World War. Still there is a reminder of this day when I cycled, along with a friend, to Reninghelst from Ieper (Ypres)…the journey against the wind, a stop to photograph poppies in the grasses alongside a cornfield…more wind…into the town where we visited a few Great War sites and the journey back to Ieper with the wind at our backs…back to Ieper in no time at all. With these visits I do often wonder whose tableaus of life I have failed to capture…what stories are left behind…what will I learn in the future from these stone sheets of time…what could others learn on a simple wander to these rows of lives?

Kenneth Wilcox arrived on the Western Front 13 October 1915. Within a month of his arrival Kenneth lost his life, age 20, south of Ypres at Lankhof Château also known as Lankhof Farm by the British. The British bunkers remain in the area and can be seen from the roadside in the farmer’s fields and very near to a demarcation stone. The stone and bunkers were another one of the stops on the 11.2 Km journey from Ieper to Reninghelst…(no wind here though). Again the story is another remembrance of a parent’s walk to their son’s grave though this one is not one of pilgrim families but the story of burying a son. Kenneth’s father was Reverend Alfred G. Wilcox who was the Senior Chaplain of the XV (Scottish) Division and the Highland Division and who presided over his son’s burial. At the time a wooden cross with his son’s name…today a stone marker at grave 2 bearing the inscription Faithful Unto Death.

Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox (Imperial War Museum)

Kenneth Theodore Dunbar Wilcox
(Imperial War Museum)

During the Great War Reninghelst village was far from the frontlines and was the location of a number of field ambulance stations. The graves at the Churchyard and Extension were in use from March to November 1915 when the nearby Reninghelst New Military Cemetery was opened. There are 3 Great War burials, one unidentified in the churchyard and 56 Great War burials in the extension. The latter also includes two burials from the Second World War.

This Day
8 November 1915
205 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission