To Blog or Not to Blog..?

When I started to write the Tomahawk Films’ Blog at the end of last year it was partly in response to the fact that some of the superb military magazines I once wrote for have either, sadly, bitten the dust in these tough financial climates or have been bought out by new owners and have subsequently undertaken subsequent changes of direction or emphasis, thus leaving me nowhere to offer my military musings & witterings on myriad subjects based primarily, around both The First and The Second World Wars…

It was also suggested by those that know more about Blogs than I do, (being, as I am, one of the last of the dinosaurs constantly spooked or terrified in equal measure by advances in technologies and all things appertaining to websites), that it would also be a good way to attract additional outside interest, from further afield than those existing & very welcome customer friends and professional film & TV colleagues that have long known of our WW-II German Archive and its musical & film products for the past 27 years of its existence… so, not one to pooh-pooh free advice, I started out last December with my first tentative postings on here… but am now somewhat embarrassed when I look back and realise the amount that I have actually penned during the last 10 months or so…

However I contented myself with the fact that nobody would be actually reading them, for heaven knows what actually goes on out there in the ether & internet-land: in truth thousands could be looking in or, more likely, none at all… and so my various articles could simply be a source of personal pleasure for myself on a quiet ,wet afternoon here at Tomahawk HQ… and that has been my continued thought… until recently when a number of our supporters, such as Malcolm at Mist of Time in Filey,Yorkshire, have kindly got in touch to say that they have been reading (and happily enjoying, for which many thanks), my articles-various.

In particular I am also indebted to several generous e-mails received from pals on both sides of the Atlantic, including recently a welcome one from an old contact, Stephen at Juno Militaria, who e-mailed us to say he was particularly enjoying my Channel Islands musings, being a fellow German C.I. Occupation enthusiast and visitor to God’s own islands… and as a result of my recent Blog Review bought himself a copy of the wonderful newly published Guernsey’s German Tunnels book from the lads at CIOS-Guernsey. (They’ll be delighted with that!)

So from a standing start of effectively nowhere, suddenly word is reaching me that my articles are indeed actually proving of some interest to the collecting & enthusiast world and, so encouraged, I think I will continue as & when the muse suddenly takes me or, more likely, an interesting or relative story pops up in front of me… and to this end, that is exactly what has happened over the last couple of days and thus this current Blog update herein:

Continuing on my out-loud thoughts on the theme of ‘to Blog or not to Blog’, a few days ago I opened up a surprising and most welcome letter from a Mr Mark Barraclough, who is Vice President of Princess Louise’s Kensington Regimental Association in which he mentioned the fact that a good friend of his in The Western Front Association had read my recent Blog on the Grave of First World War Soldier buried in my most beautiful local churchyard here in Twyford.

Very generously, Mr Barraclough’s thoughtful letter offered me some fantastic updates on my background information regarding Private ‘Douglas’ Small, some of which  I’d like to paraphrase and share here as I think any students of World War I who may have read that particular Blog might also like to have this additional gen:

In fact this story is all starting to gather a little momentum of its own since I started tending ‘Douglas’ grave all those years ago, as I have now noticed, firstly that a second Royal British Legion Red Poppy has begun to appear on his headstone alongside mine each November. From where & from whom I have no idea, but I find it a lovely thought that somebody else also wishes to spare a thought for Douglas’ short military service, nearly 100 years ago, at this annual time of Britain’s National Remembrance.

Secondly, (and most excitingly for me) several years ago I once again popped up to the churchyard with brush & bucket in hand ready to give Douglas’ headstone another ‘wash & brush up’ only to be met by a glaringly white headstone staring straight back at me.

I had hitherto no idea at all that it was white marble underneath all of the moss & age-corrosion so I am veering towards the believe that word has reached whomsoever officially tends British War Graves in this country and that, as a result, Douglas’ was given a striking make-over by the headstone experts. Indeed I popped up again a couple of days ago to get an updated shot to send to Mr Barraclough and his Association and found this make-over has just been undertaken again, though for the life of me I am unable to find out when this happens and exactly by whom as the cleaners seem to sweep in unnoticed and disappear just as quickly,

However I would  certainly love to find out who it is that has now put Douglas’ grave on an official cleaning roster…. at the moment even the Church appears unaware this work is undertaken on their military headstones.

Indeed, if you were to take a short walk around this most stunning of graveyards, you would instantly notice that there are several other official War Grave headstones dotted around, including several nestled under a large tree just off the main footpath; judging by the dates on their head stones, (which range from 1916 to 1921, the camp being de-commissioned in the early 1920s), these would also have been of soldiers similarly garrisoned up at Hazeley Camp who also sadly died during their service there.

So perhaps these graves are also known to the authorities and as such, once I uncovered Douglas’ to also be a military in origin, (as it had been, thus far, languishing ignored & unloved looking for all the world to be ‘only’ a civilian headstone), perhaps the War Graves Commission brought his onto their official cleaning programme… and if this is the case, then I am delighted to have brought his grave to prominence and thence also into their additional loving care!

But to return to Mr Barrowclough’s letter, he kindly wrote..

“I am pleased to tell you that Pte Small’s name is included in the Roll of Honour in the history of The Kensington’s; I would therefore expect his name to appear on the Regimental War Memorial in which you will find in the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea’s town hall. I can tell you that there were 3 battalions of the 13th Londons in WW1 and would be pretty certain that Pte Small would have been in the 3rd Battalion.

At the time of his death in September 1916 the 1st Bn were fighting on the Somme and had lost a significant number of soldiers in the preceding three month and the  2nd Bn were on their way to Salonika, having been in France from July to September 1916. The 3rd Bn in England consisted of the ‘reserves’ – old soldiers and recruits under training and I suspect that Pte Small fell into this last category…”

So now we know a little more about how 18 year-old ‘Douglas’ (as he was always known by his young sister Connie - pictured), came to be posted to Hazeley Camp here in my home village, where he sadly died. To round off this story, for now, I am penning a separate letter to the editor of my local Twyford Parish magazine to see if anybody has seen this War Graves cleaning take place and can shed a little more light on who is behind this additional superb support for Douglas’ headstone.

Of course if I hear anything back I will of report this additional info in another forthcoming Blog, (however if anybody else might be in a position to kindly shed any light on the War Grave Commission’s activities I’d be delighted to hear!)

Meantime my sincere and grateful thanks to Mark Barraclough esq. for his very kind letter for which, and in return, I hope to be shortly sending him copies of my original magazine & local newspaper articles on ‘Douglas’ Grave in the hope this will, in turn, add more information to the PLKR Association’s archive…

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

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