Tomahawk Films Under Water…

I awoke the other morning, or rather I was woken, by the incessant sound of sawing..and when I finally came to with a clear enough brain and looked out of the window I could see a funny little bearded man in back garden surrounded by a huge pile of wood..and realised it was Noah building himself another Ark… and I am not surprised he is in such advanced planning as it is still raining here on the South Coast after some 2 months or so!

I cannot believe how a little country likes ours can receive so much constant rain..it seems to me as if it has been raining almost every day since before Christmas..I know we have actually had some precious rain-free days, but the overall memory to date is just a continual torrent of the wet stuff…(and as some wag said the other day, despite it being the wettest winter since records began, no doubt the Water Companies will be warning us of drought conditions later this summer..they’d better not!)

The problem seems to be constant rain streams coming across the Atlantic and they are making landfall in Devon, Cornwall & South Wales and from the news reports those parts are having a  really bad time of it, with farms under water, railway lines physically broken and still the water rises..and still the Government seems to be ‘fiddling while Rome burns’. The scuttlebutt in the pub is that whenever there is a disaster anywhere else in the non-English-speaking world, the ‘charity do-gooders’ throw their hands in the air, rush straight to the advertising companies and produce gut-wrenching, emotionally black-mailing TV adverts exhorting us to hand over more of hard–earned, (in addition to the £13 billion our governmental masters are eagerly giving away in overseas aid each year to other countries). Currently this is leaving many of us wondering if our neighbouring countries are now running similar TV Appeals urging their people to give to this growing British Flood disaster?

One joke doing the rounds aptly sums up how it works in Britain: an old couple are sitting on the roof of their house in Cornwall surrounded by rising flood water and after 5 days up there, they espy a small boat with three Red Cross volunteers speeding towards them.The old couple cry out in relief to the boat.. ’have you come to rescue us? No! shout back the volunteers, we are collecting donations for Syria!!!!

As I say dear reader, that just about sums up this country..we help everybody else yet nobody givers a ‘brass razoo’ about us poor Brits…we have to do everything ourselves.. yet on that note my little village of Twyford is pulling together, (some 13 years after our last major flood), and the past 3 days for Tomahawk have been spent in helping to fill sandbags and patrolling the rising flood water. I managed to spend 7 hours in the water with others on Sunday as the floods spread out down the valley from the Hazeley Down area, (which is full of natural springs deep within the chalk).

Indeed we have a Victorian pumping station on the outskirts of the village, so pure is our water, however though that water is great to drink, the vast amount of it is now posing a big problem as the constant fall of rain means that everywhere is just waterlogged and the hillsides can just take no more and are literally now bursting at the seams. In fact when I walked along the Hazeley Road yesterday, (which now resembles a fast-flowing river rather than tarmac road), I could see actual ‘geysers’ of water rising a foot into the air from the sodden ground in the adjacent fields and onto the road..!

Thus far about a quarter of a mile or so of road is under water and cut off to traffic and the edge of the flood has reached the centre of the village and everything is being done to stem the flow. Over the weekend all sorts of important people from the various Environment agencies came out, plus the local Member for Parliament, village councillors, TV news crews and assorted members of the press to report on progress.. and then yesterday it went quiet again with just a few of us trying to maintain the situation before more stoic local folk turned up to help fill yet further sandbags.

The main problem is now we have no idea when the rain will stop or indeed how much more water is still in the hills and yet to find its way into the torrent rushing down into the village. Thankfully we are nowhere near as bad either as our 2000 flood or indeed as the poor folk down in Devon & Cornwall are now, but we are still in danger of having some of our low lying neighbours flooded out, so the constant whirr of water pumps can he heard pumping out water from these low-lying properties is now the constant background noise.

As is often said, at times like these the old ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ kicks in with people pitching in and doing what they can to help and we now have a constant rota of people in bright yellow tabbards trying to direct traffic to ensure people can still reach the village store & cafe..but the amount of indignant people who get ratty because they can’t go where they want to is just amazing. Whilst most people are quite understanding it beggars belief that others are too dense to realise that we are in a  tricky situation. As for those who see we are struggling with the rising water yet try to drive through at high speed so sending a tidal wave over us..well it takes all our will power not to drag them from their cars and dunk their fat heads under the waves they are causing.. .you certainly see both the best & worst of people at times like these..!

So hopefully valued customers of Tomahawk Films will also understand if their orders are a little later than our usual speedy despatch as we break off from our normal day’s work here at our production offices just above the flood to pitch to help our neighbours. So far we have done 3 days on the bounce and will try to spend today back at Tomahawk HQ catching up.. but as it is now raining again we’ll try to break off tomorrow and pitch in once more, wherever we’re needed..!

Talking of Tomahawk, the floods notwithstanding our planned monthly geriatric lad’s get-together of former TV colleagues took place at our local, The Phoenix, last night and I am delighted that amongst our small gathering of 7 was the cameraman on Tomahawk Films ‘Channel Islands Occupied‘ TV documentary, Ian ‘Nobby’ Fraser (left) and my old sound-recordist buddy and former colleague on Jack Hargreaves ‘Out of Town’ series, Phil Wade.. and talking of floods, to use an appalling DJ link, (that I would certainly have been strung up for using in my radio days!) the memories of our former working lives certainly flooded back over a riotous couple of hours!

But returning to the rising water outside, we now just have to see if the submarine will return with more aid..I contacted the Ministry of Defence and they said the skipper will try to ‘come about’ when he reaches the end of the road at Morestead and hope to sedately return along Hazeley Road distributing vital supplies, (ie cider), so thankfully even with today’s severe defence budget cuts, you can still rely on the Royal Navy. .the true ‘Dunkirk Spirit’ personified..!

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2014

 

Collecting Third Reich Signalhorns…

I must admit that, many years before I penned my book The Military Music & Bandsmen of AH’s Third Reich 1933-45, I’d always had a bit of soft spot for the German signalhorn or bugle having, in my own time, been a bit of a whizz on my old Potters of Aldershot cadet bugle when I was a Petty Officer in the Royal Naval Section of the CCF back at my old Grammar school in Winchester. As such I could often be heard belting out a fair rendition of Reveille or The Last Post through my bedroom window, (embarrassingly much to my poor old neighbour’s on-going distress!)

But it was to be many moons while later, when I had graduated to the world of documentary  Film & TV and was running Tomahawk Films here in Twyford that the alluring aspect of historical German military music would fully emerge ’front & centre’ in my professional life and the engaging world of the bugle would happily re-appear on my radar in the shape of the German Infantry Signalhorn from the Third Reich and the earlier era of the Kaiser and the Great War of 1914-18.

So it was that over the last 20 years or so this lovely but often overlooked battlefield signalling instrument from the German military inventory became something of a passion for me and, as a result of acquiring all of the stunning Third Reich-era military musical instruments that can be seen in my book, many of the infantry signalhorns have since gone into my own personal collection, where today they take pride of place on display in Tomahawk Films’ production offices here on the UK’s beautiful South Coast…

Indeed the whole office used to be crammed full of Third Reich military-musical militaria as I sought out anything & everything in Germany to photograph and illustrate in the instrument chapter of my book, though many of those wonderful instruments now happily grace similar  enthusiastic Musiker collections here in the UK, over the Channel in France and with a number of great collecting mates ‘across the pond’ over in the US where they are similarly treasured as the terrific historical artefacts they undoubtedly are…

But the long search in various nooks, corners & crevices of Germany, (and their subsequent handling by myself and others), over many years has certainly added to my own personal compendium of knowledge of this, hitherto, unsung area of militaria collecting. For it is a matter of recorded fact the military band of the Third Reich was certainly well placed in terms of equipping itself, for not only was that nation renowned for its expertise in the manufacture of certain specific and highly technical items such as optical instruments and cameras, but Germany was also, historically, a major designer & producer of high quality musical instruments.

Indeed the modern brass instrumentation of today’s military bands the world over can be traced directly back to the Germany of the 16th & 17th century, and in particular to the ancient town of Nuremberg which boasted some twenty to thirty small companies who were actively involved in the manufacture of brass musical instruments and their accessories; whilst around Markneukirchen in southern Saxony, a whole host of musical instrument and associated parts makers also thrived. Other towns and cities operating similar thriving instrument ‘cottage industries’ included Augsburg, Vienna, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Munich, Dresden, Breslau, Leipzig, Graslitz (now post-war Kraslice), Linz, and Adolf Hitler’s beloved Berchtesgaden.

The highly skilled manufacture of musical instruments in Germany was very much a family-run affair, often handing down skills and expertise over three and four generations of craftsmen, all working in small companies, many employing no more than eight or nine employees, each producing the various different parts and components, such as valves, bells & decorations required to produced the finished instruments, often put together elsewhere.

Not only was Germany credited with producing the first true brass musical instruments, but it was also the nation that, in the late 18th century, started their mass-production at about the same time that many German instrument-manufacturing families began to spread their wings and move across Europe and further afield to the United States. Kohler and Metzler were two such instrument families who chose to move and they set up businesses in England, where they continued the strong tradition of excellent instrument workmanship, before sadly finally going out of business altogther in the early 1900′s. 

Meanwhile, back in Germany, the instrument families and their cottage-industry continued to flourish, with Kruspe of Erfurt excelling in the manufacture of the ‘Rolls Royce’ of all trombones, cornets and trumpets, whilst Germany’s oldest brass instrument manufacturer, Gebrüder Alexander, established in Mainz in 1782 by Franz Ambrose Alexander, concentrated on producing superior examples of flugelhorn, French horn, tuba & euphonium, creating and introducing many of the skills and techniques that continue to be utilised in instrument manufacture today. Tragically some of these old companies, like signalhorn-maker Oskar Ullmann of Leipzig, were literally blasted out of existence by the Allied bombing campaigns of the RAF & USAAF in the years 1943 to 1944…

Historically, probably the most famous of all musical instrument producing dynasties was the Denner family of Nuremberg, though similar other large scale family firms followed hard on their heels including the Moritz family of Berlin, (manufacturers of desirable and very high quality signalhorn for the Imperial Army of Kaiser Wilhelm), the Heckel & Grenser families of Dresden and the Adler family of Markneukirchen and Leipzig.

Of the many innovations in musical instrument production credited to German craftsmen, perhaps the most revolutionary was the rotary-valve, which they employed with great enthusiasm on their all trumpets, trombones, cornets, French horns and Wagner tubas. So whilst the bands of other European military armies evolved with the piston-valve, German military bands stuck rigidly to their beloved and, some say, superior rotary-valve. This is a very good rule of thumb when trying to identify German military musical instruments from a photograph or at a some distance! 

In addition a great many German-made brass instruments, particularly my beloved Deutsche Signalhorn, were often distinguished by the manufacturer’s practice of embellishing their instruments with the addition of an inch wide nickel silver plated brass collar or band around the bell-end, known as a ‘Girlande’ or garland.

Traditionally a Bavarian and Austrian deluxe adornment, this metal reinforcement fulfilled two roles: that of strengthening the bell of the instrument in the days when metals and manufacturing techniques could not always guarantee a consistent thickness of the bell, so giving a more ‘rigid’ sound to the instrument as a result, and secondly, providing an area of the instrument, upon which engravings or personal and regimental details could be etched by the manufacturer or the musician himself.

So whilst many brass instruments encountered sporting a garland will be of German & Austrian origin, a number of nations took note and subsequently copied this design feature, including early French produced instruments. Indeed, in American musical circles, the addition of a garland on instruments produced between 1920 and 1940 was considered a rather swanky personal customisation, and was a sure sign of the owner’s affluence!

However, on close inspection of a garland, those emanating from German craftsmen will traditionally be seen to have the lower edge of the silver band actually wrapped around the rim of the instrument’s bell to become slightly tucked under. Non-Germanic garlands will generally be affixed in the opposite manner with the rim or lip of the bell rolling back over the garland and effectively holding it down. In addition, certain manufacturers could be identified by the specific ornamentation and engraving etched onto their garlands.

Another sign of Teutonic origin is that all German-produced silver used in the manufacture of garlands & instrument parts contained a much higher nickel content in their alloy mix; as a result Germans refer to nickel-silver simply as ‘German silver’ even today.

Apart from making the material much stronger, this had the beneficial effect of giving the silver finish a much brighter, polished feel, whilst other manufacturers around the world using a lower nickel content in the mixes had to make do with their silver-plated instruments having more of a greyish quality in their finishes. Thanks to their stronger nickel-silver mixes, German manufactured musical instrument parts, particularly nickel-silver tubing used for the sliding parts, were very much in demand the world over, especially from American manufacturers… and this is very much the case today.

The actual range of instruments in a Wehrmacht or Waffen-SS military band, (as opposed to just the bugles, fife & drums of the spielleute), depended primarily on the overall manpower of the band in question, and on whether it was employed on standard & ceremonial duties or required to perform in a concert situation. These further matters I detail in my Tomahawk Films’ published book: The Military Music & Bandsmen of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich 1933-1945

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

Guernsey’s Victorian Fortifications…

It is a little remiss of me when writing about Fortress Guernsey and all of the terrific work undertaken by this historical initiative in the late ’90s under the leadership of my good friend and former boss at the Guernsey Tourist Board, Deputy Director Major Evan Ozanne, not to have ever touched on the earlier Victorian Fortifications of the 7 islands making up the Bailiwick of Guernsey…

For almost as important in the engrossing history of these sun-soaked islands as the German Occupation is the story of the earlier fortification building programme that took place in the late 1700s to combat the ever-present threat of an earlier invasion, this time by the French, (our on-off friend & enemy down the years), as these attractive of Anglo-French islands were literally right in the firing line between our two countries.

Though a greater part of my responsibility as Media Consultant to Fortress Guernsey, (often working alongside leading Alderney-based fortifications expert Colin Partridge), was to write, report & broadcast on the German Occupation side of the story and indeed to bring over as many documentary-film makers, fellow broadcasters and travel journalists as possible to show off this unique aspect of Guernsey’s formidable & fascinating history, so too the incredible Victorian Fortifications were a major part of our combined endeavours when promoting the military historical background of Fortress Guernsey to an intrigued outside world.

For almost 2,000 years in fact Guernsey and its 6 satellite islands of the Bailiwick  possessed considerable strategic importance in the defence of Britain and by virtue of its special relationship to mainland Britain as a Crown Dependent territory, Guernsey was to eventually find itself covered with myriad fascinating earthworks, forts, Martello towers, gun-batteries, arsenals & watch-houses, all built principally to resist the threat of invasion… and obviously long before the rise of the Third Reich and Hitler’s lustful eyes on these stunning islands, (though interestingly enough all those years later many of the subsequent German fortifications were actually built upon, or added to, these previously early constructed and very sturdy Victorian fortifications.)

The catalyst for the earlier defensive positions can be traced back to the American War of Independence in 1775 as 3 years later in 1778, France declared its support for the American colonists in their struggle against the British Crown..and the Channel Islands, despite the presence of a powerful Royal Navy, lay very close to an increasingly aggressive France.Indeed in May 1778 the Governor of the neighbouring island of Jersey wrote to the British Secretary of State in London recommending that a programme of  coastal defence building should begin in the two larger Channel Islands (i.e. Jersey & Guernsey).

So it was that in August 1778, approval was given for the construction of 15 fortified towers and with the importation of a large force of labour, (later echoed in the 1940s when the Germans brought in slave labour for their building programme), by March 1779 all 15 were complete and ready for action. The French had actually drawn up plans for the full invasion of the Channel Islands, though mercifully this did not materialise, nevertheless it was decreed that Guernsey’s defences be further strengthened. So it was that from 1803 onwards three large Martello Towers were built at Rocquaine Castle, Fort Sausmarez and at Houmet Point, all of which were to have additional German fortifications added to, (or on and indeed over), during the 1940-45 Occupation of the Bailiwick.

However, of the original 15 Victorian Loophole Towers built in 1778-79, just 12 now remain in Guernsey, one of the most important of these being Rousse Tower in the north of the island overlooking Grand Havre. Designed primarily to prevent the landing of enemy troops on nearby beaches and, on stretches of coastline where more than one tower was erected, Rousse and the other towers were positioned to provide overlapping fields of fire from their light 1-pounder cannons.

Musket-fire could also be directed down on invading forces through the loop holes whilst from a position on the roof the later addition of a 12-pound cannonade could fire grapeshot. Heavier guns on these batteries were subsequently added and this allowed the towers to actually engage enemy ships up to a range of some 3000 yards.

Rousse was actually constructed in 1804 on the site of a former small battery already sited on this ‘achingly beautiful’ headland and by 1816 it boasted three 24- pounder cannons and two smaller 9-pounder cannons and, on a base of Portland stone imported over from Dorset, the larger guns were mounted on inclined platforms to help with the force of the cannon’s recoil, whilst the smaller cannons were sited on the flat so they could be easily manoeuvred to fire on the advancing enemy through the embrasure openings on the rear wall if required.

Although the British Government maintained a permanent military garrison in the islands, there were actually insufficient troops to guard all of Guernsey’s wide-open sandy beaches, so this task was delegated to the Guernsey Militia. Recruited at the age of 16 and transferred into the Reserve at 45, they remained on standby by for call-up right up to the age of 60, and though there were weekly drills & parades, they were not paid… and even had to provide their own Militia uniforms until the British Government began furnishing them from 1782 onwards.

With a force of some 2,500 to 3,000 men in the Militia, Rousse Tower was manned by a Sergeant and 20 men under the command of a Captain, who was also responsible for 3 other identical batteries sited across the headland

Men allocated to this duty also had to continue their normal day-job as farmer, fisherman or quarryman, however they were allowed to appoint ‘substitutes’ for when the day job was more pressing and at these times it was not unusual for the soldier’s wives or their children to stand in. But eventually this led to abuse and many derelictions of duty when men supposedly on duty… but were anything but!

As a part of Fortress Guernsey’s remit, Rousse Tower was given a superb make-over and in addition to the construction of life-size models then placed inside the tower to illustrate life within in the late 1700s/early 1800s, after a great deal of effort a number of original cannons were sourced and, after proofing in Chatham Docks in England, were sited on accurately reproduced carriages. Now these are proudly on display at this beautifully restored Victorian site.

On my recent trip back over to Guernsey I was delighted to once again pop up to Rousse and happily note that the Tower, (seemingly falling yet again into a state of some disrepair on a previous visit, despite all the work that Fortress Guernsey had originally invested on it), was now looking really ‘ship-shape & Bristol fashion’.. a real sight for sore eyes in fact!

It was a real delight to spend some time here once again, this time with my dad, taking in the magnificence of this Loophole Tower, now some 230 years old, fully restored to its former glory as it is a truly wonderful testament to the Victorian art of military fortification; and something that the German military designers & engineers either consciously or subconsciously copied some 160 years later when it was their turn to further fortify the Bailiwick from 1941 onwards, (after their invasion the previous year), and the island’s unique German gunnery range-finding towers began to rise at their coastal locations…

Now following Major Ozanne’s earlier lead & persistence in the late 1990s, Rousse Tower is deservedly back on Guernsey’s list of States-maintained historical sites and with further island investment and continued work on the site in 2006, this important landmark attraction can rightly said to be of the finest restored Loophole Towers anywhere in the Channel Islands. So to all involved…well done and bravo!

Finally, whilst just finishing off this latest Blog, a number of readers kindly contacted me to say that they had been enjoying my piece entitled ‘A Soldier’s Grave’ concerning ‘Douglas’ Small’s final resting place in my local village churchyard and my musings as to whether the Commonwealth War Graves Commission had learned of my periodic maintenance of his grave and added it to their official cleaning list as a result?

Well I am delighted to say that a fellow villager, Reg, came forward to say that he and his wife had seen a van in the churchyard when out on one of their regular rambles that bore the legend ‘Commonwealth War Graves Commission’ on the outside and when they approached the team, they were told that the CWGC now comes to our churchyard every two years to give the soldier’s headstones a make-over…

Back then Reg was unaware of my tie to Douglas’ grave so wouldn’t have been able to ask the cleaners if it was indeed them that had given his headstone a thorough make-over, but as his is now a clear white marble, (as opposed to the ‘grey concrete’ when I started to clean it in 1999), I feel I can conclude that the CWGC have indeed added ‘Douglas’ to their list. A very happy outcome for me as we approach this Sunday’s November 11th Remembrance ceremonies and then, next year, the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War and the subsequent opening of the Hazeley Down Army Pre-Embarkation Camp here in my beautiful village of Twyford on the River Itchen.

Copyright @ Brian Matthews 2013

 

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