WW1 Eastern Front

  1. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    The whole Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is fascinating. You can get a season ticket for a year - which pays off if you are seeing a couple or more exhibits. The submarine museum includes two submarines - a WW1 one in an environmental chamber and a large 1960s one out on the quay - guided tours around it. There's also exhibitions at the armoury - stunning brick vaulted building that was the Napoleonic powder store and part of the "Explosion" museum about the manufacture and storage of gunpowder, cordite, etc and lots of guns of various periods. A chunk of armour plate from the Tirpitz battle ship - just sitting on the floor, didn't realise what it was at first. Thought it was a chest then got closer and realised it was solid metal to knee high. The word "plate" doesn't do the armour justice.
    There is also a gunnery and torpedo museum - and you can see battleship guns up close and various gun turrets from 20th century and missile launchers. A WW1 gunship used at Gallipoli. And a big workshop - I mean big - where traditional boat building and restoration courses are run, with steam pinnaces and long boats upstairs - all open to the public. (Nice restaurant up there too.) Also a replica sailing ship mast you can climb. Adults can climb as well as kids. (All in safety harness.)
    I'm hoping to go back next year to see The Victory, The Warrior and The Mary Rose (in its special building).
    Also a water ferry across the harbour and a water borne tour of the harbour. They have special exhibitions as well in various buildings. Easily take you four days to do the lot.
    Another great thing is that the guides are all retired Navy or dockyard personnel - and you are shown around the submarines by people who served on them and you get told all the details. In fact, if you stand or sit still for any period you will probably be approached by an enthusiast - we had an impromptu lecture while we were at a picnic table from a retired dockyard worker who'd worked at the explosive building and was telling us all about it from his time.
     
    Dec 5, 2017
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  2. The Judge

    The Judge Truth. Order. Moderation. Staff Member

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    Just to echo Montero, it's definitely worth a trip to the Dockyard. I'm not so interested in the more modern areas and exhibitions, but the Mary Rose alone is worth the price of admission. The museum is incredible, but it's so jam-packed full of exhibits and information that each time I get into a state of overload and have to leave after a couple of hours, so I've had to do it in separate stages. The Victory is wonderful, too, of course, as is the associated museum and the boat-building workshop.

    One warning, unless you're staying in Portsmouth itself, use the Park and Ride which takes you virtually to the PHD gates -- parking nearer the museum is expensive. And the queues to get in can be horrendous.
     
    Dec 5, 2017
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  3. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    Or the water bus. The submarine museum is at Gosport, just behind what was Haslar Hospital. Free parking and you can take the water bus across to the main historic dockyard.
    Royal Navy Submarine Museum

    Be aware that the last water bus back to the submarine museum can be over-subscribed - and if you don't make it onto the boat, you have to find your own way back to Gosport.....
     
    Dec 5, 2017
    #23
  4. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    I haven't been to a military museum in years :(

    I think the last was in Chester - museum to whichever Regiment is (or given the cuts, may well now be was) recruited in Cheshire.
    The thing that I remember most, was they had mannequins wearing ww1 era battle dress, and both the length of the Rifles, and the size of the guys wearing the uniforms, both appeared huge. It's a bit of a common myth I think these days, that is quickly being debunked - we are led to believe that people in the past were shorter than us, dietry issues amongst other things, but it appears that simply is not true.

    Whilst I am veering back towards the actual subject of this thread (well the right war and period) :p
    I lived and worked in France and Flanders, accompanying British school groups on battlefield/cemetary etc tours.
    And I saw photos whilst I was out there, but I never got to see the actual place, as whilst I was out there, we didnt have any groups from a Welsh school, only English, and 1 or 2 Scottish schools, and obviously, the tours apart from the "biggies" like Last Post at the Menin Gate were personalised to the region the school came from, and just from the photo's, the 2 most astonishing, wonderful and in so many ways, heartbreaking British Commonwealth memorials, beyond the Menin Gate and Thiepval, are the Irish Peace Park, and the Memorial to the 38th Welsh Division. I am determined to go back one day and see the 38th's Memorial in person, the Irish Peace Park was truly horrific, because the lay of the land is still pretty much the same, and you can see the hill where those poor soldiers were made to walk, not run, walk, at the German trenches - it's one of those truly chilling historical points - as you stand there, you can see the top of the village church, just over the top of the hill - in that church, at one point, lay a certain Corporal Adolph Hitler, being treated iirc for mustard gas inhalation.

    For Welsh people, like me, the Memorial to the 38th Welsh Division has an added element of poignancy, because, in the first few hours of the start of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, a young man, a farmers son, Private Ellis Humphrey Evans amongst many others died.
    He is known in Wales under his "Bardic" name as Hedd Wyn (Blessed Peace)

    Hedd Wyn was a farmers son, working as a shepherd until conscripted, in North Wales. As a hobby he wrote poetry, winning a few times, at local Eisteddfod's.
    At the 1917 National Eisteddfod, which was held in Birkenhead, England (I think due to it having a large Welsh population).
    At the final end, as was traditional, it was time to for the Ceremony of the Chairing of the Bard - where the greatest poet was "Chaired" Chief Bard of the Welsh, and literally given a wooden, carved chair.
    As was also traditional, the trumpets sounded for the Winner to identify himself.
    After the trumpets sounded twice more, the Archdruid, Dyfed solemnly announced to the expectant crowd, soon to be in tears that the Chief Bard Hedd Wyn had fallen in battle, 6 weeks before, and his Chair was draped in a black sheet, and given to his parents.
    It's one of those utterly heartbreaking moments in history.

    mametz-war-memorial-01.jpg
     
    Dec 5, 2017
    #24
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  5. Biskit

    Biskit Cat whisperer

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    My maternal grandfather was just the right age to be too young for WWI and too old for WWII, so he was in the Home Guard in the 1940s. When he died, we went through some of his photos, including platoon 'portraits' of the Home Guard. In later pictures, Granddad is in the front row with sergeant's stripes, sitting beside the officer so the size issue is not so obvious, but in the earlier ones he is the slightly-built short guy standing in the back row. The thing is, Granddad the short guy was 6 foot tall, built like the proverbial outhouse and earning a living as a car mechanic, so the hefty blokes towering over him were enormous.
     
    Dec 6, 2017
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  6. Montero

    Montero Senior Member

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    There was a comment in George McDonald Frazer's book, The General Danced at Dawn (an account of his time in the Gordon Highlanders, names a bit fudged...) when he comments on the short, wiry Glaswegians in the regiment and how Calendonians used to be famous as massive blokes - and how they were turned from massive to small by a couple of generations of city living. (And presumably less access to fresh food and fresh air.)
     
    Dec 6, 2017
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  7. Foxbat

    Foxbat None The Wiser

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    That was a very touching story of Hedd Wyn (who I'm ashamed to say I had never heard of) and what a fine monument in your photo, Caledfwlch.
    My grandfather took me to the Menin Gate when I was just a youngster but it's a place I never forgot. And neither did I forget the sad sight of row upon row of white headstones at the various cemeteries we visited.
     
    Dec 6, 2017
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  8. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    Whilst working there, I was in and around Ieper every week and each group would spend 1 day in Ieper, arriving around 9am, myself and the teachers would take the kids in to go around the "in Flanders Fields Museum" in the magnificent Cloth Hall building, then the kids would be sent off on their own, to spend the day, exploring the town, eat ludicrous amounts of Belgian Chocolate etc. After a pre-booked evening meal in one of the restaurants near the Cloth Hall, we would amble over to the gate for about 10 minutes to 8pm, and watch the crowds gathering, 2 local Politie Patrol Cars blocking the road to wheeled traffic at either end of the "Gate" which of course is more like a tunnel, there being so many names to display.
    Lot's of things with such a regular repetition can become a bit "boring" or just lose their impact, just another day in the office, but the Last Post Ceremony never became like that, not for any of us Staff Members, that's for sure
    - Usually we would have 3 different schools staying at our Accommodation Centre, an old Chateaux with the barns etc turned into Dormitory blocks, staff quarters, dining rooms, entertainment centre for the kids with Bar for staff and Teachers, and 1 of us would be in charge of a specific group, not all Schools were History classes studying WW1, some would be over as part of their French Class, exploring French cultural & language stuff, general tours of the area.
    1 of us would be "given" a school each week to look after, and we would accompany them every day, on trips to the Ieper Salient, and over to the Somme, seeing memorials such as Thiepval, visiting places like the town of Albert (with the worst public toilets I have ever seen, and a street market that seemed almost entirely dedicated to Johnny Hallyday (kind of a French Elvis) memorabilia! (RIP Johnny, who died yesterday, there are a lot of middle aged French women in mourning today)

    However, because the Last Post at the Menin Gate does not become routine, even seeing it every day, it retains it's emotional and deeply upsetting impact, a couple of lasses I worked with simply couldn't do it anymore after their first couple, they found it too upsetting, so I would take over from them on that day, and they would do whatever I was supposed to be doing, or we would swap my day off around that week, so I saw it more often than my coworkers, and it still never lost that impact, and the emotion it inspires. :(

    My second time, on my second week living out there was the most memorable, and a moment that made me ridiculously and probably unreasonably proud of the teens I was with! They were a bunch of 15 year old's from a School in Inner City Sheffield, proper rough and tough, not people to mess with (and that were just the female teachers!!! (y))
    On that, their second day staying with us, as they had been the day before, when we went to the privately owned Sanctuary Woods Museum (the day What I call the "Grenade incident" happened!) they were loud, boisterous, having fun, not taking anything seriously, generally being a bit prattish well, teenagery I suppose. Instead of the usual having the run of the town for the day, as we were coming back on day 3, to do some other stuff, as there was no Standard Plan, each week was specifically tailored to the school and it's needs, and the 3rd day would be their afternoon away from the Teacher's eyes. So in the afternoon we got back on the Coach, and visited a really small Cemetery or Memorial, a bit closer to home for them - either a Sheffield or a Yorkshire raised Regiment, I forget which.

    It was nowhere near the road - getting to the place, which was really small, meant a 15 minute walk, which unnerved them, especially the Teachers, given all the rusty shells lined up along the rough path, as the path led through actively farmed fields, then through a bit of wood.
    I was jumpy as hell, which the Teachers picked up on quickly, and got even jumpier, as did the kids when I had to explain why - I had been given a bit of "training" by a professional Guide, in how to identify shell types, and it were bad enough at the start of the path, with the kids going right next to the Shells, taking photo's, posing etc, but a few mins in, there were suddenly a hell of a lot of Gas Shells, presumably Mustard, and these were of course, not the wreckage/remains/shrapnel of Shells, these were duds that had failed to go Bang, so we are talking about 90 year old rusted but still intact Shells filled with Gas, and I believe if one went off, the Gas would still be lethal. So that was a little.... unnerving, especially after the "Incident" the day before.

    When we got to the memorial/cemetery, you could see it was hitting home a little to the kids, where they were, seeing surnames and area/town names familiar to them from home on gravestones etc.
    Then, it were back to the Coach, gingerly stepping down the path as quickly, and as carefully as possible, and back to Ieper for tea, then the Menin Gate.
    As the crowds began gathering, the Politie turned up doing their road blocking thing, the Firemen with their trumpets arriving, the fact that something important really started hitting home, and these boisterous kids got quieter, and quieter, then the Ceremony began, and as the last post starts its haunting melody, I could see some of the girls were in tears, as were the Teachers, I hear sniffs, turn to my right, and 3 of the loudest, chaviest lads were stood next to me, and all 3 of them were in tears too, a couple of the lasses moved over to them, and they put their arms around each other, it was a magical moment, seeing that despite their prior behaviour, they finally understood the horror of where they were, and it was affecting them as deeply as anyone, and I got a little bit emotional the first time I attended, but seeing those young lads openly crying, made me lose it a bit, and I got a bit more than a lump in my throat :(.
    All their teachers were lasses, except for the Head of Year in charge, and 1 of them, Becky was very rock chick/gothy around my age and was frankly utterly gorgeous, and also had me both terrified and giggling like a kid myself on the walk past the Shells.

    I had told the teachers we would be going "off road" doing hiking on a rough path, with a bit of a Hill (or at least the little humps the Flemish proudly call Hills :D) So of course, imagine my shock, going into the Dining Room at 06:30 to have breakfast with them before leaving for Flanders at 7am, every one in hiking boots, or trainers, and generally dressed to go hiking around Snowdonia during a thunderstorm) - I told them they didn't need to bring the heavy coats etc, they just assumed they needed all that outdoorsy stuff because it were thick fog outside, so assumed it was going to be an unpleasant day for rambling through the Flemish countryside, but as I told them, every single morning we had thick fog ("Home" was near the town of Saint Omer in Nord Pas de Calais, France) I think someone had explained to me on arrival it was something to do with the land being so flat, the sea not being too far away, and the Sun heating the land all day, and that whilst it looked like it was going to be horrendous, by the time it got to 08:30 the fog will have burned away and it would be lovely, sunny and warm, probably with blue skies.
    So you can imagine my shock, when Becky totters in, just a thin leather jacket, a Sisters of Mercy T-shirt she had DIY'd into a kind of crop top, miniskirt and knee boots with stiletto heels, bowing and grinning at all the wolf whistles from the young lads under her charge. Sisters of Mercy is one of my fave bands, and we had quite a chat the evening before, as off duty I was wearing a sex pistols shirt, and pentagram necklace, so she saw I was a fellow traveller.

    As one can imagine, stiletto heels aren't great for a bit of rambling on a very rough path, and she was tottering all over the place, and I was convinced she was going to go pretty backside over elbow (to politely rephrase the slang) and land on a Gas shell or something equally catastrophic. :rolleyes: Still, at least my last sight on this earth would have been a beautiful lass, and aforementioned backside :D Apparantly, "looking good" was more important than sense and sensibility!.

    And when she saw me getting a little bit upset at the Last Post, she tottered over, in tears herself and put her arm around me, which I admit, helped make the moment even more magical. The lad immediately next to me, he was getting really upset, so I handed him some tissues, patted him on the back, and after the ceremony finished, the kids were all giving each other hugs, and that lad gave me one, and mumbled something about "thanks for not taking the mick" because at times, those first 2 days, when we weren't somewhere where messing about was disrespectful, like a memorial or cematery, I was laughing, joking, taking the mick out of them right back. That particular Last Post was one of those events you never forget.
    And fair dues to them - these were tough kids, from rough families, most of them likely on benefits from an inner city, and once it hit home, they showed a wonderful example of humanity, especially in how they were comforting each other during and after. And despite the boisterousness and so on, the Teachers were clearly amazing at their job, and cared for the kids, and they had a good relationship with each other, laughing and joking.
    I have taken middle class kids from the nice well to do parts of various towns or cities, all dreadfully polite, and taking everything seriously, and not a damp eye or sign of being emotionally affected amongst them, and all so formal and dreadfully polite with their teachers, well behaved, but kind of drone like

    My Sheffield Kids, back at base in Ebblinghem, they and the teachers were mucking about together, playing football, baseball, pool table challenges, On a group's last night, we would do a Disco in their dining room, and the teachers were dancing along with them. The people from the "better areas" didn't do any of that, and they would barely communicate with us Staff beyond what was needed for doing our & their job. In the evenings, after tea, it was all "Rota's" some would go back to their rooms, and just stay their chatting amongst themselves, and from the bins, guzzling Wine whilst they were somewhere it was cheap and decent. Those "Rota'd" to watch their kids until bedtime, would come, maybe grab a glass of wine or a pint from the Bar room we had at the back, then go and sit as far away from us Staff as possible, no sense of humour, snapping at the kids for the slightest infraction of whatever rules they were expected to adhere to, and in the mornings at breakfast would be really, really snappy, clearly not enjoying the hangovers from their fine wines :D

    Yes, we were Staff, some of us British some French, but we were still human beings, yet even when we were clearly off duty - ie sat in the bar room, or at the tables outside the (oddly enough) French doors in the Bar, having a drink and chat, hidden away from the kids, yet would be looking at us so disapprovingly for daring to be drinking - even though unlike many of them with their nice glass of Wine, WE were actually off duty. They also showed no politeness to the French staff, some of them didn't speak English, but the posh teachers would never politely ask, in French if they could speak english - "Excusez-moi, parlez-vous anglais, mon français est horrible?" is not hard to learn (excuse me, my french is dreadful do you speak English?) No Bonjour's, Bonsoir's, Merci's nowt. Just start rudely barking orders in English at them. Then complain to British staff members about the "bloody surly, rude French you have working here and why cant they speak English?" Yeah dude, YOUR in France, you chose to come, why not learn a few basic phrases, and show basic politeness...

    The Sheffield Teachers especially, and other groups that were far less po-faced, would simply tell the kids to behave, don't burn the building down, try not to be too loud, let us enjoy a few drinks in peace, and everyones cool - we won't stand around being all teacherly with you, it's your fun time before bed too. And would then invade our bar and party with us :D And OMG Teachers, especially tough Sheffield Lasses can Party when they want!! o_O I still remember the hangovers, "Sheffield Week" became Legend in Staff Lore, and it's probably still talked about 13 years later.
     
    Dec 6, 2017
    #28
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  9. Foxbat

    Foxbat None The Wiser

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    That is a fine memory to have :)
     
    Dec 7, 2017
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  10. Caledfwlch

    Caledfwlch I am not a Geek, I am a Level 22 Warrior!

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    The German Cemetery/Memorial at Langemark in many ways is far more horrifying that the British Commonwealth ones.

    instead of dozens and dozens of lines of gravestones vanishing off into the distance, its a tiny place, not much bigger than a large house.

    You can't blame the Flemish of course, twice they were invaded and occupied by Germany, its not surprising they aren't prepared to give much land for such purposes to Germany.

    Langemark

    Langemark_German_Cemetery_eastern_side.jpg
     
    Dec 7, 2017
    #30
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