Gas! 22 April 1915

Thursday, 22 April, was a beautiful spring day: warm, sunny, with a faint breeze. German guns shelled French and Canadian trenches throughout the morning but fell silent in the afternoon. The brief period of peace suddenly ended at 4:00 p.m. when the Germans unleashed a violent bombardment, first on the salient and then gradually extending to nearby roads and Ypres, turning the town into a flaming inferno and causing its citizens to flee. An hour later an ominous greenish-yellow wall of fumes was seen drifting slowly across no-man’s-land toward the French line.

Cassar, G.H. (2014), Trial By Gas – The British Army at the Second Battle of Ypres; Potomac Press, University of Nebraska Press.
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We Will Remember Them All!

War memorials from the Great War come in all manner of shapes and designs. I recently came across one that struck me as being particularly unusual and moving. Not surprisingly, memorials are usually dedicated to ‘The Glorious Dead’, but this one, in the Lancashire town of Rawtenstall, has a much wider dedication. Entitled Tribute of Honour, it reads as follows:

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Remembrance at Whitehall and Sandham Memorial Chapel, November 2021

Easing of COVID restrictions enabled the Society to participate and lay wreaths in two services this year: at the Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey; and at Sandham Memorial Chapel.

Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey

This year the Field was formally opened by HRH The Duchess of Cornwall, the Patron of the RBL Poppy Factory. The SCS had its remembrance plot in the location opposite the west door of St Margaret’s Church. The Society was represented by Chair, Alan Wakefield, and Jonathan Saunders. With excellent weather throughout the opening ceremony, it was good to be back at the Field in person after last year’s event being held behind closed doors due to COVID-19. Thanks to all those members who continue to support the SCS remembrance plot through planting crosses of remembrance and making donations to the Poppy Appeal.

Sandham Memorial Chapel

For the second year a memorial service was held at Sandham Memorial Chapel. A gathering of approximately 40 people took part in the act of Remembrance. This was led by Reverend Mark Christian himself a veteran army chaplain. The exhortation was read by David Innes. Wreaths were laid at the entrance to the chapel by the National Trust, Salonika Campaign Society and Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum. Individuals laid Poppy Crosses too. The ladies of the WI produced a net covered with poppies in different styles. This will be placed on the altar of the parish church. After the service, tea, coffee and cake were served by the volunteers of the Chapel. The exhibition was made available as well as viewings of Stanley Spencer’s paintings inside of the Chapel walls. Some SCS members then retired to The Carpenters Arms for lunch. Next year a larger gathering is being planned at the Chapel by the National Trust.


With thanks to Alan Wakefield, Darren Rolfe, and Keith Roberts for words and pictures.

We Will Remember Them …

Photographs of the impressive war memorial at Clitheroe Castle in Lancashire. Clitheroe was in the recruiting area of the East Lancashire Regiment which provided a battalion – 9th (Service) Battalion – for the British Salonika Force (22nd Division, 65th Brigade), which was formed in Preston in September, 1914.

SCS Annual Meeting and Wreath Laying, 2021

On Saturday 2nd October, society members gathered in the drizzle at the Cenotaph, London for the annual short ceremony of words and wreath-laying to remember the men and women of the BSF who served in Salonika. In particular, to remember those who died during the campaign or from the results of injury or disease.

Wreaths laid by members of the SCS at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, on Saturday, 2nd October 2021.
A grey day for the annual ceremony at The Cenotaph, London

Afterwards it was but a short walk to the Civil Service Club for lunch, followed by the society’s annual general meeting. This year, an actual meeting and not one via Zoom! Before the business of the meeting though, there was an excellent talk from Julie Adams of the British Museum. Her talk, Birdman of Salonika: The Life and Afterlives of Paul Montagu, was an interesting and moving account of Lt Paul Denys Montagu – a multi-talented anthropologist, naturalist and musician, killed in action when his plane crashed behind enemy lines on 29th October 1917. Julie’s book, Museum, Magic, Memory – Curating Paul Denys Montagu is, no doubt, available from all good book sellers.

The 4th best church in the UK …

… is Sandham Memorial Chapel! That’s the opinion of Rachel Morley, Director of Friends of Friendless Churches. She was a guest of the podcast series, The Rest Is History, presented by historians Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook on 13 September. Rachel’s task was to list her top ten British churches, which is quite a task given that there are more than 16,000 in England alone!

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Lyn Macdonald podcast

Back in March I noted the death of distinguished First World War historian, Lyn Macdonald. Whilst I have read several of her books I had never heard her speak, so I was delighted when a talk of hers at the 2017 Chalke Valley History Festival was broadcast on the History Hits Warfare podcast. Entitled They Called it Passchendaele it’s a fascinating talk with some interesting thoughts on remembrance.

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Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year 2018 – the Macedonia one!

If, like me, you are not a subscriber to Sky TV you may have been disappointed at missing the 2018 series of Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year which – to coincide with the centenary of the end of the First World War – had as its prize a commission to paint a picture for the IWM of the Kosturino battlefield in Northern Macedonia. I’m pleased to say that, not only is the TV channel Sky Arts now available on Freeview (channel 11), but they are repeating their series of Landscape Artist of the Year, with that for 2018 starting on Thursday 10 June at 11am (repeated at 5am the following morning).

The winner was Jen Gash who visited Salonika at the time of the armistice commemorations and met with Alan Wakefield of the IWM (and SCS Chair) and SCS members on the centenary battlefield tour and was present at the service at the Doiran Memorial with the Duke of Kent. You can read more about the experience on Jen’s website. Members at the Society’s 2021 annual meeting in London will have the opportunity to meet Jen as she will be giving the talk, entitled: In the Footsteps of Stanley Spencer. The meeting is on Saturday 2 October and booking forms can be found in the latest issue of The New Mosquito.

Remembrance at Sandham Memorial Chapel

With COVID-19 rampant and our annual meeting held online on 3 October, there was no opportunity for the Society to lay its customary wreaths at the Cenotaph in Whitehall this year. An alternative venue was offered by the National Trust’s Sandham Memorial Chapel, with the intention of holding a small remembrance service in the gardens on 11 November.

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