Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Exhibition of Poetry written by Schoolchildren during WW1 at the Wilfred Owen Story in Birkenhead, UK

My latest exhibition, which features Poetry Written by Schoolchildren in the UK during the First World War, is now on display at The Wilfred Owen Story in Argyle Street, Birkenhead, Wirral, UK.  The exhibition was opened on 17th March 2018 (the day before Wilfred Owen's birthday) and a bust of Wilfred Owen sculpted by Anthony Padgett was unveiled on the same day by local MP Frank Field.  Here is a link to a BBC North West Tonight news report of the event:
The WOS is open from Tuesdays to Fridays from 12 noon until 2 pm (winter opening times) but it is advisable to phone first as the museum is manned by volunteers - 07903 337995.  Entry to the WOS is free.
The Wilfred Owen Story,
34 Argyle Street,
Birkenhead, Wirral, UK,
CH41 6AE
Panels from previous exhibitions held at the WOS, including that featuring some of the poets involved in the Battles of Messines (Mesen), Passchendaele and after in 1917, Poets of the Battle of Arras in 1917, Poets of the Somme 1916, Female Poets of the First World War, Inspirational Women of World War One and Fascinating Facts of the Great War, are available to view on file at The Wilfred Owen Story.  Other exhibitions are planned.

Photo of the exhibition panels taken by Paul Breeze of

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Poppies in Flanders

It seems that the phenomenon of those Flanders poppies, about which Canadian poet, artist, doctor and artilleryman Colonel John McCrae wrote (see Forgotten Poets), has been evident after every battle in the area over hundreds of years.

The British historian Lord Macaulay wrote in 1855 about the site of the Battle of Landen in the Province of Brabant. The battle took place in 1693, during the Nine Years War between the French and the English, when William III was on the throne.  Landen is in Belgium and is approximately one hundred miles from Ypres.  The French lost 9,000 men and the English 19,000:

 "The next summer the soil, fertilised by twenty thousand corpses, broke forth into millions of poppies. The traveller who, on the road from Saint Tron to Tirlemont, saw that vast sheet of rich scarlet spreading from Landen to Neerwinden, could hardly help fancying that the figurative prediction of the Hebrew Prophet was literally accomplished, that the earth was disclosing her blood, and refusing to cover the slain."

John McCrae's WW1 poetry collection "In Flanders Fields and Other Poems" can be viewed here::

Macaulay's works are also available on Project Gutenberg.

Picture:  A painting entitled "Trenches on the Somme" by Canadian Artist Mary Riter Hamilton, who went to paint the aftermath on the Western Front in 1919. Mary's paintings were commissioned by the Canadian War Amputees Association and can be viewed on

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Sportsman’s Battalions WW1

WW1 Researcher Debbie Cameron sent me a poem written by Claude Edward Cole Hamilton Burton who, I discovered from Catherine Reilly’s “Bibliography of English Poetry of WW1” (St. Martin's Press, New York, 1978), used the pen-names Touchstone and C.E.B., respectively when writing for "The Daily Mail" and the London "Evening News".  

Debbie has been researching a soldier who was in one of the Sportsman’s Battalions, to which Touchstone’s poem was dedicated.   The Sportsman's Battalions were the 28th (Service) Battalion and the 24th (Service) Battalion (2nd Sportsman’s) the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) – they were ‘Pals’ Battalions. 

The first of the Sportsman’s Battalions was formed by Mrs Emma Cunliffe-Owen and her husband Edward, with the support of Lord Kitchener.  Recruits were accepted up to the age of 45 and, after training, the Battalions saw action on the Western Front.

For details about Emma Cunliffe-Owen, please see my weblog Inspirational Women of WW1 and for details about Claude Edward Cole Hamilton Burton, please see my weblog Fascinating Facts of the Great War.

With many thanks to Debbie who sent me this link to a WW1 book about the Sportsman's Battalions:


Friday, 15 December 2017

BOOK REVIEW: “Tracing your Great War Ancestors: The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns – A Guide for family historians” by Stuart Hadaway, Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2017.

Just prior to the onset of the First World War, the British Navy changed from using coal to using diesel oil, which meant it was vital to keep the oil wells and the Suez Canal in Allied hands.   The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns were therefore vital, yet they are often forgotten in favour of the Western Front.   This book, which is illustrated throughout with superb photos, explains the background to the Campaigns – the signing of a secret treaty between the Ottoman Empire and Germany in August 1914 - and goes on to give detailed descriptions of the fighting in Egypt and Palestine and also explains how to go about searching for your family members who served in the armed forces during the conflict.  

Here you will find descriptions of the difference in the challenges and needs of the men fighting in a hot climate to the requirements of the Western Front, along with fascinating anecdotes such as the use of camels, elephants and mules to transport ammunition, guns, food, water, and so on.   As the granddaughter of a Gunner who served in Palestine during WW1, I was particularly interested in the detailed description of the different types of gun used by the Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery and the logistical problems involved in getting the guns, ammunition and men to the right place at the right time on difficult terrain.

I also read with interest about the health issues of the Campaigns and the setting up of the different medical facilities – Field Ambulances, Casualty Clearing Stations, Base Hospitals and so on – again all very different to those encountered on the Western Front.

I found the following particularly helpful - the map at the beginning of the book, the detailed instructions on tracing your WW1 ancestors, a chapter on Prisoners of War, the time-line of the Campaigns from 1st August 1914 up to July 1919, an extensive further reading list.

Do you know what ‘cacelots’ are?  I didn’t either but you can find out on page 86.

Stuart Hadaway has produced a very valuable and extremely readable book and I cannot recommend it highly enough - even if you do not have ancestors who served in that theatre of the war.

“Tracing your Great War Ancestors:  The Egypt and Palestine Campaigns – A Guide for family historians” by Stuart Hadaway, published by Pen & Sword Family History, Barnsley, Yorkshire, 2017 and costs £14.99.  For further information, please see the Pen & Sword website:

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

American WW1 Red Cross Cake - update

Keith Arden Colley has let me know that the cake arrived in time for Thanksgiving.

More soon...

Thursday, 16 November 2017

American WW1 Red Cross Cake - baked to send across the Atlantic to the Doughboys in France

Keith Arden Colley in Texas, USA has a mobile First World War commemorative exhibition which he takes on tour.   During a recent exhibition Keith put some posts on his Facebook page and one of them I found particularly interesting.  It was a WW1 Red Cross cake recipe for a cake to be sent across the Atlantic to the troops of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), who were known as “Doughboys” because of the shape of their hats.

I decided to make the cake and found it delicious.  Then I had an idea – why not bake a cake and send it back across the Atlantic by surface mail.  In 1917, when America joined WW1 on the side of the Allies, aeroplanes were still something very new, the first recorded flight being in 1903.

Keith thought the idea sounded great so we took some photos of the cake being packed up to send off to Keith and hope to bring you more when the cake reaches Keith.

The Recipe
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups hot water
2 tablespoons of lard (if this is not going by sea you could use an alternative fat)
1 teaspoon each of cinnamon, mixed spice and cloves
8 ozs. Raisins or Craisins – soaked in Rum
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
3 cups of flour

Preheat oven to 190 degrees. Place all ingredients in a pan – except for the flour and soda.  Bring them to the boil, stirring frequently.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool.  Stir in the flour and soda and mix well.

Grease a loaf tin.  Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 45 minutes.  

NOTE:  I found it was better to bake the cake at a cooler temperature for longer.

For more information about Keith Arden Colley’s Mobile Commemorative WW1 Exhibition follow the link or find Keith on Facebook

For a fantastic account of the hazards of crossing the Atlantic during 1914 – 1918 see “Into the Danger Zone: Sea Crossings of the First World War” by Tad Fitch and Michael Poirier (The History Press, Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK, 2014).  You will find a review of the book in a previous post on this blog.  Tad and Michael also have a Facebook page: 

Friday, 10 November 2017

HUGH GORDON LANGTON (1885 – 1917) - Violinist

A few weeks ago I saw a photograph of the grave of Hugh Gordon Langton posted on a commemorative First World War Facebook Group page.   Someone had visited the Peolcapelle British Cemetery and saw Hugh's grave and felt it was unusual.  I just had to find out more.

Gifted violinist Hugh Gordon Langton, was born in London and studied the violin with some of the most famous music professors of the era.  Like his father, Hugh was a Freemason. 

Hugh joined the 4th Battalion of the London Regiment during WW1 and was killed during the Battle of Passchendaele on 26th October 1917.   He was buried in Poelcapelle British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelkapelle, West Flanders, Ieper/Ypres, Belgium.   His Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone is unusual in that it has some musical notes engraved on it.  
A note on Hugh's memorial on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website suggested that the musical notes might be taken from the popular song "After the Ball".  But it occurred to me that they might not come from that tune as Hugh was a classical musician.  So I asked our talented musician friend David Windle if he could identify them.  David, who is Musical Director of the Tower Circus in Blackpool, told me that, although the tune is similar, the notes are not from "After the Ball". 

David researched Hugh’s life story and was moved to compose a piece of music with a violin cadenza in honour of Hugh Gordon Langton.  He has called the piece “Langton’s Theme” - David has written the score which includes a violin cadenza and is hoping it will be performed.  Singer Lynne Fox produced a short video to accompany the music David composed:

The local brass Band at Harelbeke near the cemetery have also composed a piece of music which they play every year at Hugh’s graveside.

For further information about David's composition, please contact David Windle on