Remembrance In Tuscany

Badge of the Central India Horse

Last weekend was spent in Tuscany as the guest of the local government and ex pat community.

I was asked over to commemorate two George Cross awards from WW2, and to represent Great Britain.

The plaque on the village wall in Monterchi has always had its wreath laid by the village mayor. It was my honour, to be the first non Italian to lay a wreath for almost 70 years, in fact since the plaque was placed there. I was also honoured by laying the first wreath, normally in the gift of the local mayor.

The region was the scene of fierce fighting and the area was strewn with German “shoebox mines”
The Schu or Shu-Mine is a small wood box fragmentation mine. It measures six-inch by six-inch and contains a detonator and a solid charge.  Another name or spelling of this mine is “Shoe Mine” or “Shoe Box ” mine. The “Shoe Box” was a favourite among the Germans. Small in size and constructed primary of wood, the Schu is next to impossible to discover with a normal metal mine detector.  It seldom kills instantly, instead the sinister device mutilates the unfortunate victim.

The citation in the London Gazette for 20th July 1945, states that the posthumous award of the George Cross was made “In recognition of most conspicuous gallantry in carrying out hazardous work in a very brave manner.” Lieutenant Young, in charge of night patrol realised that they were in a middle of an enemy minefield. Lt. Young received the full force of a blast and both his legs were shattered. Despite the terrible pain he continued to give such great encouragement to his men that the majority of them managed to reach safety in the early light of morning. One of Lt. Young’s soldiers, Sowar Ditto Ram, Central Indian Horse was also awarded the George Cross for actions in this same incident. Both died of their wounds on the following day.

I was welcomed by the entire village and the local Bersaglieri. The Commandante il Carabinieri invited me for coffee with him in his office, and the after the remembrance service-very much like our own here in Britain-most of the village attended a large meal at a a local restaurant. here the band of the Bersaglieri entertained us with songs and tunes.

At the end of the meal I was surprised to be included in the presentations by the Bersaglieri, and given a book on the history of this famous unit of Light Infantry.

Monterchi memorial plaque Laying the first wreath Bersaglieri

 

My thanks to Debbie, Roger, Chunky, Trevor et al involved  🙂

Theirs Is The Glory: Stunning film of Operation Market Garden

This film was made a year after the actual scenes depicted. It shows the actual troops who fought there and footage from the actual battle at Arnhem. Also seen are the local civilian population re-enacting what they did at the time.

This film has largely been forgotten but is available on youtube in its entirety. It is all the more poignant due to the lack of credits as to whom we are seeing on film. Some names are mentioned, but sadly they are few and far between.

It is  a fitting tribute to those who tried to end the war early

Reminiscence Therapy: Living Military History Working with Age UK

Age UK

Today was spent in discussions with Age UK (formerly Age Concern and Help The Aged) Oxfordshire,planning Reminiscence Therapy  for Veterans in Oxfordshire. We are putting together a unique project which will fill a gap in current service provision and create a much needed resource for ex-service men and women.

Group activities such as listening to period music and handling authentic uniforms or military items from my collections, will help participants by triggering memories and encouraging interaction. The scheme will also help to combat the loneliness many elderly people and particularly veterans can feel.

We are aiming for an initial pilot project of 6 consecutive weeks with a bid to the local Civilian Military Partnership Forum for funding in order to roll it out county wide.  This is an exciting project which has the potential to provide a valuable service not currently available elsewhere.

Graham Bandy sits on the Surrey Civilian Military Partnership Forum and is experienced in handling bids from local projects wishing to access Armed Forces Community Covenant Grant Scheme Funds. Please visit the Living Military History website for more information.

Lost WW1 documents found

An interesting story which shows that there are still surprises out there…. 🙂

FIRST World War documents that the Government wanted destroyed have been found by a Herefordshire man.

Jeremy Arter, from Callow, was clearing his aunt’s home in Talybonton- Usk, near Brecon, when he came across the archives.

They were due to go in the skip and it was only when he checked them fully that he realised their significance.

“I noticed the stamp MI7 (b) on some of the documents and realised they were worth holding on to,” said Jeremy.

“I checked MI7 (b) on the web and didn’t find much, but further research showed that the Government ordered the destruction of the official papers of MI7 (b) shortly after the Armistice in 1918.”

Historians have said that the documents were destroyed on the grounds that they would have been too incriminating, especially because of the way they showed the Government’s support for the war.

The author of the documents was Jeremy’s great uncle – Captain James Lloyd Price of the Welsh Regiment.

He was wounded at the Battle of the Somme at Mametz in July 1916, but survived and was recruited by MI7 (b) to write extensively for them.

He told the stories of individual heroism and contemporary accounts of daily life of fighting on the front line.

Jeremy read through around 150 of the documents, each between 1,500 to 2,000 words long, and has now put pen to paper about his discovery.

“I have written a book about his story and my intention is to generate as much interest in the archive as I can so that it will be freely available for enthusiasts and scholars to read,” he added.

Jeremy is due to take the archive to the National Library of Wales’s roadshow in Brecon today (Thursday).

The library is currently undertaking a project, entitled World War One and the Welsh Experience, in which it plans to digitalise a wide range of archive material revealing the hidden history of the war.

Project manager Rob Phillips said that up until now, they had failed to find anything about military intelligence and the role that Welsh people played in that.

“I nearly fell off my chair when Jeremy rang about his discovery,” he said.

“It’s definitely a significant find in terms of the project. It will bring a new dimension to what we will be able to show people.”

For more information about the roadshow, visit  http://cymruww1.llgc.org.uk/

 

From…http://www.herefordtimes.com

Thanks to Danny Rees for the story 🙂

 

Northamptonshire soldier is awarded posthumous VC

As many of you may know, my roots are in Northamptonshire, and one of the local lads has been honoured with the Victoria Cross

A soldier from Northamptonshire who died as he protected the lives of his comrades in Afghanistan is to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

LCpl James Ashworth VC

Lance Corporal James Ashworth, 23, will receive the medal in recognition of his “extraordinary courage” while serving with the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards in Helmand province last year, it was reported.

The Victoria Cross, the country’s highest award for gallantry, has been awarded just 10 times to UK soldiers since the Second World War.

The posthumous award to L/Cpl Ashworth, a former Lodge Park Technology College pupil, is just the second from the 12-year conflict in Afghanistan.

A Victoria Cross was awarded to Corporal Bryan Budd of 3 Para, who died fighting the Taliban in 2006.

L/Cpl Ashworth was killed in the Nahr-e-Siraj district on June 13 when his reconnaissance platoon became involved in a battle with the Taliban inside enemy-held compounds.

He is understood to have fought against huge odds, deliberately exposing himself to enemy fire, and died from a grenade blast as he tried to protect his men, The Times said.

Officials said he took care to ensure there were no civilians in the line of fire.

L/Cpl Ashworth’s comrades spoke of their pride in his bravery, and told how the death of such an “outstanding soldier” would leave a gaping hole in the battalion.

His company commander, Captain Mike Dobbin, said at the time of his death: “Lance Corporal Ashworth was killed while fighting his way through compounds; leading his fire team from the front, whilst trying to protect his men; and he showed extraordinary courage to close on a determined enemy.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and his girlfriend, who should be extremely proud of the courage he displayed and the life that he led.

“I am humbled by what I saw of Lance Corporal Ashworth’s actions and will never forget him.”

Guardsman Jordan Loftus said: “Selfless, brave, courageous – words like these don’t come close to what Ash demonstrated that day.”

L/Cpl Ashworth was a soldier for five years and came from a family with strong military links, The Times said.

His father Duane was also a Grenadier Guard, while his younger brother Coran is also a soldier.

He also left behind his mother Kerryann, sisters Lauren and Paige, brother Karl and four-year-old niece Darcy, as well as his girlfriend, Emily.

His family paid tribute to him after his death, saying: “We are devastated by the loss of our son, brother, uncle and boyfriend.

“He meant the world to everyone and has left an irreplaceable hole in our hearts.”

Sergeant Vandell McLean, his platoon sergeant, wrote at the time: “My sorrow is with his family at this time of loss. Please take comfort in knowing that Lance Corporal Ashworth died protecting me, his mates and the rest of the platoon.”

Lieutenant-Commander James Bowder, MBE, commander of the 1st Battalion The Grenadier Guards, called him “an outstanding soldier”.

“Lance Corporal Ashworth’s death leaves a hole in the battalion – we have lost one of our very best soldiers. The battalion, and indeed the broader regiment, will never forget this quite exceptional man.”

The award will be officially confirmed by the Ministry of Defence next week.

The Victoria Cross ranks as the nation’s highest award for gallantry, along with the George Cross.

Instituted by Queen Victoria in 1856, the Victoria Cross is awarded for “most conspicuous bravery, or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, or extreme devotion to duty in the presence of the enemy”.

The bronze cross, which has a crimson ribbon bears the inscription “For Valour”, is cast from the metal of Russian guns captured at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War, the campaign in which the first medals were awarded.

The Victoria Cross may be awarded to all ranks of the services – and also to civilians – to recognise gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

The medal has been awarded 1,356 times, the most recent of which was a posthumous award to Corporal Bryan Budd, of the 3rd Battalion The Parachute Regiment, for acts of “inspirational leadership and the greatest valour” in southern Afghanistan in 2006.

Only 13 Victoria Cross medals have been awarded since the Second World War, nine to members of the British Army and four to the Australian Army.

L/Cpl Ashworth’s is just the fifth to have been awarded since the Falklands conflict, and all but one have been posthumous.

Private Johnson Beharry, from 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, was awarded the honour for two separate acts of outstanding gallantry to rescue his comrades in Iraq in 2004, during which suffered serious head injuries.

The Victoria Cross has been awarded to the same person twice on three occasions – to doctors Captain Arthur Martin-Leake (1902 and 1914) and Captain Noel Chavasse (1916 and posthumously 1917), and New Zealander Captain Charles Upham (1941 and 1942).

The George Cross, which stands equal to the Victoria Cross as an award, recognises acts of gallantry by members of the Armed Forces or civilians in situations for which the Victoria Cross is not appropriate.

These can be incidents that are not in the presence of the enemy, such as bomb or mine disposal.

From…http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/community/award-events/victoria-cross-awarded-to-northamptonshire-soldier-1-4906914