Commemorating the Centennial of World War I in Tilshead

Written by   in 

In 1914 when the Canadian army arrived to support Great Britain in her war with Germany, a young black female bear cub came too.  She had been spotted sitting with an animal trapper on a railway station platform in Canada by a young army vet called Harry.  Harry was on his way to France to look after the army horses.  Seeing the young bear cub, he felt he could not leave her there to an uncertain fate, so he decided he would take her with him.  He offered 20 dollars to the trapper for the cub and the trapper quickly agreed.  

When the Canadians landed in England they headed by rail to Salisbury Plain where they were to do their battle training prior to going off to war in France.  West Down at Tilshead was the destination for the young bear cub and her owner.  

Harry with Winnie the Bear at West Down, Tilshead 1914

Harry with Winnie the Bear at West Down, Tilshead 1914

The young bear cub was very popular with the troops, but the time soon came when it was time to head to war in France.  What was Harry to do with the cub whom he named “Winnie” after the city of Winnipeg where he came from? He couldn’t take her with him as the Western Front was no place for a bear cub! Harry contacted Regents Park Zoo in London and they agreed to look after her while the war lasted.  Every time Harry had leave he went to the zoo to see his cub.  

When the war ended Harry decided that the cub would be better off staying at the Zoo than coming home with him, so sadly he left her behind as he sailed for Canada.  

At the zoo Winnie was a very popular attraction and one man and his son built up a special relationship with her.  In fact, the son was able to go into the Winnie’s pen and play with her.  The black bear was a very affectionate bear.  The boy named his own teddy bear after her.  His father then started to make up stories about the teddy bear’s adventures.  These adventures were published in short books which made the bear the most famous bear in the world.  The writer was AA Milne; the books featured Winnie the Pooh.  

As our village is clearly connected with Winnie’s story, it seemed to me that as we move into the final year of commemoration of the First World War it would be appropriate to link the story with those who lost their lives and find a way of preserving this special connection.  An event in 2018 which remembers the lives of the British and Canadian soldiers who trained in Tilshead before heading to France, together with some form of permanent memorial might be a way forward.  

I have been chairman of the Market Lavington First World War Commemoration Committee for the past four years; I would be happy to lead a project forward for Tilshead if there were others who would support me.  

Please contact me if you are interested.
 

Frank Jones

Email – francisajones@hotmail.com or use the contact form

Bringing Winnie back to Tilshead, 27th February 2018

Written by   in 

Bringing Winnie back to Tilshead Funding Campaign Launched

Written by   in 

The first meeting of the ‘Winnie Committee’ was held last night.  A committee has been appointed and the fund raising campaign has been launched.  Some fundraising ideas have been discussed so watch this space for more details.

The hope is to raise enough money for a plaque to be erected on the wall of the village hall.

A GoFundMe site has been set up but cash and cheque donations are also welcome!

Winnie Fundraising Breakfast, 12th May 2018

Written by   in 

Hi All

The next ‘Winnie’ plaque fundraiser has been announced!

There will be a breakfast in the Village Hall on Saturday 12th May 2018.

2018-05-12 Winnie Breakfast

Tilshead Village Breakfast for Winnie, 9th June 2018

Written by   in 
Winnie Bear

The breakfasts were very well received by all who attended and included the following comment from one customer “Brilliant.” Many thanks to Cath and the team on a great effort. Over 30 breakfasts were served and the profit came to over £100.00. A Number of people from outside the village supported the event. 

Frank Jones

The next Tilshead Village Breakfast is 08:30 til 11:00 on Saturday, 9th June 2018.  All are welcome!

View our fundraising progress here.

2018-06-09 Winnie Breakfast

Winnie Village Breakfast, 14th July 2018

Written by   in 

WWI Genealogy by George Clegg

Written by   in 

They shall grow not old – WW1 Genealogy

Genealogy

‘(The study of) the history of the past and present members of a family or families’ is in equal measure challenging, rewarding, disappointing, enlightening, frustrating, compelling, addictive, endless. If you deign to dip your toe in the murky waters of your family’s history be prepared to be drawn in; once in the family history maze, you’ll never get out.

I entered our family history maze (both mine and my wife’s) in 1990 and in those early years I made many research methodology mistakes (e.g. starting with what I thought was the earliest known relative instead of building from the latest). Sadly, no Danny Dyer like link to royalty was found although I did find that my 13 x Great Grandfather John Finch (b. about 1548 Eccleston, Lancashire) was a Blessed Martyr of the Catholic Church. He was tried and found guilty during Henry VIIIs Reformation for harbouring and aiding Catholic priests. On 20 April 1584 he was executed at Lancaster and he was later beatified in 1929 by Pope Pius XI.

Photograph of driver Harry Jarman convalescing in Deal and Walmer Hospital, 1918

Driver Harry Jarman convalescing in Deal and Walmer Hospital, 1918

Having got back down both the branches as far as I could, in 2005 I started researching the World War 1 service history of my wife’s Great Grandfather, Driver Harry Jarman of C Battery the 277th Army Brigade Royal Field Artillery. Thankfully he had a service record and referring to this and the unit war diary I have been able to map his 1918 withdrawal route during the German Operation MICHAEL spring offensive, through to offensive operations in the vicinity of Amiens and Arras and his evacuation through illness in October 1918 to Deal.

Photograph of Private William Wilshaw and the 7th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment - Mesopotamia, 1916

Private William Wilshaw and the 7th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment – Mesopotamia, 1916

In 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, I then decided to trawl back down through the rest of our Great Grandfathers, Great Uncles and Cousins to see who else had served and, where records allowed, chart their individual WW1 journeys. To date the records of 23 WW1 relatives have been uncovered including that of my own Great Grandfather, Private William Wilshaw of the North Staffordshire Regiment. Along with his brother and nephew he saw active service in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia before being wounded in the lung during the Relief of Al-Kut. He was then evacuated to India and the British Army cantonment of Dagshai in the Himalayan foothills. For me it is a little ironic and not a small coincidence that when I served in Iraq I was based near Al-Kut where he sustained his wound and also in Basra where he was evacuated from. Back in 1981 I was part of a British Army climbing team that managed to make the first ascent of KR4, a mountain in the Koa Rong range of the Himachal Pradesh. On our way up and down to and from the mountain we staged in at John Banon’s hotel in Manali. On the way back from Manali we stopped off in Simla en-route for Delhi. Our subsequent route south from Simla took us past Dagshai; If only I’d know then what I know now.

For anyone interested in researching WW1 relatives I have outlined some sources of reference below. Should any reader require further help please do not hesitate to contact me and I’d be only too happy to try and source any associated documentation where it is available on-line.

4 key online sources of information are:

Service Records

More than nine million men and women are estimated to have served in the British armed forces during the First World War. Many of the surviving service records from this period can be found in The National Archives (TNA), and can be used for tracing an ancestor who fought in the Great War. Unfortunately, more than half of these service records were destroyed in September 1940, when a German bombing raid struck the War Office repository in Arnside Street, London. However, an estimated 2.8 million service records survived the bombing or were reconstructed from the surviving records. This means that there is a roughly 40% chance of finding the service record of a soldier who was discharged at some time between 1914 and 1920.

Although they rarely mention ordinary soldiers by name (they do Officers) War Diaries (TNA catalogue references WO 95 and WO 154) contain daily records for the units in which they served. Further basic information can also be found in the lists of campaign and gallantry medals.

Medal Rolls

The Medal Rolls were created as lists of those individuals entitled to one or more campaign medals. If you do not know which military unit the individual you are researching was serving with, it is advisable to consult the indices for the Medal Rolls first. This should be the best way of confirming the unit (or units in many cases) with which an individual saw service in the First World War. The indices are formed by the Medal Index Cards.

Picture of a medal index card

Medal Index Card

Medal Index Card

Note that the cards filled in by the Army Medal Office varied slightly from time to time and therefore the information recorded on a card may vary slightly. An example of a Medal Index Card is pictured.  A few years ago the Ministry of Defence was looking to remove the Medal Index Cards from its secure storage area. It consisted of several million cards in many metal filing cabinets. There was a danger that the cards might be destroyed. This would have been a tragedy. Thanks to The Western Front Association and other concerned individuals this invaluable source of information, and memorial to the men and women who served in the First World War was rescued. The Medal Index Cards are now stored in a safe and secure location and furthermore both sides of every card have been electronically scanned in high resolution colour and are now available online.

Records of the Silver War Badge

The Silver War Badge was awarded to men who were honourably discharged under certain King’s Regulations. It was also awarded in retrospect: that is, to men discharged in 1914 or 1915 who otherwise met the criteria. The Silver War Badge, sometimes wrongly referred to as the Silver Wound Badge, was instituted from 12 September 1916 under Army Order 316. It is a circular badge with the legend “For King and Empire – Services Rendered” surrounding the King George V cypher. The badge had a pin for wear as a brooch. If the service record is now lost the silver war badge roll may be the only remaining evidence of service for some soldiers. The roll can be searched here.

The London Gazette: Awards and Citations

All the military appointments and the awards of gallantry and meritorious service were, and still are, announced in the London Gazette. The London Gazette, together with the Edinburgh and Belfast Gazettes, is the official paper of the government in the United Kingdom. The following gallantry awards published in The London Gazette with a citation: The Victoria Cross (V.C.), the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.), the Military Cross (M.C.) and the Distinguished Conduct Medal (D.C.M.).

A lot of these records are also available if you have an ‘Ancestry’ or similar genealogy application account.

Best of luck with your research endeavours and please do give me a shout if you want help.

George Clegg

‘Plain Sacrifice’

Written by   in 

 – Introduction to the New WWI Memorial Book that is Currently with The Printers

2018-11-01 Plain SacrificeThis book is designed to record information about those of our community who died in the First World War.  Also included are local men commemorated elsewhere and others from far away who are buried in our churchyards.  As far as the compilers can ascertain there are sixty-nine men and one woman with a local connection, who did not return to their loved ones after the war.

To the families of these 70 casualties, they were sons, brothers, fathers or grandsons and, in one case, a daughter, whose death would have caused much misery and grief.  They would have been well known by those who loved them, but with the movement of people over the years, many of their memories are lost. Identified now only as names carved in stone, their individual personalities have disappeared.  This book is an attempt to re-discover something of their lives and record it, a small group of local volunteers, began by transcribing the names which appear on the war memorials in Chitterne, Shrewton and Tilshead. To these were added others from local monuments in churches in Maddington, Orcheston and Rollestone.  

Our quest was hindered by the paucity of individual service records from 1914-1918; the result of air raids in World War Two.  We began by consulting the cemetery and memorial registers of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), all now available online – www.cwgc.org.  Further information came from the HMSO publication “Soldiers Died in the Great War:.  From these sources, we were able to discover the locations of graves or memorials, dates of death together with places of birth and enlistment.  The family background of local people was discovered by some exhaustive research including the relevant census, notably 1901 and 1911. For those who served with Commonwealth units, full service records were available.

Medal index cards record the awards made to servicemen and were helpful in identifying those who qualified for the 1914 and 1915 Stars, with the date of their deployment.  Other invaluable sources were the War Diaries, maintained by individual units and describing their daily moves and activities, sometimes in detail. From these diaries it was usually possible to establish where a man died and why he was there.

Not all were killed in action.  Some died of illness, notably in the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918, in accidents or while prisoners of war.  At least one took his own life. There are two cases of servicemen who died after the war; the result of wounds they received.

Despite our best efforts, some of the stories are sketchy, with an element of informed guesswork.  Whilst we have done the best we can, some errors may exist. Certainly, anyone planning to visit a grave or memorial should check with the CWGC that it is still as described here.

2018-11-01 Plain Sacrifice Example Page

Richard Elliot

‘Winnie’ Plaque Unveiling, 17th January 2019

Written by   in 

“Winnie” comes home to Tilshead! Well, in a manner of speaking: the “Winnie Group” are pleased to announce that the “Winnie plaque” will be unveiled this Thursday (17th) at 9.30 am at the Village Hall.

Everyone in the village are very welcome to join this happy occasion.

All the pupils at St. Thomas a Becket’s will be attending and refreshments – tea coffee and cake will be offered in the Hall after the unveiling.

Radio Wiltshire are sending a reporter to cover the morning so we will feature on their breakfast programme.

Please come along and enjoy a small piece of our Village History , when the Inspiration for one of the World’s favourite children’s story characters is commemorated as having been a former resident of Tilshead.

Frank Jones

‘Winnie’ Plaque Unveiling

Written by   in 
Here’s an outline of the event.

7.00 am to 8.30 am BBC Wiltshire’s Reporter Karen will be holding a series of interviews for the Radio show’s breakfast programme. Included are Ben Twiston-Davis who designed and made the plaque, the two head girls of St. Thomas a Becket who will be helping to unveil the plaque and me.

At 9.00 am the school will go to the church for their act of communal worship.

Then at 9.30 we 
will all assemble in the Hall (or outside if the weather is fine) I will tell the story of the bear and her connection with Tilshead then the plaque will be unveiled.
Tea and coffee and cake will be served in the Hall for all the guests.

At an appropriate time the children who will be getting biscuits and squash will go back to school.

At the end of the school day each child will receive their own copy of “Finding Winnie” it will have their name written in it plus a plate designed by the other Ben which  has the 17th January 2019 in it.

I hope that the ceremony will be a fitting occasion and that the books and the memory of the day will prove lasting for all who attend.

I am sure you will be impressed when you see the plaque it will be a lasting tribute to the Canadians and others who passed through our part of Wiltshire as they journeyed on to fight on the Western Front.

The plaque I feel will be something that all in the Village should be truly proud of. A fitting tribute commemorating the 100 Years since the end of WW1 (officially ended in 1919 when the treaty of Versailles was signed.)

Frank Jones