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Poelcapelle – the smell from the bodies was dreadful

There was this pill box in Poelcapelle village itself that got a direct hit. It was completely broken. We had to clear it out, get the concrete and all the bits lying inside out … the smell from the bodies was dreadful. You had to put your gas mask on and we got some ropes and pulled the bodies out through this great hole and threw them in a shell hole … there were three of them, German officers. We bunged up the doorway with sandbags and used the other side to go in and out.

 

They Called it Paschendaele

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For an insight into the life, death and frontline tactics along the Western Front controlled by British and Commonwealth troops you should begin with Lyn Macdonald’s ‘They Called it Paschendaele’. First published in 1978 it draws on interviews with some 600 veterans. I return to it often to expand on the record I got directly from my late grandfather John Arthur ‘Jack’ Wilson M.M. who was a corporal in the Machine Gun Corps, serving in Neuve Chapelle, Arras, the Somme and then Ypres between April 1916 and December 1917 when he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and trained to be a fighter pilot.

In 1991 he visited the Imperial War Museum where he was able to sit behind a Vicker’s Machine Gun, then the following year he visited Ypres for the 75th Anniversary – a guest of Lyn Macdonald.

More at http://www.machineguncorps.com

Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchandeale’)
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
My first degree is in Geography.
My dissertation was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and n ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There’s movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all of the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
There’s a reason why I call this blog ‘mind bursts’.

To recall the trenches of the Western Front

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To recall the trenches of the Western Front is to by at my grandfather’s side. It started with sitting on his knee after Sunday lunch. And so I was told and retold stories of his recruitment into the Durham Light Infantry, his transfer to the Machine Gun Corps and then nearly two years somehow surviving Arras, the Somme and the worst of them all – Third Ypres and the mud of Paschendaele before he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he qualified as a Fighter Pilot as the War came to an end. I will never tire of stories and facts about WW1 – this is the best blog for a regular dose.

Great War Photos

The Western Front at its peak was over 450 miles long, stretching from the Belgian coast at Nieuport to the Swiss border near the village of Pfetterhouse. The terrain along that front varied widely from the flat plains of Flanders to the rolling downland of the Somme, through forests like the Argonne and into mountains when it reached the Vosges.

On the Belgian end of the front, at Nieuport, the trench system ran right up to the beach, with that end of the Western Front literally petering out in the sand. For most of the war it was held by the Belgian Army but in 1917 British troops took over the sector in the lead-up to what was eventually an abandoned plan to make seaborne landings further up the coast. However, in July 1917 the Germans went on the offensive here and attacked the forward positions held by British…

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,500 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Awarded the Military Medal for keeping the Vickers Machine Gun in action for a week

The Military Medal awarded to Corporal John A Wilson ‘Jack’ in late 1917 while serving in the Machine Gun Corps during the Third Battle of Ypres. His journey through the trenches and up and down the Western Front is plotted in this blog, alongside his detailed memoir recorded when Jack (my grandfather) was in his 97th year.

Recorded on a Sony Digital recorder and will in due course be available as a podcast.

Transcript with the Imperial War Museum and author Lyn Macdonald who Jack joined at the 75th Anniversary of Passchendaele with a visit to the spots where he served and so many of his friends and colleagues died.

Passchendaele: unseen panoramas of the Third Battle of Ypres

Jack Wilson, a Machine Gunner, served in Third Ypres going in against the French line north east of Ypres up to Houthulst Forrest. These panoramas and maps allow me, with his memoir, to track his movements. Stories he told me as a boy and visualised as a six or seven year old look very different on seeing the reality.

 

The Boy David, Machine Gun Corps Association, memorial service with last veterans early 1990s

Memorial Service at the ‘Boy David’ Hyde Parker, summer 1991 or 1992. Jack Wilson MM without the stick, centre. His grandson, Jonathan Vernon far left holding a standard.

Decorated ‘in the field’ with the Military Medal by Brigadier Sandilands

Fig.1 Brigadier-General J W Sandilands From The History of the 35th Division  in the Great War. L-C H.M. Davson

Brigadier-Gneral Sandilands decorated Jack Wilson with the Military Medal – ‘in the field’ along with three others. He received the Military Medal. Jack described the scene as ‘a square’ with a table in the middle.

There are a couple of likely times for the week long stop in a pill-box without relief – around 11th October when the Steenbeck flooded, after the initial attack on Houthulst Forest when the heaven’s opened, or in November when once again the Broembeck was flooded. He describes the Steenbeck as a ‘lake of mud’ and to reach Egypt House at one time as requiring you to wade through ‘the puddle’.

Fig. 2. A studio photo taken soon after joining the Durham Light Infantry, March 1915 at Billy Wilson’s Photography Studio, Consett before transfer to the Machine Gun Corps or ‘Suicide Squad’

This picture used in the Consett local paper when Jack Wilson was awarded the Military Medal

Fig. 3. Clip from the Consett Gazette in late 1917

(This photograph from a faded original cutting from the paper originally kept by Jack’s mother Sarah Wilson nee Nixon)

A 95 year old Machine Gunner veteran is introduced to the King of Belgium at the Menin Gate, Ypres

John Arthur Wilson MM (Jack) meeting the King of Belgium in 1992 at the Menin Gate, Ypres. Jack served as a machine gunner on the Western Front from April 1915 to 25th December 1917 at which point he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps where he trained as a fighter pilot only just missing a return to Northern France in the late autumn of 1918.

 

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