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Bamburgh Castle in the late December Northumbrian sunshine

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

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TWO Bamburgh Castle, Northumbeland. 

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The Point, Beadnell, Northumberland

Fig.1 The Point, Beadnell, Northumberland

TWO: Fishing off the Point, late afternoon

THREE: Sunrise on the Point, early morning

FOUR: sunrise on the Point, early morning

FIVE

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SEVEN

Playtime in the fisherman’s boat

Now there are two, but there was only we could play in at our backdoor when we stayed here as children. A second was upturned and full of nettles. There is film of a five, six, seven, eight and nine year old sitting in this boat: cousins.

Rock clambering around Beadnell

 

Favourite places to explore a  child, to watch the waves, to catch the light of the Longstone Lighthouse, to search for eye-catching pebbles.

Searching for treasure on the rocks at Beadnell

Fig.1 The pebbles on the rock beach, Beadnell, Northumberland

Head down to watch you step on slippery rocks gives you the chance to hunt for treasure. As a boy I returned home with interesting stones and fossils. Forty years on I see what could be a piece of ripening fruit, an ammonite and a stone covered in tiny balls of frozen water which won’t last ten minutes in the late December son.

A few days in Beadnell

Fig.1 The Point, Beadnell, Northumberland. Sunrise, 28th December 2014

This morning I set off on a tour of my childhood holiday destination, the Northumberland fishing village of Beadnell; age something to 11 this is where we spent every Easter and Summer, many half-terms and weekends too.

Fig. 2. The rocks, looking north east from Beadnell Village towards the Farnes Islands and the Longstone Lighthouse.

I grew up amongst the rocks, the pools, on the shingle and grit beaches and walking and exploring the sandy bay, dunes, 18th century lime kilns and ancient harbour. A visit once a decade brings back found memories of fishing around in pools exposed by the retreating tide, collecting fossils, clambering on low cliffs, fishing off the harbour wall, playing ‘kick the can’ in the dunes, making dams in the water outfly halfway around the bay, the ‘quick sand’ around the mouth of the river and sliding down sandy dunes.

I see our cottage, learning to ride a bike, my father’s keys locked in the car, roses up the side of the house, my grandfather in the shed making toy boats, my mother in the kitchen cooking shrimps …

Forty five years ago.

Little things come to mind: the different texture of pebbles, grit, sand, cliff-top grass to the feet. The fingers that jut into the north sea are made from volcanic rock.

Fig. 3 The ‘Point’ Beadnell.

The memories of jelly fish dead on the beach, of eating crabs being landed by fisherman very early on a summer’s morning, their net sheds, the clanking of halyards on sailing dinghies now gone – no boats in moored in the bay where once there were too long rows, many of the dune now thick with gorse designed to protect them. A noisy place now quiet.

Fig.4 The public footpath from the beach caravan park across fields to Beadnell Village.

I pass through a ‘kissing gate.’ Age six or so I was told that one also kissed when passing through such a gate, and for decades after I enforced this culture on others: kiss the person behind as you pass through the gate.

Walking through the old village I turn away from the tiny cemetery by the church under the rookery as it spooked me as a boy and it spooks me now.

Fig.5 The view to the old harbour and lime kilns, Beadnell Bay at low tide. Dusk. 28th December 2014. 

Third Ypres and the Battle for Poelcapelle October 1917: A Machine Gunner’s Story

Fig 1 Sketch from Jack’s Description of the movements of Corporal John Arthur Wilson,  MCG, October 1917. (Excuse the note related to a fictional story called ‘The Time Telescope’ (TT) which I imagined in an adventure story to be an item that saved Jack’s skin).

My grandfather drew a version of this in biro when in his 97th year; his eye-sight was very poor. I redrew it as you see, with him adding comment and annotations. Houthoulst Forrest is a bit out, there is a rail track and I haven’t drawn it strictly North-South.

From Haig’s despatches:

 After the middle of October the weather improved, and on the 22nd October two successful operations, in which we captured over200 prisoners and gained positions of considerable local importance east of Poelcappelle and within the southern edge of Houthulst Forest, were undertaken by us, in the one case by east-county and Northumberland troops (18th and 34th Divisions), and in the other by west-county and Scots battalions (35th Division, Major- General G. Mc. Franks) in co-operation with the French.

My goal, my pleasure, reliving stories he first started telling me on his knee after Sunday Lunch age 6 or so is tp be there with him, to time travel and by following closely in his footsteps survive as he did (just).

A scratch is all he suffered during the 1 1/2 years he was out there (April 1916 to December 1917).

The silver ID bracelet Jack had made in Grantham. 13203. 104 MGC.

Courtesy of published maps and Google Earth I am gradually picking out the spots. In 1992 he attended the 75th anniversary of Passchendaele and marked the spots where he buried Dick Piper and Harry Gartenfeld. Even after those years, however ‘dull and featureless’ the landscape, and however broken it had been in his time, he was able to pick out the exact spot where these men died.

Is it feasible that the Jerry Prisoner who took can be identified? Handed over to Captain Blair in October? (Later October: 20th – 27th)

His papers came through at the end of December 1917, around the 27th I believe. A couple of officers gave him pictures of themselves, but who could this be?

A senior officer of the Machine Gun Corps who gave this picture to Corporal J A Wilson on 27th December 1917 as he headed home to train with the Royal Flying Corps.

Who is it?

Haig’s Despatches

‘After the middle of October the weather improved, and on the 22nd October two successful operations, in which we captured over 200 prisoners and gained positions of considerable local importance east of Poelcappelle and within the southern edge of Houthulst Forest, were undertaken by us, in the one case by east-county and Northumberland troops (18th and 34th Divisions), and in the other by west-county and Scots battalions (35th Division, Major- General G. Mc. Franks) in co-operation with the French’. Haig’s Despatch

NOTES

Scanning ‘The Road to Passchendaele’ John Terraine 1977 I am struck by the statement that has Haig wanting to take Passchendaele Ridge in order to have command of the open land to the east in order to use cavalry. Also Lord French’s criticism to the War Cabinet that Haig keeps making the same mistakes. From Birdwood ‘Khaki and Gown’  p 316.

British Army Maps:

Ypres before July 1917 Attacks

Ypres October 1917

The Northumbrian Pipes and Kathryn Tickell

Kathryn Tickell was at The Stables, Milton Keynes last night.

The music was wrapped around the stories of shepherds and farm labourers on the hills of the North Tyne valley. My father’s great grandparents and several of my mother’s too came off the land above Hexham, from Newton, to Chatton and Alnwick, to find work on Tyneside in the mid to late 19th century.

For a while my father lived in Chollerford, on the North Tyne and I was at school for five years down the road at Newton.

Trips out to Kielder, before and after the reservoir, were common. We often drove into Scotland over the fells via Wooler and Jedburgh.

In the 1920s my grandmother and her sisters would go and stay in Rothbury for the summer.

Northumberland, you could say, has some resonance for me.

I have a book of memoirs from 100 years ago which were brought up to date with stories of dreadful winters in 1963 which I don’t remember and of 1979 that I do as I often struggled trying to get from my father’s place in the Eden Valley, to my girlfriend in Wylam then home to Gosforth.

Picnic spots, school camping trips, parties in Church Halls and even singing in The Tynedale Festival and in churches in Hexham, Corbridge, Matfen and Alnwick.

Do I hanker after it?

The brackish water, bogs and ferns? a drive along the Military Road below Hadrian’s Wall would be enough.

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