Burntwood Family History Group
   Home      Journal 2017 04-06 Volume 25 Number 2
Extracts from Burntwood Family History Group Journal
April - June 2017
Vol 25.2
Contents of this issue.
From the Chair 1
Who Do You Think You Are Live, 2017 2
On to the Cape! 4
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers
David Taylor: ‘Where Did All the Nail Makers Go?’ 7
Brian Teall: ‘Enigma: Learn to Crack the Code’ 7
Steve Booth: ‘The Great Fauld Explosion’ 10
Missing Wives and Torn Banknotes 14
This Issue's Cover Photograph 16
The Western Front 17
Reflections on the Trip to the Battlefields of World War I 19
From the Chair

A warm welcome to you all. This year has seen the group holding its own in terms of membership with some new members, some leaving, and core members remaining. Our Monday evening meetings continue to be well attended and this, I think, is due to Jane Leake searching out many interesting speakers with wide-ranging subjects. It is difficult to keep finding speakers with subjects related to family history – it is a case of putting flesh on the bones so to speak. Family history is not just about finding out names and dates of our forebears to some people, but to some people it is. These talks give insights about what life was like in times gone by on many occasions, which can be thought-provoking about “the good old days”. To many people it was a myth that life was cruel, hard and short for many, especially the working class poor. So thank you, Jane for all your hard work. Our Thursday evenings are turned over to research, and an informal help session still seem to be a mixed bag, although I have seen some signs of improvement now we have Ancestry installed on the computers upstairs. Please take advantage of this facility, as the Ancestry subscription was kindly paid for by a donation to the group by Burntwood Town Council. There is so much information to be found on there which is useful – for example, wills, where can be found beneficiaries, and how much money was left in a deceased person’s
estate. Talking of Burntwood Town Council, they have asked the group to support them by having a display stall in the annual Wakes Festival held on 1st July between noon and 4 pm on the Recreational Ground off Chasetown High Street. This is an outside event so, weather permitting, we will showcase the group in the hope attracting more local people to the group. Any volunteer helpers will be greatly appreciated. In my experience, members of the public who have come to our stand at previous events all have a story to tell, but are a little wary of starting their family tree because of what they may find. Our recent trip to the Who Do You Think You Are Live show at the NEC, Birmingham, was enjoyed by all who went. This was the last WDYTYA Show to be held there, according to the show’s organisers, due to lack of support, although it has been held there for the past few years. I think it may be a case of overkill, and the event should have been moved around the country to get a different audience and, maybe, different group stalls. We will have to see if this happens, and see if there is any interest from group members in travelling further afield. Our trip to The National Archives at Kew which was tentatively planned for 29th June has been postponed until the autumn of this year, due to lack of interest. Remember, you do not just have to go to the N.A. Kew Gardens is very close so, if you prefer to go there, or to spend the day in London, the choice is yours, as long as you are back in time for when we set off for home. We have our group’s Annual General Meeting in a couple of months time, so please come along, air your views, and tell us what you want from the group in the future. Steve Bailey BFHG Chairman 2016–2017
Who Do You Think You Are Live, 2017 by Steve Bailey

Our annual trip to the WDYTYA Live Show at the NEC Birmingham proved to be the last, it seems, for the coming future, as the organisers have decided it is no longer financially viable to continue the event, due to lack of support. It may be that it will be held next year at a different venue – who knows? There was a smaller group of us this year than last, so travel arrangements were hastily re-arranged at the 11th hour (it was the afternoon before, really!), but everything turned out OK in the end, thanks to Garry Griffiths at Cavalier Travel in Burntwood. To make matters worse, our tickets, which were pre-ordered and supposedly sent by secure post, hadn’t turned up by the day of our travel (and still haven’t arrived!), so arrangements has to be made to pick them up at the show, which did work out, fortunately. We arrived just before the show opened, collected our tickets, and in we went. There were quite a few stalls that had been there year after year, so maybe that contributed to the organisers’ decision to call it a day. I wandered around, catching up with old acquaintances, and resumed my search for my maternal great-grandmother, who seems to be one of those people who doesn’t want to be found. Up to the visit to the show, I had not been able to find any record of her birth, marriage or death. I persevered, then asked on the Ancestry and Find My Past stands, and eventually the very nice young people found what I believe to be my great grandmother’s death. Try as we might, though, we couldn’t find any record of her birth or marriage. I came to the conclusion that they had moved out of the area they were bought up in, far enough so that no-one would know them, and simply told neighbours they were man and wife. There seemed to be a couple or more companies advertising and undertaking DNA testing, and the price of the testing was noticeably less than in previous years. I went into one of the lectures about DNA but, after about ten minutes, I thought I was in a lecture from Professor Stanley Unwin (some of our older members will remember him from years ago – he used to jumble his worms
up!). I had been considering testing for the past couple of years, but I thought the price was reasonable, so I took the plunge. The results, when they did eventually come back, were surprising and shocked me, as I don’t know what I was expecting. I need to read more on this subject, and ask more questions to make sense of the results. All in all, it was a very enjoyable day, but very tiring. I thought I had made good
progress with my search for my Great Grandmother Maria Smith, and one out of three wasn’t bad in my book.

On to the Cape! A further extract from the Boer War diary of Charles William Graddon by Chris Graddon

For most of his life, my grandfather, Charles William Graddon, served his country as a career soldier, steadily working his way up through the ranks. During his periods of service in the Boer War and the Great War, Charles kept a personal day-by-day account of his experiences of those conflicts. Last issue, we presented an extract from one of those diaries, telling of the first few part of his 18-day journey to South Africa to join the Boer War campaign. This time we continue his journey to the Cape of Good Hope, through more diary extracts.

27 October 1899 (Friday) Had another morning of rushing about. Mr B did not really know what he wanted, so all hands were on parade with bare feet, and had drill after, the usual routine of meals and at 8.15 p.m. managed to get up a military concert, 14 events, had to stand by and bring up the singers, had it on the quarter deck which was decorated with flags and full of passengers and troops, passed off very well and at the close I was complimented by Lord Methuen. [NOTE: Baron Methuen, GCB, GCMG, GCVO (1845–1932), rose through the military ranks, seeing
active duty included the Ashanti campaign of 1873– 1874 and the Battle of Tel el-Kebir. He was deputy adjutant-general in South Africa (1888–1890). He served in the expedition of Sir Charles Warren to Bechuanaland in 1884–1885, where he commanded Methuen’s Horse, a corps
of mounted rifles. He reached South Africa in 1899, and expelled the Boers from Belmont and Graspan, where he was slightly wounded at Modder River. His greatest defeat was at the Battle of Magersfontein. He was also captured with a broken leg, after his horse had fallen on him, and wounded at Tweebosch on 7 March 1902, and released by the Boers due to the severity of his injuries.] The inoculation against enteric started this morning but very few turned up for it. I don’t think it is very popular. Off to bed about 10, very tired, I always sleep soundly. Beginning to get hot now and can’t bear any clothes on at night. Having good runs, made 366 knots yesterday leaving 40402 to Cape Town. [NOTE: Enteric fever is another name for typhoid, the acute bacterial disease transmitted through the ingestion of food or water contaminated with human excreta. Sir Almroth Wright developed an effective vaccine in 1897.] Lord Methuen c. 1902'
28 October 1899 (Saturday) A scorcher today, put on khaki jacket, sweat running off me as I write, everyone the same. Parade will be on shortly and will have to dodge about. Am off. Saw the flying fish and porpoises this afternoon, the sea was lovely and calm, came in sight of Cape Verde or Cabo Blanco. Got to bed early but most uncomfortable sleeping, so hot.
29 October 1899 (Sunday) Another Sunday arrived, usual routine to go through but no drill, weather hot and sea fairly calm. Had a service on the port hurricane deck which I attended and made me wonder what Rose was doing at home. The singing on the ship sounded grand. Turned into bed shortly after. Shall be glad when we arrive at our destination.
30 October 1899 (Monday) Had a very heavy rain storm this morning, it came down in a sheet, which made the air much cooler. About 12.30 the ship stopped owing to some slight breakdown and was delayed 2½ hours, the result was her run was only 315 miles.
31 October 1899 (Tuesday) More hot weather, last night in the cabin was unbearable and I did not get much sleep. Had the usual salt water bath in the morning which was very refreshing. Took a squad for drill at 10.30 and got on very well with them. I think everyone is looking forward to the end of the voyage as there is so much sameness. Appetite not so good, too hot I suppose, however I manage to pick out some tasty dishes, and enjoy the coffee after dinner, the tea is not much good. The ship is beginning to roll. I fancy we shall have a rough night, must go on deck for a bit of fresh air. The 1st class had a ball and invited the 2nd class, none of the military turned up. We crossed the equator today about 4 p.m.
1 November 1899 (Wednesday) Roused up this morning by the bosun wanting his swabbers, so had to have them hunted up for him. The passengers got up some sports in the afternoon, some of which were very good, the pillow fight especially. 2 men sat facing one another on a boom over a bath with about 4 feet of water, each had a pillow and had to try and knock one another off, and the one who stuck on was the winner. However it was so difficult everyone had a ducking, which caused great laughter. The ship had to stop again this morning for 2 hours owing to repairs to her engines. Roll on and let us get to the Cape. Just had dinner and must go and detail duties for tomorrow; the great job is to find the ones I want. I stayed on deck till late watching the sea which seemed to be on fire, and the stars shone with unusual brilliancy. Today I saw an unusual number of flying fish; they seem to be like a mackerel with wings.

2 November 1899 (Thursday) Such a rolling and pitching, the weather is getting cooler and a strong head wind is blowing causing the spray to come over the decks. A lot are sick but I am not affected by it. Had a fine dinner and retired early.

3 November 1899 (Friday) Still a strong head wind and plenty of pitching, several vacant seats at breakfast this morning. The sea has been looking grand, the foam rolling from the vessel in huge masses. Had a game of deck quoits during the afternoon. I wonder how dear Rosie is now. God bless her. Went to bed at 9.30.

9 November 1899 (Thursday) Arrived at the Cape on the evening of the 9th. There were crowds of negroes on the quay and lots of fashionable white people. What excitement, all seeing strange sights, and above all towered Table Mountain and Lion Rock. I don’t think there can be a finer sight in the world, the top seems flat and a light cloud hung partly over it, which is called its tablecloth. Up nearly all night arranging things, tired out. As viewed from Bloubergstrand across Table Bay, Table Mountain is flanked by Devil's Peak on the left and Lion's Head on the right.
Lion Rock.
Reviews of Talks by Guest Speakers. Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

April 2017: David Taylor on ‘Where Did All the Nail Makers Go?’ Reviewer: Helen Bratten

David Taylor’s talk was about the end of an industry, nail making. An interest in family history prompted him to write his dissertation on The Nail Makers of Wombourne. He researched details of the village over a period of 60 years, to find out how changes there affected the inhabitants, particularly those producing nails as a cottage industry. Wombourne was closely associated with nail making in the 19th Century, yet pictures of the village show rural scenes. The area was very poor, with little known about it. One part of the village was known as ‘the waste’, as it had sewage running through. Wombourne was a mixture of semi-rural and industrial. David Taylor compared the lot of the nailer with the agricultural
worker. The increase and decrease of the population of Wombourne matched the rise and decline of hand made nail making, so it seems that, for a time, there was more money to be made making nails – although, depending on the time of year, people could work at either trade. Sometimes, the nail masters reduced the price paid to the nailers, and sometimes the price of iron rose; so it was a precarious trade, with much exploitation. In 1841, a woman going out to work would have been classed as a worker, while a woman working at home would not have been, as domestic production did not count. However, much of the nail making was undertaken by women and children, in small workshops at home or nearby. Gradually, throughout the 19th Century, nail making became automated in large factories, and the making of nails by hand declined.

May 2017: Brian Teall on ‘Enigma: Learn to Crack the Code’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

Brian Teall began his talk by reminding us that code-cracking puzzles used to be popular in many newspapers. He remarked that languages are codes, and that some ancient languages are yet to be deciphered. Throughout history, codes have been used to send secret messages. The fate of Mary Queen of Scots was sealed when the code in the Babington plot was solved. Before the Second World War, Japanese travellers in the USA who came into contact with First Nation Americans (formerly called Red Indians) were amazed to discover that each tribe had developed a language entirely different from every other tribe. Many Japanese were intrigued enough to learn these languages. However, by the time the Japanese entered the War, they still had no experience of the Navajo language. During the war, the US Armed Services recruited members of the Navajo nation, who were used to transmit secret messages in the Navajo language, which were translated back into English by another Navajo at the destination. Although the Japanese intercepted many such messages, they were never able to crack this code. Arthur Scherbius, a German electrical engineer, developed the first cipher machine, which he patented in 1918. Marketed commercially as ‘Enigma’, in 1928 it was adopted by the German military. Part of a family of portable cipher machines, it had a series of interchangeable rotary scramblers (initially three),
which randomly generated polyalphabetic substitute ciphers; every pin and contact on each reel represented one of the 26 letters of the alphabet. The Germans believed the operating methods, if properly enforced, would make the final cipher unbreakable. The possibility of cracking the code of the initial machine was in the order of 10,000 to 1, and increased with the later addition of further rotary scramblers. However, poor procedures on the part of German operatives allowed Enigma machines to be reverse-engineered and the codes read. They always started their transmission with the weather forecast, for example. Some of the operators put in ‘sillies’, such as a girl’s name, which were also clues. The Polish set up a cipher bureau in December, 1932. Marian Adam Rejewski was one of the mathematicians recruited for the task of breaking the Enigma code. He and his colleagues developed successive techniques for decrypting Enigma messages. Five weeks before Germany invaded Poland in 1939, they knew of the German plans to invade, but knew that the Polish army were not strong enough to repel the invaders. Rejewski and his colleagues escaped with their decoding machines to France. After the fall of France in 1940, Rejewski and his colleagues eventually arrived in England with Enigma and the code-breaking machines, called ‘Bombes’. However, the Poles were thought to be a security risk, so their code-breaking work took place away from Bletchley Park, the British code breaking centre.

The Rejewski Bombe machines, though different, must have helped Alan Turing develop his machines for cracking the code at Bletchley. Even now, however, the Poles have been given little credit for their contribution. When Brian Teall visited Bletchley Park, mention of Rejewski was confined to an obscure area of the site. Initially, ten Wrens were employed, intercepting the German Morse code from Enigma. Messages consisting of a series of ‘meaningless’ letters could be sent at any time. This meant that the women would have to stay at their posts for eight
hours at a time without a break. By the end of the war, 8,000 Wrens were working at Bletchley. Men tried to do this work, but were not equal to the task. At first, when a Wren had downloaded a message, she would have to race across to Hut 6 for the code-breakers to decipher it, whatever the weather outside! Then, a series of ingenious tubes were installed between the huts. This enabled the messages to be passed between the huts without the Wrens having to battle the elements. The work at Bletchley Park was absolutely top secret. To the locals, it looked like a place where the going was easy, in pleasant surroundings with the chance of playing tennis, swimming, and enjoying the companionship of other young people, unlike others of their age who were risking their lives on the front line. The land army girls were sometimes quite hostile but, even so, there were no security leaks; the Wrens kept silent about the work they had done for many years. Even their families were unaware. There were several cases of the UK getting hold of Enigma Machines. In May 1941, an intact Enigma Machine was recovered by crew of HMS Bulldog from U-boat 110, which had been depth-charged and was sinking. On 30th October 1942, a Tamworth man, Able Seaman Colin Grazier, together with Lt. Tony Fasson, went down with stricken U559 after they had passed signal codebooks to Canteen Assistant Tommy Brown. This book played a part in the code breaking and Alan Turing developing the British Bombe machines. Although often suspicious of each other, there was collaboration between the USA and British Intelligence even before the Americans came into the war. Alan Turing was a top level link, instrumental in ensuring that, after 1941, when it was impossible for British industry to produce enough Bombe machines, American industry could, and did.

In 1941, the German Army started using a high-security coding machine linked to a teleprinter developed by the Lorenz Company. This enabled the High Command to communicate in complete secrecy. Teleprinters use the 32-symbol Bardot code, which has five channels using streams of bits consisting of holes; no holes; 0; 1; dot; or cross. However, in August of that year, a long ticker-tape message was sent by a German operator which, just at the end, was interrupted by the recipient, who replied ‘didn’t get that, send it again’. This was done, but using the same settings and, to save time, the operator also abbreviated some of the words. This mistake was seized upon by the mathematicians at Bletchley
Park. Bill Tutte was able to deduce how this new cipher machine, nicknamed ‘Tunny’, worked, a real tour de force in the days before computers. The teleprinter attached was nicknamed ‘Fish’. Bletchley codebreakers did not see an actual Lorenz machine until after the war! Enigma. The mathematician Max Newman thought that it would be possible to automate part of the search, to find which setting was being used for a message and solve the code. The electronic machine first developed, called ‘Heath Robinson’, could not keep the tapes in synch. Tommy Flowers, a brilliant GPO engineer, developed Colossus. This forerunner of the computer used valves which, at the time, were considered unreliable. However, Flowers said they were reliable if they were never switched off, which proved to be true. Colossus contained 2,500 radio valves, and could search 5,000 characters per second. Flowers’ design kept the symbols generated by the ticker tapes in synch. After the war, Churchill ordered the Colossus machines to be dismantled. Two were kept, because the Russians had two Lorenz machines. These were dismantled in the 1960s.

It was hoped that Colossus could be rebuilt, but the plans of the circuits were lost. A court case in America forced the US government to release a number of papers under the 40-year rule. Tony Sale looked through these and noticed one entitled, ‘The Cryptographic Attack on Fish’. Being curious, he looked at this paper and found that it was a photograph of the Colossus circuitry, clandestinely taken at Bletchley Park 40 years before by a visiting American! This enabled Tony Sale to rebuild Colossus. No-one uses valves any more, so Tony Sale advertised, and he received 15,000 valves to begin his reconstruction in 1993. The first part was switched on by the Duke of Kent at Bletchley Park in 1996, with Tommy Flowers, the original engineer, and Tony Sale present. It took Sale 14 years to complete. His completed machine is on show at Bletchley Park. Recently, as a test, a problem was posed to a modern computer and Colossus at the same time. Colossus solved it twice as fast as the modern computer! Brian Teall showed us that the brilliant work by all those at Bletchley Park was crucial to the British war effort. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts (illegal at the time), and given the choice of prison or a clinical ‘cosh’. He died from cyanide poison in 1954. In 2009, Gordon Brown gave an apology for the way Turing had been treated. Brian commented that the outcome of the war might have been very different if Turning had been prosecuted before 1941!
June 2017: Steve Booth on ‘The Great Fauld Explosion’ Reviewer: Sheila Clarke

Steve Booth was a history teacher, and he has included the explosion at Fauld in the GCSE syllabus for students at the school at which he taught. His talk gave us a comprehensive overview of the lead-up to, and the aftermath of, what was the largest ever accidental explosion to date. Colossus Near the village of Fauld in Staffordshire, there was a gypsum mine before the World War II, where not only anhydrite and gypsum, but alabaster was mined.  nlabaster from Fauld has been used by sculptors throughout the ages. The alabaster for the porch of the Norman church at Tutbury came from Fauld, and when Pugin designed the Catholic Church at Cheadle, he used Fauld alabaster for the font. When extracting the rock, the miners left pillars of inferior alabaster to hold up the roof of the mine so that, over time, there were extensive caverns underground. At the beginning of the 1930s, there was no appetite for war, and defence was a low priority. However, when German bombers annihilated Guernica in Spain in 1936, it was thought that an efficient air force was desirable, and powerful bombers might be necessary. In 1937, the government purchased some of the worked-out underground caverns from the mining company at Fauld for a good price, as a storage facility for the RAF. Other such facilities were opened around the country. Airfields were constructed on the flatter lands, particularly in East Anglia. When war broke out in 1939, the caverns at Fauld were ideally situated for storing armaments particularly bombs. There was already a rail link from the mine towards the airfields. The powerful Lancaster bomber was developed, and each plane could carry 10 tons of bombs. Large amounts of high explosives were stored underground, as it was deemed that bombs could only be safely kept on open ground for half a day.

Later in the war, American Flying Fortress bombers also used airfields in East Anglia, and bombs for them were stored at Fauld, too. Bombs are expensive to make, so any which had not been dropped over Germany could be refurbished and used again. Bombers could not land with the bombs still slung underneath, so there was an arrangement that they would be jettisoned somewhere the Royal Navy could retrieve them, such as Goodwin sands. The bombs were returned to Fauld for inspection or refurbishment so that they were available for reuse. The Americans had developed a 4,000lb bomb, which was capable of destroying a whole street. They, too, were stored at Fauld. By 1944, the RAF needed more storage facilities for armaments, so the government purchased another cavern from the Gypsum Company. Two openings were made in the dividing rock barrier between the ‘old’ and ‘new’ caves to accommodate the narrow gauge railway. Along the track, there were niches in the wall in case someone was walking from one cavern to the other and needed to shelter from an oncoming train. 32,000 tons of explosives were moved from Fauld each day, and a total of 1,000 people worked at the facility, both military and civilian. 189 Italians who had been released from the POW camps chose to work at Fauld instead of returning to Italy (Italy had joined the Allies by that time). The work in the new area was dangerous, but anything hazardous had to be done in special areas away from the other explosives. November that year had been particularly dry, and on Monday 27th November the weather again was dry but cold. Inside the facility, the temperature was always a constant 55°F. At 11.10 am, an armourer was walking from the old area into the new along the railway track. He heard a slight sharp cracking sound, followed by another. A rush of air which carried on into the roof knocked him off his feet and into one of the alcoves. This saved his life.

On the surface, a column of fire, smoke and the debris of rock, soil, trees, buildings and animals rose one and a half miles into the sky, and formed a mushroom cloud before falling back to earth, eventually leaving a four-inch thick layer of dust on the ground and a crater 91 metres deep and 230 metres across. The sound of the explosion was heard in Lichfield; people in Burton upon Trent thought it was an earthquake. It was heard in Coventry, and as far south as London. A seismograph in Rome registered a minor earthquake. Strangely, the noise of the explosion did not seem to travel in all directions from the epicentre and, in some places quite nearby, people were unaware of the catastrophe. Thirty metres above the cavern was Upper Castle Hayes Farm. The government had allowed the farm to continue working, perhaps to deceive the Germans that the area was of no significance and very rural. The farm and its animals were totally obliterated. The farmer and his wife had left the farm earlier, to go to market, and were not affected by the explosion. Unfortunately, north of the farm was the actual Gypsum works and its nearby reservoir, needed in the manufacturing process. The dam was breached in the explosion, and the works was destroyed in the tsunami of water and mud which engulfed it, killing the 37 workers. The mud and water continued down the road, along which the owners of Upper Hayes farm were travelling. They drowned and were buried under 6ft of mud. Their children were at school, unaware of their parents’ fate, and an uncle from Burton came to break the dreadful news.

Children at the local school sheltered under their desks, because the ceiling had caved in. The Burton Daily Mail of 27th November 1944 reported that their teacher had encouraged the children to sing and, when rescuers arrived, they heard them singing ‘There’ll Always Be An England’. The local pub, ‘The Cock Inn’, was almost completely destroyed; but one local was pleased to say that there was plenty of beer in the undamaged cellar, and the landlady was pulling pints again later that day. The pub was later rebuilt and now has a large free car park with a sign telling the story of the disaster. From there, it is possible possible to walk around the Hanbury Crater, as it is now called, and perhaps have some refreshments at the hostelry later! Like all terrible events, conspiracy theories about the explosion were rife. Was it caused by one for the Italians? Did a V2 rocket make it this far north? Lord Haw-Haw was quick to claim this at 8.45 pm the same night. Goering claimed that it was a new V3 rocket. In December 1944, a Court of Enquiry led by Air Vice Marshal Alan Lees, was convened. It concluded that the Italians played no part in the tragedy whatsoever, and that it was extremely unlikely that any rocket the Germans then had was powerful enough to come so far. At the time of the explosion, the man in charge of the facility was on holiday, and there was no one in charge who was aware of the rules for working on hazardous equipment. Corporal Lionel Painton, who himself survived, said that he had noticed an unsupervised worker trying to remove a nosecone from a 1,000 lb bomb with a brass chisel and a metal hammer, and was not in a safety area. He heard a small explosion, followed by another, and a rush of air of tremendous force rising upwards. The enquiry concluded that a spark from the inappropriate use of equipment by a poorly trained worker had ignited the 450,000 tonnes of ordinance, including five million rounds of ammunition in the ‘new’ cave. The ‘old’ cave was not involved, because the wall dividing the caves contained the explosion within the ‘new’ cave.

After the war, the crater’s lunar appearance was landscaped, and many trees planted. There are several memorials to the people killed at Fauld; the latest is at the National Memorial Arboretum. Steve Booth wondered why, at the enquiry, the government was not questioned as to why people near the caves had not been moved before the storage facility opened. He mentioned that when digging had taken place near the crater, trees uprooted and thrown into the air by the explosion were found buried upside-down!
Missing Wives and Torn Banknotes by Kaye Christian

I’ve just finished the hugely entertaining Journal for last quarter, and was saddened when I turned the last page and realised I was at the end. There’s always something in there that’s either new, interesting or funny. I’m writing this in response to two questions that were posed by Gail Fynes in her article ‘Jubilee Cottage and Other Matters’. One of her questions was about the 1939 Register, and why some ladies have their surnames crossed out and their married names written in, even though the ladies in question married their husbands after 1939. I, too, had been wondering on this very fact, as my mother and father married in May 1940, yet her entry shows her maiden name crossed out and her married name written in. This could be extremely helpful if you are struggling to find out who a female ancestor or family member had married. I have had that problem with a few ladies with a fairly common name but, unfortunately, the ladies were born too early to feature in the 1939 Register. I had a look on the National Archives website, and this is what they say: ‘Why do some entries show women’s married names, when they did not marry until long after 1939? The Register was continually updated while National Registration was in force, when it was a legal requirement to notify the registration authorities of any change of name or address. This ended in 1952, but since 1948 the Register had also been used by the National Health Service, who continued updating the records until 1991, when paper-based record-keeping was discontinued.

Changes of name for any reason were recorded; in practice this was mostly when women changed their surnames on marriage or re-marriage, but also includes changes of name for any other reason, such as by deed poll. The majority of these name changes appear in the indexes, so you can search for a person using either their name in 1939 or any subsequent name.’ Gail’s other query was with regard to banknotes being cut in half and sent in two different envelopes by mail in the 1890s. She wondered what would happen if half went missing. I worked for many years in the banking industry, and I actually personally made use of the Bank of England’s Mutilated Note Service for damaged bank notes, which is what they would be considered to be (although their website does use the words ‘accidentally damaged, mutilated or contaminated’, rather than deliberately cut in half). Of course, not all bank notes are mutilated deliberately, and the one I completed a claim for was actually machine-washed by accident. I assume that the system was either the same or similar in the 1890s; the vital part of the bank note is that the serial number is printed clearly on each half of the note, and this seems to have been the case in the 1890s, with £5, £10, £20, £50, £100, £500 and £1,000 notes all having two serial numbers, one on each half. It would seem that the £60, £70, £80, £90 and £200 notes did not have the serial number system, so it would be unwise to cut those in two halves and send them separately by mail. Goodness knows how much the £1,000 banknote would equate to today! The Bank of England website states that:

‘The Bank will give reasonable consideration to claims made in respect of banknotes which have been damaged accidentally. A key consideration for the Bank is that we should not knowingly pay out twice on the same banknote. As a general rule, there should be physical evidence of at least half a banknote before payment can be made. If the Bank receives an application where less than half a banknote has been submitted, and there is no clear evidence that the corresponding portion of the damaged banknote has been destroyed, it is unlikely that payment will be made.’ If the notes were cut in half and placed in two envelopes, with one of the letters going missing, a claim to the Bank of England would presumably result in the Bank waiting a prescribed length of time to await a possible claimant holding the other halves of the notes. If both halves did result in two claims, I would presume that it would be up to the claimants to prove that the notes belonged to them, and for the Bank to decide who had the stronger claim. Of course, the Bank of England could possibly just respond by saying that it was rather a stupid thing to do deliberately, and refuse to pay out at all. Certainly today, it seems quite clear that the scheme only covers accidental damage. The Bank of England receives around 23,000 individual applications each year, totalling around £11,000,000. Despite the high volumes, the majority of claims
are assessed within a few days. Of course, this doesn’t mean you will actually be reimbursed in a few days – merely that the claim will be assessed quickly. This is their website: http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/Pages/damaged_banknotes.aspx

In case you were wondering about my own personal machine-washed banknote story, then yes, the Bank of England did pay out and they sent me the face value very quickly. After writing this, I was thinking overnight, “How on earth did they stick the two halves of the bank notes back together”? So I checked on Wikipedia, and they say: Pressure-sensitive adhesive, a key component of some adhesive tapes, was first developed in 1845 by Dr. Horace Day, a surgeon. So, I suppose sticky tape was around in the 1890s, although Scotch tape and Sellotape weren’t invented until the 1900s!

This Issue’s Cover Photograph The Fingerpost, Pelsall. Photograph: Alan Betts

Pelsall has been recorded since the 10th Century as ‘Peoleshale’, later ‘Peleshale’, and later still ‘Peleshala’. The name is derived from ‘Peol’s corner of land’. ‘Halh’ is a Saxon suffix, which may refer to its original position being between two streams. The cutting of the canal in about 1794 opened up the area for industrialisation, with entrepreneurs and landowners quickly exploiting the mineral wealth. Pelsall had become a mining village by the 19th Century; in places, deposits of coal were found only a few yards from the surface. Nailmaking, traditionally a cottage industry, was also carried out locally; on the 1841 census, thirty men gave this as their occupation. An ironworks was established on the North Common, which grew into a sizeable concern and, together with two foundries, gave Pelsall a share of the heavy iron trade during the 19th century. By the 1990s, many of the pits became unworkable mainly due to continual flooding problems. A notable landmark in Pelsall is The Fingerpost, at the junction of the B4154, Norton Road, and the A4124, Lichfield Road. It is an unusual and possibly unique design and was substantially restored in the 1980s, replacing an earlier way sign, which is likely to have been a wooden post with a single point at end of each of its four arms. Complete fingerpost with four directional signs and finger pointers. The present Fingerpost, featuring four complete metal hands with pointing fingers, was designed for the Pelsall Civic Society by Bert Kellitt.

The Western Front by Bill Corns

The journey to Belgium to visit the battlefields of the First World War on the Western Front began on Monday 22nd May, from Lichfield, where 13 members were picked up by our coach at 7.05 am. We had a detour through London to pick up more passengers, and then headed for Dover and the crossing by ferry over to Calais. We journeyed to Mouscron, our base for the trip. We settled into our hotel for the night before starting the tour the next day. On meeting our guide, Peter Williams, we were informed that at the end of our tour we would be physically, mentally and emotionally tired, and we were! Our first stop was Gheluvelt, where Hitler saw action in 1914. South Wales Borderers were overwhelmed by the German defences, but the day was saved by the Worcester Regiment charging the chateau, the centre of resistance. The Germans retreated, enabling the combined British forces to retreat in order. There was a plaque in Gheluvelt extolling the bravery of the Worcesters, and there is a park in Worcester itself named after the famous action. A lot of underground warfare took place, and that work was evidenced at the Caterpillar Crater, now flooded and looking peaceful. Then on to Sanctuary Wood and Hill 62 museum, with trenches still visible. In the museum was a clock decorated with bullets and shell – very disturbing. Sanctuary Wood was so named because it screened troops behind the front line. Hill 60 was our next stop, and again we saw trenches, which have recently been renovated by the owner of the Hoodge. Our final visit of a long day was to Ypres. to witness the sounding of the Last Post at the Menim Gate. Unfortunately, there were so many people there that it was difficult to see the ceremony, but the quiet that descended at 8.00 pm when the post was sounded was extraordinary. This ceremony has taken place every evening, except during WW2, when the Germans held Ypres, but it resumed on the very first evening the Germans retreated.

The next day, after breakfast it was off to Arras, going deep underground in the Wellington Quarries – just part of the cave network which stretches for miles beneath the city. The existing caves were enlarged by New Zealander tunnellers, and extensively used to house troops and move them to the front line in relative safety. Next was Vimy Ridge, and the inspirational memorial to honour all of Canada s war dead. Standing at Vimy Ridge, it was clear to see its importance; it commands a 360 degree view of the battlefield, and the view is sensational. The fighting for the ridge was bloody but, once it was in our hands, the Germans never re-took it. Each year, Canadian students are selected to come over and act as guides, and it is a great honour to be chosen. Peronne houses the museum of the Great War in a reconstructed chateau. the exhibits are wide-ranging, showing uniforms and various implements of war. There was also an exhibit of impressionistic pen and ink prints by a German soldier, Otto Dix. The prints were very disturbing, illustrating nightmares and giving insights to why so many would not speak of their experiences. Another highlight of this visit was a moving picture/illustration of the battle for Peronne, and a model of the Australians memorial, depicting a “digger” bayoneting the Imperial Eagle of Germany. The original was destroyed by German Forces in WW2.

On to Delville Woods (Devil’s Wood), so thickly covered in trees it is difficult to manoeuvre. It is said that an Allied and a German soldier bayoneted each other at the same time, and were found standing locked together in death. The Ulster memorial at Theipval was enchanting, a fairytale tower modelled on Helen’s Tower in Ulster. We stopped to walk the Lochnagar Crater, the largest surviving mine crater of the Somme. The ground was purchased in 1989, and is preserved by the Friends of Lochnagar. We were fortunate to arrive when they were working there, and we talked about the crater. One worker related that there were over 15,000 bodies under the crater. The Newfoundland troops memorial at Beaumont Hamel houses a museum, and there are still to be seen trenches that are unsafe, with unexploded weaponry. In this area there were many sunken roads used for centuries by farmers. We were shown the “sunken lane” seen in the film of WWI, where troops were packed in waiting for the signal to advance. It was the first time movie film was used in an actual battle, and the mine explosion seen in the film was at the
nearby Hawthorn Ridge. Theipval memorial, commemorating the 73,367 missing British and South African troops of the Arras offensive, is magnificent. It is huge, but deliberately built four metres short of the height of the Arc de Triumph, so as not to cause offence to France. There is a small cemetery at the rear of the memorial, with 500 British and 500 French overlooking the landscape they had fought so long and hard for. Overall, the tour was excellent, and this piece only touches on the main sites we saw. Throughout, Peter, our guide, was telling us where we were in relation to the various battles, and where and how the front lines changed, outlining the numbers involved, showing individual soldiers graves with anecdotes about them, how the Imperial War Graves Commission came about, and how they decided to deal with the horrendous numbers involved. Despite all the horrors, Peter enlivened his talk with jokes to rejuvenate our spirits.

Reflections on the Trip to the Battlefields of World War I by Keith Stanley

You can study maps full of familiar place names. You can stare intently at old photos and decipher letters from the front. You can read regimental diaries that record actions fought and acts of heroism. Being there – actually walking the same ground – is a different experience entirely. 300 yards, a distance that you can walk in five minutes, becomes an insurmountable barrier. A slight rise in the ground conveys a major advantage. A small hollow becomes a place to hide. A wood that provides shelter from the summer sun is the scene of desperate hand-to-hand combat. It was a World War. That is true. It was also a local war. An incredibly local war. The distances involved are often very small. Men fought, and died, for months, to take possession of a few yards of chewed-up ground. Travelling around the area today, the evidence is all around. A century has softened the contours of the shell holes, but the passage of time has not erased the evidence. The sheer number of cemeteries is striking. They vary in size. They are all different, but they share a serenity that is difficult to quantify. Each headstone represents a human tragedy, a life cut short, a cause for weeping. A single headstone. Ten headstones, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand individual tragedies.

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