Trail 44 – Kent (Part 3) – Sir Barnes Wallis – His Early Years

After visiting the many museums and former airfields in the southern and central parts of Kent (Trail 4 and Trail 18) we now turn north and head to the northern coastline. Here we overlook the entrance to the Thames estuary, the Maunsell Forts – designed to protect the approaches to London and the east coast – and then take a short trip along the coastline of northern Kent. Our first stop is not an airfield nor a museum, it is a statue of the designer of one of the world’s most incredible weapons – the bouncing bomb. Our first short stop is at Herne Bay, and the statue of Sir Barnes Wallis.

Sir Barnes Wallis – Herne Bay

Sir Barnes Wallis

The Barnes Wallis statue located at the eastern end of the town overlooking the sea at Reculver.

There cannot be a person alive who has not seen, or know about, the famous Dambusters raid made by 617 Sqn. It is a story deeply embedded in history, one of the most daring raids ever made using incredible ideas, skill and tenacity. There is so much written about both it, and the man behind the idea – Sir Barnes Neville Wallis CBE FRS RDI FRAeS – a man famous for his engineering prowess and in particular the famous ‘Bouncing Bomb’ that was used by Guy Gibson’s 617 Squadron in that daring raid of 16th May 1943. But there is so much more to Barnes Wallis than the Bouncing bombs; he made a huge contribution to British Aviation, weaponry of the Second World War, and later on in his life, supersonic and hypersonic air travel.

He is certainly one the Britain’s more notable designers, and has memorials, statues and plaques spread across the length and breadth of the country in his honour. But he was not just a designer of the Bouncing bomb, his talent for engineering and design led him through a series of moves that enabled him to excel and become a major part of British history.

Born on 26th September 1887 in Ripley, Derbyshire, he was educated at Christ’s Hospital in Horsham, he went on to study engineering in London, and shortly afterwards moving to the Isle of Wight. With the First World War looming, he was offered a chance to work on airship designs – an innovative design that would become widely used by the Naval forces of both the U.K. and Germany.

Wallis cut his teeth in marine engines as an engineer and draughtsman. He began his career in the London’s shipyards, moving to the Isle of Wight after which he broke into airship design. He followed a colleague he had met whilst working as a draughtsman with John Samuel White’s shipyard, together they would design His Majesty’s Airship No.9 (HMA 9).

The design process of HMA 9 was dynamic to say the least. Early non-rigid airships were proving to be very successful, and the new rigids that were coming in – whilst larger and more capable of travelling longer distances with greater payloads – were becoming the target for successive quarrels between the government and the Admiralty. World unrest and political turmoil was delaying their development even though plans for HMA 9 had already been drawn up.

Joining with his colleague, H.B. Pratt in April 1913, at the engineering company Vickers, the two designers began drawing up plans for a new rigid based along the lines of the German Zeppelin. HMA 9 would be a step forward from the ill-fated HMA No. 1 “Mayfly”, and would take several years to complete. Further ‘interference’ from the Admiralty (One Winston Churchill) led to the order being cancelled but then reinstated during 1915. The final construction of the 526 ft. long airship was on 28th June 1916, but its first flight didn’t take place until the following November, when it became the first British rigid airship to take to the Skies.

HMA 9 (author unknown*1)

With this Wallis had made his mark, and whilst HMA 9 remained classed as an ‘experimental’ airship with only 198 hours and 16 minutes of air time, she was a major step forward in British airship design and technology.

The Pratt and Wallis partnership were to go on and create another design, improving on the rigids that have previously been based on Zeppelin designs, in the form of the R80. Created through the pressure of war, the R80 would have to be designed and built inside readily available sheds as both steel and labour were in very short supply. Even before design or construction could begin there were barriers facing the duo.

Construction started in 1917, but with the end of the war in 1918, there was little future as a military airship for R80. Dithering by the Air Ministry led to the initial cancellation of the project, forcing the work to carry on along a commercial basis until the project was reinstated once more. With this reinstatement, military modifications, such as gun positions, were added to the airship once again. With construction completed in 1920, she made her first flight that summer. However, after sustaining structural damage she was returned to the sheds where repair work was carried out, and a year later R80 took to the air once again. After a brief spell of use by the U.S. Navy for training purposes, R80 was taken to Pulham airship base in Norfolk and eventually scrapped. Wallis’s design had lasted for four years and had only flown for 73 hours.

However, undaunted by these setbacks, the Vickers partnership of Pratt and Wallis went on to develop further designs. In the 1920s, a project known as the 1924 Imperial Airship Scheme, was set up where by a Government sponsored developer would compete against a commercial developer, and the ‘best of both’ would be used to create a new innovative design of airship that would traverse the globe. This new design, would offer both passenger and mail deliveries faster than any current methods at that time.

The Government backed design (built at the Royal Airship Works at Cardington) would compete against Vickers with Wallis as the now Chief Designer.

The brief was for a craft that could transport 100 passengers at a speed of 70 knots over a range of 3,000 miles. Whilst both designs were similar in size and overall shape, they could not have been more different. Wallis, designing the R.100, used a mathematical geodetic wire mesh which gave a greater gas volume than the Government’s R101, which was primarily of stainless steel and a more classic design. This geodesic design was revolutionary, strong and lightweight, it would prove a great success and emerge again in Wallis’s future.

Built at the Howden site a few miles west of Hull, the R100 was designed with as few parts as possible to cut down on both costs and weight; indeed R100 had only 13 longitudinal girders half that of previous designs. Wallis’s design was so far-reaching it only used around 50 different main parts.

The design plan of Wallis’ R-100 airship (author unknown*2

The 1920s in Britain were very difficult years, with the economy facing depression and deflation, strikes were common place, and the R100 was not immune to them. Continued strikes by the workers at the site repeatedly held back construction, but eventually, on 16th December 1929, Wallis’s R100 made its maiden flight. After further trials and slight modifications to its tail, the R100 was ready. Then came a test of endurance for the airship, a flight to Canada, a flight that saw the R100 cover a journey of 3,364 miles in just under 79 hours. Welcomed as heroes, the return journey would be even quicker. Boosted by the prevailing Gulf Stream, R100 made a crossing of 2,995 miles in four minutes under 58 hours. The gauntlet had been thrown, and Wallis’s airship would be hard to beat.

The R101 would face a similar flight of endurance, this time to India, and it would use many of the same crew such was the shortage of experienced men. On October 4th 1930, R101 left its mooring at Cardington for India. Whilst over France she encountered terrible weather, a violent storm caused her to crash, whereupon she burst into flames and was destroyed with all but six of the 54 passengers and crew being killed.

The airship competition became a ‘one horse race’, but an inspection of the outer covering of Wallis’s R100 revealed excessive wear, only cured by replacing the skin, an expense the project could barely swallow. With plans already in place for the R102, the project was in jeopardy, and eventually, even after offers from the U.S. Government, it was deemed too expensive, and by 1932 R100, the worlds largest airship and most advanced of its time, had been scrapped and the parts sold off.

Wallis’s airship career had now come to an end, but his prowess and innovation as a designer had been proven, he had set the bench mark that others would find hard to follow.

In the next part, we look at the work carried out by Wallis both during the Second World War and in the later years of his life.

Sources and further reading

*1 Photo from The Airship Heritage Trust website.

*2 ibid

Battle of Britain Memorial, London

In this the 75th anniversary year of the Battle of Britain, it is rather apt to include a mention of a further part of a Trail of major memorials. Another found in London outside the Ministry of Defence Building on the Northern Embankment, is that of the Battle of Britain.


Even on a cold and wet winters day it is an inspiring memorial placed near the busy junction at Westminster Bridge.

Sculpted by Paul Day, work on the site began in February 2005 with erection of a 82ft long granite base, in two parts, on which to stand the bronze sculpture. Created initially in wax, the sculptures were cast in bronze by Morrris Singer in sections, each section depicting a scene relating to the Battle. The memorial was finally opened by HRH the Prince of Wales on 18th September 2005.


The main and most significant section shows pilots as they ‘scramble’ to their waiting aircraft. Around this, are scenes referring to the women who helped not only in the factories and munitions works, but those who ferried the vital aircraft to their airfields. Other scenes depict: workers in a slit trench watching the battle rage overhead, the gunners defending the airfield, a dogfight, observers, mechanics and fitters all of whom worked tireless to keep the damaged aircraft flying. Further depictions show pilots at rest, drinking tea and relaxing telling tales of heroism and narrow escapes. A prominent picture that came out of the battle and the following blitz, was that of Saint Paul’s Cathedral standing proud of the smoke as all London burns around it. This too has been immortalised in bronze on another of the 14 scenes.

The detail of each panel is incredible. The emotion behind the eyes of those depicted grabs the passer-by and holds them, captured momentarily in time.


The entire battle is described through these characters, the romantic idea of the battle as seen by the farm workers, the joy of a victory from returning  crews, the tiredness after yet another sortie, and the fear as they run not knowing if this were to be a one way journey.

Around the scenes are the 2,937 names of the airmen who took part in Battle. As many records from the day were inaccurate, mislaid or destroyed it had to be decided upon what criteria  would be set in order to ‘qualify’ for a listing. This was that the pilot had to have flown between 10th July and 31st October 1940 and to have been awarded the Battle of Britain Clasp after flying at least one operational sortie in one of the recognised squadrons. A daunting task that took many hours of reading and research but was eventually completed and finalised as the 2,937 that appear today.  

There are 15 countries listed, covering 544 pilots who died during the battle and 795 who were to die by the end of the war. Interestingly, there is no Israeli mention, yet in the 1969 film made famous by its incredible cast, an Israeli pilot is mentioned. Perhaps this is due to the criteria used or inaccuracies in records used by the film.

Winston Churchill’s immortalised words ‘Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few’ are etched into the  base of the memorial bringing the entire structure to life.

The detail on this memorial is incredible, just glance and you’ll miss it. The way each scene is depicted in great detail even down to the ruffles in the clothing, the emotion behind the eyes and the position of the various people, it is an awe-inspiring memorial that proudly and aptly reflects those who gave so much for so many.

The memorial is found on the Victoria Embankment opposite the London Eye to the East of Westminster Bridge.

Other major memorials can be found here.

Battle of Britain Memorial Capel-le-Ferne, Kent.

A recent revisit took me back to the Battle of Britain memorial at Capel-le-Ferne between Folkestone and Dover, in Kent. It sits high on the cliff-top, in a windy corner, a stones throw from the international docks at Dover, and the Battle of Britain airfield at Hawkinge. A ‘recent’ addition to the range of memorials, it is a poignant reminder of the young men who, from many nationalities, gave their lives in the name of freedom and the defence of this country.

Last time I was here, work was starting on the new visitor centre and the two replica aircraft, a Spitfire and Hurricane, had both been removed.

The replica Hurricane.

This week, on May 25th 2015, I went back to see what had been done.

The new centre is superb. First of all it has a good car park with ample space for a large number of cars.

The visitors centre itself has a bright open reception area and a small shop for souvenirs (I had to buy a book!) and upstairs a new cafe with a balcony overlooking the monument and across  the English Channel to France.

The Visitors center behind the ‘Wall of Honour’.

Entrance to the memorial is still free, but there is the option to try the ‘scramble’ experience, which I believe costs £6.00.

The Spitfire and Hurricane are both back, admittedly both are metal replicas but up here it gets very windy and the weather can change dramatically in seconds, so it’s probably for the best. They are certainly good replicas. 

The carved Pilot, sitting in the centre of a three-bladed propeller, gazes patiently out to sea, watching for his missing friends. Designed by Harry Gray of the Carving Workshop, Cambridge, the pilot is surrounded by the creats of those squadrons who took part in the famous battle in the Kent skies.

To either side, two large mounds, signify the locations of anti-aircraft batteries, now silent and filled in, perhaps two replica emplacements might add to the ‘feel’ of the site, although sometimes less is more.

As before, the monument is a quiet and moving place to sit; to read the names of those who gave their lives for us, and to absorb yourself in the battle through the numerous information panels around the site. From here you begin to imagine the vapour and smoke trails high above you and to think that Hitler and his invasion forces, stood not more than 30 miles away in the distant haze on the coast of France.

A big improvement to a very moving place.

RAF West Malling revisited. 

Around two years ago, I visited West Malling airfield in Kent to see what was left of this once historic place. Surprisingly, quite a bit did still survive albeit hidden amongst new buildings and office blocks.

Many of the ‘H’ blocks were left as was the Officer’s quarters and the control tower. The tower was shrouded in scaffolding and well hidden in the depths of a housing estate.

This May, I was in the area once more and decided to pop in and see what had become of the tower. Was it an office block, a museum dedicated to the men and women who were stationed here, or a modern cafe with retro decor? It was actually a bit of all of them.

Let me explain. The ground floor is partly a Costa Coffee shop with its ‘modern’ interior, but the original walls and windows are still used. A 1940s building, they have decorated the walls with photographs taken during West Malling’s operational time. I have to admit it is rather tasteful for a coffee bar, and they have maintained the feel quite well.

The outside provides a quiet seated area.

Next door, is a property development company,  who occupy both the ground and upper floors. The ground floor entrance is a small reception in which hangs a number of large photographs, again taken from West Malling’s operational time. There are no captions to the photographs but as a visitor, you can freely browse them, or at least I did and the lady behind the reception desk didn’t seem to mind.

There still remains a fair amount of scaffolding around the top of the tower, but the overall building refurbishment seems to be complete. Even the garden area to the front, adorned with children’s comments from airshows long gone, are tastefully cared for. Whilst they have made every endeavour to preserve this historic building, it is somewhat enclosed by houses and a large supermarket. There is no reference to what role the building played or even why it is here. The whole area has been rebuilt with upmarket restaurants and boutiques and all looks very pleasant. I do wonder how long it will retain this stylish appearance?

The cafe uses the original windows and walls, displaying photographs from an era long gone.

When I was there in 2013, I distinctly remember seeing a ‘blue plaque’. These are given to specific buildings to identify them as a site of special historical interest. On visiting this time, I could not find it and as a last resort stopped and asked a suited gentleman if he knew where it was. He introduced himself as the Estates Manager and said there is no blue plaque. Maybe I was mistaken. He then proceeded to tell me that the building I was sat outside of, was the original officer’s mess and that he would show me around if I so wished.

The Officer’s Mess. The board dedicating it to Guy Gibson, is to the left of the door.

I of course jumped at the chance, and he took me around to the front of the building and showed me a board naming the building as the ‘Gibson building’ in dedication to Guy Gibson.

He unlocked the doors and we went in. The walls here are adorned with photographs, squadron badges and other personal items from those who served at West Malling during its operational time. We then went through further doors into what was the billiard room. The gentleman explained that all the wooden doors, skirting and ceiling decorations are original. He also said that the fireplace was original too and that the lighting whilst not, was the same design and shape as the original lighting.

The local toilets reflect the tower’s design.

Then we walked through to what is now the council meeting room, he again explained that the doors and ceiling decorations were originals. He went on to explain that the fireplace here too was original and showed me a photograph of the room as it was before closure, it was indeed virtually identical – all apart from the modern furniture.

We then went to what is now the public reception at the back of the building, passing on the way, the dining room. This has been made much smaller with a false wall but again much of the 1940s architecture is still evident.

“These buildings are now grade 2 listed, and as such cannot be altered without permission” he explained, and he went on to describe how on some of the buildings you can still see traces of the original camouflage paint work.

A closer look reveals the original camouflage paint.

He went on to tell me the stories behind a number of the photographs on the wall. How they got them from local people and who they were of. I asked him about other remaining buildings on the site, and he explained how all other minor structures and hangers were long since gone; this building, the ‘H’ blocks, and the control tower being the only surviving buildings.

We talked about properties near to the site such as the local pub “The Startled Saint”, which was built to keep the RAF personnel ‘on base’. He also mentioned the initial officer’s quarters, now a private residence, which has on one of the ceilings, all the names of the crew members written with candle smoke. Apparently this property is open once a year for public viewing!

Before we said our goodbyes, he gave me a booklet written in 1989 to commemorate the life of West Malling airfield and the crews and personnel stationed here before its closure.

I did not get his name, but he is the Estates manager for the property, now owned by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council, and I am truly grateful for the time he took to explain everything to me and for the booklet which I shall read and keep with pleasure.

I can certainly say that whilst the majority of the airfield has gone, what they have done with these last few buildings is both a surprise and real pleasure to see. They have tried to retain the original identity of the airfield through its architecture and road names. A number of small notice boards detail the events that occurred here from its inception until its final closure in the 1990s.

Whilst flying has long since ceased and all major features are gone, West Malling as an airfield has died. However, the centrepiece of this site, the fabulous memorial of the sculpted airman running for his plane, and the tastefully refurbished buildings, not only hold many secrets and tales, but give a hint of the atmosphere of this once historic and important Kent airfield.

West Malling was originally visited in 2013, in Trail 4. I shall be updating the trail shortly as a result of this latest visit.

Diary of a Luftwaffe pilot

A recent visit to an antiques shop, led to the purchase of two books, one detailing the events of the Battle of Britain, the second included short diary entries of Luftwaffe pilots. Sadly, not many Luftwaffe diaries exist today, all but a few being destroyed in case they fell into enemy hands! As a result, records are sketchy, few and far between.

Some of these Luftwaffe entries refer to the Battle of Britain.  I tried to make a comparison, maybe one entry would refer to the other – sadly they were not sufficiently detailed enough to be certain. This aside, I was intrigued to see the Germans portrayed their part in the battle and how they might compare in terms of recounts.

After the fall of France, the Germans built up strong groups of fighters, transports and bombers in readiness for the coming invasion of Great Britain. Five main groups (Luftflotte ‘air fleets’ similar to the RAF groups) operated across the German empire. Covering the eastern borders were Luftflotte 1 and 4, to the north in Norway and Denmark was the newly formed Luftflotte 5 and in Belgium and France , Luftflotte 2 and 3 respectively.Total servicable aircraft facing Britain amounted to 3,157.

Jagdgeschwader 3 (fighter ‘wing’ made up of 3 Gruppen*1 and 1 Stab) normally stationed on the eastern front, had been brought in to bolster numbers in Luftflotte 2 and were now based at Samer not far from Boulogne. Commanded by Hauptmann Hans von Hahn*2 (himself a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight’s Cross), Luftflotte 2 were able to field 23 Messerschmitt Bf 109Es at the start of September.

The mid part of September had been dogged by poor weather, on the 12th 13th and 14th, the Luftwaffe launched only small raids and reconnaissance missions with minimal numbers of aircraft. Many fighter pilots were given the luxury of rest periods some even taking in local sites.

One of the biggest days of the Battle of Britain, now celebrated as Battle of Britain day, was Sunday 15th September 1940. It saw a major change in Luftwaffe policies. The weather was misty but promised to improve, and the Germans saw this as an opportunity to bring a severe blow to London and the RAF; this would be the ultimate prelude to invasion.

The Unit war diary for 1 Gruppe, Jagdgeschwader 3, September 15th 1940*3, reads:

12:00.

Escort (by 12 aircraft) Do 17s against London. Oblt Keller shot down the Spitfire, Leutnant Rohwer a Hurricane. Fw Wollmer dived into the channel; the impact was seen by Lt Springer. This crash appears not to have been caused by enemy action. After a long dive Wollmer’s machine rolled a quarter turn into a vertical dive and he did not succeed in bailing out. A motorboat detached from a German convoy near Cap Gris Nez and went to the scene of the crash.

15:10.

Operation by nine aircraft to escort He 111s against London. At 1,500m there was almost total cloud cover. Over the Thames estuary and to the north of London there were gaps in the cloud. During the flight in there was contact with Spitfires. The bombers flew in loose formation to the north of London. Strong and accurate flak. The Spitfires came from above, fired, and dived away. Hauptmann von Hahn shot down the Spitfire, Lt Rohwer probably destroyed a Hurricane. During an attack by Spitfires Oberleutnant Reumschuessel became separated from his wing-man, Obfw Olejnik, and has not returned (this aircraft crashed near Charing, Kent; the pilot bailed out and was taken prisoner). After he was separated from the formation Obfw Hessel was heard on the radio, but he failed to return (this aircraft crash near Tenterdon; The pilot bailed out was taken prisoner). Obfw Buchholz’s aircraft was hit in the cooling system and forced down in the Channel. Oblt Keller made contact with the rescue aircraft nearby, which picked up Buchholz. He had injuries and was taken to the military hospital a Boulogne. The body of Lt Kloiber has been washed ashore near St. Cecile, and buried. Lt Meckel and two Feldwebeln attended the funeral. During the last few days news has been received from the Red Cross in Geneva that Oblt Tiedmann, Oblt Rau, Oblt Loidolt, Lt Landry (these last two wounded) and Obfw Lamskemper have been captured by the British”.

 An interesting read, if only there were more!

Notes:

*1 The singular is ‘Gruppe‘ and each Gruppen operated with three Gruppe. Each Gruppe would operate from one airfield but moved as a Gruppen.

*2 Hauptmann Hans von Hahn more infomration can be found at http://www.luftwaffe.cz/hahn3.html or http://falkeeins.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/hans-von-hahn-and-his-stab-ijg-3.html

*3 The Luftwaffe Data Book, Dr. Alfred Price (1977) Greenhill Publications pg196-197

What the Luftwaffe failed to do, the local council have finally managed.

Many of Britain’s airfields have hung on desperately to a small corner of history. Hawkinge is sadly one of those that has been buried deep beneath housing, schools and shops. Sadly, one of England’s most historic airfields, has finally been defeated not by Goring’s Luftwaffe, but by local planners.

Hawkinge was at the forefront of the Battle of Britain, it was repeatedly attacked by the bombers of the Luftwaffe. Because of its location, just minutes from France, crews would often have little warning and would have to take to the sky unprepared. Many returning aircraft would use its runways as a safe haven returning battle damaged and weary; Hawkinge fire crews were some of the busiest Britain was to have. It was used as a transport depot in the First World War, became a mecca for international pilots, saw some of the first ‘drones’ and was used in the filming of the 1969 film ‘The Battle of Britain’.

Today a small museum, utilises what’s left of the original buildings whilst housing creeps like poison ivy, ever further across the airfield.

The nearby cemetery is home to not only RAF pilots but also fallen Luftwaffe crews, ironically remaining in the land they tried to take all those years ago.

As part of a second aviation trail around historic Kent, Hawkinge is a must for any follower of history, aviation or the Battle Of Britain.

See the full story and Kent’s second trail here.
lady cropped 2 B&W

 

Eisenhower stopped off at Lashenden

It was during this time, on July 4th 1944, that General Eisenhower stopped off at Lashenden following one of his many flights over the German lines in Normandy. His pilot, Brig. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada, veteran of 90 sorties, was berated by his superiors for such a ‘foolish’ act. In response he said, “When a five-star general says ‘Go,’ you go!”

Lashenden, also known as Headcorn, was an advanced landing ground, built initially for the RAF, it was taken over by the US Ninth Airforce who used to to fly P-51s and P-47s out over France.

Today it is a thriving airfield, whose annual reenactments bring back the nostalgia of 1940s Britain. Find out more about Lashenden’s history and other airfields in Kent. Click on this link.

lady cropped 2 B&W

1940s Britain is reenacted on the Former Lashenden Advanced Landing Ground used by the Ninth Air Force.

 

Polish Fighter Ace Turned a V1 on its back.

The first V1 for 315 sqn was shot down by Flt Sgt Jankowski at 13:10 on July 11th. There were three more the following day and several others would meet similar fates. Shooting down a V1 was dangerous, many aircraft being caught in the subsequent blast. Other, less conventional methods would include tipping the wing of the V1 destabilising the gyroscopic guidance system within, sending it tumbling to the ground. On one occasion, WO Tadeusz Szymanski managed to completely turn a V1 onto its back using such a method.

Brenzett, was an advanced landing ground, built to be temporary, but even so, it produced some remarkable stories.

As part of a second trail around Kent, we visit three more of Britain’s airfields, Hawkinge, Brenzett and Lashenden. Each with its own story to tell. Want to know more? click here to go back to 1940s England and then see what has happened to these historic places.

Brenzett village sign

Brenzett Village Sign Depicts its Aviation History

 

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: …

Originally posted on the anniversary of the publication of his poem, For the Fallen, 21st September 2014, Laurence Binyon’s poem has become synonymous with remembrance services across the country. This week is remembrance Weekend (and Veteran’s day in the United States) on which we remember the fallen: those who gave the greatest sacrifice, so we could live in peace.

I thought it appropriate to repost this during Thai special week so we know a little more about the poem and the history behind it.

‘Lest we forget’

“To all those who went before, (Robert) Laurence Binyon’s 1914 poem is widely used in remembrance services across the world. Laurence Binyon wrote his For the Fallen, with its Ode of Remembrance, while Binyon was visiting the cliffs of North Cornwall between Pentire Point and The Rumps.

Today, if you visit, there is a stone plaque at the spot to commemorate his poem, which reads: For the Fallen Composed on these cliffs 1914″. There is also a second plaque located on the beehive monument on the East Cliff above Portreath in central North Cornwall. There, you will find a plaque on a statue inscribed with the same words. Laurence Binyon’s poem, For the Fallen, was published in The Times newspaper, following heightened public sentiment due to the recent Battle of Marne (5-12 September 1914) on 21st September 1914, 100 years ago today. http://wp.me/P4xjD9-8u

For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

(Published in The Times newspaper, 21st September 1914).

Thanks to Marcella who contributed to the writing of the original post.”

DSC_0097

 For the Fallen – Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

Ode to the Fallen.

As we approach Remembrance day (and Veteran’s day in America), Aviation Trails will be publishing a mix of poetry and aviation material in remembrance of those brave and courageous young men and women, who, from all nationalities, gave the ultimate sacrifice in war.

The numbers are staggering; during World War 1, there were some 37 million* deaths, (of which around 7 million were civilian). Thankfully, because the war was quite stationary, it did not create as many of the civilian casualties that were found in the Second World War. The higher number here being primarily military and serving personal. Defined as the ‘War to end all Wars’, it brought a devastating blow to societies across the European countries and their allies, as men flocked to the front and the mass slaughter that prevailed.

World War 2 on the other hand, due to the much faster, greater technological advancement that war brings, saw a much higher casuality rate. Over 60 million people died which amounted to approximately 2.5% of the world’s population*1. This is currently about the size of Nigeria, the world’s seventh largest country*2. The war was so widespread and devastating, that the actual number of casualties will never be known. A new type of war, it spread death and destruction to a much wider audience.

Subsequent wars, have also taken their toll, both in military and civilian terms. Continuing conflicts are, and will account for further deaths, and it is a sad reflection of the world we live in today.

So on this special weekend, during the 100th anniversary of the First World War, we remember those who have given so much so that the rest of us can live peacefully.

Memorials visited during the making of ‘Aviation Trails‘ can be seen here.

Ypres 007

Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

 

Sources:

Whilst not official, Wikipedia gives some detailed accounts of countries and their casualties.

* Wikipedia, World War 1 Casualties;  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I_casualties

*1 Wikipedia, World War 2 casualties; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II_casualties

*2 Wikipedia, list of countries by population; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population