Saturday, 30 October 2010

Valkenswaard CWGC - Netherlands

Seen in Valkenswaard CWGC. Can there have been a more direct epitaph!! A soldier of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers KIA 27th September 1944. Has anyone seen anything similar and as simple?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Lines of Torres Vedras

Jean-Michel Veranneman de Watervliet
GBG Member

Here are some pictures I took last Weekend on a hike along part of the Lines of Torres Vedras. It was the second of these walks along the Lines. They are being regularly organised by the British Embassy in Lisbon. About 100 hikers walk for about two hours, with guides, visiting to the forts and then retiring to a local tasca (restaurant) for a hearty meal.

Part of the Lines and some of the forts have been quite well restored and preserved. There are visitor's centers, very well made pamphlets and explanatory boards in Portuguese and English and it is within an hour and a half drive from Lisbon.

A perfect Saturday outing!


Duncan Barnes
GBG Member and Badged Guide, No 43

The dislocation of the centre of Poperinge continues and has been delayed by the needs for archaeological work on the remains of medieval buildings during drainage work. Amongst these buildings is said to be a cloth hall, similar to that in Ieper (but presumably smaller) and medieval burials.

When work is finished the square will be resurfaced but with a new road alignment that will reduce parking but increase the outdoor space for the cafes and shops on the right of the present road.

The current works will eventually extend to include some of the roads leading into or away from the square.

The completion date is unclear.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Somme Footballers Memorial

GBG Member Phil Stant has been instrumental in having a new memorial raised to the 17th and 20th Middlesex, the Footballers Battalions. Phil who works with the Football League raised the monies for this impressive monument by 'bucket'collections at Football League matches.

The official unveiling will be on the 21st October 2010 at Longueval village close by the civil cemetery.

Well done Phil!!

Lions Led By Donkeys?

This young man from a school in Scotland was seen at Hooge Crater Museum. He and his fellow students were wearing these around the Ypres Salient. I have my own views on this, do you? Let me know

Monday, 11 October 2010

The Peckel Bockhouse - Improved Access

Mike Peters
Guiding Member of the
Guild of Battlefield Guides,
Badge Number 19

The 'Cresswell blockhouse' is located north of Cassel on the D916 road toward Dunkirk. Set back from the Peckel cross roads it was for all but the most determined groups a drive by stand. It is a good follow on stand after a study of the defence of Cassel by 'Somer Force' in May 1940. I was at the site two weeks ago and noticed that there is now an approach road and a hardened track around the block house. This work is recent and not quite complete, there was evidence of a collapsed drain on the approach road - not passable for large coaches. However, you can now turn left at the cross roads (coming from Cassel) and park a coach safely to disembark passengers.

There is, as you can see on the photographs now a circuit around the block house. This stand now has far more potential and the actions of Lieutenant Cresswell MC and 1 Platoon, A Company of the Glosters can be recounted in some detail. The block house is large enough to also be a useful backdrop for a discussion on the merits of static defences during the 1940 campaign. Certainly worthy of consideration for your next Dunkirk tour.

On a Health and Safety note - There are holes in the walls and individuals can enter the block house easily.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Ost Wall Poland

Received from GBG Member Norman Sibbald:

I recently toured Poland and visited a section of the Ost Wall between the Warta and Oder rivers along the pre-war German/Polish border. Originally built in the late 1930's as a defence against Poland they were put to use against the Red Army Advance west in 1945. The various fortifications are linked underground to a labyrinth of tunnels. Its make for a fascinating visit. However, the Polish authorities are closing up the entrances to many of the bunkers to prevent injuries and possible fatalities whilst turning some into tourist sites.

The bunkers are accessible from the Frankfurt (Oder)to Poznan highway and the road from Kostrzyn to Poznan also bisects the defence line. I went to see two sites open to the public at Miedzyrzecz and Boryszyn. I was given a conducted tour in Polish of which I did not understand a word!! but it was worth it just to see the underground sites. However, I have to say it was much more exciting and interesting going 'off track' and exploring those sites not yet 'locked up' I was with a man who knew what he was doing and was aware of the dangers that could trap the unwary.

The position in the foreground has been described to me as a vent? for a mortar. Beyond it about 100m away can be seen a flamethrower bunker

'Dragon's Teeth'in the middle of a forest. Note the anti-tank ditch in front of themA section of the ventilation ductwork

This bunker was blown up by the Russians in 1945. The 'chimney' in the centre of upper block was a defensive flamethrower vent

If anyone is interested in a trip I would be happy to facilitate it having travelled to Poznan on many occasions

On a different note the remains of the 'Great Escapees' are buried in the military cemetery in Poznan, Poland which is 200 kms north east of the camp location. For some reason there are only 48 graves (no headstones for N Fuglesand or D O Street) and I have been unable to find out why. It is well known that the 50 were all cremated and their ashes interred.

One of the most chilling lines from the whole episode is the scenario where the senior British officer is summoned to the Camp Commandant's office after the murders. 'How many were shot?' ' Forty-one' ' How many were wounded?''I think no one was wounded' 'Do you mean to tell me forty-one can be shot in those circumstances and that they were all killed and no one was wounded?'

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Great War Trenches at RAF Halton

Just a quick e-mail to let you know about the trenches that have been escavated at RAF Halton. The trenches were discovered last year. They are located on the camp between the new workshops and the old rubbish tip. The trainees have reconstructed a small portion of them using the manuals of the day and they consist of a short communication trench and revetted front line trench with fire step and wired to the front. They are perhaps the best trenches I have seen, no concrete sandbags are in evidence, the RAF appear to have used genuine materials and methods to reconstruct them. They are well worth a visit if you are passing some time.

Kevin Adamson
Guild of Battlefield Guides

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Help For Heroes - Big Battlefield Bike Ride 13 - 19 September 2010

Mike Peters relating the story of Waterloo at the Butte De Lion

Once again Guild Members provided the Historians for this year's Help For Heroes 'A Bridge Too Far' Big Bike Ride.

Guild members led by John Greenacre included Bob Darby, Mike Peters and Jo Hook. Although billed 'A Bridge Too Far' the ride itself started in Brussels with a visit to the Waterloo battlefield. It then touched on Operation Market Garden 1944 at Joe's Bridge and Son but then meandered its way across eastern Holland before coming back on track via Nijmegan and eventually arriving at Oosterbeek near Arnhem to see a parachute descent on to one of the original Drop Zones.

During the course of 6 days the cyclists completed over 350 miles and raised over £1 million for the Help for Heroes charity. A very commendable effort by all involved.

The Guild members involvement was to position themselves at various stands en route and tell the story of a particular action. However, it was difficult to get sufficient time to tell the story. 5 minutes on the banks of the Waal could not do justice to Julian Cook's assault river crossing by men of the 504th Parachute Infantry 82nd US Airborne Division.

The War Cemetery at Lommel in Belgium. The largest Second War German Cemetery in Europe

The end of a long ride for the cyclists at the John Frost Bridge Arnhem

Two of the 'Bravest of the Brave'. Glider Pilots Arthur Shackleton (above) and Mike Dauncey (below). Dauncey had been recommended for the Victoria Cross. Seen at the Airborne Memorial opposite the Hartenstein Hotel Oosterbeek

Bob Darby
Badge No 29

Monday, 20 September 2010

The Face of the Battle of Britain

Much has been talked about lately with the celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain. What did it mean to us in human cost and to us as a nation?

I have received the following article from Norman Sibbald written by an unknown American. It is not the complete article but a synopsis of the relevant points. If you wish to read the whole article I can email it to you.

The face above and facing you is the face of Brian John Edward Lane. This is the face of the Battle of Britain. Lane was not the highest scoring 'ace' with a final score of 'only' 6. The man to his left, our right is George Unwin who downed twice as many as Lane and survived the war. Lane on the other hand met his fate in combat over the North Sea in December 1942.

Lane didn't have a low score because of a lack of ability. He had leadership thrust upon him at a young age and carried his torch well. This is the face of newly promoted Squadron Leader Lane who is 23 in this picture, This is the face of battle. Very weary, very young but very determined.

The victory over southern England could not have been accomplished without the assistance of young men from many nations. Poles, Czechs, South Africans, New Zealanders, Australian, Canadians and those from Belgium, France and the USA. We were not alone.

It was another two years after the picture was taken did we enter the war, and almost two years before sending our Army Air Force to England to carry out the bombing campaign against occupied France and Germany. We talk about American victories and military might, but without Britain it never would have happened.

Contributed by Norman Sibbald

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Bruneval Raid Op Biting Feb 1942

GBG Member Paul Oldfield recently visited the site of the raid on the coast of Northern France. It is often described as being the first Combined Operations action involving all three services

Paul writes:

Many will know about the raid in February 1942 the objective being to capture a Wurzburg radar set (code named HENRY) However,not many Guild members will have visited the site. Those who do probably drove to the beach and viewed the site from the memorial looking north

Picture 1
The more adventurous will struggle up the cliff path seen between the centre and right flagpoles,to look over the radar site and the foundations of the Villa (LONE HOUSE) that stood just out of sight over the clifftop. Those who do so in reasonable weather and in daylight as I did, will wonder how the raiders managed to get down this very steep path in ammo boots at night pushing/pulling overloaded weapon trolleys with their captured radar parts together with their wounded over ground covered in slippery snow.....and oh yes! they were under fire too!

I guess few venture on to the evacuation beach itself

Picture 2
Clearly this depends upon the tide and it isn't advisable to try and climb the cliffs, but a short walk is rewarding. Picture 2 illustrates the harsh beach conditions that the landing craft had to face in reaching the shore. The sea wall is post war. The memorial is visible half way up the opposite cliff.

I would also advocate driving round to look at the cliff top site from the northern end close to Cap d'Antifer lighthouse. Park on the last right bend before the lighthouse. Ignore the first set of bunkers (they weren't there in 1942) and walk south along the cliff top, but not too close to the edge as it is very crumbly and its a long way down to the sea! Very shortly a concrete Freya radar base comes into view.

Picture 3
The foundations of the Villa which was the radar control station(code name LONE HOUSE)and close to the Wurzburg radar array, are on the horizon just to the left of the Freya radar base with a distant mast beyond it. This illustrates just how close the two radars were to each other. On the left is the edge of the wooded farm complex(RECTANGLE)from where the main German opposition developed. The Freya radar was not a target of this raid. The Wurzburg array was, as its performance was unknown to the British. This view is looking south towards the objective.The Freya radars are marked on the map.

Picture 4
Another short diversion takes you to the RV just off the Drop Zone. From it (Picture 4) and looking west there is a fairly good view of the LONE HOUSE position left of centre on the horizon and the route the attackers took to get it. RECTANGLE is on the left. Also visible in the centre just below the skyline is the bank mentioned in some accounts where the RE dismantling party and Flight Sgt Cox sheltered while the opposition was being cleared. The photo is taken from Drop Zone RV and marked as 'Forming Up Point' on the map

Picture 5
The remains of the LONE HOUSE. Burnt out in the raid and demolished by the Germans after the raid so it could not act as a ground/air marker. A new Wurzburg site was set up within the Freya site near the lighthouse.

Picture 6
LONE HOUSE as seen from a photo recce sortie which picked up the existence of the radar in front of the Villa

Picture 7
Looking towards the Freya site which can be seen in front of the lighthouse at Cap D'Antifer. The photo is taken from the site of LONE HOUSE

A visit to Bruneval repays the effort handsomely and is a wonderful early example of a successful combined operation. Members should read John Frost's account of the action in his book 'A Drop Too Many'

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Vietnam Veterans Day

Dennis Weatherall
Badged Member # 34
Sydney Australia.

I'm off in the am Sunday 15th August (with a group of Vietnam Vets as guide & leader) to Vietnam and Cambodia for Vietnam Veterans Day. It's the 44th Memorial Service for the Battle of Long Tan held at the original Cross site erected by 6RAR after the battle.

The site of the Cross is the ONLY foreign War Memorial to the Vietnam War period allowed to be erected in the "winners circle" - (South Vietnam) so to say. The service is held each year by the Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors and respective Defence Attaches at the site. As always the service takes place at 15:35 on the 18th August each year for the past ten years, it's the exact time Delta Company 6 RAR (Royal Australian Regiment) made contact with the enemy, shot and killed two NVA (North Vietnamese Army) regular soldiers on a track winding into the rubber plantation.

For the next six hours they fought a life & death struggle. The end result was 18 Australian's KIA'd (17 Infantry + 1 Cav) and on the battlefield clearance 247 KIA's on the opposition batting team.

As the years have passed old foes meet on this battle ground and the end truth has unfolded, 123 men of D Co 6RAR on a search and destroy mission that day in fact came upon a full Battalion of NVA encamped awaiting to hit "NuI Dat" our ATF (Aust Task Force Base) some 7 kms (as a crow flys) away that night. I'll fill in the full story line with my article in due course.

The old foe (245 Battalion NVA) have told us it was the greatest mauling they received up to that point in their war in the south. Our troops had fought skirmishes but the NVA wanted to see if we were different than the ARVN (Army of the South Vietnam) or the Americans that had been stationed in the area until we arrived. They say that with those badly wounded and dragged away by their fellow NVA comrades (they tied themselves together with leg ropes so they could pull a wounded comrade away from the battle front) the real KIA total was more like 750 almost the entire Battalion.

But of course the NVA wrote the post war history and originally their propaganda the day post the battle told that they the mighty NVA had destroyed an Australian Battalion, in fact 44 years on it was exactly the reverse. The North government were suing for peace & were in Paris endeavoring to stitch up a peace treaty and the extraction of all foreign forces, they needed a win situation to press home at the conference table that war was being won by their different it was back then !

Australia lost some 500+ KIA's during 12 years (our longest fought war) but our allies America lost 57,000 ... how futile is war, so many mothers weep for their lost sons, but as we come together we that are left to grow old, also remember the 2 million opposition forces that never went home to their loved ones either. Vietnam is a different place, thank god today. So different my 2nd son Jarrod has married Tram (pronounced Chum) the only daughter of an ol' soldier from the North (NVA). On his return with me from Long Tan he brings back to Australia his pregnant wife Tram to start a new life in this country, and Lady Di and I will soon be blessed with our first grandchild a Aussie-Vietnamese child.

It's a pity Tram's father didn't get to see their marriage, as he passed away last October but he'd given his blessing for my son to marry his only daughter. It's Vietnamese culture that the son stays behind and looks after the family (as mother is still alive) but the daughter must make a live with her husbands family be it 1000's of miles away. "Trun" - Tram's father was a decorated NVA soldier and was happy the war was over and his country was at last one country and at peace, so am I, but we should never forget the sacrifice it took and the men that died in the process. I'm looking forward to my return along with both my sons Darryn and Jarrod and the part I play in bringing my Aussie Vet mates back to see the new Vietnam they left behing so many years ago !

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Mark Banning writes:

Poperinge is in turmoil at the moment as the local authorities dig up the square to lay what looks like new water pipes.  Any group, especially with a coach is warned that the usual directions are no use and that a series of diversions are needed to get anywhere near the centre. Parking is also severely hampered.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Arras Counterstroke May 1940

Bob Hilton writes:

During a recent tour of the Wellington Quarries neat Arras I picked up a leaflet giving details of the 70th anniversary of the Arras Counterstoke by the Royal Tank Regiment against Erwin Rommel's 7th Panzer Division, that nearly 'did for him'. The accompanying photograph (above) was one I had never seen before. I cannot find anything about it on the Internet.

It is a Mark II Maltilda which had been knocked out and shows a German soldier on top of it. It seems to be near a cemetery or calvary. this must have been somewhere to the west/south west of Arras. I am wondering if anyone can enlighten me on where this could be?

Thursday, 29 July 2010

German Command Bunkers in Le Havre

Even those members who regularly guide or visit Le Havre may be unaware (as I was until recently) that there are two German command bunkers buried away in a residential area above the town and port. One is the central telecommunications bunker and the other is the flak commander's bunker. Both are being restored by the local "Association Memoire et Patrimoine". The former is now full of telephone exchange equipment and associated displays and the latter has a dominant view of the harbour. Both are worth a visit and can be opened for you by Sebastien Haule ( 0033 6745581 315) or Jean Paul Dubosq ( 0033 669742 242). They are not easy to find and with the map below (click on it to enlarge) which, if used in conjunction with a Le Havre street map, should do the job.

John Cotterill
Badge 10

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Fromelles 19th July 2010

Fromelles 19th July 2010 will be a day to remember for all those that were privileged to be there. The burial of the last soldier rescued from the ignominy of a mass grave and to be buried again with his other fallen comrades. This time with the accord of full military honours from their fellow countrymen and buried in the presence of Princes and the High and Mighty, some 94 years after their deaths.

The sequences of events for the day are told elsewhere. I along with many of our Guiding Members who were present were humbled by the occasion

The GBG Members of Back Roads were present, all 6 of them. No jackets, no names badges! and in one case, no tie!
The following images were taken from one of the viewing screens around the cemetery. Looking down on the cemetery grounds with the VIP Stand in which were sat relatives of those who had fallen
The coffin of the last soldier to be buried being taken to the cemetery by the Burial Party
Both British and Australian soldiers marched side by side to honour the dead of both countries
The Burial Party carrying the coffin to the grave side Lowering the coffin in front of the Firing party The 'Hairy Ones' but not in this case!

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Flamethrowers on the Somme

In response to my request for information on the above, Jeremy Banning brother of GBG member Mark Banning has provided the following information. He has been involved in the search for the Flamethrowers or more properly called the Livens Large Gallery Flame Projector.

The project to excavate the site was five years in the gestation with pace picking up in the last year. It involved countless meetings with local museums and authorities as well as six months archival research

Organised through GUARD (Glasgow University Archaeological Research Department) who did the initial work at Fromelles and the excavation of the Vampir Dugout in 2008, it was financed by a variety of British, Canadian, French and German broadcasters who contributed to the costs. The dig was filmed throughout by a Canadian TV production company, Cream Productions who made 'Digging up the Trenches' as well as the 2008 programmes on the Vampir Dugout.

An international team included Dr Tony Pollard (GBG member) and Dr Iain Banks from GUARD and two of their PHD students. Also including were French archaeologists and serving Royal Engineers. Safety underground was in the hands of two highly experienced men from Mines Rescue UK.

The necessary clearances were obtained from the relevant authorities and local landowners. The project had the full support of the Mayor of Mametz, the Historical in Peronne and Alain Jacques head of the Service Archeologue Municipale in Arras.

Four Flamethrowers were to be used in the southern Somme sector on the 1st July 1916. Two were successfully used where the lines crossed the Carnoy-Mountauban road. One at Kasino Point close by was knocked out of action before the battle started and the fourth one was in position between Mansel Copse and Bois Francais.

The one near Mansel Copse required a working party of 300 Devons to bring the Flame Projector up in pieces to the front line where it was re-constructed in a shallow mine gallery running under No Mans Land. However this Projector was damaged 'beyond recall' during intense German bombardment of the British Lines on the 28th June.

Each Flame Projector weighed 2.5 tons and required 250 man hours to be brought from the rail head to their respective saps. Once in position they took six hours to be constructed by a six man team. They would lie under the ground with the 'monitor head' breaking the surface when the machine was activated. It could spew out a ton of 'heavy and light oil' in a ten second burst over 100 yards away. This could be repeated twice before the Projector ran out of fuel.

The object was to terrify the enemy and to enable British troops to get across No Mans Land unscathed. The fire would keep the enemy heads down - the smoke would obscure their visibility.

The BBC filmed the site for a news item

Subsequent research by Jeremy Banning who works with Peter Barton on books and archaeological projects, showed that one of the attacking battalions on the 1st July 1916, 2nd Borders 'only' suffered two casualties whilst crossing No Mans Land. However they suffered considerably greater losses once they got into the German trenches.

Peter Barton has written a book entitled 'The Somme - a new panoramic perspective' with all the detail of the dig. Currently out of print the intention is to get it reprinted for early next year.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Flesquires Tank - Cambrai 1917

As has been pointed out to me now by two Guild members the Flesquires tank was actually called 'Deborah' and NOT 'Dorothy'.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Lochnagar Crater Parking

Those guiding members who escort coaches around the Somme battlefield should be aware that there is no longer a coach park adjacent to the crater site. It has been cordoned off by huge mounds of earth deliberately placed there to stop access. This may be due to a dispute between individuals owning land adjacent to the crater site. It means you will need to leave your coach in La Boiselle and walk to the crater, a distance of about 500 metres. It could be very difficult for older people to gain access to the site.

This closure does not restrict the ability of individual cars to access the crater site but it does limit parking and at busy times space now available for vehicles could be full.

I will endeavour to find out if this is likely to be a permanent closure. If any member visiting Lochnagar notes any change in the present impasse please let me know

Flesquires Tank - Cambrai 1917

Philippe Gorczynski of Flesquires near Cambrai has made it his lifetime passion to research the Battle of Cambrai November 1917. Some years ago he discovered the location of a British Mark IV Tank which had been buried in the area. Destroyed by artillery fire with 5 crew members killed, the hulk was pushed into a shell hole and used as a shelter. Philippe heard the story of a 'buried tank' from an old lady in the village who remembered it being buried. He set about finding and salvaging it and after much time and effort together with the cooperation of the French Army he discovered the tank under 2 metres of earth.

Today the tank called 'Dorothy' sits on a plinth in a barn in the village of Flesquires. Viewing is not available to the general public but eventually when enough funds have been found, Philippe intends to build a museum around his most treasured artifact of the Great War.

Philippe in front of 'Dorothy'

Massive structural damage to front end probably caused by a direct fire artillery piece
77mm German Field Gun of the type likely to have caused the damage