Over the past couple of years I have given a large number of talks on my book and the Cornishmen in the 251. This has not only enabled me to meet some lovely people in the county, but has also provided me with lots of additional information from relatives of the men who served. If you are interested in a talk (about 1 hour long) to your group or society, please do contact me.
Holyer An Gof Awards 2016
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Great news:- at the awards ceremony last night (12th July), Battle Beneath the Trenches was awarded first prize in the Non fiction and history section. My thanks to the Cornish Gorsedh and of course to Waterstones for hosting the event.
251st at the chicory factory
I have been kindly sent these great pictures showing Major Humphrys with one of his sections at the chicory factory just outside of Bethune which was their 'home' from October 1915 to June 1918. If anyone can identify any of their relatives, please do let me know.
Thanks to information received from his great grandson, we have now identified Sapper Tom Smith (132328) who is the gentleman with the mustache 6th in on the bottom row. Tom was a miner from Illogan Highway, near Redruth and had joined the 251 Tunnelling Company from the 10th DCLI. He was injured in a mine explosion, but survived the war returning to his wife Clare.
More Information Received
Some famtastic perosnal stories of bravery and hardship have been received all helping build on what we have so far. For example, thanks to his grandson, we learn from the personal notes of Corporal Johnson MM that when the 10th DCLI were in Penzance it was not just training, as one of their duties was guarding the fishing boats in their patrol boats!! Yet more skills these miners possessed.
All information is welcomed, big or small, it all helps build the picture.
Cornish miner awarded Military Medal
The records have now been found for Lance Corporal W Jose from Scorrier who was awarded the military medal for his brave actions on the 21st April 1918 during the defence of Givenchy in the Battle of the Lys. By courtesy of his Grandson, a picture of his medal is attached below.
Of Interest Story
A really intertesting story that has come out of writing this book is the fact that I was contacted by two families living in Cornwall, and two other families, one living in Australia and one in New Zealand. Form our archives, it looked very much like these families were related although neither knew the others existed. With their permissions, we have passed on contact details, so who knows, maybe 'Cousin Jack' is still alive today.
POW Camp Tunnelling Officer
We have been told of an amazing story of Lieutenant B E Rees MC who was taken prisoner together with 2nd Lieutenant T. Marsland on the 18th April 1918. He spent the rest of the war as a PoW in Graudenz in what is now Poland. However, he didn't give up tunnelling, becoming the camp tunnelling officer and being responsible for the construction of three escape tunnels!!! He was finally repatriated on the 18th December 1918.
L/Cpl Henry Nankivell
One of the great joys of this book is meeting people whose relatives served with the 251st. Recently, I was fortunate enough to meet with Pat Nankivell whose Grandfather, Henry, had served alongside mine in the 251st. Pat sadly never had the pleasure of knowing his Grandfather as he was killed, aged 33, in a mine explosion on the 20th February 1916. He left behind a widow and three children.
Henry attested at Redruth on the 3rd May 1915 and joined the 10th DCLI, having already served with the 3rd DCLI and the Royal Navy prior to the war. A miner before he joined the services, he was transferred to the 251st as a result of his mining skills, like others from the 10th DCLI.
Captain JW Walker MC and Bar
As I have said previously, one of the benefits in researching and writing this book, is making contact with relatives of the men who served in the Company; I was extremely excited therefore to hear from the Grandson of Capt JW Walker MC. For those who do not know, when fighting the Germans underground at the Bunny Hutch system in Givenchy on the 18th April 1918, he refused to surrender despite being badly wounded. He was rescued in an amazing escape by Sgts Newall and Menadue who carried him through the tunnels on a stretcher overcoming the German sentries who had been posted on the exit. Captain Walker received a bar to his MC and Sgts Newall and Menadue were awarded DCM’s. A skilled mining manager and Vice Captain of the South Cambria Colliery No1 rescue team in South Wales before the war, he was a very popular and respected officer and I have been privileged to have read several personal letters he received from his fellow officers.
Captain JW Walker MC with his wife Olwen and brother Eric (also in the Royal Engineers) at Buckingham Palace where he was presented with the bar to his MC by King George V.
I had the great pleasure of meeting Captain Walker's grandson recently and he kindly let me have copies of a number of personal letters his Grandfather had received from fellow officers after he had been injured. In addition, he kindly gave me copies of a number of photographs all of which had captions on the rear explaining where they were taken. With his Grandson's kind permission, I attach three of them below.
This is the Moat Farm exit from the bunny hutch system through which Captain Walker escaped carried by Sgts Menadue and Newall.
The picture shows the Warlingham crater which, on 10th August 1917, was the last British mine fired. Major Humphrys (who took the picture) had the honour of firing the mine with Captain Walker synchronising his timing.
A picture of Major Humphrys and his officers outside of the orderly room at what we believe is the chicory factory. It is interesting to note that many are in their working dress which included waders in some cases.
A most fantastic Christmas card sent from France exactly 100 years ago in 1917. The signature reads J.W Walker Lt. RE.
Excellent talk at the Mullion Old Cornish Society. A great group of people who had put on a lovely display of local Cornishmen in WW1. Had the privilege of meeting the nephew of Sapper Richard John Rolling of the 251 Tunnelling Company who died aged just 17 on the 23rd March 1916. The family have no photograph of him, so if anyone knows the whereabouts of one, please do let me know.
Sapper William Selwyn Jones
Great to be contacted by the Granddaughter of Sapper Jones, who is seen sitting next to his brother Private Milliard Fillmore Jones. He was a Welsh Coal miner and bare knuckle fighter before the war and attested on the 11th December 1915. He joined the 251 on the 25th March 1917 from the 182 Tunnelling Company and remained with them until the end of war. As a coal miner from the Rhondda Valley, he was demobilised early on the 14th Januray 1919. His brother served with the 3rd Battalion Welsh Regiment and died on the 17th December 1916.
Dynamite Towans, Hayle
The following pictures have been sent courtesy of Trevor Smitherham and give us a great idea of what the works were like in their hey day. As mentioned in the book, they belonged to the National Explosives Company who built a factory in the sand dunes three miles north of Hayle in 1888. Both dynamite and nitro-glycerine were manufactured here employing 1,800 people and during the war supplied
the majority of the explosives to the armament manufacturers in Britain.