Historic Gallipoli Campaign Warship Restored in UK

The newly restored HMS M 33 displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, England.

The newly restored HMS M 33 displayed at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, England.

The shallow-draft monitor HMS M 33 was opened to the public at the National Museum of the Royal Navy, Portsmouth, England, on August 6, 2015.  The vessel, which took part in WW1 operations at Gallipoli, Salonika, and later in north Russia, recently underwent a £2.5M restoration to her 1915 configuration and can now be explored by visitors to the museum who can experience special audio-visual enhancements interpreting the vessel’s role in the campaign.

Equipped with 6-inch deck guns, the monitor M 33 was designed for close-in shore bombardment of enemy positions.  The formal opening ceremony at the Royal Navy Museum took place on the 100th anniversary of the start of the August offensive in Gallipoli, and was attended by descendants of the Gallipoli campaign.

The monitor HMS M 33 seen in the Aegean Sea during WW1.

The monitor HMS M 33 seen in the Aegean Sea during WW1.

HMS M 33 is one of a handful of WW1 historic naval vessels around the world today which include the light cruiser HMS CAROLINE in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the protected cruiser USS OLYMPIA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the battleship USS TEXAS in Corpus Christi, Texas.


Memorial to Australian Horses Proposed

Sandy, the only one of the more than 100,000 Australian horses sent overseas in WW1 to return home.

Sandy, the only one of the more than 100,000 Australian horses sent overseas in WW1 to return home.

During the First World War, Australian troops fought in Turkey, the Middle East, and on the Western Front in Europe.  Over the course of the war, more than 100,000  horses were sent overseas from Australia serving as mounts for fighting troops, such as the legendary Australian Light Horse, as well as hauling artillery, supplies and casualties.

Of all the horses dispatched from Australia, only one, known as “Sandy,” ever returned home.  She had been the personal mount of Major General Sir William Bridges who died at Gallipoli.  Sandy lived until 1923, and since that time the memory of this sole survivor of all those sent overseas has been kept alive.

Recently, the Friends of Sandy organization has received a some $16K under an Australian WW1 centenary grants project in order to create a memorial to Sandy as well as the contribution of all of the Australian horses to the Allied effort in World War I.

For more information, see the story in The Weekly Review for Mooney Valley, Victoria, Australia.

Australian War Memorial Launches Gallipoli Traveling Exhibition

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

The Australian War Memorial, Canberra.

A remarkable series of photographs taken by a noted surgeon who served with the ANZAC Corps at Gallipoli in 1915 will be among the key features of a new exhibition that will travel throughout Australia this summer and fall.  “A Camera at Gallipoli” will feature 39 photographic images taken by Sir Charles Ryan in the Dardanelles during 1915 providing “a real insight into the dry forbidding landscape, exhausted troops in trenches, squalid dugouts, the horrendous task of burying the dead,” according to War Memorial Director Dr. Brendan Nelson.

The exhibition will be displayed in multiple formats – both framed images traveling to some 30 locations around Australia, as well as a digital version that will be accessible to the public in another 70 locations.

The Gallipoli Campaign of 1915 saw the first major participation by troops from Australia and New Zealand in the First World War, and did much to shape national identity in the context of the war.  In addition to ANZAC soldiers, British, Indian, and French troops participated in the abortive campaign, the objective of which was to gain access to Constantinople with the hope of forcing the Ottoman Empire out of the war.

For more information on the Australian War Memorial’s traveling exhibition “A Camera at Gallipoli”, see The Daily Mail story here.


British Soldiers Who Fell at Loos Reburied


Scotsman William McAleer's identity disc pictured with an official program from the March 14 reburial.

Scotsman William McAleer’s identity disc pictured with an official program from the March 14 reburial.


During a construction project near Loos-en-Gohelle, France, in October 2010, workers discovered a mass grave from the Battle of Loos during the First World War.  The grave contained the remains of 50 soldiers – 30 German and 20 British- killed in the 1915 battle.  Based on its location, it was determined that the carefully prepared grave had been dug by German soldiers.

On Friday March 14, 2014, the remains of the 20 British soldiers discovered in the mass grave were reburied with full military honors at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s Loos Cemetery.  Of the 20, one soldier, Scotsman William McAleer of Fife, could be identified.   McAleer, a soldier in the Royal Scots Fusiliers, was killed on September 25, 1915 at the age of 22.  Identification was made possible by virtue of his identity disc discovered among his remains.

The 19 unidentified British soldiers received headstones bearing the epitaph “Known Unto God.”  Following the discovery of the mass grave, the remains of the 30 German soldiers were turned over to the German War Graves Commission (VDK) for identification and reburial.

The two-week Battle of Loos in September-October 1915 was the largest British offensive on the Western Front up to that time and resulted in nearly 60,000 British casualties.  The failure of the British Expeditionary Force to break through the German lines at Loos led to the replacement of General Sir John French by General Douglas Haig in command of the BEF.

For more information on the March 14 reburial, see the Houston Chronicle story here.



British Army WW1 Unit Diaries Digitized

A typical handwritten British Army unit war diary page from the First World War.

A typical handwritten British Army unit war diary page from the First World War.

Its being called “Operation War Diary” – a cooperative effort between Britain’s Imperial War Museum and Zooniverse, a citizen science project with applications in the humanities.  This project seeks to digitize and publish online the war diaries kept by British Army units during the First World War.

The diaries total some 1.5 million pages and represent the official histories of British Army units kept by their own officers.  More than mere records of movements and numbers of casualties, the diaries often contain poignant narrative describing scenes from the trenches.  Through the efforts of numerous volunteer historians, these original records are being transcribed, tagged for searchable content, and published online as priceless resources for both today’s and tomorrow’s readers.

The loss of various kinds of original records over time through deterioration, fire, natural and manmade disasters underscores the importance of recording and preserving their content through digital means.

“Operation War Diary” is truly a grassroots effort with “citizen historians” working throughout the world on transcription and digitization.  To view the war diaries, or find out how you can take part, visit the project’s website here.


J.R.R. Tolkien’s WW1 Connection Highlighted

J.R.R. Tolkien during the First World War.

J.R.R. Tolkien during the First World War.

The Imperial War Museum North, located in Manchester, UK, will place a First World War Webley revolver which had belonged to  J.R.R. Tolkien on exhibition this month.   The author of the tremendously popular books The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings had served in the trenches in France during 1916 after leaving Oxford University.  It was after being invalided home from the war that he began writing stories set in Middle-earth which laid the foundation for his most popular works.

Born in South Africa in 1892, Tolkien graduated from Oxford University in 1915 with a degree in literature after which he joined the Lancashire Fusiliers as a subaltern arriving in France in June 1916.  After participating in fighting during the Battle of the Somme, he was sent home to England for health reasons in November 1916.  After the war, Tolkien eventually joined the faculty of The University of Leeds, and later Pembroke College, Oxford, where he would write The Hobbit as well as the first two volumes of The Lord of the Rings.  Between the World Wars Tolkien also achieved notoriety as an authority on Beowulf. 

Between his retirement in 1959 and death in 1973, Tolkien achieved tremendous popular literary success and has been called the “father” of modern fantasy literature.   The influence of his experiences in the First World War on his later writings is generally held to be significant.

For more information on the Imperial War Museum North’s exhibition, see the story from Culture 24 here.

France and New Zealand Re-Afirm Commemorative Ties


New Zealand troops parade after liberating Le Quesnoy, France, November 1918.

New Zealand troops parade after liberating Le Quesnoy, France, November 1918.

Meeting in Auckland, French Associate Minister for Defense, Monsieur Kader Arif, and New Zealand Minister for Culture, Arts and Heritage, Mr. Christopher Finlayson, have signed a letter of intent regarding World War I commemorations between the two countries.

The letter of intent re-affirms the deep friendship between France and New Zealand.  “Our shared sacrifices sealed an enduring friendship,” Mr. Finlayson said. “Successive French and New Zealand governments have worked together mindful of the need to continuously construct peace and security in the world.”  New Zealand has been welcomed to participate in upcoming commemorative events in France throughout the centenary years.

During the First World War, New Zealand troops fought with distinction in France as part of the ANZAC forces of the British Empire.  New Zealand’s participation in centenary activities will include The Battle of the Somme (1916) and Le Quesnoy (1918).

For more information, see the press release from Scoop NZ here.

Newfoundland and Labrador Government Earmarks Memorial Funds

The memorial to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel, France.

The memorial to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel, France.

Speaking in St. John, Newfoundland on November 5, Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced that the government of Newfoundland and Labrador would set aside 3.6 million dollars for projects marking the coming centenary of The First World War.  The project, titled “Honour 100” seeks to boost public awareness of the contributions and sacrifices of citizens from Newfoundland and Labrador in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during The Great War 1914-1918.

Memorial projects will include those honoring the Royal Newfoundland Regiment which, after service in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, was virtually wiped out on the morning of July 1, 1916 attacking Beaumont Hamel on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

For more information on the Newfoundland and Labrador government announcement, see the CBC news story here.

Scottish Youth Turn Monument Vandalism into Positive Action

The ruins of Kilwinning Abbey, North Ayrshire, Scotland.

The ruins of Kilwinning Abbey, North Ayrshire, Scotland.

Vandalism to a World War I memorial on the grounds of Kilwinning Abbey, Kilwinning, North Ayrshire, Scotland, caught the attention of local students who have used the incident as the basis for boosting public awareness of the First World War centenary in their community.

A cenotaph memorial on the grounds of the abbey was recently desecrated by vandals and while the damage was quickly addressed by the North Ayrshire council, a number of students at the nearby St. Winnings primary school learned of the damage to the monument and were spurred to action.  Canvassing the community, they were surprised to discover a lack of public knowledge of the monument’s existence.

A student-organized fundraising effort seeks to generate funds to improve the grounds around the memorial and to boost local awareness of its significance in time for the centenary of Britain’s entry into the First World War which will be marked on August 4, 2014.

The town of Kilwinning, located near the southwestern coast of Scotland, is known as “the crossroads of Ayrshire”.  In 1966, it was incorporated into the boundaries of Irvine New Town.   Kilwinning’s population in 2011 was slightly more that 16,000 persons.

For more information see the Irvine Herald story here.


New Zealand Announces Key Commemorative Dates for 2014-18

The New Zealand War Memorial, Auckland.

The New Zealand War Memorial, Auckland.

New Zealand’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson has announced the official commemorative dates for that country’s remembrance of the First World War.  According to the Minister,  the creation of an official centenary calendar will help New Zealanders at home and abroad to commemorate the events of the Great War that were particularly significant for their ancestors.

The list of key commemorative dates for the New Zealand centenary observances at home are:

25 April 2015 – Anzac landings in Gallipoli – National War Memorial

15 September 2016 – War in France – National War Memorial

12 October 2017 – War in Belgium – National War Memorial

October/November 2017 – War in Sinai/Palestine – National War Memorial

11 November 2018 – Armistice – National War Memorial

The New Zealand national commemorations to be held overseas are:

25 April 2015 – Anzac landings at Gallipoli – Turkey

15 September 2016 – Battle of the Somme – France

7 June 2017 – Battle of Messines – Belgium

12 October 2017 – Battle of Passchendaele – Belgium

31 October 2017 – Battle of Beersheba – Israel

4 November 2018 – Liberation of Le Quesnoy – France

For more information see the story from Voxy here.