Friday, 28 September 2007

Dozens attend September meeting

On Thursday almost 30 people showed up for the September Teesside BNP meeting. A number of people spoke including Alan O’reilly, James MacPherson and special guest speaker Harrogate Organiser Tom Linden. All of the speeches were fantastic and I would just like to show Alan O’reilly’s speech. I hope you enjoy.

Remembrance and Flanders Fields

90 Years On

We are 90 years on from the 3rd Battle of Ypres, fought in Belgium during WW1. It is often referred to as Passchendaele, or Flanders Fields.

It was fought between July 31st and November 10th 1917 and has gone down in history as the very worst of the ‘mud and blood’ of the trench warfare of the First World War.

Last Surviving Trench Veteran

A Mr Harry Patch is Britain's last surviving WW1 soldier who actually fought in the trenches of the Western Front; from June to September 1917. He is aged 109.

He took part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres as a machine gunner in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry[i].

Mr Patch says that for the last 90 years, he has never forgotten his three comrades-in-arms who were killed on September 22nd 1917, in the same shell burst by which he was wounded. He was then to spend the rest of the war in hospital and convalescing.

He says therefore that September 22nd is his Remembrance Day.

That is why I thought it particularly suitable that we should think about this subject at the meeting on this date.

Ypres Remembers

The townsfolk of Ypres, Belgium, remember, too.

In the wall surrounding the town of Ypres is a massive stone arch called the Menin Gate. The road through it leads to the town of Menin 2-3 miles to the southeast.

Every day, at 8:00 pm local time, the police stop the traffic via the Menin Gate and 2 buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade sound The Last Post beneath the gate’s massive stone arch.

This daily ceremony was started on November 11th 1929 and continues to this day, interrupted only by the German occupation of Ypres during WW2, from May 1940 to September 1944. The ceremony resumed the very evening that the Germans were driven out of the town by the advancing Allies.

The walls of the arch are inscribed with the names of 54,896 officers and men from Britain and the Commonwealth who were killed in the Ypres salient between the outbreak of war and 15th August 1917 and have no known graves.

Tyne Cot

When the Menin Gate was built, it was found not to be large enough to contain all the names of the missing men.

Another 34,984 such names, of men who fell in the salient between August 16th 1917 and the end of the war, are inscribed on the rear walls of Tyne Cot Cemetery, located on the slopes of Passchendaele Ridge, about a mile from the village of Passchendaele itself. The village lies about 6 miles northeast of Ypres.

Passchendaele was captured by the Canadians on November 10th 1917 and was the furthest point the Allies reached in the battle. They took over three months to advance 5 miles. When it fell, Passchendaele village was little more than a brick-coloured stain on a watery landscape with the shell holes almost lip to lip.

During the battle, the area where the cemetery now stands was occupied by many concrete blockhouses or pillboxes, manned by German machine gunners. The Geordie soldiers of the 50th Northumbrian Division likened these blockhouses to cottages along the banks of the River Tyne and called the area Tyne Cot. The name has stuck to this day.

Tyne Cot Cemetery itself contains 11,953 graves. It is the largest Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in the world[ii].

VC Winners

The graves at Tyne Cot include 2 winners of the Victoria Cross, buried close to where they won their awards - and lost their lives.

They were both Australians; Captain Clarence Jeffries and Sergeant Lewis McGee.

Sergeant McGee came from Tasmania, the detached bit of Australia at the bottom. He was 29 years of age and he left a widow, Eileen Rose.

Captain Jeffries came from Wallsend, New South Wales. He was 23 years old.

Wallsend is near the city of Newcastle in New South Wales and both names derive from Tyneside, because that area of Australia is a major coal-mining district. That is another tie with the old country.

During the Iraq War, some controversy surrounded the award of a VC to a black man who drove his vehicle away from a post of danger while the vehicles was on fire. It was suggested that because the recipient was black, the award was a political VC.

Be that as it may, it prompts the question, what did it take to win a Victoria Cross in WW1?

An extract from The London Gazette, No. 30433, dated 18th Dec., 1917, records the following about Captain Jeffries:- “For most conspicuous bravery in attack, when his company was held up by enemy machine-gun fire from concrete emplacements. Organising a party, he rushed one emplacement, capturing four machine guns and thirty-five prisoners. He then led his company forward under extremely heavy enemy artillery barrage and enfilade machine-gun fire to the objective. Later, he again organised a successful attack on a machine-gun emplacement, capturing two machine guns and thirty more prisoners. This gallant officer was killed during the attack, but it was entirely due to his bravery and initiative that the centre of the attack was not held up for a lengthy period. His example had a most inspiring influence.”

Sergeant McGee was killed in a similar attack, displaying similar bravery. Their deeds were magnificent but the news reports must have been cold comfort to the loved ones who got the telegrams, like Eileen Rose.

But you can judge for yourself whether or not you think that Iraq VC was a political one.

The Cost

As indicated, the Flanders area was fought over for most of the war.

One researcher has reported that[iii]

“Of all the British dead of the Great War, all theatres, over a third were buried in the Ypres area.”

That amounts to over 300,000 individuals from Britain and the old Dominions.

Purnell’s History of the First World War, Volume 6, Page 2358, puts the total casualty figures for the 3rd Battle of Ypres at 524,000; 200,000 German, 324,000 British and Allies,.

Each yard of ground gained during the battle cost Britain and her Allies 30 men.

Amongst the Allied casualties were 80,000 or 90,000 dead and missing.

The missing were almost half the total of fatal casualties and consist of those individuals whose remains were never found. Their names are commemorated on the panels of either the Menin Gate or Tyne Cot Cemetery.

Of course, the occupants of many of the graves in Tyne Cot and other WW1 cemeteries were unidentified and the inscription of the headstone reads: A Soldier of the Great War, 1914-1918, Known Unto God.

That expression Known Unto God is a quotation from a 1611 Authorised King James Bible. The English-speaking peoples of Britain and the Old Dominions will never get away from that Book, no matter what they do.

It is one thing that unites them. But they were united in 1914-18 and in 1939-45 - and won the victory each time.

Like the BNP song says, they stood together

We should remember that as well.

In fact, at the outbreak of WW1, the Canadian Prime Minister said, “When Britain is at war, Canada is at war. There is no distinction.”

The Australian Prime Minister said, “If England goes to her Armageddon [the final battle of the age], Australia will go with her.”

The young men proved it so. These are the ties of blood and race that our present leaders despise and are trying to destroy. They have to be resisted.

Personal Recollections

Many sources are available that will describe the course of the battle. It is not my purpose to go over that here. What are most important are the recollections of individuals[iv], [v], [vi] who endured the battle.

They highlighted various aspects of the campaign.

Corporal Joseph Pincombe spoke of the mud and the incessant shelling:

“We had to go through Ypres and up the Menin Road…Everywhere, as far as you could see, there were spurts of earth from shells bursting and bursts of shrapnel and high explosive…We could see stretcher-bearers coming through the mud to bring the wounded out. They were up to their knees in it, wallowing in it, struggling up carrying their stretchers to the field dressing-stations at the roadside. We could see the doctors and orderlies outside, working in their shirtsleeves, even in the rain, and everywhere, all over the road and shoved to the side were broken wagons, gun carriages and dead horses. You couldn’t speak, the gunfire was so terrific, but you don’t really hear the explosions individually – you just see them going off like geysers shooting up in the air. As far as you could see in front of you and to either side, there was nothing but mud, mud, mud for miles and just a few stumps of trees here and there and all hell let loose around you.”

Movement over many parts of the battlefield was only possible by means of miles of planking, called duckboards laid down by the Royal Engineers and the Pioneer Corps.

Private Richard Mercer spoke of these duckboards and their particular hazards:

“Passchendaele was just a terrible, terrible place. We used to walk along these wooden duckboards — something like ladders laid on the ground. The Germans would concentrate on these things. If a man was hit and wounded and fell off he could easily drown in the mud and never be seen again. You just did not want to go off the duckboards.”

In the 3rd Battle of Ypres, the Germans used for the first time the terror weapon of mustard gas, a vaporising liquid that causes hideous burns and blisters.

Padre William Doyle spoke of his horror at the sight of a victim:

“The first thing I saw almost unnerved me – a young soldier lying on his back, his hands and face a mass of blue phosphorus flame. He was the first victim I had seen of the new mustard gas the Germans were using.”

As in any battle, if you were seriously wounded and not long for this world, it was good to have a mate beside you.

Private Harry Patch was in a situation like that:

“I fell in a trench. There was a fella there. He must have been about our age [nineteen]. He was ripped shoulder to waist with shrapnel. I held his hand for the last sixty seconds of his life. He only said one word: ‘Mother.’ I didn't see her, but she was there. No doubt about it. He passed from this life into the next, and it felt as if I was in God’s presence. I’ve never got over it. You never forget it. Never.

“Some of the boys buried here are the same age as me, killed on the same day I was fighting [aged nineteen]. Any one of them could have been me. I didn't know whether I would last longer than five minutes. We were the Poor Bloody Infantry and we were expendable. What a terrible waste.”

I’ve mentioned the Dominion troops.

Private Reginald Le Brun was a Canadian machine gunner. Like many Dominion soldiers, he was a first generation colonial. He had been born in the Channel Island of Jersey and afterwards he and his parents had emigrated to Canada where he’d grown up – yet more close links with the old country.

He said this about seeing most of his mates killed and wounded, something that happened to many WW1 survivors.

“They pushed the machine-guns right out in front. There was nothing between us and the Germans across the swamp. Three times during the night they shelled us heavily, and we had to keep on spraying bullets into the darkness to keep them from advancing. The night was alive with bullets. By morning, of our team of six, only my buddy Private Tombes and I were left. Then came the burst that got Tombes. It got him right in the head. His blood [and everything] spattered all over the front of my greatcoat and gas-mask. I was there trying to wipe it all off. It was a terrible feeling to be the only one left.”

Women as well as men served in the Flanders campaign.

Sister Jean Calder, who served in a Casualty Clearing Station:

“We’d had boys coming in all week…and we’d been busy, but the ones we got at the weekend were in a shocking state, because so many of them had been lying out in the mud before they could be picked up by the first-aid orderlies. Their clothes were simply filthy…We had to cut them off and do what we could. But it was too late for a lot of them, and many a one lost an arm or a leg that would have healed up right away if he’d been brought straight in. We felt terribly sorry for them but we had to try not to show our feelings, because it would never have done. We’d all have been sunk in gloom and then we’d have been no good to the men…But it was hard not to show sympathy.”

You can understand why the lads tended to regard the nursing Sisters as “The Roses of No-man’s Land.”

No Blacks or Indians

No black African or Indian units fought at Passchendaele. It was recognised by the end of 1915 that their infantry could not withstand the prolonged, combined cold and wet of the autumn and winter months on the Western Front.

No disrespect to those races but I know of no complaints of discrimination resulting from that conclusion. However, it raises the question, why populate a country like Britain with black Africans and Asians. In the long term, it would only weaken that nation’s physical resilience. I guess that is the agenda.

Finally

When Harry Patch made his first visit back to the Flanders salient about three years ago, he said to his driver that he did not want to go anywhere near Pilkem Ridge. Pilkem Ridge is on the extreme left of the salient and it was the place where Harry was wounded and his three mates were killed. The memories were still painful, after almost 90 years.

But later on during the visit, he asked to be taken up to Pilkem so that he could place a wreath at the memorial, in memory of his three friends. And so he did.

He attached a card to the wreath and it read, “You have never been forgotten.”

And we should never forget.

We owe so much to the men – and women- who served in Flanders Fields. It’s our fight now, for race and nation. Let’s keep on until we win the victory, like they did. Thank you.


References

4 comments:

alanorei said...

Thanks Wayne

I hope others will read it and recognise how great a price has been paid in the past for the survival of Britain and the old dominions.

I understand that a film called Passchendaele is to be released in November, as a drama-documentary and with the central character based on a real-life Canadian soldier at 3rd Ypres.

youdontknowme said...

Hopefully it will show the sacrifices that were made so Britain could stay free.

Worcestershire BNP said...

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http://worcestershirenationalist.blogspot.com/

Have a gander and let us know if you fancy a link exchange.

Lee & Donna

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