Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Understanding Auschwitz and the Holocaust

"The biblical word Shoah (which has been used to mean 'destruction' since the Middle Ages) became the standard Hebrew term for the murder of European Jewry as early as the early 1940s." 
(Yad Vashem - the World Holocaust Resource Centre)

1. "Auschwitz: Understanding the Past, 
Facing the Future" by Gordon Cockburn (b.1944)
[2018 touring exhibition at The Beacon Museum]
2. "Shoah". Oil on canvass by Gordon Cockburn
[2018 touring exhibition, The Beacon Museum]
3. "Shoah - Destruction No 2" . 
Oil on board, by Gordon Cockburn
[2018 touring exhibition, The Beacon Museum]
4. "Ladies of Auschwitz: The Survivors"
Oil on canvass board, by Gordon Cockburn

[2018 touring exhibition, The Beacon Museum]
5. "Head Studies: From Sanity to Insanity"
Pastel on paper, by Gordon Cockburn

2018 touring exhibition, The Beacon Museum]
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 (Photographs of the artwork taken with permission) 
"Auschwitz: Understanding the Past, Facing the Future"
This exhibition was a series of paintings, drawings and pastels about the WW2 by the Scottish artist Gordon Cockburn (b. 1944) at The Beacon Museum, Whitehaven, Cumbria in 2018. Some of the artwork by Gordon Cockburn in the exhibition can be seen in the above images. The artist's interpretation of the horrors of those who were incarcerated at Auschwitz during the Second World War help the present day generations to understand the past and face the future. 

For further information, click on 'Comments' below. 

Thursday, March 08, 2018

"Until the day break ..."

1. Staff Sgt. William Fisher Birkett, REME
Known as 'Billie' to family and friends
"Died of injuries in a battle accident" 
Western Front, 18 April 1945

[Photo courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News']
[His father was killed in the 1914 - 1918 war]
2 .High Street, Cleator Moor Cumberland 
(Early 20th C postcard)
Birthplace and home of Sgt W.F. Birkett, REME
3. Cleator Moor Brass at a remembrance service
Cleator Moor Wesleyan (Methodist) Church
Billie Birkett was married in this church 
4. Cleator Moor War Memorial
Decorated with poppies of Remembrance
Billie Birkett died in WW2, his father Dick in WW1
5. 1914 Lonsdale Battalion recruitment poster
Dick Birkett, father of Billie, was a recruit
Dick Birkett was killed in action in 1917

[Photo taken at Cumbria Museum of Military Life, Carlisle]
"Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether." 
Song of Solomon 2:17 
The Bible (King James Version)  

[The first part of this verse is the epitaph on Billie Birkett's CWGC headstone in the war cemetery at Becklingen, Germany]


Staff Serjeant William Fisher Birkett, REME (known as 'Billie') [Photograph No. 1] "... died of injuries sustained in a battle accident in a forward area on the Western Front ..." on 18 April 1945. Sgt. Birkett came from Cleator Moor, Cumberland in the N.W. of England [Photograph No. 2]. In life, Billie was a popular member of the Wesleyan (Methodist) church at Cleator Moor, a church which holds an annual service of Remembrance for all those killed in wars [Photograph No. 3]. 

The death of Sgt. Birkett in WW2 was a case of history repeating itself. His father, Pte. Dickinson Fisher Birkett ('Dick'), was killed on the Western Front while serving with the 11th (Lonsdale) Battalion of the Border Regiment in the 1914 - 1918 war. Like father, like son - both made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the Armed Forces. Billie Birkett and his father Dick Birkett are just of the war dead from the Cleator Moor district of Cumbria commemorated by the town's war memorial [seen in Photograph No. 4]. 


For further information click on 'Comment's below. 

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Medals for Mary ... after more than 70 years!

1. (Left) W/152141 L/Cpl. Mary Hanson, ATS
Wearing the ATS 'duck cap'(altered for style)
(Right): Mary wears her WW2 medals
Finally received in February 2018 
2. Mary receives her WW2 medals and thanks
The 1939-45 War Medal and Defence Medal
[February 2018]
3. Mary Hanson (right) celebrates with her family
Afternoon tea at the Midland Hotel, Morecambe
[Photograph: John Holland]  
4. Mary Hanson in the years before enrolment
(Left): 'May Queen' at school in Batley (1932/33)
(Right): As a fashion model for Novello's (c. 1939)
5. Overton-on-Dee, on the Welsh-English border
Mary was posted here to the RAOC (1942-1945) 

6. Mary Hanson with her army colleagues
With the RAOC at Overton-on-Dee
(Mary is in the middle row looking down)
In February 2018, ATS Lance Corporal Mary Hanson finally received her WW2 service medals and written thanks for her service - more than 70 years after the end of the war. Between 1942 and 1946 Mary served in the A.T.S. (Auxiliary Territorial Service), the women's branch of the British Army.

To read more about Mary's story click on 'Comments' below.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The War memorials of Loweswater, Cumbria

1. Loweswater Parish Church, Cumbria
Dedicated to St Bartholomew 
2. Interior of Loweswater Parish Church
The WW1 memorial is the lectern near the altar
(Bottom left): The V.E. Day memorial prayer kneeler
3. Loweswater's WW1 memorial lectern
(It lists the names of five parishioners who died)
4. Prayer kneeler in Loweswater church
Remembering the 50th anniversary of V.E. Day
(8 May 1945 - 8 May 1995)
5. Headstone memorial for Rev. G.H. White 
A former Vicar of Loweswater (1945 - 1974)
He was also a P.O.W. of the Germans in WW2
 For additional information click on 'Comments' below. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"When They Sound The Last All Clear"

When they sound the last 'All Clear'
Wartime music sheet
During the Second World War, the British singer Vera Lynn became known as "the Forces Sweetheart". As part of ENSA, Vera Lynn toured overseas to entertain the troops in Egypt, India, Burma and elsewhere. In 1941 she began her own radio programme, "Sincerely Yours", sending message messages to tthe troops serving overseas, The songs she sang on "Sincerely Yours" included requests for service men and women serving away from home. 

One of Vera Lynn's most popular songs was "When the sound the last 'All Clear'", which was first broadcast in 1941. An original wartime song sheet of this can be seen above. As with many Vera Lynn songs of the period, it was one of optimism, when sweethearts would be reunited at the end of the war and the church bells would once again ring out in peace time: 

"For the peace bells will ring,
And the whole world will sing,
When they sound the last All Clear."

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Season's Greetings 2017

Season's Greetings 2017
1. Christmas Tree, Covent Garden

2. The Cenotaph, London
Wishing all members and visitors to this site seasonal greetings of peace and goodwill. Regardless of Creed or nationality peace and goodwill are common to all mankind. They are surely better than war and hostility . 

During the six years of the Second World War there were many changes to the hitherto familiar wintertime festive rituals. Celebrations were largely scaled down due to restrictions and shortages in Britain and elsewhere. Nevertheless, for many it was still possible to collect greenery from the countryside and have a Christmas tree and other greenery such as holly, ivy and mistletoe continuing what seems to be a timeless tradition transcending international boundaries. 

A visitor to London's Covent Garden around Christmas time will see a large decorated Christmas tree [Photograph No. 1]. According to the Canadian writer and politician André Laurendeau: 

"Childhood is to believe that a with a Christmas tree and three snowflakes all the world is changed.

Can a simply decorated Christmas tree and a few snowflakes really transport young children into another world? It does seem so. During the war many children were set the task of collecting the greenery and the tree and perhaps make the decorations for the tree. With snow on the ground children can enter a new playground and perhaps build a snowman and in wartime spend a little time a long way from the war. 

While in London, a visitor can take a short walk from Covent Garden to Whitehall and in a central location will see the Cenotaph [Photograph No 2]. The poppy wreaths seen at the Cenotaph have been left here by Armed Forces Veterans and relatives of those who have died in wars and conflicts. Think of why the Cenotaph was built and why there should be peace and goodwill to all on earth. 
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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Is 'Armistice Day', 11 November, still relevant?

1. The Cenotaph, Whitehall, London:
Without any poppy wreaths of Remembrance!
2. Armistice Day at Keswick, Cumbria
The Last Post and 'Two Minute Silence' at the Cenotaph
'Remembrance' as part of everyday life of the town 
3. The 'Keswick Reminder' remembers the 'Fallen' 
A list of Keswickians who died in WW1 and WW2
Is marking 'Armistice Day', 11 November, each year still relevant to the modern world? What, if anything, is special about 'Armistice Day'? Does Britain and the Commonwealth not have Remembrance Sunday to remember the World Wars and other conflicts? Is Remembrance Sunday not sufficient? 

For additional thoughts and information click on 'Comments' below.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The passing of a French Resistance hero

André Heintz (1920 - 2017)

On 31 October 2017 the Memorial Museum at Caen, Normandy has reported the passing of Monsieur André Heintz at the age of 97. In the period before D-Day, 6 June 1944, André Heintz was a member of the French Resistance in the Caen area who was able to provide London with valuable information about the German forces in Normandy. He was also able to alert the Allies not to bomb the Abbaye aux Hommes (Men's Abbey) at Caen in the immediate aftermath of D-Day as this was where thousands of civilians had taken refuge. 

According to André Heintz, the greatest day of his life was 9 July 1944, the day the Allied soldiers were finally able to liberate his beloved, if battered, home city of Caen: 

"That day was the most beautiful of my entire life. I could hardly believe that I survived the German occupation and the battle, and I rushed to church as soon as I could to thank God for the privilege of being alive and being free again."
(BBC "People's War", Article ID 2524385)

Click on the following link to read André Heintz's personal account of his wartime experiences, as told to the BBC "People's War" website: 

André Heintz's D-Day: The Resistance in Caen

We salute the passing of this fine hero of the French Resistance of WW2. 
May he rest in peace. 

Saturday, August 12, 2017

War memorials of Murton-cum-Hilton, Cumbria

1. Entrance to Murton village from Hilton
[With Murton fell in the distance]

2. Murton-cum-Hilton parish church, Cumbria
[Dedicated to St John the Baptist]
3. Boer War memorial
[Found inside the parish church]
4. Murton-cum-Hilton WW1 'Roll of Honour'
[Found inside the parish church]

5. Murton-cum-Hilton War Memorial
[Found in the parish cemetery]
6. Murton-cum-Hilton World War casualties
[As listed on the parish war memorial]
(Left): The nine who died in WW1
(Right): The four who died in WW2
For additional information click on ‘Comments’ below.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The War Memorials of Culgaith, Cumbria

1. Culgaith Parish Church and churchyard
Culgaith village, Eden valley, Cumbria
2. Interior of All Saints Parish Church
Culgaith village, Eden valley, Cumbria
3. Culgaith 1914 - 1918 'Roll of Honour'
A list of locals who served in the Armed Forces
4. Culgaith 1939 - 1945 'Roll of Honour'
A list of locals who served in the Armed Forces
5. Culgaith Parish War Memorial, Cumbria
Located at a village crossroads
This face lists those who died in WW1
6. Culgaith Parish War Memorial, Cumbria
This face lists those who died in WW2
Culgaith, Cumbria and its war memorials

Culgaith is a civil and ecclesiastical parish in a mainly rural setting in Cumbria's Eden valley. There are four main village communities in the parish: Culgaith, Blencarn, Skirwith and Kirkland. 

Culgaith village is the largest of these four communities and is where All Saints church, the main church for the ecclesiastical parish, is situated [Photograph No. 1 and Photograph No. 2]. Inside the church is a 'Roll of Honour' listing the names of those from the district who served in the Armed Forces in the 1914 - 1918 war [Photograph No. 3] and the 1939 - 1945 war [Photograph No. 4]. 

At the main crossroads in Culgaith village is a war memorial in the form of a Wheel Cross made from red sandstone which remembers the locals who died in the two World Wars. It was originally erected to commemorate those who died in the 1914 - 1918 war and their names are engraved on the front face of the memorial [Photograph No. 5]. After the end of the Second World War the names of locals who died in that war were added to the rear of the memorial [Photograph No. 6]. 

For additional information click on 'Comments' below. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ste. Marie-de-Ré Communal Cemetery

1. Commonwealth War Graves Plot
Sainte Marie-
de-Ré Communal Cemetery
Île de Ré, Charente-Maritime, France 
[C.W.G. C. photograph]
2. Graves of three British soldiers of WW2
Sainte Marie-de-
Ré Communal Cemetery
[Jacques Lefebvre-Linetsky photograph
3. Graves of two British soldiers lost at sea
(Left): Pte Cyril George Worrall, RAOC
(Right): Pte William Sullivan, Pioneer Corps

[Jacques Lefebvre-Linetsky photograph]
The War Graves at Ste. Marie-de-Ré Communal Cemetery

Sainte Marie-de-Ré is a small commune on the southern coast of the Île de Ré, an island off the French Atlantic coast. Although far from the main battlefields of the Second World War, nevertheless the communal cemetery of the district is the final resting place of five British and Commonwealth soldiers and two airmen. Their graves are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission [Photograph No. 1]. Photographs No. 2 and 3 were taken by Jacques Lefebvre-Linetsky during a visit to the Île de Ré in June 2017. Initial research for this article at the Île de Ré was by Cathie Fidler.

For further information click on 'Comments' below.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Sculptures of war (Břetislav Benda 1897 - 1983)

1. Czech sculptor Břetislav Benda
(Left): In his workshop studio (1956)
(Right): With his wife, Bohumila Bendova (1976) 
2. Two postwar sculptures
(By Břetislav Benda, 1948 and 1952)
3. "Victory at Stalingrad"/"Vítězství Stalingradu"
Sketch (left) and figure in bronze (right)
Břetislav Benda, 1943)

4. "Lidice Girl" / "Lidické děvčátko"
(Figure in bronze by Břetislav Benda, 1948)
5. Terezin Deportation Memorial 
[Terezin / Theresienstadt Concentration Camp]
Břetislav Benda, 1968)

Břetislav Benda (Biographical notes)
Born: 28 March 1897 
Birthplace: Líšnice, Austro-Hungarian Empire 
                    (now in the Czech Republic)
Parents: František and Žofie Benda 
Spouse: Bohumila Bendova 
Died: Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) 
Date of death: 19 August 1983


Břetislav Benda (1897 - 1983) was a noted 20th Century Czech sculptor and artist, seen in photograph No. 1 in his studio and with his wife, Bohumila Bendova. His elder son, also called Břetislav Benda (born 1925) became a Czechoslovak and Czech electro-technician, academic teacher and a Communist member of the Czechoslovak parliament (1986 - 1989) in the period immediately before the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. 

Milan Benda (born 6 October 1941), a younger son of the elder Břetislav Benda followed in the footsteps of his famous father to become a highly respected sculptor of international renown. Milan Benda also collaborated with his father on a number of sculptures. Both father and son are primarily known for the study of the female form although some significant works are realisations of individuals or tributes to working craftsman. 

Examples of these are shown in photograph No.2. On the left is a sculpture in bronze by  Břetislav Benda of his wife, Bohumila and son, Milan (1948). On the right is another sculpture in bronze by Břetislav Benda honouring the skilled working man, in this case the 'Miner and Metallurgist' (1952). 

The artistic creation of Břetislav Benda also looked at various aspects of war, especially the Second World War. Examples of these can be seen in photographs No 3 - 5. The remainder of this article concentrates on this aspect of his work.

For additional information click on 'Comments' below. 

"First they came ..." (poem) by Martin Niemöller

1. Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892 - 1984)
2. The 'Star of David' and 'Hammer and Sickle'
3. Catholic church at Oberammergau, Germany

Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892 - 1984)
German Protestant Pastor Martin Niemöller [Photograph No. 1] was at one time a supporter of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. For some, he was even antisemitic. Yet, before WW2 he came to oppose the Nazification of Germany's Protestant churches and especially the Nazis 'Aryan Paragraph'. 

For his open opposition to the Nazi control of Protestant state churches, Pastor Niemöller was imprisoned as a political prisoner by the Nazis, being held in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. A survivor of the concentration camp system, Pastor Niemöller perhaps became best known in the post-war years for his poem, "First they came ..." which acknowledges people in Germany, including himself, had not done enough in the early years to oppose Nazism. 

In the English language there are slightly different translations and interpretations of Pastor Martin Niemöller's poem. Regardless of these slight variations, the themes of persecution, guilt and personal responsibility are evident in this poem. Intellectuals who were not Jews, or Communists, or Trade Unionists or Catholics, or other groups the Nazis opposed said and did nothing until it was too late ... 

To read a version of Pastor Martin Niemöller's poem, click on 'Comments'.