Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Private John William Gilpin, 5th Battalion Border Regiment in WW2

The headstone of 3599463 Private J.W. Gilpin, 5th Battalion The Border Regiment
Pvte. Gilpin is buried in St Paul's (C of E) Churchyard, Frizington, Cumbria.

The inscription on the headstone reads:
"Resting where no shadows fall".

(Photograph by J. Ritson)

Private John William Gilpin, Service No 3599463 the youngest son of Mrs and the late Mr Robert Gilpin, of Jane Street, Frizington, Cumberland (now Cumbria). As a young lad he was educated at St Paul's (C of E) School in his home village of Frizington, which is approximately 2 miles from Cleator Moor and approximately 5 miles from Whitehaven.

Upon leaving school, John W. Gilpin worked as a hotel porter. In May 1939 he joined the local Territorial Battalion, the 5th Battalion The Border Regiment. With the outbreak of war with Germany in September 1939 Private John W. Gilpin was called up and went out to France and Flanders as part of the B.E.F. in early 1940. After the German breakthrough in May / June 1940 those of the 5th Border Regiment who managed to escape were among the last to be evacuated from the Dunkirk beach head. Sadly, John Gilpin was to lose his life shortly only a few weeks after the Dunkirk evacuation as the result of an accident near Thirsk, North Yorkshire. At the time he was only 20 years old.

(For further information click on 'Comments' below)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The WW2 Civilian War Dead of the county of Cumberland, N.W. England

One intention whilst researching those casualties to be remembered in a ‘Roll of Honour’ for the Cleator Moor area of Cumbria (previously in the English county of Cumberland) is to honour all those from the area who lost their lives in the service of their country, or as the result of wars and conflicts. Consequently a friend and fellow researcher contacted the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for details of any records they have about the ‘Civilian War Dead’.

The CWGC kindly supplied details of those civilians who had died in the old county of Cumberland. So far as I have been informed, for a civilian to be included in the CWGC lists they would have either died during their duty in one of the wartime civilian services (NFS, ARP, etc) or died as the result of enemy action (e.g. bombing raids). These guidelines still probably miss some of the civilians lost in the war. For example, if someone was knocked down by a car and died while on ARP duty they would be included, while if they were not on ARP duty they would not be included.

The details provided by the CWGC only cover what they believe covers the former county of Cumberland (i.e. omitting the parts of present day Cumbria that used to be in Westmorland, Lancashire or Yorkshire). All the names listed are from the Second World War. Strangely, the CWGC has also included details of six civilian deaths that took place in the former Whickham Urban District Council area, which is actually in the North East of England near Gateshead.

(For a list of the WW2 civilian casualties for the former county of Cumberland click ‘Comments’)

Sunday, October 28, 2007

A 'Roll of Honour' for Cleator Moor, Cumbria

The Cleator / Trumpet Terrace war memorial, Cumbria.
It includes names of casualties from WW1 and WW2.
(Just one of several war memorials in the Cleator Moor Town Council area)
[Photograph by J. Ritson]
In November 2005 Cleator Moor Town Council, Cumbria dedicated a War Memorial in the town centre, commemorating those who had lost their lives in the service of their country over the years. Although the dedication coincided with the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War the memorial is not just for the fallen of the area during the World Wars but over all the for all those from the area who have lost their lives at other times as well. A new 'Roll of Honour' recording the names and details of those who have lost their lives is the next stage to remember The Fallen. The provisional list of names is to be on view at the Remembrance Sunday service in the town on 11 November 2007. An article about the project was in the local newspaper, 'The Whitehaven News', on Thursday 25 October 2007.

(For additional information, click on 'Comments' below)

The final voyage of wartime evacuee Tom Coyne

During the time the BBC "People's War" project was active I was privileged to listen to the wartime stories of many people, including relatives, friends and many I had never previously met. One of those whom I met for the first time through the "People's War" project was Tom Coyne from South Shields who had been an evacuee to my hometown of Whitehaven, Cumbria during the Second World War, staying with a couple called Jack and Lizzie Finnegan.

For a long time Tom had wanted to find out where Mr and Mrs Finnegan were buried and visit their grave. Eventually I was able to find out from their relatives where they were buried and was able to tell Tom where this was. In October 2007 Tom Coyne returned to Whitehaven with his family for a few days, where he was finally able to visit Mr and Mrs Finnegan’s grave in Whitehaven Cemetery, in what proved to be Tom’s final voyage.

(For further information click on ’Comments’ below)

Remembrance Sunday services on Great Gable summit

Poppy crosses like this one have been placed at the FRCC Memorial on Great Gable summit each year since 1924.

In 1924 the Fell and Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) dedicated a war memorial near the summit of Great Gable (2,949 feet) above Wasdale Head in the Lake District to commemorate the names of the members who had fallen during the Great War of 1914 - 1918. This took the form of a bronze tablet inscribed with the relevant names of fallen comrades. The dedication was by poet, author, climber and walkers Geoffrey Winthrop Young in front of a crowd of 500 walkers and climbers.

(For additional information click on 'Comments' below)

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Royal Pioneer Corps

In the past months I have done a lot of research on the Royal Pioneer Corps in WW2 and I have realized that little was known of those men who enlisted with the British Army from Africa and Palestine to fight alongside the Allied forces. For the Palestinian Jews it was almost paradoxical at first as they had been fighting the British before the war and went back to Palestine to fight them again.

In the meantime all these men performed the most menial but hardest of tasks, and were only at times given the means to
defend themselves, which they did, in France, Greece and Crete. I wish to pay a tribute to these 'unsung heroes'.
These companies were referred to as 'Alien Companies' - they were often composed of up to 25 nationalities (and languages) and were soon forced to communicate in English. Some were given English classes and those who picked up the language quickly got promoted. They were based in Quasassin, Egypt.
The reference book for the Corps is A War History of the Royal Pioneer Corps, by Major E.H. Rhodes-Wood (available in CD format)

If anyone has first or second hand experience of meeting some of them or of hearing of them, I will be most interested in reading their messages.


Friday, October 05, 2007

German navy

I have just watched a 45 minute documentary film on the Battles of the Atlantic. It uses mainly German film from the archives. I was astounded to discover how small the German surface fleet was and how little action their battleships were involved in. I shudder to think what havoc the submarines would have caused if they had been supported properly.


Thursday, October 04, 2007


Interesting piece of history here with the late finding of this aircraft and burial of the crew in Southern Poland long after the war.