Saturday, November 26, 2016

A West Cumbrian 'Living Memory' project

1. Commonwealth War Graves Cross of Sacrifice 
(Whitehaven Cemetery, Cumbria). 
[Similar to those found in war cemeteries around the world]
2. (Left): Wartime ATS recruitment poster
(Right): Front cover of booklet 'Life in the A.T.S.'
3. (Left): Wartime WRNS recruitment poster
(Right): Front cover of a booklet 'Life in the WRNS'
4. (Left): Wartime WAAF recruitment poster
(Right): List of WAAF wartime recruitment offices  
5. Cleator W.I. with local children : 
Placing tributes at Cleator Moor War Memorial
(In remembrance of seven local servicewomen) 
[Remembrance Sunday, 13 November 2016]
6. (Left): Cleator W.I. booklet ('Living Memory' project)
 (Right): Cleator Moor War Memorial (November 2016)
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For additional information click on 'Comments' below.
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8 Comments:

Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Introduction: the CWGC and ‘Living Memory’

For Britain and the Commonwealth countries the main purpose of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) is to ensure that something like 1.7 million people who died in the two world wars are commemorated in perpetuity and will never be forgotten. It pays tribute to the servicemen and servicewomen from the Commonwealth countries in both world wars and maintains a roll of honour for civilians killed in the Second World War.

A large part of the ongoing work of the Commission is the care and maintenance of cemeteries and memorials at 23,000 locations in 154 different countries. Most of the larger cemeteries and memorials are close to the where the major battles of the First and Second World War took place, such the Somme (Thiepval Memorial, France), Gallipoli (Helles Memorial, Turkey), Monte Cassino (Cassino War Cemetery and Memorial) and El Alamein (El Alamein War Cemetery and the Alamein Memorial).

In addition to cemeteries and memorials commemorating hundreds or sometimes thousands of casualties there are churchyards, cemeteries and memorials all over Britain, the Commonwealth and other lands with war graves maintained by the CWGC. These may be just a handful of graves or even just a single grave. They may be the graves of airmen whose plane has crashed nearby, a serviceman or woman who died in a military hospital or the graves of someone accidentally killed while they were on active service.

Typically, where a cemetery has more than 40 official war graves there is a ‘Cross of Sacrifice’, a four-pointed Latin cross mounted on an octagonal base with a bronze longsword, blade downwards, designed by Reginald Blomfield. For example, Whitehaven Cemetery with 77 identified CWGC casualties, has a ‘Cross of Sacrifice’ [Photograph No. 1]. Larger war cemeteries, usually with more than about 1000 official war graves also tend to have a ‘Stone of Remembrance’. Its design was by Sir Edwin Lutyens so that it commemorated people of all faiths and of none.

According to the CWGC, the average household in Britain is no more than about three miles (c. five kilometres) from a war grave of the First or Second World War. For 2016, the centenary year of the Battle of the Somme, a partnership of the CWGC and the Big Ideas Company initiated a ‘Living Memories Project’ to remember the forgotten front of something like 300,000 war graves and commemorations on the British ‘home front’. Planned to run between 1 July and 18 November 2016 the Living Memory Project sought to encourage at least 141 local community groups to discover, explore and remember the First and Second World War heritage in their area and, in particular, those commemorated in local cemeteries and churchyards. The figure of 141 was chosen because this was the number of days of the 1916 campaign of the Battle of the Somme.

The CWGC call to local community groups for a Local Memory Project suggested:
(a) using the CWGC Cemetery database to find nearby cemeteries and churchyards;
(b) visiting local war graves and lay flowers / poppies on the grave;
(c) learning more about the lives of those buried locally beginning with the CWGC database;
(d) sharing these discoveries with the local community through a range of Living Memory activities.

One local community group which took up the call for a Living Memory Project was Cleator Women’s Institute (W.I.) in West Cumbria. This Living Memory Project would commemorate seven local servicewomen who lost their lives in the Second World War. Six of the seven servicewomen are buried in West Cumbrian cemeteries within a five-mile (eight-kilometre) radius of Cleator and Cleator Moor while the seventh is buried in a Northern Irish cemetery.
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Recruitment of women into the Armed Forces

In Britain, it was seen that women were essential to the war effort: whether it be keeping house and home, working in factories, in the fields and forestry, joining the AFS or WVS or in some cases, serving in the Armed Forces. While some women not involved in ‘essential war work’ were drafted into one of the Armed Forces although about three quarters of those who joined were volunteers. Recruitment posters, propaganda articles and booklets encouraged women to enlist to the Auxiliary Territorial Service (A.T.S.), part of the Army [Photograph No. 2], the Women’s Royal Naval Service (W.R.N.S.), part of the Navy [Photograph No. 3] and the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (W.A.A.F.), part of the Air Force [Photograph No. 4].

Age limits for enlisting were usually 17½ to 43, although ex-servicewomen, such as those who had served in WW1, could join up to the age of 50. Married as well as single women could enlist. According to an A.T.S. recruitment leaflet, married women would get a marriage allowance if their husband was a serviceman and there was also a dependant’s allowance provided the servicewoman was prepared to make some allotment from their own pay.

Some wartime children’s booklets explained what it was like to serve in the A.T.S., W.R.N.S. W.A.A.F., Women’s Land Army, etc. Examples of these published by Tuck and Sons of London can be seen in photograph No. 2 (A.T.S.) and photograph No. 3 (W.R.N.S.). There were recruitment offices in many towns and cities all over the country, as can be seen from the list of W.A.A.F. recruitment offices in photograph No. 4.

The A.T.S. was formed before the war, in 1938 when the opportunities were limited to cooks, clerks, orderlies, store keepers or drivers. As the war continued, there were over 100 different roles for women in the A.T.S. including being members of Anti-Aircraft guns. By the end of the war, about ¼ Million women had served in the A.T.S.

The Women’s Royal Naval Service had operated during the First World War and was re-established in April 1939. Its initial purpose was for the Wrens to do many of the shore-based naval jobs thereby releasing men for service at sea. There were mobile and immobile Wrens with the mobile Wrens being paid at a slightly higher rate. By 1943 there were about 74,000 Wrens serving at home and abroad, including some who operated the code-breaking machines at Bletchley Park.

The Women's Auxiliary Air Force was founded in June 1939, again primarily to free up R.A.F. servicemen for more front line service. There were a large number of trades which WAAFs were employed, such as a cook, wireless operator, telephone operator, instrument mechanic and equipment assistant (stores). By 1943 about 182,000 women serving in its ranks, making a valued and essential contribution to the war effort.
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The CWGC contacts the N.F.W.I. about the project

Early in 2016 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission contacted the National Federation of Women’s Institutes about its Living Memory Project. In its turn, the N.F.W.I. passed the details on to local branches. There was also a press release added to the N.F.W.I. website, as follows:

CWGC Living Memory Project

The NFWI has been contacted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to invite WIs to get involved in its new Living Memory project which is running throughout Summer and Autumn 2016. The Living Memory project is offering funding and resources to community groups to enable them to visit and remember those buried in local sites in the UK throughout the centenary of the Somme from 1July – 18 November 2016.

Of the 300,000 war graves or commemorations that are cared for by the CWGC here in the UK 2,000 belong to women who died while serving in the two World Wars. The CWGC have produced resources to help WIs identify a CWGC site near them, do some research about some of those buried in that site and stage a commemorative event – in their own way and reflecting their own interests – to remember those who lost their lives in the 141 days of the Somme.
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Cleator W.I. Living Memory Project

As indicated in the introduction, the West Cumbrian W.I. branch at Cleator decided to commemorate the lives of seven local servicewomen who lost their lives during WW2. The starting point for the ladies of Cleator W.I. used the recommended guidance and resources of the C.W.G.C. Details are given below.

After identifying the seven servicewomen who would be commemorated, the W.I. visited the graves of the six who are buried in the West Cumbrian cemeteries. The seventh grave, having been buried close to where she was serving in Northern Ireland, was too far away to visit. To involve the local community further, the ladies from Cleator W.I. contacted the local press and local radio, they contacted relatives of some of the servicewomen and, as far as possible, researched the lives and wartime service of the seven servicewomen.

With the agreement of the joint churches of Cleator and Cleator Moor and Cleator Moor Town Council, the ladies commemorated the lives of the servicewomen during the Remembrance Day service at Cleator Moor on Sunday 13 November 2016. The W.I. laid a wreath to their memory and local schoolchildren laid a poppy cross for each of the servicewomen at Cleator Moor war memorial [Photograph No. 5]. The poppy wreaths and crosses placed at the memorial on Cleator Moor can be seen in photograph No. 6 (right).
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

CWGC citations of seven West Cumbrian servicewomen of WW2

Below are the details on the CWGC website for the seven servicewomen commemorated by Cleator W.I. for their 2016 ‘Living Memory’ project:

Egremont Cemetery
(a) Wren Grace Anne Cummings
Name: CUMMINGS, GRACE ANNE
Rank: Wren
Service No: 72105
Date of Death:15/09/1943
Age: 19
Regiment / Service: Women's Royal Naval Service, H.M.S. Nightjar
Grave Reference: Sec. B. R.C. Grave 127.
Cemetery: EGREMONT CEMETERY, Cumberland
Additional Information:
Daughter of William and Jane Cummings, of Egremont.

(b) Private Edith Elizabeth Martin (née Southam)
Name: SOUTHAM, EDITH ELIZABETH
Rank: Private
Service No: W/141922
Date of Death: 20/07/1946
Age: 21
Regiment / Service: Auxiliary Territorial Service
Grave Reference: Sec. B.U. Grave 40.
Cemetery: EGREMONT CEMETERY, Cumberland
Additional Information: (served as MARTIN).
Daughter of Alfred and May M. Southam, of Bigrigg;
wife of Walter Raymond Martin, of Bigrigg.
…………………….

Hensingham Cemetery
Leading Aircraftwoman Florence May Hunter
Name: HUNTER, FLORENCE MAY
Rank: Leading Aircraftwoman
Service No: 2027408
Date of Death: 07/04/1945
Age: 37
Regiment / Service: Women's Auxiliary Air Force
Grave Reference: Sec. F. Grave 49.
Cemetery: WHITEHAVEN (HENSINGHAM) CEMETERY, Cumberland Additional Information:
Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Hunter, of Hensingham, Whitehaven.
…………………

Whitehaven Cemetery
(a) Leading Aircraftwoman Ella Esterina Eldon (née Rossi)
Name: ELDON, ELLA ESTERINA
Rank: Aircraftwoman 1st Class
Service No: 2112312
Date of Death: 11/04/1944
Age:28
Regiment/Service: Women's Auxiliary Air Force
Grave Reference: Ward 6. Sec. L. Grave 687.
Cemetery: WHITEHAVEN CEMETERY, Cumberland.
Additional Information:
Daughter of Giovanni and Sarah Elizabeth Rossi, of Whitehaven.

(b) Aircraftwoman 2nd Class Gladys Edith Hadwin (née Bunyard)
Name: HADWIN, GLADYS EDITH
Rank: Aircraftwoman 2nd Class
Service No: 2003500
Date of Death: 05/10/1945
Age: 26
Regiment / Service: Women's Auxiliary Air Force
Grave Reference: Ward 6. Sec. E. Grave 399.
Cemetery: WHITEHAVEN CEMETERY, Cumberland
Additional Information:
Daughter of Ruben and Edith Bunyard;
wife of D. L. Hadwin, of Hensingham, Whitehaven.

(c) Leading Aircraftwoman Elizabeth Cowan
Name: COWAN, ELIZABETH
Rank: Leading Aircraftwoman
Service No: 2096437
Date of Death: 24/10/1945
Age: 30
Regiment / Service: Women's Auxiliary Air Force
Grave Reference: Ward 5. Sec. J. Grave 62.
Cemetery: WHITEHAVEN CEMETERY, Cumberland
Additional Information:
Daughter of Walter John and Elizabeth Cowan, of Bransty, Whitehaven.
………………

Londonderry (or Derry) City Cemetery
Supply Assistant Catherine (Kathleen) Williamson
Name: WILLIAMSON, CATHERINE
Rank: Supply Assistant
Service No: 67472
Date of Death: 03/01/1944 Age: 20
Regiment / Service: Women's Royal Naval Service, H.M.S. Ferret
Grave Reference: R.C. Plot. Sec. M. Grave 10.
Cemetery: LONDONDERRY (OR DERRY) CITY CEMETERY, N.I.
Additional Information:
Daughter of Edward and Catherine Williamson, of Cleator Moor, Cumberland.
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Commemoration on Remembrance Sunday (13 November 2016)

The ladies of Cleator W.I. printed a commemorative booklet for Remembrance Sunday [Photograph No. 6 (left)]. A relative of one of the servicewomen (the writer of this article) was asked to say a few words on behalf of the families of the servicewomen and to read out their names. This was done during a joint service of remembrance service at held at Cleator Moor Methodist Church. Below is a transcript of this address:

Introduction
“Firstly, thank you to Cleator W.I. for this worthy project to remember seven local West Cumbrian servicewomen who gave their lives during or shortly after the Second World War. Secondly, I would also like to thank Cleator Moor Town Council and the churches of Cleator and Cleator Moor for organising this annual Service of Remembrance. It is an honour for me to speak on behalf of the families and friends of these servicewomen who paid the ultimate sacrifice because of their wartime service, one of whom was a relative of mine.”

Cleator W.I.
“Many of you attending today’s Remembrance Service will know that the Women’s Institute movement, or W.I. for short, first came about in Britain in1915, just over 100 years ago, to encourage countrywomen to be more involved on the home front in growing and preserving food and help increase food supply in a nation suffering from the effects of a World War. Today there are thousands of W.I. branches all over the country, inspiring women in many fields and not just making jam and singing ‘Jerusalem’!

One of the projects that a local West Cumbrian branch, Cleator W.I., took on board in 2016, in conjunction with the CWGC, has been the remembrance of local servicewomen who died in the World Wars. Seven such servicewomen from Cleator Moor, Egremont, Whitehaven and Hensingham are known to have died in WW2. For whatever reason, in the intervening years their sacrifice and that of their families has not been widely known.”

Remembrance at last for the seven local servicewomen of WW2
“Two of the seven servicewomen being remembered today are buried in Egremont cemetery. Yet neither of their names is listed on the Egremont War memorial on Main Street. Another three of the seven servicewomen are buried in Whitehaven Cemetery. Yet none of these three are listed in the Borough of Whitehaven WW2 Book of Remembrance. One who is buried in Hensingham Cemetery is listed in Whitehaven’s Book of Remembrance but only because the secretary of the Hensingham Comforts Fund contacted Whitehaven Town Council and the ‘Whitehaven News’ that this lady’s name was not included.

How can the sacrifice of a servicewoman not be as worthy of remembrance as that of a serviceman? Surely the loss to a bereaved family of a daughter, sister, wife or mother is at least as great as that of a family that has lost a son, brother, husband or father? I am pleased to point out, however, that the Cleator Moor Roll of Honour, or ‘Book of Remembrance’ if you like, includes the women from Cleator and Cleator Moor who have died as well as the men of the district.

Thus, in many respects, today’s remembrance of seven West Cumbrian servicewomen who died in WW2, a project that has been led by members of Cleator W.I. shows that their sacrifice and the loss to their families was equal to that to the many men of the district who have given their lives in the many wars and conflicts there have been in a little over a hundred years.”
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

“Let us remember the seven local servicewomen known to have died in WW2
These are the seven West Cumbrian servicewomen known to have died due to their service in WW2, listed in order of the date of their death:

GRACE ANNE CUMMINGS
Age: 19
Women’s Royal Naval Service
Died: 15 September 1943
Buried: Egremont Cemetery
.......................

CATHERINE (Kathleen) WILLIAMSON
Age: 20
Women’s Royal Naval Service
Died: 3 January 1944
Buried: Derry / Londonderry Cemetery, Northern Ireland
......................

ELLA ESTERINA ELDON (née ROSSI)
Age: 28
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Died: 11 April 1944
Buried: Whitehaven Cemetery
......................

FLORENCE MAY HUNTER
Age: 37
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Died: 7 April 1945
Buried: Hensingham Cemetery
........................

GLADYS EDITH HADWIN (née BUNYARD)
Age: 26
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Died: 5 October 1945
Buried: Whitehaven Cemetery
.......................

ELIZABETH (Betty) COWAN
Age: 30
Women’s Auxiliary Air Force
Died: 24 October 1945
Buried: Whitehaven Cemetery
........................

EDITH ELIZABETH MARTIN (née Southam)
Age: 21
Auxiliary Territorial Service
Died: 20 July 1946
Buried: Egremont Cemetery, Cumberland
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Let us remember these servicewomen and give thanks for their lives in the same way that we remember the many local servicemen who gave their lives in wars and conflicts. May they rest in peace!

Thank you and God bless.”
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Dedication

This article is dedicated to the seven West Cumbrian servicewomen from Egremont, Cleator, Hensingham and Whitehaven who gave their lives in the Second World War. May they always be remembered.
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Acknowledgements

Thanks to the following for assistance or information in the preparation of this article:
Cleator Women’s Institute
National Federation of Women’s Institutes
Cleator and Cleator Moor Joint Churches
Cleator Moor Town Council
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
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Saturday, 26 November, 2016  

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