As we commemorate the birth of the Royal Air Force in April 1918, let’s take a look at the Hotel Cecil, the birthplace of the world’s first independent Air Force.
Hotel Cecil was named after the former London home of the powerful Cecil family, Cecil House (also known as Salisbury House) which once occupied the site, it opened in 1896, three years before the nearby Savoy, and stretched from the Strand to the Thames.
Designed by architects Perry & Reed in a “Wrenaissance” style, the hotel was the largest in Europe when it opened. The proprietor, Jabez Balfour, later went bankrupt and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. It had 800 spacious rooms – a staggering number when one considers that the Savoy today has just 268. Public areas included a bright and airy courtyard, a vast Palm Court ballroom (perfect for afternoon tea during the day and dancing at night) and three restaurants capable of feeding a total of 1,150 diners.
It was, by the start of the First World War, a fashionable venue for London Society. In 1917, the hotel was requisitioned for the war effort in 1917, and became the recruiting office for the Sportsman’s Battalion, later absorbed into the Royal Fusiliers.
The origins of the Royal Air Force lie in the increasingly-effective German air raids of 1917 and worries that the army’s Royal Flying Corps and the navy’s Royal Naval Air Service were competing for scarce resources. South African General Jan Christian Smuts was brought in by the British War Cabinet to review the nation’s air power position.
In August 1917, Smuts submitted his report to Lloyd George’s war cabinet, in which it was recommended that the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service be amalgamated into one single independent force.
The report recommended, among other things, the creation of an Air Council and an air service independent of the Army and Navy.
Following the passage of the Air Force Constitution Act in November 1917 (debates on which included an unsuccessful attempt by pilot and notable scoundrel Noel Pemberton Billing to name the new force the ‘Imperial Air Force’), the new force came into being on 1 April 1918 with a strength of over 20,000 aircraft and 300,000 personnel, including the Women’s Royal Air Force.
Royal assent was received from the King on 29th November 1917, and on 1st April 1918 the Royal Air Force was officially formed at the Hotel Cecil, which served as its headquarters for the remainder of the war up to 1919.
In 2008, to mark the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Royal Air Force, the Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy unveiled a green plaque proclaiming: The Royal Air Force was formed and had its first headquarters here in the former Hotel Cecil 1 April 1918.
The Hotel Cecil was largely demolished in Autumn 1930, and Shell Mex House was built on the site. The Strand facade of the hotel remains and is now occupied by shops and offices, with, at its centre, a grandiose arch leading to Shell Mex House.
Unveiled in 1931, Shell Mex House, the former London headquarters of Shell-Mex and BP, is an imposing masterpiece, boasting 49,900 square metres of floor space and crowned with the biggest clock face in London (wags dubbed it “Big Benzene”).
During World War II, the Shel Mex building became home to the Ministry of Supply, which co-ordinated the supply of equipment to the national armed forces. It was also the home of the “Petroleum Board”, which handled the distribution and rationing of petroleum products during the war. It was badly damaged by a bomb in 1940.
The building reverted to Shell-Mex and BP on 1 July 1948, with a number of floors remaining occupied by the Ministry of Aviation (latterly the Board of Trade, Civil Aviation Division) until the mid-1970s. During this time, until the department’s move to the present location in Farnborough, the building was also the headquarters for the Air Accidents Investigation Branch.
On the Thames embankment, outside of the Shell Mex you will find the Cleopatra’s Needle. This obelisk, which dates back to 1450 BC, was given to London by the ruler of Egypt and erected beside the Thames in 1877.
Either side of the obelisk, you will find the Sphinxes and if you look closely you’ll see shrapnel holes on one of the sphinxes caused by a German First World War bomb.
A few meters from Cleopatra’s Needle you will also find the Royal Air Force Memorial, dedicated to the memory of the casualties of the Royal Air Force in World War I (and, by extension, all subsequent conflicts).
A committee to erect an RAF memorial was first established in February 1919, and relaunched in January 1920. Led by Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard and Lord Hugh Cecil, a descendant of the Cecil family that owned the original building that stood where Hotel Cecil was located, (the eighth and youngest child of Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, three times Prime Minister of the UK). Lord Cecil served as a Lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps during the First World War.
The memorial designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield was unveiled on 16 July 1923 by the Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII). It became a Grade II listed structure in 1958 and was upgraded to Grade II* in 2018. It is considered to be the official memorial of the RAF and related services.
In this first blog about my Gt Uncle, George Hamer Badger (the brother of my Nanna, my Dads mum), I take a look at how a Lancashire lad ended up fighting at Gallipoli with the Australian Imperial Force ANZACs.
He was born on the 20th April 1897 and he was the second child from a total of 11 for Richard and Ellen Badger.
The family lived at Worston, a peaceful little village nestled at the foot of Pendle Hill in Lancashire with one street, a welcoming hostelry, run by the Badger family. Unspoilt, this was one of the locations used in ‘Whistle Down the Wind’ and today it is still a quiet one-street village.
Ellen Hamer who was originally from Stokesay in Shropshire, was working as a Nurse at the Lancaster Lunatic Asylum when she met Richard. They were married at Christ Church, Lancaster on 30 Oct 1895.
The Badger family were still at the Calf’s Head when the 1901 Census was carried out. However, at some time during 1901/1902 the family moved from the Calf’s Head in Worston to take over the Saddle Inn at Lea near Preston where they remained throughout World War 1.
It would appear that the advertising campaign by the Australians proved to tempting for the Badgers and in 1912, George and his father Richard emigrated to Australia with the rest of the family planning to follow later on. The motivation was, as is so often the case with emigrants, simply the hope to find a better life for their children somewhere other than in their home country.
As part of the “Grand Plan” of moving the Badger family to Australia, Richard packed all his woodworking and carpentry tools along with many others and a vast selection of guns.
According to the PRO archives in Victoria, the immigration index lists Richard’s age as 51 and George’s age as 26. I don’t know whether this is a transcript error with the application or whether the age annotated on the application form was incorrect. George was born in 1897, so in 1912 when he emigrated, he would only be 15 and not 26 as listed in the index.
The index also shows that Richard and George achieved unassisted immigration to Melbourne, Victoria, Australia and they sailed from Liverpool travelling on the SS IRISHMAN ship operated by the White Star Line.
They set sail from Liverpool on March 15th 1912 and were due to arrive at Melbourne on May 14th 1912. On Wednesday 17th April, they heard by “Wireless” that the “Titanic” had gone down on her maiden trip, with 1500 lost.
In early May, there was an outbreak of measles on the ship and on 4th May, George had to go into the isolation hospital aboard the ship. On the 5th May, land was in sight and about 70 miles offshore, the ship took a pilot onboard. The ship got into Melbourne early on the 6th but was not allowed to dock and unload and the passengers were put into quarantine. They eventually disembarked on the 14th/15th May.
Richard and George had made an impression with the number of guns and tools they had brought with them. They initially stayed with William Angliss’s family in Toorak, then they went to the wool growing Geelong/Western District Area. Shortly after his arrival in Australia, George became a Jackaroo.
A Jackaroo is a young man working on a sheep or cattle station, to gain practical experience in the skills needed to become an owner, overseer, manager, etc. The skills required to be were to be an excellent horseman, skilled as a stockman with sheep, whip and droving, and learned about sheep and wool.
George became interested in becoming a wool classer responsible for the production of uniform, predictable, low-risk lines of wool, carried out by examining the characteristics of the wool in its raw state and classing it accordingly. After a year as a Jackaroo, George became an apprentice Wool Classer in 1914 and was working with a shearing gang contracted to a sheep station near Ivanhoe in Western New South Wales.
Following the outbreak of World War 1, recruiting committees were formed in nearly every town throughout Australia during 1915. At the outbreak of the War, there had been a great outpouring of Australian support for the ‘mother country’ England, and the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) was formed from men who volunteered.
The requirements in August 1914 to join the AIF were that the volunteer had to be aged between 18–35 years, height of 5ft 6in and chest measurement of 34 inches. During the first year of the war approximately 33 percent of all volunteers were rejected.
On his attestation papers, George’s height was recorded as 5ft 7 in, his weight 140 lbs, chest measurement 34 1/2 – 37 inches, fair complexion, brown eyes and brown hair.
So far so good, George met the majority of the recruitment restrictions except probably the most important one – the minimum age! To join the AIF you had to be at least 18 years of age but George was only 17 years and 10 months! To get around this, George lied about his age and recorded it as 21.
George Hamer Badger ‘signed on the dotted line’ on 9th March 1915 and was enlisted into the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) and assigned to Broadmeadows Camp. Whilst at Broadmeadows, George celebrated his 18th birthday and following his initial training,
George was assigned to ‘A Company’ 24th Battalion “Red and White Diamonds” of the Australian Imperial Force at Broadmeadows, Victoria with the rank of Private and the Service No of 154.
The 24th was part of the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Division along with the 21st, 22nd and 23rd Battalions.
As a result of the hasty decision to raise the battalion very little training was carried out before the battalion sailed from Melbourne. A week after being formed, the 24th Battalion, including George and his shearer mates, departed Melbourne on 8th May 1915 aboard HMAT Euripides (A14) destined for Alexandria in Egypt where the Australians had several training camps.
When they arrived at Cairo, the Australians were told they were to go to a big camp at Mena, ten miles south of Cairo, close to the wonderful Pyramids and the Sphinx. Mena was an enormous camp built to hold around 20,000 troops and had been made ready for them just a mile from the Pyramids.
Following their training in Egypt, the 24th Battalion were assigned to the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and 28th August 1915 they received orders from 6th Bde to entrain at Helwich on the night of 29-30 Aug to proceed to Alexandria and embark on transport “Nile”. At 9.45pm on the 29th, George and his colleagues from A Coy, along with B Coy,Signallers and Machine Gunners entrained for Alexandria and at 5:30am on the 30th, were embarked aboard transport ship HMT Nile.
The “Nile” set sail at 4:30pm on 30th August, with 32 Officers and 233 Other details from the 24th Battalion. Local Routine Orders were issued to the troops along with Special Instructions to protect vessel against submarine attack.
The “Nile”, carrying George and his shearer pals along with the 24th Battalion and well ahead, had spotted the sub and managed to outrun it. The “Scotian” with the 22nd Battalion on board also managed to dodge it, but the first the “Southland” knew of her predicament was the approaching torpedo.
“My God – a torpedo!” was the shout from a sentry. “We watched the line of death getting nearer until it crashed, and the whole ship reeled. Then the order was given, ‘The ship is sinking – abandon ship.’” A subaltern on board the Southland went on to say, “Without a cry or sign of fear, or more hurrying than on a brisk march, and singing ‘Australia Will Be There,’ the order was carried out.”
The “Nile” received a further signal confirming that help had been sent and that “Southland” was making port under easy steam.
Colonel Richard Linton, OC 6th Brigade, was in one of the first boats lowered. Unfortunately it was soon overturned, and being a strong swimmer, Linton decided to remain in the water, allowing others to take his place in the boats. However, many hours later when he was finally taken on board the French destroyer Massuo, the shock and exposure had proved too much and his heart gave out. Surviving him was his son Richard who was rescued by the Neuralia.
Colonel Linton was buried at East Mudros at 7am on the 3rd September. Following his death, OC 24th Bn AIF, Lt Col William Walker Russell Watson, took over command of 6th Brigade. His first job as OC 6th Bde, was to concentrate all of “Southland’s” surviving troops aboard transport “Transylvania”. In all, 1324 all ranks was collected from 8 different vessels in port.
Whilst at Lemnos, George and his mates from the 24th Bn, had developed an admiration for the poetry of Rupert Brooke. One of Brooke’s famous poems was “The Soldier”.
If I should die, think only this of me: That there’s some corner of a foreign field That is for ever England. There shall be In that rich earth a richer dust concealed; A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware, Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam, A body of England’s, breathing English air, Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.
And think, this heart, all evil shed away, A pulse in the eternal mind, no less Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given; Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day; And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness, In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.
Brooke was a Sub-Lieutenant serving with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve when he died a few months previously after developing sepsis after an infected mosquito bite. He is buried on the island of Skyros.
At 9:30pm on the 3rd September, Lt Col William Walker Russell Watson received orders to transfer troops from the “Nile” and “Scotania” to “HMT Abbasieh” for transfer to ANZAC Cove on the 4th.
George Badger and his mates from the 24th Battalion served in the Lone Pine sector, taking over responsibility for the front line the on 12th September. The position was very close to the Turkish trenches and was hotly contested. The position was so tenuous, that the troops holding it had to be rotated regularly, and as a result the 24th spent the remainder of the campaign rotating with the 23rd Battalion to hold the position against determined Turkish mining operations.
All through September, the 24th were either in Lone Pine experiencing constant sniping and bombing throughout day and night or resting in White Valley after being relieved by the 23rd Bn. The battalion remained at Gallipoli for three months until the evacuation of Allied troops took place in December 1915.
The 24th Bn were mainly involved in the fighting at Lone Pine. All the ground that was won by the Australians during the main battle at Lone Pine during August was actually reached within a couple of hours of the start of the attack. However, the fighting at Lone Pine continued for several weeks as the Turks counterattacked incessantly and at great cost. The 2nd and 3rd Infantry Brigades were poured in to reinforce the Australian gains.
Family folklore has it that George was offered a King’s Commission and a promotion to 2nd Lieutenant or a MID Mentioned In Dispatches. As George had previously agreed with the AIF to have most of his pay sent back to his Mother, Ellen, back in England, he refused the MID and accepted the Commission as it would mean he could send her more money. There is nothing documented in his service records to show this filed promotion, but the War Diaries for the 24th Bn records on the 14th October that “6 Officers have been promoted from the ranks”.
Another family rumour is that towards the end of the campaign, George served under the Command of Captain Stan Savige. Savige enlisted alongside George back Melbourne on 9th March 1915. His service number was VX13 and George’s was VX154.
Savige was passed over for a commission due to his lack of education, but was promoted to corporal on 30 April and lance sergeant on 8 May. The 24th Infantry Battalion landed at Gallipoli on 5 September 1915 and took over part of the line at Lone Pine. Savige became company sergeant major on 20 September. There, he was commissioned as a second lieutenant on 9 November 1915. Savige was one of three officers chosen to serve with the battalion rearguard unit C3 along with Lt McIlroy and lt Brinsmead who was appointed OC C3, of which George was part of. Rear party C3 consisting of 1 Officer and 6 Other Ranks from the 21st Bn, 2 Officers and 18 Other Ranks from the 22nd and 3 Officers and 34 Other Ranks (including George and Savige) from the 24th left Lone Pine at 2.40am and embarked at the pier at 3.30am.
To reduce noise whilst walking down to the beach, George and his colleagues placed woolen socks over their boots in order to reduce the noise.
The rear parties embarked on “Heroic” and landed back at Mudros shortly after day break.
Whilst at Gallipoli, George became acquainted with Phillip Schuler, a newspaper correspondent for the AGE newspaper based in Melbourne. Schuler, covered the Gallipoli campaign alongside Charles Bean. His bravery was legendary. His dispatches were evocative and compassionate. He captured the heroism and horror for Australian newspaper readers in ways the meticulous yet dry prose of Bean never could.
After Schuler’s classic account of the campaign, Australia in Arms, was completed in early 1916, Schuler abandoned the relative safety of a correspondent’s job and joined the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) as a humble soldier. In June 1917, he was killed in Flanders. He was 27 years old.
In my next blog about Uncle George I will take a look at what happened to him after leaving Gallipoli.
George Edward Flint was born on the 17th August 1888 in Kirby Bellars, Leicestershire. He was the son of James Flint a railway labourer, born 1861 in Frisby on the Wreake, Leicestershire, and his wife Emma Flint (nee Mann, married in the 4th quarter of 1885 in the Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire district), born 1863 in Long Itchington, Warwickshire.
George was educated in the British School, Melton Mowbray and upon leaving school he went to work in the office of Messrs. Sharman and Ladbury for about 12 months, then he started work for the Midland Railway Co as a booking clerk, first stationed at Ashwell then at Luffenham.
George volunteered to enlist in the Royal Navy to serve a 5 + 7 year engagement on the 12th September 1907. His medical examination recorded that he was 5 foot 6¼ inches in height and had a chest measurement of 35 inches, his hair colour was black and he had brown eyes, his complexion was described as fair, it was noted that he had moles on the left side of his chest and on his right forearm, he gave his trade or calling as clerk.
His record of service began when he joined HMS Victory, the accounting and holding Barracks for the Fleet sailing out of Portsmouth on 12th September 1907 as an Ordinary Seaman and he was allocated the service number SS/2110.
He was re-assigned from Victory to HMS Prince George on 30th October 1907 where he stayed until 31st March 1908. Prince George was recommissioned on 5th March 1907 to serve as the flagship of the Commander-in-Chief, Portsmouth Division of the new Home Fleet which had been organised in January 1907. On 5th December 1907 she collided with the armoured cruiser Shannon at Portsmouth, sustaining significant damage to her deck plating and boat davits.
Following his assignment on the Prince George, he was re-assigned to HMS Duke of Edinburgh, joining the ships company on the 1st April 1908. The Duke of Edinburgh was assigned to the 5th Cruiser Squadron from 1906 to 1908 and was then transferred to the 1st Cruiser Squadron of the Channel Fleet. When the Royal Navy’s cruiser squadrons were reorganized in 1909, the Duke of Edinburgh re-joined the 5th Cruiser Squadron of the Atlantic Fleet. Whilst serving with the Duke of Edinburgh, George was promoted to Able Bodied Seaman, staying part of her company until 14th March 1910.
On the 15th March 1910, George was assigned back to HMS Victory at Portsmouth until 31st May 1910.
From the 1st June, he was assigned to HMS Jupiter. Jupiter was the flagship of the Home Fleet Portsmouth Division from February to June 1909 and later second flagship of the 3rd Division. During this service, she underwent refits at Portsmouth in 1909–1910, during which she received fire control equipment for her main battery.
On 26th June 1910, he was allocated a new service number J/8281 and continued his service abord HMS Jupiter until 28th October 1910.
George was assigned to HMS Britannia on 29th October 1910. Britannia was a King Edward VII-class pre-dreadnought battleship, named after the Latin name of Great Britain under Roman rule. The ship was built by Portsmouth Dockyard between 1904 and 1906. Armed with a battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) and four 9.2 in (234 mm) guns,
George’s next assignment commenced on 15th October 1912 to HMS Excellent at the Whale Island Gunnery School where he went to gain experience in gunnery.
Following his successful completion of his gunnery courses, he joined HMS Dreadnought on 1st July 1913. Dreadnought was the battleship that became synonymous with revolutionising naval power due to the advance in naval technology that her name came to be associated with and an entire generation of battleships, the “dreadnoughts” were a class of ships named after her.
Dreadnought became flagship of the 4th Battle Squadron in December 1912 after her transfer from the 1st Battle Squadron, as the 1st Division had been renamed earlier in the year. Between September and December 1913 Dreadnought was training in the Mediterranean Sea.
George was re-assigned from Dreadnought back to HMS Victory I at Portsmouth where he stayed until 28th May 1914.
Following this stint at the shore base Victory, George was next assigned to HMS Psyche on the 29th May 1914. HMS Psyche carried a complement of 224 and was armed with eight QF 4-inch (25 pounder) guns, eight 3 pounder guns, three machine guns, and two 18-inch (450-mm) torpedo tubes. Psyche was part of the Pelorus class ships that displaced 2,135 tons and had a top speed of 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph). Most served in minor roles on overseas or colonial patrol work, not with the main battlefleets.
Whilst aboard HMS Psyche, he was despatched to the naval station at New Zealand where he is involved in training the naval men of that colony. When the outbreak of hostilities, the Psyche, along with other British Warships and units of the Japanese Navy were involved in the endeavour to round up the ‘notorious’ German raider, the Emden.
SMS Emden spent most of her career overseas in the German East Asia Squadron, based in Tsingtao, China. At the outbreak of World War I, Emden captured a Russian steamer and converted her into the commerce raider Cormoran. Emden rejoined the East Asia Squadron, then was detached for independent raiding in the Indian Ocean. The cruiser spent nearly two months operating in the region, and captured nearly two dozen ships. On 28 October 1914, Emden launched a surprise attack on Penang; in the resulting Battle of Penang, she sank the Russian cruiser Zhemchug and the French destroyer Mousquet. On 15 August 1914 HMS Psyche, HMS Pyranus and HMNZS Philomel were escorts for the troopships Monowai and Moeraki which had been requisitioned from the Union Steam Ship Company as transports for the Samoan Expeditionary Force which departed Wellington for Apia with 1385 troops. The naval party brought about the surrender of the German occupied Samoan islands.
Two picket boats from Australia swept the channel as a precaution before the transports entered. The Union flag was hoisted at 12.45pm and the landing of the troops commenced at 1.00pm. At 8.00 am on Sunday 30th August the British Flag was hoisted over the Courthouse and a proclamation read by Colonel R. Logan ADC, NZSC, the Officer Commanding the Troops, in the presence of Naval and Military Officers and men, Native Chiefs and the residents of Apia. A salute of 21 guns was fired by Psyche.
The “Auckland Weekly News” published a pictorial about the surrender with Seaman Gunner Flint featuring in several of the images. Flint was one of the boat’s crew that took officers of the Psyche to the landing stage at Apia on August 29th under a white flag, with a despatch to the German governor demanding surrender of the islands. George was also shown in another image where the Union Jack was being hoisted up the flagpole of the Apia Court House on the morning of the 30th.
Upon the Psyche along with the Pearl Class cruiser HMNZS Philomel being handed over to the New Zealand Naval Department, the crews were taken by a P&O ship to the Suez where Seaman George Flint joined the company of HMS Swiftsure on the 9th January 1915.
Swiftsure and her crew took part in the defence of the Suez Canal when the Turks had tried to cross it. Following this abortive attempt, George was one of her crew that assisted in the burial of over three hundred Turks.
From the Suez, the Swiftsure then moved onto the Gallipoli Peninsua taking part in the landings of British, Australian and New Zealand troops at the now infamous historic ANZAC cove.
The Swiftsure was firing her guns until they were red hot covering the landing troops and when a lot of wounded soldiers trying to land on the beaches were seen in difficulties in the water, George and some of his shipmates left their gun battery to assist them.
George and his shipmates were working up to their necks in the water trying to save the wounded soldiers, resulting in him contracting a sever chill which subsequently turned into pulmonary consumption (tuberculosis).
In spite of falling sick he continued to perform his duties and witnessed the sinking of the Irresistible, Ocean, Triumph, and the French ship Bouvet, his own ship the Swiftsure being only narrowly missed by a torpedo which was fired at it from a submarine.
He was initially transferred to the hospital at Malta, then transferred again to Haslar Hospital in Portsmouth where he stayed until 9th July 1915 when he was invalided from the service.
After being discharged from the Service, he was transferred to the new Leicestershire Sanatorium at Mowsley near Market Harborough. Around the 26th January 1916, he was transferred to his parents home in Melton where he stayed until he passed away peacefully.
After being discharged from the Service, he was transferred to the new Leicestershire Sanatorium at Mowsley near Market Harborough which had recently been built during 1914-15 to hold fifty patients suffering from tuberculosis.
Around the 26th January 1916, he was transferred to his parents home in Melton where he stayed until he passed away peacefully.
His funeral took place on Saturday 12th February 1916 where the inhabitants of Melton Mowbray turned out in thousands last Saturday afternoon to pay homage to a local sailor who had given up his life in the service of his country.
Owing to the absence of Bluejackets in the Melton neighbourhood, Mr. A. E. Mackley, one of the local civilian recruiting sergeants made the necessary arrangements for full military honours to be accorded.
By the kindness of Colonel R. S. Goward, the services of the band of the 3/5th Leicestershire Regiment were secured and the bearers, a firing party, and a bugler were supplied from the Wigston Barracks – the Headquarters of the Leicestershire Regiment.
The Melton St. John Voluntary Aid Detachment under the command of Captain S. C. Hobson, also attended, as did likewise a contingent of 16 men from the Melton Farriery School under Sergt. T. Bugg, of the Duke of Wellington’s.
A few men were drawn from each Corps to represent the R.F.A., R.G.A., A.S.C., R.E., and Infantry. Lieut. Paget attended as representing the Leicestershire Yeomanry, and Sergt. Biddle, from the local recruiting office, was in charge of the bearers, the firing party being under Sergt. Grant.
The coffin was placed on an open hearse, and was covered with the Union Jack, on top of which deceased’s white naval cap was deposited. The body was taken to the Congregational Church, where the first portion of the service was read, the Rev. E. Williams officiating.
There was a crowded congregation amongst whom were noticed Mr. Josiah Gill, J.P., and Dr. Hugh Atkinson. The service was choral, the hymn “Nearer my God to Thee,” being feelingly sung, and Mr. Riley Brown, who officiated at the organ played suitable voluntaries. As the cortege wended its way from the Church to the Thorpe-road cemetery the band played the Dead March in “Saul.”
The streets were lined with spectators, and an enormous crowd assembled at the cemetery. After the coffin had been lowered into the grave the firing party fired three volley’s, and the bugler sounded the Last Post.
George is buried in Section J, Grave Reference 2120 at Thorpe Road Cemetery, Melton Mowbray. Even though this is a CWGC grave, the family chose to erect their own memorial in place of the CWGC headstone. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Record can be seenhere.
In 1913, Georges brother David James Flint married Sarah A Gunby and on the 19th May 1917, they had a son and named him George Edward Flint. When the 1939 register was taken, George was living at 22 Snow Hill with his parents and his brother Arthur. George was listed as a bricklayer, the same as his father David, and Arthur as an Apprentice Joiner.
In 1940, George married Florence A Woolley and in 1942 they had a daughter Margaret. At some point after 1939, George enlisted in the army serving as a Sapper in the Royal Engineers. George died on 21 January 1944 and is also buried in Thorpe Road Cemetery, Melton Mowbray. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Casualty Record can be seen here.
In this blog, we move away from the Royal Air Force and take a look at the Major Ronald Anthony Markham, one of Meltons best known soldiers who served with the Coldstream Guards. He was killed in France shortly after the outbreak of WW1 and his body was one of the few repatriated back to the UK for burial.
Ronald Anthony was born in on the 15th October 1870 in West Cowes, Isle of Wight, Hampshire and baptised on the 24th November 1870 in St. Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. Born and officially registered at birth with the Christian name of Ronald, at his baptism he was given the second Christian name of Anthony, and latterly he was also referred to as Roderick Anthony Markham.
He was the son of Colonel William Thomas Markham who had served in the Crimean War in the Rifle Brigade and Coldstream Guards and his wife Anne Emily Sophia Grant (also known as Daisy Grant or Mrs Colonel William Thomas Markham). Anne’s father was the famous Scottish painter Sir Francis Grant. Her portrait, painted by her father, hangs in the National Gallery of Scotland, and has been noted for its depiction of Victorian womanhood. Another of his famous paintings, The Melton Hunt, which he completed in 1839 was purchased by the Duke of Wellington.
His siblings were, Mabel Wilhelmine Frances, born 5th April 1858, William Hope, born 13th December 1859 , Cecile Mary Isabella, born 6th February 1861, twins Claron Henry and Cyril Faulke, born 21st July 1866 , Hermione Violet Cyril, born 9th September 1867 and Rupert Evelyn, born 13th December 1868, Ethel Winifred Victoria, born 21st November 1871, Nigel Ivan, born 10th November 1872, Averil Constance Antoinette Janetta, born 1873, Gwendoline Beatrice Sanchia May, born 1876, and Sibyl Annesley Giana, born 1877
In April 1881, Ronald was a school boarder, and was residing at Palmer Flatt Boarding School, Aysgarth, Yorkshire and latterly he was educated at Charterhouse (Daviesites 1884-1887).
He initially joined the 3rd Battalion Prince of Wales’s Volunteers, South Lancashire Regiment and according to the Army and Navy Gazette published 20th April 1889 he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on April 13th.
He joined the Coldstream Guards from the Militia in December 1890, becoming a Lieutenant in August 1896, and Captain in December 1899.
He served with the first advance against the Khalifa in the Nile Expedition of 1899, for which he received the Egyptian Medal and Clasp. An important and largely unsung figure in the early exploration of the Bahr-el-Ghazal region, he is a rare and officially confirmed officer recipient of the Bahr-el-Ghazal clasp.
From August 1899, to August 1903, he was employed with the Egyptian Army, serving as the Aide De Camp to the Sirdar Sir Reginald Wingate from April 1900 to December 1902, for which he received the Insignia of the 4th Class of the Imperial Order of the Medjidieh.
He travelled up the White Nile from Khartoum on 3 July 1901 with Pasha Von Slatin in the gunboat ‘Sheikh’ to deliver important communications from the Sirdar to local commandants in the region, and to seek news from the Austin-Bright Survey Expedition in July 1901. In the course of this journey he travelled inland, meeting and negotiating with local Sheikhs and tribal leaders.
After the murder of Bimbashi Scott Barbour on 10 January 1902 and the subsequent punitive expedition, there was much tension and potential danger in the region. A few months later, Bimbashi Markham was sent on an expedition up the White Nile from Khartoum (with Pasha Von Slatin) in the gunboat ‘Sheikh’ with several private communications from the Sirdar to the local commandants. Leaving on 3 July 1902, his expedition took several weeks.
A binbashi, alternatively bimbashi, (from Turkish: Binbaşı, “chief of a thousand”, “chiliarch”) is a Major in the Turkish army, of which term originated in the Ottoman army. The title was also used for a Major in the Khedivial Egyptian army as Bimbashi (1805–1953).
As recorded in The Sudan Intelligence Report No.84 (1st to 31st July 1901): ‘Bimbashi Markham left Khartoum on the 3rd instant in the gunboat “Sheikh” for Sobat, Baro, and Pibor rivers to endeavour to open up communication with the Austin-Bright Survey Expedition, about which no news is as yet forthcoming. He carried letters from the Sirdar to the commandants of the Abyssinian posts at Gore and in the neighbourhood of Lake Rudolf, as well as one for Major Austin himself.
Markham was also with Miralai Sparkes Bey, Commandant of the Bahr-El-Ghazal Expedition, when they arrived at Khartoum from Wau on 28 September 1901. Markham had joined him from Meshra er Rek, as mentioned in Sudan Intelligence Report No.86 (1st to 30th September 1901).
On April 19th 1901, the London Gazette published the following notice “Whitehall, April 18, 1901, THE King has been pleased to give and grant unto each ot the undermentioned Officers His Majesty’s Royal licence and authority that he may accept and wear the Insignia of the Imperial Ottoman Order appearing against his name, the Decorations in question having been conferred by His Highness the Khedive of Egypt, authorised by His Imperial Majesty the Sultan of Turkey, in recognition of the services of these Officers while employed in His Highness’s Army. Medjidieh, Fourth Class, Captain Ronald Anthony Markham, Coldstream Guards.”
His medals were sold by the Auctioneers Bonhams in November 2014 for £360 incl premium.
He was promoted to Major in 1907 and was serving with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. At the time of the 1911 Census, Tony was stationed at Malplaquet Barracks, Marlborough Lines, Aldershot, Hampshire.
In August 1914, the 2nd Battalion were based at Windsor. Eight days after the declaration of war, on August 12th 1914, Major Markham and the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards entrained at Windsor on two trains at 3:10am and 5:15am bound for Southampton. On arrival at Southampton, the right half of the Battalion embarked on SS Olympia and the left half on SS Novia and sailed for Le Havre at 8pm and 7pm respectively.
The Battalion arrived at le Havre around noon on the 13th and disembarkation was completed by 2:30pm after which they marched in hot weather to rest camp, arriving at 4:30pm.
The 2nd Bn was with the BEF during the historic retreat from Mons.
On the 21st the Battalion was ordered to advance at 8.00am and to gain the Zonnebeke – Langemarck road, from which point it was to conform with converging attacks by the Irish Guards and the 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards, on the right and left flanks respectively.
The Battalion entrenched a strong position which they held throughout the 22nd and 23rd, under an exceedingly heavy fire (principally high explosive) from the enemy’s artillery. Considerable opposition was found and the whole of the battalion was absorbed into he firing line, but by 3pm, the line of the road had been gained.
The Battalion was ordered to fall back during the night to conform with the line held by the remainder of the Brigade. This operation as successfully carried out under the cover of darkness and the Battalion entrenched a strong position which they held throughout he 22nd and 23rd under exceedingly heavy fire, principally high explosive from the enemy’s artillery.
Tony was Mentioned in Dispatches twice by Field Marshal Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres who commanded the British Army on the Western Front.
The casualties of the 2nd Battalion from the 1st Battle of Ypres were Major Markham (killed), 2nd Lieutenant R. L. C. Bewicke – Copley (wounded), 15 Other Ranks killed, 34 wounded, and 4 missing.
Major R. A. Markham (Second in Command) who fell mortally wounded and whose loss was much regretted; was struck by a spent bullet and died without recovering consciousness two days later in hospital at Boulogne.
On Friday October 30th 1914 The Melton Mowbray Times & Vale of Belvoir Gazette published the following article under the heading. “MELTON’S ROLL OF HONOUR” – SIX LOCAL OFFICERS KILLED – MAJOR MARKHAM TO BE BURIED IN SYSONBY. A deep gloom has been cast over Melton Mowbray by the fact that four of its prominent foxhunting citizens, and other officers from Eaton and Kirby Bellars, have lost their lives whilst serving their country. A week ago we recorded with great pleasure and pride that Major R. A. Markham, of the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards, had been mentioned in Field Marshall Sir John French’s latest despatches for special gallantry in the field. It is now our painful duty to announce that he was fatally wounded at the beginning of the week.
On Monday evening a cable was received from Lady Sarah Wilson stating that he had died in her hospital at Boulogne without regaining consciousness, having been shot in the head.
Corporal Handley, who served in Major Markham’s Battalion of the Coldstream Guards up to the time he was wounded on the 15th September, speaks in the most glowing terms of many excellent qualities which the deceased possessed both as a soldier and a gentleman. To quote his words, “He was a gentleman to the officers and the rank and file. He was a soldier who was wonderfully liked by every man in the battalion, and the 2nd Coldstream Guards will mourn his loss for many years to come. Several times when we were without food he ran down the lines giving us a cheery word, and said he had tried his best to get some for us, but was sorry he had failed. He always did the best he possibly could for us, and never omitted to look after our comforts. In my opinion there was no better officer in the British Army, both for the way he looked after his men, and as a soldier.
Major Markham was our senior Major, and would have been Colonel after the war had he lived through it. He never knew what it was to be afraid, and whenever the Coldstream’s were called upon to do any desperate fighting he was always in the thick of it. When he got into the firing line he would take his place in the trench, borrow the rifle from the man who happened to be next to him, and do his share just the same as an ordinary Private. He has performed numerous personal acts of gallantry. On one occasion he was instrumental in saving the No.2 Company from total destruction. We were posted on the summit of a hill, with instructions to hold the position at all costs. Soon we came under an exceptionally heavy artillery fire which in a very short time would have wiped us all out. Major Markham suddenly dashed up to us in the face of the fiercest fighting, and led us back to a place of safety. We all retired in good order, and have only Major Markham to thank that any of us escaped alive. It was Major Markham who brought to the notice of the General a gallant deed performed by Corpl. Brown and Pte. Dobson who have been recommended for the V.C. He asked for volunteers to fetch in a wounded soldier, and these two went out in the face of a heavy fire.
Major Ronald Anthony ‘Tony’ Markham was wounded in action on 23rd October 1914 and died 2 days later on the 25th. An early casualty of the Great War, during which the repatriation of the bodies of officers and soldiers was still possible, his body was repatriated back to the UK.
On Thursday 5th November 1914, the Melton Mowbray Mercury and Oakham and Uppingham news reported the following:
MELTON OFFICER’S FUNERAL. MAJOR MARKHAM INTERRED AT SYSONBY. The esteem and respect enjoyed by the late Major R. A. Markham and Coldstream Guards, who died earlier in the week at a hospital in Boulogne from the effects of wounds in the head sustained whilst fighting for his country’s honour, was demonstrated by the large number of persons who attended the funeral at Melton Mowbray on Saturday afternoon , the body having arrived just previously.
It was in a polished oak coffin, with brass furniture, covered with the Union Jack, and was conveyed straight to the Parish Church. The chief mourners were Mr. Archibald Smith (brother-in-law), Mr. Guy Markham, Mr. Frederick Markham, Mr. Richard Pearson, Mr. Davidson, Corporal Handley, and Coldstream Guards (who has returned home from hospital after being wounded in France), and Mr. H. Wood.
Those present included many of the deceased officer’s hunting comrades, amongst those noticed in the church being the Countess of Kesteven, the Countess of March, Sir G. S. Hanson, Captain Sir P. T .Fowke, Colonel Bouverie, Lieutenant-Colonel R. B. Muir, Mr. A. V. Pryor, Mr. and Mrs. R. E. Strawbridge, the Hon. Gerald Walsh, Captain and Mrs. F. Forester, Mr. C. J. Phillips, Colonel C. E. Fate, M.P.. Mr. F. B. Mildmay, M.P., Mrs. Cecil Chaplin, Miss Chaplin, Miss C. T Muir, the Misses Brocklehurst, Mr. Bernard Wilson, Mr. J. Montagu, Mr. Hare, Major T. B. Atkinson, Mrs. R. Blakeney, Captain H. Allfrey, Captain H. T. Barclay. Captain R. B. Sheriffe, Lieutenant Stewart Muir, Lieutenant Reynolds, the Rev. F. W. Knox (representing the Duke of Rutland), the Rev. R. C. Dashwood, the Rev. P. F. Gorst, Mr. E W. J. Oakley, J.P., Dr. H. C. Roberta, Dr. M. Dixon. Dr. Furness, Mr. G. W. Brewitt, MT. J. Gill, J.P., Mr. E sleeves. Mr A. H. Marsh, Mr. S. Fletcher, Dr. G. T. Wiliam, Mr. S. H. Garner, Mr. J. Atteriburrow, Mr. W. F. Hill, CC., Mr. F. Wright, Mr. G. Dickinson, and many others.
The whole of the men who have enlisted in the Reserve A Squadron of the Leicestershire Regiment were present under Major Wardsworth Ritchie, 116 were also the Reserve C Company 5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment under Corporal Harker. and a detachment of non-commissioned officers and men from the Melton Army Remount Depot. under Captain Saunders, formed a guard of honour in the churchyard.
The Rev. Caron Blakeney read the service, the Rev. Canon Markham taking the lesson. Suitable voluntaries were played on the organ by Mr. M. Sargent, Mus. Bac and the choir rendered the hymns, “My God, my Father, while I stray” and “Peace, perfect peace.” At the conclusion of the service the mournful procession wended its way to the hamlet church Cemetery at Sysonby, where the interment took place, the Rev. Canon Blakeney officiating at the graveside.’ A very large number of handsome wreaths were sent.
He was a member of the Guards’ Nulli Secundus, and the Turf Clubs; also of the M.C.C. and I Zingari. He was fond of cricket and shooting, and was a very keen and hard rider to hounds. He grew up in Melton Mowbray, from which place he had hunted all his life, and is buried in Sysonby Churchyard.
William Ernest Plumb was born 20th March 1899 in Oakham and his parents were Alfred and Harriet. At the time of the 1901 census, William, his elder brother Cecil and their parents were living at No 6 Roseberry Avenue Melton Mowbray.
He was baptised on 25th December 1904 at Thorpe Arnold Church. By the time of the 1911 census, the family had grown in size. William was now aged 12, his elder brother Cecil was a plumbers apprentice and they, along with their 2 younger siblings, John (4) and Edith (1) were now living at 11 Stafford Avenue Melton Mowbray with Alfred and Harriet.
After leaving school, William became a joiner (Carpenter Apprentice) working for Mr. Waite. Shortly after his sixteenth birthday, William enlisted in the Army on the 17th April 1915, being appointed as a bugler with the Royal Army Medical Corps.
On the 22nd February 1918, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps with the rank of Air Mechanic 2nd Class and was promoted again to Air Mechanic 3rd Class on the formation of the Royal Air Force on the 1st April with the merge of the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service.
According to the RAF Nominal Roll, Williams service number was 145257 and his trade on joining the RAF was Rigger (Aero.) and he was earninmg 2s 0d per day.
On the 4th May 1918, he was assigned to No 8 Training Depot Station at Netheravon, where he stayed until 31st May when he was re-assigned to No 207 Squadron.
As part of the formation of the Royal Air Force on 1 April 1918, No. 7 Squadron, Royal Naval Air Service became No 207 Squadron Royal Air Force.
To ‘celebrate’ this occasion, on the last night of March 1918 preparations were put in hand for a raid in the early hours of 1 April against Bruges Docks and Thourout railway junction, involving four Handley Pages from 207 Squadron, (HPs 1459, 3128, 3119 and 1462), and five from 214 Squadron. The raids were carried out between 0330 and 0430 hrs and a total of seven tons of bombs were dropped.
It was the last raid to be flown by 207 Squadron for the moment because on 22 April the unit was withdrawn first to Cappelle and then to Netheravon, England, later moving to Andover on 13 May, in order to re-equip with new Handley Page 0/400s and to train replacement air and ground crews.
At the time, it was the largest aircraft that had been built in the UK and one of the largest in the world. It was built in two major versions, the Handley Page O/100 (H.P.11) and Handley Page O/400 (H.P.12). The O/400s could carry a new 1,650 lb. (750 kg) bomb which was aimed with the Drift Sight Mk1A bombsight. In service, they were deployed in force, with up to 40 aircraft participating in a raid.
Following re-equipping, the Sqn commanded by Maj G L Thomson DSC, returned to France, arriving at Ligescourt, from where it recommenced operations under the control of the 54th Wing, IX Brigade RAF.
Following the Armistice on the 11th November, the Squadron moved forward to Carmin aerodrome near Lille on the 1st December 1918, and then to Merheim, Cologne, on the 1st January 1919 where it was placed at the disposal of the Army’s 2nd Brigade for duty with the Army of Occupation.
Shortly after his arrival in Germany, William contracted bronchial pneumonia and died on 20th January 1919 at the age of 19. He is buried in the Cologne Southern Cemetery in grave I.C.3.
His death was announced in The Melton Times on the 14th February 1919 and in the Weekly Casualty List (dated 20th Feb 1919) issued by the War Office & Air Ministry.
William is commemorated by name on the World War 1 Memorial inside St Mary’s Church.
In addition to the memorial at St Mary’s Church, he is also commemorated on the towns main war memorial at Egerton Lodge memorial Gardens plus on a 3rd memorial at St Mary the Virgin Church Thorpe Arnold.
George Howard Boorne was born on 28th November 1893 and was the eldest son of Charles & Mary Boorne of 667 Gilmore Street, Ottawa, Canada.
George was a plumber in civilian life and on the 27th May 1915, aged 22 years & 6 months, he enlisted with Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force following his younger brother Samuel who enlisted a few months earlier in January 1915.
According to his attestation papers, prior to enlistment, George had 3 years previous military experience as liaison at engineers camp.
His father Charles H Boorne [born Norfolk 18th December 1873-Caretaker]enlisted July 31st 1916 at Camp Hughes – he had been active in the militia, 99 Manitoba Rangers.
His brother,Samuel Thomas Boorne [born Ottawa June 13th 1896] – Dental Mechanic enlisted June 7th 1915 at Ottawa.
George embarked from Montreal on the 17th August 1915 bound for England aboard the SS Hesperian bound for the Canadian Training Depot at Shorncliffe. Only a few weeks later, on the 4th September, when the Hesperian was returning from Liverpool to Quebec, she was struck by a torpedo fired from U-20 under the command of Kapitanleutnant Walther Schwieger, who sank the Lusitania four months earlier.The Hesperian stayed afloat for two days before finally sinking on the 6th September whilst being towed back to Queenstown Ireland.
His service records state that he was taken on strength at the Canadian Training Depot Shorncliffe on the 1st September. On the 10th September, he was promoted to Acting/Colour Sergeant Major. On the 15th January 1916, George reverts back to his previous rank of Corporal at his own request due to proceeding overseas.
On the 20th Jan, he was taken on strength of the Signals Pool and on 10th April he was transferred again from the Signal Pool to 2nd Canadian Division Signals Coy serving with the Canadian Engineers in France and Belgium.
On 12th September 1916, he returned back to Shorncliffe and taken on strength of the Training Depot pending being granted a Commission.
On the 27th September, his service records show that he was “Discharged in consequence of appointment to a Commission in the Royal Flying Corps.” The London Gazette issued on 30 October 1916 contained the names of military personnel that were being assigned for duty with the RFC, one of which was Corpl. G. H. Boorne, from, a Can. Divnl. Sig. Co. 28th Sept. 1916.
The London Gazette issued on 30 October 1916 contained the names of military personnel that were being assigned for duty with the RFC, one of which was Corpl. G. H. Boorne, from, a Can. Divnl. Sig. Co. 28th Sept. 1916.
On the 28th September 1916, George was appointed the rank of Temporary 2nd Lt and achieved full promotion to 2nd Lt on 1st March 1917 upon posting to No 37 Reserve Squadron Royal Flying Corps and based at Scampton.
George was the pilot of RAF RE8 A3439 and was accompanied by 2nd Lt George T Potter as Observer on their training flight on 28th March 1917.
The Flight Magazine dated 5th April 1917 contained the following article: “At a Leicestershire town on March 29th an inquest was held on 2nd Lieut. G. H. Boorne, 24, of the R.F.C., who died the previous day as the result of an accident whilst flying over the Midlands on March 8th, and a verdict of “Accidental Death ” was returned. 2nd Lieut. Boorne was a native of Ottawa, Canada.”
The Melton Times newspaper published on Friday March 30th 1917 contained the following article:
“FLYING OFFICERS FATAL ACCIDENT Lieut. George Howard Boorne, of the Royal Flying Corps, who was severely injured as the result of an accident whilst flying over the Whissendine district on March 8th suddenly expired at Wicklow Lodge Hospital on Wednesday afternoon, and at an inquest held yesterday afternoon, before Mr. A H Marsh, coroner, a verdict of accidental death was returned. Deceased was a native of Ottawa Canada, and was 24 years of age. He was unmarried.”
The following weeks issue of the Melton Times contained more information about the inquest.
“Observer, 2nd Lt George Potter said that “on the 8th March he was flying from …. to …. as an observer with deceased as pilot. When in the vicinity of Whissendine station they had to make an emergency landing, owing to the engine not giving its maximum number of revolutions. Some little time previously, the engine had begun to give trouble, and they gradually lost height. They saw a field which was considered a suitable landing place, and came down all right until within about 60 or 70 feet of the ground, when the machine suddenly crashed down. He could not remember anything else until he got to the hospital.”
George is buried in the St John the Baptist Churchyard at Broughton, near Preston in Lancashire. According to the Grave Registration Report Form on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/373632/boorne,-george-howard/ no headstone was required as a private memorial in the form of a granite cross was installed and maintained by family friends.
Granite Cross memorial stone for 2nd Lt George Howard Boorne at St John the Baptist Churchyard, Broughton, Preston, Lancashire.
As mentioned in the about section of this website, I am from Lancashire originally before i left to join the RAF and one of my relatives, my Aunty Alice Fare is buried in the same graveyard as George and she and my Uncle James (Jimmy) Fare were married in this church.