Thursday, 30 May 2013

Plodding through the 1916 press...

Researching tomorrow and looking at the Cambrian newspaper for 1916. Seeing what I can pick up from the microfilmed papers that will help inform my forthcoming book on Swansea in the Great War.

This past of the 'job' is a hard, slow plod...but it has to be done!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Writing 'Swansea in the Great War'...

So, how long does it take to write a factual book on Great War Swansea?

Not as long as it takes to research it!

I'm allowing three months (part-time) to complete the book (about 35,000 words plus numerous images) between September and November this year. But I've been researching it in the local archive service and library since January 2013. At least five hours a week and sometimes more plus 'armchair' research via the web.

I've also made some appeals for info and have visited people to see what they hold as well as receiving info via e-mail and post.

Still some way to go but well on target!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Conscientious Objectors (COs) - how were they picked up?

In 1916 all eligible men were deemed to have enlisted under the Military Service Act. It was then just a case of waiting for your call-up papers. But what if you were a CO?

Most COs simply ignored the papers and then, assuming they didn't hide themselves away, they would eventually get a visit from the local bobby (unlike the scene in the recent TV drama 'The Village' where two Military Policemen turned up to grab a chap who had not rejoined his unit).

The local bobby would arrest you and bring you before the local magistrates. Assuming it was proven that you had received and ignored your call-up papers you would normally be remanded in custody while awaiting a military escort.

After that you would be taken to a barracks, usually ordered to put on a uniform and, if you refused, you would be subjected to a court martial as you were now considered to be subject to military law. A prison sentence would usually follow and on release frequently the same process would kick in again...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Swansea Fishing Fleet

Swansea was a major port when war broke out in 2014. So what happened to the Swansea fishing fleet during the war?

A large part of the fleet was requisitioned by the Admiralty and then used as a mine-sweeping force. Several were sunk by enemy mines or U-boats. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

If you are looking at these blog posts why not post a simple 'hello' (or make a comment/ask a question) so I know that I'm not talking into an empty cyber-space! 
Looked today at Swansea shipping records during the Great War in the West Glamorgan Archive Service. Needs a bit more work to get nearer a true total but I have already identified over 20 Swansea-registered ships which were sunk by enemy submarines or mines.

Other sources have given me the submarines involved in each sinking, plus their commanders' names and eventual fate (U-Boat losses were very heavy). 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nationally there were over 16,000 conscientious objectors in World War I. A number of them came from Swansea and one of them died shortly after his release from prison. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Swansea Battalion left for France in December 1915 and didn't return to the UK until after the Armistice. Took part in the battles on the Somme (1916) and Passchendaele (1917). Plus the final battles of 1918 - its last casualty was on 7 November - 4 days before the armistice.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Who was the driving force behind the formation of the Swansea Battalion? The mayor of the time, Thomas Taliesyn Corker. He was a Neath man but with business interests in the town of Swansea.

He appealed for volunteers for a town battalion in August 1914 and eventually over a 1,000 men joined up (many others in the town joined other units).

Frank Corker was the mayor's son and he joined up and served in the Swansea Battalion. Frank went missing in action during a raid on the German trenches in June 1916. He was never seen again. His father had pre-deceased him by dying (some said of the strain of his war-time work) in March 1916.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

On 10 July 1916 the Swansea Battalion, in conjunction with other units of the Welsh Division, attacked Mametz Wood on the Somme. Just nine days after the start of the 1916 Somme campaign - which saw the British army suffer 60,000 casualties including 19,000 killed on 1 July 1916 - the Swansea Battalion left the trenches and advanced on the wood which was hidden by the dust and smoke of a heavy artillery barrage.

The Swansea Battalion committed 676 men to the attack on Mametz Wood. When the losses were counted several days later (the wood having then been captured) there were around 100 Swansea Battalion men killed and 200+ wounded.

As an officer of the battalion said after the war ' The battalion did a great many things during the war, but the hardest thing it did was attack Mametz Wood'. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

I'm currently (May 2013) researching for a factual book to be published in 2014 - 'Swansea in the Great War'. The publishers will be Pen and Sword Books of Barnsley.

My other books are:

Swansea and the Workhouse - the Poor Law in 19th Century Swansea. 2003.

Swansea Pals - a history of the 14th (Service) Battalion, the Welsh Regiment in the Great War. 2004.

Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths Around Swansea. 2009.

Spent a couple of hours in the local archive office today, looking at various records including some material on a Swansea man who served on the front line with a 'Friends Ambulance Unit' - a medical unit made up of men who did not believe in fighting but wanted to 'do their bit'.

He actually assisted some French army units and received a  bravery award for helping the wounded while under fire. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Got some information about Swansea and its people in the Great War? Please get in touch and let me know.

It might get into my forthcoming book 'Swansea in the Great War', to be published by Pen and Sword Books in late 2014, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.

Bernard Lewis
Just received 74 pages of records from a chum who was able to visit the National Archives at Kew. Relating to a 'Q-Ship' in World War I on which served a Swansea man. Basically a Q-Ship was a disguised tramp steamer that would unveil guns once a German submarine surfaced for an 'easy' kill.

Sadly, the man I am looking at drowned in an accident when a lifeboat was lowered to make the U-Boat commander think the ship was being abandoned thus encouraging the sub to surface.

Such are the awful chances of war...

Bernard Lewis