The excitement of holding a Victoria Cross

I’m sure I may have mentioned that my dear wife volunteers at the Royal Logistic Corps Museum at Deepcut. While volunteering there yesterday she called me to say that a Victoria Cross was being loaned out, and would I like to see it. I duly nipped up there before it disappeared off site.

To handle the medal I had to wear latex gloves. Knowing how the Victoria Cross is revered for the exceptional bravery of those to whom it’s awarded transmits the moment you hold it. It’s the stories of sacrifice, courage under fire, and human selflessness that flood your mind, as also the desire to learn more about the recipient and his act of courage.

Here’s my photo of the obverse and reverse of the VC awarded to John Buckley, Deputy Assistant Commissary of Ordnance – Bengal Establishment, at the time of his act of heroism on 11th May 1857. [Click on images to expand]

To read about John Buckley VC, see Victoria Cross online, and brief summary below the medal photos

Four years later, in 1857, Buckley and his second wife and three surviving children moved to Delhi where he was appointed Assistant Commissary of Ordnance. He was employed at the Delhi Magazine, a storehouse of guns and ammunition. Later that year, the Indian Mutiny broke out against British rule and the mutineers soon reached Delhi.

On 11th May 1857, Buckley and eight fellow soldiers found themselves defending the magazine against overwhelming numbers. Rather than let the ammunition to fall into enemy hands, they decided to blow up the building and themselves. Miraculously four of the men survived the explosion, though sadly George Willoughby was killed in action two days later. The other men, including Buckley would be later awarded the Victoria Cross. At the time, the Royal Warrant for the VC did not permit posthumous awards so only three VCs could be awarded.

Declarations of Independence, once lost are now found

We’ve all done it, that is filed something away, perhaps incorrectly, and then lost track of it. Well, in the past month two lost Declarations have been found.

Perhaps the more important of the two, certainly for the Lithuanian centenary celebration in 2018, is one of the three missing original copies of the Declaration of Independence of Lithuania in February 1918. The Guardian reports that the document was lost during the turmoil at the end of World War 1. It was found in the German Foreign Ministry archives in Berlin by a Lithuanian professor. Click on the image to link to the article [also, click to expand]

The other lost document is a parchment copy of the American Declaration of Independence dated around 1780. The document was found in the West Sussex County Archives by two researchers from Harvard University. Again The Guardian has a report on the finding. Click on the image to link to the article [also, click to expand]

As I said at the start, things are easily lost, yet take years to find them again.

Where to See Five of the Planet’s Most Mysterious Geoglyphs

A geoglyph in the UK features in this article on April 20th 2017 Where to See Five of the Planet’s Most Mysterious Geoglyphs in the Smithsonian Magazine.

The Oxford dictionary defines geoglyph as – A large-scale image or design produced in the natural landscape by techniques such as aligning rocks or gravel or removing soil or sod, the complete form of which is visible only aerially or at a distance.

It’s surprising and pleasing that the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire is regarded as one of the five most mysterious geoglyphs. Research into the age of the Uffington White Horse considers it to have been created between 1200 BC and 800 BC, making it over 3,000 years old. There’s more about the White Horse at Wiltshire White Horses, and the National Trust. Below is a NASA satellite image of the Uffington White Horse.

Photo of the Week No.25: The Mountbatten’s and Nehru by Cartier-Bresson

Photographed on the steps of Government House in Delhi by Henri Cartier-Bresson in 1948 are, Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma; Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India; and Edwina Cynthia Annette, Countess Mountbatten.

Like most of us, I imagine, we appreciate a good news photograph that captures something of the situation of the people included in the photo. This is so in this photo. Widely acknowledged that Nehru and Edwina Mountbatten had a very close friendship, even speculated having an affair. It’s a very good photo from a master of photography, Cartier-Bresson, a believer in capturing the ‘decisive moment‘.

Answer to Photo Quiz No.43: Queen’s Avenue Bridge over the Basingstoke Canal in Aldershot

David Parsons knew the answer. Good on him. It’s one of the lamp posts on the bridge over the Basingstoke Canal on Queen’s Avenue in Aldershot.

Queen’s Avenue is a long straight road, on which are many things to interest the passer by, with historic Army barracks, monuments, a museum, churches, and Army sporting facilities, including the bridge.

The bridge was in a very poor state of repair in the 1990’s, with rusting deck supports. The Ministry of Defence funded its restoration to enable the bridge to carry traffic up to 40 tons. The Basingstoke Canal Society website describes the history of the bridge, along with many photos of it. Here are my photos, click on images to expand.

Notes on Trefor Hogg’s talk on Charles Raleigh Knight – the founder of Camberley

Forgive me, I should’ve posted these before today. On Friday the 10th March I was in the audience, at Surrey Heath Museum, to listen to Trefor Hogg’s talk on Charles Raleigh Knight, the founder of Camberley.

Trefor is right to characterise Charles Raleigh Knight as a true Victorian gentleman. Though helpfully benefiting from inherited wealth, Charles Raleigh Knight strived to put his wealth to good use. Trefor’s well presented slides describe Knight’s interesting life – a gentleman cadet at Sandhurst, soldier, artist, prison governor and prison reformer, railway investor, property developer, church builder, and friend to the working man.

Trefor has generously allowed me to publish the slides of his talk. Click on the upward pointing arrow in the screen below to expand to full screen size.

The Bagshot Riot of 1835

I continue to be delighted what can be uncovered by Googling. I can’t remember what was my Google search, whatever it was it turned up Annals of Sandhurst – A chronicle of The Royal Military College from its foundation to the present day. Heinemann, London 1900. At 362 pages, I wasn’t intending to read it online. I idly dipped into the book, and happened on a page about the Bagshot Riot of 1835.

With the weather likely to keep us all indoors, I though this short extract from page 47 to 48, in the book might amuse,

RMAS old-collegeSo the Bagshot Riot of 1835 would never have occurred had the Surrey police been in any state of organization, but until some fifteen years later, when the unfortunate Vicar of Frimley put his head out of the window, and was shot dead by a burglar’s blunderbuss, the county did not even possess a Chief Constable. This Bagshot Riot was a very smart little affair though,of course, all very wrong and improper.

Bagshot in those days was the nearest big village to the College, and its inhabitants (like the Camberley folk of to-day) made a point of flocking to every big show that took place thereat. In the year in question, His Majesty William IV., accompanied by the great Duke of Wellington and many illustrious officers, came down to present new colours to the cadets. The whole ceremony was a magnificent spectacle, and was witnessed by a vast concourse of people, amongst whom Bagshot had, perhaps, the most numerous representatives. Everything passed off” well, and after the Royal party had gone, the cadets, bursting with loyalty, encored “God Save the King.” The encore was given, but the public failed to rise to the occasion, and as hats were not removed as willingly as the cadets approved, they took the liberty of knocking them off”. In the uproar that followed this apparent transgression of the laws of hospitality, a Bagshotman was heard to challenge the cadets to fight it out at Bagshot. The history of what came of the hasty challenge had best be given in the words of the late Colonel Cooper-King, who knew the College and its traditions better than any man on record.

” So straightforward a challenge,” he says, ” appealed to the fighting instinct of the race.

The first convenient half-holiday was selected as the occasion for accepting the proffered hospitality of the village. The visiting contingent numbered some fifty or sixty cadets, well provided with hockey-sticks. Later on, as the attention of the villagers became more marked, cap numbers were removed, and coats were taken off* and tied round their owners* necks by the sleeves, so as to give arms full play and protect the shoulders. On their way a stage-coach passed them, and, boy-like, the younger cadets hung on behind it until, at the instigation of one of the passengers, they were flogged off. The ire of the seniors was roused. Forming line across the road, they stopped the coach, and were proceeding to take summary vengeance on the coachman, when they were mollified by apologies, and the coach went on its way to Bagshot, where it changed horses, accompanied by the cadet guard. The daily papers of that year contain indignant remonstrances from passengers, who complained of the stoppage of the coach on the King’s highway. This was but the beginning of the entertainment. The village was stormed. The inhabitants, at first too few to resist, soon collected jn numbers. Sticks, guns, and other weapons were called into requisition, and the cadets saw that it was time to fall back on their base of operations. Sending the younger ones home, they covered their retreat and fought their way back, reaching the College in a somewhat battered and dishevelled condition, but in time for the last study of the day.”

There is no doubt that in this little affair the cadets came off second best whether any treaty of peace was made history does not relate, but Bagshot and the Royal Military College have remained on friendly terms ever since.