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A Swindon Town Great War Pilgrimage

A Swindon Town Remembrance Pilgrimage

We must have numbered a football team,
Umbrellas unfurled at the cenotaph,
Where we spoke of Walter Tull and Spurs,
And Swindon Town and Northampton Town
Footballers who fell in the Great War –
The rain providing a suitably melancholy backdrop,
As we made our hilltop climb to Christ Church,
A welcoming peal rather than a knell
Resonating across the Old Town sky,

While we gathered, inside, by the war memorial,
Inscribing George Bathe’s name on a remembrance cross,
George Bathe, STFC, KIA 1915,
A memento mori for all to share,
Carried by George’s great-nephew, Phil,
Before we made our blue plaque way to Radnor Street,
To talk of Freddie Wheatcroft, star Swindon striker,
Killed in Action,
And Alfred Williams, the Railway Poet,
And the writer Edward Thomas who loved Swindon so much,
Killed in Action.

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Chip Shop Walk

Chip Shop Hop

A group of us gathered at the corner Bath Road and Frome Park Road, initially in search of the legendary Rodborough Chip Machine
http://radicalstroud.co.uk/the-face-that-launched-thousand-chips/

We then flexibly followed the score from walkwalkwalk – thanks to Clare Qualmann, Gail Burton and Serena Korda – (see at the end), so as to be part of a worldwide chip shop exploration. Our chip shop heritage pilgrimage took us from Bath Road to Cainscross, to Cashes Green to the High Street, to Simpsons, to Nelson Street and so to sunset and bed.
We had a lovely time chatting with staff in all the shops and explained our quest, emphasizing that this was not, as Deb Roberts put it, anything to do with ‘Chip Advisor’. Robin Treefellow wrote a poem especially for the occasion, which he performed in two different locations, once outside a cloth mill and once, natch, outside a chip shop.
Chips are not from Hell
they come from Heaven Highest
chips are winged angels
flying with greasy wings
coated in sparkling salt
into our contentious world
where they relieve our tearful cries
for help is here
the chips, the excellent and goodly chips
we partake of their ambrosia
soaked in vinegar
stubbled in salt
hot and rewarding between the teeth
as we swallow
the chip carries us up to the golden light
in the knowledge our troubles have passed
the chips!
O, heavenly chips!
Sanctus, Sanctus, Excelsus
Amen.

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A Bristol City and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of the Robins:

Edmund Burton KIA 1917
Allen Foster KIA 1916
Henry Gildea KIA 1917
James Stevenson 1916
Thomas Ware KIA 1915

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Edmund, Allen, Henry, James, Thomas,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to James’,
‘Over here, Allen,
‘Shoot, Henry’;

The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:

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A Tottenham Hotspur and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of other Spurs:

George Badenoch 1915
Jim Chalmers 1915
John Fleming 1916
Frederick Griffiths 1917
Alan Haig-Brown 1918
John Hebdon 1917
Alf Hobday 1915
John Jarvie 1916
Edward Lightfoot 1918
William Lloyd 1914
Alexander MacGregor
William Weir 1918
Archibald Wilson 1916
Norman Wood 1916

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
George, John, Jim, Fred, Edward, William, Archie,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Archie’;

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Walter Tull and Captain Cobham-Smith

Even though Walter Tull’s body (and his diary) was never recovered, a fascinating document has recently come to public notice that sheds light on Walter’s life and ancestry.
It was found in the journal of Captain Cobham-Smith of Little Withens, Hampshire. This journal had lain in a cabinet drawer until house clearance on the death of his daughter, and only child, Lucia Cobham-Smith.

To Posterity
Last night, I had the great honour to share an hour with Lieutenant Walter Tull – an extraordinary fellow – who showed me a deeply personal manuscript that he keeps folded in his diary. This note reveals that Walter is an even more remarkable fellow than I had first surmised.
I penned this record of events straight after Walter left me. I have tried to be as faithful as humanly possible to the words I saw and heard.

To Whom It May Concern

In the event of my death, I hope this account of my ancestry will let Posterity know of my Past, and inform the Present of how we may build a new Future.
When I was a boy, my father told me of his mother’s life, together with her memories of her – and my – lineage. My grandmother had told my father that her mother would sit her on her aged knee and sometimes whisper and sometimes sing and sometimes cry this tale:
‘Child, we came here to Barbados more than a hundred years ago. From a land called Africa, far away to the East across this shining sea. Our people, my child, your ancestors and mine, were taken from the secure and happy compound of family. A happy land of plenty and comfort: sheep and goats and the cow, and the yams and the corn and bananas and palm wine.
We lived the gladsome life of the free and easy; this was the way of life of our people, the Isha Yoruba near Bante; a peaceful, peace-loving people. No war. No killing. No slaves. The old gods. Even though I revere the past, my child, heed this:
I no longer trust the old gods and neither must you, child.

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A Northampton Town and Walter Tull Declamation

Let the living answer the roll call of the dead:
Walter Tull of Spurs and Northampton Town KIA 1918;

And now the names of other Cobblers:
Harold Redhead KIA 1918
George Badenoch KIA 1915
Bob Bonthron
Harry Hanger KIA 1918

Harold Springthorpe 1915

Harry Vann KIA 1915

Bernard Vann VC KIA 1918

Frank Taylor survived the war
Frederick Walden survived the war
Frederick Whittaker survived the war

Names from another century come back to haunt us:
Harold, George, Bob, Harry, Freddie, Bernard, Frank,
Names once shouted over a football pitch,
‘Give it to Walter’,
‘Over here, Freddie,
‘Shoot, Harry’;

The imperatives of a football team
Replaced by new orders in khaki, with
Night patrols, barbed wire and machine guns;
Muddied football boots forgotten
In the trench foot fields of Flanders;
The clamour from the ground and stands
No match for whizz bangs, mortars and howitzers;
The fogs of a November match,
Innocent memories in a gas attack:

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Swindon and The Great War

They were summoned from the hillside,
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardship,
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:

Keep the home fires burning
While your hearts are yearning,
Though the lads are far away,
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining,
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out,
Till the boys come home.

1914
4th August: 7.49 p.m.

The factory hooter blows ten times: the order to mobilize: war.

Men march in the streets between Swindon Junction and Swindon Old Town stations; transportation of military personnel and equipment starts. The mayor speaks, to loud cheers: ‘You are leaving home and friends at the call of duty … We will see that they do not want. Our good wishes go with you … Be of good cheer. Goodbye, Good luck, and God bless you all!’

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