Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Famous 1914 - 1918

Just finished another Richard Van Emden WW1 book 'Famous 1914-1918' co authored with Victor Piuk. This was another one of my Oxfam bookshop buys and is a very interesting read. In summary the book deals with well known people of the 20th century and their part in world war one. JRR Tolkiens service was reasonably well known to me and I must read Garths book 'Tolkien and the Great War' which is in the pending pile. The other famous people included were; AA Milne, George Mallory, Arnold Ridley, Ralph Vaughan Williams, John Reith, Dennis Wheatley, CS Lewis, Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce, Alexander Fleming, RC Sheriff, Montgomery, Tom Denning, Winston Churchill, Henry Moore, JB Priestly, Harold Macmillan, Peter Llewelyn Davies. All these names are extreemly well known like Churchill and Montgomery or at least familiar to most people even if their part in WW1 is not so well known.

The two unusal inclusions are the infamous John Christie of Rillington Place murders fame and Ned Parfett....who you ask? Well Neds face is well known as a boy to most historians of the 20th century as the face of the newspaper boy selling the evening news with the headline 'Titanic Disaster Great Loss of Life'

Ned joined up in 1915 and served in France with 126 Battery RFA part of 29th Brigade RFA and he worked as a signaller maintaining the telephone wire from the forward observation officer back to the battery. The battery was heavily involved with the German spring offensive of march 1918 and the battery caused significant casualties to the advancing German forces only loosing one gun in the process. Ned was mentioned in Field Marshal Douglas Haigs Despatches and remained with the battery through the summer of 1918. Three weeks before the armistice his battery was supporting the 1st BN the Somerset Light Infantry and 2nd BN Duke of Wellingtons Regiment in an action to take the village of Verchain in Belgium, by the 29th October 1918 Ned was waiting to go on leave in the quartermasters stores with 2 other men from 126 battery when a german shell made a direct hit. All were killed and were buried in Verchain British Military Cemetry, Ned was only 22 had been recommended for a Military Medal for supporting his officer 2nd lieutenant Percy Hunt in the dangerous activity of forward observation for the guns and would not have returned to his unit before the armistice was signed...what a cruel twist of fate.

This was a very interesting book as it encompassed people I had not read about before like the Sculptor Henry Moore the author Dennis Wheatley and writer, Playwrite,Broadcaster and founder of CND JB Priestly and would recommend it as a good alternative 'easy to read' book on what was a horrific conflict.

To lighten the mood a work colleague forwarded an amusing item from 'Newbiscuit' the spoof web based news channel with private eye like articles this one 'Screaming fans Mob Wargames Championship' was most amusing!!

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