Wednesday 30 July 2014

In the Garden - July

We have been really lucky with the weather in July, with lots of blue skies and sunshine, and we've managed to have a real mixture of both working and relaxing in the garden.  We even managed a sneaky impromptu mid-week BBQ.

Martin was on holiday at the beginning of the month and, as we didn't go away, we managed to get a lot of much needed maintenance jobs done, which you can read about here.

Other than the general maintenance there's been lots of watering and deadheading activity and some serious pruning of the spring flowering shrubs in readiness for next year.

In flower during July, we've had Crocosmia, Hemerocallis, the white climbing rose, white daisies, Agapanthus, Verbena and a constant supply of sweet peas for the kitchen windowsill, which we grew from seed ourselves.

The patio pots have looked great, with the hanging baskets and the potted daisies still going strong. The Hostas have also made a really good show this year.  Hopefully they will see us through to the end of August.

We've had lots of visits from wildlife, with plenty of sightings of blackbirds, blue tits and goldfinches.  Martin also made a mad dash for the camera when he spotted a damsel fly basking in the sunshine.

The end of the month will see the completion of a job which has been on the agenda for a long old time - the completion of the brick edging around the bottom half of the garden.  It is currently under way, and such a big event, it's worthy of it's own post, which you will be able to read about very soon.

New Gate - Coming Soon!

We are also very nearly there with the new front gate. The posts have had two coats of woodstain.  The gate itself has had a coat and I've also salvaged all of the ironmongery from the old gate.  Martin has paint stripped everything and I've re-painted it.  It will be a real team Dunhill achievement once it's finished and I'm confident that you will be seeing the new gate finally in place during August..

What needs doing now is lots of tidying up, with lots of perennials needing to be cleared away and all of the borders desperate for a good weed.  That will be my focus for August, though hopefully there will be plenty more relaxing and enjoying of the garden taking place too.

Saturday 26 July 2014

Will Sidney's War - 'Sweet and Twenty'

11 February 1917 was Ethel's 20th Birthday.

You can see the birthday card that Will sent to Ethel for her Birthday below.

As well as the the separate note from Will, the card contained a small book of poems.

Will Sidney's War - December 1916-March 1917 - Second Posting to France

You will know from my previous post that Will returned from his first posting to France in June 1916.  We have no real record of Will's activity between his return from his first trip to France in June 1916 and his return for the second time on Christmas Day 1916.

We know from his official war record that on 27 September 1917 Will was 'Posted SS', which we assume means he was posted as a Shoeing Smith.  His whereabouts detailed in the back of his 1917 diary confirms that he left again for France on 25 December 1916, Christmas Day.

On 14 January 1917, whilst in France, Will was transferred from 'C' Squadron of the Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons to the 8th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment.  It's at this point that Will's personal war diaries begin, by telling us on 13 January 1917 that he received a letter from home.

Whether or not Will received or sent letters seems to have been of utmost importance to him, being mentioned in his diaries on an almost daily basis.

Will's diaries also give us some of his really personal thoughts, especially of his feelings for his Darling Ethel, who is referred to with unfailing regularity.  It is clear from his diaries that his thoughts were constantly of her. We can imagine that during some of the really difficult times that Will faced, whilst at war, the thoughts of eventually getting home to be with Ethel were what kept him going.

In places Will's diary is confusing with pages having actually been bound in an incorrect order, whether this was done purposely we do not know.  On occasion Will has also re-dated pages.  We have done our best to ensure that our recount of his story is in the correct order.

As the diary is difficult to read I will transcribe the most interesting parts as we go along.
13 Sun - Got a letter from home.
14 Mon - Out in Brigade Support working for the REs on road work from 9 to 3.  No letters.
15 Tues - Still on the same job.  Return from work about 4 o'c.  No news from anybody.
16 Wed - Still on same sort of work.  Finished @ same time.  No news from anybody.
17 Th - Still on the same job.  Finish @ 3pm.  Dinner 4.30.  Supper 7.  No letters from anybody.
18 Fri - Still on REs job.  Very cold.  No news from anyone.  Thinking of Ethel & I wish I could see her.
19 Sat - Still on same game for the REs.  Still thinking of Darling Ethel.  I do wish I could have a letter from her. 
This week it appears that Will was working in support of the Royal Engineers on road work.  You can see that he mentions whether or not he has received letters every single day.  You can also start to see how his thoughts are constantly of Ethel.

20 Sun - Work for REs until 12pm.  Went into front line @ 5.15pm.  Letter from Ethel.
21 Mon - Stand to 6.30am.  Stand down 7.15am.  Had to work from 9.15am to 12.30 & from 2 to 4.  Stand to 5.15pm.  Down 6.30.  No news from anybody.
22 Tues - Same as yesterday plenty of work.  No news of anybody.  Thinking of Ethel. Bless her.  On guard all night.
23 Wed - Same as yesterday.  No news from anybody.  Rest for the night.
24 Th - Same as yesterday.  No news from Ethel.  Wondering how she is.  On guard all night.
25 Fri - Same job as yesterday.  No news from anybody.  Thinking of Ethel.  A nights rest.
26 Sat - Same as yesterday.  Still no news.  Wondering whether darling is ill or not. On guard again.  I am feeling very tired.  No letters.
This week we hear Will mention being on the front line for the first time, though all seems quiet. He seems quite tired and concerned at the lack of news from home.

27 Sun - Same as yesterday.
28 Mon - Writ to Ethel, Rosie, Annie, Elsie, Missus Jackson, Uncle & Aunt, Charlie, Jim, Harold.  No letters from anybody.  Thinking of Ethel.  Wondering how she is.
29 Tues - Still in the trenches doing 5 more extra days.  Working all day.  Fired on range just behind front line.  No guard.  Letter from Ethel.
30 Wed - Still in front lines working from 9 - 12.30.  Range 2.0 - 2.45.  Working in front line.  No letters from anybody.  Fired on range.  Guard all night.  No sleep.
31 Th - Still in front line.  Went firing on the range @ 9.0 after working in F line. Rest this afternoon.  Finished @ 4.30.  Went to bed @ 7.
1 Fri - Stand to 6.15.  SD 7.30.  Work all day.  Range for an hour.  Letter from Ethel. Sent her a ........  Guard all night.  No sleep.
2 Sat - Warned to take charge of party for Div Range Competition 45 & 67 ....  No chance to write letters to anybody.  Thinking of Darling Ethel.
Unfortunately there are a few instances where I have been unable to interpret what Will is saying. Where this is the case I have just included ..... in my transcript.

You will also be seeing the individual information and illustrations that are showing on each page of the diary. This week shows an illustration of a Sikh Warrior wearing a turban, which conceals a curious steel weapon.

3 Sun - Went to range to get all the .......  No letters from anyone.
4 Mon - Rev 6.  B 7.  P 7.30 for ranges.  No letters from anybody.  Thinking of Ethel.
5 Tues - Same as per usual @ the range Div Rifle meeting.  No news.  Wondering if Ethel has got my letter.
6 Wed - Same as yesterday.  No news.  Thinking of Darling Ethel.
7 Th - Same as usual.  No news from anybody.  Wondering what is the matter with everybody.
8 Fri - Rev 6.30.  B 7.45.  Parade full marching 9.  Drill orders 9.30 for Coy drill & P.J. No news from Ethel.  Worrying about her.  Put on guard from 4pm to 4pm (Sat).
9 Sat - On guard.  Cleaning up for CO.  CO been and inspected the guard & said it was a good one (complimented).  Small parcel with writing pad & cigs from Mother. Nothing from Ethel.  Wondering if she is ill or not.  God bless her.
The abbreviations that Will uses in his entries this week appear constantly throughout his diaries:

  • Rev or 'R' - Reveille
  • 'B' - Breakfast
  • 'P' - Parade
  • CO - Commanding Officer

10 Sun - Church Parade 9.45am.  Parade 1/4 to 2 football match.
This is where Will's diary entries end for a while.  His official war record shows that on 10 February he "Joined 8th Batt in Field"  and on 13 February he was "Admitted Lyo Pyrexia".  
11 February 1917 was Ethel's 20th birthday and we have the birthday card that Will sent to her, presumably before he was taken ill.  It includes a small book of poems.  You can see the card and the book of poems here.

Will's whereabouts list shows he "Left for Blighty" on 5 March 1917, presumably earlier than intended.  I will tell you more about what happened to Will upon his return to Blighty in my next post.

Wednesday 23 July 2014

Impromptu Barbie!

Yesterday, I got up to glorious sunshine.  I had a quick weather check and it looked to be the same all day and I really wanted to make the most of it.

Whilst we have had some great weather so far this year, most of it seems to have been in the week, with the weekends not being so good.  That, plus Martin working away for a number of weekends, we really don't seem to have had much BBQ activity so far.

I decided to make the most of the weather yesterday and have an impromptu mid-week BBQ.  I know, random!!

I invited mum and dad, decked out the garden, did a bit of dead heading and raided the freezer.

Martin got home from work to find us in the garden, under the umbrellas, drinking Pimms.

We started with our favourite, grilled Halloumi cheese, followed by big fat cheeseburgers in cheesy topped buns and some random bits of meat we had scraped together between us.  We had it with a gorgeous Chicken and Mango Salad and some other bits and pieces.

I'd knocked up a Frangipane Tart, with blueberries out of the garden, for dessert.

We had a lovely evening.  As dad said ..... good surroundings, good company, good food, good wine, what more do you need?

Already looking forward to more impromptu BBQ'ing over the summer.

Chicken & Mango Salad

This is another recipe that I have been wanting to try out for ages.  It's great as a Summer lunch or as a BBQ accompaniment.

The recipe calls for the chicken to be cooked in stock to make it very tender and moist.

If you want to make this a really quick dish you could just buy ready cooked chicken breasts.

Chicken breast fillets (we used one per person if eating as a main dish but reduced this if eating as an accompaniment)
300ml chicken stock

1/3 cucumber
4 spring onions, trimmed and sliced
2 baby gem lettuces
Cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 fennel, sliced
1 large mango, peeled, stoned and sliced

4 tbsps fat free Greek style yoghurt
2 tbsps chopped fresh mint
2 tbsps lemon juice
2 tsp clear honey

  1. If cooking your own chicken, put the chicken and stock in a pan.  Heat until simmering, then cover and cook for 20 minutes.  Drain, leave to cool, then cut into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Halve the cucumber lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and then slice into crescents.
  3. Add the cucumber, spring onions, lettuce, mango, cherry tomatoes, fennel and chicken pieces to a large serving dish.
  4. Mix the yoghurt with the mint, lemon juice and honey and drizzle over the salad.  Season and serve with crusty bread.
It was absolutely delicious and having tried it once last weekend for lunch, we've already had it again, as a BBQ accompaniment.

It just makes salad really interesting.


Monday 21 July 2014

Courgette & Apricot Chutney

This weekend, Saturday saw us pretty much confined to barracks, as we had heavy rain and thunderstorms forecast for pretty much the whole day and, for a change, the forecast was spot on. 

There was nothing for it. Time to make our favourite Courgette and Apricot Chutney. I'd already got all of the ingredients in as this was on my agenda for the coming week, as the courgettes, that we'd grown from seed for the first time, were in abundance and I didn't want them to go to waste. 

We tried this recipe for the first and only time a couple of years ago. It's a chutney that definitely improves with age, and we'd not that long ago finished our last jar, so it was time to stock up the store cupboard. 

The measurements for the ingredients made us sufficient chutney to fill 11 small jars. 

600g courgettes 
500g ready to eat, dried apricots 
500g cooking apples, peeled & cored weight 
450g red onions, peeled weight 
2 level tsps ground ginger 
1 level tsp ground allspice 
1 level tsp salt 
568ml bottle distilled white malt vinegar 
500g granulated sugar

    Cut the courgettes, apricots and apples into 1/2 cm pieces. Chop the onions. 

    Put all the ingredients in a very large saucepan and cook, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Boil gently, with the lid off, for 35-45 minutes until the mixture is the consistency of chutney. When it's ready, a wooden spoon dragged across the base of the pan will leave a clear path that takes a few seconds to cover over. 

    About 20 minutes before the chutney is ready, sterilise your jars. 

    Fill the jars with the chutney and put on the lids. 

    Store for at least six weeks in a cool dark cupboard before using. 

    Once opened store in the fridge.

    Wednesday 16 July 2014

    On Holiday at Number 27 - Time to Relax

    So far, though we'd had a great time, being at home together and being very productive, there hadn't been much chill out time, to say the least.  It was time to change that, otherwise Martin would be going back to work absolutely worn out.

    Day 5 - Wednesday
    We definitely needed a bit of an easier day today and the plan was to spend it at home doing nothing too strenuous.

    We had a slow start and a wander down the canal to place the last of our caches.  Then it was straight back home for uploading them all for review.  We just have to sit back now and wait for them to be published.  Fingers crossed there are no problems.

    Whilst the day carried on pretty slowly, which was just what we needed we did manage to make a start on replacing the front gate, which has been in desperate need for ages.  We managed to remove the old gate and posts and get the new posts cut to size and ready for installation.  That was enough for one day.

    I then decided I'd bite the bullet and have a crack at trimming the box balls in the front garden.  To say I was a bit nervous is an understatement.  I thought I'd do them lopsided and have to keep taking more off to level them up, ending up with barely anything left.  You get the picture.

    Anyway, things didn't go so bad and both now look very nice and trim.

    That was about it for Wednesday.  Nice chilled out day, at home, in the sunshine.  Picky tea to look forward to.  What more could you want?

    Day 6 - Thursday
    The highlight of Thursday had to be lunch out at The Old School House.  We had booked ourselves in for a Holiday treat.  We didn't even have to pay for it.  It was on Martin's company as a reward for being 'Employee of the Month' for dropping everything at last minute to go and work in London for two long weekends.

    Whilst I think he thinks it's a bit 'uncool' to be 'Employee of the Month', it was a nice treat.

    After a lazy morning for me, while Martin gave the car it's first clean, we headed off for lunch in bright sunshine.

    We had lunch, accompanied by a few very nice glasses of very fruity Pimms for me, sat outside on the patio overlooking the open countryside.  It was a warm, bright sunny day, it really felt like we were on holiday.

    Tip for anyone local wanting to eat there, you can get 25% discount for booking online.

    They also do posh afternoon teas, which I quite fancy giving a go at some point.

    Ideally we would have liked an afternoon nap as we were both feeling a bit sleepy after lunch but we headed into Burton on Trent to pick up some paint for he guest bedroom and to check out a brewing shop, where Martin stocked up on wine making kits.

    Finally we got home and were able to get comfy and chill out for the evening.

    Day 7 - Friday
    Friday was a bit on an uneventful day, with shopping and sourcing bricks and slabs for our latest garden project on the agenda.

    We also had to make a return visit to two of our caches along the canal.  They had all been reviewed and we had been informed that these two were too close to other caches so we needed to move them.

    Day 8 - Saturday
    We had more bright sunshine on Saturday, we have been so lucky with the weather this week.

    We had to nip out to get a few bits and pieces and we decided to get BBQ food, just in case the weather held all day.  We could always freeze it if we didn't use it.

    It was time for a big tidy up.  The house was in chaos.  We'd been working on so many different projects this week and making the most of being outside that inside was looking a bit neglected and there was just stuff everywhere.  Also, no mother to come and clean this week!!

    The big tidy up took ages, not so much because there was so much to do but because it was constantly interrupted.  First by bacon sandwiches, cooked on the BBQ. Then we had a read of the paper sat in the sunshine, then Martin completed his first wine siphoning.

    We had a really nice relaxed day, some proper pottering, finished off with our second BBQ of the week, though this time it wasn't cooked in the rain and we did manage to eat it outside.

    Day 8 - Sunday
    The last day of our week's holiday at Number 27.  After a really hot night we woke to a grey, rainy day, but at least it was a bit cooler and it was definitely what the garden needed.

    What would we do with the last day of our holiday?

    Well, there were still a few jobs on the list, though I must admit we were feeling a bit 'all pottered out'.

    We ended up having a pretty lazy last day of our holiday.  We did manage a short walk along the canal to the locks to see if we would bump into anyone doing our newly published caches, which all went live at lunchtime.  We didn't, though a couple have been done already, in the other direction!

    Martin also managed to fix the new gate posts, so that job is progressing slowly but surely.

    So, what do we think of our holiday at Number 27?  Well, Martin thinks he could get used to being at home full time, though he did say that if he was off for good then the pace may need to be a bit slower!  Me, I did miss going and seeing somewhere different but I was pretty chuffed with what we'd got done and, on the whole, it was really nice both being at home together.

    Roll on September, when we are off down to Dartmoor for two weeks, staying in a luxury cottage - with no jobs!!

    Tuesday 15 July 2014

    On Holiday at Number 27 - Caching Frenzy!!

    Whilst there was a lot of caching activity on our holiday at Number 27, we did not search for one single cache!!  Another first for a holiday for us.  Here's what we got up to instead.

    Day 3 - Monday
    We woke up to more nice bright sunshine, which was great as today we had a day of Geocache maintenance planned.

    The day started with Martin building caches on the dining room table and me packaging up three items, yes three, that had sold this week on ebay.

    We headed out to look at the state of some of our caches.  We were focusing mainly on our Wind Power Circular.  No prizes for guessing why we called it that.  We had received a few reports of problems and wanted to make sure all was as it should be.

    Whilst this circular is a lovely walk with some really creative caches we did slip up on one thing.  There are a number of caches that are a very long walk from the nearest parking point.  It's Sod's law that anything goes wrong is always with those with the furthest walk.  Today was no exception.
    Why we called it the Wind Power Circular

    It was a tough walk today. It was really warm and the undergrowth was at its height with waist high nettles in abundance.  One of the fields that the footpath passes through had also been sowed right to the edge with no footpath left, so we had to wade through wheat.  By the time we were done our socks were full of prickly wheat ears ..... Ouch ...... And we were pretty warm.
    It's a nice walk .......

    ..... but a tough one, at this time of year!

    We did feel quite pleased with ourselves when we'd done though.  All caches in the series have now been checked, repaired and replaced as necessary and are now just waiting to be found by the next Geocacher.

    Back home to shake out our socks, have a very well needed shower and home made pizza for tea.  Lovely.  Number 27 isn't such a bad place for a holiday.

    Day 4 - Tuesday
    We had another busy, caching related, day out planned today, so we couldn't let the threat of thunderstorms put us off.

    We've been working on issuing a new series of about 18 caches along the local canal for nearly two years!!  Not all the time, I hasten to add.  Today was the day that we took out all of the caches to locate them in their final positions.

    We picked up mum and her bike and headed out.  The plan was to place our caches, check all the co-ordinates one last time and end up at a local pub, The Samuel Barlow, for lunch.  The pub is right at the extent of our cache series.

    Normally we would aim to set caches in a circular route to make for a better walk.  This series is different.  It's not a circular.  The original aim was to team up with a few other Cachers to set caches along a real long stretch of canal, with each of us being responsible for different parts.

    Well, none of the others were ready to launch just yet and I was getting a bit frustrated at having all of the stuff lying round the house and having a long standing job still awaiting completion, so this week we were going for it.  The others could always launch later.

    As the route is about 5 miles long and then, of course, we would have to turn round and come back, we headed out on bikes, loaded up with the caches, waterproofs, refreshments and all sorts of other paraphernalia.

    We did pretty well, all things considered.  We managed to place all of the caches as planned, though some were done on the return leg as there were too many people around, and we only got caught in one short shower.

    We've got one left to place, it was too bulky to carry on the bikes, we will have to walk to that one later in the week.  The next step is to upload all of the cache information for each one on to the Geocaching site for approval and then we will have a tentative wait to see if there are any issues before they are published and available for people to start hunting for.

    We'd had a really good day.  As well as getting the caches placed, We had a really nice lunch, got to see some of the local countryside, just on our doorstep, and had some exercise to boot.

    We knew we'd done it though,  it's the first time we've been out on the bikes for about a year and we hurt in all kinds of places when we got home.  At least we haven't got to cook tea.  Another night lolling on the sofa in front of the TV was calling.  How boring are we?

    Monday 14 July 2014

    On Holiday at Number 27 - Pottering 'a deux'

    This was a big first for Martin and I.  We've never had a week's holiday at home before.  Martin was really looking forward to it, after all, it was a week away from work and he doesn't really get that much time to spend at home.  I wasn't quite so sure.  I was ready for a bit of a change of scenery and the smell and the sound of the sea!

    I was also a bit concerned that we might end up 'Pottering at speed' and it wouldn't actually be that much of a break for Martin.

    Anyway, here we were ........

    Day 1 - Saturday
    We decided to break ourselves in easily and had a nice leisurely get up with sausage sandwiches for breakfast before heading into town to have a mooch round and pick up all the stuff that Martin would need to re-kindle his wine making hobby.  I can't tell you how many times he has reminded me that he had all this stuff when he moved in but I 'made' him throw it all out.

    As it happened, we couldn't get everything in town so it was off to Planters, our local garden centre to see if they had what we needed.  They did and, after a very quick recce of our favourite blackberrying spot to see how things were looking, it was off to mum and dad's to raid dad's wine making equipment cupboard.

    Armed with everything we needed we headed for home to get things started.

    Once we'd sterilised everything and got the wine bubbling a way it was time for a quick shower before wandering round to Jackie and Phil's for dinner.

    We had a lovely chilled out evening with lots of chat and lots of good food and plenty of Summer Pimms for me.  We ate home made crab cakes with a zesty mayonnaise, belly pork in a sticky fruity sauce, which was particularly gorgeous, served with a Vietnamese salad, stir fried veg and sticky rice.  We finished off with a very rich chocolate fondant tart with the ingredients for Eton Mess on the side.

    We staggered home, late for us, and I crashed straight out whilst Martin and his late night chill out with a glass of whiskey.

    Not a bad start to our week at Number 27.

    Day 2 - Sunday
    After the excess of Saturday night we both felt a bit groggy first thing but it was such a beautiful day that we soon got ourselves moving.

    We had decided that today would be an at home day, doing lots of stuff that we'd been meaning to get around to for ages.
    We started with Martin scaling the heights to clean out the gutters on the back of the house, which were filled with silt, with weeds even growing in places.  Something that had been on the agenda for a long old time, but we'd not had good weather, ladders and the time available, at the same time, until today.

    I was on point duty at the bottom of the ladder, but Martin did cop for the hard work on this one.  Up and down the ladder with a bucket and a trowel.  All the muck cleaned out, it was back up the ladder with the hose to swill everything down.

    Next, it was round to the front.  The hedge had grown like crazy and needed another trim.  That's my department.  I'm a dab hand with the Black and Decker.  Now, trimming the hedge is a delight, it is good fun ..... Honest.  Clearing up on the other hand ....... That's a pain in the Jacksie.

    So, hedge done, foxgloves all pulled up and Cleome seedlings planted to replace them.  The front was looking tidy again and we felt quite pleased with ourselves.

    Just time to finish off fixing the metal edging strips to the raided beds and pick some cherries to make a Frangipane Tart, before firing up the Barbie.  Just got the halloumi ready as the heavens opened. 

    The British weather sometimes does really let you down.  Not to be deterred we waited for the shower to pass before heading back out to put the prawns and burgers on.  We'd planned a BBQ, we were having one.

    Absolutely shattered, but feeling quite accomplished we crashed on the sofa to watch a film.

    Sunday 13 July 2014

    Will Sidney - The Shoeing Smith

    We know when Will signed up in 1913 he was a blacksmith.  His rank with the Queens Own Yorkshire Dragoons, when embodied on 5 August 1914, was that of a Shoeing Smith.

    His first posting to France from July 1915 to June 1916 was with the QOYD and the Squadron war diary makes a number of references to works carried out in respect of the stabling and caring for horses.

    In January 1917 we know, from Will's war record that he was transferred to the York & Lancaster Regiment as a Private.  From then on there isn't much mention, in any of the records that we have, of Will having any further involvement with horses.

    We have a number of photos of Will, showing him in different situations with horses, that we have been unable to date or place.  Based on his war record we could assume that these may have been taken during his time with the QOYD, maybe whilst on this first posting to France, and thought it would be good to include them here, before moving on with his story.  I am sorry that some of them are not of that good a quality.

    The picture on the left shows Will with a group of colleagues in front, of what could be, either a stable or workshop.  Will is sitting on the right of the front row.

    The second photo, on the right, shows Will on a horse.  We have been unable to identify either where or when either of these photos were taken.

    This picture is of Will with two colleagues.  Will is in the middle and could possibly be in the process of shoeing a horse.  This photo has been annotated on the reverse, though this gives no clue as to the date or whereabouts the photo may have been taken.

    I'm afraid this last picture is also of quite poor quality.  We have been unable to identify Will in the picture but the note on the reverse reads as follows
    "This is a photo of our lines.  We had only just come in after been out all day.  On it you will find me & my horse.  I won't tell you where I am but try & guess & when I come home I will tell you if it's right.  Will."
    My next post will cover Will's second posting to France, including some extracts from his personal diaries, which looks to have been shorter than initially intended.

    Wednesday 9 July 2014

    Frangipane Tart

    Whilst the Morello Cherry tree has done fairly well this year, it hasn't produced enough cherries for making jam, so I was looking for an alternative way to make sure they didn't go to waste.  I decided to try making a Frangipane Tart.

    Now, although I am not working and am very much enjoying my 'Life of Pottering', I still think life is too short for making pastry, so I have to confess to buying a sweet pastry case from Asda - it only cost 90p.

    A 20cm sweet pastry tart case
    Sufficient jam to cover the base of the tart
    Sufficient cherries, or other fruit, to cover the base of the tart
    100g butter
    100g caster sugar
    2 large eggs
    100g ground almonds

    1. Spread the base of the tart case with jam, I used a jar of Marrow and Ginger that we had made a number of years ago. 
    2. Sprinkle over your cherries, though I am sure you could pretty much use any other fruit that you fancied. I might give it a go with some blackberries next time. 
    3. Make your frangipane by creaming together the butter and sugar, beating in the eggs and then stirring in the ground almonds. 
    4. Spread over your tart and place in the oven at 190c for about 40 minutes, until the frangipane is nice and golden and firm to the touch.
    It was absolutely delicious, we polished it off in no time and we liked it so much I've already made another!

    Monday 7 July 2014

    Will's Personal War Diaries

    We found three of Will's personal war diaries in Peggy's belongings when she passed away in February this year. They cover the years from 1917-1919, though none of them are fully complete.  It seems that Will only made entries when he was actually on active service abroad, either in France or Italy.

    Before I continue with the story of Will's war, I thought it might be interesting to just focus on the diaries themselves first as they are full of interesting information which would have been really useful to a soldier in the field during WW1.

    From reading the foreword of the 1917 diary, it seems that this was a new thing that had become very popular very quickly.

    In case it it is hard to read the foreword from the photograph I have transcribed this below.

    "During the closing months of last year the idea of issuing a special Diary for the use of Soldiers suggested itself and although The Soldiers' Diary was published very late in the season it proved an unqualified success.  Many improvements have been made in the issue for 1917, and the publishers will always be grateful and will give best consideration to any suggestions, having for their object the improvement of this little Diary.  Such was the success of the 1916 issue that a first edition for 1917 of 40,000 copies has been called for. The popularity of the book is perhaps not to be wondered at when it is remembered that a Diary kept by a soldier on active service will certainly form one of the most valued mementoes of a man's life".

    In 1918 the diary was a lot smaller and the note in the 1919 diary, the following year, shown here may explain why.

    The inside front and back covers of the diary for 1917 contained maps of Europe.  The diary then began with 69 pages of useful information followed by five Memoranda pages before getting into the diary pages themselves.  The diary pages are a week to a view and all views include an illustration and another useful note, along with space for the soldier to record his daily activity.  At the back of the diary are Cash Account pages, space for Emergency Addresses, a Letter Register, a Memo of Things Lent and a few more Memoranda pages.

    Within the 69 pages of useful information some of the more unexpected include how to set up a Field Kitchen, the Penetration Distance of a Rifle Bullet, First Aid for Poisoning and The Position of Main Arteries.

     "The trench kitchen shown in our diagrams is the form of cooking place in most use and the measurements given will be found useful when you are in doubt.

    The trench should be dug 7 feet 6 inches long, 9 inches wide and 18 inches at the mouth, and continued for 18 inches into the trench, then sloping upwards to 4 inches at the back, with a splay mouth pointing towards the wind, and a rough chimney 2 feet high at the opposite end formed with the sods cut off from the top of the trench.

    It will be advantageous if these trenches are cut on a gentle slope.

    Place cooking bars across the trench to support the kettles (and part of the chimney). The kettles are placed side by side with their bottoms resting on the bars.  Pack the spaces between them with clay or wet earth, which should reach as high as the loops of the handles.

    The fuel is fed into the trench from the splay mouth which should face windward".

    This page shows the penetration distance of a rifle bullet in different mediums.

    This begins with steel plate being, 1 7/8 inch at 30 yards and ends with Dry turf and peat at 80 inches.

    I really liked this poem that helps memorise how to deal with different instances of poisoning.

    "Send for the doctor, name the drug suspected
    Keep any cup where poison is suspected;
    In every case, whate'er the poison be,
    You may give water, milk, and eggs and tea,
    Oils may be used, but two exceptions lie
    In phosphorous poisoning and in Spanish fly.

    In every case where staining is not found,
    To give emetics is both safe and sound;
    So mix at once - be quick, but don't be flustered - 
    Two tablespoons of salt or one of mustard;
    If stains are present, then proceed with care,
    And of emetics most of all beware.

    The poison known, to make the patient placid, 
    For alkali corrosives, give an acid;
    An acid swallowed, then reverse the matter,
    And give an alkali to kill the latter.

    The acid antidotes in household use
    Are table vinegar and lemon juice;
    What alkalies to use needs no revealing -
    Take whitewash, chalk or plaster from the ceiling.

    Carbolic acid poisoning: to make the patient easier,
    Give tablespoonfuls two of sulphate and magnesia.

    In opium poisoning he snores like some old Druid,
    Give him a teaspoonful of Condy's Fluid:*
    In strychnine-opium, when there's long stagnation,
    Resort to artificial respiration".

    * In half a tumbler of water.

    This last illustration shows the Position of Main Arteries and Points of Compression.

    There is also all the information within the diary that you would expect to see including Military Definitions, Distinguishing Flags & Lamps, Rifle Definitions, Useful Knots, Lists of Abbreviations for Military Terms, Illustrations of British, French & German Guns and Rifles, illustrations showing how to Find your Direction by both Day and Night, Bugle Calls, the Semaphore and Morse Code alphabets and a basic French to English Dictionary.

    The 1918 diary, which is the smaller one, is not as comprehensive.  The 'improved' version in 1919 also contains a lot less information and is far more basic.

    You will be able to see genuine extracts from all of Will's diaries in my later posts, when I continue the story of Will Sidney's War.