The Wildgoose Chase

I met Chelsea Pensioner Walter Wildgoose in 1977 when he was 87 and I was 26. Through a series of letters written over the last year of his life, he passed along his life story - the workhouse children's home, a life in the British Army witnessing the opening battles of World War I and life in India, a remarkable family surviving the bombs of World War II London. This blog will document my research and progress on the novel I'm writing about this amazing man.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Revisiting the rosary story

Last August I posted about the run up to Mons and the rosary given to Walter by the Mother Superior of a convent near Cuesmes. I'm working on that part of his story right now, so the details are roiling around in my head of late.

When I was in England last year, I found a terrific resource at the National Army Museum. A day-by-day accounting of the Lincolnshire Regiment during World War I documented actions and events of the troops and filled in a lot of gaps in Walter's story for me. And knowing Walter's experience with the Mother Superior, I found Simpson's inclusion about the "rather picturesque incident" with the nuns particularly interesting.

Here are a few of my notes from the Simpson book:

From The History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918, edited by Major-general C.R. Simpson, The Medici Society LTD, 1951, London.

Mons. At 4am on 22nd orders were issued from Brigade HQ to continue the march northwards . . . It is somewhere about 7am when the 1st Lincs set out along the Blaregnies-Frameries road, from Riez de l’Erelle. They had been about an hour on the way when the Obelisk which marks the side of the Battle of Malplaquet came into view . . . 9th Brigade HQ, two companies of Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st Lincs Transport B, 23rd Bridge RFA, and ammunition column, however, moved to Cuesmes in reserve. (p7)

It was at Cuesmes that Captain Ellison of the Lincolnshire fired the first shot by the Regiment in the war, at a German aeroplane which flew over the village. (p8)

The night of 22nd / 23rd August passed quietly enough and in the morning the troops in Cuesmes were permitted to walk about the town. It was Sunday morning and most of the inhabitants were out in the streets fraternizing with the troops or on their way to mass. (p8)

A rather picturesque incident was afforded by a party of nuns from the neighbouring convent, who proffered and did many kindly services for the men and presented many of them with small pieces of ribbon of the Belgian national colours for good luck. (p8)

The Lincolnshire, in accordance with orders, marched off rapidly for a distance of three miles through cobbled streets along the road to Mons. They took up their position astride a long straight avenue which ran northwards to the centre of the town. Here they set to work to build barricades. Four were erected across the avenue at intervals of 100 yds. Paving stones were pulled up, trees sawn down and placed across the road and with the help of piles of logs and iron piping lying by the roadside, effective obstacles were erected. (p9)


I mentioned in the August post that the ebony rosary and its cross got separated years after the war. One of Ron's children has the rosary; Ron can only guess what happened to the cross.
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posted by MaryB @ 10:18 AM  

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