BURIAL AT WYTSCHAETE

This article is about the burial today of the remains of 13 British and Commonwealth soldiers from the First World War whose remains were found in Flanders’ fields at Wytschaete near Ieper. We will remember them.

The article is published in The Guardian newspaper.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/10/first-world-wars-pompeii-burial-for-british-soldiers-found-in-flemish-field

ERIC POOLE: SHOT AT POPERINGE JAIL

Family photo of Eric Poole (centre)

Eric Poole, aged 31. Second Lieutenant in the 11th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Admitted to hospital with shell shock in July 1916 (around the time of the Battle of the Somme). Despite his panic attacks he is sent back to the Front.

On 5th October 1916 Poole’s platoon arrives at the Front Line near Flers in France. However the 2nd Lt has disappeared. Poole is arrested days later and sentenced to death for desertion. He is the first officer in the British Army to be actually executed.

Cell in Poperinge jail with graffiti by soldiers

Cell in Poperinge jail with graffiti by soldiers

The execution took place on December 10th 1916 at 7.25am at Poperinge jail. Shot at Dawn.

Looking out into the courtyard from the prison cell

SHOT AT DAWN

Memorial at Poperinge for soldiers sentenced to death

It was a poignant moment on the fifth and final day of our tour of Flanders when we went to Poperinge a few miles from Ieper. In a courtyard there is a metal post that now serves as a memorial to soldiers killed there for breaking military law.

Several years ago a former President of the National Union of Journalists George McIntyre led a campaign to clear the names of WWI British soldiers court martialled e.g. for desertion and shot at dawn by a firing squad.

Information board

TOC-H SERVICE

During our visit to the chapel or Upper Room in TOC-H Poperinge, we paused for a brief prayer service. It was led by one of our visiting group, Church of Ireland Canon Andrea Wills from Foxford, Co. Mayo.This was very appropriate as the chapel was created by the founder of Talbot House, Reverend Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton, a Church of England minister from England.Canon Wills led us in prayers including the Lord’s Prayer, to remember all those soldiers who gave their lives in World War One, some of them Irishmen serving in the British Army.

TOC-H UPPER ROOM

Chapel at Talbot House, Poperinge

Climbing almost heavenwards up a flight of steep and narrow wooden stairs you reach the upper room at Talbot House. This was used as a chapel by the founder and chaplain Reverend Philip ‘Tubby’ Clayton.

Altar in the chapel at TOC-H Poperinge

This is where Anglican services would be held for the troops during World War One.

Talbot House Upper Room

There was a prayerful and reverent atmosphere amidst all the reminders that this is where soldiers would have gone for some spiritual comfort during the long days of conflict in the battles in Flanders.

Memorial Cross in Talbot House

Crucifix in the Upper Room at Talbot House

Wooden frieze of The Last Supper

Memorial Cross in Chapel at Talbot House

View of Upper room from the altar

Pray for the souls of the gallant dead

TOC-H POPERINGE

Talbot House, Poperinge

TOC-H (TH) is an international Christian movement. The name is an abbreviation for Talbot House, ‘Toc’ signifying the letter T in the Signals spelling alphabet used by the British Army in World War I.

Front door of Talbot House, Poperinge

A soldiers’ rest and recreation centre named Talbot House was founded in December 1915 at Poperinge in Belgium. It aimed to promote Christianity and was named in memory of Gilbert Talbot, son of Edward Talbot, then Bishop of Winchester, who had been killed at Hooge in July 1915.

Room in Talbot House

The founders were Gilbert’s elder brother, Neville Talbot, then a senior army chaplain, and the Reverend Philip Thomas Byard (Tubby) Clayton.

Talbot House

Talbot House was styled as an “Every Man’s Club”, where all soldiers were welcome, regardless of rank. It was “an alternative for the ‘debauched’ recreational life of the town”.

Entrance to Chaplain’s Room

In 1920, Clayton founded a Christian youth centre in London, also called Toc H, which developed into an interdenominational association for Christian social service.

The original building at Poperinghe has been maintained and redeveloped as a museum and tourist venue.

Map of WWI Battlefield around Ypres in Flanders

Branches of Toc H were established in many countries around the world. An Australian branch was formed in Victoria in 1925 by the heretical Reverend Herbert Hayes. Another was formed in Adelaide the same year.

Caption for WWI Map

Toc H members seek to ease the burdens of others through acts of service. They also promote reconciliation and work to bring disparate sections of society together. Branches may organise localised activities such as hospital visits, entertainment for the residents of care homes and organising residential holidays for special groups.

Our group arrives at Talbot House, Poperinge