An act of courage and a gift of friendship

L.A.C. Bernard Darley (Service no. 28345), R.A.F, was commended for fighting a fire at Workshop No. 2 M.T.R.D. Royal Air Force, St Omer. He entered a burning building and fought the fire from within to prevent the explosion of two petrol filled tanks and the possibility of an electrical fire spreading to a nearby power station, at great risk to his own life.

He was assisted through the entire operation by a German Prisoner of War named Otto Arndt of the 139th P.O.W. Company. The two became friends. Otto crafted Bernard a matchbox (pictured here) as a gift and a reminder of their joint act of courage. Images of the matchbox and papers detailing Bernard's gallantry were submitted to The Great War Archive by Bernard's great-granddaughter, Merilyn Jones of Sutton Coldfield.


Lady Moira Bannister contributes articles to the Great War Archive Flickr Group

If we had thought that ‘Spin’ is a creation of the late 20th century then an examination of the above pages would prove this assumption incorrect. Together they form a three page report on the Battle of the Somme from the pages of a popular journal The War Budget , October 19th 1916, making interesting reading some 93 years on.

The whole tenant of the article can be summed up as ‘What the Germans had failed to achieve in 100 days at Verdun in comparison to what British had archived by the 8th October at The Somme’. Consequently the article makes exaggerated claims for any success and downplays any failures; for example reporting the capture of 3500 prisoners on the opening day of the Somme but failing to mention the loss of 58,000 British troops, one third of them killed. The Battle of the Somme would last for a further 41 days until the 18th November when exhaustion and the weather forced closure. British and French casualties amounted to over half a million with German casualties to match it.

The article was submitted to the Great War Archive Flickr Group on the behalf of Lady Moira Bannister, wife of Sir Roger Bannister. The Great War Archive Flickr Group has enabled members of the public to continue to share items originating from the First World War after the deadline for submission to the Oxford database passed in June 2008. The Flickr group now holds over 1500 items.


The 'Easter Rising' and the Western Front

The 'Easter Rising' was an armed uprising of Irish nationalists against the rule of Britain in Ireland. It began on Easter Monday, April 24, 1916, and was centred in Dublin with its leaders stating that the chief objectives were the attainment of political freedom and the establishment of an Irish republic. The outcome resulted in about 440 British troops as casualties and an undetermined number of Irish with the destruction of about 200 buildings in Dublin. The German Army used the Easter Uprising as propaganda in an attempt to turn Irishmen in the British Army against their comrades and to incite disaffection among the Irish regiments on the Western Front.

The signpost in this photograph is an example of such propaganda. It reads “Irishmen! Heavy uproar in Ireland. English guns are firing at your wifes [sic] and children.” The photograph was submitted to the Great War Archive by Peter Carolan who writes:

"The photo is that it was given to my granddad by a Major Hand in the 1930's. My granddad was working for the Major (a retried British Army Officer) as a gardener in Mooncoin, co. Kilkenny. The Germans knew that the trench in front of them was occupied by a Irish Regiment, and put the sign up to tell them what was going on back home in Ireland. The Major told my Granddad that they fired a few rounds at the sign and did not believe or understand what the sign was about until weeks later when the news filtered through about the 1916 rising back home in Ireland. The Major took the photo, after the British had captured the German trench a month later."


The story behind a famous photograph

Why now should this tale be told...?[..] Perhaps it is because the reputation of War brings these memories to the front again. Perhaps it is because so little English lad with brown eyes wants to know 'what did you do in the War, Dad'. Perhaps then, that is the reason. Strange it is, but true, a person called upon to do outstanding things, and by physical fitness, endurance, courage, and perhaps a bit of luck, gets to his goal, is always reticent to talk about it. (From the Memoirs of Horace Foakes)

This famous photograph of the 13th Royal Fusiliers hangs in the Imperial War Museum. In this photograph is Horace Foakes, the jubilant soldier wearing braces, just behind the shoulder of the French soldier to the right. The photograph along with the memoirs of Horace Foakes, and a letter from his son describing the circumstances behind this image were submitted to the archive by Janet Mercer from Ashtead, Surrey.