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History of the World: The Berkshire Yeomanry rum jar

 
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Yvonne
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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jan 2010 9:53    Onderwerp: History of the World: The Berkshire Yeomanry rum jar Reageer met quote

History of the World: The Berkshire Yeomanry rum jar

It looks like a very ordinary piece of crockery - the sort of thing you might find when you are digging your garden.
In many ways it is just that - ordinary - one of hundreds of thousands.
It is of no financial value but it represents and important small chapter in the history of Berkshire.
I found this fragment of a British Army rum jar on the slopes of a hill called Karakol Dagh, on the edge of Suvla Bay on the Turkish peninsular we call Gallipoli.
I climbed the hill at dawn with military historian Jon Cooksey as we recorded a documentary about Reading's Victoria Cross winner, Fred Potts.

Potts was serving with the Berkshire Yeomanry in the First World War, part of the 2nd Mounted Division. They landed at Suvla Bay on 18 August 1915 and for two days they camped on the slopes of Karakol Dagh. We have letters written home from the soldiers, describing how they dug shelters, lit fires and despite incoming Turkish shells, made themselves as comfortable as they could. The photographs we have of the Berkshire Yeomanry camped at this place shows how little it has changed.
As we climbed the hill we started to see pieces of crockery lying around. At first we both decided it was just rubbish discarded more recently, such was the remarkably good condition of the fragments. But as we climbed higher more and larger pieces could be seen. This particular fragment has the initials "S.R.D." clearly marked on it, removing any doubt that these broken pieces of crockery were indeed from the "Service Rum Dilute" jars which the British Army carried with them.

A broken rum jar brought home the reality of war to Graham McKechnie.
As a historian you are taught to deal in cold facts, but when you have in your hand a tangible link with the men you have been researching, the story becomes more personal. You start to wonder about the story of this one rum jar. Who were the men who drank from it? Factory workers, farmers, teachers, amateur footballers and scholars - the yeomanry were a disparate group of men. What were they feeling as they sat in this distant and alien land, knowing that they would head into battle in the coming days? There were more than five thousand casualties at the Battle of Scimitar Hill, so what became of the men who shared this rum jar?
There were other, more macabre, things to find on Karakol Dagh and the battlefield. Shell fragments, gun clips, shrapnel - all indicators of the horror which occurred, but somehow it was the simple rum jar which was the most poignant reminder.

That the slopes of this hill are still littered with the remnants of the British Army at camp also shows how few people visit this distant battlefield. The graves of the Berkshire men who fell at Scimitar Hill, though well kept by Commonwealth War Graves, are also largely forgotten and they deserve to be remembered better.

© http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/berkshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8467000/8467731.stm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jan 2010 9:55    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

History of the Berkshire Yeomanry

Gallipoli
Mobilised in August 1914 the Berkshire Yeomanry proceeded to the East Coast, there to guard against German invasion. In April 1915 the Regiment sailed for Egypt and from there a few months later they were shipped, this time without their horses, to the Gallipoli peninsular where, against the Turks, they first saw action.


In a bloody battle on 21 August 1915 Private Fred Potts earned the first yeomanry VC for "most conspicuous bravery in rescuing a comrade under heavy fire".
After three months in the trenches, the Regiment was withdrawn, their strength reduced by many casualties and much sickness from 400 to a mere 50 men.
Returning to Egypt and brought back up to strength, the Regiment campaigned during 1916 in the Western Desert. In 1917 the Berkshire Yeomanry joined the British advance on Jerusalem.
Cavalry charge
After two unsuccessful battles in March and April to evict the Turkish Army from Gaza, the British forces were reorganised under General Allenby, and the 3rd Battle of Gaza was a notable success culminating in the capture of Jerusalem in December 1917. During this campaign the Berkshire Yeomanry were involved in two notable and successful cavalry charges.

In 1915, Berkshire Yeoman Fred Potts earned a VC for his bravery
In April 1918 the Regiment was amalgamated into 101 (Bucks & Berks Yeomanry) Battalion, Machine Gun Corps and was sent to the Western Front where they saw action on the Somme and in the final battles in Belgium.
Reformed as an independent cavalry regiment in 1920, the Berkshire Yeomanry were given a new role as Artillery as part of 99th (Bucks and Berks) Field Brigade RFA. In April 1939, the unit was split into two county regiments and 145 (Berkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment RA (TA) was born.

© http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/berkshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8344000/8344383.stm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jan 2010 9:57    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

What the Potts story means to me

t was the military historian Jon Cooksey who first mentioned the name Fred Potts to me.
We were on a ferry from Ypres where we had been making a documentary about the rugby player Ronald Poulton Palmer, who died in the First World War.
We were asking ourselves what our next project should be.
Jon mentioned there had only been one Victoria Cross winner from Reading - Fred Potts - who won the medal at Gallipoli in 1915.
He had stumbled across the story while giving a talk at Katesgrove Primary School about rationing in the Second World War.
There was a small plaque on the wall commemorating the heroics of one of their old boys.
It was immediately clear to me that the story of Fred Potts deserved to be told once more and that he should be better remembered in his home town.

Fred Potts was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery
It is a remarkable tale by any standards - a man who lived a very ordinary life in every other way did something of breath-taking bravery, saving his townsman, Arthur Andrews, by dragging him on a shovel under heavy Turkish fire.
The story still resonates powerfully today. The men of Potts' regiment, the Berkshire Yeomanry, were part-time soldiers, doing jobs we can still relate to today: postmen, teachers, factory workers, farmers and plumbers.
The voices of these men can still be heard, through the remarkable archive of letters and photographs collected by the Berkshire Yeomanry museum in Windsor.
Thanks to Jon Cooksey and the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum, we had a story and the research could begin in earnest.
We also had the locations for the documentary - we knew where the Berkshire Yeomanry landed at Gallipoli, where the battle was fought and closer to home, Fred Potts' house still stood in Katesgrove in Reading.
The only element missing was the relatives of Potts and Andrews. The former were relatively easy to trace, as Potts' Victoria Cross was on display at the Imperial War Museum, loaned by the family.
Finding the Andrews family proved to be considerably more troublesome and relied on an enormous stroke of good fortune.

Jon Cooksey travelled with Graham McKechnie to Gallipoli
I spoke to Colonel Robertson from the Berkshire Yeomanry who had a vague recollection of meeting a relative of Arthur Andrews in the past and had an idea his name may have been Chris and he possibly lived in the Reading area.
This was not much to go on, but a start.
This is where luck played its part. The first person I speculatively called turned out to be the right one. We had our relatives and they were brought together for the first time at the Imperial War Museum for the documentary.
Travelling to Turkey to visit the Gallipoli battlefields was central to making the documentary.

Although Australians and New Zealanders travel to Gallipoli in their thousands to pay homage to their compatriots who died in the battle, there are few British visitors.
Consequently the battlefields are almost as they were 94 years ago. Hundreds of discarded rum jars litter the hillside where the Berkshire Yeomanry camped; shell fragments are easily found on the slopes of Scimitar Hill, where they made their fateful charge.
Researching, organising, recording and editing the documentary has taken the best part of a year and I owe many people a large debt of gratitude.
There is Jon Cooksey of course, my partner-in-crime, who has put up with my idiosyncratic production techniques; Andrew French from the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum and everyone from the regiment could not have been more helpful; Charlie Baker provided the voice for Fred Potts.
There are others too, whose good nature I have exploited and to whom I am indebted.

© http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/berkshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8344000/8344727.stm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 20 Jan 2010 9:58    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

Audio slideshow: Potts - the hero with the shovel
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/berkshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8345000/8345463.stm

Audio slideshow: Potts - the hero with the shovel - part two
Part two: Hear in his own words below how World War I hero Frederick Potts from Reading saved a fellow townsman at Gallipoli in August 1915.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/berkshire/hi/people_and_places/history/newsid_8345000/8345488.stm
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BerichtGeplaatst: 06 Apr 2011 19:48    Onderwerp: Reageer met quote

The Trooper Potts VC memorial site:

http://www.pottsvctrust.org/YA.html

http://www.readingmuseum.org.uk/news/2010/dec/trooper-potts-vc-display/
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