Wartime Memories:

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Wartime Memories:

Postby buffaloskinner » Thu 08 Jun, 2017 7:35 pm

Pte Howard's Grave - Ypres.jpg
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From Wartime Memories

Pte. Richard Spencer Howard [/size]

British Army 10th Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment
From: Harehills, Leeds
(d.7th June 1917)

Richard Spencer Howard was, at the time of the 1911 Census, a musician working in the Music Halls in Leeds. He was also a violin maker. We know this because we own a fiddle that is labelled with his name and the words 'Violin No 6'. This fiddle was, in fact, never completed and was bought by a violin maker in Oxfordshire as a bag of bits and finished only a few years ago. Richard Howard served in 10th Battalion Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment and he died on June 7th 1917, presumably when the Battalion was advancing on Messines Ridge. The Battalion War Diary describes the action in detail. He is buried, together with 6 other men from his Battalion, in Woods Cemetery, but a couple of miles from the place of his death. He left a wife, Martha, and a daughter, Rose. Presumably he left five other violins but I cannot trace them. Violin No 6 is played regularly in public and maybe, one day, it will be played for him in Belgium.


A violin that was lost in mists of time for nearly a century has been played at a service dedicated to its original owner - who died during the First World War.
Pte Richard Howard lost his life on the first day of the Battle of Messines, on June 7 1917, in Belgium.
The British soldier, who was a luthier and music hall performer in Leeds, had hoped to complete his creation on his return from the Western Front.
But following his death, the partially crafted violin was lost for nearly a century.
That was until Oxford luthier, Roger Claridge, bought the incomplete instrument at an auction and completed it in his workshop.
And it was later, in 2009, when it was acquired by award-winning violinist Sam Sweeney who set about trying to track down they mysterious violin's creator.
A label inside the violin dated 1915 - penned alongside the name of 'Richard S Howard' - sparked Mr Sweeney's curiosity, and prompted him and his father to discover the instrument's history.
'We found out where his grave was and found out exactly when he died and which battle,' said Mr Sweeney.
His research also led him to trace Private Howard's descendants, including the war hero's granddaughter.
Mrs Sterry said all she knew of her grandfather was that he had died during the First World War.
'People in those days didn't talk about it for fear of upsetting someone. My mother [Rose] was 11 when he died. I have to say the news when it got to me just blew me away, I was so excited', she added.
Mr Sweeny's detective work also led him to track down further members of Pte Howard's family.
Around 100 people, including Pte Howard's descendants, gathered at his graveside in Ypres, to listen to Mr Sweeney play his violin on the 100th anniversary of the soldier's death.
Mrs Sterry described the moving ceremony as 'fantastic' and that it allowed her to meet members of her family whom she had never seen before.
On Sunday, Mr Sweeney will take to the stage of The Stables, Milton Keynes, to perform Made in the Great War: Sam Sweeney.
A description of the upcoming show reads: 'The show brings the reality of the First World War vividly to life through the eyes of an ordinary man, his family and his comrades using story, music and film as well as playing the actual fiddle that Richard Howard started but never had the chance to finish.'


The Battle of Messines was a prelude to the Battle of Ypres, the goal being to capture land to the southeast of Ypres and gain control of higher land in the Ypres Salient.
The assault on Messines Ridge took place on June 7 1917 and planning for the offensive was a year in the making.
By capturing higher ground of the ridge, the Allies would be able to greatly reduce the German's tactical advantages in the region. General Herbert Plumer had originally planned the attack to last three days, but it was later agreed that the offensive could be completed in just one.
21 to 24 tunnels had been dug under the German lines well ahead of the battle, which allowed the Allies to fill them with 455 tonnes of explosives.
Three corps, each made up of three divisions from General Plumer's Second Army, led the attack:
• The British X Corps commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir T Morlan
• The British IX Corps commanded by Lieutenant-General A Hamilton-Gordon
• The II Anzac Corps commanded by Lieutenant-General A Godley
They fought the German IV Army, which was commanded by Friedrich Von Armin.
Artilery fired ahead of the advancing Corps helped protect troops from machine gun fire by the Germans. The bombardment stopped at 2.50am on June 7 and, at 3.10am, the explosives underneath were detonated - killing about 10,000 German soldiers.
The offensive at Messines forced the German Army to move reserves to Flanders from the Arras and Aisne fronts, which relieved pressure on the French Army.
The largest of the explosives left a 40ft by 250ft crater in diameter.
On the night before the attack, General Plumber told his senior staff: 'We may not make history tomorrow, but we shall certainly change the geography'.
The Allies sustained around 10,000 casualties on the day and more the German's suffered more than double that number.
Pte Richard Spencer Howard.jpg
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Is this the end of the story ...or the beginning of a legend?
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Re: Wartime Memories:

Postby blackprince » Fri 09 Jun, 2017 3:14 pm

Yes that is a very moving story about a Leeds musician and instrument maker.
In case anyone is interested in WW1 history, both the Times and Telegraph publish daily articles from 100 years ago in their WW1 archive, The telegraph column is on the page opposite the obits and the Times is on the letters page. For today June 9th 1917 both columns cover the great "victory" of the battle of Messines Ridge. I suppose it was a victory of sorts because it finally cleared the germans off the ridgeline which had dominated the Ypres salient and which the British had been trying to take for 2 years. It is interesting to read about these events written as "breaking news" by war correspondents at the time. Some days the articles are about events on the home front such as rationing and engineering strikes and of course in 1917 the Russian revolution.
The telegraph also makes the whole newspaper archive available online see:
Todays article about Messines is on Page 5 and a map on page 7.
It used to be said that the statue of the Black Prince had been placed in City Square , near the station, pointing South to tell all the southerners who've just got off the train to b****r off back down south!
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Re: Wartime Memories:

Postby tilly » Fri 09 Jun, 2017 9:05 pm

What an interesting post buffaloskinner i enjoyed reading this.
No matter were i end my days im an Hunslet lad with Hunslet ways.

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