Thursday, 30 October 2014

Time to Reflect and Remember.

I never knew my paternal Grandfather but often wondered how things might have been different had his life not been cut short in 1928, at the age of 39, when my Father was only four years old. To my knowledge my late Grandmother never spoke about her husband to whom she was married for just under 5 years. I can only guess how devastating this loss must have been for her.

Throughout my genealogy research into my ancestors his short life has always been a bit of a mystery as practically no family records about him were passed down. 

James Francis Boxell (always known as Frank) was born in Haslemere, Surrey on 2 July 1888. In 1911 he was working as a Grocers' Assistant and in 1923 was a Traveling Salesman.

When my Father recently mentioned that he had been cleaning my Grandfathers' WW1 medals I took the opportunity to refresh my efforts into unraveling his wartime involvement.

My research established that in August 1914, as part of the general mobilisation, he signed on as a Private in 'C' Squadron of the 1/1st Sussex Yeomanry at the Chichester Barracks in Sussex under the command of Major Hon. W. H. Pearson (2nd Viscount of Cowdray) who was much later to become my Grandfathers employer. 

This was a Cavalry Squadron who were billeted in the Canterbury area for just over a year. In August 1915 the Squadron was asked to volunteer for service dismounted 'in the Mediterranean' and it duly agreed. Newspaper articles suggest that this was not a fully democratic arrangement!

After searching through hundreds of pages of the Regimental War Diaries I finally managed to piece together his probable movements from 1915 to 1918.

In late September 1915 the 1/1st Sussex Yeomanry Regiment (part of the South Eastern Mounted Brigade) left Liverpool and landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli in early October. His Regiment spent time in the front line at Border Barricade and Fusilier Bluff fighting the far better equipped Turks in a difficult and very alien environment. My Father said he was was one of the last to be evacuated from Gallipoli in late December 1915. Although the casualties during this short campaign were fairly low the Regiments' overall strength was reduced by 50% largely due to disease caused by dysentery.

In February 1916 the Regiment was shipped to Alexandria in Egypt where the South Eastern Mounted Brigade was amalgamated into the 3rd Dismounted Brigade and their continued hopes of fighting as mounted cavalry were again dashed! Between March 1916 and February 1917 they operated in the desert as part of the Suez Canal Defences. In January 1917 as part of a further military reorganisation the 1/1st Sussex Yeomanry was finally converted to infantry and redesignated the 16th (Sussex Yeomanry) Royal Sussex Regiment. His WW1 Medal Record shows that he subsequently became a Corporal but the actual date is still unknown. 

After Suez the Regiment as part of the 230th Infantry Brigade (74th Division) were shipped via Alexandria to Der el Belah and took part in the Second Battle of Gaza including the capture of Beersheba (Oct 1917) and the Sheria Position (Nov 1917) and then marched into Palestine to complete the recapture of Jerusalem. The Battalion war diaries state that on Christmas Day 1917, with torrential rain all day, dinner was bully beef, biscuits and lots of cold water!

At the end of April 1918 his Regiment was shipped from Alexandria to Marseilles, France and it took them three days to travel north to Noyelles. Here they re-equipped and retrained for a totally different type of warfare on The Somme battlefields. Again the war diaries paint a very vivid picture of the terrible conditions and the continued gas attacks that they had to endure. With their cavalry background these Yeoman now  fighting 'dismounted' gained immense respect from other regular infantry units for their distinct brand of courage and discipline. By September 1918 the 74th (Yeomanry) Division had less than 1200 rifles in the line and were being relieved by an American Division of 20,000 who apologised for being below strength! During  October and November the Regiment entered Belgium where they were demobilised in early 1918.

At some stage during this final campaign my Grandfather was wounded, but survived and was honorably discharged in October 1920.

In August 1923 he married my Grandmother and through his previous military connection with the Sussex Yeomanry he became the Curator of the Cowdray Park Ruins at Midhurst, Sussex. His employer, The 2nd Viscount Cowdray, had the Round House (top image) converted from a water tower into living accommodation for him and his wife. This is where my Father was born.

We believe he underwent numerous operations linked to his war wounds and he died in a London hospital on 7 May 1928.   

Earlier this week Anita and I took a trip to the Tower of London to view some of the 888,246 ceramic poppies, created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, representing British fatalities during World War 1.

My Grandfather, like so many other servicemen and women, who died of their wounds after the end of  the First World War are not represented by this major art installation entitled "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red" but they all paid the ultimate sacrifice.

James Francis Boxell (1888-1928) ... Remembered and never forgotten.  FAB.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Strutting his stuff.

Following on from my previous post, Cooling Off, this Red Deer stag, after rooting around in the waterside vegetation, suddenly decided to show off by strutting through the water towards the far end of Heron Pond..

He finally re-emerged from the water just 30 feet from where I was standing, partially camouflaged behind a large tree trunk, and proceeded to amble slowly but purposefully in my direction. I'll admit that my heart rate skipped a few beats as he got closer and ....

... maybe just a bit too close for comfort as I could feel the air vibrate as he spoke!  

Needless to say he had other matters on his mind and totally ignored me and all the other nearby watchers as he wandered away. FAB.

Friday, 24 October 2014

Fallow Bucks.

Unlike other deer species the coat colours of the Fallow Deer (Dama dama) can vary from very dark brown, sometimes almost black, through to pale chestnut and even white. I managed to take a peek at this mixed gathering in Bushy Park earlier this week.

The pale coloured but healthy looking dominant buck was very attentive amongst a large mixed herd. Unlike the Red Deer during the rut there were quite a few younger males resting or wandering around the periphery of this gathering but I didn't witness any serious clashes. The big buck just made his intentions clear and the others kept their distance. 

Have a wonderful wildlife watching weekend, wherever you are.  FAB.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014


When seen from a distance you would be forgiven for thinking this is just a greyish-brown dabbling duck but only by getting up close to a Gadwall (Anas strepera) can you begin to appreciate its understated elegance.

Whilst the male lacks the gaudy plumage of many other drakes it is the finely vermiculated grey body; the peppery markings on the crown and breast; brown plumes over its back plus its distinctive black rear end that sets it apart from other duck species.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

Cooling Off.

Earlier this month in Bushy Park on a warm, sunny day a few Red Deer were taking advantage of the cool water and this mature stag seemed very chilled out.

Further along the pond two hinds were doing exactly the same.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Wildlife around Heron Pond.

A very mixed week weather wise so here is a small selection of the wildlife seen during my visits to Heron Pond in Bushy Park.

As usual one of the very approachable Grey Heron was waiting near the car park.

Black-headed Gulls, in various stages of their winter plumage, waiting for a handout.

Ducks on the water included the bright eyed Tufted, Gadwall with its finely vermiculated grey body and a single (Northern) Shoveler all slowly changing into their full breeding plumage.

A surprising find this week was a juvenile Herring Gull in its mottled plumage resting on the remains of a floating nest.

 The pond also supports a small but healthy population of Red-crested Pochard.

Large numbers of Jackdaw frequent the park. They are fairly friendly and always willing to pose.

The local residents also include these two introduced species, Canada and Egyptian Geese. 

At this time of year one is never far away from a Red Stag wandering through the bracken on the lookout for hinds or protecting his existing harem often resting and hidden deep in the vegetation.

During the rut the general advice is to keep at least 50 metres from any of the deer, especially the stags but sometimes they just appear and let everyone know their intentions!

And then he sauntered away to be camouflaged once again by the autumnal hues of the ferny landscape.

All these three images are cropped so I wasn't that close and always respect the boundaries when photographing any wildlife. FAB.

Linking to Camera Critters, Saturday's Critters and I'D-Rather-B-Birdin'.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Mother and offspring.

A Red hind provides her fawn with some mid morning nourishment.

The fawn is learning quickly and took up a nice pose for me.  FAB.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Tufted Ducks.

Another day of overcast skies and rain so here are a few very recent images of the Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) that frequent many of the local ponds.

This individual is showing a little of the white wing-bar which is usually only prominent when in flight.

The males are now changing from their eclipse plumage, when the flanks are dull brown, into their winter garb when the flanks become totally white and the distinctive tuft will get much longer.  FAB.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Taking a rest.

A few more images of one of the more mature Red Stags in Bushy Park.

Time to rest a weary head.

Wishing everyone a wonderful wildlife watching weekend, wherever you are. FAB.

Linking to Saturday's Critters.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Bellowing Stags.

This is the Red Stag that featured in my first post in this series from a recent session in Bushy Park. He was protecting a harem of around 20 hinds who were generally very docile but one individual (see below) obviously didn't appreciate the ferocity of his tone!

The next stag was frequenting the area around the pond without any hinds in tow and occasionally reacted to the other calls he heard.

He then decided to take his aggression out on a nearby tree; antlers rattling the branches and bringing a few pieces to the ground; as he tested his armoury in preparation for any forthcoming encounter.

Followed by another series of tongue curling, deep throated bellowing.

Are you impressed ..... I was.  FAB.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Red Hinds.

A few more images from my recent session with the Red Deer in Bushy Park.

Most of the time the hinds were very chilled out.

Did I get a little bit too close?

More images from this session to follow.  FAB.


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