The Battle of Passchendaele ended 100 years ago today. It is also called the Third Battle of Ypres and the “Muddy-est, Bloody-est of the whole war”. The latter is what Alberta infantryman Arthur Turner called it in his diary.
Passchendaele is a small village in Belgium near Ypres close to the border with France. British troops came to the aid of the French there in July 1917. Australian and New Zealand divisions were brought in early in September, then the Canadian Corps in October.
The Canadians weren’t supposed to be involved. They’d just come off the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge in July. They were assigned to diversionary attacks on the Germans occupying nearby Lens, France. But the British Commander, General Douglas Haig, ordered them in over the protests of the Canadian Commander General Arthur Currie. Too much of a mess, too uncertain of a strategic gain, and the likelihood of too many casualties.
Be that as it may, General Haig was Commander in Chief and so his plan went ahead. And that meant reinforcements. The British and ANZAC troops were exhausted and their numbers drastically depleted. They pulled out and four divisions of the Canadian Corps moved in.
General Currie decided the first thing to do was clean up the place. The Canadians had fought two years earlier at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and Currie and the men could see the bodies still there. Bodies of men, mules and horses had been churned up from their shallow graves by the renewed fighting. So they reburied the dead, built roads and board walks, brought in supplies.
Battle of Mud
The 2nd Battle of Ypres was marked by gas warfare, the 3rd Battle by mud. Complete desolation of the land from the years of battle and heavy rains caused the drainage system to collapse. “The mud is a worse enemy than the German” said NZ divisional commander Sir Andrew Russell.
Two months of horrific fighting and losses by both sides, but the Canadian troops prevailed. The Germans were pushed back and the battle ended November 10th.
Then in December, General Haig pulled out the Allied troops guarding this patch of land won at such expense. The Germans moved in again. After two more battles of Ypres, the Allied Forces won it back by the end of the war a year later.
British soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon was not at Passchendaele. He was in hospital, but could well imagine what it was like. He could imagine too the process of ‘king and country’ that took so many young men to fields of slaughter like it. In October 1918 he wrote Memorial Tablet.
My name’s Liz Dawn. I play Vera Duckworth. I bet all your listeners will recognize this voice!
What’s Vera like?
Well, actually, Jack and Vera, they’re the best – most happily married couple in Coronation Street. Really! Because every time they have an argument, well, it’s a form of endearment! It’s not really like it looks, it’s a caress!
Well, Vera, she’s quite happy. In this day and age, she’s got her job, her husband’s working. I go play bingo with Ivy. Great corner shop, great Rovers Return. I’ve got lots of friends. Really she hasn’t a bad life, don’t you think? Compared to some people. I don’t know what it’s like in Canada, but we’ve got so much unemployment, you know. I’m so happy that Jack’s got this job in the pub. and he don’t really do owt wrong.
He just has these pigeons he loves. I don’t know whether you’ve seen the pigeons. Oh, he loves them. We’ve got them in the yard and every morning he goes out and feeds them. and he listens for them cooing.
Do you know much about pigeons? Well, they’ve got a sound of their own. And they’re filthy! So he’s having to clean the cages out, you know.
She should have an affair
Apart from that, actually, not a lot happens for Vera. I think she should have an affair. With Reg Holdsworth in Bettabuy. Because I worked at this supermarket. He’s a bit manic looking, Reg Holdsworth. But I think Vera could quite feel as if she’s come up in the world, you know, having an affair with a manager. Do you know what I mean – after Jack! She’d think she’d quite done well for herself.
What’s she like really: well, she’s down to earth. She likes a laugh. Some people think she’s nosy but she’s not really. It’s just her way, do you know what I mean?
I don’t think Vera will ever be able to afford to go to Canada. How much is it to go to Canada? [₤300, 400] Oh! I mean, our Jack can’t even get his glasses mended. You know our Jack, he wears Elastoplast around the edge. You see, that is about five pints to Jack, to get them repaired. That’s what he’s like, really, you see. He’d rather spend money for beer than have his glasses repaired.
Vera since 1974
Oh, do you want me to be Liz now? I get mixed up sometimes. I go into an identity crisis. Sometimes I’m Vera and sometimes I’m Liz. Right, well, my name’s Liz Dawn. I’m married, got 4 children. I’ve got 4 grandchildren.
I started off singing in working men’s clubs, you know, to earn a bit of money, extra money. Then I joined Equity to do ‘extra’ work. But when I joined, it was just around the time when we had a lot of Northern directors, and story writers that wanted the real thing. So anyway, I landed on my feet. It just happened the right time. And I had quite a few cameo parts in good plays.
So then I ended up in Coronation Street. And that were 1974 when it was Ken Barlow’s old factory. He managed the factory, and that’s where it all started really. And I’ve been in it ever since.
Next Ena Sharples
I’m hoping to be the next Ena Sharples, you know. I want to be in the snug, with an hairnet, drinking milk stout, with Ivy and a few other old cronies. Wearing big bloomers. Because I just love the programme.
[Did you watch it before you were on the show?] Yeah, I thought it were brilliant: oh, look at this! It’s so different than the programmes that were around at that time. Everybody spoke ‘very nice’, ‘very posh’. Weren’t a bit like real life, not in the North anyway. And that’s how I started.
I think It’s more of an institution now. It’s not a soap really, is it. After thirty-two years, I think it’s part of people’s life. If it came off it’d be like taking the 9 o’clock news off. People have just grown up with it.
The Duckworth Doorknob
We have a tour – Granada Tours – here, and people come round, there’s thousands come round a day, from all over the world. And they keep pinching my stone cladding! I don’t know, it’s a bit of memorabilia or whatever it is.
And one week they took the doorknob. What they thought they were going to do with the Duckworth doorknob I don’t know! They sent us out to do a scene, it was in the old factory. I came out of the factory, walked over the road, and I said to the prop man where’s my doorknob? He said them bloody tours again! I said what do you mean? And he said somebody’s took your doorknob. I said the doorknob! Can you imagine, it’d be stuck on somebody’s mantlepiece. They’re having cups of tea and boiled ham sandwiches and say ‘oh look, did I tell you that’s the Duckworth doorknob?’ Oh dear!
Duckworths visit Canada
I went over with Easter Seals, in Ottawa. Me and Bill. It were hard work. We were only there a week, 6, 5 days, something like that. But we raised a lot of money for charity and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it.
[Why do you think people in Canada and other countries watch?] I think it’s memories isn’t it, well, people that’ve gone over. People who’ve gone over to live there. I think it’s a piece of home, don’t you?
So that’s how it started, yeah. Time flies, doesn’t it. People say to me, did you think you’d be in it so long. Well, it’s just part of my life now. It’s hard work, it’s a fast show, it’s a 3 half hour programme a week. So you haven’t really time to look around. In my head sometimes it’s 1982, you know.
[Do you do any other work, other acting?] No, not acting, because our contract is very binding. You can’t do other things and quite rightly so. Because that’s what makes the characters believable. I mean, they’re a bit unbelievable aren’t they if you see them on other programmes.
And I think Granada has always had the right idea about how things should be. You know, the programme and how it should be run. I think it’s always been looked after, people kept their eye on things. ‘Hang on, you can’t do a pantomime and be in this.’ Well, you can’t anyway, it’s too – you couldn’t do a lot of things in this programme. It’s too time-consuming, you know.
Well, I’ve got to go. Because my husband’s waiting for me. But I’ve enjoyed talking to you and I’d like to wish your listeners all the best. When you go home, just say Liz Dawn, or say Vera says, look after yourselves.
In March 1992 I was lucky enough to meet actor Liz Dawn in her dressing room in the Granada Coronation Street studios. This is a slightly condensed transcript of our conversation. There is a lot of laughter in the actual tape. A lovely woman who made you feel right at home. Thank you, Liz – and Vera. (Meeting Jack Duckworth has more on my interviews with Liz and Bill Tarmey, our Jack.)
Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales died at the age of 36. She was the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and 15 times great-granddaughter of King Henry VII. She was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, also 15x-great-grandchild of Henry VII.
Diana’s line comes from Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII. Charles traces his ancestry from Henry VII’s heir, Henry VIII. Her family therefore is nobility while his is royalty. Her sons, however, are royals and direct heirs to the British throne.
Spencer Family Tree – from Edward IV to Diana
18th century Lady Diana Spencer
A several times great-aunt, and name-sake, of Diana’s almost took the same path from nobility to royalty. (See her highlighted in chart.) That earlier Lady Diana Spencer‘s grandmother tried to arrange her marriage to Frederick, heir apparent of George II. But he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Frederick died before his father and his son became the next king, George III.
While Frederick was Prince of Wales, his grandfather George I created the title of Duke of Edinburgh for him. His son inherited the title but it “merged into the Crown” when he became king in 1760.
Two more times the title was created and died out before King George VI re-created it for Philip Mountbatten in 1947. In order for it to pass to Prince Philip’s youngest son Edward, as planned, instead of to eldest son Charles, as it would through rules of primogeniture, it will likely have to officially end and be re-created once more.
So had history played out differently, another Lady Diana Spencer would have been in line to be Queen. But ‘our’ Lady Diana is the only Spencer who actually married into the top echelon of the Royals. The People’s Princess, PM Tony Blair called her, “queen of people’s hearts,” she hoped to be. A fairy tale princess she certainly was.
Sixty-five years ago today, Great Britain’s King George VI died at the age of 56. The King is dead, long live the Queen.
George VI’s daughter became Queen Elizabeth II. My mother clipped and saved newspaper articles about those events. These are just a few from her scrapbooks. Click on the images for a larger view.
From George VI to Elizabeth II
In Canada, as in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth, changes had to be made.
And there were tributes to the late King. The photo below is of one in Tillsonburg ON. My grandparents, Charley and Minnie Burwell, are there – at the bottom left.
Three Queens and a King
When George VI died, Elizabeth became the only reigning monarch. But she was one of three women in England called Queen. The others were Queen Elizabeth, widow of King George VI, and Queen Mary, his mother and widow of George V.
Present also was a king of Great Britain, one who abdicated. The Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, attended the funeral of his brother and successor. (See The King and Us Feb 16, 2011)
What didn’t happen
George VI had made plans for a “health cruise” to South Africa. His daughter Elizabeth was to represent him on a planned tour to Australia and New Zealand. While they were gone, his younger brother Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester would take care of royal matters at home. But none of it happened, due to the King’s death.Another might-have-been in the Duke’s family was a Royal wedding. His niece, Princess Margaret, and his wife’s nephew were an item for a time. But it didn’t happen.
Happy anniversary, Elizabeth and Philip. November 20th marks 69 years since their wedding. Four children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren. Three heirs apparent to the British throne – son, grandson, great-grandson.
On November 20, 1947 a Princess married her prince. Her prince was a Royal Navy Lieutenant and somewhere in line for the shaky throne of Greece. She was heir to the British throne.
So that Philip would have British royal credentials, the bride’s father conferred HRH status on him, then titles. On his wedding day, Philip became HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. In 1957 his wife, then Queen, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom.
Their wedding was the first big royal event after World War II. Six years of war had exhausted the British people and British resources. A news clipping (CP Nov. 19, 1947) my mother kept says British china manufacturers “can’t spare the time or the materials” to make wedding collectibles. The Royals and government knew, however, that after years of privation the nation wanted to enjoy something beautiful. So lavish, but not too lavish.
Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding scrapbook
Every step of the wedding planning was reported. Everyone, I imagine, followed along as if they were in the wedding party. My mother did. She made a scrapbook called “Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding”. I took the clippings here from it.
At the time, she lived in a farmhouse north of Belmont in southwestern Ontario. Dad drove a milk truck and installed glass. Mom looked after two small children. The people who owned the farm and their animals provided her only regular company. Dad worked long hours. Mom was home alone a lot.
So in 1947 Mom spent a lot of time, I think, reading about the upcoming wedding. Dad would have been interested too. He had a soft spot for Princess Elizabeth. She had signed up for service during the war, she knew how to strip down an engine and rebuild it – that meant a lot to him. A mechanic in the RCEME, he worked on those same engines in the UK at the same time.
Elizabeth and Philip had five years of what passes as ordinary life for royals. He continued in the Navy. They had two babies. Then five years later, her father died. Everything changed for her and Philip.
She became Queen Elizabeth II. He became first and foremost the Queen’s husband. Two more children. Nearly seven decades after that wedding, Elizabeth and Philip are still cutting ribbons and unveiling plaques. They are the foundation of a Royal Family that, despite predictions of its demise and its own drama and trauma, seems to be going strong. Long may they live.
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith and Devoted in Death by J. D. Robb are pen name mysteries by famous authors I’ve never read. Robert Galbraith is J. K. Rawling of Harry Potter fame and J. D. Robb is the romance writer Nora Roberts. Both books, I think, are excellent.
The Cuckoo’s Calling introduces Cormoran Strike, private investigator. He has had a recent run of bad luck in business and love. Then he gets a new case. It promises to pay well, but seems to him to be more a matter of reassuring his client than of investigating a murder. It looks like an open and shut case of a London celebrity suicide. But is it? Or is a murderer hiding in plain sight? With his office temp, Robin, he gets drawn into a sad, tangled story of fame and envy, money and family.
Despite the sadness of Cuckoo’s central story, you still feel cozy in Cormoran’s office looking out on a wet and wintry London. Despite the nastiness of some of the characters, you feel sympathy toward them.
In Devoted in Death, you never feel cozy nor inclined toward understanding the reasons for murder. You see right off the bat who dun it, and why. You then follow the action and the thinking by police lieutenant Eve Dallas and her detectives as they figure it out. The plot is grisly and twisted enough to make a good episode of Criminal Minds.
It takes place in New York City in 2061. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but this setting is ok. There are some technologies that we, to my knowledge, do not have at the present time. And that is kind of neat to think about. But it doesn’t get in the way of the story.
Some aspects of American society maybe are eternal, one being the disconnect between NYC and the ‘flyover zone’. An Arkansas deputy in the city for the first time expresses his awe: “That kicks the cow in the ass.” That line alone made the book worth reading.
The edition that I have is labelled ‘romantic suspense’. I don’t know why. There is suspense but no more ‘romance’ than in any other genre mystery. The book includes the protagonists’ lives outside the investigation, but not overwhelmingly so. The book is suspenseful, yes, but romantic, no.
In their different ways, English versus American most obviously, both books engaged me right from the start. I may now seek out books written under the authors’ real names to see how they differ. For sure I want to read more of their pen name mysteries.
Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday today. My mother, two years older, grew up with the Queen. From her teen years to adulthood, Mom kept scrapbooks about the Queen’s life. Clippings carefully pasted in, over-filling the large pages. There was a lot of news about the Royals. Thanks to Mom, I have a pretty good record of their lives.
Mom’s scrapbooks weren’t purpose-built for a Royalty collection. But there were those, I discovered in a second-hand shop in Sussex. Scrapbooks exactly like Mom’s but with a full-page image of the Queen on the cover. Mom wasn’t the only person with the mission of keeping a record of the Queen’s life.
Probably mainly young women, entranced by the fairy tale aspects of Elizabeth and Margaret, the two beautiful young princesses. Princesses who as children had thought they’d always be in the choir of the royal family, not among the soloists.
That changed in 1936, when their Uncle David abdicated. Their father, the next eldest son, went from Duke of York to King George VI. Princess Elizabeth, being his first born, would wear the crown after him – in time, many years down the road.
In the meantime, she could have a life a bit outside the limelight. She married at the age of 21, two years after World War II ended, and had children. Her naval officer husband was stationed in Malta, so they lived there for a time.
Her life had parallels with the lives of women like my mother. A WWII veteran husband, two baby boom children, making a new home while keeping close with parents and family. In the magazines, you saw a beautiful young woman, impish children, handsome husband, a dog or two. A privileged version of the post-war, post-Depression life shared, or aspired to, by many.
It all changed, too soon, for her. George VI died in 1952 at the age of 56. Three bereaved Queens shrouded in black – mother, wife and daughter. The daughter now the reigning monarch.
For 64 years now, she has been Queen. We still see photographs of her and her family in magazines and social media. We know quite a lot of detail about the lives of her children and grandchildren, but we actually know very little about Queen Elizabeth. Her life has been such a part of our history and our geography that she is familiar to us. We feel like we know her, much the same, I think, as my mother felt about her when they were both young girls.
Among the bodies found after Titanic sank was that of a woman, clinging to the body of a Great Dane. Ann Elizabeth Isham had a seat in a lifeboat but was told her dog was too big to come with her. So she jumped back on board the ship. They drowned together.
This is one of the stories told in a current exhibit about the people and dogs of Titanic at the Widener University Art Gallery in Chester PA. There were at least twelve dogs on board. Three survived. Small dogs, they were carried in bags or wrapped in blankets and, held on laps, they didn’t take extra space. Astonishingly, a Pomeranian was refused entry on the rescue ship Carpathia. That, after he and his mistress had survived the night on a lifeboat. Mrs. Martin Rothschild raised such a fuss that her little dog was allowed to board.
Dogs were 1st class passengers while cats were crew, on mousing detail. There is a story that one cat saved a man as well as herself and her kittens. She was on board from Belfast to Southampton where she disembarked, carrying her kittens off one by one. A man, debating whether to seek continued work on the ship’s journey, saw the cat leave and decided he too should stay ashore.
The tale of the Titanic is filled with happenstance, loyalty and sacrifice. Ida Straus was in a lifeboat when she realized her octogenarian husband wasn’t allowed on. “Where he goes, I go” she said and stepped back on the ship. They died together.
Quebec Shamrock hockey player Quigg Baxter was on board with his mother and sister and, without their knowledge, so was his girlfriend Berthe Mayné, a Belgian cabaret singer. He introduced Berthe to his mother and sister as he put her in the lifeboat with them. He drowned. Berthe later returned to Belgium and told stories of her doomed Canadian beau but nobody in her family believed her. After her death, they found a small box filled with photos of Quigg and his love letters to her.
A Canadian businessman, Capt. Arthur Peuchen, survived but later wished he hadn’t. A yachtsman, he got on a lifeboat with women and children to safely row it away. Back in Toronto, he was scorned for having survived. He retreated to a logging camp and horse farm in Alberta, haunted by survivor guilt. He died in 1929, a double survivor I think; of Titanic, then of societal opprobrium.
Titanic 100 years later
The Titanic specials for the 100th anniversary taught me a lot about the ship and our folklore about her. The hubris believed to be shown by the claim that she was unsinkable: the Captain and ship designers never said that, only the media did. The image of frivolity we see in the band playing as the ship listed and sunk: those musicians willingly gave their lives, knowing the value of music to keep others calm and provide solace for those facing death. Engineers accepted death to stay below trying to save the ship, then just to delay the sinking to save as many other lives as possible. The Captain hadn’t run her at full speed. He knew the danger of icebergs. On his final voyage before retirement, he went down with his ship.
Unfortunate timing of events coupled with miscommunication led to the disaster. The errors were not having enough lifeboats and not enough practice at loading those they had. But, faced with disaster, people did the best they could. I hope Titanic is protected effectively now and left as the burial ground she is. Let her remain a testament to the power of the sea and the sacrifice of so many.
From my St. Thomas Dog Blog Apr. 19, 2012 (2 comments below)
My hanging out in Manchester buddy died yesterday. Tony Warren, creator of Coronation Street and my accidental tour guide, died at the age of 79.
One day, a long time ago, Tony Warren and I walked from Granada Studios to the city centre of Manchester. He took me around his city. It wasn’t planned. We went to a nearby shop for cigarettes and just kept going.
I was interviewing him for a radio documentary on Coronation Street. We sat on a bench in the lobby of Granada House. I had my tape recorder running and he told me about the beginning of the show. It was a tale he’d told before, but he made it fresh-sounding and interesting. Great for radio.
As I listened, in my head I was intercutting what he was saying with an earlier interview I’d done with original Coronation Street producer Harry Elton. I knew the two voices, both good at storytelling and telling the same story, would play beautifully off each other. Tony liked that idea, putting together the two founding fathers of a British institution. Both had often told the story of the show’s start in 1960 and both referenced the other, of course. But with one in England and the other in Canada, the two halves were not often in the same telling.
We sat in the lobby way longer than the half hour he had allotted me. Granada closed for the day, with only a security guard there to let us out. We had smoked almost all the cigarettes we had between us, so he said let’s go, there’s a shop just up the road.
Out to the main road and back toward the city. We stopped at a corner store and stocked up on smokes, then kept walking. A pub stop, more walking, then dinner at a Chinese restaurant where signed photos of Coronation Street stars decorated the walls and staff greeted Tony like a long-time family friend.
Talk about the early days of the show, and about the years he spent trying to get away from it. In Amsterdam, turning on the tv and Coronation Street being on. Turning the tv off. On a London bus, overhearing the passengers in front of him talking about what had happened in last night’s episode. Trying to read analyses of Coronation Street that gave it social significance he had not imagined possible. “You’re not doing one of those, are you?” He wouldn’t tell me which books, but I’d hazard a guess at some he was talking about.
He’d moved into novel writing, about Manchester and entertainment. The same topics he’d loved since he was a young man, starting a writing career. He’d also come to terms to being defined by Coronation Street, and he was justifiably proud of the city he’d created within his city. Thank you, Tony Warren.
There is a Burwell family in southwestern Ontario and one in Virginia. No one is sure if they’re related. I wonder if the link might be through Burwells in Connecticut.
The Ontario Burwells are United Empire Loyalists. Fighting for the losing side in the American Revolution, they fled New Jersey north to still-British Canada. The Virginia Burwells fought on the American side. In the War of 1812, the two again fought on opposite sides. In the American Civil War, the Virginia Burwells, plantation owners, fought on the Confederate side.
An obituary of James Burwell of Fingal says he was grandson to John Burwell “who removed from James Town, Virginia, in the year 1721, a relative of the extensive family of Burwells in that county.” A relative. Speculation has been that John Burwell was the son of Lewis Burwell Jr. and Martha Lear.
I suggest that John and Lewis Jr. were 3rd cousins twice removed, related through two cousins in England. One cousin, John’s great-great-grandfather, came to Connecticut. The other died in England but his widow and son Lewis (Sr.) moved to Virginia. Molly’s Burwell Family webpage has Samuel Burwell of Connecticut as John’s father. From this, I found what seems like a feasible line back to England and thus to the Virginia line.
The story of the Virginia Burwells is like Gone with the Wind with spin-offs. There are two Burwells I will write more about. They are on the bottom right side of my chart.
Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell Puller is descended from Lewis Burwell V. Nicknamed Chesty, he was the most-decorated Marine in US history. Wikipedia says he is a distant cousin of Gen. George S. Patton. I haven’t looked into that, but it sounds like they were spiritual kin if not actual. A quote attributed to Lt. Gen. Chesty is: “We’ve been looking for the enemy for some time now. We’ve finally found him. We’re surrounded. That simplifies the problem.” The Marine Corps Bulldog mascot is named after him.
George “William” Kirkland is a descendant of Armistead Burwell, Lewis’ brother. First known as “Garland’s George,” he enlisted as “William Kirkland” in the Union Army during the Civil War. He died in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in Missouri. He was born into slavery, son of Elizabeth Keckley. She was owned and fathered by Armistead Burwell. She was later given to Anne, Armistead’s legitimate daughter, who married Hugh Garland of North Carolina. Andrew Kirkland, friend of the Garlands, fathered Elizabeth’s son George. Elizabeth bought emancipation for herself and her son. She then set up a dressmaking business in Washington DC and became friends with Mary Todd Lincoln. She wrote a memoir entitled Behind the Scenes, or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in The White House.
Comments, corrections and additional information are welcome.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.