An Excellent Discovery- 2 KSLI Troop Movements!

I’ve discovered a blog that posts the troop movements of the KSLI every day on the 100th anniversary, so now I have no excuse not to have at least one post per day.

Some things I’ve discovered:

*I would have been posted to the battalion around 13 February, 1915 after only about a week in France.

*The names of the men who arrived in France around the same time I did (most or all of whom were posted to the Second Battalion).

*I would have been billeted in Flanders from relatively early on, at various locations.

*I spent a good bit of time around St. Eloi, more than I had realized.

Today’s post had the following information:

100 years ago today-7th March 1915

The 2nd Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry – trenches 13 to 18 covering St. Eloi.

Two men killed and three offices and 9 other ranks wounded before being relieved by 4th R.B. On relief the Battalion marched to billets at Dickebusch.

——————

8983 Pte. Joseph, Pritchard,

Born Crewe, Ches
Resided Manchester, Lancs.

Enlisted Chester about late May to early June 1908

Landed in France on 21/12/14 with 2/K.S.L.I.

K. in A. 07/03/15

Buried in Voormezeel Enclosure No. 3 (I.A.3).

Info. from 1914-15 Star Medal Roll, Soldiers Died & C.W.G.C.

~~~

13806 Pte. William, Bamber, the Son of Abraham Bamber; husband of Agnes Bamber, of 15, st Clement St., Furthergate, Blackburn.

Born Great Harwood, Blackburn, Lancs.

Enlisted Blackburn, Lancs. between 10th & 28th September 1914

Landed in France on 18/02/15 and posted to 2/K.S.L.I.

K. in A. 07/03/15 aged 36.

His name is on the Menin Gate Memorial.

Info. from Victory/British Medal Roll, Soldiers Died & C.W.G.C.

May have been related to 13816 Pte. Edward Bamber.

——–

Wounded :-

Captain W.J. Brooke, of Haughton Cottage, Shifnal, Shrops.?

Lt. Geoffrey, Holman, of Wynerstay, Putney Hill, Surrey.

2nd Lt. Anthony Cyprian Prosper, Biddle-Cope, of London

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A Couple of Things

This photo, of a hop warehouse in Poperinghe, gave me shivers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poperinge#mediaviewer/File:Hopmuseum_Poperinge_1.jpg

Not so with photos of Toc H (also in Pop).  I felt I might have given the place a passing look but it didn’t really resonate the same way.

Also, I found a regimental diary for the 2nd KSLI online, finally, and… I’m going to have to wait until I can burn roughly $5 on something I don’t need for classes.  Damn.  Still, I think this one only contains troop movements and the like.  The log I’m really looking for- the one likely to tell what actually happened to John the night he died (and I’m almost certain it was at night)- may not exist any more, or maybe it will surface as Europe continues to mark the Centenary of WWI until 2018.

This really is a remarkable time to find myself alive.  It’s an age where I can finally start putting the pieces together in such a way that now, pretty much everything from 1877 to the present fits a tight narrative that flows neatly with no gaps of more than 15 years between documentable lives.  I can look back in time now and watch myself evolve in a multimedia slide show of the highs and lows of the Twentieth Century and see how I rode them, all the way.

An Observation

Hotels in Ypres are actually really cheap.  I’m seeing prices in the $100-200 range for some really plush looking hotels in the heart of the downtown district.  For Europe, that’s pretty good.  I would venture a guess that a cultural and business hub like Brussels would probably have similar hotel rooms in the $300-400 range and a similar hotel in London would cost you $400-1000 a night depending on what neighborhood it’s in.

That being said, with centenaries looming hotels may be in short supply, though I’ll probably miss the anniversary of the Second Battle of Ypres by a month or two since I need to consider my schedule.  But this year’s centenary doesn’t seem to be affecting things too badly so that’s very promising (part of the reason Dad and I decided not to do it this year is because we expected the centenary of the first battle to cause crowds to swell year-round).  It seems that even if it does get difficult to reserve a room and prices go up during this summer, there will be a clearly-defined “off season” that will give me more options.  I’d rather not travel there during the fall or winter since Flanders is a pretty bleak place in Winter, but if that’s more doable that way, I’m open to it.

Plans

I’ve begun discussing plans for next year’s trip to Ypres in earnest.

Currently, the plan is to visit not just Flanders, but to re-trace both John Harris and William Longespee’s steps.  This will not be particularly difficult to do because the two lived and were active in the same regions of the world for the most part.

Still trying to finalize exactly how many places I’m going to see.  Ypres, Houplines, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, and Hereford are at the top of my list, obviously.  My trip to Ypres will definitely include stops at Bellewaerde/Railway Wood, Hill 60, and Tyne Cot though I may also go to Langemarck as well… I did put a few men in there after all and I feel I owe them more respect than I gave them.

Then of course, I feel I have to go see John’s grave though I have to say the thought of being there brings a lump to my throat.  I still don’t know what I’ll do or say or if I’ll even say anything.  I may just ask for a moment alone under that willow tree and meditate for a bit since that seems the only really honest thing to do.  

Since it’s so close, a trip to Bouvines is also likely.  Those wounds have healed long ago, but the extreme coincidence of being captured and then killed in battle about 700 years and a few kilometers apart has not escaped me.

I would like to go to Ile de Re simply because my memories of Longespee’s twilight days at the abbey there, though sparse, aren’t unpleasant.  I’m also very eager to go to Fontrevaud Abbey to pay my respects to Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and above all Richard I (wish I knew what became of him in his later lives).  

Ideally, I would like to leave France via ferry from Le Havre since that’s where John disembarked for Flanders.  I guess this is more a matter of ritual than anything and it brings the whole thing full circle.  If time doesn’t allow for that, I may have to make a concession to 21st century realities and catch the Eurostar from Brussels or Paris, but that will give me more time in England.

As for spots in England, I’m not sure if I want to go back to Dover Castle since English Heritage have gone a bit Disneyland on the place but if I do go, I’m probably going to stop in Canterbury since there’s a good chance I had been there as William; after all, as the son of Henry II, it would have been politically adroit to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas A Beckett.  A lot of this will depend on if I go ferry or Eurostar back to England.

Shrewsbury Castle is an absolute must, since it’s one of several spots relevant to more than one past life.  As Longespee, I was Sheriff of Shropshire and the castellan of Shrewsbury Castle, and it just so happens that the Shropshire Regimental Museum (which houses the archives of John’s regiment, the KSLI) is also there. 

If time allows, I’d like to also see some people and places from my current life that I haven’t seen in nearly a decade.  I’ve got loads of friends in and around London who would be very glad to see me.  I’ve also got a close friend some miles outside of Bristol who I’m very anxious to see again, and another in (I think) Banbury whom I’ve only spoken to online; both of them know about John, incidentally.  

Make no mistake, though, this is mainly a pilgrimage in the truest sense of the word and I can’t say I will be entirely comfortable going back to Ypres and Houplines; I’m going there first so that I can finally let go.  I guess I’ll always be sad for what happened to John and I’ll always have lingering questions as to whether I could have possibly been the same person, but I’ve become so involved in the story and uncovered so many twists that it hardly matters any more.

Just Below The Surface

I feel like just below the surface there’s a tickle of a very detailed memory that wants to break through, but it’s stubborn.  I have brief flashes of rooms and places in various time periods, but they’re too vague to lock onto with any detail.

I’ll see a flash of a Romanesque church.  A big Georgian room in an aging palace or mansion with no clear feel for the date.  A flash of the way I felt while I was living in the UK in this life that came on strong while I was watching a video of the historic district in Hereford.  Vague things that don’t tell me anything.

The most detailed thing I can recall is a vague memory of saying rude things about the Pope that was somehow connected to a flash of farm animals being led through a village and the notion that it was a parody of a Catholic ritual being held in early Protestant Europe.  I’m a little skeptical because the unraveling of the medieval world has been on my mind a lot lately due to a history class I’m taking this term.  

If this memory is genuine,  it would be terribly ironic since I was a crusader and devout confessor of the Catholic faith only about four lifetimes earlier.  On the other hand, if the life I lived was in Flanders (which is certainly plausible because the Low Countries went Protestant first), it would fit neatly with two other lives I’ve already recalled.  It’s possible that my soul is more Flemish than I imagined.  

I Should Have Mentioned This

A few days ago, soil from the battlefields of Flanders- soil that, chemically and spiritually- carries the indelible impression of war and the fragmentary remains of so many soldiers- was brought back to England.

They brought it back on a Belgian war ship, for which the bascules of the Tower Bridge were raised (as much in honor as to let the massive ship go through).

Among those represented by that soil, no doubt, are the hundreds of men from 2nd KSLI with no known graves.  They are listed on the Menin Gate on panels 47 and 49, mainly, and most of the casualties date from the early spring of 1915… around the time of the assaults on Hill 60.

As much angst as it has brought me to recall the life of one who survived Hill 60 only to die months later in a quiet sector, I can’t begin to imagine how it would feel if John had been standing only a few yards to either side, because all I would have is a vague sense that I’d been there and nothing to say who I was or where I was from.

A good many of the reincarnated tommies I’ve met have to deal with that reality, and I was told early on by a sympathetic friend with a great knowledge of the Western Front to expect as much.

For me, I guess the sting of “survivor’s guilt” is tempered by the fact that I didn’t survive the war, but I never lose sight of the fact that I’m extremely fortunate to have a name and a grave to refer to.  I probably lost a night or two of sleep over that when I finally found John’s grave but in the end, it was a degree of cold comfort.

But the luckiest of all are those who only remember second-hand, who stand in silent reverence at bags of soil that carry tiny fragments of their ancestors and past lives.  They have never lost a single night of sleep and I hope they never will.

Revised Map

I’ve done some additional research on William de Longespee and found that I haven’t just been to one place he was associated with, but several.

I found a great resource here that gave me a lot of dates and places, and while there were more than I could use, I focused mainly on the areas nearest where I knew my current life may have intersected with two previous lives.

It seems that a lot of the places I visited in this life were closer to William’s stomping grounds than John’s, which sort of makes sense and explains why I felt so confused when I wandered the British Isles in the first half of the 2000s; I was looking for the England I knew in the 13th, 19th, and 21st centuries all at the same time!

Here is the map.  Red markers indicate places from John’s life, green markers indicate places from my current life, yellow indicate places from William’s life, and orange markers with dates indicate places visited in multiple lives:

Image

Of particular note are:

Shrewsbury (visited as John and William but not in my current life).

York (which I specifically traveled to in this life because of its well-preserved medieval city)

Dover Castle (Another medieval site I visited).

There were some other places that I think I may have been in multiple lives, but these are not on the map as they are only conjecture.  They include:

Ypres (may have been there as William during the Flemish campaign of 1214 since that was one of the towns Philip II seized; known to have been there as John in 1915)

Edinburgh (May have been there as William while negotiating with the King of Scotland in 1205; known to have visited in this life in 2001 and 2005).

This is getting pretty exciting, and yet very strange.  I knew I had some kind of roots deep in England but this is highly unusual.

Stranger still, in what I believe to be my most recent past life, I never went to England and only visited France once in the late 70s; also, I’ve yet to find any evidence of a past life in Spain despite living there when I was very young and having an attachment to the place.  Then again, I was probably English in at least two lives, so it kind of makes sense that I enjoyed Spain…