6322 Private John Gordon of the 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Regiment was killed in action at the age of 14 on 24 May 1915 and is believed to be the youngest battle casualty of the Great War. He is buried at the British war grave at Poelcapelle, Belgium
Another little-known building in London with connections to the Second World War. Orchard Court is an expensive apartment block situated on the east side of Portman Square London. To hide the location of the building used by the French Section of the Special Operations Executive from their agents flat 6 was used for their briefing and debriefings. Outgoing agents were driven through the arch in a large car with blinds over the rear windows so they could not be seen and were driven to either RAF Tangmere to be flown to France by Lysander aircraft or RAF Tempsford to be dropped into France by parachute. Few agents returned and some who did are noted for showing symptoms of suffering from PTSD, a medical condition unknown at the time.
This stone plaque called ‘Tyburn Tree’ will be found on the large traffic island on Edgeware Road near Marble Arch in London and is one of many historical reminders of London’s dark history which often goes unnoticed. Though called the ‘Tyburn Tree’ there was no tree at this location and refers to the name given to a wooden scaffold used for public executions which could accommodate three prisoners at a time. From 1196, the first recorded execution, to 1783 this part of London was open countryside and hangings were considered popular entertainment. For instance, when highwayman Jack Sheppard was executed, there is said to have been an excited crowd of around 200,000. Two expressions used during this period continue to be in popular use: “one for the road”, originally meant the last pint of ale before the condemned was transported by cart to Tyburn with excited crowds following them, also associated with alcohol is the expression ‘hangover’. Public hangings were abolished in 1868.
Although I normally research military history, I found the following interesting.
This bollard will be found by the River Thames on the north side of Vauxhall Bridge in Millbank which was close to the notorious Millbank Prison (1816-1890). From 1788 to 1868 this bollard was near the steps where convicts boarded transport ships to Australia after being found guilty of mainly petty crimes which included Stealing furnishing from a lodging, stealing an item worth over one shilling (a week’s pay for a worker); buying and selling stolen goods, but one of the strangest crimes which could lead to deportation was impersonating an Egyptian!
From 1788 to 1868 around 162,000 consisting of mainly petty criminals were transported to Australia.
Two Minutes’ Silence by Charles Spencelayh 1928. The clock marks the eleventh hour as the elderly gentleman prays for the son lost in the war, whose portrait hangs above the clock and a jar of garden flowers that have been arranged in his memory. Spencelayh was staunchly patriotic and deeply affected by the war. (Charles Spencelayh 1865-1958)
The district of Ehrenfeld, Cologne in Germany was a sanctuary for those escaping persecution from the German authorities including escaped prisoners, forced labourers and Jews. After escaping from a concentration camp in July 1943 23-year- old Hans Steinbrück went to Ehrenfeld and was taken in by a woman and they began stockpiling weapons and food in the cellars of bombed out houses and kept in contact with escapers. Cellars were also used to shelter Jews and others forced to go into hiding. Steinbrück became known as ‘Black Hans’ and his resistance group was known as the Steinbruck Group also referred to as the Ehrenfeld Group or Ehrenfeld Pirates.
On 29 September 1944 an informer gave an army patrol the address of their safehouse and arrests followed, and Hans Steinbrück was later captured and interrogated by the Gestapo. By 15 October the Gestapo made 63 arrests, including 19 teenagers and on 10 November 1944 thirteen members of the group including Hans Steinbruck, were publicly hanged near Ehrenfeld railway station where there is now a memorial plaque remembering Steinbruck and those executed. As can be seen by the photograph many of the resisters were young.
Belgium fighter pilot Eugene Seghers RAF (VR). His memorial plaque in Walden Uckfield, East Sussex states: “Flight Lieutenant Seghers took off in his Spitfire from RAF Deanland to intercept V1’s (Anti-driver patrol) South of Uckfield. He failed to destroy a Doodlebug after intense cannon fire, its engine cut out, meaning that its terrible descent towards the town was imminent. Flight Lieutenant Seghers courageously attempted to deflect the high explosive flying bomb away from Uckfield using his aircraft’s wing. Near this location at 14:22 he made contact with the bomb causing it to detonate, destroying the Spitfire and killing the brave airman instantly. Sub Alis Gloria” (Under Wings of Glory) 26 July 1944.