News Archive

Pte Lewis J. Curtis 5th Wiltshire Regiment

Pte Lewis J. Curtis 5th Wiltshire Regiment

23rd Oct 2012

Nearly seventy years after he was killed in action, Pte Lewis James Curtis of B-Coy, 5th Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment was re-interred in CWGC Arnhem-Oosterbeek War Cemetery in the Netherlands on Wednesday, 3rd October 2012.

Pte Curtis was born in 1924 in Liskeard, Cornwall; he attended Liskeard Church School and worked in the Co-Op before enlisting in the Army in Colchester on 4th March 1943. He served in North West Europe and was killed on 2nd October 1944 during an artillery barrage, in the aftermath of Operation Market-Garden.

His remains were discovered in a shallow field grave at De Laar Farm south of Arnhem (now Schuytgraaf housing estate) in 2003, recovered and eventually identified by the Dutch Army Recovery Unit in 2008 using Army dental records.

The service on 3rd October was attended by his niece and nephew and their families. The Honour Guard was found by The 5th Battalion The Rifles who will accord Pte Lewis full military honours. The Royal Netherlands Army National Reserve Band provided the music at the ceremony.

19 year-old Pte Curtis had landed in Normandy and had taken part in all major battles such as Hill 112, Mont Pincon, The Odon box and the crossing of the Seine at Vernon. By the time 4th & 5th Wilts (129th Brigade, 43rd Wessex Division) had reached Arnhem, they had lost 250 men. Unfortunately they had arrived too late to help relieve 1st Airborne Division, though the battalion took part in a diversion during operation Berlin, the withdrawal of the remnants of 1st Airborne Division over the Rhine. Pte Lewis Curtis was killed in the early hours of 2 October 1944 during the battle for the level crossing east of De Laar farm (B-Coy HQ, now Buitenplaats community centre) by an artillery barrage prior to a German infantry attack. As Captain McMath wrote in the 5th Wilts history: “This was the fiercest fighting the battalion had ever experienced.”

The re-interment of Pte Curtis was followed by a commemoration service at the Wiltshire Regiment monument at Arnhem-Schuytgraaf, in memory of the officers and men of 4th & 5th Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment whom were killed during “The Battle for the Island”. The service was attended by Pte Curtis’ family, representatives of the Regimental Association and a party of 5th Battalion The Rifles.

 

Lieutenant-Colonel George Woolnough

Lieutenant-Colonel George Woolnough

5th Sep 2012

Lieutenant-Colonel George Woolnough who was the last CO of 1st Battalion The Wiltshire Regiment and the first of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment after the Wiltshires amalgamated with the Royal Berkshire Regiment in 1959 died this year on 5th January, he was aged 97.  He was awarded a Military Cross after leading an extremely hazardous night attack in the Italian campaign.

In September 1943, Woolnough landed in Italy, north of Reggio, with 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment (2 WR). The following month he was commanding a company which was ordered to capture a daunting hilltop position considered key to the battalion attack on Cantalupo, south of Isérnia.

The assault was made in darkness and in dense, thickly-wooded country intersected by deep ravines. Two platoons became detached from the main force, and Woolnough found himself approaching his objective with only one rifle platoon and his company HQ.

Despite strong opposition, he pressed forward and drove the enemy off the hill. The missing platoons did not arrive and it was impossible to reinforce him. One section of the remaining rifle platoon was overrun and all its men either killed or captured; but Woolnough held on to the position in the face of heavy mortar fire and a series of determined counter-attacks. He was awarded an Immediate MC.

George Frederick Woolnough, the son of an Army schoolmaster, was born at Aldershot on December 7 1914. The family lived in India for four years but returned in 1923, and George was educated at the Bishop Wordsworth School, Salisbury.

He gained a scholarship to the RMA Sandhurst, passed out third, and won a half blue for Athletics. He also represented the Army in the Inter-Services Championships.

After being commissioned into the Wiltshire Regiment, in 1936 he accompanied 2nd Battalion to Palestine during the Arab Revolt. On the outbreak of war he went to France with the British Expeditionary Force. During the withdrawal to Dunkirk, with the Germans hard on their heels, a fellow officer with lofty concepts of military strategy suggested they construct a roadblock by moving a hedge to the middle of the road, then add a road sign to direct the enemy into a nearby pond.

After the evacuation, for which Woolnough was mentioned in despatches, in March 1942 he took part in the campaign in Madagascar against the Vichy French. They captured the town of Antisirane after a 17-mile forced march in darkness.

The invasion of Sicily followed, and in June 1944 the battalion took part in the breakout from the Anzio beachhead. When they were pinned down by intense machine-gun fire, Sergeant Maurice Rogers led a charge and knocked out two of the posts before being killed. Woolnough, who was a witness to this gallant action, contributed to the award of a posthumous VC.

After the battalion was withdrawn from Italy it joined the British Second Army for the final phase of the war in north-west Europe. Woolnough then served in BAOR, Singapore and Cyprus. He was on the directing staff at the Iraqi Staff College, Baghdad, before returning to Cyprus in 1958 to command 1st Battalion during the Eoka campaign.

He and his men had to deal with more than 50 incidents involving bombs, mines, ambushes and armed assaults. He was again mentioned in despatches. A number of staff appointments followed before he retired from the Army in 1965. He then moved into a cottage in a Wiltshire village and became secretary to the Friends of Salisbury Cathedral, a post that he held from 1966 to 1980. He was also a regional superintendent for St John Ambulance, a member of the parish council and a stalwart supporter of his local church. He remained in close touch with his friends in the regiment.

 

Our Sporting Heroes Exhibition

Our Sporting Heroes Exhibition

3rd Jul 2012

On Friday 29th June, we held an official opening ceremony
for ‘Our Sporting Heroes’ Exhibition. The guest VIP who
performed the opening ceremony was Claire Perry MP. Guests included
representatives from the other tourist attractions in Salisbury and from Visit Wiltshire.

Below is some background information about the exhibition.

 

This new exhibition tells the story of some of the sporting achievements of soldiers who served with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, The Wiltshire Regiment, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment, The Royal Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment and who are serving with today’s Regiment – The Rifles.

 

The sporting life of British soldiers from the 19th Century through to today at home and abroad, in times of peace as well as war, is something that sometimes gets forgotten.  Sport's role within the army was to develop physical fitness, advance esprit de corps, raise morale and, at times to relieve boredom.

 

Since the game’s earliest years, members of the army have been keen players of rugby but it was not until the Crimean War (1854–56) that a record was made of a game being played. Thereafter regiments of the British Army played wherever they were stationed in the British Empire spreading its popularity around the globe. It was a result of a game being played in British India in the 1870s that led to The 3rd (East Kent) Regiment and the 62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment having a hand in the creation of the Calcutta Cup, the oldest international rugby trophy.

Behind the trenches of the Western Front and in the midst of the Desert War, British servicemen and women have played sport in the least promising circumstances. When 400 soldiers were asked in Burma in 1946 what they liked about the Army, 108 put sport in first place - well ahead of comradeship and leave. Organised sport was developed in the Victorian army and navy but became the focus of criticism for Edwardian army reformers. It was officially adopted during the Great War to boost morale and esprit de corps.

 

The exhibition includes details of individuals from our forming regiments and the story of their success, such individuals include; International Cricketer Ken Barrington who served with The Wiltshire Regiment and who played for England and Surrey; Peter Martin a Wiltshire Regiment and Duke of Edinburgh’s Royal Regiment Officer, who was Great Britain and British Army shot (he is here today); and Major Thomas Wand-Tetley, Wiltshire Regiment Officer, Olympic athlete and fencer.

Today, wounded soldiers use sport to overcome injuries and all soldiers who are keen to pursue a sporting interest can do so - whatever their ability. This includes the injured and disabled, who are able to participate in sport through an initiative called ‘Battle Back’ which is a UK Military initiative and backed by Help for Heroes. They train with and compete alongside the able-bodied, as all Battle Back activities are integrated into able-bodied programmes. Battle Back uses Adaptive Adventure Training and Sports Rehabilitation to help seriously wounded Service personnel gain confidence and return to an active life.

 

The best athletes in the Army can compete internally and also at a Combined Service level against Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and civilian teams. ‘Elite' athletes are given encouragement and assistance to compete at the highest level possible.

 

Mrs Perry paid tribute to the many injured servicemen who are
currently being given rehabilitation by being offered sport to regain
their strengths.

The photograph shows (from left to right) Claire Perry MP, Simon Cook Manager/Curator and Assistant Curator Jackie Dryden who curated and designed the exhibition.

 

 

Royal Visit by Her Majesty The Queen to the Museum

Royal Visit by Her Majesty The Queen to the Museum

3rd May 2012

Today, Tuesday 1st May, Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh visited The Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum in Salisbury as part of The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee tour of the country. Her Majesty attended a reception and luncheon at the museum and was greeted on her arrival in the building by the Chairman of the Trustees Terry Daly, Manager/Curator Simon Cook, Assistant Curator Jackie Dryden and The Rifles County Secretary Salisbury Lieutenant Colonel Tim Lerwill.

 

During her visit, Simon Cook showed Her Majesty a small exhibition about the Second Afghan War, which included ‘Bobbie of the Berkshires’ who had been presented to the Queen’s great great grandmother, Queen Victoria.

 

Bobbie was one of many dogs which accompanied the soldiers of the (66th) Berkshire Regiment during that war and was present at the Battle of Maiwand in 1880. Queen Victoria was so impressed by his exploits that in June 1881, Bobbie was presented to her at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight, on the occasion when the Queen presented Distinguished Conduct Medals to soldiers from the Regiment who had shown great courage during the battle.

 

Her Majesty and HRH Prince Philip then went into the grounds of the museum (housed in the Wardrobe) to attend a reception, followed by a luncheon hosted by the Lord Lieutenant Mrs Sarah Troughton. Afterwards, the Queen and Prince Philip attended a Service in Salisbury Cathedral, followed by a tour of The Close.

 

The Rifles (Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum, was officially opened by HRH Prince Philip in 1982.

 

 

Opening of The War of 1812 Exhibition

Opening of The War of 1812 Exhibition

28th Mar 2012

On Friday 23rd March, a new exhibition was officially opened at The Rifles Berkshire and Wiltshire) Museum. The exhibition is titled ‘The War of 1812’’. This year is the 200th anniversary of that war and it was a military conflict fought in Canada between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions due to Britain's ongoing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas and possible American desire to annex Canada. The exhibition includes comprehensive display panels, a touch screen kiosk which we have recently invested in, a mannequin dressed in a replica 49th Regiment of Foot uniform and paintings. The replica uniform has been made by members of NADFAS and some of the material used had to be imported from Canada - the only place that supplies the material for this uniform. The Canadians have large reenactments of this war as it is celebrated yearly as a great victory. General Sir Issac Brock the British Commander of the 49th is regarded as a hero of this war and was killed during the Battle of Queenston Heights, in 1812. The opening ceremony was made by Lieutenant-General Jonathon Riley CB DSO PhD MA who is Director General and Master of the Armouries and also an author; and also by a retired General – Derek Crabtree, who served with the Royal Berkshire Regiment – one of the antecedent regiments of the 49th of Foot - who took part in that war. Dr Jonathon Riley was appointed Director-General and Master of the Armouries in April 2009 after 36 years in the Army, latterly as Deputy Commander of NATO ISAF in Afghanistan. He has authored and edited a number of published works on military histories including the book ‘A Matter of Honour’ which is about the life of Sir Isaac Brock who features in the War of 1812 exhibition. The exhibition included a replica 49thRegiment uniform which was made by Jill Makepeace- Warne and her team of NADFAS ladies.

New Season, New Exhibitions

New Season, New Exhibitions

24th Feb 2012

We have two new exhibitions for 2012, one of which is titled 'The War of 1812', which one of our antecedent regiments - the 49th of Foot took part and this year is the 200th anniversary. This war was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions due to Britain's ongoing war with France, the impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, outrage over insults to national honour after humiliations on the high seas and possible American desire to annex Canada. The exhibition includes comprehensive display panels, a touch screen kiosk which we have recently invested in, a mannequin dressed in a replica 49th Regiment of Foot uniform and paintings. The replica uniform has been made by members of NADFAS and some of the material used had to be improrted from Canada - the only place that supplies the material for this uniform. The Canadians have large reenactments of this war as it is celebrated yearly as a great victory. General Sir Issac Brock the British Commender of the 49th is regarded as a hero of this war and was killed during the Battle of Queenston Heights, in 1812.

The second exhibition has a sports theme. In this year of the London Olympics, we thought we would celebtrate the sporting acheivements of members of our current and past regiments. They include Ken Barrington, England Cricketer and Wiltshire Regiment soldier and Brigadier TH Wand-Tetely who was an olympic athlete and Wiltshire Regiment Officer. The exhibition includes lots of photographs some of which are sports events that took place over 100 years ago, trophies, a football that was used in an army England football match in 1908, informative text panels and medals. Today, sports is a major part of rehabilitation for injured soldiers.

Both exhibitions are running now and will end in November this year. We do not have a date for the official opening of the sports exhibition yet, but the War of 1812 exhibition will be officially opened on 23rd March.

The image on the left shows the War of 1812 exhibition, click on the image to enlarge.

Web Site Upgrade 01 January 2012

1st Jan 2012

New to the Collection are some additional 2,000+ images which we hope our web site visitors will be able to take advantage of, especially if you are involved in Family History Research. Those responsible for the upgrade are Richard Long-Fox  Martin McIntyre and Bob Hamblin, who have been collating the images from the Photograph Albums held within the Photographic Archives.   Martin was able to identify inidividuals partly due to the captions within the albums and in some cases due to his extensive knowledge of the regimental history and the archives. This was followed by Bob who copied up each and every item.

Without Richard Long-Fox's technical know how much of Martin's hard work would not even reach the web site.  From our viewpoint a great parternship working for your benefit. 

We hope this new addition will bring some satisfaction.  Martin has many other albums to work through and it is the Museum's intention to upgrade the Collection once a year to incorporate his work on your behalf.

 

NEW EXHIBITION - THE WAR OF 1812

5th Dec 2011

We have two new exhibitions planned for 2012, one of which will be 'The War of 1812'. The exhibition will include comprehensive display panels, a touch screen kiosk, a mannequin dressed in a 49th Regiment of Foot uniform - of that period, and paintings; all of which depict life during the war. It will run from 1st February 2012.

Please see poster on the left - click on image to enlarge.

Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

11th Nov 2011

On the 11th hour, of the eleventh day and month 2011, museum staff and visitors paid their respects to those who have given their lives for their country by observing the two minutes silence in the museums' Memorial Garden.

Remembrance day services started after the catastrophic loss of those who were killed and wounded during the First World War. Both The Royal Berkshire and The Wiltshire Regiment had their full share of this. The Royal Berkshires raised thirteen battalions and the Wiltshires eleven battalions which served in France, Flanders, Italy, Salonica, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia and Palestine. The Regiments earned fifty five Battle Honours and sixty Battle Honours respectively. 2nd Lieutenant Turner and Lance Corporal Welch of the Royal Berkshires and Captain Hayward of the Wiltshires were awarded the Victoria Cross. The cost in deaths was heavy, The Royal Berkshires 6,688 men and the Wiltshires nearly 5,000.

During the Second World War both Regiments fought over an even wider front than in 1914-18. A total of eleven Royal Berkshire Battalions were eventually raised of which six (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th 10th and 30th) saw service in France, North West Europe, Italy, Sicily and Burma while The Wiltshire Regiment raised six Battalions of which four (1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th) saw action in France, North West Europe, Italy, Sicily, the Middle east, Burma and Madagascar. Sergeant Rogers was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his gallantry while serving with the 2nd Battalion, The Wiltshire Regiment in Italy. Although the overall cost in lives did not approach that of the Great War, individual battalions at times suffered heavily. For example, The Berkshires lost 300 men at Kohima and both the 4th and 5th Battalions of The Wiltshire Regiment took heavy casualties during the ‘break out’ from the Normandy beaches and the advance into Germany.

Today, we remember also the many men and women who have been killed or maimed in Afghanistan. All battalions of the Rifles Regiments have seen active service there and since December 2008 the Regiment has lost fifty one soldiers and countless more have received horrific injuries.

The image on the left shows the 'Remembrance' display case in the museum. Click on it to enlarge.

 

Radio Broadcast with BBC Radio Berkshire

Radio Broadcast with BBC Radio Berkshire

28th Oct 2011

On Thursday 27th October the Museum received a visit from Graham Mckechnie of BBC Radio Berkshire together with the Mother of Rifleman Cyrus Thatcher from Reading who was killed in Afghanistan whilst serving with 2 RIFLES in 2009.  The visit came about because Helena who has lived in Reading for many years had no idea of the Counties connection to Afghanistan via the actions of the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment at Maiwand in 1880.She was aware of the Maiwand Lion located in the Forbury Gardens , Reading but was not aware of the significance. The death of her son Cyrus brought this all into focus realising that the area where he was killed was not far from Maiwand so she came to the Regimental museum with the BBC team to find out more about those events so long ago. The BBC reporter Graham is a sports reporter with Radio Berkshire with a very strong interest in Military history and had recently produced a radio article on another Royal Berkshire Regiment Soldier Lieutenant Ronald Palmer who was killed in 1915. On their arrival they were met by the Curator Simon COOK and given a brief run down on the history of the museum. Helena was then given a guided tour around the museum, followed by a more comprehensive examination of the Regimental archives and photographs  as far as it relates to the Afghanistan Campaign in 1880. All of this was recorded by the BBC team and it is the intention of the BBC to play the visit and surrounding events on BBC Radio Berkshire on remembrance Sunday 2011. At the conclusion of the visit the curator presented Helena with a museum produced publication about the 66th Regiment at the battle of Maiwand by Richard Stacpoole-Ryding. 

Photos by Jackie dryden. Click on image to enlarge