David Childs

November 1914 began badly for the Royal Navy when, on the first of the month, Admiral Craddock with his force of four ships engaged a superior German squadron, commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee, off the city of Coronel. In one hour, around sunset, both HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth were sunk, while the other two British ships escaped. Closer to home on 3 November the German fleet bombarded Lowestoft calling into question the Navy's domination of the North Sea. Then on 26 November, whilst at anchor off Sheerness, HMS Bulwark blew up, following an internal explosion caused by the placing of cordite too close to a hot boiler room bulkhead. 736 men died in that disaster including Paul Ashman from Tisbury. Elsewhere the Royal Navy had better results, successfully bombarding the forts at the entrance to the Dardanelles on 3 November, two days before Britain officially declared war on Turkey (!), and winning its first Victoria Cross when Lieutenant Holbrook sunk a Turkish battleship in those Straits.
On 14 November the Sheik ul-Islam, the Turkish religious leader, issued a fatwah declaring a jihad against the allies who landed and captured Basra on 22 November. If these words and places sound familiar it goes to show how long a shadow the First World War has cast.
On the Western Front the fiercest fighting was taking place around Ypres, with the Germans capturing Messines on 1 November but being repulsed with heavy losses elsewhere.


Private Paul Ashman, Royal Marines, aged 26, died 26 November 1914 onboard HMS Bulwark.
He was the son of Richard and Emma Ashman of Lawn Cottage, Tisbury. Born March 1889 in Evercreech; brother of Ivan and Ellen.


On a cliff above Polzeath in Cornwall a seat and stone mark the spot where Lawrence Binyon penned the four most quoted lines written during the war. Although composed in September 1914 they are forever associated with November Remembrance Day and every act of remembrance, as well as being recited every day of the year at the Last Post ceremony at the Menin Gate in Mons and at Veterans clubs around the world. That one immemorial epitaph is reproduced below along with some other stanzas from this otherwise lengthy and unremarkable poem.

The Fallen
by Lawrence Binyon

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted:
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

©  Tisbury History Society
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