Monthly Archives: May 2017

Nellie’s last three days with her Nature Diary

Thursday May 29th – Chiefly south wind – very strong.  Honysuckle in full flower.

Friday May 30th – Weather just a trifle windy.

Saturday May 31st – Crops are growing fast and everything so far has the appearance of a good harvest.

So Nellie’s project has come to an end.  I wonder what she thought about it.  Was it interesting or boreing; was it something she would do again or a case of ‘no way’?
How would you have coped with it?  Would you/have you read the first week then left it alone; read it each week and are now moving on; or done a similar project to that Nellie completed?
I must admit that I have done a sort of ‘half-way-house’ – or is it a two-way one?
I have been taking notes from my small garden and I have also been keeping some notes from my ‘summer’ job.   That is rather more challening in that it is a magnificant 16th century house with a large and varied range of nature’s handiwork.  I’ll be working through the two very different sets of notes while June is hopefully ‘bursting out all over’ and will pass them on as soon as I can.

      If you have done a similar ‘Nellie’ please send a copy through to me on           ‘’ and all post elements of those as well!


Tomorrow we remember King Charles II

Tomorrow – Monday 29th May –  is Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day – an event that many remember but not-so-many still celebrate.  I’m posting this a day early so that you have time and chance to find a place nearby to go and be part of.  So what can you expect if you go along to one of the events?

The true origins of this are lost in the mists of time, but it is thought to be an ancient fertility rite involving flowers, people and springtime, and possibly having Celtic connections. There are many different ceremonies thought to be connected with this unique event which has changed and adapted over the centuries.  It remains alive today.  Events take place in Upton-upon-Severn; Aston-on-Clunin Shropshire; Marsh Gibbon in Buckinghamshire; Membury in Devon; Great Wishford in Wiltshire where villagers gather wood in Grovely Wood and Fownhope in Hereford that has an on-going tradition in the celebration of Oak Apple Day organized by their ‘Heart of Oak’ Society.  The day is also generally marked by re-enactment activities at Moseley Old Hall, one of the houses where Charles II hid in 1651.

What is often forgotten, though, is the Garland Ceremony where the Garland King will certainly be riding through the streets of Castleton in the Derbyshire Peak District. The Garland’ itself is a beehive shaped head-dress, covered with wild flowers and greenery, which is worn by the ‘King’ over his head and shoulders.  The topmost, removable piece is known as ‘The Queen’ and is a similar but smaller beehive shape. The garland often weighs some 50/60 pounds – a heavy load for the ‘King’s’ shoulders.

The King and his Consort are dressed in Stuart costume that links back to the first Oak Apple Day happening – and lead the Garland procession on horseback. The ceremony begins with the Garland King (without the garland head-dress) and his Consort riding the village bounds, though this is only a token as they stay within the confines of the housing in the village. Castleton Silver Band marches to the host pub, which changes annually, while playing The Garland Tune and followed by The Garland itself carried on a pole. Here they meet the dancing girls.  The girls must be no younger than school age and be resident of Castleton Parish or attend the village school.  They dance in pairs with their white dresses and hair bedecked with flowers and each carry a Garland stick, which resembles a miniature maypole, with red, white and blue ribbons.

When the King and Consort arrive at the host pub, The Garland is placed over the King’s shoulders, the band strikes up the garland tune, and the dancers dance the garland step through the village.  The King and Consort return to the Market Place, joining the dancing girls and the band. Here the older girls then dance six different maypole dances to well known tunes.

Following the maypole dancing, there is a solemn ceremony at the War Memorial. The King places the Queen (the top most piece of the garland) on the War Memorial to commemorate the people of Castleton who lost their lives in the wars.  The band plays The Last Post, Reveille and the National Anthem.

Finally the band reforms in the street, strikes up the Garland tune, and returns to the ‘band room’ followed by the girls and ‘the old girls’ dancing The Criss-Cross (a different lively dance) to the garland tune. They are usually followed by all the villagers and visitors who wish to join in.

That is the end of the ceremony and people – I am told – will then disperse to the various public houses!

Evacuate and fight another day

On Monday 27th May – the first full day of the evacuation – one cruiser, eight destroyers, and 26 other craft were active and Admiralty officers combed nearby boatyards seeking small craft that could ferry personnel from the beaches out to larger craft in the harbour.

In this same day the Luftwaffe heavily bombed Dunkirk, both the town and the dock installations.  Water supplies were knocked out, the resulting fires could not be extinguished and an estimated thousand civilians were killed, one-third of the remaining population of the town.

In the air the Luftwaffe was met by 16 squadrons of the Royal Air Force, who claimed 38 kills on Monday 27th May while losing 14 of their own aircraft. Altogether, over 3,500 sorties were flown in support of Operation Dynamo.

The RAF continued to take a heavy toll on the German bombers throughout the week. Soldiers being bombed and strafed while awaiting transport were for the most part unaware of the efforts of the RAF to protect them, as most of the dogfights took place far from the beaches. As a result, many British soldiers bitterly accused the airmen of doing nothing to help.

The Challenge begins

On Saturday 25th May 1940, the Luftwaffe focused their attention on Allied pockets holding out at Calais, Lille, and Amiens.  They did not attack Dunkirk.
Calais was held by the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) and surrendered on Sunday 26th May. 

On that same Sunday 26th May 1940, at 15:30, Hitler ordered the Panzer groups to continue their advance, but most units took another 16 hours to attack. The delay gave the Allies time to prepare defenses vital for the evacuation and prevented the Germans from stopping the Allied retreat from Lille.  The Halt Order has been the subject of much discussion by historians, many of whom considered the failure to order a timely assault on Dunkirk to be one of the major German mistakes on the Western Front. Another called it “one of the great turning points of the war”, and a third described it as “one of Hitler’s most critical mistakes”. Hitler himself believed that once Britain’s troops left Europe, they would never return.  The retreat itself was undertaken amid chaotic conditions, with abandoned vehicles blocking the roads and a flood of refugees heading in the opposite direction.

Due to wartime censorship and the desire to keep up British morale, the full extent of the unfolding disaster at Dunkirk was not initially publicized. A special service attended by King George VI was held in Westminster Abbey on Sunday 26th May, which was declared a national day of prayer. The Archbishop of Canterbury led prayers “for our soldiers in dire peril in France”. Similar prayers were offered in synagogues and churches throughout the UK that day, confirming to the public their suspicion of the desperate plight of the troops.

It was just before 7 pm on Sunday 26th May that Winston Churchill ordered Operation Dynamo – the Dunkirk evacuation code-named also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk – to begin.   Initial plans called for the recovery of 45,000 men from the BEF within two days, at which time German troops were expected to block further evacuation.  As it turned out only 25,000 men escaped during this period, including 7,669 on the first day.

The Dunkirk attack begins

On Friday 24th May 1940 Hitler paid a visit to Army Group A headquarters and endorsed the order of the previous day.

The German forces had captured the port of Boulogne and had now surrounded Calais. The engineers of the 2nd Panzer Division had built five bridges over the Canal Line and only one British battalion barred the way to Dunkirk.

Göring urged Hitler to let the Luftwaffe (aided by Army Group B) finish off the British, to the consternation of Franz Halder, who noted in his diary that the Luftwaffe was dependent upon the weather and air crews were worn out after two weeks of battle. Rundstedt issued another order.  That was sent un-coded and was picked up by the RAF at 12:42: “By order of the Fuhrer … attack north-west of Arras is to be limited to the general line Lens-Bethune-Aire-St Omer-Gravelines. The Canal will not be crossed.”

Later that day, Hitler issued Directive 13, which called for the Luftwaffe to defeat the trapped Allied forces and stop their escape.

Franz Halder was a German general and the chief of the Army High Command from 1938 until September 1942, when he was dismissed after frequent disagreements with Adolf Hitler. Until December 1941 his military position corresponded to the old Chief of the General Staff position, which during World War 1 had been the highest military office in the German Imperial Army.

Saturday 22nd May 1954 – and Wembley Stadium is overflowing

It had been on Tuesday 23rd February 1954 that the American evangelist Billy Graham arrived at Southampton for the start of his first British religious campaign.  It was not an ideal arrival as he found himself in the middle of a storm about his political intentions and facing a press that was almost unanimously hostile.  Three months later when he departed, British newspapers were lavishing praise on the tall blond evangelist and a staggering 1,300,000 people had attended his meetings.

For six nights a week from March through to May, Billy Graham drew capacity audiences at the Harringay Arena.  At the start the arena seating had been increased to around 12,000 but he was so popular that an ‘overflow’ room was added so that another 1,000 people could hear the services.

As the campaign grew in success Billy Graham’s critics faded quietly away.  Originally the Bishop of Barking had been one of the few Anglican ministers to give Billy’s crusade his complete support.  By now the Archbishop of Canterbury had become interested and promised to speak at Billy’s closing rally at Wembley Stadium.  And they were right. On Saturday evening, 22nd May 1954 Wembley Stadium was filled to overflowing with around 120,000 people, some of them spilling out on to the grass. So great had been the number who wanted to be there that an extra afternoon rally was arranged at White City, attracting a further 65,000.

When the red-top Sunday papers feature religion, it is generally for the wrong reasons. But that was not the case over 60 years ago on Sunday 23rd May 1954. “Britain’s biggest religious meeting of all time” screamed the News of the World on its front page. “Billy Graham – Amazing Finale” echoed The People, adding: “Drama at Wembley: 10,000 converts surge forward in the rain.”

The two meetings were the culmination of the 12-week Greater London Crusade, during which, every night, thousands filled the 11,400-seat Harringay Arena, in north London, to hear the American evangelist.  When all the numbers were counted, it was estimated that attendances had exceeded 1.5 million, and that 38,000 people – nearly two-thirds of them under 18 – responded to the invitation to come forward at the close of the message.

The Battle and Evacuation of Dunkirk 1940

The Battle and Evacuation of Dunkirk in the 2nd World War is also known as the Miracle of Dunkirk.  Over the next few days I want to tell you the story. 

Our story begins on Thursday 23rd May 1940 when the German Field Marshal Karl Rundstedt ordered his Panzer units to halt, concerned about the vulnerability of his flanks and the question of supply to his forward troops.

He was also concerned that the marshy ground around Dunkirk would prove unsuitable for tanks and he wished to conserve them for later operations.  Even so, in some units, some 30 to 50 percent of his tanks were lost.  Hitler was also recorded as being apprehensive.

None-the-less – a dye was cast.

Seven more days from Nellie Lant’s Diary – 22nd to 28th May 1919

The heat continues to provide a challenge but at least the clouds are giving a suggestion of rain.  As this week moves on more and more flowers come into full bloom.

Thursday May 22nd – As one looks at the crops, their first thought is how parched they seem, and wishes for rain.  The weather is very dull and the sky looks full of storm clouds.

Friday May 23rd – At last the long looked for event has happened.  We had a storm. It was fairly general, and did a lot of good.  The flowers and trees have lost their parched look and seem fresh again.

Saturday May 24th – The day has been very hot and sultry, there being very little wind, rain wanted again very badly.

Sunday May 25th – Weather much colder, a gentle refreshing rain fell all day and did a great deal of good.

Monday May 26th – It still continues cold but fine.  The Oak trees are in leaf and the Sycamore trees are in blossom.

Tuesday May 27th – Weather much warmer; I saw some beautiful Clover & Speedwell growing in a field, and a most gorgeous bed of Rhododendrons.

Wednesday May 28th – Weather about the same; Roses & Iris’s in flower.

Nellie’s Nature Diary Project is coming towards its end – just three more days to come.  I wonder how the weather of our month of May will have compared to Nellie’s.

It’s Monday 21st May 1917 and Nellie Lant has to write an essay on Allotments

She writes:

One of the most patriotic a man can do in the present crisis is to work on an allotment. It is wonderful to see the amount of land now being cultivated, which in prewar days was used for pleasure or wasted.
The allotment holder has one great advantage over other men, this great advantage is health.  Health is a precious jewel nowadays, a man who has health is far more able to be of use to the country, if he has such a belonging, than a man who has not.
At the bottom of my garden there is an allotment, and every evening I watch the men, and even their wives busy working, resembling bees in their activity.  The man who before the war used to get up just in time to hurry to his work, now gets up about five o’clock in the morning.

I think that allotments are one of the greatest boons of the war.

I think this young lady will go far.

A Snippet from 19th May

Today is St Dunstan’s Day. 

Born in Somerset, England, in the early 10th century Dunstan studied at Glastonbury Abbey, becoming Abbot there in 945,  He later became Archbishop of Canterbury.  He became the patron saint of Goldsmiths; his emblem is a pair of metalworker’s tongs.

This is how Chambers Book of Days in 1864 describe him:

St Dunstan was one of those men who stamp their own character on the age they live in.  He was, in every way, a remarkable man.  And, like most remarkable men, he has been unduly extolled on one hand, and vilified on the other.

Monkish writers have embellished his life with a multitude of ridiculous, or worse than ridiculous, miracles; and their opponents have represented him as ambitious, bigoted, and utterly unscrupulous as to means, so that he only gained his end.