Archive for the ‘Soldiers’ Category

Twenty years ago, I happened across a military cemetery in Aldershot – a town then known as the home of the British Army. It was full of fascinating characters whose remains were buried there. Opening another dusty box today, I found this photograph that I had taken of the grave of a military balloonatic [I tend to describe early balloonists thus as they must have been mad to take such flights!]

The sword draped cross marks the grave of Lt Caulfield of the Royal Engineers who lost his life while on duty in the Military Balloon ‘Thrasher’. A guide to the cemetery notes:

Lieutenant William Caulfield, Royal Engineers. Killed along with fellow Officer, Lt Martin-Leake RAMC, whilst demonstrating to King Edward VII and Prince Fushimi of Japan, military balloon ‘Thrasher’, on 25 May 1907 at Aldershot. The balloon headed SW and was last seen close to Abbotsbury, Nr Weymouth only 40 feet from the ground. One of the balloonists shouted to a nearby farmer to catch the trail rope, unfortunately he failed to do so and the two men were never seen again. The next day the trawler ‘Skylark’ picked up a tangled mess of cordage and fabric – all that remained of the ‘Thrasher’.

If they were never seen again, why the grave? Perhaps someone out there knows the reason? It would be nice to hear why.

sg0001

This photograph from my visit to Abbey Cemetery in Bath shows the tomb of Lieutenant General George Dick with its distinctive red cross. Dick’s was the third burial to take place in the cemetery which opened in 1844. He lived with his two daughters in Bath and after his death, his son, George sailed home from India to find he had been cut out of the general’s new will, written shortly before his death.

An unsightly spat took place with allegation and counter allegation appearing in the local newspapers. When George accused his sisters of poisoning their father, an exhumation was arranged. Two coroners, solicitors and doctors and a jury attended, as did the general’s butler who had the unpleasant task of identifying the body. The tomb was removed and the lead coffin recovered to the cemetery’s chapel where a post mortem was carried out. There was much surprise at how little decomposition had occurred in the seventeen months since General Dick was buried.

The next day, an inquest heard that there was inflammation in Dick’s digestive tract. Was it caused by arsenic, prussic acid or strychnine? The jury couldn’t decide, returning a verdict of death from inflamed stomach and bowels, but with no evidence to show how. The press quickly lost interest, George returned to Calcutta and his sisters retired to Devonshire. The general’s body was reinterred and remains undisturbed to this day.

DSC_0049