The Dragon’s Voice

In this edition, we have an update on the 2019 AGM and an article on the mystery of the fifth casualty at Bodelwyddan.


The Programme for 2019

May 4th: Vern Littley - Le Cateau

Vern Littley will be talking about the events associated with the Royal Artillery at the Battle of Le Cateau in the early weeks for the war following the British and French retreat after the Battle of the Mons. Vern is well qualified to present on this topic having served in the Royal Artillery for over 25 years and he is also a member of the Battlefield Guild of Guides.

June 8th: Peter Hart – The Last Battle

2019 AGM report

I attended the AGM at Cosford RAF museum (which is wonderful) on 27th April. The following is expressed factually, I hope, and you can make up your own mind about the issues.

The remaining members of the Executive Committee (ie excluding those who resigned in the wake of the uproar of the sale of the Butte of Warlincourt) have continued in office and have not in fact resigned, as they originally stated their intention to be.

The chairman’s report and following discussion revealed that membership has fallen over the WWI centenary period. A discussion followed on the target market for new members and the young were not thought to be an appropriate target. The demographic of the current membership is mostly elderly.

A question on the published accounts revealed that the net proceeds of the sale of the Butte were £895. The remainder of the 10,000 euros received was spent on legal fees, both British and French, to achieve the sale. This information on fees is not in the accounts, but was given verbally by Rich Hughes.

The former legal trustee, Rich Hughes, explained the reasoning for the disposal of the Butte which was to rid the WFA of the potential liability of a WWI site, with unexploded ordinance (presumably as it is in the middle of the Somme battlefield) and likely hazardous substances in the soil. The French insurers had declined to renew the policy and three English insurers had declined to cover the risk. It seemed to Rich anomalous that an educational charity owned land in the first place. The aim was therefore to rid the WFA of the problem, which involved potential personal liability to the trustees.

The Butte was held on a trust document in the name of four former trustees, two of whom were deceased. There was no power in the document to appoint new trustees to hold the Butte. In short, legally it was a mess. A former trustee from the era when the Butte was purchased, said that the purchase had been something of a vanity project by the then chairman and that he, the former trustee, had been against it, as being anomalous for an educational association.

Rich explained that Bob Patterson, a former WFA chairman who has a house on the Somme, was perceived as being the only realistic purchaser, as he had done a lot of maintenance work on the Butte. The aim was to get rid of the Butte, not achieve a maximum price. An attempt some years ago to give the Butte to the French local authority had failed.

There was discussion as to whether Bob had insurance, which was not known, and what the support for the Butte from the WFA would be, including potential liability of the WFA for continued involvement. The question was asked as to what would happen to the Butte when Bob passed away.

The sentiments expressed at the meeting were that the reasons for the sale had been lucidly explained. However, the main complaint was of the secretive nature of the process and that members, including branch chairmen, were only informed by an announcement of the sale which was released publically two weeks before the centenary of the Armistice. This was described as being perfect timing for journalists to write the stories that appeared in the national press. The handling and timing of the matter was felt by many to be very poor. One of the WFA vice-presidents, Maj Gen Mungo Melvin, lucidly summed up the discussion and suggested that a post mortem be carried out to learn lessons from the row over the Butte.

In many ways, the elephant in the room was that the Association is unincorporated, which leaves the trustees and members with unlimited liability. In many ways, this an omission by the original founders of the Association as charities would usually be formed as a charitable company. It was explained that there was a governance group which was looking at future governance of the Association. This could include incorporation as a company limited by guarantee.

Kinmel Park Mutiny

Many of you will be aware of the 5th March 1919 mutiny amongst Canadian troops at the Kinmel Park camp. Well, in the article I wrote for “The Bulletin” on the fate of the servicemen and women after 11th November 1918, I mentioned the post-war mutinies including the Kinmel Park one, not least as I could get photos of the graves. Well, that is the problem. There are four graves at the marble church at Bodelwyddan but the reports are of five casualties. One of the graves at Bodelwyddan has an individual non-CWGC headstone.

The issue has been solved by a gentleman called Gordon MacKinnon who lives in Toronto. He has unearthed the post mortem reports, which of course do contain some graphic information on the injuries. Gordon’s article will be published in the “The Bulletin” but he has kindly agreed to let me publish it here.

He has also sent me a short article on Hickman who is the “lost casualty” and is in fact buried in New Brunswick in Canada. He is believed to have been killed by a stray round whilst sitting with two colleagues in one of the camp huts.

Dead on Arrival

by Gordon MacKinnon

On March 3rd to 5th 1919, twenty one weeks after the Armistice of November 11, 1918, disturbances or riots occurred at the CEF assembly camp at Kinmel Park, Rhyl, Wales, which resulted in the deaths of five CEF soldiers awaiting repatriation to Canada and the trials for mutiny with long prison sentences for two others. At the top of the medical case sheets of five of the soldiers are the words: Dead on Arrival.

Some sources state that some records of these events were destroyed. The Digitization of the Service Files (DSF) of the CEF soldiers has been completed and the DSF of Corporal Joseph Young, 438690, is among the last to be digitized because his surname is near the end of the alphabet and shows no sign of having been redacted. Repatriation of the CEF had been carefully planned on the basis of “first over”, “first back” but events such as the influenza epidemic and the rumour mill upset these plans. Between November, 1918 and June, 1919, there were thirteen instances of riots and disturbances involving Canadian troops in England. The most serious of these occurred at Kinmel Park when dissatisfaction over delays in sailing precipitated rioting by of upwards of 800 soldiers resulted in five men being killed and twenty three wounded.[i] Tim Cook describes this camp in North Wales, only 30 miles from Liverpool:

The Camp had a well-deserved dreadful reputation. Too many soldiers crammed into the shanty town of corrugated iron huts and muddy roads. The food was bad, and few soldiers were paid regularly.”[ii]

Listed in alphabetical order by surname are the five soldiers who died in the disturbances and two who were jailed for mutiny. The service files are lengthy and should be consulted for details:

GILLAN, Private David, 877467, born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, Dec. 2, 1898. Enlisted at Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia, Canada, March 13, 1916, in the 85thBattalion, Cape Breton Highlanders. Address at time of enlistment, Florence, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. There are several pictures in the CVWM Digital Collection. Page 11 of his Digitized Service File has his Typed Medical Case Sheet with the Heading Dead on Arrival in Red Ink. Medical Case Sheet: Dead on arrival at Military Hospital: Killed in disturbances near Kinmel Park, Rhyl. Cause of death: Bullet wound of the neck. Wound small, less than ½ inch in diam. Killed while defending against rioters. Reported by OC, Military District, Kinmel Park, Rhyl.

HANEY, William Lyle, 12514, Gunner, signaler, 78thDepot Battery, Canadian Artillery, born in Benson County, North Dakota, USA, July 12, 1896. Address at time of enlistment on February 4, 1918, Coronation, Alberta. NOK was his father who lived in Talbot, Alberta. Cause of death: directly due to penetration of head by bullet, Age 22. There is a picture of his Headstone in the CVWM Digital Collection.

HIBA, John, 279502: Sapper, Place and date of birth, Bessarabia, Russia, January 6, 1887, attested April 10, 1916 in Edmonton in the 218th Battalion. Treated in the Kinmel Park Military Hospital for a lacerated scalp wound received on March 5, 1919. Tried and convicted by a General Court Martial held at Grace Road Barracks, Walton, Liverpool, for While on Active Service (WOAS) joining in a mutiny in Forces belonging to HM Forces, joined a mutiny by combining with other soldiers to resist lawful authority and improperly to enter Camp 2, Kinmel Park Camp and attempted to strike with a club, Lieut. A.M. Edward, 15th Reserve Bn, being in execution of his office and attempted to strike with a club Lt-Col. J. P. French who was attempting to suppress certain disturbances in the said Camp. PLEA: not Guilty. Finding: GUILTY: Sentenced to 7 years Penal Servitude. Confirmed by HM The King. Commuted later to 2 years detention. No record of his burial.

HICKMAN: Pte. John (Jack) Frederick, 326914: 14th Howitzer Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery. His Medical Case sheet has the Title: Dead on Arrival, Student, age 21. Born: Dorchester, New Brunswick, Canada, Dec.12, 1897. Enlisted April 12, 1916, Fredericton N.B. There is a picture on the CVWM site and the statement that he is buried in Dorchester Rural Cemetery. Cause of Death: Penetrating wound in the centre of the heart fully an inch in diameter with even edges. Two ribs broken. This wound had the appearance of one caused by a bullet having turned in its course by a ricochet. Desmond Morton’s article in the Canadian Historical Journal states “One victim’s body was disinterred and returned to New Brunswick”.

MICULKA, Valentina: 2433315: Pte. No.1 Forestry Draft. Born: Bohemia, Austria, May 6, 1896, Butcher. NOK: Mother, Barbara, Shulenberg, Texas, USA, attested Windsor, Ontario, May 1, 1917. Particulars of General Court Martial, Rhyl 28 May 1919. Date and Place of Trial Orvrel Park, Liverpool May 28, 1919. Charge: Joining in a mutiny in forces belonging to His Majesty’s military forces, in that at or about the 4th and 5th of March 1919 joined in a mutiny by combining with other soldiers of the CEF to resist lawful authority and forcefully enter and to damage the Canteen in Camp 8 and released from confinement prisoners confined in Guard Room in Camp 8 Kinmel Park Camp. PLEA: Not Guilty FINDING: Guilty. SENTENCE: to suffer Penal Servitude for the term of ten (10) years, Confirmation by HM the King. Commuted to sentence of 2 years detention and later sent to Canada and discharged on arrival for misconduct.

TARASEVICH, William: 1057297: Pte. Canadian Railway Troops. Place and Date of Birth: Russia Feb 22, 1889, Labourer, attested in Montreal, January 3, 1917. Cause of death: Penetrating wound of abdomen by an instrument of the nature of a bayonet. Body of this man was brought in dead to the Military Hospital Morgue about 5:30 pm March 5th. The only mark of violence on the body was a wound through the abdominal wall just below the umbilicus. Wound an inch in Diameter. A loop of intestine was protruding. No hemorrhage. Cause of Death: wound of the abdomen by an instrument of the nature of a bayonet. There is a picture of the headstone in the CVWM Digital Collection.

Corporal Joseph YOUNG: 438680: Patient entered hospital unconscious and not identified. He was later identified as Corporal Joseph Young, 52nd Battalion, CEF, Military District No.7. He attested in Port Arthur, Ontario (now named Thunder Bay), April 29, 1915. Place and date of birth, Glasgow, Scotland, Sept. 30, 1882, Labourer. Wound of the face which looks like it was caused by bayonet or sabre. This entered just below and outside the left eye causing an opening an inch in diameter. This opening extended down towards front of neck, fracturing part of malar bone opening, destroying whole of right side of base of tongue. Cause of death: wound of head and neck by a sharp instrument, fracture by bayonet.

The dead were buried in Bodelwyddan, (St Margaret) Churchyard, Flintshire, UK, which contains 413 War Graves; 82 are those of Canadian Soldiers who died in the repatriation camp at Kinmel Park in 1918-19, largely of influenza. The Canadian troops erected a memorial cross of red sandstone, on an inscribed base in the Churchyard. The Military Hospital at Kinmel Park contained, in huts and under canvas, 1290 beds; and the 9th Canadian General Hospital was there 1918-19.”[iii] There are some pictures of headstones in the Digital Collection of the CVWM. (Canadian Virtual War Memorial). There is no burial information for Miculka or Hiba and the (CVWM) states that Hickman was buried in Dorchester, New Brunswick.

i Colonel GWL Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919, The Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War, Ottawa, Canada 1962, page 332

 ii Tim Cook, Shock Troops, Canadians Fighting the Great War, Viking Canada 2008, Page 591.

 iii CWGC Casualty Archive

 April 26. 2019.

Jack Hickman. Killed just after Armistice 1918, amid soldier riots to get home.

Five soldiers died there in two days. Historian Desmond Morton says one of the five was "killed by a stray bullet as he waited in a hut." This was 21-year-old Jack Hickman. He was in that transit camp with another village man, Alien Drillio, and was not involved in the riots themselves. His brother Joe had been decorated for gallantry and wounded. So had Lieut. Fred Foster, MC, the village friend he'd gone camping with the month the war broke out.

Jack Hickman himself had repeatedly seen action, only to die by chance, though rumour would tell another story

Many wild and unfounded rumors swept Britain, and Hickman was involved in one of them. It was said in print that he "was so horribly tortured that his body was removed from its burial place for fear of public exposure." It is true that the four other victims remained buried in Wales. It is also true that Jack Hickman's body was disinterred. But the reason it was, a brother would say years later, was the wish of the Hickman family that it be brought home. It was on its way within 2 months of his death.

From: One Village - One War: 1914 - 1945 by Douglas How

Footnote: Hickman is buried in a Roman Catholic cemetery, and Bodelwyddan is Anglican. Could that have been part of the reason for the family requesting repatriation?