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MEMORIALS FOR A KING AND A COUNTRY
by Major Bernard Hornung
formerly Irish Guards

Fr Ulick Loring, Parish Priest, Church of St James, Twickenham, has been inspired to commission two beautiful stained-glass memorial windows, one of which is dedicated to the Portuguese fallen of the First World War and the other dedicated to the last King of Portugal, Dom Manuel II, in recognition of his humanitarian work in the care of the wounded. The unveiling of both these War Memorial Windows will be on Monday 9th April 2018, the Centenary Anniversary of the Battle of the Lys, and Remembrance Day in Portugal.

Other than individual graves, and a Fireplace in the New Forest, there is no war memorial in this country to the Portuguese fallen of the First World War. £12,000 has been raised over the past two years. The final year of this fund-raising campaign, to secure the remaining balance of £6,000 urgently needed, started with a visit to the Portuguese Fireplace in the New Forest, to mark the Centenary Anniversary of the arrival of the Portuguese Troops to Lyndhurst, in November 1917.

The Portuguese Fireplace in the New Forest

Two former Chairmen of the Anglo-Portuguese Society, Bernard Hornung and Robert Wilson, responded to a very kind, thoughtful, and long-standing invitation received from John Ward, Chairman of the New Forest Association. We took a group from London to join a party from the New Forest Association at the New Forest Inn, Emery Down, for lunch. Over a glass of Port, John Ward received a copy of Malcolm Howe’s book on King Manuel II, before we set off to view the Portuguese Fireplace. On arrival at the resplendent fireplace decked in Portuguese Flags and red and green pennants, we received a most interesting talk given by a local historian, raised another glass, enjoyed cinnamon toast made by Maria Allen, and a lovely walk in the New Forest.

The author (centre) and Robert Wilson (far left), two former Chairmen of the Anglo-Portuguese Society, with the group who visited the Portuguese Fireplace

Portuguese troops were employed at a number of camps including at: Virginia Water, Mortimer, Lyndhurst, Mamhead, and Ampthill. By August 1918, some 2,500 Portuguese Troops were stationed in Britain assisting with the war effort. As soon as accommodation had been arranged, either in premises taken over, or in huts, quartermasters and stores were sent, followed by advance parties of up to 40 Portuguese, the strength being brought up to 100 to 150 men for each camp. However, the situation at Lyndhurst was slightly different as the Canadian Forestry Corps set up the camp, and then received help from 100 Portuguese who arrived in November 1917. The camp was surrounded by four fences of various sizes and also included a mess room, canteen, sleeping quarters, wash and bath houses, tailors and boot shops, laundry, drying room, cookhouse, hospital, and non-commissioned officer’s quarters. Electricity was also included. Guards were positioned at wooden and barbed wire gates as well as at strategic points around the camp. The Canadians were better equipped than the Portuguese who at one stage went on strike because they were not given oilskins. The Portuguese in their lightweight uniforms would have had a point.

Special arrangements had to be made to ensure that the Portuguese received a diet to which they were accustomed. This largely consisted of fish, bread, potatoes, beans, rice, and olive oil, together with green vegetables and onions.

The Portuguese Fireplace is what remains of the cookhouse, where this special diet was served.

Next to this War Memorial is a plaque explaining the significance of the fireplace which reads:

‘This is the site of a hutted camp occupied by a Portuguese army unit during the First World War. This unit assisted the depleted local labour force in producing timber for the war effort. The Forestry Commission has retained the fireplace from the cookhouse as a memorial to the men who lived and worked here and acknowledge the financial assistance of the Portuguese Government in its renovation’.

A further 10 fund raising events are planned for 2018, starting with: ‘Writing from the Jaws of Death. The First World War Diaries of Ernest Willian Hornung’.  My great great uncle is best known as the brother-in-law of Arthur Conan Doyle and the creator of Raffles, the gentleman thief. Less well known is that he started his professional writing career in Twickenham in 1886, lost his only son Oscar in July 1915, and set up a Rest Hut and Library at the Front in 1917. Kim Sherwood, a great great great niece will launch these diaries and deliver an illustrated talk at 7pm on Thursday 8th February 2018 at The Cavalry & Guards Club, 127 Piccadilly. To attend this event and others, please view:  www.memorialsforakingandacountry.co.uk

The Plaque at the Portuguese Fireplace
The author presenting John Ward with a copy of Malcolm Howe’s book on Dom Manuel II, the last King of Portugal

 

 

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