Saturday, 31 August 2013

Netley Military Cemetery.

Following my previous post about Private Hollis and Netley Military Hospital, I decided to take a walk up to the cemetery once again, and to have a look at the chapel at what is now Royal Victoria Country Park. I also had to photograph as many of the 671 CWGC graves at the military cemetery for the British War Graves Project  

It is not too far from where I live, although the furthermost I had walked had been up to Netley Abbey. The Chapel is about a kilometre further.  The route I took was over the Itchen Bridge, 

Looking back towards Southampton
down to Weston, then along Southampton Water until I ran out of road, 

Weston shoreline looking towards Calshot and Isle of Wight
then up to Netley Abbey

The magnificent Netley Abbey ruins.
through Netley Village

 and finally the park and chapel itself. 

This large open area would have been where the military hospital stood, with a similar wing on the other side of the chapel. It was a large building as can be seen from the model below. 

The chapel is the blue object on the centre of the model, and today is all that is left of the building, and it stands surrounded by the green fields that used to be where the hospital building stood. 

It is a glorious wedding cake of a building, beautifully proportioned and dominated by its tower. Unfortunately though it was closed, but I did manage a few pics of the interior.

But, I did not get to see it all, as they do not have funds to allow it to remain open. So, I did not see all that I wanted to. The park is a very large space that even boasts a miniature railway, and quite a few public facilities, although my interest did not really extend to places like a BBQ area.

With that completed I headed off to the military cemetery, which is not too far away, close to Hamble Station. I had been there twice before, but this time I had over 600 graves waiting for me. 

The cemetery can be broken up into two major halves, The older part is set on a hill, with the newer section laid out in a linear CWGC pattern, with a Cross of Sacrifice.  The sections are also divided into RC, Non Conformist and Anglican/COE

Older part of the cemetery (WW1)
The newer part of the cemetery (WW2)

Interspersed with these sections are a lot of much older graves of members of the military who died at the hospital, as well as staff members and their families that may have died here too. Many are illegible, and there are large areas that have graves but no headstones.

There are also a number of graves for the children of staff who died at the hospital,  sadly, a large portion do not have headstones, but they are poignant reminders of those young lives that never came to fruition.

Darling Bobbie, Fell Asleep February 19th 1929, Aged 15 Months
There are also graves of men that died as a result of disease that they had picked up in South Africa during the Boer War.  It took nearly 3 hours to photograph the graves, and by the time I was finished I had drained 2 sets of batteries and taken over 1000 photographs. But, in the end it is worthwhile doing. There are 6 South Africans buried at this cemetery, all of them needless casualties of the slaughter on World War 1.

There is a lot written about the hospital and those who were treated there, but we will probably never know all the stories behind the pain and suffering, and the courage of the nurses who had the unenviable job of taking care of the patients.

FGO Stuart Postcards of the hospital


The cemetery is covered extremely well in the wonderful website dedicated to the Royal Victoria Hospital and Military Cemetery, Netley

Then it was time to head home, taking the same route except for a pause at the waterfront area of the park which is roughly midway between the Solent and Southampton.  Three rivers (The Test, Itchen and Hamble) flow in to this area that we know as "Southampton Water", and it is a pretty area with a lot of potential for development. However if that development means heaps of yuppie flats then that will definitely ruin the the shoreside that I was walking upon. 

Looking towards Southampton from Royal Victoria Country Park
Calshot, Isle of Wight and the Solent from Royal Victoria Country Park
I did discover a pathway between Netley Castle and Netley Abbey so was able to get a better look at the castle, although you cannot really see the whole thing. It was largely built with material taken from Netley Abbey, and today it is used as private apartments. My view of the castle from Southampton Water is a much better indicator of the extent building.

Netley Castle from Southampton Water
With the castle behind me I was over halfway home, just a few more random pics and that would conclude my outing, although I would still have to sort, label and queue the military grave images.

The harbour had three cruise ships in on that day. Queen Elizabeth at QEII, Azura at Ocean Terminal,

and Celebrity Eclipse at City Terminal.

I had originally considered catching the train through to Hamble, but had taken this walk instead, and I am glad I did because this is probably the last time I will be able to walk along Southampton Water. My days in Southampton are coming to an end, and while I have not been able to see everything that I wanted to, at least I have seen this much.

Portsmouth train en route to St Denyse
It had been an interesting morning, and I hope that it will remain in this unchanged state for a very long time. It is a unique place, with a lot of maritime history that sailed past this area. It's just a pity that I did not get to see it all.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Watercress Line (04). Alton

Our final stop on the journey was at Alton where the Watercress Line originates and terminates. The station is shared between Network Rail and Heritage Rail and it is an interesting contrast.

We arrived as the DEMU left the station, so I did not get any decent pics of her, however. it was the same one that we saw at Medstead and Four Marks

While we waited for the next inbound train we took more pics of random things. The station buildings on platform three are in the 1950's style and are very interesting in their own right.

Walking down the platform I discovered a magnificent Ransome and Rapier 45 Ton steam crane, and it was real beaut. It sat on a side line and  superficially was in a good condition. Whether it still worked or not was another story though, given how it is steam powered and the boiler would need regular inspections.

The crane admired, we headed down to await the arrival of the train. It was headed by a diesel, with a steam loco at the back. These were the same class 50 diesel and Schools Class loco that we had seen the day before at Ropley.  The moment the train had stopped the steam engine was mobbed by eager photographers, rubberneckers and gawkers. But she shrugged them off and disconnected from the train and moved forward to take on water, before reversing back onto the end of the train.

Then everybody started to board and soon the train started to move, steam engine doing what it does best.

Then they were past us, heading towards the next station. The rear of the train connected to the diesel. My video of this train is on my YouTube Channel.

It had been another fascinating morning of heritage rail, and I am glad I was able to see this, although travelling on it may be out of my reach at this moment in time. However, it is a glimpse into a period that is past, and one which the many children who traveled on this train did not experience. I experienced rail travel in a different country, so it is all new to me too.

It is very evident that the Watercress Line is a very professional operation that is manned by volunteers. I marvel at how they have managed to create this world from the past, and can imagine how much dedication it took to get to this point. I hope that one day I will be able to ride this train too, although sticking my head out of the window isn't possible. There are 4 sections to this blog post, this being the last. 

The Watercress Line (03)

Continuing with our visit to the Watercress Line, we now stopped at Medstead and Four Marks Station. This is the station we had visited a few months back and seeing it now it was like a totally different place.

The station has been restored as a typical 1930's Southern Region station and its period buildings and fittings, advertising signage, and slow afternoon feel really made me want to sit down and relax and watch the trains go by. There were two trains due, but until they arrived we passed the time exploring and photographing random objects.

Main station building
Signal cabin
As usual I found many fascinating artifacts from an era and a country that I did not know, and the wartime poster really made me think about what it must have been like facing the bombers overhead and being unable to do anything about it.

But before I could don my gas mask, the train decided to arrive and much to my surprise it was a really short train, consisting of 2 coaches powered by a diesel engine. 

I was taken aback because this was not the sort of vehicle I expected at Heritage Rail. However, the origins of this Class 205-1125 DEMU would be revealed a bit further down the line at Alron, but I am going to skip forward a bit to include the item with this DEMU.

A bit of reading revealed that these units DEMU's were known as "Thumpers" because of the distinctive noise that they made. The coaches seemed very smart inside with their slam doors and smart green exterior livery.

This station has a passing loop in it and the DMU waited for the train from up (or down?) the line to pass. The steam/diesel combination did not tarry long enough for me to get any images of the loco and I have to rely on a screencap from my video. 

And, as fast as it had filled both trains departed in different directions, leaving a once again empty country station. My video of the happenings at the station are on my YouTube channel. We then left to go to Alton, which is where the line terminates/originates.