Aural Sculptors - The Stranglers Live 1976 to the Present


Welcome to Aural Sculptors, a blog aimed at bringing the music of The Stranglers to as wide an audience as possible. Whilst all of the various members of the band that have passed through the ranks since 1974 are accomplished studio musicians, it is on stage where the band have for me had their biggest impact.

As a collector of their live recordings for many years I want to share some of the better quality material with other fans. By selecting the higher quality recordings I hope to present The Stranglers in the best possible light for the benefit of those less familiar with their material than the hardcore fan.

Needless to say, this site will steer well clear of any officially released material. As well as live gigs, I will post demos, radio interviews and anything else that I feel may be of interest.

In addition, occasionally I will post material by other bands, related or otherwise, that mean a lot to me.

Your comments and/or contributions are most welcome. Please email me at adrianandrews1@sky.com.


Sunday, 31 August 2014

Ruts DC ‘Live On Stage’ – A Review


Back in March 2013, after the frustrations of a string of cancelled gigs, I was invited down to Bristol to see the band play the Fleece in Bristol. On this occasion the plan was to interview Segs and Ruffy for an upcoming piece on the band in ‘Vive Le Rock’ magazine. This was quite a big deal for both interviewer (fan and friend Andy Peart) and interviewees as at this point in time the resurrected Ruts DC did not have many gigs under their belt and any kind of media coverage was most welcomed.

For my part I promised to keep my mouth firmly zipped (cross my fingers and hope to die) for the duration of the interview, despite having a multitude of questions in my own head. In the event staying quiet was easy (to be honest getting a word in would have been a greater challenge!) as the band talked openly and freely about all aspects of the band’s career, from the life affirming high’s of teatime TV appearances and tours with The Damned to the devastating lows of losing Malcolm and the low handed treatment meted out by a certain record company in the months that followed. On these two topics Segs became visibly moved and furious in turn. The memories are still very painful despite the passage of time.

The interview was scheduled to last about 30 minutes, but as there was so much to be said and perhaps so much that needed to be said to set the record straight, the tape only stopped rolling after an hour and 15 minutes! As on stage Segs did most of the talking (he does it well!) whilst Dave held it together at the back, correcting his mate from time to time on minor points of detail.

That interview from my point of view was a journey through a series of experiences and emotions connected through the music of The Ruts and Ruts DC. This is exactly what ‘Live On Stage’ is all about. It is like a career spanning interview in music and lyrics. So as not to sacrifice songs, most of the stage banter has been removed..... but go and see them live and it’s there aplenty. This rapid-fire delivery of the songs only serves to emphasise the power behind them.

Recorded over a handful of gigs, the 15 songs collected together for ‘Live On Stage’ have been closely scrutinised in order to best represent the band’s core set over the past two years and together they drive a stake into the ground that unambiguously states what the Ruts DC of 2014 are all about.

Every studio album is represented in this set, from ‘The Crack’, through ‘Animal Now’ and ‘Rhythm Collision 1’, to the magnificent ‘Rhythm Collision 2’, which undoubtedly showcases the band’s diverse musicality. Listen, if you only want to hear The Ruts, get hold of ‘It Was Cold In Hamburg’ or ‘Live At The Marquee’ but to pass on ‘Live On Stage’ would be your loss (N.B.  ‘It Was Cold In Hamburg’ and ‘Live At The Marquee’ are also highly recommended by the way!).

I love the fact that on the majority of occasions on which I have seen them they have opened, as on here,  with ‘Whatever We Do’, a song that raises a few bemused eyebrows in the audience as the song is probably largely unknown, before the band allay the fears of the old punk guard with a Ruts double of ‘Backbiter’ and the powerhouse ‘It Was Cold’, dedicated here to Malcolm Owen. Now moving into Ruts DC territory the intensity is ratcheted up a few notches as an impassioned ‘No Time To Kill’ is here linked with the civil war currently raging in Syria.

‘Smiling Culture/SUS’ is what my son might describe as a ‘mash up’. It’s a masterstroke that entwines two songs, both absolutely deeply rooted in events occurring at the time that they were written but separated by the passage of 34 years no less. And yet the subject matter is the same.  ‘Smiling Culture/SUS’ could be Ruts DC’s manifesto, a musical stand against establishment ignorance and prejudice. What progress have we made? I am really pleased that this combination has been properly documented on this album as SUS is now appearing in the band’s set in its own right.

'SUS' VegFest Bristol May 2014

‘Mirror Smashed’ brings with it a moment of dark reflection (no pun intended!) when ‘your schemes have run aground’, but before the listener has had time to take in the meaning, Ruts DC have picked them up by the boot straps and propelled them back to 1979 into the turmoil of a battlefield of a gig with ‘Staring At The Rude Boys’ (scenes of which are thankfully unlikely to be seen again at a Ruts DC gig!).

‘Love In Vain’ speaks for itself, then as now for Malcolm (but here also dedicated to Paul Fox). I can only imagine what emotions this song evokes in Segs as he sings Malcolm’s first person lyrics that so eloquently describe his, ultimately hopeless, struggle with heroin. A song that for certain puts hard drug use into sharp perspective, or ‘too much fucking perspective’ as Spinal Tap would have it.

‘Rhythm Collision 2’ highlight ‘Mighty Soldier, lifts the mood musically, even if the subject matter (child soldiers) is still grimly taboo. It is to be regretted that a live version that features the vocal talents of Tenor Fly was not available for this album, but I guess that’s just the way things go. I know, moan moan!

'Mighty Soldier' The Carlisle, Hastings March 2014

Now into the final straight of the set and the big guns of the Ruts arsenal are brought up to the front line to test the stamina of the audience. ‘Jah War’, ‘West One (Shine On Me)’ and a relative latecomer to the set ‘Something That I Said’ giving guitarist Leigh Heggarty a proper high impact workout! The band tease the audience next with ‘Rhythm Collision 1’ trach ‘Weak Heart’ making the briefest of appearances before segueing into an incendiary ‘Babylon’s Burning’.

‘Live On Stage’ concludes with ‘In A Rut’ and the circle is complete. It may have taken them 30 odd years but Ruts DC are not languishing in a rut at all..... they’re out of it with as incontrovertibly evidenced by  ‘Live On Stage’.

'In A Rut' Sub89 Club, Reading September 2013

Live On Stage
Available from 5th October 2014 on Cadiz Music

For Segs and Ruffy (and let’s not be forgetting Molara and Leigh) the last three years have been truely tumultuous. From the ‘Let’s see how this turns out’ dates with Alabama 3 back in late 2011 to the triumphant sets of Rebellion 2014, I don’t think that anyone on the inside or outside of the band camp could have anticipated just how well it has turned out. Two new albums, long awaited CD releases of the back catalogue , scores of gigs, a book and new material being penned to boot...... it’s a fine time to be a Rut!


Saturday, 30 August 2014

A Poignant Tale From The Great War - Mesopotamia 1917 - Supplemented

Private James Craig 22899 of the 6th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Killed in action in Mesopotamia on 9th March 1917 aged 21.

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a piece on the First World War. The post was based around some original letters from two cousins, both serving in Mesopotamia in 1917 with the 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment then fighting the Turkish forces of the Ottoman Empire.

The original article can be viewed here.

After seeing the article, the niece of Private James Craig passed on some photographs of the man for inclusion here. To see a photograph of the man whose death on the front line by virtue of a sniper's bullet is described to family back home in Bolton by his cousin-in-arms, Benny Hobson, really focuses the personal tragedy of the conflict.

Private Craig (seated second from the right in the second row) with fellow soldiers of the
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

A contemporary photograph of the Basra memorial in its original location of the main quay of the naval dockyard at Maqil, on the west bank of the Shatt-al-Arab.
The name 'J. Craig' can be seen on the panel second from bottom on the right hand column.

10 From '87 (4) The Ramones Sheffield University 15th November 1987

'1-2-3-4!'

This was a BBC 'In Concert' broadcast of a partial set that the band played at Sheffield University at the tail end of the year. The tour was promoting the 'Halfway to Sanity' album that came out in September. Later Ramones albums suffered much criticism in the music press, but that album I think is pretty strong and 'Bop 'Til You Drop', 'Weasel Face' and 'The Garden Of Serenity' from the album appear on this recording.

FLAC: http://we.tl/wJZsn5M7Vs

01. Psychotherapy
02. Blitzkrieg Bop
03. Do You Remember Rock 'N' Roll Radio?
04. Bop 'Till You Drop
05. Chinese Rocks
06. Weasel Face
07. Rockaway Beach
08. Garden Of Senerity
09. Today Your Love, Tomorrow The World
10. Pinhead
11. I Wanna Live
12. Somebody Put Something In My Drink
13. Bonzo Goes To Bitburg


Saturday, 23 August 2014

JJ Interview Wolverhampton Civic Hall 18th March 1987


As a complementary post to the Wolverhampton show itself, here is a short interview with JJ recorded backstage during the brass section's soundcheck with broadcaster and fan Chris Lowe. The interview was broadcast the same evening on his Signal Radio show from Stoke.

MP3: http://we.tl/w0edWEkIt0

10 From '87 (3) Wolverhampton Civic Hall 18th March 1987


Now a second set from Wolverhampton, this time from the second leg of the 'Dreamtime' tour. A great set and the first time I heard them play '5 Minutes', then as now a favourite track.

FLAC: http://we.tl/1hZuMLjkBo

Artwork: http://we.tl/4AXiC0et9w

01. No More Heroes
02. Was It You?/Down In The Sewer
03. Nice In Nice/Punch And Judy
04. Souls
05. Always The Sun
06. Strange Little Girl
07. Golden Brown
08. Northwinds
09. Big In America
10. Nice 'N' Sleazy
11. Who Wants The World?

01. Grip
02. Bring On The Nubiles
03. Shakin' Like A Leaf
04. Uptown
05. Tank
06. Spain
07. Five Minutes
08. Duchess
09. London Lady

10 From '87 (2) The Damned Draken Stockholm 21st January 1987

Roman Jugg
Draken Cinema, Stockholm
21st January 1987

Sorry for the repetition, but here's another from The Damned, only this time not incognito. In the introduction to this series of posts I said that British music was entering into a nose dive that it would not pull out of for several years. In such sonically challenged times at least The Damned were consistent. By the time of this early '87 recording The Damned were still riding high in what was the most commercially successful period of their career. Starting with the incredible 'Phantasmagoria' album of 1985, they troubled the charts consistently for the next two years, not least with their reworking of the 1968 Barry Ryan song 'Eloise' (their biggest hit, reaching a UK chart high of number 3).

At this time the line up was enjoying a rare period of stability (in Damned terms at least) and the band had transformed into a quartet of Regency dandies! Nevertheless, despite their outlandish appearance (nothing new for The Damned there), between 1985 and 1987 they produced some of their finest material.



With chart success came renewed television exposure starting with what was one of their finest moments, a rip-roaring version of 'Nasty' on The Young Ones'.

'Nasty' by The Damned
The Young Ones BBC TV 1984

Also of note was their stint on the classic Tube.

'Eloise' by The Damned
The Tube Channel 4 1986

Funnily enough, this week The Damned have again played in Stockholm, but here's a 27 year old vintage performance.



01. Sanctum Santorum
02. Wait For The Blackout
03. Psychomania
04. Anything
05. Shadow Of Love
06. In Dulce Decorum
07. Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
08. Is It A Dream
09. A Girl Goes Down
10. L.A. Woman
11. Smash It Up pt 1&2
12. Street Of Dreams
13. Eloise

01. Plan 9 Channel 7
02. Tonight
03. Lust For Life
04. Love Song
05. Backdoor Man
06. Neat Neat Neat
07. We Love You

Monday, 18 August 2014

Hugh And Jet Interview 18th August 1979


35 years on and here's a brief interview with Hugh and Jet, recorded and broadcast on the day of The Who gig at Wembley Stadium. Given Pete Townsend issues with the band in the previous couple of years, our drummer and guitarist are pretty complimentary about the old mods..... well by Stranglers standards at least!

MP3: http://we.tl/hi2VJsZs68

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Fitting Tribute

'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red'
1914-2014

I don't know a lot about art and I know what I like. Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time with Ramona in London. We had tickets to the Tower Bridge exhibition, but what I really wanted to see was the commemorative installation at the Tower of London marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of The Great War. Entitled 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' it features 888,246 ceramic red poppies (in Britain the most evocative symbol of the conflict), the scale of the work and its settling is breath taking! If you are resident in the UK you really should make a point of seeing it at close quarters before 11th November.

The fact that it looks as though the Tower is oozing blood from its interior may have been unintentional (?) but is also fitting given it's gruesome thousand year history.

Ramona in front of some old castle

The Tower Bridge exhibition is worth a visit as well, briefly possessed by the spirit of Fred Dibnah I started welling up at the sight of steam engine machinery!


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Wolverhampton Civic Hall 20th October 1999


Here's a gig from the Black Country, recorded on the 'Hits and Heroes' tour (thanks to Wegga for this one), Please note that there is a error in the track listing as uploaded and the correct set is as detailed below.

MP3 (as received): http://we.tl/sFgvAW2jAD

01. Duchess
02. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
03. Who Wants The World
04. Coup De Grace
05. Uptown
06. Just Like Nothing On Earth
07. Golden Brown
08. Ice Queen
09. Princess Of The Street
10. The Raven
11. Genetix
12. Always The Sun
13. Goodbye Toulouse
14. Nuclear Device
15. Two Sunspots
16. Burning Up Time
17. Tank
18. Something Better Change
19. Down In The Sewer
20. Skin Deep
21. Thrown Away
22. Valley Of The Birds
23. Thrown Away
24. Hanging Around
25. No More Heroes

Thursday, 14 August 2014

10 From '87 Naz Nomad And The Nightmares Finsbury Park London 23rd August 1987 (Acid Daze)


The psychedelic beat combo, Naz Nomad & The Nightmares, were in fact a thinly veiled spin-off of The Damned. Songs collected on the soundtrack album of a fictitious horror B-movie entitled 'Give Daddy The Knife Cindy' were in the main covers by the '60's garage and psychedelic bands that had been an influence to members of The Damned. The album also features two original tracks, neither of which were played in this brief set.

The recording comes from the Acid Daze all day event in London's Finsbury Park in which Naz Nimad shared the bill alongside Doctor & The Medics, Ozric Tentacles, Voodoo Child, Gaye Bikers On Acid, Pop Will Eat Itself with the psychedelic real deal Hawkwind headlining.

This is the full set recording, which also includes the track 'Looking At You' itself a regular in The Damned's sets.

FLAC: http://we.tl/oi83el9EbV

01. Nobody But Me
02. Action Woman
03. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
04. Looking At You
05. I Can't Stand This Love, Goodbye
06. Riders On The Storm

I did get to see Naz a couple of times in the '80's, once at the Marquee and once at the 'Son of Acid Daze' at what was The Town & Country Club.

Interestingly, The Stranglers equivalents, The Purple Helmets, were doing something in a very similar vein at the same time, albeit playing R&B covers in favour of psychedelic songs.


A Focus on 1987

August Bank Holiday 1987
At The Reading Festival

In March 1987 I turned 18. A fantastic age to be when a late teen starts to feel comfortable and confident about what and who he is. With the possibility of university just around the corner, all was rosy in Adrian's camp. Almost all that is. Margret Thatcher was still on the throne (the 1987 General Election was the first that I was eligible to vote in, which I did, despite wearing Conflict T-shirts at the time!). Although why I bothered to vote in Mid-Sussex is anyone's guess..... Tory party heavyweight Tim Renton was our MP and his majority was bulletproof.

The main candidates in the British 1987 General Election
(l-r: Neil Kinnock (Labour), Margaret Thatcher (Conservative), David Owen and David Steel (SDP-Liberal Alliance)

The iron will of the iron lady prevailed and it would be another four years before we could try to do something about it.... disastrously as it turned out!

One of the worst features of 1987 was the existence of the sociological nightmare that was the YUPPIE, to some Young Upwardly mobile Professionals, but to the majority a clique of city-based, cocaine fueled, champagne swilling, self-serving arseholes.

'Ya right, so what time's Eric on?'

I recall the following year seeing Eric Clapton at the Royal Albert Hall, having been given 5 box tickets by Gunta's then company (he was coming to the end of a month's residency, by which time all in the office had been). As gigs go, it was truly dreadful, save for renditions of 'White Room' and 'Sunshine Of Your Love', but it was jam packed full of YUPPIES with their 'mobile' phone batteries in tow. As if it wasn't bad enough that these people sneered as British industry crumbled under the influence of 'Thatcherism' they also lead to the rise of The Britannia Music Club!!

The Cold War was still on (Mikhail Gorbachev was still a few years from office at this point), terrifying public information shorts brought the reality of AIDS into people's homes (great news for an 18 year old.... thank you God!).


....... and the British music scene was dipping towards an all time low with Stock, Aitken and Waterman starting to establish their stranglehold on the charts.

In the summer, I took my 'A Levels' and did rather badly it has to be said. Funnily enough, as I write this on 14th August, sixth formers (or Year 12 as they go by these days) are collecting their 'A Level' results. As I think back 27 years to when I picked mine up I recall that the Deputy Headmaster commented, as he handed me the million dollar envelope that my results spelled 'NUDE', that was N (Chemistry), U (Practical Chemistry), D (Biology) and E (Physics). I still contend that they were harder back then! I responded by spending all day, from opening to closing time, in a number of Lewes's drinking houses before falling through the front door at midnight to face the wrath of two very disappointed parents.

Installed in a pub, not in Lewes, but the Junction in Burgess Hill in 1987

As indicated earlier, to my ears, 1987 was pretty bleak on the music front. and is not greatly represented in my collection. However, I have identified 10 to cover the year.

Birthday cake made for my 18th (you must admire the subtlety!)

The Ruts At The Marquee - Review Sounds 1st September 1979


Flicking through old copies of the music press, as I am inclined to do every so often, I came across this Bushell penned review of a Ruts gig at the Marquee in London in late August 1979.
Click on the image to enlarge.

Manchester Academy 27th March 2011


Here's another one, by request, from the closing night of the Black & Blue tour in Manchester.

FLAC: http://we.tl/kFU20I6WKH

Artwork: http://we.tl/OdVpT60F2Z


Monday, 11 August 2014

We Transfer Subscription


This is a post that I, along with I suspect every other host of a blog or a web site, cringe about. September sees the expiry of my current Wetransfer subscription and whilst the aural sculptors site is free, there is a cost associated with file transfer and storage, without which there would not be much point to the site.

Following changes to Rapidshare some time ago, which rendered their service totally useless for this kind of site, I paid to switch over to Wetransfer, which provides an excellent and reliable service. Next years subs are due next month at £10 per month (paid once a year).

Don’t get me wrong, the site will continue regardless (I have invested too much time and effort over the past few years to drop it) so this is in no way a gun to the head post! That said, should any regular users of the site feel inclined to make a contribution to the cost of running it, that would be most welcome. There is a PayPal donation button that appears on the right hand side of the site. As I have said before, in no way is this site set up to make any money, so if donations received get to the point where the years fees are covered, I will state this to be the case and remove the donation button from the site.

Also, it is my sincere hope that Wetransfer, as good as they are, make some moves to increase their permanent storage capacity to a level that is more in keeping with the requirements of a site such as this.

Thanks as ever for your continued support of the site and for enduring my random ramblings!

Cheers,

Adrian.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

A Poignant Tale From The Great War - Mesopotamia 1917

Private James Craig 22899 of the 6th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Killed in action in Mesopotamia on 9th March 1917 aged 21.

I have been passed on some letters by a friend of mine and this being the centennial week of the outbreak of the First World War, with her mother’s king permission, I am relating this tiny piece of very personal war history here.

Firstly, I think that some context around these three letters is necessary for the better understanding of the story.

The letters (or rather, with the exception of one original, copies of the letters (the originals are now housed in the document archives of the Imperial War Museum)) were passed on to me by Gillian Morris. Her Grandmother Mrs Anne (Annie) Frisby (neé Craig) was the sister of the soldier central to the story, James Craig (the author of one of the letters from Mesopotamia in November 1916) and cousin of Benny Hobson (author of the remaining two letters and carrier of devistating news).

Whilst in this week of sombre reflection much of the media attention have focused on the war on the Western Front, for it was the fighting in these areas of Europe that gives us our most commonly held perception of The Great War, a world of trenches, mud, blood and poppies. By contrast, this story reinforces the notion that this really was a world war as the events that unfold in these letters occurred far away in Mesopotamia (in modern day Iraq) and Bangalore in India.

James Craig and Benny Hobson were two Bolton lads who at the time when theses letters were penned were both serving in the 6th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, which in turn formed part of the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force. The 6th (Service) Battalion were a New Army (or Kitcheners Army) formation established in Preston in August 1914. Prior to fighting on the outskirts of Baghdad in March 1917, the battalion had previously seen action at Anzac Cove as part of the ill-fated Gallipoli campaign.

Private Craig (seated second from the right in the second row) with fellow soldiers of the
Loyal North Lancashire Regiment

The first letter is a short communication from James to his sister Polly (Mary) Craig to reassure her and the family that he ‘is still living’ and seemingly bored rigid with the mundane day to day  existence that he is experiencing. Whether this was a means of allaying the fears of loved ones at home, starved as they were of information from the front lines, or is a true reflection of a quite period between operations is hard to say, although a characteristic of front line service were long periods of uneventful labour interspersed with short periods of extreme danger.

Throughout these letters, replacement of words with '??????' indicate that the original texts have become illegible.

17/11 6
Pt J Craig 22899
6th Batt L. NL Regt
Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force
c/o Indian Office
G.P.O. 
London


Dear Polly

Just a line to let you know that I am still living, but I have not very much to tell you as every day is alike.  I have had a letter from Gert? and it cheers me up to read about home, it was the first letter for months as you will know that the mail is very broke.  I should like to get a letter from you as I am always thinking of you and the good times we have had at home, but I never get down-hearted.  This morning I was mark fit and I shall be moving from here shortly so I might meet Benny as I have never heard about him.  Well Polly dear, I will close now hoping that you and all at home are in the best of health as I am in the ????  Remember me to mother.

I remain

Your loving brother Jim C

PS: I have just received 2 letters – one from Gorge and one from our Norman and tell him I will answer his letter at the first opportunity.  Jim.

The fortunes of Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force (M.E.F.), and thus the 6th Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, in this theatre of war were mixed. Facing Turkish forces of the Ottoman Army (or ‘Johnny Turk’ as he was to the Allied soldiers), the M.E.F. had suffered at the Seige of Kut (Kut-al-Amara) which ended in April 1916 with more than 13,000 British and colonial soldiers being taken captive.

With the appointment of a new commander General Sir Frederick Maude came a new fighting impetuous. Efforts to reinforce the M.E.F. were mirrored by a parallel weakening of the opposing Ottoman 6th Army, which found itself desperately short of reinforcements. Secret orders handed down to Maude from the Field Marshal Sir Willian Robert Robertson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, not to advance on Baghdad, were reversed with the realisation that, if combined with a Russian success in taking Mosul, Turkish influence in Mesopotamia could be neutralised.

Lieutenant General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude KCB, CMG, DSO
24 June 1864 – 18 November 1917 

Maude’s offensive to take Baghdad was launched on 13th December 1916. The M.E.F. advanced up both banks of the Tigris river, overpowering Ottoman fortified positions as they went. At one point in the advance Maude’s forces were able of outmanoeuvre the Turks by switching to the opposite bank of the river. During this march to Baghdad, Kut was retaken on 24th February 1917. At this juncture, Maude’s forces took some time to recuperate before the march on Baghdad resumed on 5th March. The Ottoman Sixth Army, under the command of the capable Khalil Pasha, elected to make a defensive stand at the confluence of the Diyala and the Tigris rivers, some 35 miles south of Baghdad. The British and Indian troops had reached the Diyala river on 8th March 1917.

These two young relatives of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment participated on an assault of the Ottoman positions on 9th March at the Diyala (the river or part of it being described as a canal in the letter). Resistance to the Allied assault was ferocious, as described graphically in the letter from Benny Hobson. It was during this assault I believe that cousin James Craig was killed by a Turkish sniper’s bullet. 

After the action near the Diyala, Maude shifted his main force north of the river and Khalil Pasha mirrored this troop movement with his forces on the opposite bank, leaving only one regiment to hold the existing Diyala positions. This regiment were overwhelmed by the British on 10th March and on hearing that his men had been crushed, Pasha ordered his Sixth Army north to Baghdad itself. 

The Ottoman authorities ordered the evacuation of Baghdad at 8pm on the evening of 10th March, but the game was up for the Ottoman forces. The British entered Baghdad without further opposition on 11th March 1917.

General Maude enters Bagdad, leading a column of British troops
11th March 1917

It was on the 12th March, most likely from within Baghdad itself, that Benny Hobson wrote the first of his two letters in this small collection.  This was the first opportunity after the heat of battle that this young soldier could relay the tragic events of the previous few days and in doing so break the news that James had fallen.

A week later, General Maude issued the Proclamation of Baghdad, which included the line, "Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators".

22878 Pte. B. Hobson
C Coy Batt, L of L Regt
Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force
o/p GPO
London
March 12/17

Dear Cousin Norman

I hardly know how to write to you yet I suppose I must come to the point and although it seems terribly hard to tell you the worse and that is of your Dear brother’s death in action on the night of the 9th.  I was not with him at this time but not far away but from information gathered from the commander of his platoon it seems he was at this time on sentry and met his death at the hands of a sniper who got him in the head.  His end Dear Cousin I believe was quite short and painless as he fell to the ground without murmuring.  I did not hear of this till the day following and then my Coy or what remained of it were given orders to get back across the river.  So I will give you an idea of what we had to face and the glorious deeds which some day sooner or later will come to light.  Our division have as you will already know been on the heels of the retreating Turks since the fall of Kut when our marching days began and we had got within 12 miles of Bagdad when our way was suddenly stopped by a canal which had to be bridged by some means or other and so material for a Pontoon was soon at hand but Johnnie’s artillery fire soon put an end to this idea, so it was decided upon that our Batt should proceed across in boats 10 men to each but this was cancelled after half of us had got over and then the band began to play just try to imagine a weak force like us trying to hold a very much larger force.  Yet God only knows we held on like grim death after every hour brought depletion in our ranks men fell wounded and killed, our rifles fairly blazed and became too hot to handle and ammunition began to run out and to save as much as possible we had to only fire in case of extreme necessity, once the turks began to bomb us and we were obliged to retreat. To put it in words as deep as I can it was Hell, but some day Dear Cousin, if God spares me I will tell you it all, I do not know how I escaped death as pals around me fell and I had my helmet knocked off by a piece of Turkish shell, help cam just as day broke on the 10th and under the devastating fire of our own artillery, the Turks began to retire many coming in to our lines and giving themselves up.  These two nights I shall never forget this trying ordeal and now I mourn the loss of one who could not have been more to me if he had been my brother.  You must excuse this letter Dear Cousin if it be by any means to sadden or in any sense too cruel.  I did not know how to break this sad news to you and yet I thought you ought to know, I have not write to my Dear Aunt as I know she will be in a way so Dear Norman I leave it to you to break this news to her in a way you will think best with the one consolation to the loss of one so dear that he died with his face to the enemy in one of the pluckiest engagements ever known every inch a soldier and a man.  I have made enquiries about his personal belongings but find out that his sergeant got them all, that was himself wounded as I intended could I have got them posting them to you a my first opportunity but perhaps he may have the kindness to return them to you.

I hope you will take my deepest sympathy in this sad time and trust with me that your dear departed Brother my good old chum has joined the favoured throng and now dwells in Heaven with our loved ones only gone before.  Now I will close as I do not feel as I can write any more at present.  Hoping you will always to bear up.
I remain
Your sad and lonely Cousin
Benny

Will you kindly break the news to Greta.

Benny remained in Mesopotamia it appears until he was sent for an extended period of leave to Bangalore, India, arriving on 21st June 1918. In a letter dated 27th June 1918, he describes the recreational opportunities for British troops on leave in the area. How alien and exotic this land must have seemed the the family back home in Bolton.

The letter finishes touchingly as Benny describes his on going efforts to locate the final resting place of cousin Jim.

22878 Pte. B. Hobson
C Coy Batt, L of L Regt
Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force
27/6/18


Dear Cousin,

Just a few lines hoping you and all at home are keeping in the best of health at present.  No doubt by the post-mark you will notice I am in India where I am spending a month’s leave having arrived at Bombay last Thursday the 21st and after a three-day railway journey arrived here at the Leave-Camp.  This place – Bangalore – is known as the Garden of India and is accepted as being one of the healthiest places in this country and suitable to British troops as the climate resembles a decent ‘Blighty’ summer and vegetation grows abundantly.  Bangalore is divided into two parts – the Canton-ment and the City.  The former is composed mainly of camps for British troops and shops, municipal buildings and English Residents. There are some lovely walks the only pity is Emily’s not here.  Parks are just like England – one named Cubbon Park I visited yesterday on entering one is met by a most imposing monument of Queen Victoria.  She has for her body-guard four small cannon used by our troops in the days of the Indian Mutiny –each gun having a good supply of cannon balls, as I looked I thought what harmless things they would look stored side by side with our present-day improvements in big guns and high-explosive shells.  There is also a Bandstand and museum, this unfortunately was closed but I hope to see it later on, avenues abound where one can rest neath the shade of these tall trees and enjoy the coolness given thereby.  We are fairly well catered for as regards amusement – there are five picture houses placed within bounds three of these I have already been to and can state that their quality is quite good and I should say equal to most shows in Bolton, the piano of course provides the music and that’s a treat to some of us for there not many pianos in Mespot except in garrisoned places and I can assure you the North Lancs don’t see much of them places unless sickness or wounds take them there.  Food is very cheap here owing to I expect that nearly all the foodstuffs are grown and produced in India herself and of course native labour is very cheap. That reminds me, women do all the hard work  I ????? would you ???????? tricky or work on the railway navving rather hard work you will admit.  There are few white people here but the majority are half castes neither black nor white of course are pretty well-to-do and live in big houses, dress smartly and have all the necessary swank so usual in civil life. “Archie” saunters along in white or cream pants light tweed coat and “kady” together with low shoes and railway socks these with of course ???? running round commandeering one of some big junction – Maude is daintily attired in white shoes and socks likewise, her hat neatly trimmed with – here I shall have to stop as I have clean forgotten the name, but anyhow it finishes up with two long strings at the back recalling that time-expired fashion – Follow-me-lads.  We are well catered for in the eating-line and of course this is one of the main items as we took Baden Powell’s motto – “pull your belt up another hole” rather too much to heart in the last stunt when rations fail to put in appearance for two or three days, so you see we’ve got to make up for the last time and I hope, buy another belt.  We can get a good supper of ???? eggs with bread. ??????   bananas equal in English money to a tanner, eggs ???? or tea can be brought ready boiled at 6 for 5d fruit is fairly cheap bananas 4d a dozen so you see if a fellow doesn’t make up for what he’s lost it’s entirely his own fault.  How would you like a monkey for a pet they knock about here wild or one can buy a youngster for a very small fee, they are quite amusing in their antics and can be trained almost for anything – one I saw yesterday had to be fitted and looked very smart in service dress – his master had made him a tunic and trousers to match and of course a service cap, he also wore 3 gold stripes on the left sleeve and look quite an old time ?????., no doubt we shall have quite a good supply of monkeys in Mespot when we go back.  Enclosed you will find a little book dealing with peoples manners and customs of Mespot which no doubt will be interesting to you, unfortunately, I have had to cut it down as I cannot get an envelope big enough so you must please overlook this little difficulty.  I expect you will have received my last letter where I stated about the ?????????????????? so I will give you the results and information.  I gleaned from the meeting firstly that a tablet bearing all the names of officers that made that famous crossing should be unveiled at  Preston Garrison Church then a monument enclosed and on the spot where so many of our lads fell including my dear old chum your dear brother should be erected, the cost to be defrayed by the Reg’t every man from the Commanding Officer downwards would be asked to give one-day’s pay, who would not give this for so heroic lads done on that never-to-be-forgotten occasion.  I trust Dear Cousin that in this you will find some little consolation although it does not help to bring or regain that which was lost, still you see the men are not forgotten by their ?????? chums and I daresay this to you will mean more than words can explain.  I have not yet been near that sacred spot as to find your Dear Brother’s resting place, but my enquiries as to the information you asked have yet been of little avail no doubt for the speedy advance made for the bid for Baghdad.  But I promise you my enquiries will still continue and perhaps ‘ere long I shall be able to give you the information you so much desire.  I trust my Dear Aunt is keeping well and that all my cousins are in the best of health.  Will you please give them my very best regards and tell them to keep their hearts up.  God claimed there last one. He called him and I know because of our close relationship when on this earth he always kept straight, played the game and now has won the prize.  I do not want to open an old wound, forgive me if my letter should appear so my role as comforter may not be or seem to be genuine, but in all sincerity it comes from the heart.  My thoughts go back to what might have been as I look round and see boys just a few who left Felixstowe with us, here after a period of hard graft believe me it has been ???, we gather for an holiday to recuperate so ???? read yet the one ???? would have liked to see and wondered with is not here, but I surely know even if that chain is broken that he who once walked and enjoyed life on this earth is now looking down upon me ever smiling enlisted in God’s Own.  Now I will close trusting you will find some little comfort in my rough epistle and I hope God will grant to you all that joy and peace which I cannot give. “The Peace that passeth all UNDERSTANDING”.

I Remain
Your Sincere Cousin
Benny Hobson

Cubbon Park, Bangalore, with the statue of Queen Victoria seen by Private Benny Hobson whilst on leave from Mesopotamia

In fact, Private James Craig No. 22877 has no final resting place, no known grave. As described in Benny's letter, the speed of the final advance on Baghdad meant that the remains of thousands of British and Indian troops were not recovered from the battlefield.

James Craig is commemorated at the Basra Memorial, now sited in Nasiriyah (having been relocated from its original position at the Naval Dock at Maquil, 8 kilometers north of Basra.

Location of the Basra Memorial commemorating the 40,500 men of the Mesopotamia campaign of 1914-1921 with no known grave.
Baghdad and Kut are marked to the north west of the memorial site.

A contemporary photograph of the Basra memorial in its original location of the main quay of the naval dockyard at Maqil, on the west bank of the Shatt-al-Arab.
The name 'J. Craig' can be seen on the panel second from bottom on the right hand column.

James Craig's name appears on panel 28 of the memorial.

List of names as they appear on panel 28 of the Basra Memorial
(Craig J. appears eighth in the left hand column).

Plan of the Basra Memorial showing panel positions

Grave Registration Report listing the details of Private James Craig 22877


The story as it appeared in the local Bolton press some years ago

For the record Private James Craig No. 22877 was 21 years of age when he was killed.

Cap badge of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment


Saturday, 9 August 2014

O2 Academy Sheffield 6th March 2010


Here's a specific request from Angela. Hope you enjoy it!

FLAC: http://we.tl/HgJQBmLY4D

Artwork: http://we.tl/ZmHK1yFTZc

01. Intro
02. Time To Die
03. Go Buddy Go
04. (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)
05. Curfew
06. Norfolk Coast
07. Skin Deep
08. Always The Sun
09. Strange Little Girl
10. Golden Brown
11. Lost Control
12. Retro Rockets
13. Genetix
14. Nice 'N' Sleazy
15. Peaches
16. Spectre Of Love
17. Walk On By
18. Nuclear Device
19. Duchess
20. Down In The Sewer


01. 5 Minutes
02. Something Better Change
03. Encore Break
04. No More Heroes

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Through The Gates Of Hell - Auschwitz I - Auschwitz II - Birkenau 1st August 2014


This year, with No. 1 son presently being eaten alive by the mosquitoes of Borneo, the remnants of the Andrews family also wanted to do a something a little more challenging for a summer holiday. Last week we embarked on a trek through Europe that took us from Hamburg to Copenhagen, on to Malmo, then on to Crackow via Budapest. It was ambitious for a week away in which the miles were consumed by a combination of trains, planes and ferries (plus a good few miles put in on foot!). However, fear not, I am not planning to bore you with a blow by blow account of our summer break. But I do want to share one part of it.

The itinerary had us boarding a night train from Keleti Railway Station in Budapest.... destination Cracow. Having taken several Caledonian sleepers over the years, I had a fair idea of what to expect from this mode of transport, but the rest of the family did not, so it was all a bit of an adventure and indeed for my part, I was exited too. I am no trainspotter, but part of me does find trans-continental train journeys exotic (beating my daily rail commute from Bishops Stortford to Harlow Town hands down!). Over 10 and a half hours that would carry us across the Czech Republic and Slovakia en route to Poland, some cheap wine was required to ensure at least a little sleep.

One of the principal reasons for make our way over to South West Poland was to fulfill a long held wish to visit the remaining Auschwitz camp complexes. To make the most of the trip I was busy supplementing what I  already knew about the place by cramming books on the subject as we travelled. So it was that once Gunta and Ramona were settled, I was once again engrossed in an excellent book entitled 'Hanns & Rudolf - The German Jew and the Hunt for the Kommandant of Auschwitz' by Thomas Harding. It is a extraordinary true account of how a Berlin born Jew escaped from Nazi Germany only to rise through the ranks of the British Army (as part of the British Army of Liberation or B.L.A.), finally given the responsibility of tracking down high profile war criminals of the fallen regime. Ultimately he was to traverse Germany, through multitudes of shattered towns in pursuit of one of the most wanted on the list, Rudolf Hoess, first kommnandant of Auschwitz and the man in charge at the point when the camp was functioning at its murderous peak.

It is a book that I would very highly recommend.

Available here.

As the train rumbled over the tracks I came to the following passage of this book.

"On 15 May 1944 the first trains from Hungary arrived in Auschwitz. By 8 July more than 437,000 Hungarian Jews had been deported on 151 transports. Of those trains, 136 were sent to Auschwitz, where 90 per cent of the prisoners were exterminated upon arrival. The 'selections' were overseen by Josef Mengele and Fritz Klein, the camp doctors. The crematoria were unable to keep up with the number of prisoners, so the extra bodies were dragged out of the newly dug pits, where they were doused in oil and burned. The black smoke from the pyres could be seen miles away.

This extermination programme was code-named 'Aktion Hoess', for it was Rudolf who oversaw the mass murder of more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews in Auschwitz. On 29 July, senior Nazi figures gathered in Solahutte, a retreat a few miles from the camp, to celebrate Rudolf and the successful completion of the operation."

The extra poignancy of these two paragraphs hit me like a night train coming in the opposite direction! As we made our slow(ish) progress towards Cracow (and therefore Auschwitz) from Budapest, against a soundtrack of guards whistles, the regular metallic screech of wheel against rail and the periodic clash of buffers as carriages were shunted, I looked at the date on my watch..... the 30th July (2014), that is seventy years and one day after that party took place near the camp to mark a 'job well done', the liquidation of Hungarian Jewry!

It was chilling that our 'transport' whilst significantly more comfortable than a cattle truck was taking that same journey, possibly on the same tracks, that carried generations of men, women and children to the gas chambers of Birkenau.

I finished the wine at this point despite its unpalatability!

Of the camps themselves, there is nothing further that needs to be said by me, so instead here are a handful of photographs of what is probably the most disturbing place on Earth.

The gas chamber in Auschwitz I where hundreds of Soviet POWs and other political prisoners perished in the regime's initial experiments with such methods of mass extermination in September 1941

The crematorium furnaces adjacent to the gas chamber of Auschwitz I

'The Rail to Hell'
View into Auschwitz II - Birkenau through the gatehouse


Prisoner hut in the Auschwitz II - Birkenau Women's Camp

Entrance to gas chamber/crematorium II (dark door at the end of the walled area) leading to the undressing area

Remains of gas chamber II (blown up by the SS) shortly before the liberation

The Day The Nazi Died.
The gallows from which Rudolf Hoess was hanged within Auschwitz I on 16th April 1947