A Balloonist’s Grave

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.

Catholic Volunteer who fought in a little remembered war

In 2014, I visited Birkdale Roman Catholic Cemetery on the edge of Southport.Looking through my images recently, I hadn’t realised the significance of one particular memorial until now. It mentioned Daniel Henry Shee – Late Pontifical Zouaves 1867-1870 and Superintent of Birkdale Farm Reformatory School 1877 – 1909. Capt Shee was a Knight of Pius & Papal war hero. The story of the Papal Zouves is one of great heroism by a multinational force of Catholic volunteers [shades of the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War]. The organisation’s history is detailed HERE

The school, which became an Approved School in 1933, had a troubled beginning and it was Capt Shee’s arrival that saw much improvement in its operation made. A very useful history of the school can be read HERE

A transcription of the staff members and the ‘scholars under detention’ is available HERE