The Bulletin of the Birmingham Branch of the WFA

Compiled by Bob Butcher

February 2010

MORE ABOUT MORTARS

Why should the calibre of a medium mortar (2 inches) be smaller than that of a light mortar (3 inches)? The answer is that the 2 inch medium mortar fired the famous 'toffee apple' bomb, that is, a round bomb with a steel rod attached, and it was this rod that was inserted into the tube leaving the main part outside the mortar. In the Stokes 3inch light mortar of course, the complete bomb was dropped down the barrel.

Three batteries each of four mortars (later two batteries of six) manned by the Royal Field Artillery were provided for each infantry division in the BEF. Its 50 lb bomb is reported to have done useful work wire cutting on the Somme although its range was only about 500 yards. However, the noise and flash resulting from the firing of the mortar drew enemy retaliation and the steel rod invariably flew off backwards, often injuring British troops. Mortars were therefore not popular neighbours. Moreover it had a low rate of fire as loading involved inserting a charge and ramming it down before inserting the bomb.

It is therefore not surprising that GHQ insisted on it being replaced by the 6 inch mortar which had been designed by Lt Col Newton in France. It came into service during the second quarter of 1917. The new medium mortar had a range of 1950 yards and as it was a muzzle loading weapon its rate of fire, eight rounds per minute, was much better than the one that it replaced. It fired a cylindrical cast iron bomb with steel tails. Rejected small arms cartridges were used as igniters.

The BEF also required a heavy mortar and in order to speed things up, it was decided to copy the French 240 mm weapon. The result was the British 9.45 inch heavy mortar. It had a comparatively short barrel with a range of 1150 yards and fired a 'vaned' bomb of steel weighing between 150 and 154 lb, often referred to as the 'flying pig'. The BEF commenced receiving it in June 1916. Originally each division had a battery of four mortars manned by the Royal Garrison Artillery, but later the batteries became corps troops.

Bob Butcher

 

HIGH SPIRITS

The First World War saw more interest in spiritualism in Britain. Urged on by the Daily Mail the police cracked down. On Saturday 24 February 1917 five spiritualists appeared at Marylebone Police Court on vagrancy charges. The Magistrate Mr Denman first tried Horace Leaf, thirty-nine, a spiritualist lecturer, who called himself the Honorary Secretary of the Spiritualist Education Council.

A witness said that on 28 January 1917 she had gone to Camberwell Masonic Hall, South London, and had heard Leaf lecture on spiritualism. There had been a collection. On 6 February 1917 she had visited his house. There he claimed to see a ghostly elderly lady called Anna Mailing standing behind her chair. The witness said that she knew no such person but Leaf said that it was a relation of hers. She said that her grandmother was called Allen but Leaf insisted that the spirit was named Mailing. He then said 'lt is curious but I cannot get in touch with your spirit', He said he saw a ghost called Edward with a pointed beard, and that a 'spirit woman' had died of heart trouble. Leaf told the witness to put her fingers on his palms and as she did he mumbled. A second witness woman had also visited his house and paid him five shillings. Mr Denman convicted Leaf of fortune telling and fined him 25 plus five shillings costs, or two months in gaol.

The next spiritualist put on trial was Olive Bush, thirty-four, an American dressmaker and milliner alias Madame Start. At her request her trial was adjourned so that she might consult a solicitor. She was given bail with two fifty pound sureties.

Agnes Constance Macdonald, forty-four, alias Madame Vox, a palmist was then tried. Earlier evidence had been given but at this hearing a woman witness told of having visited Vox and signed a document. The defence solicitor said that it said that Vox did not wish to deceive or impose on anyone. Mr Denman said that one could not 'contract out' of the law. A woman who had accompanied the previous witness said that Vox had said that she would marry young, her husband would have a legacy ten years later, she would have one five years later, and they would have two children. She paid two and six for this prophecy. Mr Denman fined Vox 15 and 5 five shillings costs.

Susan Fielder forty-three, was then tried. A woman witness had seen her on 3 February and paid for a palm and crystal reading. Fielder told her of a fair man who was abroad in khaki and was a Lieutenant, of a fat dark married man, and that she would have 'the time of your life'. Mr Denman convicted Fielder and said that in her case there were no extenuating circumstances but 'only revolting and objectionable features, which could only be regarded as dangerous, wicked and horrible'. He sentenced her to two months in gaol without the option of a fine.

The last spiritualist to be tried at this hearing was Annie Elizabeth Brodie, aged forty-four, alias Madame Leslie. Apart from being a paid spiritualist it was said that she had been convicted at Dublin for keeping a disorderly house, and had been expelled from the last Bristol International Exhibition. She denied these charges but was sentenced to two months in gaol without the option of a fine.

Looking at these cases Fielder was imprisoned without the option of a fine because her prophecies were seen as encouraging immorality. Brodie as a convicted brothel keeper, was also imprisoned without the option of a fine. Leaf and Macdonald were given the option of paying a heavy fine or of imprisonment because their visions were less harmful or merely silly, and they were otherwise seemingly respectable people. Bush was treated with kid gloves as an American citizen.

J.P.Lethbridge

 

 

 

but I cannot get in touch with your spirit', He said he saw a ghost called Edward with a pointed beard, and that a 'spirit woman' had died of heart trouble. Leaf told the witness to put her fingers on his palms and as she did he mumbled. A second witness woman had also visited his house and paid him five shillings. Mr Denman convicted Leaf of fortune telling and fined him 25 plus five shillings costs, or two months in gaol.

The next spiritualist put on trial was Olive Bush, thirty-four, an American dressmaker and milliner alias Madame Start. At her request her trial was adjourned so that she might consult a solicitor. She was given bail with two fifty pound sureties.

Agnes Constance Macdonald, forty-four, alias Madame Vox, a palmist was then tried. Earlier evidence had been given but at this hearing a woman witness told of having visited Vox and signed a document. The defence solicitor said that it said that Vox did not wish to deceive or impose on anyone. Mr Denman said that one could not 'contract out' of the law. A woman who had accompanied the previous witness said that Vox had said that she would marry young, her husband would have a legacy ten years later, she would have one five years later, and they would have two children. She paid two and six for this prophecy. Mr Denman fined Vox 15 and 5 five shillings costs.

Susan Fielder forty-three, was then tried. A woman witness had seen her on 3 February and paid for a palm and crystal reading. Fielder told her of a fair man who was abroad in khaki and was a Lieutenant, of a fat dark married man, and that she would have 'the time of your life'. Mr Denman convicted Fielder and said that in her case there were no extenuating circumstances but 'only revolting and objectionable features, which could only be regarded as

dangerous, wicked and horrible'. He

 

sentenced her to two months in gaol without the option of a fine.

The last spiritualist to be tried at this hearing was Annie Elizabeth Brodie, aged forty-four, alias Madame Leslie. Apart from being a paid spiritualist it was said that she had been convicted at Dublin for keeping a disorderly house, and had been expelled from the last Bristol International Exhibition. She denied these charges but was sentenced to two months in gaol without the option of a fine.

Looking at these cases Fielder was imprisoned without the option of a fine because her prophecies were seen as encouraging immorality. Brodie as a convicted brothel keeper, was also imprisoned without the option of a fine. Leaf and Macdonald were given the option of paying a heavy fine or of imprisonment because their visions were less harmful or merely silly, and they were otherwise seemingly respectable people. Bush was treated with kid gloves as an American citizen.

J.P.Lethbridge

 

QUIZ

1 A stern Calvinist Scot, he went to France in November 1914 with the 5th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) and received a facial wound. He became well known as the head of a national institution, was knighted and became a government minister. Who was he?

2 Who commanded the Canadian Corps when they captured Vimy Ridge?

3 'Tell any politician a military secret and he will go straight home and tell his wife, except who will tell some one else's'. Who said this of whom?

4 Who was Secretary of State for War on 4 August 1914?

5 What post did Winston Churchill hold immediately before commanding a battalion in France?

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