Museum of Military Medicine


RECENTLY JESS POCOCK AND I visited The Museum of Military Medicine at Ash Vale in Surrey. We first heard of this at the London Science Museum exhibition ‘Wounded, conflict, casualties and care’ (also highly recommended and on until 15 January 2018)

There are regular trains from Waterloo to Ash Vale and a pleasant half hour walk to the museum…turn right when leaving the station and walk along main road, past the children’s nursery and right into Mytchett Lane (you may see the museum sign hidden in the undergrowth!)

Walk down the lane and take a right turn into Mytchett Place Road and you will see Keogh Barracks where the museum is housed.

You need a photo ID to get in… we took our IWM passes and the museum is free.

The exhibitions appear to have been newly organised and house artefacts from The English Civil War to present day conflicts… all are numbered so you can’t get lost!

There are so many amazing things to see including tableaux of field hospitals and macabre specimens such as Civil War arrow head removers and early amputation saws.

As Jess pointed out it covers a huge time frame and brings you right up to date with the very impressive modern day equipment carried in the field today. This means that lives can be saved on the spot so that complicated fractures, for example, can be treated quickly before moving patients to a treatment centre.

There are also sections on animals used in various conflicts as the barracks also houses the army veterinary services.

Of special interest to Jess and I were uniforms and headgear from WW1.

Image: Brody helmet and an example of a tank driver’s face mask to protect from splinters caused by either a shell exploding inside the tank or hitting the outside and sending loose splinters of steel flying around the inside of the tank. (Image (C) Carol Mulholland)

We had a wonderful day and strongly recommend a visit but make it soon as the whole thing is moving to Cardiff next year!

Some extra information:-

  • Opens Monday to Friday 9.30 to 3.30 but more days planned during the Summer (probably best to call before you go on 01252 868612)
  • If you plan to drive satnav is GU16 6DD… check about parking before you go.
  • There is no cafe but a one mile walk up the road is Basingstoke canal centre which has seats inside and outside and is lovely(museum will give you directions)
  • The Museum of Military Medicine website is at:
  • The Science Museum’s ‘Wounded, Conflict and Care’ exhibition details are at:

Hope you have a great day!


Meeting an RAF veteran of the Battle of Britain


LONDON’S SCIENCE MUSEUM may seem like a strange place to meet a veteran from the early months of the Second World War that made their last operational flight on 18 August 1940 – when the Luftwaffe made an all-out attack on Fighter Command airfields protecting London – and crashed landed at RAF Croydon.  But there on the third floor is a Hawker Hurricane aircraft that did just that and more.

Hurricane L1592 was number forty six in a production run of more than 14,500 aircraft of all marks of the fighter produced from 1937 until 1944. It was to serve with a number of squadrons. Damaged in combat over Dunkirk on 1 June 1940, it returned and crash-landed at RAF Tangmere.

On this occasion its pilot Pilot Officer Tony Woods-Scawen was uninjured but he would loose his life three months later – with in a day of the death of his brother, (see ‘Brothers in Arms post on this blog).

Once repaired the aircraft was issued to No 615 Squadron at Kenley and on 18 August it was being flown by Pilot Officer David Looker when it was attacked by a Messerschmitt bf 109 German fighter near Sevenoaks in Kent.

As the bullets hit, Looker threw the Hurricane into a spin to make the German pilot believe that the aircraft was doomed. Suitability convinced of the imminent death of the British pilot (and no doubt watching his fuel gauge) the Messerschmitt looked for another target.

Having lost his pursuer, Looker thought about what to do next. His plane was damaged and so he undid his seat belts and prepared to bale out.

Just then he sighted RAF Croydon – about four miles from his base at Kenley – below and decided to land there.

Image: Hawker Hurricane (left) and Supermarine Spitfire at the Science Museum London. Image © R Maddox 2017.

With both Kenley and Biggin Hill under attack, and Croydon having been badly hit three days before the defences at Croydon were on full alert and expecting to be under attack themselves at any moment. Seeing an unexpected aircraft approaching they opened fire on the crippled British fighter.

Dodging more bullets – this time British – he crashed landed on the airfield, knocking himself out as the aircraft tipped over on its nose. An RAF corporal left his air raid shelter and pulled the pilot from the wrecked aircraft.

Looker was to spend a month in hospital recovering but remembered nothing about what happened that day.  In October 1940 he became an instructor and began training pilots in Canada. He left the RAF at the end of the war and died in 1995.

Meanwhile his aircraft – which was due to be replaced on the Squadron before it crashed this last time – was repaired once more. But it never flew in combat again.

Amongst other things,  it became an extra in two post-war films – ‘Reach for the Sky’ and ‘Angels One Five’ – both filmed at Kenley.

In 1963 it was given to the Science Museum as an example of the development of aircraft construction.

Today it remains at the Museum where it has been housed for more than fifty years and is now the oldest surviving example of a Hawker Hurricane in the world.

More information:


HMS Belfast – Happy birthday ‘Tiddley B’!



Image: Launching Ceremony: HMS BELFAST with her tugs prior to being moved to the fitting out yard, 17 March 1938. IWM Catalogue number MH 24911.

HMS Belfast (until named officially, known as ‘Yard No. 1000’) was launched from Harland and Wolff’s Slipway No. 12 in the Musgrave Yard. The date and her construction number had been reserved for what was seen as a very important day –  for the Royal Navy, Harland and Wolff and the city of Belfast.

HMS Belfast was only the second warship built at the shipyard since the end of the First World War and the launch date and yard number reflected the importance and pride the company had in the construction of what was at the time of her completion the most cruiser in the Royal Navy.

Anne Chamberlain, wife of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain performed the naming ceremony in front of a crowd estimated at 20,000.

After the ship had settled in the water all eyes turned to a 14 year-old riveter’s catcher – who had worked on the vessel’s construction – as he presented her with a bouquet.

Besides the dignitaries present –  the Prime Minister, The Governor of Northern Ireland, Duke Abercorn, Viscount Craig and the members of the Ulster Cabinet – were a party from the Dublin branch of the Royal Naval ex-Comrades’ Association, who had marched to the yard with their banner.

Together they watched the white hull (specially painted to show off her lines) slip into the water and the tugs move her to be fitted-out.


John Harrison, now 104 years old. john served on HMS Belfast’s very first commission in 1939. A former Ordinance Artificer, his action station was ‘A’ turret from where a ceremonial salute of the turrets main armament was fired to mark the ship’s 80th anniversary. Image © R Maddox 2018,


Today is the 80th anniversary of the Harland and Wolffe’ yard number 1000 first touching water. Today is the 80th anniversary of HMS Belfast being born.

Yesterday at a press day, the ship was reunited with 50 veterans and their families who served on her through her career, together with representatives from the Royal and Commonwealth navies. the city of Belfast and Harland and Wolffe where  (as I’ve touched on above) men from the city designed and built a weapon of war that has lasted to become place of memory and reflection as well as learning.and happiness for all who set foot on her Quarter deck.

In the days ahead the birthday celebrations will end.

And the ship will revert to doing what she has done since Trafalgar Day 1971, playing her part as IWM’s largest exhibit and also one of the five (three in London) sites in the IWM family. 

But for those who were privileged – a word I do not use lightly – to sit and talk to 104 year old veteran John Harrison and the other veterans it  is day that will be remembered for a long time to come.

You can learn more about John and HMS Belfast by clicking the links below.

More information:


Tiki Talk, Gordon & Me


What is a Tiki? And do they really talk? A Tiki is a guardian. Carved out of wood, these


Gordon J. Calman, Tiki Talk, pen and ink 1917, (ref B-K-1108-Cover) Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington

upright figures guard the entrance to a Maori Pa (village). While they do not usually talk, I know of one that does. This unique talking tiki is not made out of wood, but paper. Tiki Talk the Epistles of the Corinthians is a magazine, more specifically a century old troopship magazine. It is also my link to the First World War. Within its pages are the thoughts, emotions, and humour of the village created by the Left Wing 23rd Reinforcements (RFMTS) of the Otago Infantry, circa 1917.


In terms of its production, Tiki Talk is by no means unique. Every troopship that left New Zealand’s shores over the course of the First World War, produced at least one magazine. Shortly after leaving New Zealand, a committee would be created and charged with the task of overseeing the creation of the magazine. They would then use any means necessary, including chances of winning money, to encourage their fellow soldiers to contribute. Troopship magazines made use of the talent on board, hence why the written and artistic quality varies from publication to publication. Although technically unofficial, the production of troopship magazines was encouraged by senior members of the New Zealand Expeditionary Forces (NZEF). This was due to one very simple fact, distance. While their British counterparts only travelled for a few days to reach the western front, the New Zealand and Australian troops were faced with six to ten weeks of sea travel. Daily military drills, strict schedules and sporting events could only go so far to pass the time. These magazines were seen as a way to keep idle hands busy and minds occupied.

The overall design of a troopship magazine is very simple. The earliest New Zealand examples such as the Orari Tatler (1914), only feature one piece of hand drawn art, normally the cover, with photographs used as the only other visual content. The use of colour is very rare and only appears in a few early editions. If colour was used, it was restricted to one or two colours at most and used to highlight a flag or coat of arms. As the war progressed, most troopship magazines were printed in either Cairo or London. This change in printing location allowed for larger editions to be created, as well as greater amounts of hand drawn art to be included. By 1917, when Tiki Talk was produced, the art is almost as prevalent as the written word.

Creating something that would cater to the imagination and desires of such a large cross section of New Zealand Society, was never going to be an easy task, but these magazines achieved just that. They are filled with poems, songs, musical scores, agony aunts, short stories, inside jokes, sporting results, theatrical reviews, news (real and imagined), autograph pages, photographs, drawings and the documentation of the Marriage of Neptune. A ceremony that was conducted upon the crossing of the equator, vital if a soldier wished to see land again! However, there is one thing missing from all troopship magazines, references of the violence to come. As the war progressed, the meaning behind the production of these magazines changed. Originally intended as a means to distract the men, they turned into something much more important. As the cover of Tiki Talk states, they became souvenirs. A platform where a man could leave his mark and look back on those ten weeks at sea with a sense of fondness. They provided a means to keep laughing, a light in the dark as it were. This concept is carried through into the creation of the trench editions which were created for similar reasons, but under much harsher conditions. Ultimately these publications, both troopship and trench, had more importance placed upon them than was probably ever intended. They became a method to document a culture, a village and society that only existed for a short period of time.

Tiki Talk Epistles of the Corinthians (so named for the troopship the S.S Corinth) is one of the best examples of a troopship magazine produced by the New Zealanders during the First World War. This is because it does something that very few achieved. It pushes the emerging sense of national identity through the use of New Zealand and Maori iconography to the forefront. This was in response to a much larger shift that occurred after 1915, in both New Zealand and Australian trench art. Pre 1916, the artwork featured in both trench and troopship magazines from these two nations, was dominated by symbols of Britain and the Empire. The Union Jack, British Lion, the Crown and Britannia were all heavily featured. Then something happened, or more to the point, Gallipoli happened and the shift in iconography was a direct result of the events that occurred over those eight months. Britain and her iconography disappear, to the extent that it does not appear in Tiki Talk. This is not due to any long term anger felt towards the British. Gallipoli is a complex subject for Australia and New Zealand. While it was and still is seen as a military failure, the emotions of anger were quickly replaced with ones of national pride. Gallipoli is after all, the birth place of the ANZAC myth.[1] Gallipoli allowed these two ANZAC nations to realise through a baptism of fire, that their national identity was not solely linked to Britain and the Empire, but that each of them had the means to stand on their own. It was a chance to create an individual sense of national identity. For New Zealand, this meant that the kiwi, the silver fern, koru and tikis’ became the means by which the men of the NZEF defined themselves. All of these we still use today to symbolise our country. What is unique about this shift, is that at this point in New Zealand’s history, it does not filter back home. This change in national identity, only exists in the world and culture created by the frontline of the First World War.

Tiki Talks’ cover alone illustrates this change in national identity. Here, the artist has created something that is undeniably “kiwi”. The traditional aspects of the Union Jack and New Zealand flag have been removed. Instead, the artist focuses solely on Maori iconography. A Wharenui (Craved Maori Meeting House) has been deconstructed and twisted this way and that, like a giant jigsaw puzzle, in order to spell out the title. The tiki sits behind the words guarding the content within. The artist has retained the traditional view of the troopship, but he has made it smaller and wrapped it in the capital C of the subheading that resembles a Maori waka, the first means of transport to New Zealand. The two featured figures perch rather haphazardly upon the subheading. Both the Pākehā (European) soldier and Maori warrior appear relaxed and deep in conversation. The artist is paying homage to New Zealand’s complex cultural past, as well as acknowledging the Maori members of the 23rd RFMTS on board.

The editor, Chaplain – Captain A. Allen, states that he and his team set out with one goal in mind, to create the best troopship magazine ever produced.[2] I think they have achieved this, but maybe I am letting emotion cloud that judgement. The art contained within Tiki Talk is my personal link to the First World War. In his introduction, Allen mentions the ships artist, he writes;

Where the written word may have failed, we may fairly claim that our artist has succeeded. The Epistles of the Corinthians are enriched by a series of cartoons and sketches, the likes of which has not been seen in any previous troopship journal. We have been fortunate in having on board our ship a black-and-white artist of more than ordinary ability and cleverness. Had Tiki Talk contained nothing more than Cal’s sketches it would have been worthwhile.[3]

To read such praise is emotional. I never met Cal and up until three years ago he was nothing more than a name, a branch on my family tree. I knew he was a teacher, husband, father and free mason, but the man meant very little. Now thanks to his art, I understand him better, and I am proud to say that Gordon Jamieson Calman (Cal) was my great grandfather. Unfortunately I have not been able to find a photo of Gordon from this period in his life, but as I would like to introduce him to you, a photo taken some twenty four years later will have to do.


Ruby Calman (nee Sellar), Lawrence Calman, Malcom Calman, Gordon Calman, photograph Calman family collection

Gordons’ experience of war does not follow the trend that one would expect. It started out just as any other kiwis did, with enlistment. Gordon signed up in November 1916, just a few short months before conscription was introduced in New Zealand. Twelve days before his departure, he married his sweetheart Ruby Sellar. If he never came back, she would not only receive a widow’s pension, she would also be the first to be notified. Once arriving in England in June 1917, Gordons’ story becomes a little bit harder to trace. I know he was injured on the first day of the battle of Passchendaele and he never returned to the frontline. However, as he is missing from the New Zealand list of injuries for that day I do not know the nature of his injury. He appears a few months later at the NZEF headquarters in France. Due to his background as a teacher he was possibly useful there. By May 1918, he was a member of the Digger Pierrots concert party troop, with whom he remained until his discharge in New Zealand in April 1919. The Pierrots were the creation of fellow kiwi Pat Hanna. How and why he ended up with the Pierrots was a mystery to my family. No one knew that this was a part of his story and it only came to light during research for my postgraduate art history honours thesis when I opened a long forgotten box hidden under my aunt’s bed. At first glance Gordon’s inclusion in this troop seems a bit odd. He did not play an instrument, sing, dance or act, but as Tiki Talk proves, he could draw. Gordon produced, the Pierrots advertising, programmes and possibly even their sets. He also took part in the show drawing ‘lightning sketches’, caricatures in other words. This talent is on full display in Tiki Talk and was most likely the reason he was selected to be the main artist for the magazine. His talent for caricatures was something, so I am told he practiced surreptitiously in mason meetings. A large number of Tiki Talks illustrations feature more senior members of the 23rd RFMTS, drawn in this manner, most are respectful, but a few are more blatant in their humour. Gordon also applied this skill to his fellow members of the Pierrots. The family has a collection of caricatures that reflect the unique talents that each member brought to the Pierrots. We even have one of Gordon, well at least we think it is him.

The choice to use solely Maori and New Zealand iconography in Tiki Talk would most likely have been due to a decision made by Gordon. As a school teacher, Gordon taught Maori to his Maori students. He was aware that the language and culture associated with Maori was in trouble. In the early twentieth century it looked as if Maori culture would soon despair. This was a result of intermarriages between Maori and Europeans and the traditional skills such as carving not being passed down to the next generations. Tiki Talk is evidence not only of Gordon’s response to this crises, but also to the much bigger shift of national identity that was created by the ANZAC soldiers. This choice also highlights Gordons own sense of identity. Through him I am an eighth generation Kiwi, so in 1917 Gordon as a fifth generation one. He identifies more with New Zealand then with Britain, the traditional motherland. It is no wonder then that his art in Tiki Talk, New Zealand at the Front 1918 and his personal sketch book from the war are dominated by images of New Zealand.


Gordon J. Calman, Roll of Honour, pen and ink, 1917 (Ref. A-224-039) Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

When discussing Gordon and Tiki Talk, there is one image that cannot be left out. This drawing is Gordon’s most personal one, it is also my inspiration. She is the reason I have researched New Zealand troopship magazines and ANZAC trench art of the First World War. Positioned at the very heart of Tiki Talk, this image is a work of genius. In stark contrast to the other pieces of art, this image represents raw emotion. Gordon has taken the outline of New Zealand and turned it into a women waving goodbye to the man she loves. Head in hand, her face is hidden from view by her flowing hair. Her skirt creates the South Island with the pooling fabric used to allude to the rugged terrain of the deep south, while her slightly bent knee, fashions the Southern Alps. Who is she? A sister, wife or mother, she is all of them, she is New Zealand. The title of this image has long been debated. The Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington has her listed as Roll of Honour, so named for the blank scroll extending from her back. But my family has never felt that this title was right, we simply call her Mother as she represents New Zealand as the Motherland. Gordon was very careful with his titles and the fact that there is not one on prominent display, tends to

indicate that her identity is up to the individual soldier to decide. While the inspiration for this drawing has never really been considered, I think due to the few clues left behind, that this is Ruby. Gordon only married her twelve days before he departed for war, so he would have been thinking about her and whether or not he would ever see her again. In terms of the actual drawing, there are two clues. Gordon has signed this using his full name. Within Tiki Talk this is the only time it occurs, perhaps showing a more personal connection to the subject and alluding to who he is fighting for. Also Mother has a copyright mark. She is the only image that I have come across in either troopship or trench magazines to have this addition. It would indicate that this image was seen by Gordon as worth protecting and he would be pleased to know that the copyright still exits.

Tiki Talk is a treasure trove. One hundred years later it will still make you laugh and cry. It proved the means for me to understand my great grand-father and make sense of the stories my grandad tells of him. Without Gordon as my link, I probably would not know that Tiki Talk existed. Which begs the question. What is missing from the established timeline of New Zealand troopship magazines? How many are hidden away in boxes under beds and left forgotten in attics. These magazines are a vibrant source of information, of a culture that existed for at the most ten weeks at sea. Like their trench cousins, the culture that created them ceased to exist after the 11 November 1918. Gordon and his colleagues produced a magazine that in terms of quality, no other troopship was able to match. If we put aside all the art, the iconography and the reasons behind Tiki Talks production, we are left with a tiki that speaks for a group of men who in April 1917, were unsure if they would ever see home again. Tiki Talk is their memorial.


[1] ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps.
[2] Chaplain – Captain A. Allen, ‘About ourselves’ , Tiki Talk Epistles of the Corinthians, 1917, (London: Argus Printing Company Ltd), Calman Family Collection,  p.3
[3] Ibid.

A different concrete tower


AT CATERHAM to the south of London, about a mile away from Kenley airfield stands a concrete tower – really two towers, one slightly shorter than the other – topped with wide platforms.

It’s an example of a 40 mm Bofors anti-aircraft gun tower and a part of the RAF Kenley’s defences.

The towers were placed near potential targets and were designed to put the guns high enough to spot low-flying enemy aircraft flying at 200 miles an hour and engage them.


Image: The Bofors Tower at Caterham. The separate towers and platforms with ammunition storage can be clearly seen. The black stain on the underside of the lower platform marks the place where the gun was attached. © R Maddox 2017.

The gun predictor – the control equipment – was on the upper platform so that it remained stable when the guns were fired.

Ammunition for immediate use was kept in the concrete containers at the corners of the gun platform. Reserve ammunition was kept on the ground nearby, often in modified Anderson air raid shelters

Access for the dozen or so people that manned the towers was by ladders and stairways that were removed after the war.


Image: Another view of the Bofors Tower at Caterham © R Maddox 2017.

A similar tower for Kenley’s western defence (built on Coulsdon Common) was demolished in 1946.

When exactly the Caterham towers were built is not clear but from late 1939 onwards various designs of gun platforms appeared.

By the start of 1942 around 80 were either finished or nearing completion at locations as diverse as the RAF airfields at Gatwick and West Malling, aircraft factories at Weybridge and Filton near Bristol and military explosives factories in Hertfordshire and Dorset.

Please note that the building is Grade II listed and although clearly visible from nearby footpaths is on private land.

Permission was given by the land owner to examine the towers close up and take photographs.

More information:

Clapham South deep-level shelter


THE AIR RAID SIREN WAILED and the noise of bombs were outside as we spiralled down the 180 steps to reach the shelter near Clapham South Tube station.

By the time we were there most of us could taste the dust that had floated down from the surface 100 feet (30 metres) above over the years.

And those that couldn’t could certainly hear the passing tube trains.


Image: IWM volunteers at the start of the tour. © R Maddox 2017

Recently a group of IWM volunteers were privileged to have the chance to join a series of Hidden London tours of the Clapham South deep-level air raid shelters, guided by a team of volunteers from the London Transport Museum.

This shelter was originally designed to accommodate 10,000 Londoners, as were the others in the series – ten were planned and eight were completed. Clapham South is the most southerly one with the most northerly being Belsize Park.

All but two (Chancellery Lane and St Pauls) were located near the Northern Line.

Planned in October 1940, work started the next month while the London Blitz was still raging and because of labour and material difficulties carried on until March 1942, with the others being completed later that year. St Pauls and Oval were never completed by to construction problems.

The shelters themselves are a series of sixteen tunnels similar to tube tunnels – each around 100 yards long – were filled with tiered bunk beds.

Each shelter section at Clapham South was named (patriotically) after a British Admiral starting at Anson and ending at Parry.

By the time the shelters were ready the threat of large scale bombing had lessened – the Battle of Britain was over and German forces were engaged in the Soviet Union. Half of Goodge Street shelter was given over as a communication centre for General Eisenhower and the rest were manned by a skeleton staff on a care and maintenance basis or used as military accommodation for personnel.

Propaganda photographs were also taken in the immaculately clean shelters.

That changed in 1944 when the ‘V’ weapons were launched at London from Europe and the shelters were opened to the public soon after the first missile fell. Those sheltering were issued with an individual ticket giving a letter and number code corresponding to an individual bed number. Those who were bombed out were allowed to keep their bedding in the shelter – others were required to bring blankets and pillows nightly. Injured and sick were given first aid and there was even a small isolation area.

There was strict rules enforced by the Shelter Superintendent and there staff – all drawn from the Civil Defence Corps – and assisted by ‘volunteers’ picked from the first people arriving.

Despite the boasts in propaganda films the accommodation was basic with little privacy – this extending to the toilet facilities.

People made their own entertainment with music being played over the shelters address system and dancing being held as the shelter filled up. A final song was also played to signal ‘lights out’ and the next morning people were woken at 7am by staff ringing hand bells.

And then they (like us made) their way back up the 180 steps spiralling up to the surface.

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More information.


How secret is secret? Another US/UK divide…


WHILE LOOKING AT FILES at the National Archives I was reminded that what we know as ‘Top Secret’ was unknown before America’s entry to the Second World War.

Following the need for closer co-operation in the fields of intelligence and operations ‘Top Secret’ was brought in to replace ‘Most Secret’ in the UK and Commonwealth countries, so there was a common understanding between the Allies of how ‘secret’ a ‘Secret’ document was.


Image: A document about Luftwaffe operations in the UK National Arcives at Kew. © R Maddox 2017

Notice also how the security notice shown in the image states that ‘… In Units outside the Air Ministry it should be handled by officers only’.

Definitely can’t trust the Fish Heads or Pongos old chap… but don’t tell them.

It’s a secret.