Progress

< The Turin men


Progress

10 November 2018

Extract from A S Mackay diary for 11 Nov 1918 in The Weekend Australian Nov 10-11 2018 p.16

A short extract from Alexander Sutherland Mackay’s diary appeared in the Armistice supplement of  ‘The Australian’, Australia’s national daily newspaper on 10 November 2018.  His diary entry for 11 November 1918 read:

 

Just got official word that hostilities cease at 11am today. Here we are situated in a deserted village can’t even buy a bottle of soda water to celebrate the joyfulness. We are about 12 hours behind Aussie time so it would be about….

 

Gunner Alexander Sutherland Mackay died of Pneumonia in Turin on 18 December 1918.


9 November 2018

© La Stampa, 9 November 2018, p.61

Our project was featured with a full page article today in ‘La Stampa’, one of Italy’s leading papers. Undoubtedly this will raise public awareness about the wider history of the First World War, especially as most of the soldiers buried in the cemeteries near Turin were not involved on the Italian Front.

 


8 November 2018

We are delighted to have received an email from Mr Adam Jones, a Defence and Security Specialist at the British Consulate in Milan who says:

 

I was pleased to hear about the project you have been undertaking to research the campaigns ‘away from the western front’ and I am delighted to support the initiative by attending the ceremony in Turin on Sunday. I have shared the information about your project in collaboration with Emma and Andrea’s article with British Embassy colleagues and they were very supportive of the initiative.

 

I am pleased to report that the British Ambassador, Jill Morris, has written a letter to Emma expressing thanks for the project to research the lives of the soldiers buried in Turin.

 


7 November 2018

Today we received an update from Emma Pace, who said:

We have been working hard at school. After studying the historical and literary background to WW1 we are now focusing on the ceremony. To tell the truth I was worried that by now the students may have had enough of all the lessons but this morning they really surprised me when they chose by themselves the poems to read and they wrote their messages on the wooden crosses. I am sure they are looking forward to meeting the soldiers who have become sort of special friends to them.

 


6 November 2018

Photograph of Alexander Sutherland Mackay to be placed at his headstone (Photo courtesy of Nick Jorss)

Card for Evan Lewis’ grave, using text from his Gt Nephew, Deryc Rees in Wales (Photo: Emma Pace)

Emma will take two personal items to the Turin cemetery on November 11, from descendants of Evan Lewis and Alexander Mackay. On behalf of the Mackay family in Australia, Nick Jorss his Great Great Nephew has sent a photograph to be placed at Alexander’s headstone and Emma has made a card for Evan Lewis’ grave, using text supplied by his Great Nephew, Deryc Rees in Wales.


30 October 2018

A printed copy of the ‘Turin Men’, Remembrance Book was the centrepiece of the exhibition display at our National Conference today. One of the silhouettes that had been awarded to ‘Away from the Western Front’ from a charity called ‘There But Not There’, was placed on the chair at the display in honour of one of the men, who was representing all 18 of our Turin soldiers.

 

 

We were able to give a brief update about the ‘Turin Men’, project during the day, and many delegates were seen looking through the Remembrance Book. As a result of sharing this work at the conference, we have been asked to give a presentation at one of the branches of the Western Front Association in the West Midlands, where a few of the men had lived prior to the First World War.

 


15 October 2018

(Photo: AFTWF)

Today we have sent a batch of Royal British Legion poppies and remembrance crosses to Emma for her to use with her students on November 11, when they will visit the Turin cemeteries and pay their respects to those soldiers, who we have named the ‘Turin Men’. 


8 October 2018

© La Stampa 18 August 2018 p.56

We are delighted to have been contacted by Andrea Parodi, a journalist for the Italian newspaper, La Stampa.  Andrea has been interested in the story of the Turin hospital and wrote an article earlier this year. Andrea is interviewing us and the two descendants that we‘ve contacted and he will be writing up the story of the ‘Turin men’, and how they will be remembered in November by Emma Pace and her students.


6 October 2018

Emma Pace visited Susa Public Library with Marco Giavelli, who was one of her former students, is now a journalist and will be writing an article on the ‘Turin Men’. Marco had offered to help Emma search through local newspapers to see if they could find any information about the two soldiers who are buried in the Meana and Oulx cemeteries.

 

Unfortunately they didn’t have any luck, but as they were nearby they visited the Meana cemetery where Sapper William Howard Lewis is commemorated. Whilst there Emma had a chance meeting with the mayor of the village who confirmed that in the past many renovations had occurred in the cemetery and perhaps that is why William’s grave was lost. He is commemorated on a memorial in the cemetery, which is named a Kipling memorial. Emma said,  I feel really sad for him. His story is a difficult one and the fact his grave was lost makes it even more sad.

 


29 September 2018

After considerable research we have now completed a ‘Book of Remembrance’ for the eighteen soldiers in the cemeteries in Turin, Meana di Susa and Oulx. Click on the book to go to the webpage, where you can download it as a PDF.

 


26 September 2018

We are delighted that Deryc Rees, descendant of Evan Lewis, one of the ‘Turin men’, has translated the beautiful poem written in his relative’s memory by T. H. Lewis. Click on the picture on the left for the Welsh version, and the one on the right for the English translation.

 

                              


23 September 2018

We have had another report from Emma Pace, who has now visited all the cemeteries near Turin with CWGC burials. She wrote:

 

It was a sunny afternoon, so my husband and I decided to make a quick trip to the mountains, (about 60 km from where I live) to visit John Taylor’s grave in Oulx. I had never been there before although I had planned to go many times. Before getting there I wondered about this poor soldier, one of the youngest of our ‘Turin men’, all alone in this small village, probably buried in a neglected corner of the cemetery, but to my great surprise when I arrived there I found a nicely-tended grave, among all the others, adorned with a pot of geraniums and some small plastic flowers, though these were a bit faded.

 

I like to imagine that the inhabitants of this nice little village care about him and consider him as one of them. The sun is shining and John’s grave is getting all of it. It is a peaceful place, similar to many other CWGC cemeteries I have visited around Europe even if this is a communal one.  I have the sensation that although alone and with no comrades around, John is happy there.

 

I am sure the people of the village would be happy to know more about John and his story. Then all of a sudden I remember a lot of English people come here every year to go skiing. I am sure that if they knew about John they would come and visit him. And this is where Lyn’ s work comes in!

 

I leave the cemetery saying goodbye to John, I’ll be back on November 11th and try to find some poppies to put on his grave.

 

Oulx is a beautiful place, as you can see from Emma’s photos:

 

 


20 September 2018

Lewis, Evan (Source: Ceredigion Archives MUS.117b)

Another descendant of one of the Turin men has contacted us – this time from Wales. Deryc Rees is directly descended from Evan Lewis, who died of influenza in the Turin Hospital on 10 April 1919. Evan had served in the Pembroke Yeomanry and the Imperial Camel Corps in Egypt, North Africa and Palestine.  We were able to share quite a lot of information with Deryc as a result of our research and he commented:

 

It’s very heart-warming to know that some of the stories of these men will be known and not forgotten.


19 September 2018

Mackay, A. S. Gunner 8th Brigade Australian Field Artillery (30137) (Courtesy of Faithe Jones discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au)

Our project in Turin has been attracting attention in Australia. We had been searching for descendants of the men buried in the Turin cemetery. One of these, Gunner Alexander Mackay, tragically died of influenza just a month after the end of the war, aged 34. Alex was an Australian and we found his great great nephew, Nick Jorss from Brisbane. We had already discovered quite a lot of information about Alex including diaries and letters as well as service records, but Nick was able to supply more detail, including the letter written to Alex’s mother by his friend and comrade Major S. E. Lewis. He was absolutely delighted that we were telling his great great uncle’s story, and very moved that some young Italians were planning to lay poppies at his grave on Remembrance Day.

 

Nick wrote:

How amazing that you have done all of this work! I’m stunned and so grateful! We would love to send something over for Remembrance Day. I was just thinking how sad it is I don’t think anyone has visited from the family and I’ve only just become aware of where Alex is. I drove past many of the Western Front battle fields in September on holidays with the family and we also went near Turin! If we had realised then of course we would have stopped in to see Alex’ grave. It would be really nice to have some beautiful young students visit his grave and place something from the family. What an amazing project. It brings tears to my eyes!


12 September 2018

The new school year has now started in Italy and Emma Pace has sent us the following notes:

 

I have just seen my students again for the first time after the summer holidays. I couldn’t wait to tell them about the project! Would they be interested in the idea?

 

I showed them some pictures, told them about the hospital and the cemetery in Turin and explained the role of the CWGC. They listened attentively. They are already studying the First World War with their history teacher and they also remember having seen some remembrance poppies when we went to Stratford upon Avon last year.

 

I explain to them that the world is preparing to commemorate the centenary of the end of the  First World War on 11 November and we can do our small part, too. I suggested that we could go and visit the soldiers’ graves in Turin, adding that over the summer ‘Away from the Western Front’ has been doing a lot of research on their stories.

 

At the end of my introduction they all agreed with the idea of the project!

 

Great! We are ready to start!


11 September 2018

Following lots of correspondence over the summer, Emma Pace is keen to tell her students about the research into the British soldiers buried in Turin. Over the weekend she visited the cemetery and took photos of the gravestones. She sent us some notes:

‘Early in the morning, when the light was right, I went to the cemetery to take pictures of the individual graves. As you can see the plot is a bit neglected and there are weeds so I also did a bit of gardening before taking the pictures. I hadn’t been here for five years and it is still very moving, especially now that these soldiers are coming alive thanks to the research done by Lyn from ‘Away from the Western Front’. I am looking forward to seeing my students on Wednesday and talking to them about the project. It will be interesting to see how they will react.’

 

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