Saturday, April 07, 2018

Just Read: The Flag

The Flag:
The Story of Revd David Railton MC and the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior
by Andrew Richards
Casemate Publishers, 2017

Most people will say they know about the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey, particularly as we are in the centenary commemorations of World War One, but not many know about the man who had the idea of bringing an unknown soldier home to Britain and was a war hero himself. 

David Railton was a Chaplain to British Forces on the Western Front and was awarded the Military Cross for his own bravery in rescuing others in the gravest of danger with no thought to his own safety. Throughout his war service, his primary concern was always for the physical, mental and spiritual welfare of the troops with whom he served and he was adamant that every gallant lad who died would have a respectful funeral, his body draped with a Union Jack flag which Padre Railton carried everywhere with him.

When his idea of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior finally came to fruition, it was his flag which hung on a pillar in Westminster Abbey very close to the Tomb, and for the first time, the full story of the life and work of David Railton has been depicted in this book. I found it really interesting indeed, but desperately sad in places, and I am really glad that Revd David Railton has finally had the recognition he deserves.

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Just Read: Slow Train to Switzerland

Slow Train to Switzerland
By Diccon Bewes
Published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2015

A chance encounter with a book's footnote detailing the published journal of a young British girl who visited Switzerland 150 years ago on a mountain climbing trip led Diccon Bewes to track down a copy of her journal. Fascinated, he then developed a plan to take his mother with him as they attempt to recreate the journey of Miss Jemima Morrell on the first ever Thomas Cook "Tour of Switzerland".

They use public transport, following the route as exactly as possible and attempting to stay in the same hotels, visit the same tourist sites, climb the same mountains and visit the same glacier. It isn't always possible to follow the itinerary slavishly, but they do their best and the differences between the oft-desperately poor and isolated inhabitants of the rural Switzerland of 150 years ago stand in stark contrast to the prosperous, healthy and health-giving tourist destination it is today.

Lots of old photographs of places Miss Jemima visited and excerpts from her journal give a lovely picture of this enterprising and rather brave young lady as she travels with her Junior United Alpine Club across some really quite dangerous terrain even for the modern well-equipped climber, let alone a lady wearing full Victorian dress.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable read, which I savoured slowly over a period of weeks and was very sad to reach the end, though there is a most interesting twist there too!

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