“The Torch Has Been Passed: JFK’s Legacy Today”, John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Waseda University Symposium at Okuma Auditorium, March 18, 2015.

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It was a privilege for me to attend “The Torch Has Been Passed: JFK’s Legacy Today” Symposium held by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and Waseda University at Okuma Auditorium on March 18, 2015. I was excited to receive … Continue reading

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2016 Centenary of The Somme in London

We were in London for the Centenary of The Somme on June 30, 2016 and Cheryl and I attended a segment of the All-Night Vigil at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey. Her Majesty The Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh attended about an hour before we arrived and we saw the wreath Queen Elizabeth II presented at the Grave of the Unknown. We watched readings of “The story of the Battle of the Somme in their own words…” and a changing of the guard every 15 minutes for the hour or so that we observed the proceedings before lighting our candle to the memory of great uncle Herbert Mockford who was killed in combat on September 16, 1916 at The Somme.

We visited Imperial War Museum where “The Night Before The Somme” program included music and poetry and performance of “Dr. Blighty” in the Atium while we drank “Gunfire Tea” (a rum tea recipe that soldiers drank at the front during WWI).

I met author Taylor Downing for the book signing of his “Breakdown: The Crisis of Shell Shock on The Somme” and kept it for my in-flight reading on our journey home. The Finale in the Atrium was BBC Young Musician of the Year finalist Stephanie Childress performing on the “Western Front Violin” made from trees that grew along the Somme Battlefield.

On July 1 we attended the performance of the Welsh National Opera presentation of “In Parenthesis” at Royal Opera House. This opera was commissioned as part of the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and is based on the 1937 epic poem about WWI by David Jones, grandfather’s second cousin. After the opera we went out on the town with my second cousin Kitty Ellard whom we spent a couple of days with in London seeing some lesser known sites and we joined David Jones’s grand niece Sarah Williams (my 4th cousin) and her husband Ian whom I met in 2015 during the Faversham Nautical Festival at their home in Faversham, Kent.

As an executor of the Jones estate Sarah has been very involved with centenary activities involving the use of David Jones material in the Opera program and the exhibits of his paintings at galleries such as Palant House Gallery’s exhibit “David Jones: Vision and Memory.” in 2015. Art historian and BBC Producer, Kenneth Clark, believed that David Jones was the greatest British watercolourist of the 20th century and Author Mark Sheerin said, “Pallant has revived a painter with wit, verve, technique, and vision. David Jones has everything, except perhaps fame.” There has been a rediscovery of David Jones during the centenary of WWI and we found his name in Poet’s Corner at Westminster Abbey as one of the Great War Poets.

The following week we went to France to attend Somme Centenary activities at the cemeteries and monuments at Mametz Wood, Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Thiepval, and many others.

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A visit to the Luxembourg American Cemetery

We visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery to pay our respects to the graves of Dad’s 11th Armored Division 55th Armored Infantry Battalion and all of those buried there including General George S. Patton. We brought photos of some of the men taken earlier in 1944 during Army training at Camp Cooke California before the 11th made the cross country trip by train and boarded ships for the trans-Atlantic voyage to England and then on to France where they prepared to enter the war. But upon the German attack at the Ardennes Forest on December 16 General Patton ordered a mobilization of his 3rd Army forces in a rapid response to relieve Bastogne and then push out the German forces from Belgium in last major battle of World War II known as The Battle of the Bulge.  Many of Dad’s Battalion, Company, Platoon, and Squad members died on the first day of combat when they attacked from their position at Margarotte through the Bois des Haies de Magery and to the village of Acul. We placed their photos and American Flags at the graves of these men in the Luxembourg American Cemetery.

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We looked for the grave of  First Sergeant Melvin L Dorsey first and found it in Plot A Row 3 Grave 24. Dad talked about Sergeant Dorsey and we had photos of him with Lt. Michaels taken at Camp Cooke during baseball games and in group photos such as their Half-track photo. Dad wrote on the back of one of the photos, “A hell of a good guy.” Melvin L.Dorsey was from Ohio and was killed in action on the first round of incoming mortar fire on their first day of combat on December 31, 1944.

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We walked past row after row of graves looking for the names on our list and found many of the men we hoped to find taking photos and stopping to rest on a very hot and humid day in Luxembourg.

 

 

 

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A visit to Bastogne and Battle of the Bulge Battlefields

On July 4 2016 we arrived in Bastogne to see the places that my Dad was in combat during the Battle of the Bulge. Our first stop was McAuliffe Square to see the Sherman Tank that belonged to the 11th Armored Division and was stopped at Renuamont on December 30, 1944 when German soldiers captured its crew. The tank survived the war and was later renovated for placement as a monument at McAuliffe Square.

Our big tour began the next day when we toured the Bastogne War Museum and Mardasson Memorial that remembers the 76,890 American soldiers killed, wounded or missing in the Battle of the Bulge. Then we met Belgian historian Roger Marquet and his wife Monique who took us on a tour of the small villages and forests to the west of Bastogne where Dad’s first day of combat began on Dec. 31, 1944 at Margarotte. Roger Marquet met Dad at an 11th Armored Division Association convention some years ago and kept in touch by email over the years. I had contacted Roger Marquet with some research questions during our 2011 Veterans tour of Germany, Czech Republic and Austria although we did not visit Belgium on that tour. I wrote to Roger Marquet again in 2016 as we prepared for our trip and he and Monique kindly drove us to the exact places where Dad’s 11th Armored Division 55th Armored Infantry Battalion Company C had been in combat in 1944-1945.

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It was a remarkable day and a very moving experience to see these places and hear Roger Marquet’s stories of Dad’s battalion that mirrored some of Dad’s stories and provided greater detail to the stories I had heard from Dad over the years. We literally walked in Dad’s footsteps as we stopped at the village of Margarotte and then walked the road where the half tracks had stopped in December 1944 in order for Company C to begin their siege position to advance across the fields and into the woods called Bois De Magery and beyond towards Acul another very small village where the combat was fierce. Many of Dad’s friends from Army training at Camp Cooke died on the first day of combat. We brought their photos with us to place at their graves with American flags when we visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery a few days later. A plaque commemorating the sacrifice of the 55th Armored Infantry Battalion was placed in the village of Tillet, Belgium. From Tillet we drove to the Bois Jacques of Band of Brothers fame and saw the fox holes dug by the 101st Airborne’s Easy Company when they held the woods in January 1945 and only about a mile from where Dad’s company was located on January 14, 1945, the coldest night of the war as described by Sgt Don Malarkey in his book “Easy Company Soldier”  on page 191. Sixty five years later on January 25, 2010 while Dad was recovering from heart surgery at Portland’s Providence Hospital I met Don Malarkey at McMemamins Kennedy School History Pub and he autographed his book with a “Hi Rog” that I took back to the hospital for Dad to read.

The visit to Bastogne and the 11th Armored Division combat trail from Margarotte to Acul and Tillet and many other places continued as we drove through the Ardennes and to the German border where Dad carried a flame-thrower through the Siegfried Line and into the next stage of the war which was to end months later for the 11th Armored Division in Austria. In 2011 we toured the final path of that historic battle trail that culminated with the annual memorial ceremonies at Mauthausen Concentration Camp. On this trip however we circled back from the German border areas to Luxembourg to visit the Luxembourg American Cemetery.

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Hogwarts at Horsham?

On Thursday June 30, 2016 I visited Christ’s Hospital School in Horsham, West Sussex to see the famous school that my grandfather attended from 1898 to 1904. The grounds and buildings look something like the Hogwart’s School out of a Harry Potter movie. This resemblance is particularly strong in the very large Dining Hall that also houses the eighty-six foot long painting by Antonio Verrio that has been a feature of the school dining room for over 320 years even though the school moved from London to Horsham in 1902. The painting is known as The Verrio  and the scene about the founding of the Royal Mathematical School in 1673 is appropriate for a school that had some famous mathematicians in its past including Williams Wales, the astronomer to Captain Cook. Special tours are provided by the school called Verrio Tours organized by Michelle Smith but because my grandfather was a graduate of Christ’s Hospital School she kindly gave us a private tour of the grounds and buildings that he once knew including his dormitory called Thornton B and the school museum..

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Prior to 1902 the school was located in London where my grandfather attended since 1898 but he was among those students who moved to the campus at Horsham at that important moment in school history. Christ’s Hospital School was originally founded in 1552 by King Edward VI and its students became known as the Bluecoats because of the Tudor-style long blue coat uniform that they still wear today. My grandfather was a Bluecoat and Elizabeth Bridges, CHS Museum Curator showed us a photo of him that we had never seen before that was taken at Lent in 1904 of the group of housemates of Thornton B.

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We also brought a couple of photos of my grandfather to share with the museum staff.

And, I even brought a copy of my grandfather’s report card that is now an over 100 year old historical document.

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The museum has a number of publications about the school history and I purchased a copy of “Christ’s Hospital Heritage Engravings” by Mike Barford after seeing a framed woodcut in the museum of “The Bluecoat boy”created in by William Nicholson and published in the book London Types published in 1898 by William Heinemann. An original copy of the print was passed down by my grandfather to our family.

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The print was paired with a poem by William Ernest Henley

So went our boys when Edward Sixth, the King,
Chartered Christ’s Hospital, and died. And so
Full fifteen generations in a string
Of heirs to his bequest have had to go.
Thus Camden showed, and Barnes, and Stillingfleet,
And Richardson, that bade our Lovelace be;
Thus to his Genevieve young S. T. C.
With thousands else that, wandering up and down,
Quaint, privileged, liked and reputed well,
Made the great School a part of London Town
Patent as Paul’s and vital as Bow Bell:
The old School nearing exile, day by day,
To certain clay-lands somewhere Horsham way.

We completed our tour of Christ’s Hospital School and visited the town of Horsham where we enjoyed dinner at Bill’s Horsham Restaurant.

 

 

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Welsh Haiku Readings at Kenilworth Park, Portland Oregon

The Welsh Society of Oregon held a picnic at Kenilworth Park in Portland, Oregon on September 10, 2016 calling the program “Haiku for Welsh People.” I created a few poems to read at the picnic that were inspired by my trip to Wales earlier in the summer.

“Welsh Haiku” by Jim Mockford

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Stone Stairs to the Keep

A Red Dragon flies above

The Castell Caerdydd

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River Taff boating

Across Bay to Mermaid Quay

Where horizons sing

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Venison Meat Pie!

Pieminister I must be

Oh, grateful gorging

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Picau Y Ar Maen

Currents and Castor Sugar

Welsh Cakes and jam split

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Bara brith sweet bread

Flavorful tea, fruit, and spice

And candied peel too!

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Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Stadiums and streets in song

Welsh Football Season!

(Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau = “Old Land of My Fathers”)

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Great Land of Singers

Gwlad a Chantorium

Don’t forget to dance!

(Gwlad a Chantorium =”Land and Singers”)

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Cymru fy nyddig

Landscapes for merry muses

Language of minstrels

(Cymru fy nyddig = Cambria, of mountains)

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Haiku inspired by my finding an old box of family letters written during World War II

Winter Forty Five

Grandson fighting in The Bulge

Snowing in Cardiff

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Battalion Half-Tracks

Rushing soldiers to the front

Engines full throttle

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Five Hundred Mile Race

Across France to Margarotte

Fifty-Fifth A.I.B.

(A.I.B.= Armored Infantry Division. 55th A.I.B. was a battalion of the

11th Armored Division, Patton’s 3rd Army in the Battle of the Bulge)

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Baptism of Fire

Buddies who never came home

Old Man’s memories.

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Cemetery Crosses

A familiar name is found

“Hell of a Good Guy!”

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Haiku inspired by the centenary of World War I

Royal Welch Fusiliers

Fighting in the Mametz Wood

In Parenthesis

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The Great War Poet

Shell shocked and home at last

Never left the trenches

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David Jones, Great War Poet and Royal Welch Fusilier at Mametz Woods

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A Welsh Red Dragon

Tearing at barbed wire

In Memoriam

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Westminster Vigil

Changing of the Royal Guard

Grave of the Unknown

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Sixteen Great War Poets

Immortal Poets Corner

Westminster Abbey

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100 Years recall

Battle of the ghastly Somme

Uncle Herbert’s Grave

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Jim Mockford at grave of great uncle Herbert Mockford at Combles Communal Cemetery in The Somme.

 

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Research at Glamorgan Archives

Thanks to the suggestion from historian Joan Andrews that we visit the Glamorgan Archives I made a visit on Tuesday June 28 to view The National School Log Book St. Andrews Major 1874-1904. The helpful staff at the archives did not take long to find the particular volume of this “Headmaster’s Log Book” that I was interested in reading. And then as I opened the page to the year 1887 I found my great grandfather’s own handwritten entries. What a find!

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John Benjamin Mockford commenced duties as Headmaster of the National School at Dinas Powys in September 1887. He had previously served five years as Headmaster of the National School at Waddesdon, Ayleshire where his son John Benjamin Mockford III and daughter Emily were born. His wife Julia was pregnant when they moved to Wales and they were expecting the birth of their third child in early 1888. They celebrated their first Christmas in Wales in 1887 and John Benjamin Mockford wrote that school was closed for two weeks for the usual Christmas Holiday noting that grades had “fallen off owing to the approach of the festive season.”

School resumed on January 9 1888 but during the next week or so Julia’s pregnancy became difficult and he noted that she was ill on January 20 before the log is silent for a week. We learn later that  upon the birth of their second son Arthur Julian Mockford on January 20, 1888 Julia died from post partum hemorrhage. I found an entry in the Headmaster’s Log during the week following her death.

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(27 Jan. 1888) Owing to the Sudden death of my wife I was unable to do much in school. The work, was however carried on very satisfactorily by the teachers.

The baby was “claimed” by his maternal grandparents Rev. Benjamin Bull and wife Mary who took Arthur Julian to care for him at their home in Somerset while the two older children remained with their father in Wales. The difficult year of 1888 passed and John Benjamin Mockford became very involved in church activities as organist and choirmaster and community organizations such as the Horticultural Club and the Dinas Powis Brass Band. On 23rd August 1889 the South Wales Newspaper mentioned “Selections of music being rendered by the Dinas Powis Brass Band, under the leadership of Mr. Mockford” performing for a meeting of about 80 members of the Cardiff Teachers of the National Union of Elementary Teachers.  His name appeared in the paper again and again. In 1891, a brief biography with illustration was published, “MR JOHN B. MOCKFORD is headmaster of Dinas Powis National School, and was apprenticed at St. Mary’s, Deptford road, London. He was trained at Cheltenham in 1878-1879 and from there went to Keeton-Road School as assistant, afterwards securing the appointment as headmaster at Aylesbury. At Powis he commenced work four years ago, and the school is very flourishing having nearly doubled its numbers. This is the only elementarv school in South Wales which has made Sloyd carpentry a subject of instruction, it having a separate workshop built for the purpose. Great interest is taken in this work by the managers, including General Lee and Canon Edwards, and Mr Whitmell, the inspector, has highly commended the work.”

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In 1894 he married Elizabeth Agnes Cram at St. Andrews Major Dinas Powys and the following year a son Herbert was born in 1895. They would have a daughter Jessie born in 1897 and a boy Gilbert in 1903. Meanwhile Arthur Julian Mockford was a “Bluecoat Boy” enrolled at Christ’s Hospital School in London until the school moved to Horsham, West Sussex in 1902. He completed his studies in 1904 the same year that the Mockford family moved back to London from Wales.

I want to thank the staff of the Glamorgan Archives for their assistance during my visit and allowing me to digitally copy pages of my great grandfather’s writing in the Headmaster’s Log. I hope to write a longer story about him in the future.

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John Benjamin Mockford II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A visit to my grandfather’s birthplace Dinas Powys, Wales and Cardiff too!

In 2016 I made a journey to  Cardiff and Dinas Powys in Wales to see the place where my grandfather was born in 1888 and where my great grandfather was Headmaster of the National School for 17 years from 1887 to 1904.  My wife and I arrived in London on Saturday June 25 and we caught the Great Western Railway train from Paddington Station to Cardiff. The two hour journey brought us to Cardiff Station just as news had arrived that the Welsh National Football team had defeated Northern Ireland and the streets filled with singing fans as we walked to The Royal Cardiff Hotel in the midst of the celebration. We sat an outdoor table in front of Pieminister Café and we enjoyed Venison Pie for dinner while watching the raucus celebration continue in the streets of Cardiff and heard the singing until the wee hours of the morning.

On Sunday we caught the first train to Dinas Powis where we were met by Victoria Greene who took us by car to church at St. Andrew’s Major where we met Rev. Andrew James and his dog Coco. I was surprised to see a plaque on the church wall with the names of Headmasters of the National School including my great-grandfather John Benjamin Mockford who lived in Dinas Powis from 1887 to 1904.

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After the church service we visited with parishioners at a lovely coffee hour hosted by Cicely Green at her beautiful home at Garn Hill. I walked into the peaceful garden around her home and took many photos.

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After coffee Peter Hilary Jones offered to be our driver and guide to show us around Dinas Powis where we visited a local historian Joan Andrews who lived in a home once occupied by a former student of John Benjamin Mockford. She shared her research on the late Victorian period and some interesting findings about School Master Mockford . Joan suggested that we visit the Glamorgan Archives where she had found the Headmaster’s Log.

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Joan Andrews with Jim Mockford

After a fascinating hour of visiting with Joan at her house our host Peter drove us to the Twyn, a small park in Dinas Powis with a stone monument and War Memorial across the street from the site where the National School was located at the time of Mockford’s work at the school. The local history book “Dinas Powys St Andrews Major & Michaelston-le-Pit: From Old Photographs” by Chrystal Tilney included photos that identified John Benjamin Mockford and his wife on page 46.

We continued our tour past Wenvoe Castle where Major General Lee had lived a century ago and a man who was a benefactor of the National School and close friend of John Benjamin Mockford. General Lee served as Best Man at my great grandfather’s wedding to Elizabeth Agnes “Cissie” Cram in 1894. Cissie was John Benjamin Mockford’s second wife after his first wife Julia Bull Mockford died in 1888 from a post partum hemorage after giving birth to my grandfather Arthur Julian Mockford.

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We were surprised to receive a nice letter from Tony Welshman, a Cram relative who provided us with some photos and family history. Unfortunately we were unable to meet Mr. Welshman as he was out of town at the time but it was my first time to connect with anyone from the Cram family and I thought that some of our Mockford relatives from John Benjamin’s second family might have an interest in the Cram family history too. I was determined to visit the Glamorgan archives but that would have to wait for a day when the archives were open. Our tour of Dinas Powis took us back to Peter’s home the old parsonage of St. Andrews Major where his wife Anne had made us a delicious supper and our conversation continued to the end of the afternoon when she kindly returned us by car to Cardiff.

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Peter Hilary Jones and Jim Mockford at The Old Rectory St.Andrew’s Major

 

The next day we toured Cardiff Castle with friends from Portland that surprised us by timing their arrival at Cardiff Castle just before we entered the gate and joined the same tour of the magnificent house of the Bute Family and then a walk on the grounds to the Norman Keep with Welsh Flag flying overhead.

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After the tour of the castle we decided to take the boat tour from Bute Park across Cardiff Bay to Mermaid Quay where the Dr. Who Museum and Wales Millennium Centre are among the tourist attractions.

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Wales Millennium Centre

 

 

 

 

 

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