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Thursday, 4 July 2013

Sepia Saturday - We Commemorate Them

Sepia Saturday give bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.
Statues, monuments and plaques are a natural focus for my camera, so this prompt was ideal.   My  selection here spans Poland, Austria, London and the Scottish Borders,  with a diversion to Australia. The main theme has emerged  of wartime courage, but also  touches  on the role of women  and on music.  

The Jewish Monument in  Warsaw 
Visiting Warsaw was a powerful experience, with memorials to the Second World War  evident on so many street corners and squares.  A Path of Remembrance has been laid out in the former Jewish ghetto where the fiercest fighting occurred. 

Part of the 25 metre long  Battle of Britain Memorial  on the Victoria Embankment alongside  the River Thames  in London.  The  monument commemorates "The Few" -  the men  who took part in this vital air battle of the Second World War.


Delving  into side-lines of his family history, my cousin Stuart discovered an ancestral connection with   Alan  Dower Blumlein (1902-1942) who has been described as "the greatest electronic engineer of the 20th century".  He was notable for his many achievements in telecommunications, sound recording, stereo, early television and radar. 
He was killed in  1942 aged 38,  during the secret trial of an airborne radar system then under development, when the Halifax bomber  crashed.
From Warsaw and London to a tiny village in the Scottish Borders  and this plaque at Bedrule Church, near Jedburgh.
Naval officer, Lieutenant Anthony Fasson  (1913-1942) grew up near Bedrule in Roxburghshire.   He was on board the destroyer HMS Petard in the Atlantic when it torpedoed a U-boat.  Lieutenant Fasson, with two colleagues, dived into the sea, boarded the stricken vessel and recovered top secret codebooks and a German Enigma coding machine from the captain’s cabin.  He was lost when the submarine sank, but the papers were saved, and once deciphered provided crucial intelligence for the Allies on U-boat movements. For his actions he was awarded the posthumous George Cross.
In contrast to the tragedy of war, here is the beautiful and peaceful view from Bedrule Church, looking over onto Ruberslaw Hill.

Another largely unknown Borderer (at least in Britain)  is  writer, feminist and social reformer  Catherine Helen Spence (1835-1910), with a simple plaque commemorating her home on Melrose High Street.  

Catherine was the fifth child of a family of eight - daughter  of lawyer David Spence, who,  faced with bankruptcy and financial ruin, emigrated with his family to Australia in 1839.  David Spence became  Adelaide's first town clerk.
Catherine was the first woman in Australia to stand as a political candidate, the first woman journalist and novelist, a battler for women's suffrage and social reform, and a lifelong campaigner for proportional representation. She played a key role in setting up the children's court system, wrote the first legal studies textbook to be published in Australia, and helped to transform South Australia from a rural backwater into a respected, progressive colony, earning the title of "Grand Old Woman of Australia".  She is commemorated in Adelaide by the Spence Archive of her papers and writings and by a statue   The  $5 banknote, celebrating the centenary of the federation of Australia, features her image.  

Another women pioneer in her field  Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934). 

 Marie was born in Warsaw, and  left to study in Paris.  She became a co-founder of  a new branch of science - radioactivity - with her husband Pierre Curie.    She discovered two new elements - radium and polonium (named after her home country).  In 1903 she became the first woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Physics and in 1911 for chemistry.   This plaque is outside her home in Warsaw  which now features a museum on her life and achievements.

To move onto a lighter note, here is a plaque to one of the world's most popular composers, waltz king Johann Strauss (1825-1899) who spent his summers in the spa town of Bad Ischl in Austria.

 And finally  I had to feature this new plaque at my granddaughter's pre-school nursery as it is so cheerful and makes me smile.  A tribute to children everywhere!

Click HERE to discover how other bloggers are commemorating this week's theme.


  1. All your entries are great & the stories behind them, interesting additions as usual, but I have to admit I like the last one best. There's just something about the sight of happy children to warm your heart & remind you that life is good!

  2. An eclectic mix this week, thanks.

  3. Oh, that Battle of Britain memorial is cool -- love how the soldiers are running out of the wall. Scenes like that always make me tear up, and I'm not a very emotional person.

  4. Very uplifting to read about heroes. Makes you appreciate "the plaque" and it's purpose - to never forget. Love Catherine on the five dollar bill.

  5. A most interesting collection of photos and information. Thank you !

  6. Glad you could 'travel' all the way to Australia with a lady who played such a big part in Australia being one of the earliest countries to give all women a vote! Love her on the $5 note.

  7. Jumping into the sea to save papers from the stricken submarine took a lot of courage. An amazing story worth remembering.

  8. Thanks for a most enjoyable post, Susan... The plaque outside your grand-daughter's pre-school is a delight.
    So pleased you included "our" Catherine Helen Spence, :-) ... We're very proud of her. Yes she sailed to South Australia, with her family, in 1939 just 3 years after it was "colonised". A wonderful reformer and, with the help of other amazing women, made South Australia (not Australia!!!) the second place in the world to give women the vote(following New Zealand)... and the very first in the world to give women the right to stand for Parliament!
    I recently purchased "Ever Yours" which is a compilation of her Autobiography, Diary and some Correspondence (published here in South Australia by Wakefield Press, 2005)) but haven't had a chance to read it yet.
    Cheers, Catherine.

  9. What a perfect collection for this weeks prompt. I like the one with the soldiers coming out of the wall best. Very dramatic.

  10. Susan, what a wonderful array of plaques and accompanying stories. Perfect plaques, and the stories uplifting,& exhilarating,

  11. What a spectacular grouping of placques! I'm especially drawn to the WWII ones...

  12. You can't do anything but admire the people who inspired and earned these plaques.

  13. This was interesting and what hard work you did on combining it all! Wonderful photos as well.

  14. Like you, I am always drawn to commemorative plaques. They provide such wonderful jumping off points for historical adventures.

  15. those commemorative plaques are so beautifully crafted.

  16. Quite a mixture of fame and celebrity. We have less of these plaques in the US, at least in the smaller cities. They really serve to keep the continuity of history.


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