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Showing posts from October, 2022

Blandford Throwback Facts XXI

  In 1919 , a thousand Royal Air Force servicemen stationed at Blandford Camp went on strike. They were protesting about slow demobilisation after the end of the First World War. The recently opened RAF base published the first edition of its house journal, the ‘ Albatross’. Former pupil Lord Grenfell described the town’s grammar school as the ‘ Eton of the West.’ He also claimed that no pupil had suffered in the Spanish Influenza pandemic because they were so well cared for and had eucalyptus on their pillows at night. The branch railway line between Blandford station and Blandford Camp, nicknamed the ‘ Powder Puff Line’ opened. It had a short life as it no longer had a purpose after it was decided to close the RAF base. Victoria Cross winner, Jack Counter led a procession of Great War veterans through the town to mark the previous year’s end of the Great War. In 1920 , comrades of the Great War Veterans, later the Royal British Legion, met at Langton House. In 1921 , the town’s sew

Blandford's 'Convict Royalty'

Ria and Bill Bleathman are descendants of Richard Bleathman who, with George Long, were condemned to death by Judge Stephen Gaselee in Dorchester for their involvement in the 1831 Blandford riots. Bill Bleathman is the retired Director of Tasmania’s Museum and Art Gallery while Ria is a management consultant and company director. Both Bleathman and Long were found guilty of damaging the property of Blandford lawyer, George Moore following the declaration of the result of a Dorset by-election. Many old Blandford records were lost in the disturbance and others that were recovered were found stained with horse manure. Moore was a political agent of the successful candidate, Lord Ashley who was strongly opposed to extending the right to vote beyond a small number of eligible property owners. Bleathman and Long believed that Moore had used confidential client information to prevent political opponents from voting in the by-election which Ashley narrowly won.  Following protests from both Bl

Midshipman Benjamin Danford

Benjamin Danford was just 14 years old when he was serving in the British Navy as a Midshipman in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He was the son of Nicholas and Mary Danford who lived in the village of Shroton in North Dorset. When he was baptised, in December 1792, it was quite a family event because also christened there at the same time were his brothers Joseph and young Nicholas junior. Benjamin had volunteered to join the Royal Navy and began his maritime career in March 1805 on HMS Ajax. He saw early bloody action just four months later when his vessel was involved in the Third Battle of Finisterre. This conflict cost Ajax two men killed and 16 injured. The vessel had to return to Plymouth for repairs and then sailed for Cadiz with Nelson’s HMS Victory. At the Battle of Trafalgar, Ajax lost a further two men killed and nine wounded. While this bloody naval battle would have been traumatic and stressful for all involved it must have been particularly so for a 14 year old. After T

George Vince of the Antarctic

First person to lose his life in Antarctica came from Blandford Forum. George Vince was born in the town in September 1880 and was the son of a local fishmonger. He had joined the Royal Navy in October 1895 as a Boy Second Class.  When serving in Cape Town, South Africa, George Vince was transferred to the British National Antarctic Expedition’s vessel, the Discovery. Led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, the expedition sought to explore the undiscovered frozen continent of Antarctica. The expedition’s aim was to work in the Ross Sea sector and in February 1902 the vessel entered McMurdo Sound.  George Vince was a member of an excursion party which in March 1902 became caught in a blizzard. They had managed to pitch their tents but were unable to prepare any hot food. As frost bite started to set in, and according to their reckoning they were close to the Discovery, they set off for the ship. Believing they were heading towards the vessel, they were in fact walking towards a cliff edge

Blandford Camp Railway

Nicknamed the ‘ Powder Puff Line’ , Blandford Camp railway probably had the shortest and most controversial working life of any railway in Britain. Blandford Camp railway was a small branch line built towards the end of World War I which connected the town with Blandford Camp designed to carry both supplies and personnel. It left the Somerset & Dorset line just to the south of Blandford Station passed along the borders of Langton Long, crossed the Blandford-Wimborne road and climbed up to the military camp. At the Camp end of the line there was a 200 yards long halt style platform. This remained in place until the 1960s. Although today Blandford Camp is an army establishment, its first permanent occupants were the Royal Naval Division to be followed by the Royal Air Force in 1918. The RAF had been formed in April 1918 and its Blandford base of 15,000 military personnel became a major entry point for new recruits. It was also the location of the Royal Air Force’s Headquarter’s Gen