Tuesday 6 December 2011 by Dianne Rutherford. 3 comments
Collection, First World War, Heraldry, Western Front, Battles

My name is Romy Turner. I am a work experience student from Canberra Girls Grammar School at the Memorial for this week. As part of my work experience I had to research an item, a trench sign, from the Memorial's collection.

RELAWM06263 Trench sign to Stinking Farm

The trench sign ‘To Stinking Farm & Currie Ave’ was collected during the First World War by Lieutenant Colonel John Basil St. Vincent Welch, whilst he was serving as part of the 13thField Ambulance in Belgium. Welch arrived in Marseilles on 13 July 1916 as a member of the Australian Field Ambulance. He was appointed the commanding officer of the 13thField Ambulance and was stationed around the village of Messines, which would be the site of the Battle of Messines 11 months later. Stationed at Kandahar Farm, Welch assisted in this battle, tending to the wounded as they came back from the front and organising the transportation of the men further back the line to the field hospitals.

Trench Map 28SW 4; Stinking Farm

 As Stinking Farm and Currie Avenue were part of the British territory, English trench signs were used to identify the large network of trenches. They both played small parts in the Battle of Messines, which took place on 7 June 1917. The farm was 800 metres behind the British front line and acted as a holding station for reinforcements awaiting orders to proceed towards the frontier, whilst Currie Avenue was one of the many back line trenches that led to Stinking Farm and eventually the front line.

Trench Map showing the distance between Messines and Stinking Farm (circled)

Welch served on the Western Front until September 1917 and had ample opportunity to collect this sign during his travels up and down the front line. In February 1918, when he left England to return home he brought his war mementos with him. John Basil St. Vincent Welch died on 21 May 1920 as a result of his war service. His name is listed on the Roll of Honour.

Comments

Matt Smith

Dear Romy, A terrific piece of Australian and Flanders military heritage. Well done on locating Stinking Farm. I have a modern day GPS coordinate for you and the farm still exists west of Messines as it would have in June 1917 - GPS 50.755626°,2.877195° As John Basil St. Vincent Welch was stationed at Kandahar Farm, one should consider the development of the Kandahar Farm Cemetery, as well as the existance of La Plus Douvre Farm Cemetery and the Ration Farm (La Plus Douvre Annex), that exist on a direct line between Kandahar Farm and the front line. Get in touch if you would like modern aerial photos of Stinking Farm. Many regards and keep up the great work. Matt

Craig

Great post! It shows how much history may be held in such a small piece of memorabilia.

Will Davies

For those who have perhaps ready the book, Somme Mud by Private Edward Lynch of the 45th Battalion, he mentions Stinking Farm when he moved up to the front ready for the attack on the Messines ridge on the 7th June 1917. This name of course is not the real name of the farm but a soldiers name which was adopted and written up on maps. The farm still exists and is easy to find today. Best, Will Davies (editor Somme Mud)