Monthly Archives: March 2018

C R Noble, VC, Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery

 C R Noble, VC, Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery

© 2015 C Sklinar

I came across another interesting headstone while looking through the Longuenesse cemeteries file.  This one belongs to Lance Cpl. C R Noble, V.C. who served in the Rifle Brigade as service number 3697.

The Lance Cpl. Noble’s headstone stands shoulder to shoulder with its neighbours, but who was C R Noble in the early 1900’s.  Let’s start at the beginning so to speak.

Cecil Reginald Noble was born on the 4th of June 1891 Bournmouth the son of Frederick Leopold and Hannah.

Frederick in the census of 1901 told the enumerator that he was 35 years old, born in Yeovil, Somerset and that he was a painter and decorator,  His wife aged 36 had been born in Sussex. Frederick also told that he had two children, Florence aged 11 and Cecil aged 9.  Home for the family of four was 36 Lincoln Street, Bournmouth (which is about a 25-minute walk to the beach).

Ten years later in 1911, Frederick and Hannah were living at 335 Holdenhirst Road, Bournmouth.  The couple had been married for 23 years and the census tells that Hannah had given birth to four children but at the time of the census two of her children had died.  The couple had a boarder in their seven-roomed house – Bertha Tilley, a 29-year-old single lady who worked as a machinists bookkeeper.  We know from the subject of this blog that Cecil was not one of those two children who had died before the census.   Cecil however, seems to be lost in the census. I have tried using all permutations of his name; not including his name and being so vague in the search that there are millions to look through.  He must be there somewhere, maybe someone out there knows where he was! He may not be able to be found in the census but the availability of his service record certainly makes up for that.

Cecil’s service records come to over 20 sheets of forms and letters of which some are slightly damaged and faded.  The first sheet of his Short Service record includes much of the information already known – his address, his occupation and age (19 years 10 months) and his regiment, service number and rank.  What was not previously known was that Cecil had served for a short time in the 6th Hampshire Batallion.  A note written under his service in the Hampshire’s says ‘not being able to attend’.  He signed the form which was witnessed by Sgt Weaver.

It is the second page that clarifies his service with the Hampshire.  He served ‘at home’ for 1 year and 224 days – from the 31st of March 1910 to 9th November 1911.  Further dates confirm he was in service from October 1914, being part of the B.E.F. from November 1914 until the 13th of March 1915, a date his family would always remember.  The second page of his records gives information regarding his service medals, that he was wounded and that he had been granted the Victoria Cross, Gazetted 28th April 1915.  The final information tells of his next of kin – I was expecting Frederick and Hannah but the record gives his next of kin as Alexander and Hannah of 335 Holdenhurst Road, Bournmouth.  Who is Alexander as I’ve not found a connection to a Hannah and Alexander in the area?

Cecil Reginald Noble, V.C.

Would you recognise Cecil if he walked down the street?  Let’s see!  He was a young man, a few months from reaching his second decade.  He was 5′ 8″ in height, weighing 139 lbs (just under 9 ¾ stones and a 38″ fully expanded chest.  He had a fresh complexion with brown hair and eyes.  He had been brought up in the Church of England.   His vision was good and he had a scar beneath his lower lip and two vaccination marks (done in infancy).  You might have to look close for the scar but I think he would be recognisable, don’t you? Anyway, he was classed as fit on the 31st of March 1910 in Winchester. He must have been in Ireland at some time as on the 29th of August 1911 he was given an antityphoid inoculation with a second injection following on the 9th of September. He had another inoculation in May of 1917.  A further page confirms his service in Dublin, with further service in Colchester.

While serving in Dublin on the 24th of February 1911 Cecil was charged with ‘using obscene language to a NCO’.  Acting Corporal Milner was named as a witness.

Cecil was appointed Pioneer in September 1913 and by the 23rd of November 1914, he had been appointed Acting Corporal.

Cecil died of wounds received on the 13th of March 1915 and was posthumously awarded The Victoria Cross, the United Kingdoms highest award in the honour system, awarded for gallantry ‘in the face of the enemy’ to members of the British armed forces. His citation reads:-

Citation: “For most conspicuous bravery on the 12th March, 1915, at Neuve Chappelle. When their Battalion was impeded in the advance to the attack by wire entanglements, and subjected to a very severe machine-gun fire, Corporal Noble and CSM Daniels voluntarily rushed in front and succeeded in cutting the wires. They were both wounded at once, and Corporal Noble has since died of his wounds.” (London Gazette, 28 April 1915)

From now on his service records give information and events that occurred after his death.   Hannah had lost her son in March 1915 and the following year in the March ¼ her husband had died.  A letter to Mr F Noble was received at 172 Capstone Road, Bournmouth you can only imagine how Hannah would have felt, receiving a letter from the Rifle Records Office addressed to her husband who had recently died.   The letter would have been included in a small package that contained the effects of her son, Cecil Noble, V.C., and contained:- a leather wallet containing letters and photographs and a ‘Green Jackets Lodge of Oddfellows’ contribution book.  Hannah wrote:- ‘Articles herein mentioned received with thanks, Hannah Noble’.   By 1919 when most of the paperwork seems to have stopped Hannah and her daughter, Florence Gertrude was still living at 172 Capstone Road.

In June 1915 £12 3s 4d was sent to the family with a second amount of £5 War Gratuity following in 1919.

Hannah had to confirm receipts of medals, the plaque (death penny) and scroll.  There was one final signing to be performed and that was on the 14th of June 1921 when she signed to acknowledge receipt of the Victory Medal – some six years after her son died of his wounds.

As Cecil had been awarded The Victoria Cross he was immortalised on two sets of cigarette cards – one ‘Glory Boys’ by Martins and ‘Victoria Cross Heroes’ by Cohen-Weenen.

C R Noble, V.C. via Wikipedia

Wikipedia has a page for Cecil complete with a picture of him wearing his Victoria Cross.  This image does not seem to ring true as the deed for which The Victoria Cross was awarded took place the day before his death – being wounded he would have been in some form of hospital and not looking as ‘spick and span’ as he is on the photograph – is there some form of doctoring going on with the photograph?


Cpl. W C Gibson, KOYLI

Cpl. W C Gibson, KOYLI

© C Sklinar 2015

It was while browsing through my file of LONGUENESSE (ST. OMER) SOUVENIR CEMETERY images that I came across one of many double headstones.  The headstone remembered a soldier from the Cameron Highlanders named J Collins, Private S/14593 and W C Gibson, Corporal 1505 who served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

As I have a few online subscriptions it seems fit to follow the Yorkshire line – not that I don’t want to find the Scottish young man but Scotland’s People doesn’t seem to want to go down the subscription route, preferring the pay as you view option, which when looking for census, births, marriages etc., can work out a little on the expensive side.  So the subscription route I will follow to find out who the young man from a Yorkshire Regiment came to lie in some corner of a foreign field.

Who was W C Gibson, to his family and friends he was Walter Clarence Gibson, born in Dewsbury and residing in Batley?  He was the son of Harry and Clara Gibson nee Murton.  The couple married in the autumn of 1889 and during the years of marriage had seven children, sadly four of the children were to die before the 1911 census was taken.    Walter in 1911 was an 18-year-old piecener in a local mill, as was his elder brother Robert. His father, however, was employed as a night watchman working for the council.  Both Harry and Clara had not moved very far from their birthplaces – Harry being born in Earlsheaton and Clara in West Ardsley.

Walter had been born on the 21st of June 1893.  The following month his parents had taken him to St Peter’s, Dewbury for his baptism.

War was declared and eventually, Walter enlisted in Batley.  He joined the 1/4th Btn of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, serving as corporal 1505.   The 1/4th was a Territorial Btn that was in August 1914 stationed in Wakefield as part of the West Riding Brigade, later moving to Doncaster, then Gainsborough (that’s a story in itself) and by February 1915 to York.  They were mobilised for war and entered France in the late Spring of 1915.  From May of the same year, they took part in various actions along the Western Front.

It was on the 4th of August that Walter died of his wounds in No 7 Stationery Hospital St Omer. Walter had been injured by a shell that killed his best friend, Clifford Parkin instantaneously. A report in the Leeds Mercury of 7th August 1915 tells:-

Killed by One Shell – Two Batley Chums Die on the Same Battlefield. – Sergeant Clifford Parkin (son of Mr and Mrs William Parkin of Crlinghow, Batley) and Corporal Walter C Gibson (son of Mr and Mrs Harry Gibson, of Carlton Street, Batley), two chums wervin with the local ‘Terriers’. have fallen in action. It is reported that a shell which instantly killed Sergeant Parkin also seriously injured Corporal Gibson that he died in hospital soon afterwards.
The official notification of the tragedy has been supplemented by a patheric latter written by another Batley N.C.O., Sergeant Albert Greenhalge, who was a friend of Sergeant Parkin as the letter indicates.  He writes :- ‘I am lonely now my pal, or rather brother, has been killed, poor Cliff! He was hit with a shell – the same shell which wounded Walter very seriously.  My heart is broken.  I have nobody left now to confide in like I had in Cliff.  It is the biggest mirale on earth that I wasn’t killed.  Nobody knows what it is like to see your dearest friend killed.  We shall bury him to-night, and I shall see him buried.  Every one mourns his death.  He was the flower of the company.’

The collection of Soldiers’ Effects on Ancestry tells that Walter’s next of kin was his father, Harry, who in 1916 received over £8 from the War Office and in 1919 received a War Gratuity of £4.

Walter was eligible for the Victory and British Medals. His family would have also have been eligible for the Memorial Plaque or ‘Death Penny’ as it became known accompanied by a scroll.

Longuenesse Souvinir Cemetery © C Sklinar 2015

Walter, as we know rests in the Commonwealth War Graves Longenuesse Souvenir Cemetery just outside St Omer.  The cemetery contains the fallen from the Commonwealth, China, Germany, Poland, Czech, nurses and Commonwealth War Graves Commision Staff.

Marshall, Walter’s younger brother also served in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry- the 8th Btn, as Private 202784.  He was killed in action on the 8th of December 1917 and rests in Giavera British Cemetery, Arcade, Italy along with over 400 identified casualties.

St Mary’s Church, Woodkirk Memorial Window

St Mary’s Church, Woodkirk Memorial Window

Within the fabric of a West Yorkshire church is a beautiful stained glass window commemorating a loving son and soldier – Lt. Maurice Nettleton Wilcock. Why is he remembered in such a magnificent manner when his name is not on the church war memorial which commemorates past churchgoers and local young men?

Maurice Nettleton Wilcock source unknown

Maurice Nettleton Wilcock has been remembered inside St Mary’s Church, Woodkirk for many years. When parishioners sit in the traditional pews do they look up and read the words remembering a young man or do they simply admire the beautiful colours when the sun shines bringing the glass into its full glory. How many members of the church knows who he was or why he is not on the memorial to the dead and missing.

Let me see if I can find the answer!

Maurice was the son of John Henry Wilcock and his wife, Mary Elizabeth nee Terry whom he had married on the 13th of November 1895 in the Parish Church, Mirfield.

John Henry Wilcock was born in Ashton Under Lyne, classed a gentleman on his marriage documents, the son of Henry Wilcock, a leather merchant of Fairfield. While Mary of Royd House was the son of John Nettleton Terry a surgeon. John N Terry had been Gazetted in 1864 being a Surgeon in the West Riding Yorkshire Artillery Volunteers, resigning his Commission in 1872. He had before his service been in partnership with Edwin Casson, Surgeon and Apothecary, this partnership was mutually dissolved in 1858. The Gazette also tells that Terry was both surgeon and apothecary.

Going back to Maurice, he was born on the 14th of June 1897 in Wilmslow, Cheshire and baptised in Mirfield on the 3rd of August 1897, a few days after the death of his father, who had died on the 25th of July in Mirfield.

Maurice’s first census was that of 1901 when he and his mother were living at Wilmslow Park. His mother, Mary was aged 28 and living on her own means. Maurice was only three years of age being born in Wilmslow. Mary Terry, his widowed maternal grandmother was also in the household along with three servants – a nurse (domestic), a cook (domestic) and a housemaid, yes again domestic. Mary Terry, like her daughter, had also sufficient funds to enable a decent lifestyle, which is to be taken for granted after seeing the window.

Ten years later and Maurice is now 13 years of age and a border at Radnor School, Redhill with six other pupils, two assistant mistresses – Zeta and Sybil Rougier from Guernsey and Head of the household Miss Mary Granville Johus (sic). Maurice also attended Mill Hill School, London.

Mary Elizabeth Wilcock remarried solicitor Leonard Richard Brewer Phillips, whom she had married in Wales in 1906 and they appear in the 1911 census living at Bryancliffe(?), Wilmslow, Cheshire, an eleven-roomed house. As well as Leonard and Mary, Margaret Terry was a visitor. The couple had a butler, Bertram Smith and two other servants.

Maurice was one of over 300 Old Millhillians who gave their lives during both World Wars. He was Gazetted in 1917, given the rank of Lieutenant in the 13th Bn. Royal Fusiliers and in a short time would be serving his King and Country in a foreign land. In September of 1918, Maurice’s battalion had been taking part in the Battle of Arras – he was killed in action on the 18th of September of that year. He rests in Lebucquiere Communal Cemetery Extention, on the road from Bapaume to Cambrai. The area around the cemetery had been retaken by the German army in March 1918. Being retaken by the allies in early September. The cemetery extension was begun in late March 1917 and used for almost a year, being enlarged again when burials from outlying areas were brought in from surrounding battlefields. The cemetery contains the graves of over 770 servicemen, of which 266 are unidentified – known only unto their God.

As with all WW1 Army Officers, Maurice did not have a service number, which can sometimes hinder research, The ranking soldiers had an identifying service number which is a boon when looking for similarly named men – that is unless a transcriber has made an error, not an unusual occurrence! The advantage of officers records is that they are held in the National Archives, sadly not online, but available for a fee.

Maurice’s Medal Card via Ancestry

Anyway, back to records and memorials that appeared as a result of Maurice’s death. Maurice would have had money owing to him from the War Department, which his mother, as next of kin, would be eligible for. Firstly, the Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects lists that about £120 was forwarded to Cox and Co. (the same as many officers) before being distributed.

Money in the family – Maurice’s maternal grandfather, died leaving £57,567 to his daughter Mary Elizabeth Phillips. Maurice, of Burdon Brown, Cheam, Surrey after Probate left £20,683 to his mother. Leonard, of Roydene, Gerrards Cross died in 1934 leaving £18,919 to his widow Mary Elizabeth.

Where is Maurice remembered apart from Woodkirk Church? It seems that he is also remembered in another local church. A marble tablet on the west wall of St Mary’s Church, Gawthorpe remembers Maurice with the following words ‘In memory of Lieut Maurice Nettleton Wilcock 13th Battalion Royal Fusiliers only grandchild of the late John Nettleton Terry of Merfield aged 21. After nearly two years active service, killed in
action on 18th September 1918’ (extracted from IWM memorials).

Memorial Gateway Mill Hill School

The war memorial in Cheam also includes Maurice on one of its stone tablets.   I said earlier he is also one of over 300 Old Millhillian’s from Mill Hill School who are remembered by a War Memorial Gateway made of Portland stone which records the names of the fallen on internal panels.  The school memorial can be seen from the roadside standing proudly and slightly set back from a short flight of steps.  The opening of the Memorial Gate was filmed and is available to view on Youtube.  I would like to think that some member of Maurice’s family attended the opening ceremony.

I have found various memorials that bare his name but as yet found no connection to St Mary’s Church, Woodkirk…………. Do you know any different?