Category Archives: News

Little Wooden Cross

Little Wooden Cross

As I’ve said before, family history friends are the best. Not forgetting the family of family history friends! I was recently given a little wooden cross by one of these friends. It is nothing extraordinary to look at. It does, however, become two separate sections – the cross detaches from the tiered base. Was it meant to be portable? Or, has it over time become two pieces?

Hartlepool Wooden Cross © 2022 C Sklinar

This item is supposed to have been made from debris wood as the result of the Hartlepool Bombardment. It was said to be from World War 1. Was there a bombardment during this time? I know from my family history that Scarborough was bombed in the later war, WW2 – close relatives of mine were killed as a result of a direct hit on their house. The house was destroyed. My dad used to tell me that he cycled from Wakefield to the Scarborough house to watch cricket from one of their bedroom windows as it overlooked the cricket ground.

Anyway, back to the little cross and Hartlepool.

Who made the cross and why is this unknown but the story of the bombing and the impact it had on the area is documented.

On the 16th of December 1914, roundabout breakfast time 130 people were either killed or injured in forty horrific minutes when it is reported that over 1000 shells were directed at the town from a German warship. During the same day, Whitby and Scarborough were also the targets of enemy warships. As I’ve said, I knew about Scarborough during the 1939-1945 war but, in 1914, that was all new!

In 2020 found in a box of broken cameras and lenses was a short newsreel showing the aftermath of the bombardment and photographs taken at the time showing the damage and the people of Hartlepool getting on with their lives.

To see the newsreel and read about the events of the day click on the following links

March 2020 BBC News

The Newsreel on the Yorkshire Film Archive

When Germany Bombarded Hartlepool December 2014

Wikipedia’s information on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby

A Walk Around Sugar Lane with the Addition of a Surprise!

A Walk Around Sugar Lane with an Added Surprise!

Why is it when you have a plan, something always gets in the way? In this case, it was two things! The first was out of my control. I’ll not bore you with that, the second was my daughter’s fault! Bless her she sent me a short video of a churchyard and two close-up shots of a tomb. Why did she do that? Being kind and knowing that mum likes that kind of thing, she also sent me a photograph, with details of a war memorial. Last night, I did a little research on the names on the tomb when I should have been writing about Sugar Lane. They were, however, an interesting family who lived in very different times and are worthy of having their story told – later!.

But back to Sugar Lane. From all the photographs I have of this cemetery, I always find it hard to decide which headstone to tell you about. Why did I choose this one? Did I have the slight inkling where it would lead? A subconscious feeling?

Harrison, MacKenzie, Grace headstone © C Sklinar 2014

The headstone – a rounded top, now darkened with age has the words ‘In Affectionate Remembrance’ following its curve.

The first name on the carved stone is that of Lucy Eleanor Stewart the beloved wife of Henry Harrison. Lucy died on the 10th of August in the year 1874. At first glance, you could think that ‘Stewart’ was her maiden name. Well, if you were in Scotland, it could well be, as older Scottish headstones 99% of the time use the wife’s maiden name. As it happens, this could be the case as Lucy was born in Jedburgh, Scotland. And what a time I had finding her, as in the 1871 census she is Hampshire living with her aunt, Henrietta Powell. Lucy is 18 years old now and has no occupation. Her name was difficult to find as at first glance it looks like ‘Lucy EMc’ with Kenzie written half a line above. By now I was aware that her maiden name was MacKenzie. How did I know this? Her marriage entry in the Parish Register’s held the information. On the 19th of February 1873, Lucy, aged 20, of Clarendon Street, Wakefield, the daughter of William Richard MacKenzie, draper, married Henry Harrison, full age, living on Hatfield Street, Wakefield, a Police Clerk and son of Edward Harrison a chemist, in the beautiful St John’s Church, Wakefield.

St John’s Church, Wakefield via Google

Both Henry and Lucy signed the register, as did Thomas Ashmore and someone whose name looks like Kington (?). On close look, it could be McKenzie?

Lucy’s short life ended on the 10th of August 1874, after only 18 months of marriage. Probate Administrations were in Wakefield on the 4th of December 1900 – why such a long time between her death and Probate? Her effects totalled £82 11s 5d. By now Henry was a Police Superintendent.

Question? Could Lucy’s death have been due to giving birth? Leonard Stewart Harrison was baptised on the 21st of August 1874 at Holy Trinity Church, Wakefield, after being born on the 4th of the month. Leonard joined the Navy at an early age and by 1911 had been married for 15 years, had two children (aged 15 and 4 years old) and held the rank of Petty Officer and was living in Devonport. He died in 1928.  He rests in Harehills Cemetery, Leeds.

Henry married again on the 26th of April 1876 in St John’s Church, Wakefield. His second wife was called Elizabeth Grace, she was aged 23 when she walked down the aisle. Both Henry and Elizabeth were living on Hatfield Street at the time – could this have been how they met? Elizabeth’s father was John Grace, who worked as a joiner. As well as the ‘happy couple’ signing the PR, John Hardman, Betty Lawson and Mark Grace also wrote their names.

In 1881, Henry, Elizabeth and Leonard were living on Wakefield Road, Soothill, nr Dewsbury. Henry was now an Inspector and Clerk of Police aged 32 and stated that he was born in Sheffield.

In 1886 Elizabeth gave birth to a little boy, who they called Fred. Sadly, Fred was to die on April 8th 187 aged 23 months.

Ten years later in 1901, Leonard is no longer in the family home. As we know, he is now in the service of the Queen. Henry and Elizabeth are living in Hook, near Goole. Home is on Escourt Terrace – The Police Station, in fact, the Superintendent’s House. There are two new additions to the family, Anne, aged nine and Henry, aged two. The family seem to have been on the move in the past 10 years as Anne was born in Dewsbury and young Henry in Otley.

Another ten years on and the family now live in the Police Court House, Goole. The family has increased with the addition of Lawrence aged eight and Nowill also eight – were they twins?  A look at their birth certificates will tell you as the times of birth would be included.  Unlike a Scottish certificate where all times of birth are included regardless of multiple births.

The year 1910 was a sad year for the Harrison’s – Henry died on the 10th of August and his death was registered in the Selby Registration District. Henry of Barff Holme, Brayton Road, Selby had his Probate granted on the 26th of September when Elizabeth was responsible for £1144 12s 3d.

1911, Elizabeth now aged 58 included information about her marriage and children, don’t you just love Elizabeth! She added that she had been married 34 years, had had 6 children and two had sadly died. On census night included with Elizabeth were Henry, Lawrence and Nowill, along with Edith Hardman, a cousin, aged 40, who was the housekeeper.

A clue to what happens next can be found on the base of the families headstone. ‘Elizabeth Harrison widow of the above (Henry) died January 22nd 1927 aged 74 years interred in Mount Royal Cemetery Montreal Canada’.

On the 19th of June 1914, Elizabeth, Henry, Nowill and Olive E (Who is she?) disembarked at Quebec after being onboard the vessel SS Tunisian. Olive, it appears, was going to Canada to marry!

In 1916 Lawrence was living at 317 Gordon Avenue, Verdun, Quebec. with his mother. He worked as a teacher but on the 4th of March, he Attested into the Canadian Army. He was 25 years old, rather small in height at only 5′ 3″. He had fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion and signed his name with a very fine hand. Serving as Sgt, 3082370 in the 1st Quebec Regiment. On the 14th of March, 1918, his enlistment was cancelled. In between time he was back in Yorkshire but appears never to have gone to Europe. His Canadian Service Records hold a great deal of information.

Henry  Jnr also served in the Canadian Forces and at the time of his enlistment was married to Charlotte. Henry, taller than his younger brother was 5′ 10″ tall and again had fair hair, blue eyes and a fair complexion. He also had a scar on his right forearm from an accident in 1909. Serving as 2753299, he held the rank of C.S.M (Company Sgt Major). And again, so much information about him is included in his Service Records.

Henry, Lawrence and Nowill married and had families.

Nowill and Henry are not mentioned on the family headstone, however, a little about them adds to their families information.

One thing I did find and was it was quite a surprise! When researching Elizabeth Grace is that she is connected to the Grace family I link into – another relative or two added to the tree, albeit at a bit of a distance.

The story of this headstone comes to an end. From a few names and dates on a headstone, another story has been told.

Another Walk Around Sugar Lane – Elvey

Another Walk Around Sugar Lane

The past two years have affected so many families – I hope you have written up your part in this worldwide event as part of your history. Your thoughts, your actions, how you have tried to keep life normal. And what you have done to keep busy. All this information forms part of who you are – family historians like to have this kind of information, well I know I do!

Some of you may have increased your efforts to add names and dates to your family history. I for one, have done this, concentrating on my One-Name Study. During July, I spent another two glorious weeks in Scotland visiting family farms, kirkyards and cemeteries and a wonderful time with the curator of the Highlanders Museum, but that’s another story.

I don’t know why but, I always feel at peace in a nice cemetery – could it be that not many people visit or I am happy on a nice day to get my daily 10,000 steps in a sometimes beautiful place. Well, although Sugar Lane is a nice cemetery and I do find its inhabitants fascinating and it is one of my favourite places it is not one of the most beautiful burial grounds I have visited. But, saying that, there are, some wonderful stories waiting to be found within its stone boundaries.

Edward Anderson Elvey. What can that name and his headstone tell us and where will we be led? Well, for a start he lived at Gathorne Terrace, Sandal when he died on the 20th of February 1919. Probate was granted in May of the same year to William Henry Kingswell, solicitor, William Scholey, solicitor’s clerk, May Roberts, wife of Walter Harold Roberts and Arthur Edward Elvey, music teacher. His total effects were £36137 13s. Who was Edward to have amassed this amount of money during his life?

Edward, born in 1840 in Lynn, Norfolk, was the son of John Elvey, a bricklayer, and his wife, Elizabeth.

In 1851, the family were living in the parish of Tilney St Lawrence. John Elvey was aged 48 and working as a Master Builder. Edward was the youngest of four children living at home.  

The 1861 census, however, does raise an important question. John Elvey was by 69 years of age and his wife, Elizabeth, was 60. Edward and an elder brother were still at home but, there was also a child. Who was the child? Her name was Eliza, aged three years old, her relationship to the head of the household was … daughter! Daughter, who’s daughter? Could Eliza be her mother? Although an interesting question, this is Edward’s ‘This is your life’ and an interesting life it is.

Two years after the 1861 census, in 1863, Edward married Elizabeth Markham in the Lincolnshire market town of Boston. The couple moved to Wakefield before 1865 as Arthur their son was registered in the town. Why a move to Wakefield? A look on the FreeBMD website shows quite a few Elvey people were in Wakefield at the time. Did they have family in the area?

The 1871 census narrows down the question about moving to Wakefield. The census entry, hard to find on Ancestry due to a mistranscription, was easily found on FMP. The family living in Regent Street, Belle Vue has Edward but his surname does need the researcher to know the family as the enumerator’s writing looks like ‘Sloey‘. Anyway, the 1871 census shows a child older than Arthur by one year being born in Skirbeck, Lincolnshire – a girl named ‘Char E’ (according to FreeBMD Charlotte Elizabeth was born in 1864 and registered in Boston). This census also shows that the couple had another child, Rob, aged two. 

Ten years on the family are still living in Regent Street but the family has grown a little. Charlotte is not with the family but Maud aged seven and Mary aged one join their elder siblings. Things must be looking up for Edward as he now employs seven men and one apprentice. Regent Street at the time was home to clerks, pork butchers, Inspector of Police (W.R.C.), tailors, assistant to H.M. Inspector of Schools, cabinet makers etc., skilled or semi-professional people.   

Charlotte Elizabeth has rejoined the family by 1891, while Arthur seems to have left. The two younger children Maud an apprentice milliner and Mary, a scholar are still with their parents.  

By 1901 all the children have left home that is except 21-year-old Mary. Edward has taken an extra step in his building work and is now a ‘builder and contractor’. But home is still on Regent Street. just a stone’s throw from Sugar Lane.  

The final census available at the moment is 1911 and what a trail to find Edward and his family. I always start with a general search and in this case simply Edward’s full name – Edward Anderson Elvey. The usual results came up – census 1851-1861, 1881-1901 – no 1871 or 1911. I’ve already mentioned the 1871 and the transcribed name but the 1911 census, well that took a little while longer.

There was nothing on FMP. so Ancestry would have to find him. There was no Edward Anderson Elvey. No E A Elvey. No Elvey living in Wakefield that matched. A sideways tack was needed. It came down to searching solely the 1911 census for any Edward Anderson Elvey with any variants. Nothing. My next and final search came up with the goods. Edward Anderson, no surname and living in Wakefield. Found him! Edward Anderson Etrog, I ask you? 

Edward and Elizabeth were still together but now living at 13 Gawthorne Terrace, Barnsley Road, Sandal. As the old song goes ‘Been together now for 40 years but in this case 47! Mary aged 31 was still at home and still single. But there were a few additions to the household, so the house needed to be big enough (7 rooms) to house them all. There was a 16-year-old grandson, Joseph Edward Dawson. Dorothy May Baldwin aged 29, a sick nurse, possibly born near Bridlington (which member of the family was sick?) and finally, a general servant, Beatrice Patrick age 18 and born in Leeds. It could have been Elizabeth that was not feeling well. But I’ll come back to her later.

What happened during the intervening years? Well, five children were born but one sadly had died before 1911. One event that could have changed their lives took place in May of 1901 with subsequent taking place in December of that year. Archers (Limited) of Westgate, New Mill, Wakefield, cocoa-matting manufacturers took Edward to court for the loss of light. In 1898 Edward owned adjoining property known as Plumpton House Estate and sold a building on that site to Archers. In 1901 Edward began building a row of cottages approximately 10 feet away from the office windows, which if completed, Archer’s would have almost all of their light entirely shut off. Edward denied all the accusations insisting that there would be ample light for the company to continue their work. He offered £25, which he brought into the court in notes, with the denial of liability. Witnesses, including architects, gave evidence in support of the plaintiff’s case – the hearing was adjourned. Did he think that he could buy them off? Sadly, I don’t know as I can’t find another newspaper entry.

1917, Elizabeth died on the 26th of June. Had she been ill since 1911? Had Elizabeth had several nurses during her illness? The reason I bring this question forward is that on the 15th of January 1918 widower, Edward Anderson Elvey, builder of 13 Gathorne Terrace, Sandal married Louisa Smallwood Talbot, aged 42, a trained nurse of 16 Eddlesburn Street, in All Saints, Leeds (Parish Church). Louisa was included in The Midwives Roll 1926, which tells that she enrolled in 1905 after taking her exam in 1904.

Just over six months later on the 20th of February 1919, Edward died. Probate for his estate was granted on the 14th of May to Henry Kingswell solicitor, William Scholey solicitor’s clerk, May Roberts (daughter), wife of Walter Harold Roberts, and Arthur Edward Elvey (son) music teacher. With the effects being valued at £36,137 13s.

The burial plot in Sugar Lane does not have a headstone or kerbstones, instead, the plot is covered in a granite tomb-like structure. Edward and Elizabeth seem to rest together and their names, birth and death dates are carved in the dark grey surface. There is another name included but that again is being written up along with others in a larger format.

Finally, Louisa Smallwood Elvey who was born on the 4th of December 1875 died in the September quarter of 1969. Probate tells that Louisa of 21 Wintrley La Rushell Staffordshire died on the 15th of August 1969. Probate was granted in Birmingham on the 22nd of October the same year. With effects being £3,800. She rests in Ryedroft Cemetery, Walsall, along with at least one other person named Upton.

From two names on a grave marker so much information can be learnt from just a little bit of research.

Riach’s in Dingwall

Patrick Scott Riach.

Patrick Scott Riach was born at Edinkillie in January of 1892. He was the son of James Alexander Riach and his wife Janet Scott. James Alexander Riach was Station Master at Dingwall Railway Station.

Dingwall Railway Station via Wikipedia

Patrick was born the middle child of five born between 1886 and 1895.  Patrick and his siblings had each been given a middle name that connected them to their forebears, on both the maternal and paternal lines.

The small village of Edinkillie had been home to the Riach’s until about 1894. Patrick and his elder sibling were all from the village while the two youngest were born in Muir of Ord, Dingwall.

Edinkillie to Dingwall via Google maps

In 1901 the family were living in Station Square, Dingwall. Station Square is still there, surrounded by the Victorian Station and houses.

The time of the 1911 census came and the family were still living at Station House. Patrick was now 19 years old and working as a Post Office clerk.

In the centre of the square is a small grassy area which is surrounded by wrought iron railings and within its centre is the local war memorial with a rustic wooden cross at the top which remembers the fallen from the 4th Btn Seaforth Highlanders.

In 1917, while James Alexander Riach was working at Dingwall Station he would have seen the ‘Jellico Express’.

What was the ‘Jellico Express‘? I hear you saying!

In May 1917, while Patrick Scott served his Country, his home town played a great part in the war. A rail route had been introduced from London to Thurso – the nearest station to Scapa Flow in Orkney where the Grand Fleet was stationed. It was Britain’s longest railway journey, just over 700 miles, and is said to have transported about 500,000 military personnel and mail in two years. The train’s carriages could hold up to about 500 for the long, 22-hour journey. The journey was the safer option, and quicker than by sea – it was also safer than the sea with the constant threat of U-boats.

The railway station cafe was also a very busy place and is said to have served over 134,800 cups of tea – served during the entire war by Red Cross volunteers.

Patrick’s Post Office record has him working from 1908 to 1915. By the time April 1918 had arrived Patrick Scott Riach was serving with the Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force. He served in France and by October 1918 he was in Russia. In June 1919 his records tell that he was in Archangel. He was a wireless operator and had completed numerous courses in this field. He had experience and qualified as a telegraphist. He had knowledge of telegraphic engineering and held a Class 1 Postmaster Generals Certificate for Wireless and attended courses in Valve Detectors at Brooklands and British School of Telegraphy, London. During his time serving his country, he had been given the rank of Lieutenant. It was while in Archangel that he was Acting Captain. He was transferred to the ‘unemployed’ list.

Royal Flying Cross via Wikipedia

In October 1919 he was awarded the A.F.C. (Air Force Cross)

Upon return to civilian life, he returned to working for the post office. In 1922 he married Christina Laurie Hood. Christine had also worked for the post office – could they have met through work? The couple went on to have at least two children.

Patrick retired from the post office and lived the rest of his days in Dingwall.

He died on the 16th of October 1958. He rests in Mitchell Hill Cemetery, Dingwall.

Officer’s in Elgin

Officer’s in Elgin

Elgin War Memorial © C Sklinar 2020

While looking through a series of photographs I’d taken this summer, I came across a familiar surname on the Elgin War Memorial. The surname is not on my mother’s side, the Riach’s, but on my father’s side from Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The surname of OFFICER links into the Siddle family and the research I have done on them (with an Officer relation), seem to have them all around the Yorkshire region. I was quite surprised to find the surname in Elgin.

On the memorial’s front plaque are three C.S.M’s – James Catto; T E Dean, A R Rogers, D.C.M., and finally Wm Officer.

William, who is he?

Elgin War Memorial section © C Sklinar 2020

Born circa 1892, William was the son of Andrew Officer and his wife Agnes, nee Clark. When the 1901 census enumerator came to call on the family at 55 North Street, Elgin, who was in the house? Andrew, born in Portsoy, was aged 39 and worked as a confectioner. Agnes, born in the same year was from Johnstone, Berwickshire. William was one of seven children aged between 13 and 7 years of age – the youngest two may have been twins. There was one other child, Frederick Clark Officer who was born the year after this census.

The census time came again on the 2nd of April, 1911, when William was 18 years of age and still living in Elgin. William was working as a carpenter for Mr James George. It would not be too long before his life and, that of his family would change forever.

William was going to war.

He enlisted in Elgin and became a soldier in the 1st/6th Seaforth

Seaforth Highlanders CWGC

Highlanders. He served with the Regimental Number 526 and rose through the ranks to become a C.S.M. His Medal Card shows he was eligible for the 1915 Star, the Victory and British Medals. The award of the 1915 Star gives an insight when William went to the recruiting office in Elgin.

The 1st/6th Seaforth Highlanders stationed at Elgin along with the 1st/5th (stationed at Golspie) were both parts of the Seaforth and Cameron Brigade of the Highland Division who moved to Bedford. By the 1st of May 1915, they were in French and Belgian theatre of war. During 1915 they saw action at The Battle of Fesubert.

William ended up in the Somme region of France. At the end of July, wounded was more than likely taken to the 36th Casualty Clearing Station Heilly. On the 1st of August, his few days of suffering came to an end. He rests in the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe with over 2000 Commonwealth casualties and over 80 German casualties. The cemetery started in spring 1916 begun under pressure, as a result of this, some burials are closer together than in other CWGC cemeteries.

The Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects include William and show that his father Andrew and mother Agnes were joint legatees in his estate. There was a sum of over £40 that would eventually reach William’s parents in two parts.

There is a set of records that the Western Front Association shared with the pay per view website, Fold3, these thousands of record cards can tell you, the researcher, so much information compared to the Medal Card, The Effects Register and Service Record – if it has survived. This set, The Pension Record Cards, included the standard soldier information – name, rank, service number, they also include a great deal of information about the recipient(s) of the pension. Where the recipient lived? What was their relationship to the soldier? How much was the payment and how long were they to last? Other information may include, the date of death of the recipient and who took over. You could find alternate names for wives or mothers if they remarried. The soldier could have fought under an alias. But there may be information about an illness or detailed cause of death.

What information is on William’s card? Andrew Officer of 15 Union Street, Elgin, died in 1926. The official document then includes his mother, Agnes. William’s brother, Robert of 15 Lossie Wynd, Elgin also has an inclusion. The first entry is on the 26th of September 1919, with the final date being on the 25th of June 1926. Did Andrew get any money? I don’t know as no figures for money are written on the cards.

The Aberdeen Weekly Journal of Friday 11th of August 1916 includes ‘C.S.M. Officer, Elgin. Mr A Officer, confection, Lossie Wynd, Elgin, has received intimation that his son, Company Sergt.-Major William Officer, Seaforth Highlanders, has died of wounds received on 29th July. Although only 23 years of age, C.S.M. Officer had for several years been a member of the Territorials and was most popular in the battalion. Before mobilisation, he was a carpenter with Mr James George’.

As well as being included on the Elgin War Memorial, William’s name is with many others in The Morayshire Roll of Honour. It was while looking for William that I came across five other Officer young men who went to war, including his brothers Robert and Andrew.

Who were these Officer young men? The young men that lived and came home to their family and friends.

Robert Officer (William’s brother), was born in July 1889, at 4 Bridge Street. Before enlisting, Robert had been a marine engineer. He joined the Navy at Glasgow in 1915 and served as a Lieutenant on H.M.S. Caledonia in Home Waters.

Andrew Officer (William’s brother) served as a Seargent in the 20th American Engineers. He was born in October 1887 at 4, Bridge Street, Bishopmill, Elgin. He joined at El Paso, Texas, America, December 1917. He also served in France.

Royal Engineers CWGC

Thomas Frier Officer (William’s brother), served as Sapper 221596, in the Royal Engineers. He was born at 55, North Street, Bishopmill, Elgin, on the 29th of June 1898. He enlisted at Elgin in January 1917. He, like his brothers, served in France.

Andrew Officer served as number 39292 as a Seargent in the Army Pay Office and 10th Scottish Rifles. He was born at Buckie, on the 13th of June, 1893. He enlisted at Elgin in August 1914 and served in France. Andrew was the son of William and Isabella Officer of 67 Moss Street, Elgin. Before joining the military, Andrew worked as a chemist.

William Officer (brother of Andrew) served as Private 266195, in the 3/6th Seaforth Highlanders and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. William was born at Elgin on the 7th of December 1898. He enlisted at Elgin, in June 1915. He also served in France. William, during his service he was gassed and wounded. The son of William and Isabella Officer, 67, Moss Street, Elgin. Before the war, he worked as a clerk.

James Alaister C MacKay – Seaforth Highlanders

James Alaister C MacKay – Seaforth Highlanders

By the 22nd of July 1916, the Battle of the Somme was 22 days old. Shortly after the 22nd, the family of J Alaister Culbard Mackay would receive the news that they had dreaded.

James Alastair Culbard Mackay was born in 1891 in Rathven, Banffshire, the son of Robert Young Mackay and his wife, Edith Culbard. His father Robert had been the Procurator Fiscal for Dumfriesshire – later to be the same in Banffshire and died in 1929. From the collection of family memorials in Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin, so much can be learnt about the Young family and the people who they married. Two large ornate memorial stones are attached to the boundary wall, with several others forming an ‘honour guard’.

It appears that one of the Mackay’s, a doctor, lived at The Tower, Elgin, and probably ran his practice from the building. My parents were married in the building in the early 1950s when the building was a hotel. The Doctor Mackay, according to Castleuk.net, remodelled the house and all that remains of the original building is the three-story 1600 tower.

At the time the 1901 census was taken, James was 9-years-old, his younger brother Robert had been born 14 days earlier. Could it have been due to the recent birth that Edith’s sister Alice was in the house on the census night? Also at 6 Seaview, Buckie was a visitor (sick nurse), housemaid and cook. His father Robert, as a solicitor and would, had the means to pay for the extra staff.

James joined the army, initially as a Lieutenant in the 6th Seaforth Highlanders before being promoted to the rank of Captain. The 1/6th Battalion was a Territorial Force known as the Morayshire Battalion. This Battalion landed in France in May 1915 as part of the 51st (Highland Division) – the same period that James landed in France.

As James as an officer, had no service number – it was not until he 2nd World War that a soldier retained his service number after a transfer and an officer had a serial number. Due to James being an officer, his service records are available to view at the National Archives, Kew. Other records appertaining to James service can also be found at the NA or on many pay-per-view websites. One of the available records is his Medal Card which tells that he was eligible for the 1915 Star, Victory and British Medals. Unusually enough, there is a small amount of information on the reverse of the card – application dates for his father and his father’s address (Procurator Fiscals Office, Dumfries. Home, Mayfield, Welltown, Dumfries).

The medals previously mentioned were not the only ones given to James. In early June 1916 in the King Birthday Honour List – His Majesty, the King had been graciously pleased to approve the award (Military Cross) for the Distinguished Service in the Field.

The 51st Division took part in defence of Ypres during the late spring of 1915 before moving to an area north of the River Somme where they relieved the French near Hamel. By now, the 51st were starting to build a reputation for themselves as a hard-fighting lot! In 1916 they took part in attacks on High Wood and the Battle of Ancre in which the 51st captured Beaumont Hamel. During this time they captured over 2000 prisoners. It was more than likely during the battle that James died. The cemetery where he rests is only a short distance from the River Somme and the centre of Ancre. The CWGC cemetery (La Neuville British Cemetery) is slightly off the beaten track, accessible via the Route de Daours, Corbie. Surrounded by fields, the cemetery is the final resting place of over 890 casualties of war.

The Book of Remembrance, available at each site of commemoration, tells James, aged 25 Died of Wounds and also gives his farther’s details. His headstone shows the badge of his regiment and a simple cross along with his identifying information.

The Probate Calendars for Scotland include James, now of Bemreay, Banff. The information – his regiment, that he died on active service, date of Will and Grant, to who granted and the amount of £772 11s 10d.

The website FindaGrave includes a photograph of James’ headstone plus a picture of a very handsome young man wearing a Glengarry Bonnet.

John A Stewart – Hong Kong and Cluny Hill, Forres

John A Stewart – Hong Kong and Cluny Hill, Forres

I don’t tend to research WW2 soldiers as there is not as much information available online…..yet!  But this little headstone in Cluny Hill Cemetery, Forres shouted out at me to have a look and see what I could find.   The two words that caught my attention were ‘Hong Kong’.  Well, I had to have a look, didn’t I

John Stewart Killed in Action ©2020

What did I know?  I knew the soldier’s name, well I presume he was a soldier – I may be proved wrong.  I knew when he died and where.  I also knew the names of his father, mother and sister – don’t you just love a good headstone?

Let me start my search with a visit to the CWGC (Commonwealth War Gaves Commission website.  The CWGC have recently updated their website and it is not as easy to search as it was.  Gone are the search boxes we knew, now the boxes are less with the option of adding extra search criteria.  You also have to contend with mouseover menu’s that drop down at the slightest move of a mouse – I am not a fan of mouseover menus.

Who am I talking about?  John A Stewart as the headstone commemorates him is on the CWGC John Alexander Stewart, and he is not a soldier!  John was Leading Aircraftman 972440, John Alexander Stewart who served in the RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve).  He was 24 years old when he died on the 6th of April 1944  in Yunnan.  Yunnan borders Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma) so there was quite a bit going on in that region during WW2.

Both the family headstone and the CWGC site tell that John’s father was John Alexander and his mother was Annie Henderson.  Only the headstone mentions John’s sister Catherine Ann who died in 1954 aged 37.

The family headstone also tells that John died in air operations.  During the time around his death, the British Army,  the Chindits formed by Ord Wingate were fighting in northern Burma, an unconventional long-range war that was only kept going forward by supply airdrops from the RAF.  Could this have been John’s job to keep the army supplied?  It’s a possibility!

Quite a lot of information from so few sources but with John being from Scotland it makes online research difficult for births, baptisms and census – Scotlands People being a pay per view site.  I wish, oh, I wish they would change to an annual subscription.  As I can’t use that source for information, well I could, but not going to.  I normally Google a person’s name near the end of my research, it looks like I’m near the end so a Google search it is.

Initially, I used John’s name but that was too broad a search.  Next was to include his rank and that came up with a wonderful site.  I’ve used the site before and again it did not let me down.  The RAF Commands site is a cornucopia of information and never fails to fulfil.  A simple search for John came up with his plane and fellow crew members along with a description of the events that lead to his death.  I now am able to tell you that John was in 357 Sqdn and was on Liberator III BZ952 lead by F. Sgt Frederick Sullivan (1087865).  Along with John and Frederick three was eleven other crew on board that day who were delivering petrol into the stores at Kumming, China allowing RAF Special Duties to refuel there before continuing to Siam during the rainy season.  So I was partially correct in what John was doing at the time of his death.  The entry on RAF Command can be read here.

This wonderful website has a large collection of photographs relating to the 357 squadron could Alexander be immortalised in one of these images?

Diary of a D-Day Veteran

Diary of a D-Day Veteran

Pte. Charles Wilkinson

Extracts from the 1944 diary of Charles Wilkinson, Despatch Rider, D-Day + 1 hour

Diary notes are in italics

1st June (British evacuated Crete 1941)
A good job pictures in camp or it would be awful having nothing to do, but still I suppose we would have made the best of it

2nd June (Battle of Mount Sorrel, 1916)
Left camp on slacks(?) as luck would have it Cynthia ***  ** as she was working in Winchester & did that make things worse, arrived at Camp 1.30 and walked again.

3rd June (Evacuation of British Army from Dunkirk completed, 1940)
Left camp to go to L.S.T. at docks Southampton and boarded boat 264, serial 2740, and it is miserable, nothing to do and a long time to do it in.

4th June
Rumours circulating, chat on board but no one knows what rumours are.

5th June

We sail today.  Destination unknown.  I suppose we will get to know as we sail on.  Briefing at 1600 hrs, but we have a good idea before we go.

6th June

D-Day today & What a day! Landed on  Cherbourg peninsular H+60 (minutes).  Lucky for us no enemy aircraft, the sea was enough, tore bottom off L.C.P. on ramp & no mines.

7th June (Battle of Messines began 1917)
First Battle at Cruelly.  Heading towards St Leger our final objective, going goo.  Lost 3 M10’s also we were shelled by Navy, hope never have same experience again. 8″ shells dropping 25 yards from us, awful experience. Lucky(?) pinned down by our own guns, after that straffed by typhoon.

DID YOU KNOW?  The D-Day landings had 18 operational squadrons of Typhoons 

8th June (British Advance into Syria began 1941)
Objective reached! After very stiff fight, at farm.  80 enemy took objective and dug-in.

9th June
Still dug-in having a rest – not much of that for me, as am continually travelling to “B” Ech (or Bch).

10th June (Italy declared War on Great Britain and France 1941n– Withdrawal of British Troops from Norway 1940)
Don’t feel much better after hold in line. 8 solid shots keep coming over, they are spent but still they make us duck.  Canadians are taking a bashing, over on left flank, mortar action went to aid & were pinned down with air bursts and spandau

Extracted from Wikipedia
“The MG 42 (shortened from German: Maschinengewehr 42, or “machine gun 42”) is a 7.92×57mm Mauser general-purpose machine gun designed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the second half of World War II. It was intended to replace the earlier MG 34, which was more expensive and took much longer to produce, but both weapons were produced until the end of the war.”

11th June (Sunday)
Relieved the Canadians to attack strong point and it was strong.  Strong enough to beath the 7th GH *** but we weakened them a lot, withdrew to C.P. and dug in or tried to. M.G fire, too thick so we kipped in a gulley for night with my raincoat for a blanket.

13th June
Withdrew a little further back and did dig in and held the Hynie(?), cushy time except for occasional spandau spray.

14th June (Fall of Paris 1940)
relieved by 48th Div. & went to “B” Ech (or Bch) for a rest, but did not get much rest, as we were in front of 25 spandaus. and I am still running to “B” Ech (or Bch)

15th June (Battle of Piave began 1918)
Moving forward for an attack on strong point, kipping night in an old farm at Conde-sur-Seuelles and making contact in morning. Proceed 0500hrs.

16th June
Contacted him at 07:30hrs (enemy) and is he strong cannot advance down road at 88 reps.  continually firing down road and what a row it makes.  Digging in and having another go in morning.  R.E’s are going forward to draw Blockhouse which contains 88mm. Hope they succeed.

17th June
Attacked strong point and reached objective, but were beaten off with 6 Mark 6 after one tank had gone back for the night.  Lost I company and the C.O. all believe were taken prisoner. Withrew to old position and dug in.

19th June
Settling down, and finding out what we really did lose.  Jerry keeps shelling us with 105mm but does not do much damage.

20th June
Still dug in, and having it pretty easy for this Btn.  E. Yorks relieving us today.  We are reserve Batt. on flank.  We always get reserve Batt. when an attack is not going in.

21st June (French sign German Armistice Terms 1940 – Germany attack Russia 1941)
More digging on flank.  Browned off of it bit still is for the good.

22nd June
Still in reserve and start if the 10 vital days.  First to spring of T.T. Times of which I manage to get a copy for a souvenir.

23rd June
Feeling pretty hungry on compo(?) so we started to look for some spuds and we got some farm shelter, so we will be ok for quite a while.  2nd of 10 Vital Days!!

24th June (French sig Italian Armistice Terms 1940)
3rd of the 10 Vital Days and nothing much happened yet! Still in a defensive position with occasional air burst to liven things up, otherwise very quiet.

25th June
Relieved by Devons and took up move offensive positions near Boch, still quiet(?) our guns pummelling hell our of Jerry.

26th June
Still quiet and ongoing(?) plenty of firing with 3″.  Good job we use alternative position as we would probably be blown to hell out of it as he (enemy) occasionally shells some after we have moved on.

27th June
Browned off of compo so we had to look for some more food! and we found it  1 sheep slaughtered, cows milk & fresh butter and potatoes and now we are living like Lords.

28th June
Still the same

29th June
1000 tons of bombs dropped on enemy tanks, Panzer Division and not one tank was left after pocket firing.  Typhoons followed up with mopping up operations.

30th June (Channel Islands occupied by Germany 1940)
Quiet day.  Discovered girl who can speak English very good, but cannot visit her after as she is far away from camp.

1st July (Battle of Albert, 1916; Ypres 1917: Somme began 1916)
This area not much good for food, was looking at farms for some spuds & finally found them, and did we scoff.

2nd July
Nearing the end of our quiet position, as we take over from *** Battn. shortly and are they getting some shit.

3rd July (Naval Action at Oran 1940)
Ma**e bet (50F). Well not me my friend, that we would be relieved in fortnights time, but it looks as though we have had it, as we are taking **** for L.O.B and about means everyone (?)

4th July
Relieved fwd Batt. quiet day, but rowdy night.  Does he (the enemy) like to lob his 108mm over.  Good job it is only occasional ones that drop in Batt area or we would be wiped out now.

5th July
Quiet day except for 1 or 2 shells one of which was dud and lane within 25* of MPHQ.  Awful night shells and spandau.  The spandau cutting the grass.  Luckily we are dug in.

6th July
Very tired after nights experience which lasted until 03:30 and we covered OM stand too at 04:3..  12:30 was told I was going LOB for 48 hours on M/C

7th July
LOB. What a place, lovely and quiet except for our own guns firing over our heads. Went to Bayeux for bath, and bought some cheese and it was smashing.  Went to TT concert party and came home and ate part of cheese with some hard tack.

8th July
Returned to Batt, feeling none the better for 48 hours LOB to top things off was put on guard and lucky for us the shells that were dropping were falling well forward in front of PB

9th July
Started using his (enemy) guns, 210’s but they were well behind our own RA.

10th July
Relieved by DLI .  We return to their pos.  Still quiet.

11th July
Nothing much doing.  I think that both sides are B.O.

12th July
Big attack on Caen coming off as barrage on flank is tremendous.

13th July
Took over 5 EY positions in one of old areas, but more quiet this time than before.  It looks as though it has been very rough as the hills are bare.

14th July
Occasionally retired to slit as 105 & moaning Minnies were sent over, but did very little damage, only to crops.

15th July (Battle of Delville Wood 1916)
Clashed by armoured car all down left side and taken to 3ccs and from there to MDS and then to 20 GH where I was 40 hours.

Charlie crashed into the German armoured car which was lost inside our lines, while a despatch rider – no one in the German vehicle lived.

16th July 
What a life at 20 Gen.  I am all pains with laying on stretcher.  I don’t feel a little bit hungry.

17th July
Was prepared to go to beaches early on and what a redect(?) was. Have made some good friends, both in Navy and Army.

18th July
Boarded LST at 15:30 and sailing 21:00. But missed convoy and had to wait while tomorrow before sailing.

19th July
Lifted anchor 0900hrs but moving fret fog and had to drop it (anchor), finally got moving at 13:30 and arrived Pompy at 22:30.

20th July
01:30 Ambulance train and it was a good journey to Woking.  When it was about 06:30 were taken off and put in an ambulance to be taken to EMS for treatment.  It’s a lovely place, nice and quiet & miles away from anything.

21st July
Still laying in bed & I am B.O, as anything on bottom of my back with forever laying on it, would b a little better if I could roll over to change position but can’t with leg being in plaster.

Charlies diary continues – he gets to know his fellow patients, the staff and has a visit from his sister who brings a parcel from the family.
He gradually starts to walk and in September, after pay day, is given a 4 day Royal Warrant.  He does not say where he goes but he does record in his diary that he has a slight accident which results in him being put back to bed. After examination the following day he is prepped for theatre.  By the end of the month he is discharged, but still in hospital as his diary tells he was promoted to Ward Seargent as all N.C.O’s have gone.

By December he is out of hospital and in Nottingham, where on the 30th of December 1944 he writes:

Dance, and got acquainted with one of the lovelist girls I ever saw.  Her name is Betty.

Cpl Elizabeth Ann Riach

Cpl Elizabeth Ann Riach

The following day, the 31st, he wrote that he’d been to the pictures with Betty, and then ‘sat out the old year nice and quiet ’round a lovely warm fire’.

He wrote in the memo section Pte Reach (spelt incorrectly) 12 Sect V, HPC, Notts.

Betty was my mum, Cpl. Elizabeth Anne Riach, who he married in 1952 in The Tower Hotel, Elgin, Morayshire.  The couple made Wakefield their home.

Elizabeth, known in Scotland as Lizzie and in Wakefield as Ann, died in 1982.

Charles then joined many veteran associations, becoming a committee member to many,  including The Normandy Campaign Association, The Normandy Veterans Association, The Eighth Army, The Royal Engineers, The Combined Services and many other associations.  He was also the President of the Royal British Legion in Wakefield and for over 25 years was the sole poppy organiser for the city.  He was known as ‘The Poppy Man’.

He also, with other veterans and friends attended many of the Normandy reunions.  Charles was also guest of honour onboard HMS Ark Royal when he was presented with a cheque.

As D-Day 1 veteran he attended a Garden party at Buckingham Palace along with three other Normandy Veteran Association, Leeds 61 Branch members.

When he died in 2008 his coffin was draped in the Funeral drape of the Royal Engineers and the Union flag.  His beret sat on the Normandy Association cushion along with his medals.  His branch Presidents Jewel was was draped around his beret and medals.  His funeral service was in Wakefield and was well attended with representatives of many ex-service people, friends and family.  The Mayor and Mayoress of Wakefield attended in an unofficial capacity and the Police sent a representative.  It was a day he would have been proud of especially when the Normandy March was played.

His family received letters of condolence from the Mayor, the Police, the Royal Engineers and the British Legion to name a few.

He was a generous, kind, helpful and considerate man who was well thought of by many but most of all he was my dad.

Guest Blogger – Jane Ainsworth – Barnsley Pals Colours Project

Guest Blogger – Jane Ainsworth – Barnsley Pals Colours Project

Barnsley Pals Colours before and after conservation

I am the volunteer co-ordinator of this ongoing project and I am liaising very closely with Reverend Canon Stephen Race and the PCC for St Mary’s Church in the centre of Barnsley where the King’s Colours are laid up.

In November 2016, Conservators inspected the two Colours to report on their condition and take photos, which were used last year to commission replica flags. The replicas were blessed in a special service for the Armistice Centenary. They are being used by us on 2 June and this year’s Remembrance. They will also be on display for the Heritage Open Days as St Mary’s is participating this September for the first time.

We are willing to lend them to groups and organizations for relevant events free of charge. I have produced an agreement for this as the York and Lancaster Regiment Association borrowed them for their Commemoration on 12 May when they donated two special benches at Silverwood Scout Camp (originally Newhall Camp where the Barnsley Pals were billeted and trained).

We hope to produce an educational pack for schools to borrow them at a later stage but will need to find someone interested with the appropriate skills and experience in addition to fundraising to pay for it.

My research into the history of the Colours was published at the end of last year in a 50 page booklet with lots of old photos, designed and printed by Pen and Sword to support our project. Copies cost £5 and I am donating all proceeds to this project. (Copies are available from Sheffield Cathedral shop, Clifton Park Museum shop in Rotherham, Experience Barnsley shop, various other outlets in the Barnsley area and myself. Booklets can be posted @ £2 for post and packing).

Barnsley Pals Project Invitation

We are currently fundraising to frame the two King’s Colours and relocate them back to the War Memorial Chapel were originally laid up, with proper interpretation. (We have permission from the MoD to do this). We also need to conserve the six panels listing 200 men (and one woman – the only one on a WW1 Memorial in Barnsley I am aware of) on the impressive War Memorial Pillar as some of the names have almost worn off.

As and when all the necessary funding is in place and the work is completed, we will hold another special event. I’ve submitted some applications for grants but if other individuals or groups are interested in making a donation this would be most welcome and they can contact me for details.

St Mary’s Church will be open this year for the first time for some of the Heritage Open Days.

Wakefield in 50 Buildings – A Book Review

Wakefield in 50 Buildings – A Book Review

Cover – Wakefield in 50 Buildings by Peter Thornborrow & Paul Gwilliam

Last night I went to hear a talk at Wakefield Historical Society – it was the second time I’d heard Peter Thornborrow talk but last night was more on the buildings who didn’t make it into his book.  I took this opportunity to spend a bit of ‘pocket money’ and buy a copy which was signed by Peter and his co-author Paul Gwilliam.

Before I tell you about Peter’s book I would like to tell you what Daniel Defoe wrote about  Wakefield.  A town like London and Bath had a SEASON where people came to do their business dealings and banking at traditional times of the year.  Yes, Wakefield at one time was an important part of the West Riding making it worthy of being the Capital of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Daniel Defoe in his book ‘A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain’ (1734)  wrote :-

Wakefield is a clean, large, well-built town, very populous and very rich; here is a very large church, and well filled it is, for here are very few Dissenters; the steeple is a very fine spire, and by far the highest in all this part of the county………..They tell us, there are here more people also than in the City of York.

If you slow down from everyday life and look around you – not forgetting to look up, you will see some glorious buildings.  Just walk around the Westgate, St John’s and South Parade areas to name a few.  St John’s area has one of the finest Georgian squares in Great Britain and The Great Bull in Westgate was one of the biggest coaching inns/hotels in the county at one time capable of stabling about 150 horses and house a great assembly room – so this just goes to show how great and important Wakefield WAS!

Back to Peter’ and Paul’s book- ‘Wakefield in 50 Buildings‘ is a walk through the history of Wakefield and its surrounding area and takes in buildings both old and new.  Each building has a potted history and includes over 100 full-colour images.

Although I’ve only had my copy less than 24 hours I have had a chance to, over a cup of tea, read about some of the buildings and take in most of the photographs. The individual does not always get a chance to go inside some of these buildings and see roof spaces and staircases.

Peter and Paul have done a great job researching and telling the reader about some of Wakefield’s great buildings.  This book will open up Wakefield to those who not only live locally but have or had a family or local history link to Wakefield when it was Great.

Wakefield in 50 Buildings is published in 2018 by Amberley Publishing.
ISBN –  978 1 4456 5906 0 (book)
978 1 4456 5907 7 (e book)

Available on the publisher’s website and Amazon + other