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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)
Fr=irst 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 years 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 ar spent but still they make us duck.  Canadians are taking a bashing, over on left flank, mortar acion 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 6ch)

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 pisition 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 b 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 quit 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

Looking for his Medals

Looking for his Medals

In June I’m doing a small exhibition to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.  With this in mind

D-Day landings via Wikipedia

and being ridiculously organised, I made a list of my father’s belongings and collection I had inherited that could be included and I thought would interesting to the observer.

Two items came immediately to mind, quickly followed by his collection of newspapers, reunion photographs, maps etc.,   The first item was his diary for 1944 and included the lead up to the 6th of June 1944.  The second item was his medals.  He was very proud to wear his medals but he had one little niggle – he had been on board a ship, waiting to be given the ok to go ashore.  I’m not sure where he was waiting to land but he was a bit niggled that he was on the ship for 3 days short to be eligible for the Atlantic Star.  Along with his medals were also a collection of ‘badges’ given by the French Government to D-Day Veterans. The Medals, they were in a box and I knew exactly where they were.

Starting in my ‘office’ I took books off their shelves with a Normandy connection.  Then on to the Medals.  But here I hit a brick wall and went into a slight panic.  In the box, I thought housed the precious medals was nothing but a collection of regimental ties – Normandy Veteran Association, Normandy Campaign Association, Royal  British Legion, Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery and more but no Medals. On the plus side, I did find items that had slipped my memory along with a large number of newspapers and various letters from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family. It was a pleasure to see even though it was tinged with sadness.

Where were those medals?

After leaving the search for a few days I decided on a systematic search from my ‘office’ downwards.  On a row of shelves, at the side of one of my printers, are a number of large shoe boxes containing family history bits and bobs, local history leaflets (they will have to go to be recycled) and CDs.  Starting with the nearest box I found what I had misplaced.  They were in a box but not the box I remembered them being in. Isn’t it funny how your mind plays tricks with you?  I did, however, also find a large number of lapel badges for the NVA, NCA, RBL plus regimental badges and buttons – panic over!

With over two months to go all the display material is boxed, well that is apart from a very large frame map of the D-Day beaches, all that I need to do is print a few information labels, then we are ready to go.

Excerpt from my father’s diary for March 24th 1944 ‘ 2nd night out this week, went to pictures, and enjoyed it and had fish and chips and enjoyed that too.  Another week nearer to leave.

My father was a dispatch rider and expected to be landing on French soil D-Day +5.  He actually set foot on the beaches of Normandy D-Day + 1 hour.  That is another story and leads onto another story connected to HMS Ark Royal.

Whitby’s Local War Memorials

Whitby’s Local War Memorials

In 2006, a Thursday outing or war memorial hunt, as my husband called them, ended up in Whitby.

Whitby, a traditional North Yorkshire fishing town, now like quite a lot of coastal towns and villages becoming somewhat commercialised, with many of the traditional shops giving way to cafe’s, bars and charity shops. Once famed for its supply of jet that was sourced and worked locally and made famous by the making of Victorian Mourning Jewellery as worn and made highly popular by Queen Victoria wearing of brooches and other items made of Whitby Jet after the death of Prince Albert. Now, Whitby is known worldwide for its connection to Dracula and Goth Weekends.

Back to 2006, after walking around the town and having a fish and chip lunch we happened upon St Ninian’s Church – well, I had to go in, didn’t I? As it happens the priest was on site, and after the usual polite conversation, I asked where the war memorial was and could I photograph it. After finding out where the memorial was and answering why I wanted to photograph it, he went on his way and I took the photographs.

My partial transcription of St Ninian’s Church and other local war memorials forms part of an exhibition being held at The Brunswick Centre, Brunswick Street, Whitby YO12 8RB on the 16th of June 2018 between 10:00 – 16:00hrs. The exhibition is organised by Whitby Civic Trust will display the war memorials surveyed and researched to date and it is hoped that visitors and relatives of the fallen will be able to help with their research.

The research lead by Joyce Stangoe culminates in the display followed by a self-guided walk leaflet and the publication of a book to preserve and share their work.

I have given The Trust permission to use information from my St. Ninian’s page in their research, but in the meantime, I thought I might give you a little taster as to what could be available on the day!

John and Ann Parkyn  (Parkin) during the war that became known as The Great War, saw three of their sons enlist – Arthur, George and Matthew.

In 1901 John and Ann were living at Low Hospital Road. John was a cab driver, while Arthur and Matthew were at school, aged 12 and 10 – John George by this time had left home.

Ten years earlier in 1891 home was Tynemans (sic) Yard, Whitby. John Parkin worked as an iron miner. His older boys, William J and John G aged 19 and 16 have followed their father into iron mining, while Thomas was aged 9 and attended school. With two-year-old Arthur and eight month old Matthew as the baby of the family.

George (John George) and Matthew served in the military during the 1914-1918 war, but it is their brother Arthur who is positively found on many records

St Ninian’s Roll of Honour © Carol Sklinar 2006

Arthur had been born on January 13th, 1889 and baptised the next month in St Michael’s, Whitby He married Catherine Mary Stephens in 1911 following Banns that were read out on the 10th, 17th and 24th of September. During the war, he enlisted in Whitby and served in the Royal Garrison Artillery, Heavy Battery, as Gunner 31125. He was killed in action on Tuesday 17th of September 1918 and is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial to the Missing with over 9,800 other casualties with no known grave.

‘Death Penny’

It was over the next 12 months that Catherine, Arthur’s widow, was to receive the sums of £12 18s 4d, 11s 6d plus a war gratuity of £15. She would also be the one to receive his British and Victory Medals (if they were requested), along with the ‘Death Penny’ Plaque and Scroll.

Why not visit The Civic Trust’s exhibition on the 16th of June and see who else from Whitby paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation and the Great War

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation and the Great War

The Great War took a great toll on the public and grammar schools of Great Britain.  Many young men left school in the summer only to be lost to their family and friends by the winter, while others had had careers and families of their own cut short by injuries or death.

Some Other and Wider Destiny – Wakefield Grammar School Foundation in the Grear War‘ by Elaine Merckx and Neal Rigby have delved deep into the vast archives of the Foundation to bring photographs, documents, minutes, The Old Savilian (the School magazine) and eyewitness reports together in this study of The Great War and its effect on life in both the boys’ school and Wakefield Girls High School and surrounding city.

Some Other and Wider Destiny cover

The book, nearly 500 pages, informs the reader of the background of both schools telling what life was like at school in Wakefield.

Listed within the pages are the names of approximately 200 ‘Old Girls’ who did work of national importance in various forms. For example, Sophie Appleyard did clerical work at the County Hall, as did Isabella Loudon and Janet Mcqueen Loudon. While Eva Bates was Private Secretary to the Inspector of the Government Shell Factories, Leeds. Marjorie Bygate did work at the United Counties Bank to replace a man at the Front.  Many others were part of the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and did work of varying natures around the country. Some like Nancy Evelyn Walley was nursing in France by 1916.  Mabel Kitson, it seems went farther afield, working in the Diplomatic Service at the British Embassy, Washington.  She was the first British woman to achieve this and rose to become head of a department.  Others stayed local and worked on various committees, did fundraising and volunteer work, including work at Wentworth House, their former school which had been turned into a hospital. Charles Edwin Woodhead, a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers was a Prisoner of War, as did Austin Ernest Wilson of the KOYLI.  A young man named Montagu William Wood did service with the Shanghai Light Horse.

The young men.  The ‘Old Boy’s’. The ‘Old Savilians’ who went to war are all named with the years they attended the school, along with their final rank, regiment and any additional information.  This information may include their date and place of death; any additional medals awarded i.e. Military Medal; when they enlisted; if they were wounded or invalided.

Most poignant is the Roll of Honour to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. From Lieutenant-Colonel’s to the humble private each one is remembered and in most cases, a photograph is included.

These men are more than mere names on a page or a memorial, they were someone’s son, a brother, a grandson.  They were part of a community, albeit a church or a school.  They were part of a team, either cricket or rugby.  They were a classmate.  They were an ‘Old Savilian’.  They were and shall always be part of the fabric of Wakefield Grammar School.

Elaine and Neal have recorded every part of life at both schools leading up to and including the time of the Great War and no research stone seems to have been left unturned. It is a work of great passion and enthusiasm and is a tribute to the school, the boys and themselves.  Well done!

To get your copy of ‘Some Other and Wider Destiny – Wakefield Grammar School Foundation in the Grear War‘ published by Helion & Co. Ltd., you can contact either the Wakefield Grammar School office or the publisher.  The book is also available on Amazon.

Calais Berry, WW1 Soldier and WW2 Special Constable

Calais Berry, WW1 Soldier and WW2 Special Constable

Following on from my previous blog, I thought I would highlight one of the battle names and find a young man who fought during the Great War.

I found a young man named Calais Berry who was born in the late 1890’s in one of the London boroughs. What made this young man interesting was that his WW1 service record has survived the bombings in London during WW2.

Calais birth was registered in the Wandsworth District in 1897.

1901 Calais and his family are living at Fords(?) Place, Battersea. He was the son of Abraham Berry, a 51 year old carpenter and joiner who was born in Shropshire. His mother Martha A was aged 41 and born in Cape Town, Cape Colony. Of their eight children, the 6 eldest were born in Chatham, with the two younger ones being born in Battersea.

Ten years later Martha A Berry, had included in the second column that she was Mrs Berry, aged 51 she was a widow. Mrs Berry had included that she had been married 33 years and born 10 children – all of which had survived. Four of her children were still at home, ranging in ages from 21 down to Calais’ (now 13) younger sister who was 11. Home for the family was a 3 roomed house – 7 Fords Place – could this be the same house she shared with her husband and her other children? Martha signed the census form Martha Agens Berry.

Signature of Calais Berry on his Attestation Papers via Ancestry

Signature of Calais Berry on his Attestation Papers via Ancestry

Calais Hugh Berry attested before Capt., H R Hadow in Battersea on the 18th of August 1915. He was a mill assistant living at 8 Alfred Place, Battersea, London. His age was listed at 9 years and 271 days. His height was given as 5′ 6” tall and he weighed 115lbs. Distinctive marks – he had a raised mole on the back of his neck. Calais served as Gunner 166591 in the Royal Garrison Artillery.

On the 18th of August 1915, he was attached to the Howitzer Bde. By July of the following year he had been posted to Ripon, while another document has him being ‘Home’ from August 18th, 1915 – 5th March 1916. In France from 6th March 1916 – 8th June 1916 and ‘Home’ from the 19th of June. A rubber stamp across his records tells he was part of the British Expeditionary Force in France 1916.

On 23rd June 1916, Calais’ time in the military takes a little bit of a turn! One record tells on 23trd June 1916 he is in No 6 Canadian General Hospital, Rouen. He is sent back to England onboard HS Aberdonian. A letter from the Metropolitan Hospital, Military section, Endfield Road request Calais medical records. He is suffering from vertigo, the records are requested for his discharge when fit. Calais is now serving as Gnr 41261, RFA, HQ Bgde, A Bty.

On 19th of July 1916, the War Office received a letter from Mrs A Berry, Calais mother.

“ Dear Sir, Having already written to you on behalf of my son, Gunner C Berry No 41261, A Sub, 51st reserve Bty, ****brige Camp, Hemel Hempstead, Herts. I am writing to you once again as I want to prevent him returning on Active Service until he is of age. He has only returned to England a month ago, suffering from Shell shock, and Vertigo, He is my only support. I am very anxious about him for I know he is not fit for returning yet. I have no ********* for him being in the army, but, I think it only just that he should not go back to France until he is 19 which is at the end of November, especially has he has only just returned. I do trust you will kindly see into the matter for me and oblige, Believe me, Yours Obediently, Mrs A Berry, Trusting you will reply and let me know.

One of Calais’ records which detail his postings and movement, tells that on the 30th September 1917 he had been at 62 CCS, classified as ‘Wounded Shell Concussion in the field’ The date of him becoming a casualty was 18th September 1917. Had he been wounded before as by the following day the above letter tells that Mrs Berry had already written to the War Office. Had she received the news very quickly and written two letters on the same day?

On the 24th July 1916 another letter from Mrs A Berry was date stamped by the War Record Office and the War Office Accounts, went on to say “Dear Sir, I am writing to you on behalf of my son, Gunner C Berry No. 41261, 186 Brigade, RFA Headquarters Staff. He has been on Active Service, and returned to England a fortnight ago suffering from Trench Fever and Vertigo. He is still very queer, he has suffered when a child with fits and general bad health and I his mother wish to prevent him returning on Active Service until he is 19, which will be at the end of November. I may tell you the Doctor who attended him in France told him not to return until he was nineteen. I am very anxious about him, so I trust you will kindly see into the case for me and let me know, for I sincerely do not want him to return until he of age. Trusting you will do your best, Believe me, Yours Obediently Mrs A Berry.

Gunner Berry, RFA was discharged from QAM HP Millbank on 4th July 1916 – could he have been sent to Ripon?

In 1917 Calais must have been back in Ripon as in April he was given 3 days CB for ‘having dirty butter on shelf in hut 26’. The following month he was absent without leave from 7th May 1917 to 9 am 9th May 1917 (9 hours). A soldier named O’Keefe was the witness, his charge could have been a repeat of 3 days CB.

Calais reported sick on 17th September 1917. On admission at 3 am ‘Unconcious; pulse 66, Temp. normal, Pupils equal, normal- except for slight sluggish reaction to light. Reflex normal, no injury of head detected. Signed off by W J Johnson, Capt RAMC 62 CCS Section 4 ‘I certify that the above named was subjected in the course of his duty to exceptional exposure of the following nature ………….On my way to the Battery position, a shell dropped very close to him. Again on reaching the Battery another Shell dropped quite close. This seemed to him a bit strange in his matter and he rapidly got worse and he was sent to the Field Ambulance. Dated 21/9/1 Signed off by J Harcourt Jeffers Lieut Major 220 Seige Battery RGA., classing Calais as ‘wounded Shell Shock Concussion’.

According to his Medal Card somewhere in his service history, his service number changed from 41261 RFA, 5C Res. Bge to 166391, RGA (?)

By the 11th of March 1919, Calais was giving his address as 81 Blondel Street, Calvert Road, Battersea. He had joined the army his medical grade was A1. According to his mother’s letters during 1916 she feels is no longer fitting that status.

A sheet of his service record informs of his hospital admittances/sick list – On the 23rd of June 1916 to 4th July 1916 Calais was in the Metropolitan Hospital suffering from Vertigo (12 days). The remarks section says ‘No Vertigo observed, Constipated’. On the 5th of March 1918 to 1st April 1918, he was admitted to the Red Cross, Wallasey , again for Vertigo (27 days). The following line tells that he was in The Western General, Fazakerley, Liverpool. The dates don’t appear to be in order as he was admitted on 20th February 1918 and discharged on 5th March 1918 – the same day he was at the Red cross? He was suffering from Heute Nephritis – did he go straight from one to the other?

Gnr Berry's Medal Card via Ancestry

Gnr Berry’s Medal Card via Ancestry

Did Calais go back to France? Did he survive the war?

Yes, he did return to France and survive the war. Initially going to France in March 1916, returning by mid-June of the same year. By the 31st May 1917, he was back in France, returning home on 20th February 1918. Serving once again ‘at home’ until 16th April 1919. He was demobilised on that day, being transferred to Class ‘2’ Army Reserve having served 3 years 242 days – most of which had been in England.

In the first few months of 1925, Calais married Grace Hobin in the Wandsworth Registration District. In 1927 there is a birth for a child born to Berry/Hobin – Olive A born in Lambeth. Before the war Calais had been working as a mill worker, by the time of the 1939 Register, now supporting his wife, he is District Manager, Scottish Legal Life Assurance Society. He is also a Special Constable Wartime with the Portsmouth City Police. Grace, like many other women, did Household Duties, was part of the Voluntary Aid Detachment. Home for the couple was 8 Wallisdean Avenue, Portsmouth.

In a 1954 Telephone Directory, Calais H Berry was living at 9 Auburn Road, Redland, Bristol. You could contact Calais by ringing Bristol 3-5426.

Born on 20th November 1897, Calais died aged 92 and is registered in the Dec Qtr of 1989 in Bristol.

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Babies names of the Great War

Babies names of the Great War

Poster 'War Babies of the Great War' via the National Archives

Poster ‘War Babies of the Great War’ via the National Archives

Whilst browsing through a batch of photographs I came across a poster I had saved from the National Archives. The poster was entitled ‘Babies of the First World War’. I would have collected with the thought of using it as a base for a blog…….later. Well, the poster has now found its time to be of us.

I blogged about place names and titles being used as first names a while ago, but not until rediscovering the poster had I ever thought of battle names being used as first names. Why not? It is only like the Beckhams of today using Brooklyn as one of their children’s names.

The poster informed that over 1,200 babies were named after battles. Over 200 babies were named after heroes and 203 babies were named after the end of the war.

The name Verdun was used 901 times and was most popular in South Wales. The battles of Ypres, Mons, Arras, Dardanelles, Loos and Somme were responsible for some children’s names. Why? Was the father involved in the battle? Did he lose his life during a battle, or did a relative or close friend lose his life?

My great uncle was in the battle of Passchendaele which has its centenary coming up shortly. It appears that in the September quarter of 1918 a baby was born and given the name Paschendale, his family name being Holman.

Cambrai also seemed to be used as a first name, this time as early as 1874. Also being used from 1915 to 1933. Dunkirk also seems to have a couple of entries in the first two years of the war.

Calais, another French town is not forgotten, with two births in the late 1890’s, eight births in the Great War period and two during the Second World War. Ostend also seems to have had its fair share of naming. In 1920 the Belgian town of Poperinghe is remembered by the Jones family. Vimy Ridge is not forgotten in the naming stakes and is popular, having its first mention in 1916. With the Moore, Chapman, Banister and Isaac families using this first name.

During WW2 Arnhem is remembered with three births.

Using names of battles or heroes is not a 20th or 21st century idea, as early as 1848 Waterloo was used by the Hatton, Waters and Durrant families to name their children – all boys I presume!

Trying earlier battles and wars, and using ‘Civil’ as a search criterion I came up with it as a  name being used quite a number of times. The earliest entry in civil registration is Civil Reed born in 1837 with the latest entry being 1930. The name has been feminised in some instances to Civilia.

The end of the war was remembered with the use of the name Peace. The name has been used for many years but civil registration has seen one or two children born each year with that name. There are 16 births recorded in the June Qtr of 1856, this coincides with the end of the Crimean War. The numbers fall back to one or two each quarter until the first quarter of 1902 with nine children being given the name, followed by 27 children having Peace as a first or second name – being either male or female. December of 1918 had 28 namings. A steady stream of namings follows in each quarter until the September entries of 1919 when over 45 children have Peace or Peacefull as a first name. The same trend doesn’t follow after the Second World War.

Victory has been used as a first name for many years with at least one or two being recorded in Civil Registration since 1937, with a growing number being registered from 1914 to December of 1918 with over 35 instances.

Lord Kitchener via Daily Mail

Lord Kitchener via Daily Mail

Kitchener is first used according to Civil Registration in the winter of 1898, having a spike in September of 1902, and a spike in the 1914, 1915 and 1916 quarters. There was a small spike in the September quarter of 1917 – December 1917 sees the last three entries until June quarter of 1921, then being back to one each quarter until its last entry in 1963

The National Archive poster tells that between 1914 – 1919 the first name Cavell is used 25 times. But omits, as I have found with other names, that the first entry in Civil Registration was Cavel Dickinson in 1844. The next entry in 1854 followed by 1901. The name not being registered again until the December quarter of 1915. During in the war years it was used over 25 times. From 1920 being used at least once or twice each year.

I know the poster is informative but when looking at the poster I was lead to believe that these names were only used from that time, but with a little bit of time spent on FreeBMD I know know that these names have been used from Civil Registration and if I looked at Parish Registers would find that many of the names would go back further.

Visit to Germany and Tyne Cot by Guest Blogger Debbie Staynes

Extracts from father’s diary of his visit to Germany with Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Wakefield in the summer of 1931.

Friday August 7th.

Said Auf-Wiedersehen to Father Rhine and boarded the Ostend train. We had a pleasant journey through Aachen and Bruges, with its belfry, to Ostend. Arrived at Ostend, we had a ham-sandwich and arranged a trip to the battlefields for those who wished. Two taxis were chartered. We careered down the straight road flanked by poplars, with cobbles down each side and potholes down the middle; it was late afternoon and everything was beginning to revive after the noon-day heat. Hedges there were none, only ditches and pollard willows. We came to Thourout, the German Headquarters, and now a change began. The trees were young, the farms new built; the mellow red brick gave way to brighter reds, the little old churches to new ones. Then we came to the crest of a ridge with a fine view and a straggling village on the skyline with a church that reminded me of

Photographs courtesy of Guest Blogger, D Staynes

Shelly Church. About 7.0 o’clock we reached the Tyne Cot Cemetery on Passchendale Ridge. The sun had lost its fierceness and a few small white clouds were high, very high up in the heavens. Nearby a lark deadened the sound of our feet as we walked up the avenues between long white rows of gravestones, prim and even, save where the plain wood cross of a fallen foe broke the white line. At the head of the cemetery on a semi-circular wall are the names of the fallen, 3500. Many of the gravestones bear names; many have but the inscription “Known unto God”. It was very peaceful amongst the lavender and rambler roses, so peaceful that war seemed very far away indeed; and above us sang the skylark.

The signs of war have rapidly effaced. New buildings have sprung up. The fields are now corn, the pastures level but for the occasional hollows which are not quite filled in yet. We were at Ypres before we knew it, and entered by the Menin Gate. Here over 50,000 names are recorded of those who fell before the city. The Cloth Hall is still a blackened ruin; it is to remain a perpetual memorial of war. By it are stall with curios to sell and little children asking for centimes. We bought some curious stone covered apparently with clay and gunpowder, with a very effective crack when dropped. Child also bought a very large cigar; he wondered whether customs would pass it, but they never bothered him. From Ypres we bumped along, passing a curious steam-tram (these run on railway lines where the foot-path should be and are uniquely wonderful) until we came to the trenches near Nieuport. The very extreme north section of the trenches is preserved with blasted trees and stagnant pools complete, the guns still jutting from their emplacements. It was eerie and rather awful in the dusk. That was our last stop……..

Le Chemin de Arts – Gravelines

Le Chemin de Arts – Gravelines

Recently I was given a leaflet letting me know of an art exhibition in Gravelines, Northern France.

Why was I given this leaflet? Well, it so happens that one of my friends has been asked to exhibit some of his oil paintings…………how good is that?

Who is my friend and the artist?

David Segrave is his name and he has a background in graphic art. He has family origins in Jersey and lives in the South of England but spends some of his time on the Chateau du Gandspette, where he has a small exhibition in the restaurant. His work is admired by those who either eat in the restaurant or step inside to visit the bar for a coffee or a cooling drink on a hot day.

Le Chemin de Arts – Gravelines

David Segrave art photographed by C Sklinar July 2017

David Segrave art photographed by C Sklinar July 2017

David Segrave art photographed by C Sklinar July 2017

The exhibition opened in June and closes Sunday 27th of August with many local artists, including – Christian Beni, Grande-Synthe; Francois Wetterwald, Dunkirk, exhibiting in one of the 8 display areas. David will be displaying his art in the Corps de Garde Varennes, Place de l’Esplanade on the 26th and 27th of August 2017. The exhibition areas are open from 10:30 to 12:30 and 14:20 – 18:30.

If you are visiting Northern France during this time, you could do worse than spend a few hours visiting Gravelines and its eight pop-up galleries.