RBL Somme 100 Lapel Pin – Pte. 22851 G F Ward

RBL Somme 100 Lapel Pin – Pte. 22851 G F Ward

box-coverEarlier this year I toyed with the idea of buying a Somme 100 lapel pin – you know the one. Anyway, for those of you who have not seen the promotions on various web and media sites, each pin, according to the RBL shop  is ‘made from British shell fuses fired during the Battle of the Somme and collected from the historic front line. The stunning red enamel in the centre of each poppy is made from a small amount of finely ground earth that was collected from Gommecourt, Hebuterne, Serre, Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval, Ovillers, La Boisselle, Fricourt and Mametz, and red enamel mixed together to create the iconic red colour.’


© Carol Sklinar Dec 2016

Not only is each pin made from shell fuses fired 100 years ago, each pin remembers a soldier who lost his life during this battle.

When I stopped thinking about getting one for me and another for my friends birthday pressie there were none left.  Disapointed not only for myself but saddened that I could not get one for my friends birthday gift – alternate plan soon sorted the gift out.

In mid-December more promotional information started filtering through about the lapel pins. This time not to be outdone, I went online and bought two pins – my next problem was would they be here in time.  Two days later a large box arrived at work and they were worth the wait.

As I have said, and you probably know, each pin remembers a soldier, my soldier is Pte. 22851, George Frederick Ward of the Suffolk Regiment.

George Frederick was the son of Robert Ward and his wife Ellen.  Robert was aged 27 in the 1891 census, born in Layham, working as a labourer and living in Hadleigh with Ellen and their two children at Parker’s Cottage. George was one year old at this time.

Robert Ward (1833-1912) &Emily Hynard (1838-1910) via J Ward

Robert Ward (1833-1912) & Emily Hynard (1838-1910) via Jeffrey Ward

There have been Ward’s in the Layham area for a very long time, with the manorial rolls including their names as early as the 1400’s and are regularly mentioned for the next 200 years.  In the 16th century the family were yeoman farmer according to some wills of the time.  In later years the family seem to have come down in the world a little.

George’s father, Robert, was the son of Robert (1833-1912) and Emily nee Hynard (1838-1910). The couple had 12 children. Robert snr., during the 1840’s worked in the Silk Mill at Hadleigh – Robert jnr., (1862-1927) also worked there.

Back to George, his parents and siblings, who are still at Parker’s Cottage in 1901. The family has now grown to include four more siblings for George.  Robert now works

Robert Ward (1833-1912) via Jeffrey Ward

Robert Ward (1833-1912) via Jeffrey Ward

as a horseman on a local farm, his eldest son Robert, yes another, aged 13 also works on a farm – probably the same farm.

Another 10 years in the life of the Ward family and 1911 has arrived.  What will that year bring to the country?  In January the Siege of Sydney Street takes place. March sees 11,000 workers at the Singer sewing machine factory go on strike.  RMS Titanic is launched in Belfast and across the water, RMS Olympic sails for Liverpool.  At the height of the hottest British summer on record, George V and Queen Mary are crowned. Later on in the year the Official Secrets Act 1911 came in to effect and Suffragettes storm the Houses of Parliament.  On April 2nd the census was again taken, differing from previous years census forms, more information is now requested – the number of years married and details of how many children to that marriage.

Back to George and his family in 1911. The information in the census now tells that Robert and Ellen Mary had been married for 24 years, Ellen giving birth to seven children (all still being alive in 1911), six of the children had been recorded as living with Robert and Ellen – Margaret who would now be around 18 was not with the family. The eldest four children were employed as farm labourers, jobbing gardener at a local market garden, a carpenters help and an errand boy at a local farm house. Home for the family was Hill Cottage, Layham. Robert while completing the form entered the number of years married and children details in the wrong row. He also went into detail about the rooms in the cottage.  Robert entered ‘two bedrooms one downstairs room’, the enumerator struck through that information and wrote ‘four’. By that added extra bit of information it is now known the size of property the Ward family of eight existed in.

1914 came around too quickly, men enlisted, men went away but not as many came home.

George served as 22851 in the 7th Btn. Suffolk Regiment, which has been raised in 1914 aspart of Kitchener’s First New Army, after enlisting in Ipswich and had been with his regiment on the northern edge of the Somme battlefields during July of 1916.  After being injured he was taken to 76th FA (Field Amblance) where Albert Victor Moth was taken and died on the same day as George.

Robert, George’s father, would have received his Victory and British Medals, along with monies owning to George from the Army. As the service records for George have not survived, the information, including a description of George, his postings etc., which would be fascinating, is sadly missed.

George Frederick Ward

George Frederick Ward via Jeffrey Ward

George Frederic Ward rests in Warloy-Baillon Communal Cemetery Extension along with over 1,330 other identified casualties from the Commonwealth and France including Albert Moth. The CWGC website tells ‘The first Commonwealth burial took place in the communal cemetery in October 1915 and the last on 1 July 1916. By that date, field ambulances had come to the village in readiness for the attack on the German front line eight kilometres away, and the cemetery extension was begun on the eastern side of the cemetery.

Although George rests peacefully in France he is

Layham War Memorial 2014 via Jeffrey Ward

Layham War Memorial 2014 via Jeffrey Ward

remembered on the Layham War Memorial, Suffolk, a few message boards, mailing lists and websites including Suffolk Roll of Honour.

The Ward family had been featured in the Suffolk Chronicle and Mercury on 29th of March 1918 – all five of the male family eligible for military service had been or were on active duty.  Only George was killed in action. George’s brothers, Robert William, Henry Walter, Frank Bernard Jubilee Ward and brother-in-law, F Orvis saw service in France, Italy, Egypt and the Dardinelles. F Orvis was Francis G S Orvis who married Margaret Ward in the winter of 1914.


© Carol Sklinar Dec 2016

‘Only the dead have seen the end of war’

West Riding Police War Memorial

West Riding Police War Memorial

During the Great War West Riding Police Force went along with their daily working lives – patrolling the streets on foot, being a presence on the streets and dealing with the unsavoury side of life that arose. During this time they had the added an extra burden of vast numbers of soldiers, either stationed in the West Riding, on leave in the area, passing through on their way to postings or returning to the war. One task that became an everyday occurrence was being on the look out for soldiers overstaying leave, absconding – being AOL (Absent without leave).

The everyday lot of the local ‘Bobby’ was about to change for them and their families.

The police were exempt from enlisting for the early part of the war. This all changed in December 1915, when all members of the police force under 41 years of age (including Walter Siddle) attested and were placed n the reserve list under Lord Darley’s Scheme (World War 1). By March 1917, the goal posts were moved and all under 41 years of age were to be examined by the Army Medical Board.

West Riding Constabulary War Memorial

West Riding Constabulary War Memorial

John Pinion Sleaford, West Riding Constabulary War Memorial

John Pinion Sleaford, West Riding Constabulary War Memorial © Carol Sklinar 2016

The memorial to the men of the West Riding Constabulary situated at Laburnum Road, Wakefield carries the names of over 60 men from WW1 and 26 names from WW2.

Of the 60+ names from the WW1 memorial one name stands out amongst the rest due to the unusual middle name – John Pinion Sleaford, now doesn’t that roll off the tongue?

John’s early years were spent in Lincolnshire. He was born in or around Walcot, Lincolnshire on the 24th May 1890 and baptised on the 26th of February 1899. The entry for John in the registers of St Michael’s Billinghay and St Oswald, Walcot show that his parents, Charles and Hephzibah Sleaford had four of their other children baptised on the same day. The entry also shows where John, his sister Sarah and brother Arthur came by their unusual middle name ‘Pinion’, Hephzibah’s maiden name was Pinion. Charles on this day gave his occupation as a cottager.

The 1901 census gives the details of Charles, his wife and nine children living at Fen Road, Walcot – Charles now classes himself as a farmer. Ten years later in 1911 census more information is given and it appears that John was one of 10 children, nine of which survived to be included in the census. Home for John, a 20 year old farm worker, and the rest of the family was Walcott Fen, Billinghay. Later working for James Franklin a local farmer.

John aged 21 left his native Lincolnshire and signed, on the 5th of January 1912, the Declaration to become a constable in the West Riding Police. Aged 21 years and 7 months, John was 5′ 9 ¼” tall, with a fresh complexion. He had dark brown hair and grey eyes, having no particular marks and stating that he was a single man. John also had to give a specimen of his handwriting.

John's handwriting from Police Records

John’s handwriting from Police Records

John Pinion Sleaford, warrant number 7785, was from November 1912 stationed in Staincross and by January of 1913 had advanced from third to a second-grade constable.

In the early summer of 1915, John returned to Lincolnshire to marry Ellen Blundy. Using both John’s and Ellen’s surnames in a search it seems that there were two children born – Leonard in Grantham, 1915 and Edith in Penistone, 1916.

John joined the Navy, becoming Stoker 2nd class, K 39557, serving on HMS Victory II from 10th January 1917 to February 7th of the same year (this could have been a shore base). From 7th February John was in the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, Gosport, Hampshire, which had been a naval hospital since the mid 1700’s and was the last to lose its military status in 2007.

Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, Gosport, Hampshire via Wikipedia

Royal Naval Hospital Haslar, Gosport, Hampshire via Wikipedia

John died on the same day of his admittance to HMH Haslar, the 7th of February, from pneumonia and heart failure and rests in the churchyard of his native village of Walcott near Billinghay. By this time Ellen was living at Hill Top, Clayton West.

Did Ellen remarry to give her two young children a father? Did Ellen move back home to Lincolnshire? Well, the 1939 Register answers both those questions. Still living at Hill Top, Ellen

CWGC headstone for John Pinion Sleaford © Lorna

CWGC headstone for John Pinion Sleaford © Lorna

can be found doing ‘unpaid domestic duties’, while Leonard works as a clayware labourer and Edith is a worsted spinner.

Leonard married Madge B Carter in the Hendon area. Edith, however, there are a couple of entries for a marriage that could be her, one in Bradford and the other in Sleaford……….so I will leave that one for others to sort out.

Ellen died in 1960 and it seems she did not tie the knot again.

James Riach of Fochabers and Yorkshire

During Heritage Weekend I attended a performance of History Wardrobe’s White Wedding – another fantastic event, but more of that later apart from the event was held in Wakefield Cathedral. Wakefield Cathedral being the link to my post.

I arrived early, so I thought I would ‘kill one bird with two stones’ as they say and off I went looking for a memorial to a WW1 soldier, that a relative of his had lead me to believe was there. I hasten to add the last time I visited with the aim of searching for this memorial it was the previous year’s Heritage Weekend, and the building was partially closed for renovation work. Well, with time to kill I set off on my mooch around but sadly the memorial could not be found – I walked up and down but no, it was not there. Had the relative mistaken the church, was it in another within the vicinity – note to self, send her an email!

As I have said, I walked up and down the Cathedral looking for this memorial but on one aisle there was a short row of chairs – why were they there?

Well, with a History Wardrobe event and my new find I was well made up for the day.
It seems that my find was part of a five-year touring installation commemorating the casualties of WW1 – What a find as I had not seen this advertised or promoted anywhere.
The installation comprised of five chairs from Passcendaele’s St Audomarus Church – each chair represents a casualty as shown by the small numbers on each chair, Accompanying the chairs is a book – each left-hand page bears the name of all the casualties from the British Isles who died in Belgium, some 173,000 names, with each name being followed by the regiment and date of death.

The opposite page of this huge book is for personal stories, and there are some wonderful ones told by relatives and researchers. Some of which I will tell at a later date, but in the meantime, I will tell of someone from the left-hand page, whose family name has a connection to me.
RIACH – J Riach of the West Riding Regiment – did he have a connection to my Scottish Riach family? I did know that some of the family moved to the Brighouse area of Yorkshire and others went to the London area. Did J Riach belong to the Yorkshire, London or Scottish side?

James' Medal Card via Ancestry

James’ Medal Card via Ancestry

The medal card for J Riach confirms his service number, always a good start and gives his first name, James (the CWGC only gives his initial). Did James have a surviving service record? Yes, he did and this told me that he was born in Fochabers, but at the time of his enlistment was living at 35 Birkby St, Wilson Road, the town being unreadable! Having previously resigned twice from the services. James was working as a mechanic for J G (?) Sharp after serving a five year apprenticeship at E Fairburn’s in Brighouse.

James, aged 34 was 5′ 5½” tall and considered to be in good health. He appears to have been a stocky man as his chest was 41″, his medical report was signed off in Halifax and enlisting in Brighouse – proving which line of the family he comes from. And so James Riach signed his name and became Private Pioneer James Riach of the West Riding Regiment, serving as , witnessed by Harry S Atkinson Commanding Officer. Further reading of the service records tells that the enlistment at Brighouse was on the 24th of July 1912. James had attended annual training in Flamborough and Aberystwyth, sadly the dates have been erased by water damage but appears to have been discharged in 1902 after serving two years, of which some time was in South Africa, due to being under height.

James embarked as part of the BEF from Folkstone on SS Invicta on the 14th of April 1915 for France and Belgium, after serving ‘At Home’ from the 5th of August 1914 – 12th of April 1915. In July of that year, he was appointed in the field, unpaid Lance Corporal. Just over a month later he was killed in action.

As of yet, the name of James’ wife is unknown, but a receipt for one of his medals is signed for by A L Riach – could A L be Ada Louisa Macaulay who married James in St Mary’s church, Elland on the 26th of March 1894. James was the son of John, a police constable, while Ada was the daughter of Frederick, a dentist.

J Riach via Findagrave

J Riach via Findagrave

It looks like it is as another paper has the full name of his wife and the full address – Mrs Ada Louisa Riach, 25 Birkby Street, Wilson Road, Wyke, Bradford. Don’t you feel a sense of satisfaction when firstly, the service record you want has survived and secondly when the page containing the relatives is intact and readable – pure joy and worth a celebration. This page was completed by Ada after James’ death and lists his children, his father and a full list of all his siblings and their addresses. By the time this form was completed on the 20th of July 1919, Ada was now living at 11 Norwood Street, Bankfoot, Bradford. Most of his siblings had stayed around the Brighouse and Rastrick area but the odd one had moved just up the road to Clifton and one to Gomersall, but still quite close to the family hub.

Ada was given a pension of 21/- a week for herself and two children – strange as the list of children on the previous sheet clearly, states that there were three children to the union of James and Ada – what happened to the third?

One other piece of information I found about James was in the Leeds Mercury dated 20th of August 1915 and reads ‘FRIENDS KILLED TOGETHER. News is to hand from Belgium that Corpl. Norman Hirst (Clifton), Lance-Corpl James Riach, and Private Charles Lee (Wyke), of the 1st-4th West Ridings, were killed by a German shell on Saturday last, while working on a dug-out.

Two other men were wounded by the same shell, and it was while assisting the stretcher-bearers to get these away that Capt. Andrews (headmaster of the Hipperholme Grammar School) was fatally shot by a sniper‘.

Riach was instrumental in getting Lee to enlist, both men being employed at the same works and living in the same street, and it is a notable circumstance that they should have been killed by the same shell.

James is now no longer a name in a book or a name on a headstone, he is a son, a husband, father, neighbour and workmate.

Did Ada re-marry?  No, she died in 1958 aged 86 in Bradford and was still known as Ada Riach. She is listed in the Probate Calendar with the following entry ‘ RIACH Ada Louisa of 4 Hillam Street Little Horton Bradford widow died 31 May 1958 at Thornton View Hospital Bradford Probate Wakefield 19 August to James Riach gentlemens outfitter and Geoffrey Gostick solicitors managing clerk.  Effects £1107 9s.  Note : there is no punctuation or very little in the Probate Calendars.

James, my distant cousin, is remembered on the war memorial at St Mary’s Wyke along with Charles Lee who served as Private 4/1679.

I had previously written about the Riach family of Brighouse but since then I have managed to find out a bit more about one member of that family, with other bits of information being amended due to better-scanned images now being available online.

A Walk around Tyne Cot CWGC

A Walk around Tyne Cot  Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery © Carol Sklinar 2016

Tyne Cot Cemetery © Carol Sklinar 2016

I recently visited Tyne Cott Common War Graves Commission Memorial to the Missing and cemetery as I needed to photograph four names on the vast memorial.  It was a beautiful October day, the sun was shining, the sky was clear and a beautiful shade of blue.  As I had driven for over an hour to get there I thought a quick walk around was in order, well you have to have a mooch around, don’t you?

When I had arrived there was only two other cars in the carpark – joy!  My task was completed within 10 minutes – there was a sense of peace and calm, with the occasional bird song in the air.  This peace and calm were soon to be banished as a school party arrived -

Tyne Cot Cross of Sacrifice © Carol Sklinar 2016

Tyne Cot Cross of Sacrifice © Carol Sklinar 2016

not that I  have anything against schools visiting military cemeteries, I think they need to see the devastation war can bring, but I do think that their teachers should instill a need for respect.  These scholars ran around, shouted at their friends and generally used the walk as freedom from the confines of the coach, while their teachers stood around and chatted obliviously to the fact that they were using the Cross of Remembrance as a launch pad to reach the ground

My camera batteries were playing up – even though they were fully charged, so I chose my headstones carefully as I moved through the rows.  By now a group of army cadets had arrived, probably only a few years older than the school group, but with a totally different attitude to their visit.

Among the vast number of Australian and New Zealand burials, there were quite a few Yorkshire Regiments but they will be saved for a later date.  I tend to focus on certain regiments, unusual names, military awards or just something about a headstone that takes my fancy. For now, I am going to focus on one of the headstones found on my way back to the entrance.

Dafter T E © Carol Sklinar 2016

Dafter T E © Carol Sklinar 2016

It was the unusual name of this young man that caught my eye –  T E Dafter as is displayed on his headstone, served as Private 33513. His headstone telling that he served in the Buckinghamshire Battn., Oxford ad Bucks Light Infantry.  He was aged 19 when he died on the 16th of August 1917.

Who was T E Dafter?  His medal card gives one snippet of detail, his first name – Thomas. Thomas had served in the Hampshire Regiment as Pte 32854 and as we know the Ox and Bucks as Pte 33513.  Looks like I need to use both service numbers when looking for more information about Thomas.

Let’s go back a few years.  Thomas Edward was the son of Thomas Dafter and his wife Ealey Ann Dixon, who had married in the summer of 1894 in Chorley, Lancashire. Thomas Edward was born on the 18th of August 1897 and baptised a few months later, on 10th of October in Apley Lincolnshire. Thomas Snr. and his wife are  in the 1901 census. There is an entry in the 1911 census that seems to fit our family – living at 90 Portland Street, Lincoln with Thomas Snr working as a labourer in a local foundry.  Is this our family?

Bringing our story back to August 1917.  The 1/4th Ox and Bucks, a territorial battalion, by the 14th had been occupying a large part of the line and suffered a number of casualties, the counter-attack had been unsuccessful.  At 2pm the battalion were relieved by the 1/1st Bucks Bn., and then moved to the trenches in the Albert-Bouzincourt line.  The 15th brought bad weather making shelter very difficult to find.  The 1/4th now relieved the 1/1st by the early afternoon of the 16th and shelling continued but not as heavy as in the previous days and several patrols were sent out. Enemy shelling increased in the morning of the 17th and by 9pm had increased according to the diaries ‘increased in intensity on Skyline and Ration Trenches‘. The diary continues ‘Between 9.45 p.m. and 10 p.m”. enemy movement on our left front was suspected, and at 10.15 p.m. suspicion of an actual attack increased. A barrage was asked for and immediately given. A patrol (under 2nd Lieut. Thompson) sent out subsequently found that the suspicious trench had been badly knocked about by the barrage, and had been abandoned by the enemy. Prisoners also stated that the enemy had intended to attack, but that our barrage had broken them up.’  Was it during this time that Thomas Edward Dafter lost his life along with one officer and 44 other ranks killed or wounded.

By the title of this blog, we know that Thomas rests in Tyne Cot Cemetery.  We know from baptism and census records his parents names, but like most evidence where a transcription is involved names, places and dates can be entered wrongly.  For example, the CWGC has information for T E Dafter including his name, rank, serial number and date of death – all correct, but the additional information is slightly misleading, as Mrs Amie Dafter of 90 Portland St. Lincoln is given, when we know from earlier that his mother was Early Ann Dafter nee Dixon. This information could have been obtained from a letter written by Mrs Dafter and her writing was not quit eligible or one military document for example, the Register of Soldier’s Effects, has a couple of additions to the original entry, two being the next of kin, where Early Ann, who was probably known as Annie, has her name entered as the sole beneficiary and could be transcribed as ‘Amie’ or ‘Amnie’.

Medal card for Thomas via Ancestry

Medal card for Thomas via Ancestry

Thomas had enlisted after 1916 and was eligible for Victory and British Medals, known as ‘Mutt and Jeff’.

Thomas is remembered on the St Andrews Parish Memorial on Portland Street, Lincoln as well as Lincoln Roll of Honour.    St Andrews memorial was unveiled by Major H E Newsum in November 1920, due to the church being demolished the memorial was moved south end of Pelham Bridge.

The base of Thomas’s headstone has a short inscription, probably chosen by his mother ‘ We have lost but heaven has gained one of the best the world contained‘.

A walk around East Ardsley churchyard – who did we find?

A walk around East Ardsley churchyard – who did we find?

On a warm and sunny September morning where else would I be than in a quiet and peaceful churchyard. My walk to the church was not my choice, more a favour for a friend, but the short time I spent there was pleasant.

I had recently been talking to a friend about the book he has had published – more on that at a later date, the last entry in his book to be precise.  I just happen to live in the village where the this person is buried with his parents and brother – photo’s taken and a quick nip into the church to take another photo and complete my task.  But, there always seems to be a but, a few more headstones that caught my attention – I was not sure if I already had them in my files, just to make sure I captured their images one more time, just to be on the safe side – one in particular caught grabbed my attention.

© Carol Sklinar 2016

© Carol Sklinar 2016

The headstone, now darkened with time, is a cross standing upon three tiers with a quite ornate embellishment adorning the centre of the cross.  The memorial is not beside any path where passers by may read the words on the top two tiers, it is in the centre of the burial ground behind the church.

Whose monument is it?

George William Young.  Who was this man? What was his occupation? Was he liked within the community?

There is a baptism entry in the St Mary, Whitechapel registers for a George William son of George William Henry and Harriet Young who lived in Pavilion Yard, Whitechapel Road.  George snr was a livery stable keeper. The year of birth from information obtained on the George’s headstone is around 1854/5, so the year of 1850 for his baptism is a slightly larger margin than I would have expected, although I am not surprised.

When George William, his parents and sibling were included in the 1861 census the family were still living at Pavilion Yard – George was 11 at this time and his age confirms his birth year as 1850. His father, George gave his occupation as Licenced Horse Dealer and Stable Keeper.

George married Frances Newton in the early autumn of 1875 in the Stepney area of London. The couple along with their family and friends gathered at St Dunstan and All Saints, Stepney and were married by Banns, which had been read on the 18th and 25th of July and the 1st of August. Frances was marrying in her own parish but George W gave his parish as that of West Ardsley. The wedding party gathering on the 2nd of August. The witness were George Young, George Nicolson (?) and ***** Nicholson (?).

By 1881, but more than likely after his marriage, George and his wife are found in the census living on Wakefield Road.  Although this census does not give a house number or name, it is known that George lived at Woodhouse Hall, on the junction of Wakefield Road and Woodhouse Lane. The enumerator who entered the information included that George was a Medical Practitioner, Thomas his younger brother was employed as his assistant.

Ten years later in 1891 the census confirms that the Young family are living at Woodhouse Hall, East Ardsley. Living with George and Frances are Lilian Clara Young, their nine year old niece and Mary Ann Young, George’s widowed sister in law.

Sketch used in Yorkshire Evening Post article

Sketch used in Yorkshire Evening Post article

During the time George spent in the village he became President of East Ardsley United Cricket Club as the Yorkshire Post of 28th of May 1892 tells “Mr G W Young, East Ardsley. Mr George William Young, whose portrait we give, is the president of the East Ardsley United Cricket Club.  The ‘Doctor’, as he is more familiarly known, is a generous and enthusiastic supporter of all kinds of sport.  For several years he has figured at the head of the ‘United’. Three years ago, on the club winning the Wakefield and District Challenge Cup, for the second time, he presented each member of the team with a handsome silver medal.  Last year he gave five guineas and two bats as prizes to the members, and this year he has again offered a similar amount.  In addition he is always ready to contribute liberally to any special expense of the club.  He is a honorary member of the Yorkshire Country C.C., and a vice-president of several clubs in the locality.  He was elected unopposed as the first member of the Alverthorpe division of the West Riding County Council, a position which he still occupies.

When Aaron Bedford, farmer of West Ardsley wrote his will he asked George who gave his occupation as surgeon, and Robert Chadwick, grocer of West Ardsley to be his Executors.  It was in May of 1883 that Robert and George, as Executors placed a notice in the London Gazette calling for parties with a claim on Aaron’s estate to come forward by the end of May.  The estate of Aaron was worth approximately £270.

 George snr. died on the 18th of July 1890.  The Probate entry for him tells that Pavilion Yard was still home to the family and he was now classed as a Gentleman, leaving a personal estate of £8,225 19s – quite a sum!

Life continued in  and around the village of East Ardsley for a few years until in January 28 1895 when the following article appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

DEATH OF AN ARDSLEY DOCTOR – Sketch of Dr. Young’s career.  Much excitement has been caused in Ardsley and district by the announcement of the death of Mr. George William Young, surgeon.  An inquest will be held tonight at East Ardsley, before Major Taylor.
On Saturday night Dr Young retired to rest about 11 0’clock.  He woke about one a.m. on Sunday but dropped off to sleep again.  He continued to be very restless, and about four o’clock he got up, and, accompanied by Mrs. Young, proceeded to the surgery where he took a sedative with a view to making him sleep.  On getting back into his bedroom he suddenly rell, apparently in a fit, and expired immediately.
Dr Jackson, another medical practitioner in the neighbourhood, was sent for, but on his arrival life had been extinct for some time.  His services were, however required on behalf of Mrs. Young, who suffered terribly from the shock.
It appears that deceased – who was only 44 years of age – had been indisposed for a considerable period, and for a short time up to Wednesday last had been confined to the house, his assistants tending to his practice.  He resumed his duties on Wednesday, however, and attended to them until Saturday night.
The deceased was very widely known throughout the district of West Yorkshire, having taken a very prominent part in public affairs.  He was a native of London but came to Wakefield as assistant to Dr Thomas Walker, who has since retired, and is ow living at Leeds.  Subsequently Mr Young commenced practising at Ardsley, where he has since resided, and has held several positions as medical officer to large concerns in the neighbourhood.  He always took a keen interest in local affairs, and was for some time chairman of the East Ardsley School Board.  He has represented the Alverthorpe Division, which includes Ardsley, on the West Riding County Council ever since its formation.  Some years ago he represented West Ardsley on the old Wakefield Rural Sanitary Authority, of which body he was at one time chairman.  At the recent elections he was returned as one of the representatives of East Ardsley on the Wakefield Rural District Council.

The Leeds Mercury issue for the following day, 29th January 1895, is virtually the same as the entry in the Yorkshire Evening Post with the addition of ‘….. Major Taylor held an inquest last evening, – Mrs. Young said that her husband suffered from a weak heart, and that on a former occasion he was nearly gone.  On the present occasion she tried to administer brandy, but without success. – Dr J J Jackson said that from the appearance of the body, he should imagine that deceased had been suffering from a weak heart for some time. – The jury found a verdict of ‘Natural causes’. and in conveying it they expressed condolence with Mrs young in here bereavement’

© Carol Sklinar 2016

© Carol Sklinar 2016

The headstone in St Michael’s churchyard tells in how much he was thought of within the area –  ‘This stone erected by subscription in memory of George William Young, surgeon, who died Jany 2th 1895, aged 44 years.  As a token of admiration for services rendered to the parishes  of  East and West Ardsley.’

When Probate was granted for George in 1896, his estate of £1226 1s was granted to his widow Frances.

Morley & District Family History Open Day

Morley & District Family History Open Day

poster-snipped-versionMorley & District Family History Group are celebrating their 30th Anniversary with an Open Day on Saturday 17th of September 2016 from 10am – 3pm at St Mary’s in the Wood, (opposite Morley Library), Commercial Street, Morley, Leeds, LS27 8HY.

With Free Admission, why not pop in and see who is going to be there.

30 years ago a small group of people attended an evening class for those interested in family history. The classes ended after six weeks, and it was then that Morley & District Family History Group began and is still here today.

Morley & District FHG may not be the biggest family history society/group but they are a friendly lot, so if you have family from the local area or are thinking about beginning your family history, why not drop in on Saturday and have a chat.

Morley & District FHG will have their collection of transcriptions available for sale.

Who else is going to be there?

leaflets-1There will also be a small information desk with leaflets and information from The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Find My Past and The Western Front Association.

On the day there will be a HELP DESK which will have access to major family history online resources.  A collection of family history magazines plus a good selection of family history society magazines from various areas will be FREE for you to take away  – you may find something of interest to help with your family history research.

Bring along your family and local history questions.

But don’t forget to bring some of your research with you or make notes of the questions you wish to find an answers to!

See you on Saturday for a chat, a cuppa and a Yorkshire Welcome.

Why can’t I find them in the census?

Why can’t I find them in the census?

When transcribing a document for online research should you transcribe the document as it is written or transcribe the document, making it suitable for online searching?

A transcription by definition is ‘copied’ word for word, error for error.  But are there times when common sense should prevail?   There are other forms of transcriptions, but that can be for a later date.

Many online documents are transcribed abroad, where names and places are transcribed by those who have no knowledge of the country that the documents relate to.

Example : Latham family of 17 Cambridge Avenue, Crosby.

Example : Latham family of 17 Cambridge Avenue, Crosby.

Imagine you are looking for your maternal grandmother. You know her married name, eventually find her maiden name but her parents and siblings are unknown. A search of the census does not give any information that is helpful.  Could it be that the enumerator has tried to save his time and effort by being scrimpy with the details by using ‘Ditto’ or ‘Do’. And there seems to be a large number of people with ‘Ditto’ or ‘Do’ as their surname.

For example in the Great Grimsby census for 1911 Mr Myers of 10 Bull Ring, Grimsby completed his form telling he was a grocer.  His wife Rose was completed using her full name, Rose Myers, while the children, two of them were entered as Hilda Do and Harold Do. Percy Cahill, a window cleaner living at 125 Walnut Street, Hr Broughton, completed his form by entering his name in full, then completing the form by adding his wife and children’s names followed by ‘Do’.

Another example from the 1911 census is for Joseph Preedy who lived at 10 Acacia Avenue, St John’s, Wembley.  Mr Preedy, a Head Glazier, who had been married to Alice for 16 years completed her name in full, then proceeded to name his children, each one’s name followed by ‘Ditto’.

That’s all well and good but there are also a number of people with ‘Ditto’ or ‘Do’ as a first name…….

Thomas Barns of Gaul Road, March, Cambridge, seems to have been a bit unsure on how to complete his census form – there are quite a few crossings out and a good old ink blot! Thomas enters his name, his wife’s details then complete his children’s information.  Now, did he intend to put his eldest child Dorothy first, or enter his son first?  There is a ‘Do’ before Ernest’s name, which may be due to Thomas being unsure of how to complete the form, but Ernest is now on the index as Do Ernest Barnes.

Henry Charles Wills of Sackville Gardens, Hove, is an Engineer and Tea Planter living with his wife and two children plus  two servants – Mary Ann Tidball and Agnes du Cruyard, Agnes is found on the index as Agnes do Cruyard.

1911 census via Ancestry.com

1911 census via Ancestry.com

One young man in the 1911 is destined never to be found as he is entered by his father on the census as Ditto  ”  “.  But the transcriber has shown a bit of thoughtfulness when placing him in the index.  Michael Mcdonough, a widower, living with his family on Railway Street, Liversedge, Yorkshire, had named his second son after himself and therefore entered Ditto  ”  ”  on the line below his name.  Michael junior is followed by his elder brother Thomas, then John and a sister, Annie, whose surnames are all completed in full.

According to the Cambridge Dictionary the meaning of ‘Ditto’ is ‘a symbol that means ‘the same’ and is used in a list to avoid writing again the word written immediately above it‘.  The ‘Do’ is a shorter form of ‘Ditto’ and can save even more time when writing repetitive words.

It might be worth while looking for a ‘Ditto’ or a ‘Do’ in a first and/or last name if you have lost a relative in the census

A Walk around Sugar Lane – Deputy Matron Cameron

A Walk around Sugar Lane, Wakefield

Don’t you find when walking around a churchyard or cemetery the headstone and monuments give answers to unsolved mysteries, but some only give rise to questions and curiosity.

Another headstone in this series is fairly low to the ground, is simple in its design with straight sides, a small pointed top with a plain set of symbolic ivy being carved into a shallow box, centrally situated just below the pointed top.

Margaret V Cameron headstone © C Sklinar 2015

Margaret V Cameron headstone © C Sklinar 2015

I would have walked past this marker had I not noticed a few words as I scanned read the headstones : In Loving Memory of Margaret Veronica Cameron, Deputy Matron, Stanley Royd Hospital. Died 7th December 1951. Aged 46 years. R.I.P.

Where was Margaret born? Was she born in Scotland as her name may suggest? She was in fact born on the 5th of January 1905 and Freebmd confirms there was a Margaret Veronica Cameron born in the Bristol Registration District in the March Quarter. Could this be her?

I have found information on Margaret later in her life, but I’ll come back to that a little later. In the meantime, the 1911 census tells of Margaret Cameron born 5th January 1905, if this is my Margaret, living with her grandmother, Margaret Donovan, her uncle, Edward Donovan and her three siblings; Ronald aged 6, Jeffrey aged 5 and Bernard aged 3. Home was 15 Wood Terrace, Worcester. Margaret’s grandmother, was aged 61 and had given birth to eight children – four surviving to be included in the census, somewhere. Uncle Edward, aged 28 was a Land Agents Clerk and it appears that the four children were not at school or that information had been omitted by whoever completed the form. By the way, Margaret’s younger brother was born in Wakefield. A fair bit of information has been gleaned from the document but still no information on her parents. Were they away for the night, were they working away, could they not afford to keep their children or had they died? I told you more questions arise when you walk around churchyards!

Jumping forward to 1923 and one of the newest sets of information on Ancestry are the Nursing Registers for UK and Ireland and Scotland, which had been accessible from the 4th of August 2016. When I found these I was like a woman possessed looking for my aunt Frances Siddle, cousin Walter Siddle and other people in my family who I knew had been in the nursing profession. Back to Margaret, she is there, being Registered on 18th of May 1923, London and living at 24 College Grove Road, Wakefield. Margaret gained her Certificate in General Nursing at Cumberland Infirmary. Other permanent addresses in the registers include: Council Offices, Rothwell, Leeds and 14 Second Avenue, Rothwell, Leeds. By 1950 Margaret, her full name used this time, on the Mental Register for nurses, no address has been given for this register but her qualification is – R.M.P.A. Certificate.

Hatfeild Hall c 1925

Hatfeild Hall c 1925

Back to 1939 – the 1939 Register to be precise. Margaret Veronica Cameron is listed as a General Trained Nurse – Assistant Matron at Hatfeild Hall, Stanley W, Wakefield along with a list of people classed as ‘In Hospital’. How nice it is to see names for people in hospital and not just initials.

In the 1946 and 1947 Register of Electors Margaret’s address is given as Stanley Hall, Stanley, Wakefield – as local people know, Stanley Hall was used for a home for nurses at one time.

We know quite a bit about Margaret but there are still a few more questions that need to be answered. Firstly, who were her parents? Secondly, she died quite young, was there a reason? And finally, did she leave a will? All important questions if you are tracing your family’s history.

The answer to the first question is a simple ‘don’t know’. But question two, that one I can answer. When visiting Findmypast for the 1939 Register I took a look at the newspaper section……bonus! There were two entries came up from a search of Margaret’s name. The first was the death notice in the Yorkshire Post for the 8th of December which read ‘CAMERON – December 7, at Leeds General Infirmary, MARGARET VERONICA CAMERON, Deputy Matron Stanley Royd Hosptal, Wakefield – Service at Stanley Royd Hospital, Wednesday, December 12. at 2.30 followed by interment at Wakefield Cemetery.’

The second entry was from the Yorkshire Post December 8 1951. On the front cover we find that Henry Moore’s ‘Reclining Man’ was taken by van from Temple Newsam to Leeds Art Gallery the day before and would be on display for 10 days before returning to Temple Newsaam. In a smaller entry in the next column is the heading ‘Deputy Matron dies after injuries’, the small article follows ‘ Miss Margaret Veronica Cameron, deputy matron of Stanley Royd Hospital, Wakefield, died in the General Infirmary at Leeds Yesterday. She received severe head injuries when she was knocked down by a motor cycle in Dewsbury Road, Wakefield on Wednesday night.

The funeral service will be held in the hospital next Wednesday, followed by interment at Wakefield cemetery.’

Another excerpt, this time from the Wakefield Express tells more - “Pedestrians Injured – Miss E (wrong initial – could be a mis-hearing of ‘V’), assistant matron of Stanley Royd Hospital, was taken to Clayton Hospital with a fractured skull on Wednesday night, after being struck by a motor-cycle while she was waiting for a bus in Dewsbury Road, Wakefield. On Thursday she was transferred to Leeds General Infirmary and yesterday was reported to be ‘still very poorly.’ The motor-cycle driven by John Mulvaney of Wood Lane, Rothwell, also collided with a pedestrian, Mr A Benton, of West Street, Horbury. Both men were taken to Clayton Hospital, Mulvaney with a fractured skull and hand injuries, and Benton, with a broken leg. Yesterday, both were stated to be ‘fairly comfortable.’

About a week later the Wakefield Express edition for 12 December 1951 give more details - ‘ Assistant Matron’s Funeral – A funeral service for Miss Margaret Veronica Cameron (46). assistance matron at Stanley Royd Hospital, who died in Leeds General Infirmary last week, after being knocked down by a motor-cycle in Dewsbury Road, Wakefield, was held at the hospital on Wednesday. After the service, members of staff walked in procession to the hospital gates and several of them went with the cortege to the Wakefield cemetery where the internment took place. An inquest on Miss Cameron was opened in Leeds on Monday but was adjourned until December 20 by the Coroner (Dr A J Swanton). Trained for hospital work in the South of England, Miss Cameron had been at Stanley Royd since 1937 and was very well liked by patients and staff.;

I know from the previous newspaper article there would be a Coroner’s hearing, so my trusted ‘partner in family history crime’, who had found the same death notice I had also found, for 12th December and the above notices from the Wakefield Express, continued to look for the Coroner’s entry in the local paper after 20th December and early into the new year – nothing to be found. While I was including Elsie’s finds in this virtual walk, I gave FindmyPast one last try for the Coroner’s verdict, coming up trumps with one more entry in the Yorkshire Post – ‘Woman Died After Motor-Cycle Crash. ‘ ‘Accidental Death’ was the verdict at the resumed inquest in Leeds today on Miss Margaret Cameron (46), deputy matron of Stanley Royd Hospital, Wakefield, who was knocked down by a motor-cycle on December 5 and died the following day in Leeds Infirmary from a fractured skull.

Leeds University via Wikipedia

Leeds University via Wikipedia

The driver of the motor-cycle, Mr John Mulvaney, Leeds University student, Wood Lane, Rothwell, said he was travelling from Ossett to Wakefield when a pedestrian appeared ‘from nowhere’ in the dark, patchy night and the road was wet. Before I had time to pull up the pedestrian, who appeared immediately in front of me, was under the bike. I don’t remember anything after the impact,’ he said.

The Coroner told the jury that after Mulvaney collided with the pedestrian he lost control of the machine which, mounted the pavement and knocked down Miss Cameron, who was waiting for a Wakefield bus with a friend.’

Margaret is listed in the Probate Calender of 1955 and reads ‘ CAMERON Margaret Veronica otherwise Margaret Josephine otherwise Margaret Veronica Josephine or ADAMS Murlie Alice of The Stanley Royd Hospital Wakefield spinster died 7 December 1951 Administration London 16 February to H.M. Treasury Solicitor. Effects £1931 8s 5d. Another mystery has been created by the Probate Calendar’s entry for Margaret – why is Margaret also known as Murlie Alice Adams? Over a cup of coffee, my partner in ‘family history crime’ and I have spent an evening looking for her. Do you know what the link is to Margaret Veronica Cameron?

When deciding to tell you all about this headstone, I did not expect the story to have such an ending. But at least a few more people know about a little headstone in Sugar Lane and a lady called Margaret.

Madam Amy Joyner – Guest Blogger, Jane Ainsworth

A Brave Barnsley Woman in the First World War

Madam Amy Joyner

While researching Bernard Jaques Joyner for my book, Great Sacrifice: the Old Boys of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School in the First World War (Helion and Company 2016), I was very impressed by the talents, bravery and generosity of his oldest sister Amy. I had not realised before that entertainment was provided for troops overseas during the First World War as well as providing distractions for the wounded at home and raising funds to provide comforts for men at the front.

Amy Joyner

Amy Joyner courtesy of Barnsley Archives

Amy Amelia Joyner was born in 1880 in Barnsley, the oldest of five surviving children of Henry Joyner, Coal Miner, and Eliza nee Jaques, owner of a general dealer shop. Amy qualified as a ‘Professor of Singing’ at the age of 20, after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She married Archibald William Jarman, Colliery Clerk, in 1906 and they lived at 57 Hopwood Street, Barnsley. The family headstone in St John the Baptist’s Churchyard in Cudworth tells the tragic story of their only two children, who both died very young: Irene Hope not quite 5 years and Charles less than one day. Amy had already experienced a great deal of death in her family with the loss of her father and five younger siblings by 1900.

A soprano ‘vocalist’ known professionally as ‘Madame Joyner’, Amy organized and participated in concerts throughout the war period. The first concert in September 1914 raised nearly £70 for the main Barnsley Patriotic Fund and when war ended she started fundraising for St Dunstan’s Home for Blind Soldiers. Amy went out to France for five weeks in summer 1917, despite or perhaps because of knowing first hand the danger involved at the front. She was with a group of vocalists who risked their own lives to entertain the men at the front in a series of concerts.

Joyner family headstone

Joyner family headstone

Her youngest brother Bernard was killed in action on the Somme on 30 July 1916, aged 19, serving as a Private in the 6th Battalion of the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders). Another brother William Henry survived; he served in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps before being transferred as a Gunner to the 6th Reserve Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery.

Barnsley Chronicle provides a lot of details in articles, letters and adverts from 1914 to 1919:

12 December 1914 – The second patriotic concert … was very successful. The chief attraction was the fact that Madame Amy Joyner, ARAM, was announced to sing and she received a very hearty appreciation of her beautiful rendering of three songs …

26 May 1917 – The Matron of Lund Wood Hospital wrote: “I have this morning received a cheque from Madame Joyner for the handsome sum of £7, part proceeds of a concert given by her choir, a token of their great sympathies for our sick and wounded heroes. In addition to this magnificent gift our lads were the partakers of a sumptuous tea and supper and were delightfully entertained by Madame Joyner and her choir a few weeks ago ….

4 August 1917 – “I know you will be pleased to know I have been fortunate in coming across a few of our own Barnsley boys out here” writes Madame Amy Joyner from France . “I cannot describe to you what it is like to be singing out here to the boys who are fighting to keep us safe in England. If you could hear the shout when I am announced and see even caps thrown up with intense delight; if you could see their faces light up with pleasure – but more than all if you could feel the hard strong grip of a hand thrust into yours as you pass through on your way to another camp – you would never forget it. One boy said to me “You cannot understand, Madame, what it has meant to us to see you, hear you and really speak with you”. I looked at his war-worn face and my heart simply went out to him and all of our brave boys…

I am having a very busy and harassing time and it is really a great strain but I am becoming daily more thankful and pleased that I stuck to my promise and came. I shall have a large diary and some wonderful scenes to describe; words cannot express them I am afraid. We are in the heart of things and can hear the constant thud of guns.

I have sung already to thousands and thousands of men, been miles out in a huge dark forest to camps where boys are resting from the line and where you would never think there was a living creature. Little do we know in England what these boys are enduring and their wonderful spirit! We take “Little Peter” with us (a small closed up piano) and we sometimes sing outside in a valley. The boys sat up the hill all around and we have an impromptu platform which wobbles about very ungraciously; always a camp dog and sometimes hundreds of frogs leaping about. I used to be afraid but I am now quite brave and don’t mind the frogs at all. We travel about in a car that was a car once upon a time and we are often delayed on our way home when it refuses to go. We give three shows a day most days and we go anything from 10 to 40 miles out. We oftener than not dine at the Mess and arrive back about 2 or 3 o’ clock in the morning and needless to say our mornings are spend in rest. I could write you pages of all I have done but that must be kept for another time. I am the only one from the North in this party except the entertainer who is a Lancashire man. The others are London artistes”.

9 March 1918 - Lieutenant-Colonel J Hewitt presided at Amy ‘s latest fundraising venture and the programme included her “ever popular rendition of “Annie Laurie” plus her account of her experiences performing at the front. Lt-Col Hewitt asked the gathering to consider the situation of the lads at the front: “At that very moment those gallant soldiers might be standing starved, war-worn and hungry looking across “No Man’s Land” where perhaps death was awaiting them …. How these songs (of Amy and musical colleagues) rendered so sweetly on the battlefield must touch the hearts of lads just as water to the lips of men in the thirsty desert!”.

Amy Joyner courtesy of Barnsley Chronicle 1940

Amy Joyner courtesy of Barnsley Chronicle 1940

Amy explained that despite some insinuations, she was not making money from these concerts but doing them “to raise funds for the providing of musical treats for the soldiers”. “I have the boys’ interests at heart and I am doing this work absolutely for the love of it”.

Amy raised more than £3,000 for war charities.

Amy Amelia Jarman (Madame Joyner) was an invalid for some time before she died at home at Kirk Haven, Cawthorne, on 18 February 1940, aged 59. Her husband was Juvenile Employment Officer for Barnsley and a member of the Cawthorne Choral Society. The funeral service was held at All Saints Church in Cawthorne with lots of music and many floral tributes.

I am surprised and disappointed that with the number of references to Madame Joyner in the local newspapers I have not been able to find any good quality photographs of her. If anyone has one that they are willing to email to me I would be extremely grateful and would not use  without prior consent.

younger Amy courtesy of Barnsley Archives

older Amy courtesy of Barnsley Chronicle 1940

Fromelles CWGC Cemetery

Fromelles CWGC Cemetery

Fromelles © C Sklinar 2010

Fromelles © C Sklinar 2010

Years ago my husband and I was on an afternoon jaunt while on holiday in France and we happened upon the work in progress that was to become Fromelles Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery. Luckily there was someone walking about, he happened to be a very nice man who was one of the people in charge – don’t you love moments like that? Anyway, he told us a bit about what was going on and when the cemetery would be opened, but in the meantime we took interest in the information boards that had been put in place to inform visitors and passers by what had happened and what was happening.

In 2010 we visited Fromelle again, which just so happened was shortly after the cemetery had been officially opened, as the wreaths and wooden crosses filled the base of the Cross of Remembrance and were still pristine condition. While the fresh flowers and leaves that had been left at the graves of individuals were no longer fresh and vibrant in colour, they did show that someone had been and paid a visit.

Before I focus on one of the men remembered here, let me take you back in time……..

The Battle of Fromelles took place on the 19th -20th of July 1916 and was supposed to be a diversionary tactic, aimed at keeping the German reserves from joining the Somme battle, some 80 km away. Early on the 19th two divisions that had recently arrived on the Western Front, the 5th Australian and British 61st (South Midland)  attacked a strongly held section of the German front line.  The defenders were warned and ready for the allied attack.  Days before the attack a heavy bombardment had poured down the German lines, this was hugely ineffective.

Hours before the attack was due to start the bombardment intensified. The enemy retaliated pounding the waiting British and Australians who were packed into to their trenches. At 6pm the assault began, advancing in waves. The allied were cut down by machinegun fire with the survivors being forced back to their trenches.

The next morning when the assault was called off the Australians had lost over 5,500 men killed, wounded and missing, the heaviest losses for one assault in Australian history.  The British casualties numbed over 1,540.  These figures amount to over one third of the men who fought in the battle.

 In May 2008, six mass graves were accounted for and the CWGC were given the task by the Australian Government of overseeing the recovery and to create a new resting place for them. The bodies of 250 men were removed by a team of specialists who took DNA samples in the hope of trying to give these men back their names.  By the time the cemetery was complete all but one of these men had been identified.

In January and February of 2010 all but one of the men had been buried with full military honours.  The last soldier was to be laid to his final rest during the service to dedicate the cemetery on the 19th of July 2010 – the 94th anniversary of the Battle.

The cemetery, the first CWGC cemetery since the 1960’s and was designed to be more of a garden than cemetery, well I think it is a very calm and peaceful place.  A place befitting those who rest there.

Talking about resting there.  Who does rest within the walls of Fromelles Pheasant Wood Cemetery?

Pte Willis Frommelles CWGC ©  C Sklinar 2010

Pte Willis Fromelles CWGC © C Sklinar 2010

A few of the headstones had tokens placed at their bases. One headstone that had had a visitor was that of Henry Victor Willis, known as Harry to his friends and family.

The Attestation Papers for Australian and New Zealand soldiers are available via the National Archives of Australia and the records for Henry or Harry are there, all 36 pages of them.  Harry was born in Alberton and at the time of his attestation was employed as a farm labourer.  His mother Janet was given as his next of kin.

Harry, serving as 983 in the 31st Btn. Australian Infantry, enlisted on the 14th of July 1915 was 19 years old 10 months, 5′ 4¾” tall, weighed 155lb and had a fully expanded chest of 39″. He had a sallow complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and gave his religion as Presbyterian.  He had four vaccination marks on his left arm and had a mole on his left shoulder blade.

When going through his paperwork one entry tells that he was appointed Lance Corporal in March of 1916 but by May of the same year had reverted to Private, two months later he is one of many reported missing, amended to ‘now reported Killed in Action’.

A typed note dated 4th November 1916  tells ‘German List received by Wounded and Missing Enquiry Bureau, Australian Branch – Identification marks found on the Prisoner of War are inspected by the General War Bureau, and show in the list as under – DEAD.  Another note from 4th February 1917 reads: ‘Admin. Headquarters War Office Letter 21/1396 Accounts 4 – Identification disc received from Germany. No particulars were afforded except that soldier is deceased.  To be reported Killed in Action.’

On the 28th of October 1921 Janet Willis signed a receipt slip acknowledging receipt of Private 983, H W Willis’s Memorial Scroll and King’s Message, later in the year Janet signed again for the British War Medal, this time a witness was required so Marion Lang signed below Janet’s signature. The signing of receipts continued through 1922 and 1923.

Many of the papers in Harry’s file are out of date order.  One such letter is to Mrs Janet Willis saying that no letter had been received from Mrs Willis, but an account of Harry’s fate could be in a report.  The next piece of paper, tells all.

re Pte H V Willis, No. 983 31st Battn.
Private H  I Rogers, No. 1560, 31st Battn, has stated that on July 19th 1916 at Fleurbaix, Willis was shot through the jaw.  He was in the same Machine Gun Section as informant, but they were not together at that moment.  He thinks that Pte. Ellis (nicknamed Paddy) is likely to know particulars.  Ellis’ address is at present as under ‘8 Training Battn. A I F, Larkhill, Salisbury Plains.
Private A E Hickson, No 872, 31st Battn. states :- ‘ I knew Willis. He was in the same tent as myself.  He was a stout fair man about 21 years of age. He came from Yarran, Queensland, Victoria.  He was killed at Fleurbaix in ‘No man’s land’ I saw his body 13 hours later lying dead.  We had to retire and leave our dead there’
We have also to report that this soldier’s name appeared in the German death list dated 4th November 1916.
(Sgd) Beacham Kiddle.

One of the final letters, well not a letter, more like a quick note on a torn off sheet of lined paper, tells that Janet Willis, was ‘quite agreeable that my son may enlist for active service abroad’. That note was dated the 10th of July 1915 – just over a year later he would be lying in no man’s land with his fellow men.