Tag Archives: memory

Victoria Cross Trust

Victoria Cross Trust at Ashworth Barracks

After wanting to visit Ashworth Barracks for quite a while, I finally visited earlier this month armed with a small file with information about one of my two distant family members who had been awarded the Victoria Cross..

Ashworth Barracks

Set within a disused school, the museum is surrounded by houses and feels part of the community. Access is easy. I arrived via the A1, exiting at junction 36 and heading towards Doncaster where there were a few signs pointing the way.

After paying my entrance fee, I was already to go, but it was suggested that if I wait a few minutes I would be on the next guided tour……..am I glad I waited!

Paul, one of the volunteer guides arrived and as I was the only visitor at the time, I had a personal guided tour.

I had mentioned at reception that I had a distant connection to two V.C holders and as my guide and I walked across to the museum entrance, he commented to a couple of men about my connection. One of the men had heard of my recipient – I was surprised as it is hard to find any mention of him in books connected to either the Victoria Cross or Victoria Cross recipients. Could my day get any better………………yes, it could and it did.

The museum depicts the story of the Victoria Cross from its early days to modern times by the use of static displays, individual displays and representation. Paul and the other volunteer guides have a vast knowledge of the recipients, all men, and their deeds. Although women have been eligible to receive the Victoria Cross since 1921 there have been no female recipients since then.

During my visit one of the stories I heard was that  of Stanley Elton Hollis VC, who served in the Green Howards who had the distinction of receiving the only Victoria Cross awarded on D-Day. My father served in the Green Howards and like Stanley landed on Gold Beach.

One of the exhibits is a living room and backyard depicting a house during the time of WW2, with a welcoming fire, chair and outhouse with a bath hanging on the wall. Other exhibits include a mound of army desert boots under a draped Union Flag – the exhibit has no explanation, no photographs, it doesn’t need anything, the boots and the flag say all that needs to be said.

Another section of the museum houses a collection of German militaria. Some may not agree or feel comfortable that German artefacts are kept within the walls of a museum focusing on Commonwealth forces. But, and there is always a but! To have a war or conflict there has to be an enemy. Without the enemy would there be the Victoria Cross? Without the Victoria Cross would there be the Ashworth Museum? There are always two sides – and you can’t have one without the other. Artefacts included in this small section are letters, documentation and militaria.

A guided tour normally take around two hours – I think mine lasted a little longer than that. Did I mind?  No, as I was fortunate enough to hold a medal worn by one of my distant relatives. Paul, my guide was as surprised as I, when we learnt that the medal was part of the museum’s collection. I told you my day could only get better and it certainly did.

Did I have a good visit?      Yes.
Was the entrance fee of £7 worth it?      Yes.
Would I recommend the museum?     Yes.
Will I be going back?      Yes, of course I will.


A Letter sent home

Letter sent from the Front during World War 1 – could this be written to your family member?

While researching for a project, I came across an article in the Wakefield Express issue of the 3rd of March 1915. Instead of continuing, as I should do with the project, I ended up going off on a tangent and finding out who the soldiers were…………Not, I might add, good for the project, but my curiosity would be fulfilled!



The following is an extract from a letter from Ernest Turner, one of the two sons of Mr Joshua Turner, of Woolley Colliery, who are both serving with the R.A.M.C. at the front. Ernest is in the Field Ambulance Section, belonging to the 27th Division of the R.A.M.C. :-

     “We go down for a rest shortly for three weeks, I believe, so you see it is A1 now.  We are not hard worked up here, still a rest won’t do us any harm.  I am pleased to tell you that I am in very good health.  Thank God, I haven’t clicked a German bullet yet.  I now know where poor Jack Melson is buried, but I daren’t go to his grave; it is too dangerous, but it is marked with a cross.  We had a bathing parade before we came here; I mean hot baths.  Just fancy about 50 of us in together and the fun we had.  We are then given a complete change of underclothing.  I felt a different man afterwards.  I have been helping to fetch the wounded in for a while now.  There is plenty of mud out there.

     “Poor Jack Melson said to his sergeant “Is my hour up yet, sergeant?” and the sergeant replied “No, you have 20 minutes more duty yet.” Just then a shrapnel shell came up, and killed them both.  Poor Jack got caught in the side with one of the bullets”

     Melson was in the King’s Royal Rifles and was brother to A Melson, of Woolley Colliery.

Letters printed in the Wakefield Express during World War 1 - is this from someone in your family tree?

Long Row, Woolley, source unknown but acknowledged

Who is mentioned in the above article – Ernest Turner, Jack Melson and his brother A Melson, lets start with Ernest Turner, our very clean soldier.  We know from the article in the Wakefield Express that he is the son of Joshua Turner of Woolley Colliery. But from 1901 the census – there are two Joshua Turners living in Woolley.  One of the Joshua’s is from Barugh, and the other from Hoyle Mill.  One has a family and the other is just listed with this wife, and would seem to be older that I presumed him to be, aged 61, especially with young children…..but not impossible!

The second Joshua is 38 years old, his wife Charlotte E  is also 38 and their children range from 15 down to 1 – this seems more like it!  The census has Charles E Turner, could this be Ernest?  A brother is also mentioned.  I am going to eliminate the youngest brother, Frank, aged 1.  So that leaves Earle aged 7 and George Bennett aged 15.

A Service Record survives for George Bennett Turner – the article said ‘both brothers are serving in the R.A.M.C.’  George is serving in the Coldstream Guards (service no. 16667), was living at the time of enlistment at the Villas, Darton, Barnsley, with his wife Mary (nee Overend, who he married in June of 1911) and daughter Eileen Mary, when he attested in August of 1915.  George survived The Great War, even though he had been gassed in May of 1918, and was demobilized on the 9th of February 1919.

Looks like ‘the other brother’ is Earle, who served as Private, No. 54, in the Royal Army Medical Corps.  Earle, like his brother’s seemed to survive the war and he married Ivy Ellis in the summer of 1920.

Letters printed in the Wakefield Express during World War 1 - is this from someone in your family tree?

Menin Gate Last Post © C Sklinar

The Wakefield Express letter also mentions that Ernest is sending home news of a friend, or someone from the village – Jack Melson, well after looking for Jack and drawing a blank I started looking for John Melson (Jack and John being interchangeable), and there he was.  John Melson.  John served as Rifleman 9530 in the K.R.R.C., into which he enlisted in Huddersfield.  He was Killed in Action on the 25th of January 1915 and is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial, after entering France in December 1914.  He certainly won’t have been lonely this year, always busy at 8pm, the last couple of years have seen many

Letters printed in the Wakefield Express during World War 1 - is this from someone in your family tree?

Menin Gate © C Sklinar

more visitors drop by and look at the enormous panels of names to remember and reflect.

Who had John been in life?  John was the brother of A Melson, but from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission site, we now know that Alfred was his name.  So, in 1911 John was already a serving soldier, aged 20 he was in the New Barracks, Gosport with over 300 others, including 5 women.  The Medal Card for John/Jack tells – his medals earned, his entry into France and his demise.  The Soldiers Register of Effects confirms

Letters printed in the Wakefield Express during World War 1 - is this from someone in your family tree?

Menin Gate © CWGC image

already known information, but also includes how much was owed to him by the Army and the recipients were ‘Mo & Fa joint Regotees Norah and Alfred Giggal’, who in 1915 received £7 8s 9d and later in 1919 shared another £5.

The war memorial in Woolley, does not bear the name of John Melson.

Alfred, there is an Alfred in the R.A.M.C., service no. 41962. Alfred according to his Medal Card, had started service in Egypt in June 1915 and was eligible for the three medals – 1915 Star, British and Victory Medal (Pip, Squeak and Wilfred).

As to who the parents of John and Alfred were, there are a few entries in the census but nothing that gives a perfect clue to the family – if anyone knows, why don’t you drop me a line!

Irish Catholic Church Records Going Online

Irish National Archives, Dublin

Irish National Archives, Dublin

Tracing your family history in Ireland is to get a lot easier as the National Library of Ireland getrs ready  to give FREE online access to its Catholic Church records collection from this summer (2015) according to IrishCentral.

Genealogy expert John Grenham wrote in The Irish Times that it is “almost impossible to overstate the importance” of what will happen.

The records that will go on line mainly consist of baptismal and marriage records, the earliest of which dates back to the 1700’s and cover the 1,091 parishes in the country.  This will enable the millions of people worldwide to access their Irish roots much easier.  The records are currently available at the National Library of Ireland on microfiche and therefore you need to visit in person or hire a researcher but demand has put a great strain on this service and the cost of hiring a professional researcher has put these records out of many people’s price bracket.

For many years volunteers have been working to make these records ready for digitization and online research.  These records could be the most important records to go online since the 1901 and 1911 census for Ireland at the Irish National Archives.


Voluntary Aid Detachment volunteers

Over 90,000 people volunteered for the British Red Cross at home and overseas during the Great War, providing vital aid to naval and military forces and caring for the sick and wounded. County branches of the Red Cross had their own Voluntary Aid Detachments (VADs) made up of both men and women. The VAD’s work included such jobs as nursing, transport, rest stations, working parties and auxiliary hospitals. They ran libraries, did air raid duty, and a service that is still being used today – Missing and wounded service.

As women volunteered for jobs normally undertaken by men prior to the war it enabled over 11,000 men to be released for military service of some sort.

Agatha Christie record. London Evening Standard

Agatha Christie record. London Evening Standard

Did you know that Agatha Christie, volunteered for the Red Cross before publishing her first novel in 1920 and worked in a Torquay hospital. Her work, dispensing drugs, gave her an insight into poisons – this information she used in her books. Vera Brittain, famous for her ‘Testament of Youth’, joined the VAD in 1915 and by 1917 was working in France. Enid Bagnold, of National Velvet fame, served in London. Did you also know that E M Forster, novelist, critic and essayist, was a pacifist and instead of fighting he worked with the Red Cross. Lady Diana Manners, mentioned in an earlier article, – reputedly the most beautiful woman in England at the time and it was expected that she should marry the Prince of Wales. Her mother was not enamored at her joining the VAD. Diana stated in her memoirs, The Rainbow Comes and Goes. “She explained in words suitable to my innocent ears that wounded soldiers, so long starved of women, inflamed with wine and battle, ravish and leave half-dead the young nurses who wish only to tend them,” The Duchess relented “… knew, as I did, that my emancipation was at hand,” Diana says, and goes on to admit, “I seemed to have done nothing practical in all my twenty years.” The VAD plunged her and other young ladies into four years that would change their lives forever. I’ll dot in a few more volunteers further down the page.

Deaths – even though the VADs were non-combatant, they suffered many deaths. During the war,it is estimated that 128 nursing members and over 100 other VAD members not all directly working for the Red Cross died or  were killed. The Roll of Honour contains records of the deaths of 498 Joint War Committee members. This figure includes 8 VADs who died as a result of the sinking of the SS Osmanieh on 31 December 1917. The vessel was contracted by the British navy and was struck by a mine laid by the German submarine UC34 and sank, killing 199 people. They are remembered at the Alexandria (Hadra) War memorial cemetery. The most common cause of death of the VADs was pneumonia caused by Spanish flu.

An obituary in the Red Cross Journal, 1918 stated:

Miss Elger died on February 10th from pneumonia following influenza… For two and a half years she was a devoted and conscientious worker at Clayton Court Hospital, where her loss is felt most keenly by all who knew her. Clayton Court, it will be remembered, was most generously placed at the disposal of the Red Cross by Mr and Mrs Elger early in the war. After doing so much to help their country, it seems hard that they should have to bear this further personal sacrifice”.

The Red Cross has recently transcribed personnel records and at the moment surnames starting with the letters A and B are currently available to search. Volunteers are still working to update the site with more names. One such volunteer was Achsah Bradley of Westbourne, St Andrews Avenue, Morley. Her record card shows that she had originally lived at Denshaw, Morley. Achsah served from March 1917 to January of 1919. Her work as a Special Service Probationer, a pantry worker, was at Roundhay Auxiliary Military Hospital, Leeds, where she worked part time. In total she worked 3,920 hours, which roughly equates to nearly 40 hours per week for her 2 years’ service.

Thornes House, Wakefield home of the Milne-Gaskell's

Thornes House, Wakefield home of the Milne-Gaskell’s

Another volunteer was Lady Constance Milnes Gaskell, of Thornes House, Wakefield.

One of the gentlemen who volunteered was Retired Major Ernest James Gibson Berkley of 70 Camberwell Road, London, S.E.5.  Major Gibson served from June 1918 until June of the following year, working as a Divisional Inspector, with duties at the P.M.O. Hospital, and Southward V.A.D. Hospital.  He had been awarded the M.B.E. and O.B.E.  Major Berkley, in 1911 was aged 49.  He gave his occupation as ‘SURGEON MAJOR R A M C T CAPTAIN HUNSBURY’. Information about him can be found in The Gazette here and here.  Probate for Major Berkley tells that he died on 30th of April 1928 and Probate (to Barclays Bank) revealed that he left £20813 5s 7d. His wife will can be found here.

Source – The Red Cross archives

Four years of our war website

Lizzie Riach’s little black book

A while ago I wrote about my Aunt Dolly’s autograph book, a book that I had looked through many times as a child, pondering over the small painting and pencil sketches and wondering who had taken the time to write within its pages.

Original white heather

Original white heather

While looking through my ‘stuff’, mainly photographs, I found my mum’s autograph book. Many of Aunt Dolly’s entrants had been nurses at Stanley Royd, family and friends, mum’s was different and at the moment it seems fitting to write about the people in Lizzie Riach’s little black book, as the other day it was 70 years since the war ended  in Europe and most of the writers in the little book are members of the forces.  Wouldn’t it be nice for a relative to find their entry now, years, many years later!  Or what would be even better, would be for someone who wrote their little dittie to see it  – and wouldn’t it be fantastic if they remembered my mum!

Opening the book, Jimmy (James 427), in March 1943, also wants the privilege of being first.  The following page has two twigs of white heather still sticking to the page by their original tape.  Eve Cook, writes simply ‘ To one of the nicest girls I’ve known, Best always’, she goes on to say ‘not so primitive as I sound’.  What did that mean?  Obviously, it meant something to Eve and my mum.

To Ann, wishing you all the happiness you deserve – for they who look only for the best in everyone they meet are too rare’ .  Neville Sibley, Dunearn House, 26 Jan. ’43.  Who was Neville and where is or was Dunearn House?  That was an easy one, a quick google, and there it was!  I know it is the correct one, Dundearn House, Burntisland, as mum served in the A.T.S. at Burntisland during WWII. Now to answer the question ‘Was Dunearn House a billet during the war or did it have some other purpose.

Neville Sibley

Neville Sibley

Dunearn House, source not known but acknowledged

Dunearn House, source not known but acknowledged

No drawing, no little dittie or simple sentiment, just a name – Clark D L, O.F.C., 501 Hy. AA bty, Donibristle Point, 19/4/1943.  And so back to Google maps to find that Donibristle is just inland from Burntisland, but where Donibristle Point is, Google is keeping that a secret! ‘In the parlour there were three. Ann, the parlour lamp and he.  Two’s company without a doubt.  So the parlour light went out’. Nan Cunningham penned that on 17th January 1943.

‘What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult to each other.  In your golden chain of friendship, regard me as a link’. W Blackwood, A.T.S., who is she?  Could she be called Winifred?

Audrey Kettle

Audrey Kettle

The next few words are from Audrey Kettle, H.P.C., Notts (mum was also posted there and it was there that she met her future husband).  What Audrey wrote, although then, was meant in all innocence and probably is featured on many pages, in 100’s of autograph books, the wording in this politically correct culture, would be taken in the wrong context by a few.  But needless to say, Audrey’s words made me smile – all based on the sound of words and a space in the right place!  A google search brought up the Burma Star Association website telling me that HPC was Home Postal Service.

 An earlier entry for J M that gave nothing away as to who J M was now, further in the book, ‘a lonely spot’, they now tell they are at Arlands (?), Fochabers.   Later in the book I may find out a little more.  Back south of the border to Nottingham and Joan (A.T.S.). ‘Happy memories of the “Vic” at Nottingham’.  What memories, what happened at the Vic, that mum and Joan shared in 1944? Was the ‘Vic’ a theatre, was it a pub, one this is for sure it is not a shopping centre.

A pretty pencil sketch of a lady wearing a flowing, frilly dress and bonnet.  In the background

P Gregg

P Gregg

birds flutter and drink from a birth bath.  The artist is P Gregg – who was she, I am presuming a lady drew this.

It is sad that modern technology has done away with the autograph book, as within the pages, filled with words, poems, all written in different styles of writing………making the book very personal to the writer and the owner of the book……many memories held within those pages.

S D Williamson, 2 Forest Crescent, Thornton, Fife writes ‘Health, Happiness and the Best of Luck, where every you may be….. Mac’.  Looking again at the page – the name and address are in a different pen and a different hand.  Conclusion……..they are two people, Mac and S D Williams of Fife.  Now another question…..who is Mac?

Still only about half way through and Sig med, Rita, A.T.S, on 17th of January 1943, writes ‘ Down the street there walked a peach.  Who was both pretty and fair. A stealthy look, a half closed eye, and the Peach, became a Pair’.

D Watson 'Wot no!'

D Watson ‘Wot no!’

Another page with two entries, this time both from men.  ‘We’ll miss you at camp, Ann. how much, we only know, but your, smile, your wink in our memories lingers, where-ever you go’ A starred Romeo………..D Watson.  At the foot of the page and just managing to say ‘Wishing you all the best of Love……Josh, Wot no Kisses’.

Frank Smith writes ‘Thank God for girls like you Ann.  I shall miss your happy smile, and with you all you wish yourself, where-ever you may go’.

‘Long may you live! Long may you love! and long may you be happy’. S W Lewis wrote on the now faded and blotched page on 19th of January 1943.

Every autograph book has ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, honey is sweet and so are you’, this time written by  E Aitken of 11 Manse Avenue, Whitburn, West Lothian.

The next entry came as quite a surprise, well not the wording but who had written the words.  Firstly, the entry……….’Life is but a great hotel, a hand shake and our au-revoir.  We’ll meet again if all is well.  When we have passed the open door’.  Now who wrote the words.   They were  written by a man who would have had to travel many miles  – John Wilson, Gladstone, Queensland, 5.11.45.  As to whether John was in the services, I have no idea, but it would be nice to know if he made it back to Gladstone.

Blantyne Camp magazine

Blantyne Camp magazine, image Secret Scotland

‘Women darn their husbands socks, with never ceasing care.  But when they get a whole in theirs, they buy another pair’.  So true, and written by Irvin Skelton(?), 501 Bty, R.A., Blantyne Farm Camp, 24 May 1943.  Turning over the faded yellow page Joan Hemingway, A.T.S. wrote ‘Ann now, Ann ever, Riach now but not for ever. This book I see in later years, I wonder what your name will be’.

On the 6th of May 1945, Helen F Caldie, A.T.S., H.P.C., R.E., Wittingham, wrote about friendship being a chain that is never broken.   A greeting from A Hepburn, (42 Land S***d), Kirklands, Fochabers, written in a pen that seems to have had better days!  While Len, thanks Ann, for the letters she brought and her smiling happy face that added to the happiness contained within the envelopes from home.

The 24th of February 1946, two young men named Joe and Ted, wrote ‘Remember the Paiaise, Nottingham that afternoon?  We kept the ‘Poles’ up alright didn’t we!!!‘.  Also on the same page, but tucked into a corner, Mary wished Ann, her old pal, all the best.  Barbara, signing herself (Lady) Barbara, wrote ‘I wish I had someone to love me. Someone to call me his own. Someone to buy me chocolate. As I’m sick of buying my own!’.  Barbara writes from Craigend, Bathgate, West Lothian on 23rd Jan 1943.

Other entries are from J Mathieson, 69 Mid Street, Keith and G Newton Burntisisland, 16 January 1943. Turning the faded pink page, Val Peek, A.T.S., wrote on 18 January 1946, ‘Very best of luck from a ‘little’ Cockney girl’.  Well at least we have a clue as to where Val originated from.  Another entry is written by S Frost, West Melton, on 26 October 1945.

A little saucy poem follows ‘Ann, had a little lamb, she also had a bear.  I’ve often seen her little lamb, but never seen her bare!’ ‘Wishing you all you wish yourself, Rita M Cromrie, 24 February 1946’.  Doesn’t the English language make you chuckle at how two words pronounced the same can mean something totally different, and so many autograph books have similar entries.

Signaller Rita Walker penned her effort on 17th of January 1943, while over the page, Frae Rosie Vernon of the A.T.S., wrote about roses being red. No poem, no greeting came from the next page but details that looked as though they should be on an envelope – Pte D.Abbott, A.T.S., 501 (M) Bty R.A., Woodend Camp, Helensburgh. 

A E Walker

A E Walker

An entry on one of the faded yellow pages is from A.E. Walker, ex-trooper. Written on an angle in very small writing and in Italian (?) and using Google translator for one word, I think that A.E. Walker wrote the following ‘Un notta in Campo Concentraimento di Prigioanieri de Guerra’ – something about a prisoner of war camp, possibly.

Joan Bradshaw and Mary Wilkinson, both serving with the A.T.S., wrote on 9th June 1943 – Mary having two entries back to back.   Mac or Mal Pearson B.H.Q., wrote ‘A little bit of powder, a little bit of paint. Makes the ladies faces, really what they ain’t’, on 14 May 1943.  I get the feeling that how the verse is worded that Mal or Mac was a soldier.

D Robinson

D Robinson

M Jamieson, Seaview, Kingston-on-Spey, wrote another little dittie with a play on words, ‘ A tablespoon is rather large, a teaspoon rather small.  But a spoon upon the sofa, is the best spoon of all’. While Pte., Emilia Race, A.T.S, on 6 May 1943 wrote the words to the well known Vera Lynn song, We’ll meet again. A simple one liner  ‘ Two mugs from Milltown, remember the kilts!’ was written by D Robinson, R.A.F., and what could be L Kenneth R.A.A.F. Feb 1945, followed very quickly by ‘Just another mug, Alice Milne, Seafield Bank, New Elgin, 18 February 1945′.

‘Twinkle Twinkle little star, I took a girl out in a car.  What we did we’re not admittin’, but

Joy Wood

Joy Wood

what she’s knittin’ ain’t for Britain!’ Another cheeky little poem from ‘Daisy’ Day, 8th May 1943.  Getting close to the final pages, Joy Wood W.A.A.F., C.R.S., Nottingham, on 11 November 1946, wrote her own poem and apologised for the ‘shocking poetry’.  J Cumberland, C.R.S., January 11th 1946.  A rather bold entry from W.A.A.F., Jean Brown of Lossiemouth was written on 20 June 1943, while on 8th of August, 1944, Joan Demers wrote ‘ Sincerest wishes always Ann! Remember Just 1 of Room 5, 5 Carrisbrook’.  I wonder what that meant?

Entries by Gladys Rowberry and E Freeman, are followed by ‘I’d lie for you my darling, in thrilling tones she cried.  She was brunette. He preferred blonde, and so the damsel dyed’. Yet another play on words by Mitch, who wishes Ann, all the best in Civvy Street.

E Elizabeth Bingham

E Elizabeth Bingham

E Elizabeth Bingham, 12 Sect. E. Coy., H.P.C. (V), Notts., wrote on 5 June 1944 – the day before D-Day – ‘This ring is round and hath no end, so is my love for you, my friend.

The Bridle Pie, by Peggy Innes is the next entry ‘Take a cup of kindliness, a tablespoon of trust.  Add a pinch of confidence. Roll out a loving crust.  Flour with contentment and keep free from strife. Fill with understanding and bake well for life’.  Followed by Doris E Wells on 16th January 1945.



A young man called Artie seems to have reserved his page by writing ‘? leave this for me’.  He then draws a line down the page, thus reserving for later.  He then writes’ Remember the hilltop.  Remember the lake.  Remember me on your wedding day, but remember my piece of cake! Artie’

Finally, two entries, back to back by Pte Wells, A.T.S.,  501 Bty on 6

May 1943.

Who were these people who thought so much of my mum, Elizabeth Ann Riach.  At home in

Pte., Wells

Pte., Wells

Urquhart and to her family she was Lizzie.  In the army, to her husband and friends in Yorkshire she was Ann.  Oh!, how I would have loved to know the smiling, fun loving woman written about so fondly in her little black book.

A new princess

On the second of May 2015 HRH Princess Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge came into the world.  Her birth was officially registered on the 5th of May and signed by her father William.

William, gave his occupation as that of Prince of the United Kingdom, and informed that his wife, Catherine Elizabeth, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, was a Princess of the United Kingdom – people laughed at this!  Is he the first to enter such a position as his occupation?  I am not going to discuss his reasons, if it is correct in this day and age, even though one day he will be a King.

Lets have some fun looking around the census, birth entries and other records to see if others have done the same as William.

In the winter of 1841 Edward, son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was registered as Gotha being his family name and his first names being Prince of Wales – not a mention of Edward!  gotha saxe coburg

1851, the first census to give a place of birth other than ‘in county’, and we find Her Majesty Alexandria Victoria, wife, aged 31 and her occupation is ‘The Queen’.  Her husband, HRH Francis Albert Augustus Charles Emanuel, head of the house, and his occupation is Duke of Saxony, Prince of Coburg and Gotha. Their children are also listed as having occupations as :- Princess Royal, Prince of Wales, Princes and Princesses, while Arthur William Patrick Albert aged 11 months is recorded as Prince of the United Kingdom, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Coburg and Gotha.

The census of 1881 is  similar with Victoria’s occupation being Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and her children being Prince of Princesses.  I must say this census return is rather untidily written to say who is the Head of the Household!

By 1911 King George was on the throne, his census has him as the Head of the Household, been married 17 years to Mary, his Queen and they had at the time six children, all who were alive at the time.  His occupation, as with that of his wife’s is blank.  Their sons, Princes Albert and Edward both give their occupation as being in the Royal Navy.

Also in 1911, the Duke of Northumberland, Harry George, aged 64, gave his personal occupation as Peer.  The Duke of Buccleuch, was just entered as ‘Buccleuch’ with the later addition of ‘The Duke’ in parenthesis.  His wife is listed as Peeress, while their son,  Lord Herbert Scott is a Lieut. Col.  in the 23rd London Regiment.   A visitor at the time of the census, Lord Claud Hamilton, aged 68 gives his occupation as Member of Parliament.

While Edmund, Lord Faber, gave his occupation as Banker, being an old Etonian, and a senior partner in Becket’s Bank of Leeds and York.  He was also a Justice of the Peace and Deputy Lieutenant of the West Riding of Yorkshire. Lord Stratheden aged 81, gave his occupation as that of private means.

Princess Elizabeth on her birth certificate is indexed as Windsor Elizabeth A M and her mother’s maiden name is Bowes-Lyon.

Queen Elizabeth II on her wedding certificate to Philip Mountbatten, her rank or profession is given as Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, while he entered HRH The Duke of Edinburgh, KG.

It looks like it boils down to how you understand the question asked.  To other generations the wording would be ‘your rank of profession’, while today it seems to be just ‘occupation’ as the wording on the certificates – but who asked the question of occupation and how was it asked!  Simple questions but could mean a world of difference.

Giving an example of census questions asked by the enumerator.  1. Where are you from?  2. Where were you  born?  I suppose they could be classed as similar questions, but when rooting your your ancestor  it could mean a world of difference.  1. Where are you from?  Could be understood as ‘I’m from Methley’.  The enumerator has an answer, he is happy.  Ten years later our family member has moved and he now says he is from Sheffield, again the enumerator has an answer and he may now know the family, so he is happy with the answer.

2. Ten years have passed and the enumerator asks ‘where were you born’ and our head of the household says ‘Bradford’.  Both questions could be understood as the same, but they could also mean something totally different.

It is not always how someone perceives themselves but how someone asks a relevant question.



Amos Bates, born 1844

I seem to have written about a great deal of military ‘stuff’. This will please quite a lot of people, including myself, but I think I need a change of research material.

Who to bring to the fore?  Who, out of the many fascinating people in my family tree deserves their day?  Should it be the hangman?  Should it be the suffragette who was accused of attempted murder?  Should it be one of three sisters who became doctors in the early 1900’s? Should it be a Lord, a Lady, someone who has done great things or someone who lived their life to the best of their ability to feed their family?  Looks like the latter wins!

Amos Bates, born in Wakefield in 1844 was the son of William Daubna Bates and Elizabeth Ward.  William, born in 1812 was from Althorp, Lincolnshire and his wife, Elizabeth hailed from Westwoodside, also in Lincolnshire.

St Andrew's Church

St Andrew’s Church

Amos on his entry dated 21st April 1861 in the Marriage Register of St Andrew’s, Wakefield gave his occupation as Malster.  His future wife was Martha Siddle, who was born on the 1st of December 1843 in Wakefield and christened on Christmas day of that year.  Her father was Benjamin Siddle (born 1823 in Sowerby Bridge) and her mother was Elizabeth Stringer (born 1825 in Wakefield).

Life went on for Amos and Martha, during the next few years they went on to have three children – William, Elizabeth and Anaba.

In 1866, the year Anaba was born the lives of the family, living on Charles Street,  were turned upside down.

The Wakefield Journal and Examiner of 23rd of November 1866 gives details of ‘terrible floods across Wakefield the previous weekend’.  It goes onto include an account of a small community of Irish people who had settled on Westgate Common –

‘The Chald was swollen to a dreadful extent by the rains and poured down in a wide and great stream through the lower end of the town, devastation and ruin attending its steps. Brooksbank was of course soon inundated but most of the inhabitants had time to make their escape. Some five children, however, were left behind and their piercing screams were heard by the crowd which had gathered around the edge of the waters. At the lamp at the bottom of Westgate, Mr McDonnold, the Chief Constable, at length made his appearance and called for volunteers to go to the children’s rescue. Mr John Edward Kemp, Mr Evan Hunter, and a noted character named Charles Harkin at once came forward and, taking hold of a rope, the party carefully waded their way round the prison, up to their armpits in water. They had to break down some palasading (sic) to reach the hovel where the children were. The velocity of the current and the difficulty in reaching the place led to a discussion whether the children should be left behind as the lives of the adults were of much more importance, but the enthusiasm of the youthful minds, added to the piteous cries of the children to be removed, carried the day and Harkin, carrying two of the poor things in his arms, and the others carrying one apiece on their backs, the party set off on their return, which they safely The floods of 2004 at Magdalene Bridge courtesy of the Environment Agency effected. As they came into view, they were loudly cheered by the assembled crowd, blessings were poured in amazing volubility from the lips of the collected Irishwomen upon their heads. Captain Armytage, the governor of the prison, with praiseworthy generosity threw open the Industrial Home to those who had been turned out of their houses and supplied them with hot coffee and eatables. Our reporter visited the place about eight o’clock and found a number of Irishwomen and children crowded round a blazing fire, some female attendants from the prison in the meanwhile liberally dispensing among them the welcome coffee and bread and butter. Again at Brooksbank, a woman had a husband sick in bed and when the waters had risen some feet she began to fear the place would be submerged. She therefore took her husband on her back and attempted gallantly to wade through the swift current. In all probability she would have been drowned had not some men from the adjoining mill thrown her a rope which she seized and by its aid managed to reach a place of safety.’

 It seems fitting to once again turn to a newspaper entry for the next part of our life and times of Amos Bates.  This time the 17th of November 1866 edition of the Wakefield Express.



Only once, within our recollection, has this town been so deluged with water as it was yesterday and early this morning. In December 1837, Kirkgate was flooded with nearly as great a body of water as was seen yesterday, and, at that time, for several hours small boats were plying in the streets as though they were on a river.

The rain commenced to fall here between three and four o’clock yesterday morning, and continued, without the slightest abatement, throughout the whole of the day. Although it was our usual market day, the streets seemed almost deserted. The effects of such a downfall soon made themselves apparent: for between eight and nine o’clock the river and the Ings Beck had risen to a great height and about noon began to overflow. A shocking casualty occurred in Thornes Lane, by which two men lost their lives, while another had a narrow escape. From information from which we were able to gather from numerous sources, it appears that between eight and nine o’clock in the morning Mr. William Armstrong, the captain of a keel named “Peace”, of Beverley, was moving his boat down from the hoist, where it had been lying through the night, towards Mr. J. Fawbett’s flour mill, for the purpose of delivering his cargo, consisting of wheat. While he was doing this, the force of the “fresh” ? caused the rope, and the vessel was drifted down to the edge of the dam-stakes. Upon this the captain and his mate, who was also a Beverly man, appear to have done their utmost to prevent the vessel from being carried over. They secured it by ropes to the bank, and, after getting more ropes, a young man named Amos Bates, who was a miller in the employ of Mr. Fawcett, and another man named William Hepworth, a corn porter, were returning to it, when the force of the water capsized the boat, and both men were precipitated into the current. Hepworth who it is said is a good swimmer, succeeded after a hard struggle, in regaining the shore; but, we are sorry to say that Bates, who resided on Primrose Hill, was carried down the stream with great force, and, although attempts were made to secure him, he was drowned, and has left a wife and three young children behind him. The mate of the vessel also came to a similar fate; for, while endeavouring to pass from the vessel to the shore by means of two ropes, which were suspended from the boat to the bank, he was also carried away, in the presence of a large crowd, and met with a watery grave. We have heard that the body of Bates was taken out of the water at Stanley Ferry during the afternoon. The water continued to rise; the vessel was forced over the dam-stakes, and, after being moored alongside the boat yard, its cargo was removed, after which it was dragged back into the river. About noon another vessel which was moored alongside Messrs. Dunn & Co’s warehouse, and which was a new one, broke away and was carried down the river at a great speed. In its progress it came in contact with another vessel, which it somewhat damaged. On reaching the top of the dam-stakes, its mast caught the telegraph wires of the United Kingdom Electric Telegraph Company, which cross the river at that point, tearing them down. This somewhat checked its speed, but when the wires broke it was driven with tremendous force against the buttresses of the bridge. After a little hard work it was hauled back into the river again. Although as we have already mentioned, the rain continued to fall in torrents, the Kirkgate Bridge and the neighbourhood of Thornes Lane were thronged with crowds during the day.

The river continued to rise very quickly all the day, and during the afternoon it had overflowed in many places. The Ings Beck also overflowed, and all the fields in the vicinity were covered with water. In the evening the greater part of Thornes Lane, Ings Road, Bottom of Westgate, Denby Dale Road, and other low-lying districts were covered with water, which was several feet deep. In some neighbourhoods–particularly the Ings – the whole district was completely covered, and the houses were all inundated. At a late hour last night we visited the lower parts of the town. At the bottom of Westgate, the water had somewhat subsided, yet a greater portion of those districts was even then covered, the Ings being one vast sheet of water. Parties wishing to proceed to their homes which were situated in any of these districts were compelled to do so by means of conveyances, of which a large number of all descriptions were plying for hire, and as many parties out of mere curiosity took a trip through the inundated districts, the proprietors appeared to reap a good harvest. As the water increased very suddenly during the afternoon, it was impossible for many of the occupiers of houses, shopkeepers, and others to remove their goods, and many parties will have suffered considerable damage. In some of the houses in Ings Road & Grove St. the water stood as high as 5ft, and in some cottages the tops of chests of drawers were only just visible, while articles of almost every description could be seen floating on the surface. The streets were thronged up to a very late hour last night, and at the bottom of Kirkgate the water had risen up to Messrs. Simpson’s. Along the banks of the river all the fields are covered, and, as the night was clear and moonlight, the silvery surface could be easily discerned at a distance. The Pugneys, the footpath to Heath, the fields around the Low Mills, Brooksbank, and many other neighbourhoods, were also entirely covered. Several horses, pigs, cows, and other animals were seen in the water, and a great number also came drifting down from districts above the town, where it is thought the flood must have been equal to, if not worse than it had been in this town. The school-room under the Methodist New Connexion Chapel in Grove Street, the houses in Brooksbank, Denby Dale Road, &c., were all much flooded, and in some places the supply of gas was stopped. There must have been great injury done at Mr. Clay’s works, the Forge, the Glass Works, the Grease Works, and the mills in Kirgate and the neighbourhood.

This morning at two o’clock, the water had reached the end of the Brewery Street, and there seemed to be no sign of the water receding. There were a considerable number of people, even then, in the street. From further inquiry we find that Mr. Armstrong, the owner of the first vessel which went over the dam, was not on it, but in addition to the mate, there was a man named Robert Firth, and another named Hodgson. It was this vessel which tore down the telegraph wires, and not the second as stated above.

The disaster will be long remembered by those who have been driven from their homes to seek a night’s lodging elsewhere, and who, when the water subsides, will find their homes in deplorable condition.

And so, the life of Martha and her children were changed.  Amos was buried in Warmfield churchyard on the 22nd of February 1866.  As time went on there were more entries in the local newspapers and Martha had to endure an Inquest.

At the house of Mrs Mary Gibson Kirkthorp Thursday

The 21 Day of February 1867

In view of the body of Amos Bates decd

Martha Bates of Charles Street Wakefield Widow she says Decd was my husband. He was 24 years and a labourer in a Corn Mill. I last saw him alive on the evening of Thursday the 15th Nov last when after eating his supper he left home to go to his work. I saw his body this morning on the Bank of the river Calder at Kirkthorp. I can recognize him by his clothes & by his tobacco box, knife & pocket hand kerchief.

Joseph O’Rourke of Kirgate Wakefield Blacksmith, he says, on Friday the 16th Nov. last about 10 o’clock I was in the yard adjoining the Old Soke Mills & saw the decd & Mr Hepworth in a small boat trying to get a rope from a Vessel on the Dam to the shore. The water was then going 2 feet or more over dam. There was a rope from the vessel to the shore & also another from the boat to the shore. The boat got to the Vessel two or 3 times with ropes. The last time the boat got to the Vessel the boat went over the dam & capsized & decd & Hepworth went into the water. Hepworth was pulled out on the other side of the river but decd was carried under the bridge by the stream. After getting under the bridge I did not see his body until today. Signed Joseph O’Rourke

Thomas Smith of Kirkthorp Railway Platelayer he says, About 9 o’clock this morning I was on the bank of the river Calder * I saw a hand sticking out of sand & wreck on the side. I gave information to Widdop P.C. & we dug for about 2 hours & got out the body. I saw Widdop take out 4s. 4d. in money & a knife, tobacco box & a hand kerchief out of decd pockets.

Verdict. Accidently drowned.

Percy Tew

Percy Tew

The local community, did as they still do today, they started a fund for the widow and her young children.  Many of the great and the good of Wakefield donated, including W H Leatham, MP; Edward Leatham; Edward Green; Alderman Rhodes; Thomas Clayton; Josiah Walker; Mrs Leatham, Heath; Percy Tew;. Companies also helped the coffers – Robert Mackie & Sons; M Sanderson & Sons; M P Stonehouse.   The Vicar gave 10s (which vicar, no idea).  The following chapels held collections – West Parade Chapel, Zion Chapel, Methodist Free Church, Trinity Church, Westgate Chapel Offertory and the Salem Chapel, each giving a donation between £13 and £2.  The Oddfellows Society of the Commercial Inn contributed £1 and the millers of the area gave two contributions.  Other small sums were also added to the pot with a total of £129 18s  6d being raised – a great deal of money for the time.

Life would have had to carry on for Martha and her family, but there was still more to come from the newspapers – Wakefield Express 23rd of February 1867 had the following article.


On Thursday evening T. Taylor, Esq, held an inquest at Mrs. Gibson’s, at Kirkthorpe on the body of Amos Bates, a workman late in the employ of Mr. James Fawcett, miller, who was drowned on Friday, the 16th of November last, whilst endeavouring to rescue some men from a boat which had been washed from its moorings down to the dam-stakes by the flood.

The following evidence was given:-

– Martha Bates, of Charles Street, widow, said: Deceased was my husband. He was twenty-four years old, and was a labourer in a corn mill. I last saw him alive on Thursday, the 15th November last, when after eating his supper he left home to go to his work. I saw his body this morning on the bank of the Calder at Kirkthorpe. I can recognise him by his clothes, and by his tobacco box, knife, and pocket handkerchief.

-Joseph O’Rourke, of Kirkgate, blacksmith, said: On Friday morning, the 16th November last, about 10 o’clock, I was in the yard adjoining the Old Soke Mills and saw deceased and William Hepworth in a small boat, trying to get a rope from a vessel on the dam to the shore. The water was then going two foot or more over the dam. There was a rope from the boat to the shore. The boat got to the vessel two or three times with ropes. On the last time of going to the vessel, the boat went over the dam and capsized, and deceased and Hepworth went into the water. Hepworth was pulled out on the other side of the river, but deceased was carried down the stream. After getting under the bridge I did not see his body again until today.

-Thomas Smith, of Kirkthorpe, railway platelayer, said: About nine o’clock this morning I was on the bank of the river Calder, and saw a hand sticking out of sand and wreck on the other side. I gave information to Police-constable Widdop, and we dug for about two hours and got out the body. I saw Widdop take 4s. 4d. in money, a knife, tobacco box, and a handkerchief, out of the deceased’s pockets.-The jury returned a verdict of “Accidentally drowned.”

holy trinity church

Holy Trinity Church, George Street, Wakefield

With all the sadness in her life I think Martha was due for a bit of light in her life, and that was to come on the 25th of December 1869 – another visit to church on Christmas day…..remember her christening was also on Christmas day.  She was walked down the aisle the  of Holy Trinity Church where John G Patrick, a widower, was waiting for her.

The couple had more children – Agnes Patrick Bates born in 1868 and Grace Patrick…..notice the dates and the order of the names.

Martha died in Wakefield in 1875

Epsom College men with a Wakefield connection

At a family history fair a few years ago I bought a book – Epsom College Register, 1855-1905.  It was bought in a bit of a rush, while having a break from manning a stall for one of the local family history groups I am a member of.  But, and there is always one of those! I glanced at the title, thought it was a good purchase for the price and I could make use of it later, for research and additional information purposes.  Idiotic me, I had glanced at the title and read Eton for Epsom, an easy mistake, while reading the title in a dimly lit section of the hall.  But never mind, I would still make use of the book………….sometime!

Well, it looks like today is that sometime.

While having a quick look through the pages of the 105 year old book, 100’s of names and places jumped out.  Places in England, France, Canada, North and South America, South Africa, India, Burma, Australia and New Zealand to name a few.

A few names and places seemed interesting enough for me to put fingers to keyboard and give you a very small snippet of their lives.

Bertram William Francis Wood, born on 19th of August 1887 to Francis H Wood, a General Practitioner, and his wife Maude M B Wood.  When the census of 1891 came around the family were living at 130 Northgate, Wakefield.  Bertram, aged 3 had an elder sister, Margaret aged 11.

Ten years later, in 1901, William is a student boarder at Epsom College, with other young men, including John Athelston Braxton Hicks, Canute Denntzer, Cedric Heuchman Harnsey Clubbe, Claude Fitzroy Clarke and Samuel Alwyne Gabb.

William left Epsom College in the early years of the 1900’s and by the time of the next census in 1911, by now he was 23 years old and  living with his parents who still lived at 130 Northgate, Wakefield.  His occupation was given as Medical Student, so he was obviously following in his fathers’ footsteps.

William’s entry in the Epsom College Register ‘Wood, Bertram William Francis [F H Wood, Esq., Arundel House, Wakefield] ; b.Aug. 19, 1887, e. Jan., 1. Dec., 1902. W.


Another young man with a Wakefield connection is James Stansfield Longbotham.   In the 1881 census, James is with his parents, George Longbotham, aged 35 and his wife Sarah, also 35. George is a General Practitioner of Medicine, living at 1 Grange Road, West, Middlesborough.  Twenty years later George and Sarah were living at Woodlands, Putney, where George, now classes his occupation as that of Surgeon, temperarily retired.  James is the only child still at home and he is a student at the Pitman Met. College.

Longbotham, James Stansfield [George Longbotham, Esq., 1 Grange Road, Middlesborough] ; b. 1878, l 1892. C. Southgate Chambers, Wakefield.

The Southgate Chambers, mentioned above was the address of the Official Receivers’ Office.


Bridgefoot, Castleford. Image Twixt Aire and Calder

Bridgefoot, Castleford. Image Twixt Aire and Calder

An entry for a William Kemp born in 1862 – who is this young man?

The 1871 census finds William and his family in Castleford, his dad has been wrongly transcribed as Elmyra Walker Kemp, where it very clearly says Ebeneze Walker Kemp, born in Wakefield and earning his living as a Surgeon, General Practitioner.  It seems by sheer chance I have chosen young men whose families were all in the medical profession.

Some 20 years later the family were still at Bridge Foot, Castleford.  The whole census page looks a little cluttered, as the people who had their details taken that night were originally entered as initials and surname. Someone at a later date, and I say someone, as the writing differs from the original, has entered the first name of all the entrants.  Mr Kemp, is now a Surgeon and J.P., while his son, William, is entered as M.B.C.M. Edinbro’.

Surgeons' Hall, Edinburgh

Surgeons’ Hall, Edinburgh

Ten years on, William is now aged 38 and living a Bridge Foot, Castleford, with his Scottish born wife, Sarah, also aged 38 and their two children, his mother-in-law, Helen Blair, a widow, William Somerset, another man with the same qualifications as William.  There is also a nephew, Gray L Gibson, Isabel  McGreggor (the two latter being born in Scotland) and three servants.

Another ten years later, brings 1911 and the first census that gives information about infant mortality.  Sarah had given birth to three children in her 16 year marriage to William and all had survived to be included in the census.  There are two servants listed, but at the very bottom there is an entry for Helen Blair (William’s mother-in-law) but now she is listed as ‘other relative’. William now vaguely gives his employment as  ‘Medical Profession’.  he signs the census sheet as W Kemp, Castleford – no address, but probably still at Bridge Foot (a look at the schedule, confirms that Bridge Foot is still his address.

Kemp, William [E. W. Kemp, Esq., Castleford, Normanton] ; b. 1862, l. 1881.  XI., Factory Surgeon, Castleford District, M.B.C.M. Edin. 1887. Bridge Foot, Castleford



I’ve moved, come and follow me!

Stay in touch with me on Facebook

I’ve moved, come and follow me!

This evening, while on a Wakefield Family History Sharing road trip, my daughter and I developed a new and more up-to-date Facebook page – drop by and say hello!

My blog will link automatically to the new Wakefield Family History Sharing page.

The Wakefield FHS profile on Facebook will remain, so that you can still visit to see the things I have been up to over the years.  But for up-to-date stuff Wakefield Family History Sharing is the place to go!

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Frederick Cooke and the Gyme

east ardsley mapFrederick Cooke was born in East Ardsley in 1880/2 as when looking at documents there is a slight variation, but there is an entry on Freebmd for a birth registration for a Frederick Cook in the March Quarter (January, February, March) of 1881 in Wakefield – so that looks like him but with a spelling variation in his name.

He was born to Arthur William Cooke and Martha Hardaker along with two other children between 1879 and 1883.  Arthur William was originally from Cheverell in Wiltshire, while Martha was from Bishop Auckland – I bet that was a fun household with the variation in accents!  The couple married in St Michaels church, East Ardsley on  the 15th of September 1877.  Sadly, Martha died in the spring on 1890 and with young children to look after Arthur William remarried Emma Wright, when on the 3rd of February 1891, he again walked down the aisle of St Michaels church.  The couple went on to have more children.

But, back to Frederick – In the census of 1891 Frederick is living at Allinsons Buildings, East Ardsley, with his father, a furnace keeper;  his step-mother, Emma; his brother George;  sister Margaret and Emma’s nine month old baby boy – written in the census as ‘William Wright, son of wife’.

The Christmas of 1903 must have been a busy and exciting time in the Cooke household as within the next few weeks a family event was to take place.  On the 16th of January 1904 cook fleming marriageFrederick would be found standing with his family and friends in St Michael’s church, East Ardsley, waiting for Ethel Fleming to walk down the aisle and become his wife. Fred’s father, Arthur William, was now a lamplighter, while John Fleming, Ethel’s father was a miner.  The two witnesses to this event were Edmund Lee and Jane Hunt.

Life, does not always deal the cards we would wish, and like many others Frederick, seemed to have been given a few ‘duff’ cards.  He had already seen his mother die, his father re-marry and the 1911 census told of another ‘duff’ card.  The census shows the couple living at 6 Mary Street, The Falls, East Ardsley, a house with 3 rooms.  It tells that he was 30 years old and Ethel was 26; that they had bee married 7 years – we know that from the Parish Register entry, but the paper from 100 years ago also tells that the couple had had one child, and that it had died – died between their marriage and the date of the census.

Before I continue with Fred’s life, curiosity was getting the better of me, and it dosn’t take a lot for me to go off on a tangent looking for another story…………..here I go again!

Who was this child? When was ‘it’ born?  Was it a boy or a girl? How old was he/she when it died?  Questions, lots of them, and they seem easier to come up with than answer.  Let the questions stop and the answering begin.

What do I know, not a lot really apart from his surname would be cook(e) and death occurred between 1904 and 1911, which is too early for a mother’s maiden name to be entered.  A search of Freebmd with the search criteria being  Cooke and West Riding, brings up a lot of entries  – do you know how many there is to search through?  A lot!  I need to lessen the number of entries.  The Ancestry website has very considerately scanned West Yorkshire Parish Registers for certain periods, what can that come up with?  Straight to the West Yorkshire section for deaths and burials using just Cooke and East Ardsley came up wit five possibilities, but by the dates of burials I could eliminate three straight away, leaving two to have a look at.  After viewing the first I could also now eliminate that entry as the address was Morley.  One remaining, a John Arthur Cooke.

John Arthur Cooke was buried on the 23rd of March 1904, his address was given as Whitaker’s Fold, he was five days old and the entry states there was no service.   Without purchasing a birth certificate and death certificate John Arthur seems to be the most likely candidate, along with  both his grandfathers being Arthur and John.

Back to Fred.  Life carried on for him and Ethel until 1914 when events took place that would not only shock the world for years to come but would also impact greatly on East Ardsley. But the passing of time and the generations that followed would mean that events locally, would be forgotten sooner within the community.  The Great War, the war to end all wars, had begun and men were enlisting inn villages, towns and cities all over Great Britain.  Fred enlisted

Fred, platelayer, on the Great Northern Railway and  being an old Territorial, re-enlisted, some sources say August, while other state September and November, but all agree on the year of 1914.  He became Pte., 2425, F. Cooke, in the 1/4th King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).  The 1/4th’s were training near Malton, but bad weather was continuing they, (about 4000 of them) were moved to Gainsborough and be billeted within the community.  Training continued while some of the men moved to the coast, other stayed and on one particular day, the 19th of February, 1915, they were in the village of Moreton at a place called the Gymes.  The men were training on an enclosed pond to build rafts, readying themselves for crossing the Belgian canals. A Dewsbury man, Captain Harold Hirst, was in charge of the operation.  The rafts were constructed from rope, straw, tarpaulins and a wooden platform.

The Gyme, with the remains of the pontoon

The Gyme, with the remains of the pontoon


Reverse of the Gyme photo


It was at 12:10 on Friday the 19th of February 1915, that as men from ‘D’ Company boarded their raft. As the raft started to leave the bank, their ‘vessel’ crowded with soldiers (some say up to 40) in their heavy kit and boots seemed stable for a while, but Pte., Punyer, who was in charge of a very long pole to push the raft forward, was soon, even with his arm fully in the water, could not reach the bottom of the gyme with his pole.  The raft was beginning to become unstable and tragedy soon struck and the men were very quickly fighting for their lives.  Those who were closer to the bank dragged men out of the water, others gave artifical respiration.  Higher ranking officers were called for, Field Ambulances were on their way and a roll call was sounded but seven were unaccounted for.  Five men were found and later in the afternoon, the final two soldiers were accounted for.

Their bodies were taken to stables behind the Crooked Billet pub in Morton.  An inquest was held the following day in Morton School, presided over by Philip Gamble, a local solicitor with a local builder, Mr Fox, being the foreman of the jury.  The jury viewed the bodies and visited the Gyme.  After the jury had viewed the bodies they were placed in coffins and taken by Army Ambulance to Holy Trinity Church Hall, Gainsborough, from where they would be taken the next day for their journeys home.  Some of the families of the seven men made the journey to Morton for the inquest, where after hearing various statements a verdict of Accidental Death was given but the Officer was criticised for his lack of experience and the lack of adequate safety precautions i.e. life buoys and trained first aid staff.

Within days the regiment had been moved to York and were sent to France on the 13th of April and were soon in the trenches at Bois Grenier.

The seven soldiers were all given full military funerals in their own villages, towns or cities, where family, friends, neighbours and many others paid their respects.

And it was that on 23rd February 1915, from 23 Cardigan Terrace, Frederick made his final journey carried aloft the shoulders of his fellow soldiers and followed by many more, with many carrying floral tributes.  The streets were lined as the courtage walked slowly passed, up the hill on its way to St Michael’s church.   The party would have been met by the Rev. John H D Hill, who years before had married Frederick and Ethel  in happier times, but today was a very sombre occasion as over 2000 from the military and surrounding area paid their respects.  The Rev. Hill in his parish register wrote the required information in the set columns and lines but he also added ‘military funeral drowned on pontoon’.

We now know how the Fred’s life ended and where he rests, but what happened to Ethel, well, early in 1918 she married Peter Humberstone.  She died on 29th of November 1947 and rests within the walls of St Michael’s Parish Church, East Ardsley, along with her first husband and her son.

Batley Cemetery 100 years on

Batley Cemetery 100 years on

100 years on to the day …………. a  group of people gathered at the graveside of Private Batty, one of the 7.  They were there to remember the tragedy by laying a wreath for each one of those men an eighth wreath was laid by people from Gainborough.  The following Sunday over 20 people travelled from Yorkshire to Morton for a service and plaque unveiling.  It was a wonderful service and a visit to the Gyme followed, braving the wind, rain, bitter cold and the mud, where the wreath laid in Batley,  was laid in what remains of a now filled in Gyme.  I can’t say that walk was pleasant but having gone that far it seemed only fitting to go and complete the circle.

Tony Dunlop, PROJECT BUGLE and D Bedford, great niece of Fred Cooke lays a wreath

Tony Dunlop, PROJECT BUGLE and D Bedford, great niece of Fred Cooke lays a wreath

During the following day and weeks, the wreaths to the 7 have now been laid at the foot of each DSCF4764of their




headstones with a small information plaque.

The names on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstones in most cases bare the name, regiment, service number and age of the casualty, but what they do not tell is the story, so when you see one of those headstones, stop and think if only you could tell your tale.

We Will Remember Them

Additional information :-  Captain Harold Hirst was the youngest of the officers within the regiment.  He was the son of Mr & Mrs Joseph Hirst of Ravensleigh, Dewsbury and a member of the firm of Messrs. G H Hirst and Co., Ltd., woollen manufacturers of Dewsbury and Batley.  He was an ‘old boy’ of Rugby School and it was on 24th of June 1915 that Harold was killed by a German sniper. He had previously killed two or three German snipers and this had been mentioned in dispatches.  He left a widow and a child which had been born two weeks after he left for the front.

So, it was that during the the war many of the men who were at the Gyme on that fateful day also lost their lives.

There has been an 8 page booklet produced as a joint project by various local and Lincolnshire groups – if anyone wishes a copy the cost is £2 plus postage – email gyme @ wakefieldfhs.org.uk

Sources :-

Ancestry, Find My Past, Freebmd,

Gainsborough’s War Years early 1914 – mid 1915 by P Bradshaw

Tony Dunlop