Tag Archives: military

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.

 

Wakefield Express WW1 – J W Mann, East Ardsley

J W Mann, East Ardsley found in the Wakefield Express

In the recent months I have gathered quite a few photocopies of sections of the Wakefield Express for periods during WW1.  I have extracted the information I needed but there are still little snippets of information surplus to my requirements, but could be of interest to others.

Here goes with the first snippet:-

EAST ARDSLEY SOLDIER KILLED – Information has been received that Private J W Mann, of the Green Howards, who formerly lived with his parents at Bradford Road, East Ardsley, and who had been previously reported as missing since Aug. 21st 1915, was killed on that date. Deceased who was 21 years of age, enlisted soon after the outbreak of the war.  He was an engine cleaner at the G.N.R. shed at East Ardsley.  He was a good worker in the Weslyan Sunday School, and at the time of his  enlistment he was Secretary of the Hope of Thorpe Juvenile Temp(?), Independent Order of Rechabites. His father, Lance-Corporal C H Mann is now serving in France.

Wakefield Express 10 February 1917

Not a lot to go on, but I know which regiment he served with, where he lived and worked and who his father was.  I also know where his religious leanings were.

Where to look first, to me there seems be a couple of places, but which one to search first? Commonwealth War Graves Commission – not many to chose from, but his entry may only have his initials. It may not parental information listed.  He could be entered under another regiment (if he was transferred) – retreat and recover!  Looks like the 1911 census is next for a visit.

Here he is!  Joseph William Mann, the son of Charles Henry Mann and his wife Mary Jane Hornsey, whom he married in the autumn of 1894, their marriage taking place within the York Registration District.  Their first two children, our Joseph and his sister Dorothy were born in York in 1896 and 1900 respectively. Their third child, Doris was born in Carr Gate in 1905. Charles, born in York, worked as a house painter.  Mary, one year her husband junior, was born in Newcastle. The census form has the family living at 2 Binks Buildings, east Ardsley.

Now we are on first name terms with Joseph, I stand a better chance of finding him in the CWGC  – there are two Joseph William Manns, both are Private’s, but here they differ.  One is aged 35 and the other is 20 – the 20 year old seems to fit the bill with our Joseph being 15 in the 1911 census.  Now we have access to his service number.

Helles Memorial, CWGC

Helles Memorial, CWGC

Joseph Mann, born in York, enlisted in Leeds. He served in the Yorkshire Regiment or Yorkshire Hussars (Queen Alexandra, Princes of Wales’ own) 6th Batt., as Private 10567.  Joseph was sent to the Balkans and it was there on the 21st of August 1915 that he was Killed in Action.  Back to the CWGC entry for Joseph and we find that he is remembered on the Helles Memorial, panel 55-58.  Additional information for Joseph, gives his parents and their address of 22 Gordon Street, Heslington Road, York – looks like they moved back to were Charles and two of his children were born – after Joseph’s death but before the details were collected for the CWGC.

The Register of Soldier’s Effects gives information we already know and  a little more – The entry tells that he was in the M.E.F. (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force), entering the Balkans on 14th July 1915.  His date of death is given, 21st August, 1915, with the following note:- Death pres? His parents are again listed as being granted his monies in 1919.

St cuthbert's War Memorial.  http://yorkandthegreatwar.com

St cuthbert’s War Memorial. http://yorkandthegreatwar.com

Although, Joseph had lived in the village of East Ardsley, he is not remembered on the village memorial.  He is however, mentioned in The King’s Book of Yorkshire Hero’s, held in a locked case in York Minster, and St Cuthbert’s War Memorial.

A little more information has now been added to that in the newspaper regarding Joseph, but what happened to Charles, his father.  Well, as he is mentioned in his sons entry in the CWGC and not entered as ‘the late Charles………..’ I feel it is safe to say he came home to his family.  There is a possible death entry for him in the September Quarter of 1953 in York.

Golf Club Professional Killed in Action

Wakefield Golf Club Professional killed in action

While doing a little research into a Wakefield soldier killed in World War One, I came across a newspaper article that mentioned he had been a member of Wakefield Golf Club, Sandal. Finding that information was the catalyst for another diversion!

Wakefield Golf Club Golf Professional, killed in the Great War

CWGC headstone logo of King’s (Liverpool) Regt., from a headstone in my collection

This morning – two lots of washing have been done, the dishwasher is going, the cats have been fed and watered and so have I! I thought a few minutes to tidy the newspaper articles, so very kindly copied from the libraries collection of Wakefield Express newspaper by a friend, and I would then start getting organised. The plan being to file each article away in the corresponding soldiers file………….did I start, well I filed one away, then I noticed one of the names of those killed in the Great War, who were members of previously mentioned golf club, had died on June 20th. I thought a small bit about him would not lead me astray too far.

George Ernest Skevington – George was one of over 100 members of the Club who served in the Great War, with 20 never coming home to their families and friends.

Who was George?  He was born in 1888 in Brough, the son of Charles W Skevington, a rural postman, born in Arlesey, Bedfordshire and his wife Annie, who was from Little Ouseburn. The family in 1891 lived at Hawthorne Cottage, Broughton Road Elloughton with Brough.

Ten years later in 1901, the family were at Hawthorne Cottage, Elloughton with Brough, the cottage now seemed to be on Welton Road.  George, was now one of nine children, the majority of which were born in Brough.

In 1911, the family were still at Hawthorne Cottage – Charles was now 57 and still a postman. His wife, Annie, was 51 and had been married 26 years, borne 11 children, with eight living to be named in the census.  George, now 23 gives his profession as ‘Pro Golf Club’ with ‘assistant professional’ written above in a different hand – it is possible that George was employed at Brough Golf Club.  Between 1911 and his enlistment in Dewsbury in the October of 1915, George  took up his position as Club Professional at the golf club in Sandal.

He served originally as 15586, in the Army Cyclist Corps., being transferred The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, 18th Battalion and now becoming Private 57660. While George was away ‘doing his bit’, Wakefield Golf Club still continued to pay him 10s per week. George served in

Wakefield Golf Club Golf Professional, killed in the Great War

Railway Dugouts Burial Ground from Google maps

Belgium and was Killed in Action, by a shell,  on the 20th of June 1917 aged 30, and rests along with over 2,450 others who gave their lives For King and Country, in Railway Dugouts Burial

Ground, some 2kms west of Zellebeke.

The monies owing to George, from the military, were eventually paid to his father, Charles and were finalised by August 1919.  Charles would also have received George’s medals.

By 1918, a replacement had been found for George, Mr S H Lodge, from Barton-on-Sea Golf Club, Hampshire.

The Club in 2000 were able to purchase a hickory shaft putter, made by George, while he was a Professional, at Woodthorpe.

Wakefield Golf Club Golf Professional, killed in the Great War

War Memorial C Sklinar copyright 2015

Although, George rests in Belgium, he will always be remembered as his name is engraved on the Golf Club memorial and the memorial in his home town.  The memorial on Welton Lane, Brough, not only bares his name, but also, that of his younger brother 2nd Lieut. William Percy Skevington, who died on the 8th of September 1918.  He rests in Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck, near Bailleul, France with over 1200 other identified casualties plus 400+ who are known only unto their God. William had enlisted into the East Yorkshire Regiment going through the ranks, as Sapper 62, 12423, then Private 10/111, later to become a 2nd Lieutenant.  William had entered the Egyptian Theatre of War on 22nd of December 1915.

William Percy, was not with his family in the 1911 census, he was in fact a lodger at Bosworth

Wakefield Golf Club Golf Professional, killed in the Great War

Trois Arbre CWGC cemetery

Avenue, Fountain Road, Hull – he worked as a Railway Porter.

In just over twelve months, Charles and Annie Skevington had, like so many other families, had seen two of their children killed in Action.

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!

NOT CLICKED A GERMAN BULLET.

FIFTY SOLDIERS IN A HOT BATH

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!

London – where the bombs landed

I wrote a short article about this resource a few years ago, so I thought I would give you all a chance to have a look.

A jointly funded project, Bomb Sight, has been created to map the London WW2 bomb census between 7 October 1940 and 6 June 1941, which had previously only been available at the National Archives.

Bomb Site map of London within M25

Bomb Site map of London within M25

Visitors to the sight can explore the map by dragging, section by section which can be quite hard to find your way around due to the very large number of red circles – just shows how Londoners suffered, or enter a street or area.  By clicking on one of the circles you can see what type of bomb hit the area.  The read more section can sometimes give a lot more details i.e. current address, people’s memories and sometimes photographs

Take for example one of Londons tourist attractions, Buckingham Palace, within the period covered by the census over 25 bombs fell within the boundary of the palace or very close. The Tower of London and Tower Bridge also feared no better with over 15 bombs landing close.

Taking a look at the map, so that you can see all of the London are, it seems there was no peace for anyone inside the M25, even up to St Albans, Hatfield and Hoddesdon.

A drop down menu gives you the options of, the first day of the Blitz, street view, anti-invasion sights, 1940’s bomb map.  Another menu gives you the option of seeing the first night, weekly or aggregate bomb census.

Why not grab yourself a cuppa, take five minutes and explore.  It does not matter if you have family from the London area or not – I guarantee you will spend more time there than you planned.

Interactive WW2 map

Aberdeen was bombed during WW2 for three years.  This devastated those living and working in the area.

In 1943, according to the Press and Journal, was the deadliest attack killing nearly 100 people and injuring many.

At one time in the air 10 Luftwaffe Dornier 217 bombers circled the district, then swooped low, dropping bombs with no regard life or limb.  Killing, maiming from a distance and leaving panic and trauma in its wake.

The city saw its last raid in 1943 but had seen 141 others that were classed as minor.

Now an interactive map has been developed to show where and when the bombs fell and if your families life was impacted by these events.

 

 

 

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

Batley Lads – Roll of Honour of Batley Grammar School – Book Review

We recently published an article by Guest Blogger, Philip L Wheeler, who wrote about Drighlington ‘pub lads ‘ who gave their lives during WWI.  Well I am pleased to say that Philip, with three others has written a book about the lads from Batley Grammar School, who died in the Great War 1914 – 1918, with the support of the National Lottery, Heritage Lottery Fund.

Batley Lads cover

Batley Lads cover

The paperback book, A4 in size contains over 300 pages. Before you visit the pages of the young men, you are invited to become familiar with life in Edwardian Batley and Batley Grammar School at the time leading up to 1914 enlistment and the period when the ‘old boys’ started to enlist.

You are then introduced to the 61 fallen boys and one headmaster from the school who paid the ultimate sacrifice, by a full colour page bearing their rank and name, lifespan and regiment, with at least one image per entry. Each of these pages has a selection from a poem or prose for example:-

“Earth has waited for them, All the time of their growth Fretting for their decay: Now she has them at last! In the strength of their strength suspended—-stopped and held.” Isaac Rosenberg 1917.

The book is easy to read, and is overflowing with information about the men and their families; what was happening during their war and where they now rest.   One of the men mentioned and highlighted on the back cover is Private Horace Waller, V.C., born in 1896, he served in the KOYLI 10th Batt.  Horace died on the 10th of April 1917 aged 20 from wounds received while throwing bombs at the enemy.  It was a result of these actions and actions earlier in the day that he was awarded The Victoria Cross.  Another young man was Corporal Gilbert Pattison, who served in the Royal Flying Corps.

The Epilogue, goes on to tell how the school and other schools continued after the war and bringing the school to the future, hoping that the current pupils will visit the cemeteries of their fallen.

Finally, there are the resources and index.

If you have a connection to Batley Grammar School, or the Batley area, this is a wonderful book to ‘pop in and out’ of.  All in all, this book has been researched in depth by Philip, an ex-pupil of Batley Grammar School and his co-writers – this is a book to be proud and well worth the £10 price tag!

If you would like a copy of this very informative book please email :  info@projectbugle.org.uk

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.

Artie

Artie

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.

Albert Edward Shepherd

A few years ago my cousin and I were jointly researching branches of our family tree.  I was doing the internet side by looking at census, military service records and other online sources.  He was going the ‘old school’ route by visiting the archives and viewing the church records on microfilm.  Normally, on a Sunday morning we would have a long chat on the telephone, compare notes and decide what other routes to go down and people to search out………..It worked for us and we found a lot of information about our joint relatives, their spouses and children.

It was while researching a joint relative – nearer to him than me by just a little, we ventured into the Shepherd line.  There were a few ups and downs and a few hiccoughs along the way but with a joint effort we got there.

And so it was that in 2010, one sunny but cool Sunday afternoon I ventured forth with car keys, camera, spare batteries and music for my journey a few miles down the road.  But before I tell about that day, it may be good to know who Albert was.

Albert Edward Shepherd was the son of Noah Shepherd and Laura Darwin born in 1897 in the small town of Royston near Barnsley.  Albert was not our main interest, it was his brother Jabez born in 1905 that was the direct relative.  But you know how it is with family history, you start of in a nice orderly fashion then off you go at a tangent.  It seemed that Albert was our tangent, but at least some of the information fitted them both.

Noah was a Shropshire man, a miner by trade and it looks like he followed the coal fields ending up in Royston where he met Laura who was from Hoyland Common.   The couple married in 1896 and went on to have 6 children born between 1897 and 1908 in and around Royston.

1901 the family were living at 2nd 5th Hallam Street, Brightside Bierlow, Sheffield.  By the time the 1911 census came around Noah was a widower bringing up his children in Royston.  Not only had he lost his wife but one of their six children had also died.  Albert was working like his father, down the mine.  Also in living in the house was Thurza, Noah’s mother;  Percy his 15 year old brother and Joseph Darwin, his father in law, also a widower.

One source says that while he was working at New Monkcton Colliery, his main sources of recreation were boxing and running.

sheherd a e picAlbert enlisted, but some say it was on the first day of the war, while others say it was  on the 4th of August 1915, but his Medal Card says he enlisited on 18th of August 1915 being drafted into one of Lord Kitchener’s service battalions, the 12th King’s Royal Rifle Corps – that regiment all are agreed upon.  Again I seem to be highlighting a member of this regiment, but this time it is not intentional.  During his service he was seriously wounded in the arm and gassed twice – thus qualifying for a Silver War Badge and an Army Pension.

He was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal on 28 August 1916 and became acting Corporal one month later on 28 September 1916. He was still a young man, but had taken part in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 and the Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917.

His love of running served him in good stead as it was while a company runner that he was awarded the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces – The Victoria Cross.

Victoria Cross

Victoria Cross

Villers Plouich, France, 20th November 1917-

The citation reads:

No. R/15089 Rflmn. Albert Edward Shepherd, K.R.R.C. (Barnsley).

For most conspicuous bravery as a company runner.

When his company was held up by a machine gun at point blank range he volunteered to rush the gun, and, though ordered not to, rushed forward and threw a Mills bomb, killing two gunners and capturing the gun. The company, on continuing its advance, came under heavy enfilade machine gun fire.
When the last officer and the last non-commissioned officer had become casualties, he took command of the company, ordered the men to lie down, and himself went back some seventy yards under severe fire to obtain the help of a tank.
He then returned to his company, and finally led them to their last objective.

He showed throughout conspicuous determination and resource.

—London Gazette, 13 February 1918
DSCF1794

Rosezillah Shepherd, headstone in Royston Cemetery. Copyright C Sklinar

The Great War, the war to end all wars, came to an end for Albert on the 2nd of January 1919, when he was discharged and he returned home to Royston. He went back to the colliery as a caretaker and on 17th of February of 1919 he married Rosezillah Tillman.  Rosezillah died in September of 1925 and rests in Royston Cemetery.

On the 6th of November 1926 Albert married for the second time, this time to Gladys Maud Lees.

He later joined the Corps of Commissionaires.

croix de guerre

Croix de Guerre

In early 1920 he heard that he had been awarded the French Medaille Militaire, followed a few months later in January of 1921 he had been awarded the Croix de Guerre.

As well as the Silver War Badge, for being injured,  his tally of military and civilian medals added up to quite a few:-

mdaille militaire

Medaille Militaire

 * Victoria Cross
* 1914 – 15 Star
* British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
* Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
* King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
* Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
* Croix de Guerre ( France )
* Medaille Militaire ( France )

In June of 1920 he attended the Buckingham Palace garden party, given by King George V for Victoria Cross Recipients.  His Majesty was accompanied by The Queen and other members of the Royal Family. The recipients assembled at Wellington Barracks and marched to the Palace via Birdcage Walk.  The King inspected the Victoria Cross Recipients who later filed past his Majesty and all had the honour of being presented to The King and Queen. Nine years later was a guest at the Prince of Wales’ House of Lords’ dinner on 9th of November 1929.  He retired in 1945 and the following year attended the Victoria Cross dinner at the Dorchester.  It was his normal practice to attend most of the Victoria Cross / George Cross functions, one of which was the Hyde Park Review in june 1956 and the review f the Corps of Commissionaires in May three years later.

The Imperial War Museum has within its vast collection invitations and souvenir programmes for the Victoria Cross Garden Party.

Albert E Shepherd VC

Albert E Shepherd VC

Albert Edward Shepherd, V.C. died at his home in Oakwood Crescent, Royston on 2rd of October 1966 aged 69.

DSCF1797

Albert Edward Shepherd V.C. copyright C Sklinar

He was given a full military funeral at St John the Baptist Church, Royston.  His cortege as it made its way to the church was given a guard of honour.  The Union Flag was draped across his coffin and his Victoria Cross and Croix de Guerre were proudly laid upon his countries flag.  The Last Post and Reveille were played at his graveside.

In 1968 his second wife, Gladys presented his Victoria Cross and his other medals to the Royal Greenjackets at Winchester.

It is said that a vicar in the 1980’s used part of the DSCF1812archway, which bares Alberts memorial, as part of a washing line – needless to say it did not go down well with the local British Legion.

And so………..back to that day when I ventured forth with keys and camera.  I eventually found the cemetery and proceeded to walk up and down scanning the headstones, but Alberts could not be found. I had found Rosezillah’s headstone, but no Albert.  There were quite a few people around mostly using the cemetery as a short cut.  I asked many of them if they knew where Albert was, after explaining why I was looking for him and why he was special to Royston.  Sadly, not one of them had heard of him or knew where he rested.  Finally, I spoke to a man who suggested I spoke to a couple who were just making there way down the path.  With a quick turn around and the couple in my site – I found him, within feet of where I stood, and therefore, did not need the couple proceeding down the path.

A few weeks ago, I spoke to Barnsley local studies, wondering if they had any information that had eluded me.  I was told that Barnsley were very proud of Albert – my previous experience led me to take that with a very big pinch of salt.  I came to the conclusion that money had been made available in the form of a grant and like a lot of other councils, schools etc., have got on the 100 year bandwagon.  But, how long with they remember after 2015 or even 2018 I ask?

Many groups, associations and individuals have been remembering for much longer and will remember long after 2018 – personal rant over!

DSCF1813

The inscription on the arch ‘This memorial was erected with monies raised by public subscription and by his regiment the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. to the memory of Albert E Shepherd, V.C., Croix de Guerre, Medaille Militaire who died 23rd October 1966.

Although the arch looks a little worse for wear these days, with the varnish crackling and the wood rotting a little, but the memorial stand proud.  If you take a walk to the back of the memorial that now stands to the rear of the War Memorial, you will see the original gate that someone covered over with what looks like plyboard.

shepherd memorial new

Memorial to A E Shepherd V.C. on Royston War Memorial copyright C Sklinar