Monthly Archives: July 2016

Somme Centenary Commemoration – Guest Blogger

Somme Centenary Commemoration 

BARNSLEY AND BEYOND by Guest Blogger, Jane Ainsworth

I was inspired to organise a Somme Centenary Commemoration by the many Old Boys from Barnsley Holgate Grammar School who had served on the Somme in 1916:

one had died in the preparations for the Big Push
ten of them were killed in action on 1 July 1916 with others wounded that day
18 died during the rest of Somme Offensive in 1916
at least 12 survived fighting on the Somme to die later in the war.

Their individual stories are told in detail in my book Great Sacrifice: the Old Boys of Barnsley Holgate Grammar School (published by Helion & Company) and this also includes two accounts by men of their experiences (John Middleton Downend and Harold Marshall) and two poignant last letters (Francis John Potter’s to his parents and James Stuart Swift’s to his wife).

I had visited the outdoor chapel at Silverwood Scout Camp in Silkstone in 2013 while researching war memorials for the project I founded to create a Barnsley Roll of Honour. The site was originally called Newhall Camp, where the Barnsley Pals were billetted and trained, and there is a small sandbag memorial to the Pals in the chapel. As the Barnsley Pals had participated in the Somme Battles of 1916, this seemed the ideal venue for a centenary commemoration on 1 July 2016.

Although I wanted to remember all of the men who served in the two battalions of the Barnsley Pals (13th and 14th York and Lancaster Regiment), many of whom were killed in action on the First Day of the Somme, I did not want to limit my commemoration in any way. I invited people from Barnsley and surrounding areas to attend and to nominate relations they would like to have remembered at this event who had served on the Somme, wherever they had lived and whether they had died or survived. I publicized that:

The aim is to remember ALL those who participated in the Somme Battles of 1916, throughout 1916 and in whatever capacity.

We will pay special tribute to the massive number of troops who were killed in preparations for the ‘Big Push’, on the First Day of the Somme and the 140 days afterwards in many different Regiments, Battalions and other services.

However, we will not forget that many more men were wounded, some died later in the war and others survived, but all involved suffered psychological trauma from their experience.

I invited various people to be involved and I received invaluable support and practical help from the Scouting volunteers, Horizon Community College and Silkstone Primary School. I was extremely grateful to Paul Unsworth and team for allowing me to use the site free of charge as I was not obtaining any funding. (We held a collection towards the upkeep of this important site and, thanks to the generosity of those attending, I was able to donate over £80).

I was very lucky that the Scouts had erected a new building with kitchen facilities this spring so I was able to use the Billingham Centre for displays and refreshments. The event took place from 1pm to 3pm and displays included the history of the site (including the report and photographs from a survey carried out by Elmet Archaeological Services in 2015 with some new survey results from Master’s student Andrew Edwards plus details about its occupation by the Barnsley Pals), background to the Somme Battles and details of many men to be remembered. The DVD of original film footage taken on the Somme in 1916 was also available for people to watch.

Somme Centenary Commemoration © Barnsley chronicle

Somme Centenary Commemoration © Barnsley chronicle

The secular Remembrance Service was in the outdoor chapel from 2pm until about 2.30pm and it involved readings interspersed with music. I placed a vase of poppies and three large candles on the altar, which was covered in a white cloth, poppies and photographs of men who served on the Somme. A CD of military bagpipe music was played as people assembled then, after welcoming everyone, a replica WW1 whistle was blown before background information was provided. As the number of men killed is too great to comprehend or remember everyone as individuals, the diverse and poignant stories of 12 families affected were read by three relations (Adrienne McEnhill, Deborah Toft and Ian Potter), Tom West and five students from Horizon – twins Lewis and Reece Smith (Marine Cadets, who also played bugles), Emily Linford (Army Cadet), Ethan Hepworth and Harry Houlston. Alex Simon’s Class 5 from Silkstone Primary School sang verses from two songs popular in the First World War: It’s A Long Way To Tipperary and Pack Up Your Troubles. Lewis and Reece sounded the Last Post then Reveille after a minute’s silence and the laying of two wreaths then my husband Paul had to thank everyone for participating and attending as my emotions had overwhelmed me. People were offered a Peace Baby as they left the chapel – after the war ended in 1918, Jelly Babies were packaged as Peace Babies.

The outdoor chapel was very atmospheric with the overhanging beech trees and very dark skies. We were fortunate that we only had a light shower but everyone had come prepared with waterproofs and umbrellas. Unfortunately, we were unable to video the service because of the wet conditions; we had hoped to show it to those relations who were unable to attend – several were actually visiting the Somme for 1 July.

The following men participated in the Somme Battles from the families remembered in the service; their dates of death are shown in brackets if they died during the First World War.

Arthur Almond (1 July 1916, aged 24)
Stanley Bell (8 August 1916, aged 26
John Middleton Downend (
24 November 1917, aged 29)
Christopher Gascoigne (1 July, aged 34)
Bertrand Harrison (15 September 1916, aged 33)
George Alfred Guest Hewitt (27 November 1917, aged 24)
Sidney Nicholson (
10 October 1916, aged 26) and Ernest Nicholson
Thomas William Penaluna
Francis John Potter (1 July 1916, aged 23)
Percy Sawyer and Francis Sawyer Harold Skelley (7 February 1919, aged 24)
Llewellyn Weigh and John Weigh (5 September 1917, aged 23)

It was an enormous amount of ‘work’ for me but very satisfying on a personal level. Despite not being able to rehearse together, the Remembrance Service went very smoothly and everyone was impressed with how all of the children performed.

I received a lot of very positive feedback about the whole event and one relation, John Camm, emailed me to say:

“Just wanted to say thank you for the Service on Friday. Listening to the stories of the local men who fought on the 1st July was very moving.

“I especially liked the fact that their stories were read out by the local school children. It was great to see them taking an active part in the commemorations. It gives us hope that the Somme and the First World War will be remembered for a very long time to come.

“I did have a look at the displays. They were excellent. When you read one soldier’s tragic story and then think that it was repeated 20,000 times in one day, it’s very powerful”.

Somme Centenary Commemoration © J Ainsworth

Somme Centenary Commemoration © J Ainsworth

The Somme Remembered – 31st July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 31st July 1916

The final post, or should I say the Last Post.

Geoffrey Slater who was 21 years old when he was killed in action in July 1916.

Bedfordshire Regiment logo via Bedfordshire Council

Bedfordshire Regiment logo via Bedfordshire Council

Geoffrey had enlisted in Royston, Hertfordshire into the 1st Btn., Bedfordshire Regiment and became Private 14947. The Soldiers who Died in the Great War transcription for Geoffrey tells that he was born in Barley, Hertfordshire. Just incase some of you are unaware of the Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919 it is a fantastic source for initial research when looking for a soldier – the online version is good but the cd’s are easier to search.

Anyway, what is the SWDTGW?  In 1921 his Majesty’s Stationery Office published on behalf of and with permission of the War Office two lists of those who died during the Great War. One volume gave details of nearly 42,000 officers casualties. To list all the ‘other ranks’ 80 volumes were needed.  Each entry gives the following information: name, birthplace, enlistment place, residence, service number, decoration (if any), rank, regiment, battalion, type of casualty, date and place of death and finally, theater of war.

Back to Geoffrey, our 31st man.  Geoffrey was the son of Thomas and Sarah Ann nee Peck – the 1911 census tells that his parents had been married 31 years, with his mother had given birth to 10 children.  Two of Sarah’s children had died before the census was taken.  On census night there were two of the 8 surviving children living with their parents at Smith End, Barley, Royston, Hertfordshire. Geoffrey and his father were both Farm Labourers while Sarah was a dressmaker.  Two other people were in the house, namely Charles Thompson, a carpenter (building) and his wife, Eva.

Medal Card for Geoffrey

Medal Card for Geoffrey

The medal card relating to Geoffrey tells that he was originally G Slater – ‘eoffrey’ being written at the side of the capital ‘G’ in a different coloured ink.  The qualifying date for entering France was 12th of May 1915.

What did Geoffrey do in the next 12 months?  What would he endure? Did he manage to have some time of rest and calm before he took part in The Battle of the Somme?

Geoffrey has no known grave and is remembered on The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

The Somme Remembered – 30th July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 30th July 1916

by Guest blogger, Linda Hutton, Barnsley War Memorial Project

Darton Church via
Darton Church via

Tom Gascoigne was born in 1874, the son of Maria Gascoigne. Tom was baptised at All Saints Church, Darton on the 26th of April the same year.

The following year his mother, Maria, married Feargus Battye on Christmas Eve, at St Mary’s Church, Mirfield.

By the census of 1891, Maria, born in 1852, is the head of the household, but saying that she is married. In the house at Cawthorne Lane, Kexbro, is Tom Gascoigne Battye aged 17 is working as an apprentice glass gottle blower, his brother Charles Gascoigne Battye and Eliza Gascoigne aged 27 – Maria’s sister. Both Maria and Eliza are working as char women. Tom, eventually, was the eldest of four children.

The census of 1901 comes around and now Tom is aged 27, been married to Eliza Whitehead since the following year, who he married in Bradford. The couple were living at 16 Castle Street, Barnsley. The years passed and by 1911 Tom and Eliza had three children – William Paul born in 1901; Clara born in 1902 and Stanley born in 1907. All the children were born in Barnsley.

Life must have been good for Tom, he had a wife and family and he worked at Dobson and Nall Ltd., glass bottle works.

Tom Gascoigne via Barnsley Chronicle
Tom Gascoigne via Barnsley Chronicle

The war broke out and by 1915, Tom, now aged 41, must have thought long and hard about enlisting. But enlist he did. For some reason, he enlisted in Perth, Scotland, joining the Black Watch (Royal Highlanders) as Private 3717, later transferring to service number 266335.

Tom was reported missing on the 30th of July 1916.

On 2 September 1916 a small piece in the Barnsley Chronicle reported that Tom Gascoigne had been missing since 30 July.

On 28 April 1917 another small piece in the Barnsley Chronicle noted that he was now officially reported to have died on 30 July 1916. The piece also noted that he had worked for Dobson & Nall’s and that he had been a well-known member of the Barnsley Rifle Club.

On 6 October 1917 his wife Eliza posts a Death Notice in the Barnsley Chronicle. She and her children are now ‘late of Barnsley’.

Between 1917 and 1919, Eliza was the recipient of two sums of money from the War Office.

Caterpillar Valley via CWGC
Caterpillar Valley via CWGC

Tom rests in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, along with over 1700 other casualties of war. The area in which the cemetery lies was captured after fierce fighting towards the end of July 1916. The area was retaken by the Germans in the spring of 1918 but again taken by the Allies, by August of 1918.

By the time the CWGC had been set up and Eliza submitted information about Tom, she had moved to 11 Princess Street, Victoria Buildings, Wibsey, Bradford.

Although many men and women are remembered on numerous memorials, including:- schools, church windows and objects, places of work, family headstones to name a few. Tom, is only mentioned on Bradford’s Roll of Honour. Perhaps, Eliza, now living in Bradford didn’t think about where he was remembered, but the fact that he was remembered. His mother, Maria, was now living in Sheffield, may have left the ‘remembering’ to Eliza. Who knows? We certainly don’t.

Unknown New Zeland soldier via CWGC

Unknown New Zeland soldier via CWGC

Nothing to do with Tom or his family, but something about one of the other 1700+ who rest in foreign land.

The body of an unknown New Zealand soldiers was, in 2004, taken back to rest in his native land in The Tomb of the Unknown Warrior in Wellington, New Zealand.


The Somme Remembered – 29th July 1916

 The Somme Remembered – 29th July 1916

Cornelius Thomas William Rigby – what an impressive name.  A name that over the years may have been forgotten by family and friends, but not any more.

While someone speaks my name I shall not die

So let’s speak this man’s name some more.

St Mary's Church Birmingham via Wikipedia

St Mary’s Church Birmingham via Wikipedia

Cornelius Thomas William Rigby was born on the 23rd of April 1874 and baptised on the 19th of December 1874 in St Mary’s Church, Birmingham – the same day as his elder sister, Harriet, who was born in April 1872.

Cornelius and Harriet were the children of The Rev. Thomas Newton and his wife Sarah Elizabeth Rigby.

In 1881 Thomas and Sarah were living at 13 Trinity Road, Handsworth.  Thomas was a Clergyman without his own parish and was father to four children : Cornelius, 7; Florence, 12; Annie, 11 and Harriet who was 9 years old.  Also in the house on census night was Ann Louisa Lees, widow, Thomas’s  sister in law; Jno W Parish, boarder and Harriet Rigby, Thomas’s 79 years old widowed mother and one servant, Annie M Tomlins.

Ten years later in the 1891 census.  The family had seen one tragedy in the past decade – Sarah Elizabeth had died. Sarah died in Handsworth in the early part of 1884. The census has the rest of the family living at 13 Mill Bridge, Skipton.

1901 – Field House, Wakefield Road, Cumberworth is home, but only home to Thomas, his daughter Annie Newton  and Cornelius thomas William.  Thomas is a Church of England Clergyman, Annie is the family’s housekeeper and Cornelius is a Dealer in Cattle Medicines.

The family were now due to have some happier times as in the summer of 1899 Florence Elizabeth married Charles Douglas Yeomans a steel manufacturer from Sheffield on 1st of June 1899 in Cumberworth and a number of years later, Harriet Edith married John William Mitchell on the 4th of July 1906, also in Cumberworth.

The next census, 1911.  The family is still Thomas, Annie and Cornelius.  Cornelius now describes himself as a Veterinary Medicine Dealer.  Home is still Field House, an 8 roomed house, but now described as in Denby Dale.

Cornelius Thomas William Rigby via Sheffield newspaper

Cornelius Thomas William Rigby via Sheffield newspaper

Cornelius enlisted in Huddersfield, joining the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment, as Private 3/11375.  His Medal Card tells that he entered France on the 6th of October 1915 and was eligible for the 15 Str, the British and Victory Medals – Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

As with all the men mentioned in this month’s blogs, Cornelius died, aged 42, 100 years ago today and is remembered, as many others are in this series, on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing and if you have no known grave, what a wonderful place to be remembered.

His entry in the Soldier’s Effects Register tells that his money was to go to his sister, Annie.

Thomas Newton Rigby died in the winter of 1926 aged 91.  The CWGC entry for Cornelius ‘Son of the late Rev. Thomas Newton Rigby, M.A., of Denby Dale, Huddersfield.’ Did Thomas die before the information for the CWGC had been collected and collated.

The Somme Remembered – 28th July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 28th July 1916

Christian Moss, born in Reading around 1893, was the son of Ernest and Christina Moss.

In the 1901 census the Moss family were living at Waterend, Basing, Basingstoke.  Ernest worked as an Inn Keeper (pub – poss. Red Lion Inn) .

Ten years later, Christian is found working as a Hall Boy in the home of Charles Harvey Combe and is sister Dorothy.  Home for the Combe siblings was  Cobham Park, Cobham Surrey. Cobham Park boasted 50 rooms, with 12 house staff to keep the place running smooth, plus numerous outside staff.

According to sources Christian rose to become a Footman working from 58 Great Cumberland Place, Paddington. Could Christian’s employer be Robert English, whose son, Robert Ernest English, an underwriter at Lloyds, born in the Cape Colony and who in 1915, when he was killed in action lived at 58 Great Cumberland Place, Hyde Park.

Anyway, Christian enlisted in Shepherds Bush, joining the 17th Battalion Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment) and became Private F/589.

Sad to say, due to the title of this series of blogs, that Christian did not survive the war.  He was killed in action 100 years ago aged 23 and like many others mentioned earlier, is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing along with thousands of other men, both young and old.

The money due to Christian was paid to his mother, Christiana, paid in two lots.

But before we leave Christian in peace, let me tell you a little more.  Christian was 22 years old and 50 days when he enlisted. His medical tells that he was 5′ 4″ tall and had a scar on the left of his forehead and that his vision was good. At the end of January 1916 Christian had an abscess which was treated at 100 Field Ambulance. He returned to his Battalion a week later. Christian had two siblings – Percy and Ernest and four aunts and uncles (Oliver, amos, Arthur and Harry Moss, all aged between 40 and 56) mentioned on military papers  that were completed after his death.

The personal property of Christian, according to a War Office memorandum dated 16th December 1916, were to be sent to his mother at Waterend, Old Basing.  She had in due course to reply and acknowledge the receipt of her son’s possessions. The paper listing Christians property has been damaged but a few items can still be seen : buttons; long shirt; letter and photo. Could the photo be that of his mother, a family group or his sweetheart?  I will leave you, the reader, to decide.

Rest in Peace, Christian, whereever your body may lie.

The Somme Remembered – 27th July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 27th July 1916

Oscar Frank Moritz from De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour

Oscar Frank Moritz from De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour

Oscar Frank Moritz enlisted in the R.A.M.C. in 1914, obtained a commission to the Border Regiment on 30th of April 1915 and was transferred to the M.G.C. (Machine Gun Corps) in January of 1916.

But, let’s go back a few years.

Oscar was born in Edmonton, Middlesex, the son of Herman Rudolph Moritz and his wife, Elisa Mathilda Kronheim, who he married on the 15th of June 1869 at St Anne’s Tottenham.  Oscar’s older siblings were born in Scotland, and it was in Scotland that Herman, born in Prussia, presented himself before the Right Honourable Robert Lowe, and signed his Naturalization papers on the 8th of October 1873 before Alan Arthur, J.P. for Lanarkshire. Herman at the time told he was 31 years old, a merchant, married and the father of two children – Alicia aged three and Arnold aged one, both children were living with him.

The family moved south as Herman became a Stock Broker at the London Stock exchange and  in 1891 the family were living at West Bank, Broadlands Road, Hornsey, Middlesex.

Oscar attended Sherborne School in Dorset and by 1911 was a Barrister of the Middle Temple, living at the Prince of Wales Hotel, Victoria Road / 16-18 De Vere Gardens, Kensington – there was another Moritz family living in the hotel at the same time.  Oscar’s name on that census had been transcribed as Monitz, so it meant a search for his first names (no surname) and place of birth to find him, but I got there after a few attempts of looking for him.

The year after the census, 1912, there is a Mr O F Moritz  found on a passenger list from Peru  to Liverpool on board the Oravia – if this Oscar he was travelling 1st Class.

We now come forward a few years to the time of the war – Oscar served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from April 1916 and was killed in action at Delville Wood 100 years ago today.  Just before he died he was endeavouring to bring up reinforcements for his gun, having previously been wounded in the thigh. As Oscar has no known grave he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

The medal card in Oscar’s name is sparse in the information and has no details of his previous regiments, only a brief note of the M.G.C. There is however, a note at the top that says ‘no ran service o/s’. The Register of Soldiers’ Effects has the unual information: rank, regiment, date and type of death along with monies due. Oscar’s money, some £68 5s was transferred – with no details of where the transfer went or to whom on 27th of November 1916.

Oscar’s Service Record is available from the National Archives for anyone to purchase via the Archives, a researcher or by visiting in person.

Oscar's entry in De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour

Oscar’s entry in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour

It may be generations since Oscar and other men and women died during The Grear War but Oscar like the others is not forgotten. He is remembered on the Sherborne School Roll of Honour. He is also included in the book The Cross of Sacrifice:Officer who died in the Service of British, Indian and East African

Oscar Frank Moritz entry in Sherborne School Roll of Honour

Oscar Frank Moritz entry in Sherborne School Roll of Honour

Regiments 1914 – 1919 and the Book of Remembrance for Tweedale.  Oscar is also one of the casualties of The Great War mentioned in De Ruvigny’s Roll of Honour.

I cannot fine a Probate entry for Oscar during and after the war but there was an entry for his father, Herman who left over £49,000 in 1906 to Julian Herman Moritz, chartered accountant, Martin Rudolph Moritz, member of stock exchange and Alan Mackinnon Mayow Forbes solicitor – no mention of Oscar of any other children – could a will rectify that?

Rudolph, Oscar’s elder brother, was also a Barrister, working from 4 Brick Court, Temple in the first decade of the 1900’s.

The Somme Remembered – 26th July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 26th July 1916

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing from the air via Google

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing from the air via Google

James Hodgkiss was another young man whose final resting place is known only unto his God, as he like many others, is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

Who was James? Who were his family? Where did he live and work?  Let’s find out!

Well, it seems with a name like Hodgkiss there are quite a few variations, as I learnt when I taught family history a few years ago – one of the class was researching his Hodgkiss line. So with time restraints and non-high speed internet, lets go!

James was the son of James and Kate Hodgkiss in St Paul’s, Cheltenham.  In 1901 he was one of five children living with his parents at 8 Leva (?) Court, Gloucester.  James snr. worked as a Hawker.

The entry for James in the 1911 census evades me, but with a little more time, he will turn up. anyway, in 1912 he married Gladys Edith Mayo.  The wedding took place on 21st of January at St Mary de Lode in Gloucester.  James at the time was working as a labourer, living at No6 Toby Court, Deacon Street.  His father, was now noted as being deceased, but prior to his demise had been a labourer.  Gladys Edith on the other hand was living at 22 Clare Street, the daughter of Alfred Mayo, a waterman.  Witness to the union were Charles Henry Wakeman and Charlotte Young.

Gloucestershire Regiment CWGC headstone logo

Gloucestershire Regiment CWGC headstone logo

James enlisted in Gloucester, joining the Gloucester Regiment and becoming Private 2055 or as seen on some documents 2053.  He was in the 10th Service Battalion.

 We already know that James died, but did his union with Gladys produce any children?  There are two entries on FreeBMD for children being born to Hodgkiss/Mayo in the Gloucester area – Ivy E born in the June ¼ 1914 and Grace V born in the September ¼ 1916.  Was Grace born after her father’s death if this is correct?  How did Gladys cope with being the mother of two children under three and the news of her husband’s death?

The medal card for James tells his medal entitlement and that he was KIA on 26.7.16.  The Soldiers’ Effects Register goes on to tell that James was now a Lance Corporal, also how much money was due to his widow Gladys Edith, who by now was Gladys Edith Whitaker.  The register also tells about James’ death ‘Officially accepted as on or about 26.7.16 France.’

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for James gives one more snippet of information for those interested in James’ life – his widow, now Mrs Whitaker had moved north and was living at 12 Grace Terrace, Thornhill Road, Upper Wortley, Leeds.

The Somme Remembered – 25th July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 25th July 1916

John William Bryant in 1881 was living with his parents, William and Susannah Bryant. Home for the family of 8 was Nursery Grounds, Rugby.  Also, in the house on census night was, Emily Coleman, a servant and  John Williams maternal grandmother, Mary Ingram, a 55 year old widow.  Mary, like her son-in-law, is described as a nursery and seedman. William has the added information of how many acres he works and how many people worked for him – he had 9 acres and employed 13 labourers and 1 boy.

When the census was taken on the night of Sunday the 2nd of April, William and Bertha were parents to 7 children – of which six were living at home – the eldest being 13 and the youngest 4 months.   John W was a self employed Carpenter and Joiner.  Home for the family of eight was 98 York Street, Rugby, a six roomed house.

War was declared and John W enlisted at St. Andrew’s, Rugby, where he joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment.  His service number was 308 and he rose to become a Company Sergeant Major.  He was 41 years of age when he was Killed in Action 100 years ago today. He is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing.

John William Bryant Medal Card

John William Bryant Medal Card

The Register of Soldiers’ Effects gives details of service number, rank, gives all monies owing from the War Office to his wife, Bertha and also notes where John  died ‘ 25.7.16 in the field France’. John’s Medal Card tells that he qualified for medals from 22nd March 1915. The following is also written in blue ink across the bottom of the card ‘T Eff M A O 304 of 908’.

The Somme Remembered – 24th July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 24th July 1916

Archer France was born on 9th March 1885 and baptised 16th of June the following year at St John the Baptist, Kirkheaton.  His parents were George and Annie who at he time lived at Hutchin Fold, Kirkheaton.

The 1891 census shows the George and his wife along with three children – Archer at the time being the middle child.  Ten years later in 1901, George and Annie are living at  Hodgson Fold, Kirkheaton.  There are still only three children in the family:- Lily now aged 19; Harry, 17 and Archer who is now a young man aged 15 and like his brother and father are working at a local mine.

The next census, 1911, Archer is the only child still living with his parents.  His father works as a Datellerm repairing stock underground in a pit, while Archer is an Assistant Deputy – both working at Helm (?) Colliery (Upper Hopton).

Christ the King, Battyford

Christ the King, Battyford

Archer married Hilda Clough at Christ the King, Battyford on 28th October 1911.George, Archer’s father gave his occupation as Steward, while Hilda’s father, Thomas, told the Vicar, J E Roberts, he was a Coal Merchant.  Witnesses to the union of Archer and Hilda were George Oldroyde and Laura Hopton (?).

Prince of Wale's Own Regiment headstone logo

Prince of Wale’s Own Regiment headstone logo

War was declared and eventually Archer enlisted in Huddersfield, when he joined the West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) becoming Private 17/1037 in the 17th battalion. His regiment would have seen action in the Battle of Bazentin Ridge and fighting for Arrow Head Corps and Malthorn Farm in the Somme.

Archer’s life was cut short when he was killed in action 100 years ago today.  He has no known grave and is therefore remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing along with many thousands of other men, both young and old.

Archer’s Medal Card gives very little information – name, rank, serial number, two medal entitlements and his death details.  Although this information is given on many cards, Archer’s see,s quit bare.

However, his Soldier’s Effects details tell how much was owing from the War Office, paid over two installments to his wife Hilda and the dates of the payments.

24 Coppin Hall, Mirfield

24 Coppin Hall, Mirfield

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry for Archer has his parents living at Bogg Hall, Kirkheaton, while Hilda is living at 24 Coppin Hall, Mirfield.

Bogg Hall, Kirkheaton

                                                                        Bogg Hall,                                                                             Kirkheaton via                                                          Kirklees Image Archives



The Somme Remembered – 23rd July 1916

The Somme Remembered – 23rd July 1916

As I have said earlier, war does not care what your background was or whether you were a Private or a high ranking officer.  They were there and that was all that was needed.

The man, I say man and not young man, as the one who died 100 years ago today was in his early middle years.

So, who was this man?  A man who was in the prime of his life.

Humphrey Francis William Bircham, born in 1875 to Francis Thomas Bircham and his wife Edith nee Okeden, who married on the 11th of May 1871 at Turnworth, Dorset.  The couple went on to have four children.  One of the children is the focus of days remembrance, while another son will get a small mention.  In the meantime, a little about Francis Thomas – in 1911 Francis, his wife and daughter Cecily were living at Gwentland, Chepstow with 7 servants in an 18 roomed house.  Francis was a Retired Lt. Colonel, JP and Local Government Board Inspector.

In 1881 the family of five – Francis, Edith, an elder sister Catherine Margaret and the two boys were looked after by six servants. Our man is the eldest of these two boys and like his brother was educated at Eton College, Humphrey went on to attend Sandhurst.  While he was at Eton College he was a keen cricketer, as were a few men in his immediate family. He also played for county and military teams during his life.

Going back to where he was at the time of the 1911 census – he eludes me during the 1891 and 1901 census.  By 1911 he was aged 36, a married man and gave his his occupation as that of Captain in the Regular Army. Home was 4a Low Belgrave Street.  When Humphrey signed the census he added ’60th Rifles’ after his signature, anyway, 4a was an eight roomed house which

Electoral Register for London 1912

Electoral Register for London 1912

the couple shared with two servants. Humphrey had married Gladys Violet Willes in 1908.  By the way her father was also a cricketer. The London Electoral Register for 1912 includes Humphrey at 4a Lower Belgrave Street.

Humphrey joined the army in 1896 and served in South Africa. During his war service, Humphrey was awarded the D.S.O. (Distinguished Service Order), which he was awarded as part of the 1915 Birthday Honours by King George V.

By the title of this series of blogs and what was mentioned earlier you know that 100 years ago Gladys became a widow when Humphrey died of wounds nr Pozier after being hit by a shell earlier in the day.  Humphrey died being with his men, a dangerous but much respected activity.  And so he died during an attack on German trenches near High Wood – the attack failed due to a fierce German counter attack.

Kings Royal Rifle Corps logo CWGC headstone

Kings Royal Rifle Corps logo CWGC headstone

Humphrey Francis William Bircham, Lt. Colonel, serving with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps rests in Corbie Communal Cemetery Plot 1, Row R, Grave 34.  His headstone includes the following inscription ‘He died with his men, He lives with those he left behind.’

The medal card belong to Humphrey is full of information, including when he entered France. Along with a note saying that Humphrey’s father applied for his medals on behalf of Gladys, his wife. At the bottom of the reverse of the card is the address for Gladys and an address for her father-in-law – 42 St George’s

Corbie Communal Cemetery ia CWGC

Corbie Communal Cemetery ia CWGC

Road Warwick Square, SW and Gwentland, Chepstow respectively.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes Gladys’ address as 24 Gerald Road, Sth. Eaton Place, London.

The Register of Soldiers’ Effects notes that money owed to Humphrey was to be forwarded to Cox and Co., whom I believe were solicitors used by many military personnel. The Probate entry for Humphrey has £123 15s 8d going to Gladys Violet Bircham, this would include moneys from the War Office as accounted for in the Soldiers’ Effects Register,

Humphrey is remembered on the King’s Royal Rifle Corps memorial at Eton College

Back to his brother who I mentioned earlier – Bertram Okeden Bircham who was born in 1877. As I have said he also attended Eton College, he also was a keen cricketer.  Bertram was called to the Bar in 1901, Inner Temple.  During WW1 he served as a Captain with the Hampshire Regiment and awarded the M.C. (Military Cross).  After the war he became Solicitor to the Ministry of Labour and was Knighted in 1932. He died in 1961 when he left ove £4000 to his sister Cecily and Arthur James Locke, solicitor.