Monthly Archives: November 2016

James Riach of Fochabers and Yorkshire

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

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

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

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

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

James' Medal Card via Ancestry

James’ Medal Card via Ancestry

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

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

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

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

J Riach via Findagrave

J Riach via Findagrave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Walk around Tyne Cot CWGC

A Walk around Tyne Cot  Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery © Carol Sklinar 2016

Tyne Cot Cemetery © Carol Sklinar 2016

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

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

Tyne Cot Cross of Sacrifice © Carol Sklinar 2016

Tyne Cot Cross of Sacrifice © Carol Sklinar 2016

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

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

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

Dafter T E © Carol Sklinar 2016

Dafter T E © Carol Sklinar 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Medal card for Thomas via Ancestry

Medal card for Thomas via Ancestry

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

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

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