Category Archives: News

Riach’s in Dingwall

Patrick Scott Riach.

Patrick Scott Riach was born at Edinkillie in January of 1892. He was the son of James Alexander Riach and his wife Janet Scott. James Alexander Riach was Station Master at Dingwall Railway Station.

Dingwall Railway Station via Wikipedia

Patrick was born the middle child of five born between 1886 and 1895.  Patrick and his siblings had each been given a middle name that connected them to their forebears, on both the maternal and paternal lines.

The small village of Edinkillie had been home to the Riach’s until about 1894. Patrick and his elder sibling were all from the village while the two youngest were born in Muir of Ord, Dingwall.

Edinkillie to Dingwall via Google maps

In 1901 the family were living in Station Square, Dingwall. Station Square is still there, surrounded by the Victorian Station and houses.

The time of the 1911 census came and the family were still living at Station House. Patrick was now 19 years old and working as a Post Office clerk.

In the centre of the square is a small grassy area which is surrounded by wrought iron railings and within its centre is the local war memorial with a rustic wooden cross at the top which remembers the fallen from the 4th Btn Seaforth Highlanders.

In 1917, while James Alexander Riach was working at Dingwall Station he would have seen the ‘Jellico Express’.

What was the ‘Jellico Express‘? I hear you saying!

In May 1917, while Patrick Scott served his Country, his home town played a great part in the war. A rail route had been introduced from London to Thurso – the nearest station to Scapa Flow in Orkney where the Grand Fleet was stationed. It was Britain’s longest railway journey, just over 700 miles, and is said to have transported about 500,000 military personnel and mail in two years. The train’s carriages could hold up to about 500 for the long, 22-hour journey. The journey was the safer option, and quicker than by sea – it was also safer than the sea with the constant threat of U-boats.

The railway station cafe was also a very busy place and is said to have served over 134,800 cups of tea – served during the entire war by Red Cross volunteers.

Patrick’s Post Office record has him working from 1908 to 1915. By the time April 1918 had arrived Patrick Scott Riach was serving with the Royal Flying Corps, later the Royal Air Force. He served in France and by October 1918 he was in Russia. In June 1919 his records tell that he was in Archangel. He was a wireless operator and had completed numerous courses in this field. He had experience and qualified as a telegraphist. He had knowledge of telegraphic engineering and held a Class 1 Postmaster Generals Certificate for Wireless and attended courses in Valve Detectors at Brooklands and British School of Telegraphy, London. During his time serving his country, he had been given the rank of Lieutenant. It was while in Archangel that he was Acting Captain. He was transferred to the ‘unemployed’ list.

Royal Flying Cross via Wikipedia

In October 1919 he was awarded the A.F.C. (Air Force Cross)

Upon return to civilian life, he returned to working for the post office. In 1922 he married Christina Laurie Hood. Christine had also worked for the post office – could they have met through work? The couple went on to have at least two children.

Patrick retired from the post office and lived the rest of his days in Dingwall.

He died on the 16th of October 1958. He rests in Mitchell Hill Cemetery, Dingwall.

Officer’s in Elgin

Officer’s in Elgin

Elgin War Memorial © C Sklinar 2020

While looking through a series of photographs I’d taken this summer, I came across a familiar surname on the Elgin War Memorial. The surname is not on my mother’s side, the Riach’s, but on my father’s side from Wakefield, West Yorkshire. The surname of OFFICER links into the Siddle family and the research I have done on them (with an Officer relation), seem to have them all around the Yorkshire region. I was quite surprised to find the surname in Elgin.

On the memorial’s front plaque are three C.S.M’s – James Catto; T E Dean, A R Rogers, D.C.M., and finally Wm Officer.

William, who is he?

Elgin War Memorial section © C Sklinar 2020

Born circa 1892, William was the son of Andrew Officer and his wife Agnes, nee Clark. When the 1901 census enumerator came to call on the family at 55 North Street, Elgin, who was in the house? Andrew, born in Portsoy, was aged 39 and worked as a confectioner. Agnes, born in the same year was from Johnstone, Berwickshire. William was one of seven children aged between 13 and 7 years of age – the youngest two may have been twins. There was one other child, Frederick Clark Officer who was born the year after this census.

The census time came again on the 2nd of April, 1911, when William was 18 years of age and still living in Elgin. William was working as a carpenter for Mr James George. It would not be too long before his life and, that of his family would change forever.

William was going to war.

He enlisted in Elgin and became a soldier in the 1st/6th Seaforth

Seaforth Highlanders CWGC

Highlanders. He served with the Regimental Number 526 and rose through the ranks to become a C.S.M. His Medal Card shows he was eligible for the 1915 Star, the Victory and British Medals. The award of the 1915 Star gives an insight when William went to the recruiting office in Elgin.

The 1st/6th Seaforth Highlanders stationed at Elgin along with the 1st/5th (stationed at Golspie) were both parts of the Seaforth and Cameron Brigade of the Highland Division who moved to Bedford. By the 1st of May 1915, they were in French and Belgian theatre of war. During 1915 they saw action at The Battle of Fesubert.

William ended up in the Somme region of France. At the end of July, wounded was more than likely taken to the 36th Casualty Clearing Station Heilly. On the 1st of August, his few days of suffering came to an end. He rests in the Heilly Station Cemetery, Mericourt-L’Abbe with over 2000 Commonwealth casualties and over 80 German casualties. The cemetery started in spring 1916 begun under pressure, as a result of this, some burials are closer together than in other CWGC cemeteries.

The Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects include William and show that his father Andrew and mother Agnes were joint legatees in his estate. There was a sum of over £40 that would eventually reach William’s parents in two parts.

There is a set of records that the Western Front Association shared with the pay per view website, Fold3, these thousands of record cards can tell you, the researcher, so much information compared to the Medal Card, The Effects Register and Service Record – if it has survived. This set, The Pension Record Cards, included the standard soldier information – name, rank, service number, they also include a great deal of information about the recipient(s) of the pension. Where the recipient lived? What was their relationship to the soldier? How much was the payment and how long were they to last? Other information may include, the date of death of the recipient and who took over. You could find alternate names for wives or mothers if they remarried. The soldier could have fought under an alias. But there may be information about an illness or detailed cause of death.

What information is on William’s card? Andrew Officer of 15 Union Street, Elgin, died in 1926. The official document then includes his mother, Agnes. William’s brother, Robert of 15 Lossie Wynd, Elgin also has an inclusion. The first entry is on the 26th of September 1919, with the final date being on the 25th of June 1926. Did Andrew get any money? I don’t know as no figures for money are written on the cards.

The Aberdeen Weekly Journal of Friday 11th of August 1916 includes ‘C.S.M. Officer, Elgin. Mr A Officer, confection, Lossie Wynd, Elgin, has received intimation that his son, Company Sergt.-Major William Officer, Seaforth Highlanders, has died of wounds received on 29th July. Although only 23 years of age, C.S.M. Officer had for several years been a member of the Territorials and was most popular in the battalion. Before mobilisation, he was a carpenter with Mr James George’.

As well as being included on the Elgin War Memorial, William’s name is with many others in The Morayshire Roll of Honour. It was while looking for William that I came across five other Officer young men who went to war, including his brothers Robert and Andrew.

Who were these Officer young men? The young men that lived and came home to their family and friends.

Robert Officer (William’s brother), was born in July 1889, at 4 Bridge Street. Before enlisting, Robert had been a marine engineer. He joined the Navy at Glasgow in 1915 and served as a Lieutenant on H.M.S. Caledonia in Home Waters.

Andrew Officer (William’s brother) served as a Seargent in the 20th American Engineers. He was born in October 1887 at 4, Bridge Street, Bishopmill, Elgin. He joined at El Paso, Texas, America, December 1917. He also served in France.

Royal Engineers CWGC

Thomas Frier Officer (William’s brother), served as Sapper 221596, in the Royal Engineers. He was born at 55, North Street, Bishopmill, Elgin, on the 29th of June 1898. He enlisted at Elgin in January 1917. He, like his brothers, served in France.

Andrew Officer served as number 39292 as a Seargent in the Army Pay Office and 10th Scottish Rifles. He was born at Buckie, on the 13th of June, 1893. He enlisted at Elgin in August 1914 and served in France. Andrew was the son of William and Isabella Officer of 67 Moss Street, Elgin. Before joining the military, Andrew worked as a chemist.

William Officer (brother of Andrew) served as Private 266195, in the 3/6th Seaforth Highlanders and Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. William was born at Elgin on the 7th of December 1898. He enlisted at Elgin, in June 1915. He also served in France. William, during his service he was gassed and wounded. The son of William and Isabella Officer, 67, Moss Street, Elgin. Before the war, he worked as a clerk.

James Alaister C MacKay – Seaforth Highlanders

James Alaister C MacKay – Seaforth Highlanders

By the 22nd of July 1916, the Battle of the Somme was 22 days old. Shortly after the 22nd, the family of J Alaister Culbard Mackay would receive the news that they had dreaded.

James Alastair Culbard Mackay was born in 1891 in Rathven, Banffshire, the son of Robert Young Mackay and his wife, Edith Culbard. His father Robert had been the Procurator Fiscal for Dumfriesshire – later to be the same in Banffshire and died in 1929. From the collection of family memorials in Linkwood Cemetery, Elgin, so much can be learnt about the Young family and the people who they married. Two large ornate memorial stones are attached to the boundary wall, with several others forming an ‘honour guard’.

It appears that one of the Mackay’s, a doctor, lived at The Tower, Elgin, and probably ran his practice from the building. My parents were married in the building in the early 1950s when the building was a hotel. The Doctor Mackay, according to Castleuk.net, remodelled the house and all that remains of the original building is the three-story 1600 tower.

At the time the 1901 census was taken, James was 9-years-old, his younger brother Robert had been born 14 days earlier. Could it have been due to the recent birth that Edith’s sister Alice was in the house on the census night? Also at 6 Seaview, Buckie was a visitor (sick nurse), housemaid and cook. His father Robert, as a solicitor and would, had the means to pay for the extra staff.

James joined the army, initially as a Lieutenant in the 6th Seaforth Highlanders before being promoted to the rank of Captain. The 1/6th Battalion was a Territorial Force known as the Morayshire Battalion. This Battalion landed in France in May 1915 as part of the 51st (Highland Division) – the same period that James landed in France.

As James as an officer, had no service number – it was not until he 2nd World War that a soldier retained his service number after a transfer and an officer had a serial number. Due to James being an officer, his service records are available to view at the National Archives, Kew. Other records appertaining to James service can also be found at the NA or on many pay-per-view websites. One of the available records is his Medal Card which tells that he was eligible for the 1915 Star, Victory and British Medals. Unusually enough, there is a small amount of information on the reverse of the card – application dates for his father and his father’s address (Procurator Fiscals Office, Dumfries. Home, Mayfield, Welltown, Dumfries).

The medals previously mentioned were not the only ones given to James. In early June 1916 in the King Birthday Honour List – His Majesty, the King had been graciously pleased to approve the award (Military Cross) for the Distinguished Service in the Field.

The 51st Division took part in defence of Ypres during the late spring of 1915 before moving to an area north of the River Somme where they relieved the French near Hamel. By now, the 51st were starting to build a reputation for themselves as a hard-fighting lot! In 1916 they took part in attacks on High Wood and the Battle of Ancre in which the 51st captured Beaumont Hamel. During this time they captured over 2000 prisoners. It was more than likely during the battle that James died. The cemetery where he rests is only a short distance from the River Somme and the centre of Ancre. The CWGC cemetery (La Neuville British Cemetery) is slightly off the beaten track, accessible via the Route de Daours, Corbie. Surrounded by fields, the cemetery is the final resting place of over 890 casualties of war.

The Book of Remembrance, available at each site of commemoration, tells James, aged 25 Died of Wounds and also gives his farther’s details. His headstone shows the badge of his regiment and a simple cross along with his identifying information.

The Probate Calendars for Scotland include James, now of Bemreay, Banff. The information – his regiment, that he died on active service, date of Will and Grant, to who granted and the amount of £772 11s 10d.

The website FindaGrave includes a photograph of James’ headstone plus a picture of a very handsome young man wearing a Glengarry Bonnet.

John A Stewart – Hong Kong and Cluny Hill, Forres

John A Stewart – Hong Kong and Cluny Hill, Forres

I don’t tend to research WW2 soldiers as there is not as much information available online…..yet!  But this little headstone in Cluny Hill Cemetery, Forres shouted out at me to have a look and see what I could find.   The two words that caught my attention were ‘Hong Kong’.  Well, I had to have a look, didn’t I

John Stewart Killed in Action ©2020

What did I know?  I knew the soldier’s name, well I presume he was a soldier – I may be proved wrong.  I knew when he died and where.  I also knew the names of his father, mother and sister – don’t you just love a good headstone?

Let me start my search with a visit to the CWGC (Commonwealth War Gaves Commission website.  The CWGC have recently updated their website and it is not as easy to search as it was.  Gone are the search boxes we knew, now the boxes are less with the option of adding extra search criteria.  You also have to contend with mouseover menu’s that drop down at the slightest move of a mouse – I am not a fan of mouseover menus.

Who am I talking about?  John A Stewart as the headstone commemorates him is on the CWGC John Alexander Stewart, and he is not a soldier!  John was Leading Aircraftman 972440, John Alexander Stewart who served in the RAFVR (Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve).  He was 24 years old when he died on the 6th of April 1944  in Yunnan.  Yunnan borders Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar (Burma) so there was quite a bit going on in that region during WW2.

Both the family headstone and the CWGC site tell that John’s father was John Alexander and his mother was Annie Henderson.  Only the headstone mentions John’s sister Catherine Ann who died in 1954 aged 37.

The family headstone also tells that John died in air operations.  During the time around his death, the British Army,  the Chindits formed by Ord Wingate were fighting in northern Burma, an unconventional long-range war that was only kept going forward by supply airdrops from the RAF.  Could this have been John’s job to keep the army supplied?  It’s a possibility!

Quite a lot of information from so few sources but with John being from Scotland it makes online research difficult for births, baptisms and census – Scotlands People being a pay per view site.  I wish, oh, I wish they would change to an annual subscription.  As I can’t use that source for information, well I could, but not going to.  I normally Google a person’s name near the end of my research, it looks like I’m near the end so a Google search it is.

Initially, I used John’s name but that was too broad a search.  Next was to include his rank and that came up with a wonderful site.  I’ve used the site before and again it did not let me down.  The RAF Commands site is a cornucopia of information and never fails to fulfil.  A simple search for John came up with his plane and fellow crew members along with a description of the events that lead to his death.  I now am able to tell you that John was in 357 Sqdn and was on Liberator III BZ952 lead by F. Sgt Frederick Sullivan (1087865).  Along with John and Frederick three was eleven other crew on board that day who were delivering petrol into the stores at Kumming, China allowing RAF Special Duties to refuel there before continuing to Siam during the rainy season.  So I was partially correct in what John was doing at the time of his death.  The entry on RAF Command can be read here.

This wonderful website has a large collection of photographs relating to the 357 squadron could Alexander be immortalised in one of these images?

Diary of a D-Day Veteran

Diary of a D-Day Veteran

Pte. Charles Wilkinson

Extracts from the 1944 diary of Charles Wilkinson, Despatch Rider, D-Day + 1 hour

Diary notes are in italics

1st June (British evacuated Crete 1941)
A good job pictures in camp or it would be awful having nothing to do, but still I suppose we would have made the best of it

2nd June (Battle of Mount Sorrel, 1916)
Left camp on slacks(?) as luck would have it Cynthia ***  ** as she was working in Winchester & did that make things worse, arrived at Camp 1.30 and walked again.

3rd June (Evacuation of British Army from Dunkirk completed, 1940)
Left camp to go to L.S.T. at docks Southampton and boarded boat 264, serial 2740, and it is miserable, nothing to do and a long time to do it in.

4th June
Rumours circulating, chat on board but no one knows what rumours are.

5th June

We sail today.  Destination unknown.  I suppose we will get to know as we sail on.  Briefing at 1600 hrs, but we have a good idea before we go.

6th June

D-Day today & What a day! Landed on  Cherbourg peninsular H+60 (minutes).  Lucky for us no enemy aircraft, the sea was enough, tore bottom off L.C.P. on ramp & no mines.

7th June (Battle of Messines began 1917)
First Battle at Cruelly.  Heading towards St Leger our final objective, going goo.  Lost 3 M10’s also we were shelled by Navy, hope never have same experience again. 8″ shells dropping 25 yards from us, awful experience. Lucky(?) pinned down by our own guns, after that straffed by typhoon.

DID YOU KNOW?  The D-Day landings had 18 operational squadrons of Typhoons 

8th June (British Advance into Syria began 1941)
Objective reached! After very stiff fight, at farm.  80 enemy took objective and dug-in.

9th June
Still dug-in having a rest – not much of that for me, as am continually travelling to “B” Ech (or Bch).

10th June (Italy declared War on Great Britain and France 1941n– Withdrawal of British Troops from Norway 1940)
Don’t feel much better after hold in line. 8 solid shots keep coming over, they are spent but still they make us duck.  Canadians are taking a bashing, over on left flank, mortar action went to aid & were pinned down with air bursts and spandau

Extracted from Wikipedia
“The MG 42 (shortened from German: Maschinengewehr 42, or “machine gun 42”) is a 7.92×57mm Mauser general-purpose machine gun designed in Nazi Germany and used extensively by the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS during the second half of World War II. It was intended to replace the earlier MG 34, which was more expensive and took much longer to produce, but both weapons were produced until the end of the war.”

11th June (Sunday)
Relieved the Canadians to attack strong point and it was strong.  Strong enough to beath the 7th GH *** but we weakened them a lot, withdrew to C.P. and dug in or tried to. M.G fire, too thick so we kipped in a gulley for night with my raincoat for a blanket.

13th June
Withdrew a little further back and did dig in and held the Hynie(?), cushy time except for occasional spandau spray.

14th June (Fall of Paris 1940)
relieved by 48th Div. & went to “B” Ech (or Bch) for a rest, but did not get much rest, as we were in front of 25 spandaus. and I am still running to “B” Ech (or Bch)

15th June (Battle of Piave began 1918)
Moving forward for an attack on strong point, kipping night in an old farm at Conde-sur-Seuelles and making contact in morning. Proceed 0500hrs.

16th June
Contacted him at 07:30hrs (enemy) and is he strong cannot advance down road at 88 reps.  continually firing down road and what a row it makes.  Digging in and having another go in morning.  R.E’s are going forward to draw Blockhouse which contains 88mm. Hope they succeed.

17th June
Attacked strong point and reached objective, but were beaten off with 6 Mark 6 after one tank had gone back for the night.  Lost I company and the C.O. all believe were taken prisoner. Withrew to old position and dug in.

19th June
Settling down, and finding out what we really did lose.  Jerry keeps shelling us with 105mm but does not do much damage.

20th June
Still dug in, and having it pretty easy for this Btn.  E. Yorks relieving us today.  We are reserve Batt. on flank.  We always get reserve Batt. when an attack is not going in.

21st June (French sign German Armistice Terms 1940 – Germany attack Russia 1941)
More digging on flank.  Browned off of it bit still is for the good.

22nd June
Still in reserve and start if the 10 vital days.  First to spring of T.T. Times of which I manage to get a copy for a souvenir.

23rd June
Feeling pretty hungry on compo(?) so we started to look for some spuds and we got some farm shelter, so we will be ok for quite a while.  2nd of 10 Vital Days!!

24th June (French sig Italian Armistice Terms 1940)
3rd of the 10 Vital Days and nothing much happened yet! Still in a defensive position with occasional air burst to liven things up, otherwise very quiet.

25th June
Relieved by Devons and took up move offensive positions near Boch, still quiet(?) our guns pummelling hell our of Jerry.

26th June
Still quiet and ongoing(?) plenty of firing with 3″.  Good job we use alternative position as we would probably be blown to hell out of it as he (enemy) occasionally shells some after we have moved on.

27th June
Browned off of compo so we had to look for some more food! and we found it  1 sheep slaughtered, cows milk & fresh butter and potatoes and now we are living like Lords.

28th June
Still the same

29th June
1000 tons of bombs dropped on enemy tanks, Panzer Division and not one tank was left after pocket firing.  Typhoons followed up with mopping up operations.

30th June (Channel Islands occupied by Germany 1940)
Quiet day.  Discovered girl who can speak English very good, but cannot visit her after as she is far away from camp.

1st July (Battle of Albert, 1916; Ypres 1917: Somme began 1916)
This area not much good for food, was looking at farms for some spuds & finally found them, and did we scoff.

2nd July
Nearing the end of our quiet position, as we take over from *** Battn. shortly and are they getting some shit.

3rd July (Naval Action at Oran 1940)
Ma**e bet (50F). Well not me my friend, that we would be relieved in fortnights time, but it looks as though we have had it, as we are taking **** for L.O.B and about means everyone (?)

4th July
Relieved fwd Batt. quiet day, but rowdy night.  Does he (the enemy) like to lob his 108mm over.  Good job it is only occasional ones that drop in Batt area or we would be wiped out now.

5th July
Quiet day except for 1 or 2 shells one of which was dud and lane within 25* of MPHQ.  Awful night shells and spandau.  The spandau cutting the grass.  Luckily we are dug in.

6th July
Very tired after nights experience which lasted until 03:30 and we covered OM stand too at 04:3..  12:30 was told I was going LOB for 48 hours on M/C

7th July
LOB. What a place, lovely and quiet except for our own guns firing over our heads. Went to Bayeux for bath, and bought some cheese and it was smashing.  Went to TT concert party and came home and ate part of cheese with some hard tack.

8th July
Returned to Batt, feeling none the better for 48 hours LOB to top things off was put on guard and lucky for us the shells that were dropping were falling well forward in front of PB

9th July
Started using his (enemy) guns, 210’s but they were well behind our own RA.

10th July
Relieved by DLI .  We return to their pos.  Still quiet.

11th July
Nothing much doing.  I think that both sides are B.O.

12th July
Big attack on Caen coming off as barrage on flank is tremendous.

13th July
Took over 5 EY positions in one of old areas, but more quiet this time than before.  It looks as though it has been very rough as the hills are bare.

14th July
Occasionally retired to slit as 105 & moaning Minnies were sent over, but did very little damage, only to crops.

15th July (Battle of Delville Wood 1916)
Clashed by armoured car all down left side and taken to 3ccs and from there to MDS and then to 20 GH where I was 40 hours.

Charlie crashed into the German armoured car which was lost inside our lines, while a despatch rider – no one in the German vehicle lived.

16th July 
What a life at 20 Gen.  I am all pains with laying on stretcher.  I don’t feel a little bit hungry.

17th July
Was prepared to go to beaches early on and what a redect(?) was. Have made some good friends, both in Navy and Army.

18th July
Boarded LST at 15:30 and sailing 21:00. But missed convoy and had to wait while tomorrow before sailing.

19th July
Lifted anchor 0900hrs but moving fret fog and had to drop it (anchor), finally got moving at 13:30 and arrived Pompy at 22:30.

20th July
01:30 Ambulance train and it was a good journey to Woking.  When it was about 06:30 were taken off and put in an ambulance to be taken to EMS for treatment.  It’s a lovely place, nice and quiet & miles away from anything.

21st July
Still laying in bed & I am B.O, as anything on bottom of my back with forever laying on it, would b a little better if I could roll over to change position but can’t with leg being in plaster.

Charlies diary continues – he gets to know his fellow patients, the staff and has a visit from his sister who brings a parcel from the family.
He gradually starts to walk and in September, after pay day, is given a 4 day Royal Warrant.  He does not say where he goes but he does record in his diary that he has a slight accident which results in him being put back to bed. After examination the following day he is prepped for theatre.  By the end of the month he is discharged, but still in hospital as his diary tells he was promoted to Ward Seargent as all N.C.O’s have gone.

By December he is out of hospital and in Nottingham, where on the 30th of December 1944 he writes:

Dance, and got acquainted with one of the lovelist girls I ever saw.  Her name is Betty.

Cpl Elizabeth Ann Riach

Cpl Elizabeth Ann Riach

The following day, the 31st, he wrote that he’d been to the pictures with Betty, and then ‘sat out the old year nice and quiet ’round a lovely warm fire’.

He wrote in the memo section Pte Reach (spelt incorrectly) 12 Sect V, HPC, Notts.

Betty was my mum, Cpl. Elizabeth Anne Riach, who he married in 1952 in The Tower Hotel, Elgin, Morayshire.  The couple made Wakefield their home.

Elizabeth, known in Scotland as Lizzie and in Wakefield as Ann, died in 1982.

Charles then joined many veteran associations, becoming a committee member to many,  including The Normandy Campaign Association, The Normandy Veterans Association, The Eighth Army, The Royal Engineers, The Combined Services and many other associations.  He was also the President of the Royal British Legion in Wakefield and for over 25 years was the sole poppy organiser for the city.  He was known as ‘The Poppy Man’.

He also, with other veterans and friends attended many of the Normandy reunions.  Charles was also guest of honour onboard HMS Ark Royal when he was presented with a cheque.

As D-Day 1 veteran he attended a Garden party at Buckingham Palace along with three other Normandy Veteran Association, Leeds 61 Branch members.

When he died in 2008 his coffin was draped in the Funeral drape of the Royal Engineers and the Union flag.  His beret sat on the Normandy Association cushion along with his medals.  His branch Presidents Jewel was was draped around his beret and medals.  His funeral service was in Wakefield and was well attended with representatives of many ex-service people, friends and family.  The Mayor and Mayoress of Wakefield attended in an unofficial capacity and the Police sent a representative.  It was a day he would have been proud of especially when the Normandy March was played.

His family received letters of condolence from the Mayor, the Police, the Royal Engineers and the British Legion to name a few.

He was a generous, kind, helpful and considerate man who was well thought of by many but most of all he was my dad.

Guest Blogger – Jane Ainsworth – Barnsley Pals Colours Project

Guest Blogger – Jane Ainsworth – Barnsley Pals Colours Project

Barnsley Pals Colours before and after conservation

I am the volunteer co-ordinator of this ongoing project and I am liaising very closely with Reverend Canon Stephen Race and the PCC for St Mary’s Church in the centre of Barnsley where the King’s Colours are laid up.

In November 2016, Conservators inspected the two Colours to report on their condition and take photos, which were used last year to commission replica flags. The replicas were blessed in a special service for the Armistice Centenary. They are being used by us on 2 June and this year’s Remembrance. They will also be on display for the Heritage Open Days as St Mary’s is participating this September for the first time.

We are willing to lend them to groups and organizations for relevant events free of charge. I have produced an agreement for this as the York and Lancaster Regiment Association borrowed them for their Commemoration on 12 May when they donated two special benches at Silverwood Scout Camp (originally Newhall Camp where the Barnsley Pals were billeted and trained).

We hope to produce an educational pack for schools to borrow them at a later stage but will need to find someone interested with the appropriate skills and experience in addition to fundraising to pay for it.

My research into the history of the Colours was published at the end of last year in a 50 page booklet with lots of old photos, designed and printed by Pen and Sword to support our project. Copies cost £5 and I am donating all proceeds to this project. (Copies are available from Sheffield Cathedral shop, Clifton Park Museum shop in Rotherham, Experience Barnsley shop, various other outlets in the Barnsley area and myself. Booklets can be posted @ £2 for post and packing).

Barnsley Pals Project Invitation

We are currently fundraising to frame the two King’s Colours and relocate them back to the War Memorial Chapel were originally laid up, with proper interpretation. (We have permission from the MoD to do this). We also need to conserve the six panels listing 200 men (and one woman – the only one on a WW1 Memorial in Barnsley I am aware of) on the impressive War Memorial Pillar as some of the names have almost worn off.

As and when all the necessary funding is in place and the work is completed, we will hold another special event. I’ve submitted some applications for grants but if other individuals or groups are interested in making a donation this would be most welcome and they can contact me for details.

St Mary’s Church will be open this year for the first time for some of the Heritage Open Days.

Wakefield in 50 Buildings – A Book Review

Wakefield in 50 Buildings – A Book Review

Cover – Wakefield in 50 Buildings by Peter Thornborrow & Paul Gwilliam

Last night I went to hear a talk at Wakefield Historical Society – it was the second time I’d heard Peter Thornborrow talk but last night was more on the buildings who didn’t make it into his book.  I took this opportunity to spend a bit of ‘pocket money’ and buy a copy which was signed by Peter and his co-author Paul Gwilliam.

Before I tell you about Peter’s book I would like to tell you what Daniel Defoe wrote about  Wakefield.  A town like London and Bath had a SEASON where people came to do their business dealings and banking at traditional times of the year.  Yes, Wakefield at one time was an important part of the West Riding making it worthy of being the Capital of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Daniel Defoe in his book ‘A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain’ (1734)  wrote :-

Wakefield is a clean, large, well-built town, very populous and very rich; here is a very large church, and well filled it is, for here are very few Dissenters; the steeple is a very fine spire, and by far the highest in all this part of the county………..They tell us, there are here more people also than in the City of York.

If you slow down from everyday life and look around you – not forgetting to look up, you will see some glorious buildings.  Just walk around the Westgate, St John’s and South Parade areas to name a few.  St John’s area has one of the finest Georgian squares in Great Britain and The Great Bull in Westgate was one of the biggest coaching inns/hotels in the county at one time capable of stabling about 150 horses and house a great assembly room – so this just goes to show how great and important Wakefield WAS!

Back to Peter’ and Paul’s book- ‘Wakefield in 50 Buildings‘ is a walk through the history of Wakefield and its surrounding area and takes in buildings both old and new.  Each building has a potted history and includes over 100 full-colour images.

Although I’ve only had my copy less than 24 hours I have had a chance to, over a cup of tea, read about some of the buildings and take in most of the photographs. The individual does not always get a chance to go inside some of these buildings and see roof spaces and staircases.

Peter and Paul have done a great job researching and telling the reader about some of Wakefield’s great buildings.  This book will open up Wakefield to those who not only live locally but have or had a family or local history link to Wakefield when it was Great.

Wakefield in 50 Buildings is published in 2018 by Amberley Publishing.
ISBN –  978 1 4456 5906 0 (book)
978 1 4456 5907 7 (e book)

Available on the publisher’s website and Amazon + other

Looking for his Medals

Looking for his Medals

In June I’m doing a small exhibition to mark the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.  With this in mind

D-Day landings via Wikipedia

and being ridiculously organised, I made a list of my father’s belongings and collection I had inherited that could be included and I thought would interesting to the observer.

Two items came immediately to mind, quickly followed by his collection of newspapers, reunion photographs, maps etc.,   The first item was his diary for 1944 and included the lead up to the 6th of June 1944.  The second item was his medals.  He was very proud to wear his medals but he had one little niggle – he had been on board a ship, waiting to be given the ok to go ashore.  I’m not sure where he was waiting to land but he was a bit niggled that he was on the ship for 3 days short to be eligible for the Atlantic Star.  Along with his medals were also a collection of ‘badges’ given by the French Government to D-Day Veterans. The Medals, they were in a box and I knew exactly where they were.

Starting in my ‘office’ I took books off their shelves with a Normandy connection.  Then on to the Medals.  But here I hit a brick wall and went into a slight panic.  In the box, I thought housed the precious medals was nothing but a collection of regimental ties – Normandy Veteran Association, Normandy Campaign Association, Royal  British Legion, Royal Engineers, Royal Artillery and more but no Medals. On the plus side, I did find items that had slipped my memory along with a large number of newspapers and various letters from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and members of her family. It was a pleasure to see even though it was tinged with sadness.

Where were those medals?

After leaving the search for a few days I decided on a systematic search from my ‘office’ downwards.  On a row of shelves, at the side of one of my printers, are a number of large shoe boxes containing family history bits and bobs, local history leaflets (they will have to go to be recycled) and CDs.  Starting with the nearest box I found what I had misplaced.  They were in a box but not the box I remembered them being in. Isn’t it funny how your mind plays tricks with you?  I did, however, also find a large number of lapel badges for the NVA, NCA, RBL plus regimental badges and buttons – panic over!

With over two months to go all the display material is boxed, well that is apart from a very large frame map of the D-Day beaches, all that I need to do is print a few information labels, then we are ready to go.

Excerpt from my father’s diary for March 24th 1944 ‘ 2nd night out this week, went to pictures, and enjoyed it and had fish and chips and enjoyed that too.  Another week nearer to leave.

My father was a dispatch rider and expected to be landing on French soil D-Day +5.  He actually set foot on the beaches of Normandy D-Day + 1 hour.  That is another story and leads onto another story connected to HMS Ark Royal.

Whitby’s Local War Memorials

Whitby’s Local War Memorials

In 2006, a Thursday outing or war memorial hunt, as my husband called them, ended up in Whitby.

Whitby, a traditional North Yorkshire fishing town, now like quite a lot of coastal towns and villages becoming somewhat commercialised, with many of the traditional shops giving way to cafe’s, bars and charity shops. Once famed for its supply of jet that was sourced and worked locally and made famous by the making of Victorian Mourning Jewellery as worn and made highly popular by Queen Victoria wearing of brooches and other items made of Whitby Jet after the death of Prince Albert. Now, Whitby is known worldwide for its connection to Dracula and Goth Weekends.

Back to 2006, after walking around the town and having a fish and chip lunch we happened upon St Ninian’s Church – well, I had to go in, didn’t I? As it happens the priest was on site, and after the usual polite conversation, I asked where the war memorial was and could I photograph it. After finding out where the memorial was and answering why I wanted to photograph it, he went on his way and I took the photographs.

My partial transcription of St Ninian’s Church and other local war memorials forms part of an exhibition being held at The Brunswick Centre, Brunswick Street, Whitby YO12 8RB on the 16th of June 2018 between 10:00 – 16:00hrs. The exhibition is organised by Whitby Civic Trust will display the war memorials surveyed and researched to date and it is hoped that visitors and relatives of the fallen will be able to help with their research.

The research lead by Joyce Stangoe culminates in the display followed by a self-guided walk leaflet and the publication of a book to preserve and share their work.

I have given The Trust permission to use information from my St. Ninian’s page in their research, but in the meantime, I thought I might give you a little taster as to what could be available on the day!

John and Ann Parkyn  (Parkin) during the war that became known as The Great War, saw three of their sons enlist – Arthur, George and Matthew.

In 1901 John and Ann were living at Low Hospital Road. John was a cab driver, while Arthur and Matthew were at school, aged 12 and 10 – John George by this time had left home.

Ten years earlier in 1891 home was Tynemans (sic) Yard, Whitby. John Parkin worked as an iron miner. His older boys, William J and John G aged 19 and 16 have followed their father into iron mining, while Thomas was aged 9 and attended school. With two-year-old Arthur and eight month old Matthew as the baby of the family.

George (John George) and Matthew served in the military during the 1914-1918 war, but it is their brother Arthur who is positively found on many records

St Ninian’s Roll of Honour © Carol Sklinar 2006

Arthur had been born on January 13th, 1889 and baptised the next month in St Michael’s, Whitby He married Catherine Mary Stephens in 1911 following Banns that were read out on the 10th, 17th and 24th of September. During the war, he enlisted in Whitby and served in the Royal Garrison Artillery, Heavy Battery, as Gunner 31125. He was killed in action on Tuesday 17th of September 1918 and is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial to the Missing with over 9,800 other casualties with no known grave.

‘Death Penny’

It was over the next 12 months that Catherine, Arthur’s widow, was to receive the sums of £12 18s 4d, 11s 6d plus a war gratuity of £15. She would also be the one to receive his British and Victory Medals (if they were requested), along with the ‘Death Penny’ Plaque and Scroll.

Why not visit The Civic Trust’s exhibition on the 16th of June and see who else from Whitby paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation and the Great War

Wakefield Grammar School Foundation and the Great War

The Great War took a great toll on the public and grammar schools of Great Britain.  Many young men left school in the summer only to be lost to their family and friends by the winter, while others had had careers and families of their own cut short by injuries or death.

Some Other and Wider Destiny – Wakefield Grammar School Foundation in the Grear War‘ by Elaine Merckx and Neal Rigby have delved deep into the vast archives of the Foundation to bring photographs, documents, minutes, The Old Savilian (the School magazine) and eyewitness reports together in this study of The Great War and its effect on life in both the boys’ school and Wakefield Girls High School and surrounding city.

Some Other and Wider Destiny cover

The book, nearly 500 pages, informs the reader of the background of both schools telling what life was like at school in Wakefield.

Listed within the pages are the names of approximately 200 ‘Old Girls’ who did work of national importance in various forms. For example, Sophie Appleyard did clerical work at the County Hall, as did Isabella Loudon and Janet Mcqueen Loudon. While Eva Bates was Private Secretary to the Inspector of the Government Shell Factories, Leeds. Marjorie Bygate did work at the United Counties Bank to replace a man at the Front.  Many others were part of the VAD (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and did work of varying natures around the country. Some like Nancy Evelyn Walley was nursing in France by 1916.  Mabel Kitson, it seems went farther afield, working in the Diplomatic Service at the British Embassy, Washington.  She was the first British woman to achieve this and rose to become head of a department.  Others stayed local and worked on various committees, did fundraising and volunteer work, including work at Wentworth House, their former school which had been turned into a hospital. Charles Edwin Woodhead, a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers was a Prisoner of War, as did Austin Ernest Wilson of the KOYLI.  A young man named Montagu William Wood did service with the Shanghai Light Horse.

The young men.  The ‘Old Boy’s’. The ‘Old Savilians’ who went to war are all named with the years they attended the school, along with their final rank, regiment and any additional information.  This information may include their date and place of death; any additional medals awarded i.e. Military Medal; when they enlisted; if they were wounded or invalided.

Most poignant is the Roll of Honour to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. From Lieutenant-Colonel’s to the humble private each one is remembered and in most cases, a photograph is included.

These men are more than mere names on a page or a memorial, they were someone’s son, a brother, a grandson.  They were part of a community, albeit a church or a school.  They were part of a team, either cricket or rugby.  They were a classmate.  They were an ‘Old Savilian’.  They were and shall always be part of the fabric of Wakefield Grammar School.

Elaine and Neal have recorded every part of life at both schools leading up to and including the time of the Great War and no research stone seems to have been left unturned. It is a work of great passion and enthusiasm and is a tribute to the school, the boys and themselves.  Well done!

To get your copy of ‘Some Other and Wider Destiny – Wakefield Grammar School Foundation in the Grear War‘ published by Helion & Co. Ltd., you can contact either the Wakefield Grammar School office or the publisher.  The book is also available on Amazon.