Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Board of Trade WW1 men’ Category

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: H. N. Verrells
Born: 28 June 1894
Date of Death: 12 February 1918
Age at death: 23
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Honourable Artillery Company
Unit, Ship, etc: Infantry
Enlisted: Armoury House
Rank: Sergeant (Service no. 3365)
Decorations: Campaign medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (Italy)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (DOW)
Family Details: Son of Herbert W and Margaret J Verrells, “Darenth”, Eversfield Road, Reigate, Surrey
Residence: Reigate
Home Department: Board of Trade – Statistical Department
Civilian Rank: Unknown
Cemetery or Memorial: Cremona Town Cemetery, Italy (A.3); Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London); Reigate War Memorial; Dorking High School memorial; St Mary’s Church Choir Memorial; Reigate Lads Church Brigade Memorial; Reigate Priory Football Club Memorial

Biography:

HarryNormanVerrells

Harry Norman Verrells (Source: Lives of First World War)

Harry Norman Verrells was the fourth of five siblings. He had two older sisters – Ethel Templer Verrells (1887 – 1978), Lillian Olliff Verrells (1888 – 1964) and Florence Verrells (1892 – 1953) and a younger brother Herbert Stuart Verrells (1900 – 1995). Harry was born in about 28 June 1894 and baptised in the Parish Church in Reigate on 15 August 1894. Their parents were Herbert William Verrells (1856 – 1931) and his wife Margaret Jane Baker (1860 – 1930).

Herbert and family lived in Reigate, Surrey.  In 1891 (before Harry’s birth) and also in 1901 they lived at 36 Effingham Road and then by the 1911 census the family were living at a house called “Darenth” located on Eversfield Road located also in Reigate.

His father, Herbert started his career as a grocers clerk before becoming a “collector of the King’s taxes”.

According to information previously researched by Patricia Brazier and published by Dorking Museum, we know something about Harry’s educational background and interests. This states that: “Harry attended Reigate National School, then Dorking High School (now called The Ashcombe School) where he gained a certificate in Pitman’s Elementary Shorthand. He also passed the London University Matriculation exam and gained a distinction in English. He then attended Clark’s Civil Service College. He was a keen footballer and played half back for Reigate Priory Football Club. He was also a chorister at St Mary’s, Reigate Parish Church. He had an exceptional voice which developed into a Baritone”.

Given his dad’s employment as a tax collector, it is probably unsurprising that Harry decided to pursue a career in the Civil Service and he joined the Board of Trade working in the Statistical Department.

HonourableArtilleryCompany

Honourable Artillery Company

He enlisted into the Infantry Division of the Honourable Artillery Company on 14 April 1915 at Armoury House and rose to the rank of Sergeant.

Harry’s British Army WW1 Service Record is one of only a quarter of the records to have survived (after most of the records were destroyed in a fire during World War Two). Thanks to this information and based on Dorking Museum’s previous research we have added insight into Harry’s wartime experiences.

His service record describes him as 5 foot 7 inches with a chest girth of 64 and a quarter inches.

We know that Harry arrived in France in 18 August 1915. On 25 September 1915 he is recorded as having contracted influenza and also paratyphoid (a bacterial blood infection which was fairly common during WW1 due to army camp conditions). According

As a result of these illnesses he spent time in an isolation hospital. He was then later wounded by a shell and returned to convalesce in England for a few months, before returning again to France.

Trenchfever

Trench fever

In June 1917, he received a gun shot wound in his right arm and came back to England to be treated at the Shirley Warren Hospital (now Southampton General Hospital) in Southampton. Whilst there he developed Trench Fever (a fairly serious infectious disease transmitted by body lice). During WW1, between a fifth and a third of all British troops fell ill with trench fever, including the famous authors J.R.R. Tolkien, A.A. Milne and C.S. Lewis.

ItalianfrontWW1

Italian front in WW1

He was subsequently transferred to the 2nd Battalion and sent to serve on the Italian front. Whilst most people associate WW1 with the trenches of northern France, Italy was a major source of fighting in an entrenched war of attrition. It saw some of the bloodiest battles fought in the mountains of northern Italy in which over 1000 British troops were killed, 4,971 British troops wounded and a total of over 2 million casualties on all sides of the conflict.

FarewelltoArms

Farewell to Arms by Hemingway

The Italians declared war on Austria in May 1915 and Commonwealth forces served on the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918. The Italian front was also where the US author, Ernest Hemmingway  (1899 – 1961), served during WW1 and which acted as the backdrop for one his most famous novels, “A Farewell to Arms” which tells the love story of a young American ambulance driver, Lieutenant Henry and a beautiful English nurse, Catherine Barkley on the Italian front during WW1. A short summary of the war in Italy is available in this Youtube video: 

Italian front in WW1

It was in Italy that on 3 February 1918 that Harry Verrells suffered a gun shot wound to the head during fighting in the area of Vittorio Vento. He survived and was taken to the No 29 Stationary Hospital in Cremona (which is now a public school called “Realdo Colombo”). During WW1, it was an advanced hospital centre on the line of retreat in case the enemy broke through.  where he later died, aged only 23 years old, on 12 February 1918.

His military record lists his final few small belongings which include his glasses, a trench periscope, letters, photos in case, two handkerchiefs, bone bead, note case, purse, a Post Office Savings Book and a whistle.

Harry is remembered on five local Reigate memorials – the Reigate War Memorial (in the Town Hall), Dorking High School memorial, St Mary’s Church Choir Memorial, Reigate Lads Church Brigade Memorial and Reigate Priory Football Club Memorial. He is also remembered on the Board of Trade War Memorial now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London.

Harry is buried in Cremona Town Cemetery in Italy which includes 83 Commonwealth War Graves of men who, like Harry, mostly died at the No 29 Stationary Hospital.

His gravestone bears the uplifting inscription chosen by his family:  “Hero victorious at the victor’s side”.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: F. G. Coker
Born: 12 March 1893
Date of Death: 7 June 1917
Age at death: 23
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 1/15th Battalion (Civil Service Rifles)
Enlisted: Haggerston, 5 August 1914
Rank: Private (Service no. 1295 and 530039)
Decorations: Campaign medals –
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of Elizabeth Coker of Leyton. Husband of Maude A Coker, 2 Montrose Villa, Shrubland Road, Leyton, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Statistics Department
Civilian Rank: Personal Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Menin Gate (Panel 54); Civil Service Rifles Memorial, Somerset House, London; Memorial to Staff of the Ministry of Labour (located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London); Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

When we research at the WW1 generation, we step back into a world that is both different and also mirrors our own. It is moving to think that many of the places which existed then are still around today but also many have disappeared. The lifestory of Frederick George Coker is one of both loss and survival.

Frederick George Coker was one of seven children born to Frederick George Coker (1864 – 1931) and his wife Elizabeth Sarah Morgan (1866 – 1941) from the East End of London. Frederick junior was the eldest son, born on 12 March 1893 and it was natural that he was named in honour of his father.

His siblings included an older sister – Florence Elizabeth Coker (1883 – 1972) and a much younger sister – Winifred Georgina Coker (1910 – 1963). He also had two surviving younger brothers – William Horace Augustus Coker (1897 – 1976) and Leslie Roderick John Coker (1898 – 1972). Two other siblings died in infancy – Winifred Georgina Coker (born/died in 1890) and Arthur Henry Edward Coker (born/died in about 1900).

Frederick’s father worked as a tailor and french polisher.

The family lived in the Haggerston area of London, which is both an area that is the same but also very different today. Many of the places which Frederick and his family would have known no longer exist. For instance his former school (Pritchard Road School) and the church where he got married and probably worshipped at (St Stephen’s, Goldsmith Row, Haggerston) – both no longer exist. The school closed in WW2 and the church was demolished in the 1950s.

According to school admission records, Frederick joined Pritchard Road School, aged 8, on 26 August 1901. In the same year, he appears in the 1901 census records living with his parents nearby at 106 Goldsmith Row and then again at the same address in the 1911 census.

By 1911, Frederick is recorded aged 17 to be “studying for the Civil Service” which we know he achieved. He later joined the Labour Statistics Department of the Board of Trade.

FG_COKER_(on right)_Photo

Frederick George Coker (on right) – Copyright: Keith Marshall

Frederick’s world was thrown upside down when war with Germany was declared on 4 August 1914. We know from surviving records that Frederick enlisted into the army only a day later on 5 August 1914. He was one of thousands of patriotic young men who heeded the call to arms alongside their friends, with over 30,000 men signing up each day by the end of August 1914. Many of the men enlisted into “pals” battalions alongside their friends and colleagues and the Prince of Wales’s Own Civil Service Rifles was one of these types of volunteer battalions.

Upon enlisting we know from military records that the Civil Service Rifles was mobilised and moved to Bedmond and then in November to billet in Watford. The battalion which formed part of the 4th London Brigade, 2nd London Division first landed in Le Havre on 18 March 1915. The unit was then reformed on 11 May 1915 into the 140th Brigade in the 47th (2nd London) Division.

As part of the battalion, Frederick would have seen service at several key WW1 battles including Festubert (1915), Loos (25 September – 8 October 1918), the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916), Flers-Courcelette (15 – 22 September 1916), Le Transloy (1 – 18 October 1916) and Messines (7 – 14 June 1917).

In the middle of the war and destruction, love still found a way and during one of his leave periods, on 1 June 1916, he married his sweetheart, Maud Annie Knopff at St Stephen’s Church in Haggerston. The young couple were married only just over a year before Frederick died on 7 June 1917 in France.

This date is the first day of the Battle of Messines attack, whose objective was to re-capture the strategically important Wytschaete-Messines Ridge, south of Ypres which had previously been captured by the German army in November 1914. The ridge was a crucial vantage point and therefore the Battle was hugely important for the Allies overall wartime objective. The battle is hugely important in terms of the overall context of WW1. Ultimately the Battle was a success, but this came at a huge price, with 17,000 British casualties and 26,000 German casualties.

Further details of Frederick’s death can be gleaned from letters that survive addressed to his wife, Maud, sent by the Chaplain and Sergeant in his unit. From these letters, we know the precise circumstances of his death, which occurred whilst “he formed part of an ammunition carrying party, a duty which is the usual lot of the pioneers in an attack. The party was compelled to halt and take refuge in a shell hole, while crossing ground only recently won from the enemy. Whilst in the hole, a heavy shrapnel shell burst immediately over it, and a piece struck Fred on the head, penetrating his helmet and killing him instantaneously“.

WW1 was the first war in which the steel helmet was put into widespread use. Prior to this time, military headwear was not standardised and initially military headwear was only made of cloth which obviously was inadequate in face of barrage of gunfire and explosive devices. Frederick, like all British soldiers regardless of rank, would undoubtedly have been wearing a standard issue steel Brodie Helmet which had been designed and patented in 1915 by Leonard John Brodie (1873–1945). According to Wikipedia, over 7.5 million helmets were produced during WW1. After an initial batch of helmets, the design was modified to narrow the brim and make a more domed crown. It was also altered to comprise steel with 12% manganese content (known as “Hadfield steel” after the suggestion by Sir Robert Hadfield. This type of steel increased protection for soldiers by 10% since it could better withstand the impact of shrapnel. The helmet was also designed to withstand a .45 caliber pistol bullet travelling at 600 feet (180 m) per second fired at a distance of 10 feet (3.0 m). The Brodie is now considered to be an iconic design but during WW1 it was essential in the face of the increased risks of head injuries which was one of most common forms of injury.

FG_COKER_Memorial_Card

Frederick George Coker – Memorial Card (Copyright: Keith Marshall) 

Frederick’s death was deeply felt by his fellow soldiers writing to Maud who describe him warmly as follows:

Lieutenant O E Burden wrote “talking from a military point of view, he was always a thorough good solider, willing and reliable and trustworthy. He was loved and respected by all who came in contact with him, and we all have quite a tender spot for him now, I can assure you”.

The Sergeant of his battalion, Stanley Frank Haycock, describes him as “a loyal friend and a brave man right through. I have never known him shirk a task, however dangerous or distasteful it may have been. His example and encouragement to the younger members of the squad did a lot towards maintaining the high standing and good name of the pioneers in the battalion.”

The Chaplain of the 140th Brigade, wrote “to tell you that I have lost a personal friend in your good husband. I buried him on the battlefield near the place he fell right up at the front of the attack where he was doing his duty as always. May he rest in peace. He was a gallant soldier and a good Christian Churchman. He served for me at one celebration and helped me by giving out books at the last celebration before the attack on Trinity Sunday. There were over 200 Communicants and he himself received the Blessed Sacrament and went into Battle with the grace of Christ in his heart.”

Three of the letters addressed to Maud are sent by the Brigade Chaplain, Ernest Haldane Beattie. The role of army chaplain is one that is not widely known in our general knowledge of WW1. At the start of the war there were only some 100 chaplains in France but the end of the war there were 3000. Britain in 1914 was more overtly religious then today with almost 25% of the population attending church regularly and 90% of children attending Sunday School. Having a chaplain on or close to the battlefield has happened since the early days of warfare and continues to this day through the work of the Royal Army Chaplains Department. You can read more about the role of army chaplains in WW1 in blog by Sarah Reay and in the blog ‘They gave their today’

The letters also make reference to Frederick being buried on the battlefield, although the exact location was not allowed to be shared and “the exact position of his grave will be notified you by the Graves Registration Committee“. This committee was the fore runner of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. We know, with hindsight that Frederick is one of 3,570 men who died in June 1917 and whose names are commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial for those with no known grave.

After the passage of over 100 years it is fitting that we continue to remember Frederick George Coker.  Whilst the physical places associated with Frederick’s life might have largely disappeared as London has developed, his spirit survives and memory of him survive.

In the words of his Sergeant, Stanley Frank Haycock, “The memory of his fine personality will remain with us long after this conflict has ceased”.

 


EXTRA NOTES:

Pioneer Sergeant Stanley Frank Haycock (1891 – ) survived the war and ultimately moved to New Zealand. He was awarded a CBE in 1952 Birthday Honours and worked for the National Assistance Board – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1952_Birthday_Honours. He served in the Civil Service Rifles under Service No. 530220.

The 140th Infantry Brigade Chaplain was Reverend Prebendary Ernest Haldane Beattie (born 27 September 1876 in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland and died 17 October 1960 in Hereford). He was awarded the Military Cross whilst serving in the Civil Service Rifles. He had three children including his eldest son Stephen Haldane Beattie who was awarded the Victoria Cross in WW2 (http://vconline.org.uk/stephen-h-beattie-vc/4585965512).

Lieutenant Oscar Edward Burden served in the Civil Service Rifles, London Regiment as Service No 3558.


With deepest thanks to Keith Marshall for kindly sharing the photos and further information including letters relating to Frederick George Coker. 

 

Read Full Post »

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: S. T. A. Ali
Born: About 1889
Date of Death: 1 October 1917
Age at death: 28
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Engineers
Unit, Ship, etc: Depot Special Brigade
Enlisted:
Rank: Pioneer (Service No. 209658)
Decorations: British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed by enemy aircraft while in hospital
Family Details: Son of Muhammad Hyder Abdul-Ali of England and husband of Daisy Marion Abdul-Ali (nee Payne) of 123 Brecknock Road, Tufnell Park, London
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Establishments Department (Registry and Copying Division)
Civilian Rank: Second Division Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Longunesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery; Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

The second name listed at the top of the Board of Trade War Memorial is a distinctive one – S. T. A. Ali –  that stands out ahead of its time amongst the likes of Andrews, Bell, Black, Hook, Smith, Williams and others. In my mind his name conjures flavours of the east and is mysterious and investigating Sijil’s life is certainly curious. He must have been an inspiring and intriguing colleague and friend.

So who was he?

His name was Sijil Theodore Arthur Abdul-Ali and as his name suggests he was of Anglo-Indian descent. Sijil was born in Bermondsey, London in about July 1899. His father was a book publisher and accountant (according to his wedding certificate) called Muhammad Hyder Abdul-Ali (1864 – 1941) who was originally from Bombay (now Mumbai), India. His mother was Beatrice Mary Bragg (1861 – 1914) and he also had a sister Leila Dorothy Grace Abdul-Ali (1888 – 1972)

Multi-racial families in Britain are not new, although now more than 1 in 10 people are in an mixed relationship which is something to celebrate for cultural, social and human reasons, but in pre-WW1 Britain, Sijil must have been more distinctive.

Sijil and his family are traceable in the census records and this gives us some insight into his life and background. In 1891, the family are living together at 6 Bedford Square, Brighton with Sijil aged only 3. In both 1901 and 1911 he is recorded living away from home as a ‘boarder’ along with his sister Leila. In 1911 he  is living at 30 Saltram Crescent, Maida Hill near Paddington, London. We also know that he married in December 1916 to a Daisy Marion Payne.

He joined the Board of Trade as a Second Division Clerk working in the Establishments Department (Registry and Copying Division).

The other fascinating aspect about Sijil, apart from his family background, is his expertise and interest in chemistry and in particular alchemy, which is an  ancient philosophy and study of how basic substances (such as metals) are changed into other substances and how such substances were related to magic, astrology. Alchemists believed that substances, the mind, philosophy, religion, magic and astrology were all related to each other and tried to find connections between them.

Prior to the war, we also know that outside of work he was actively involved in The Alchemical Society, serving as its Honorary Secretary. The Society was founded in London in November 1912 with the aim of studying “the works and theories of the alchemists in all their aspects, philosophical, historical and scientific, and all matters relating thereto”. The Society was short-lived, folding sometime in autumn 1915 and was not revived after the end of WW1.

AlchemicalSociety

Journal of the Alchemical Society – Sijil Theodore Arthur Abdul Ali was Honorary Secretary

As a member of the society, Sijil was the author of at least three papers published in the Journal of the Alchemical Society:

  • “Some notes on the doctrine of the first matter, with special reference to the works of Thomas Vaughan”
  • “An interpretation of Alchemy in relation to modern scientific thought” 1:3 (March 1913)
  • “A general view of magic in respect to certain primary modes of thought”

The journal was edited by the British chemist, Herbert Stanley Redgrove (1887 – 1943), who was a Fellow of the Institute of Chemists and author of books, “Alchemy: ancient and modern” (1911) and “Bygone beliefs being a series of excursions in the byways of thought” (1920).

Sijil was a key thinker in the society and was interested in finding ways in which alchemical concepts could be translated into modern science and in reinterpreting conversations about alchemy as science. His key position in the society is referenced in several academic books such as “The Problem of Disenchantment: Scientific Naturalism and Esoteric Discourse, 1900 -1939 by Egil Asprem (SUNY Press, 31 May 2018) and “Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory” by Mark Morrisson, Associate Professor of English (Oxford University Press, 19 April 2007).

It is also possible, given his close connections with men like Herbert Redgrove and his beliefs that he was a member of either the Golden Dawn (also known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn) which was a secret society which was focused on the study of the occult, the paranormal and metaphysics or one of its offshoot organisations such the ‘Stella Matutina’ or the ‘Alpha et Omega’ which were occult or magical orders which continued to spread the the teachings of the Golden Dawn.

Given his skills, experience and interest, it is no surprise that he enlisted to serve in the Royal Engineers as a Pioneer (Service No. 209658) in a “Depot Special Brigade”. This probably means that he worked with chemical weapons.

Chemical-Warfare-World-War-1-Poison-Gases1

Chemical Warfare in WW1

According to The Long Long Trail website Royal Engineers’ special companies did not exist in the British army before 1914 but were established exclusively to develop a British response to German use of chemical weapons.

The first ever use of poison gas (chlorine) was recorded on 22 April 1915 on defenceless French troops in the Ypres Salient by German forces. The Germans released 180 tonnes of chlorine gas in 5 minutes. Chlorine is a powerful gas that irritates the lungs and mucous membranes. Prolonged exposure to chlorine is fatal. The use of the gas was unexpected, despite indications of German preparations, and was banned under the Hague Convention (1907).

In response, the British prepared defensive and retaliatory measures. Under the Royal Engineers, special companies of technically skilled men were formed to handle chemical weapons and the British themselves used chlorine gas as a weapon at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915.

The War Office set up an expanded force of special companies which included

  • four special battalions to handle gas discharge from cylinder and smoke from candles
  • four special Companies to handle gas shells fired from 4-inch Stokes mortars. Each Company had 48 such weapons.
  • four Special Sections to handle flame projectors (throwers)
  • a Headquarters and Depot

It is in this last depot unit that Sijil Abdul-Ali is most likely to have served.

The Special Brigade forces of the Royal Engineers regiment were commanded by Colonel C. Foulkes who was designated Assistant Director of Gas Services. He reported to Brigadier-General Thuillier, Director of Gas Services and Lieutenant-Colonel S. Cummins, RAMC was Director of Anti-Gas Measures.

Gas-StoryofSpecialBrigade

“Gas! The Story of the Special Brigade” by Colonel Foulkes

Colonel Foulkes survived the war and later in  1934, he wrote a book “Gas! The story of the Special Brigade“.

Foulkes was a complete novice in the use of gas in war and didn’t have the benefit of time to create and train new units. Volunteers with chemical knowledge were sought from universities and colleges as well as from ranks in the British Expeditionary Forces (BEF) with immediate promotion to the rank of Chemist Corporal. The headquarters and depot of the unit was at Helfaut, a village about five miles south of St Omer.

St Omer itself was the General Headquarters of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) from November 1914 to March 1916. It also housed a large number of military hospitals, being the base for the 4th, 10th, 7th Canadian, 9th Canadian and New Zealand Stationary Hospitals, the 7th, 58th (Scottish) and 59th (Northern) General Hospitals, and the 17th, 18th and 1st and 2nd Australian Casualty Clearing Stations all stationed there at some time during the war. The town also suffered a series of air raids from late autumn 1917 until May 1918 including one specific air raid incident which took place on the night of 30 September 1917/1 October 1917 which resulted in Sijil’s death aged only 28. At this time Sijil was recuperating in the 58th Scottish General Hospital in St Omer.

The precise nature of the attack was reported in the hospital’s War Diary as follows:

“During a hostile air raid on the night of 30/9/17 – 1/10/17, three bombs were dropped in the camp at 10.40 pm, ( 2 on Marquees for patients and 1 in the nurses compound). Of the 2 bombs which dropped on the marquees, 1 struck a marquee which was, fortunately unoccupied, the other struck a marquee occupied by patients and 2 nurses, who were on duty. The bomb which fell in the nurses compound struck a bell tent, which was unoccupied as the 2 nurses who sleep in the tent were on night duty. The casualties which have resulted are :- Nurses killed 3, wounded 3 ( 1 dangerously). Other ranks :- killed 16, wounded 60. Total killed 19, wounded 63. Of the other ranks wounded, 14 were transferred to other hospitals and one of these has since died. There has been much damage to canvas and equipment. 54 marquees (hospital, large) have been damaged (2 have been absolutely demolished, while the damage to the others varies from almost complete destruction to mere riddling). 21 bell tents have been damaged ( 1 was completely destroyed by a bomb and 20 have been riddled). Many pieces of iron pierced the new corrugated iron sleeping hut for sisters. 1 piece pierced iron and 3 pieces of asbestos boarding. Numerous panes of glass have been broken in the permanent buildings. One of the ablution houses has been damaged.

Surgeon General MacPherson, the ADMS and the Matron in Chief called today and it was arranged for the transfer of all lying cases to other hospitals so that at night the walking cases left in hospital might go to the cave in the public garden and sleep there. In the evening patients and unit moved to the cave in the public garden and only the police and a few orderlies were left in the camp. The 3 wounded nurses were transferred today to No 10 Stationary Hospital.

2/10/17 The 3 nurses (Sister Climie, Nurse Thompson and Nurse Coles) and the 16 other ranks killed by hostile aircraft on the night of 30/9/17-1/10/17 were buried today at 4:00 pm in the Souvenir Cemetery Longuenesse. Sister Milne, who was dangerously injured in the same air-raid died last night in No 10 Stationary Hospital. 2 other ranks who were wounded have died today, so that the statistics as a result of the raid are, to date :-  Dead, nurses 4, other ranks 18. Wounded :- nurses 2, other ranks 58. Totals Dead 22, Wounded 60.”

Another soldier, Sergeant Alfred Quinton Barton (1889 – 1956) was a registered pharmicist and serving in the Royal Medical Corps at the time and witness to the events of the night of 30 September/1 October 1917. Alfred had  set up the dispensary at the St Omer Hospital and his diaries describe the horror of the bombing which he remembers as “HELL – DANTE’S DEEPEST” and “God curse the brains who invented & put into practice this type of warfare”

StOmerHospital

Drawing of St Omer Hospital in 1916

Sijil is buried in the Commonwealth War Grave Commission Longunesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais, France, where there 2,874 other WW1 Commonwealth burials.

Sijil’s death was a massive loss for thinking in chemical and alchemy circles. The personal inscription chosen by his family to adorn his grave sums up his character, his contribution to society in life and the tragedy of his death aged 28, in the prime of his life. It simply says “He Followed Truth“. That is an aim we can learn from and aspire to in our own modern lives.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

This week at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (Monday 11 November), colleagues from across the Department for International Trade (DIT) came together once again to give thanks to those former Civil Service colleagues who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

This year as well as being joined by both our Permanent Secretaries – Antonia Romeo and Crawford Faulkner – we were also honoured for the wreath on behalf of families to be laid by David Hertz, great nephew of Abraham Hertz (1895 – 1917). Other wreaths were laid by Air Vice-Marshal (AVM) Nigel Maddox (laying the wreath in memory of those with no known grave), Captain James Coates, an army reservist (laying the wreath in memory of fallen colleagues), Ashley Manton (laying the wreath in memory of Retired Service Personnel), Riccardo Belgrave (laying the wreath in memory of Black, Asian and Caribbean service personnel) and Edwina Osborne (laying the wreath on behalf of the War Memorial Research Group and Jill Knight, author of the book “All Bloody Gentlemen” about the Civil Service Rifles regiment).

Additionally, for the second year running, we were also delighted to welcome the Civil Service Choir who movingly sang the “Long Day Closes”.

DITs-wreath-laying-ceremony-2019

Wreath layers at DIT’s annual Remembrance Commemoration 2019

royalbritishlegion

After the ceremony, a charity bake sale was held in aid of the Royal British Legion, which raised an impressive £364.57. The Royal British Legion, which was founded in 1921, is a national charity which provides financial, social and emotional support to members and veterans of the British Armed Forces, their families and dependants and the money raised will go to help their much needed work.

BoTwarmemorialimageAs previously, the annual Remembrance commemoration was organised by the department’s War Memorial Research Group, which is a very small group of about five colleagues. Whilst the visible focus of the group’s year is organising the department’s annual Remembrance Commemoration, behind the scenes there is much more that happens outside this annual event – in particular ongoing historical and family research. 

Why does DIT’s War Memorial Research Group and many other similar amateur historians and groups do what they do in researching the past? Isn’t all that it is possible to know about World War One and other conflicts already known?

We are motivated to put a spotlight on the stories of each individual because each person’s story is fascinating and unique – and we are the storytellers of the tribe. Through telling each man’s story we are not just dwelling on the past but connecting to the future and respecting the lives of all who died regardless of nationality on both sides.

FamilyHistoryStorytellers

Storytellers of the tribe

The World War One Centenary might have ended, but 101 years on, the work of this group and others continues to uncover fascinating stories about the war and the individuals involved. Many other historians and groups continue to research this era – like Summerstown 182 group, Men of Worth group , Mart Lambo (Beat 2 Battlefield Historian), HMS Vanguard group who are searching for photos of over 800 HMS Vanguard sailors killed in 1917 explosion.

A huge part of the group’s ongoing work is to try and tell the stories and identify photos (#morethanjustaname project) of the men, where possible. We were therefore delighted to track down 100 photos in conjunction with 100 years since the Armistice in November 2018. Since then we’ve been blessed to locate even more photos – and so far have found 120 photos which is outstanding given that retaining family photos is not always guaranteed through the passage of time.

We are still keen to reach out to connect with a number of relatives of the men – read this Facebook blog post – so if you are related to any of the men please get in touch with the group via war.memorial@trade.gov.uk

We can’t tell each story without a bit of help and that’s where the families and descendants of the men come in. Over the past year we have been blessed to be in touch online or to even meet several relatives face to face. It is an absolute honour and delight to be in touch with each one and to hear their stories and maintain the connections between the department, the Civil Service and the families. This year, as well as the great nephew of Abraham Hertz being able to join us, we were also joined by the great nephew of Richard William Buttle. Many thanks to them both for taking the time to join us. 

Screenshot-ImagesWW1men-Nov2019

Images of the Board of Trade War Memorial men (120 of 305 men identified)

The group is also starting on researching former colleagues who might have served in WW2. This is a huge challenge for the group since there are no surviving staff records.

One of our group and an inspiration to those who follow him was Alan Humphries, the former webmaster for the Board of Trade War Memorial, who sadly passed away in a few days ago in early November 2019.

Alan undertook a great deal of the research into the 305 men commemorated on the memorial and brought many of their stories back to life

Last year, for example, Alan lent us some of his collection of artefacts for the accompanying exhibition to our Great War centenary ceremony.

Alan was also instrumental in making the case for a Commonwealth War Grave over 10 years ago to recognise the sacrifice of Lawson Akhurst Smith who died in London on 13 May 1918 and is buried in Orpington, Kent. Lawson Akhurst Smith suffered from mental health issues and tragically committed suicide. The story of Lawson’s life shows the changing attitudes to mental health in the UK. Alan participated in the group’s work until very recently. Only a few weeks ago, he shared our collective excitement at finally tracking down a photo of Lawson Akhurst Smith (thanks to hearing from a relative now living in the United States). 

At this year’s Board of Trade wreath laying ceremony, at our offices in Whitehall, Alan was very much in our thoughts as coming back for the commemoration each year was always very important to him.

In the words of the memorial scroll in honour of Sergeant Abraham Hertz (who died aged just 21 years of age), “LET THOSE WHO COME AFTER SEE TO IT THAT HIS NAME BE NOT FORGOTTEN”.

Thank you to everyone who has helped the group, past, present and future.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

 

If you are inspired to do your own historical research, check out the links to trace your World War 1 family history. The War Memorial Research Group are always pleased to hear from others with a shared interest in the War Memorial whether based in the UK or overseas. You can get in touch with the group via war.memorial@trade.gov.uk

Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group
15 November 2019

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: A. Hertz
Born: 5 September 1895
Date of Death: 3 July 1917
Age at death: 21
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: London Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 1st/15th Battalion (Civil Service Rifles)
Enlisted: February 1915 in London
Rank: Sergeant (Service no. 531269)
Decorations: Victory Medal and British War Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of Isaac and Annie Hertz of 1 Cranley Buildings, Holborn, London
Residence: 40 Wenlake Buildings, Old Street, London
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Central Office)
Civilian Rank: Assistant Clerk (Abstractor)
Cemetery or Memorial: Menin Gate (Panel 54); Civil Service Rifles Memorial, Somerset House, London; Memorial to Staff of the Ministry of Labour (located in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London); and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London); British Jewry Book of Honour

Biography:

“LET THOSE WHO COME AFTER SEE TO IT THAT HIS NAME BE NOT FORGOTTEN” (Memorial Scroll in memory of Abraham Hertz) 

The Board of Trade War Memorial contains men of all faiths and from diverse social backgrounds. A handful of the men were of Jewish descent and one of those was Abraham Hertz, who was born on 5 September 1895 in Whitechapel, London.

BritishJewryBookHonour

British Jewry Book of Honour (first published in 1922 (Araham Hertz is one of approximately 50,000 men named in the book)

The contribution of the Jewish community to the First World War effort in the UK, until recent years has not been widely known or studied. This is changing thanks to the “We Were There Too” community research project and other insights (for instance in a 2014 exhibition For King and Country? held at the Jewish Museum, Camden). The experience of the war from a Jewish perspective mirrored that amongst the wider British population but was also in many ways very different, especially due to changing attitudes to “aliens” and outsiders. For instance at the start of WW1, there was a level of anti-German feeling which resulted in London East End Jewish shops with German sounding names being attacked and Yiddish speakers confronted. Within days of the declaration of war, the Aliens Restriction Act was passed by Parliament on 5 August 1914 which impacted on all foreign nationals.

Forty to fifty thousand British Jews served in Britain’s armed forces in the First World War. Thousands more were also involved in war work and support roles behind the front line and on the Home Front. Per capita, more British Jews were involved in the war effort than the wider population. When the call came, the Jewish community stood up to be counted. Abraham was one of those.

The Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group is very fortunate to be in contact with one of the relatives of Abraham Hertz, his great nephew, David Hertz. The following biography is mainly based on information pulled together by David, with much thanks.

AbrahamHertz

Abraham Hertz (copyright: David Hertz) 

“Abraham’s parents were Isaac Hertz (1869 – 1939)  and Annie Fanny Sophia Sharp (1876 – 1936). He was the eldest of their seven children. Like many other people of Jewish origin living in London’s East End, his father worked in the tailoring business as a tiemaker (cutter). An insight into the tiemaking business in Spitalfields can be found in an article about ‘Drakes of London, Tiemakers‘.  Abraham was named after his grandfather, who was originally from Amsterdam in Holland and who had emigrated to London with his whole family in 1852, moving to 2 Artillery Passage in Spitalfields, London.

We can trace the younger Abraham’s story through historical records. For instance, in both the 1901 and 1911 censuses, Abraham is recorded as living at the family home at 2 Artillery Passage, Spitalfields with his parents and his younger siblings.

We also know thanks to surviving school admission records that Abraham started primary school aged 3 on 3 July 1899 at Gravel Lane School. From 1907 to 1911, he attended the University College School, Hampstead, an independent school which was originally founded in 1830. The school relocated to its current located in Hampstead in 1907. There is a possibility that Abraham might have been present when the school’s new purpose-built buildings were opened by King Edward VII and the Archbishop of Canterbury on 27 July 1907. The school was highly prestigious and was in the tradition of other schools, colleges and educational institutions which were open to those from diverse religious beliefs. It would however have been a very different environment from the East End of London and also a great foundation and experience for Abraham, who was clearly talented and who the family were keen to support in succeeding in life.

After leaving school, he left to work at the Board of Trade, Labour Department. The London Gazette (dated October 1911) records his appointment as a Temporary Boy Clerk.and then in May 1913 his promotion to Assistant Clerk (Abstractor).

He enlisted in February 1915 and joined the 1st/15th Battalion of the London Regiment (also known as the “Civil Service Rifles”).

He was promoted to Sergeant Instructor, specialising in musketry.

He was posted to serve in France in February 1917. The regiment’s first major military engagement was at the Battle of Messines in June 1917. This action is described in “The History of the Prince of Wales Own Service Rifles” (pages 140 – 144).

After Messines, the Division spent 12 days resting and recuperating in Ebblinghem near St Omer. On 28 June 1917 the men marched back to the front line, staying overnight at Meteren and Voormezeele on their way.

At the beginning of July 1917, according to the Battalion War Diary, the men were at Spoilbank in Oak trench which had been captured during the attack on 7 June. The regimental history describes this period as “three very unlucky days”.

The Civil Service Rifles history states, “The weather was bad, the trenches were in a perfectly rotten state of repair and the men had no protection against persistent shelling……Three unlucky days were spent here, during which time the losses from shell fire amounted to about forty all ranks……”. These events are also described in Jill Knight’s book, “The Civil Service Rifles in the Great War“. (The late  and much missed, Jill Knight, was the founder of the Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group).

CivilServiceRifles-WarMemorial-July1917

Civil Service Rifles War Diary – includes reference to the casualties in month of July 1917 (including Abraham Hertz) 

Abraham was one of eight other casualties on 3 July 1917. He died aged only 21 years old.

MeninGate

Menin Gate, Ypres, France

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial (panel 54). This memorial, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, records the names of more than 54,000 soldiers who like Abraham died before 16 August 1917 and have no known grave. He is also commemorated on the scroll stored within the Civil Service Rifles Memorial located at Somerset House, London (which was the Civil Service Rifles regimental parade and drill ground). Additionally he is named on two Civil Service War Memorials – the memorial to staff of the Ministry of Labour (located at Caxton House, Tothill Street, London) and the Board of Trade War Memorial (located at 3 Whitehall Place, London). He is also named in the Roll of Honour and War List 1914-1918 of University College School, Hampstead (on page 48a along with a photograph) and in the British Jewry Roll of Honour. Sadly the University College School war memorial was destroyed in a fire so no longer survives.”

In 2018, the Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group were delighted and fortunate to meet Abraham Hertz’s relatives. Together we collectively continue to remember his sacrifice. Abraham’s story is one of integration and he is a symbol of how war impacts on all communities and individuals in all their diversity.

Remembrance cuts across all faiths, beliefs and origins. It is not about jingoism or blind patriotism. It is a time for quiet reflection, the giving of thanks and an open-ended invitation to reflect, pray, meditate, and contemplate.

AbrahamHertz-memorial

“Let those who come after see to it that his name be not forgotten” – Memorial Scroll in honour of Sergeant Abraham Hertz (copyright: David Hertz)

 

Read Full Post »

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: S. J. Russell
Born: 11 August 1897
Date of Death: 2 August 1917
Age at death: 19
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Field Artillery
Unit, Ship, etc: 400th Battery (part of 14th Brigade)
Enlisted: London
Rank: Gunner (Service no. 945901)
Decorations: Campaign medals – British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of George T and Amelia A Russell, 17 Park Grove, Bromley, Kent
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Seamen’s Registry
Civilian Rank: Boy Clerk
Cemetery or Memorial: Coxyde Military Cemetery, Koksijde, West-Vlaanderen (II.C.17); Beckenham County Boys School (now Langley Park School for Boys) War Memorial, Beckenham, Kent; St John the Evangelist Church, Penge, London; Bromley War Memorial; Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

We were very moved recently to hear from a relative of Sidney James Russell who contacted the Board of Trade War Memorial Research Group to provide us with more detail about Sidney’s lifestory. Thanks to this connection, we are now able to convey a greater sense of who Sidney was, beyond the bald facts presented on a page about him and we can put a face to his name.

SidneyJamesRussell

Sidney James Russell (copyright: Trevor Mathews)

Sidney was born in Peckham on 11 August 1897 and baptised in the former Church of St Mark’s  in Peckham (in the Diocese of Southwark) which was founded in 1885 but subsequently bombed during WW2 and no longer exists. Sidney was the third child of George Thomas Russell (1867 – 1942), a Police Constable and his wife Amelia Ada Morgan (1867 – 1940). He had an older brother called Leslie George Russell (1891 – 1961) and two sisters Dora Agnes Millie Russell (1894 – 149) and Edith Nellie Russell (1903 – 1985).

In 1901, the family (including Sidney aged 4) were living at 19 Lanvanor Road in Camberwell. The family then moved further out into the countryside to 39 Bromley Gardens in Bromley, Kent, presumably for a better quality of life where they are listed in the 1911 census. The family were successful with Leslie, the eldest son working as  a shipping clerk and Dora, working as a Post Office Clerk whilst young Sidney (aged 13) and his youngest sister Edith were still at school.

From a short obituary in the local paper, we know that Sidney attended the Raglan Road School (now called Raglan Primary School) and then won a scholarship to the Technical Institute in Beckenham (now called Langley Park School for Boys).

Following the end of his schooling, Sidney managed to secure a job as a boy clerk in the Civil Service working in the Seaman’s Registry in the Board of Trade office based at 1 Tower Hill.

We know that Sidney enlisted in London on 14 May 1914 (aged only 17 years of age). We also know that he was 6 feet tall and was healthy and fit. According to his military attestation papers (British Army WW1 Service Records, 1914-20) which is one of only about a third of the entire WW1 service records to have survived, we know that he enlisted in the Territorial Forces in the 7th Battery, 3rd London Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery.

SJRussell-militaryattestation

Sidney James Russell’s military attestation papers

His service record details that between 14 May 1914 and 20 January 1917 he served at home in England.

He ultimately embarked for France after he turned 19 years old. He first set off from Southampton on 5 February 1917 arriving in Le Havre, France on 6 February 1917. On arrival in France he served in several different units – firstly on 19 February 1917 he was posted to the 293 Brigade Ammunition Column (BAC) of the Royal Field Artillery.  He was then posted on 2 May 1917 to the 14 AKA Brigade and then from 19 May 1917 he was posted to the 400th Battery (Royal Field Artillery) which formed part of the 14th Brigade of the Royal Horse Artillery. The 14th brigade in essence became an ordinary field artillery unit rater then part of a division. These changes of unit were not unusual with lots changes with batteries moved from one brigade to another throughout the war.

During WW1, the Royal Artillery comprised three parts  – the Royal Field Artillery (RFA), the Royal Horse Artillery (RHA) and the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). The RFA’s role was to provide firepower and medium artillery cover (such as by howitzers and other powerful guns) to the infantry soldiers on the front line or in the trenches.

As an artillery solider or “Gunner”, Sidney’s job was to fire explosive shells from the big guns which typically weighed several tons and were difficult to manoeuvre but which were also able to fire thousands of shells in a barrage against the opposing army. As family historian Dennis Corbett makes clear, artillery technology developed throughout the war initially starting with 15 pounder field guns followed by larger 18 pounder guns (by 1916). By this time, as well an artillery brigade comprised four batteries of six guns. The first three – A, B and C were field guns and the fourth D battery would have a 4.5 howitzer.

We know that Sidney died on 2 August 1917. He had been serving in France only 6 months and his date of death was only a little more than a week before his 20th birthday on 11 August.

Sidney is buried in Coxyde Military Cemetery, where over 1600 men are buried. He is also named on the Bromley War Memorial, the Beckenham County Boys School (now Langley Park School for Boys), the St John the Evangelist Church in Penge and also the Board of Trade War Memorial.

Below is a beautiful and moving poem that Sidney’s elder brother, Leslie wrote in memory of his younger brother’s death.

LeslieRussell-Poem-1917

Poem “Ready, Aye Ready” by Leslie George Russell (kindly shared by Trevor Mathews)

His gravestone in Coxyde Military Cemetery bears a personal inscription chosen by his family, which simply states “PEACE PERFECT PEACE”. We hope and pray that Sidney James Russell is truly at peace and thank his relative, Trevor Mathews for sharing extra information about him so that we can continue to remember Sidney’s sacrifice.

SJRussell-gravestone-CoxydeMilitaryCemetery

Sidney James Russell’s gravestone in Coxyde Military Cemetery (copyright: Trevor Mathews)

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: F. Hanlon
Born: 9 April 1890
Date of Death: 31 March 1918
Age at death: 27
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: West Yorkshire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 15th (Service) Battalion (1st Leeds Pals Battalion) which later merged with 17th Battalion to become the 15th/17th Battalion
Enlisted: Leeds
Rank: Private (Service No. 15/425)
Decorations: WW1 Campaign Medals – Victory Medal, British War Medal, 1914-15 Star
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders) and WW1 (Egypt)
Manner of Death: Died of Wounds (whilst in German military field hospital)
Family Details: Son of James and Annie Hanlon of 19 Brudenall Road, Hyde Park, Leeds
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Labour Department (Yorkshire and East Midlands Division)
Civilian Rank: 
Cemetery or Memorial: Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, Pas de Calai (XX.E.14); Breary Banks Memorial to Leeds Pals; Memorial to the Staff of the Ministry of Labour, now hanging in Caxton House, Tothill Street, London SW1; and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London);

Biography:

Hanlonfamily

Frank’s mother and 4 sisters (Copyright: Cathy Ready)

Frank Hanlon was born on 8 April 1890, the oldest son and child of James Hanlon (1860-1931), a machinist an his wife Annie Shackleton (1867 – 1953) who came from Burley in Leeds. The growing family can be found in successive censuses, first in 1891, and then 1901 and 1911. In 1891 the Frank is living aged just 11 months together with his parents at 13 Carberry Place, Burley. By 1901,  the Hanlon family have moved to 180 Burley Road. Frank (aged 10) now has 4 younger sisters –  Shirley (1892 – 1970), Jeannette (1894 – 1993), Edith (1896 – 1979) and lastly Mildred (1898 – 1990). In 1911, the whole family are all living at 10 Beechwood Crescent, Burley. In this census, Frank is now aged 20 and working as a clerk for Leeds County Council in the Education Department.

At some point between 1911 and 1914, Frank joined the Yorkshire and East Midlands Division of the Labour Department (which at the time formed part of the Board of Trade).

In his private life, we know that Frank and his family had a life long connection with St Andrew’s Church located on Burley Street, Leeds, just a stone’s throw from their home in Burley Street. Sadly the church no longer exists, since it closed in 1958, as a result of a reorganisation of church boundaries. What was previously St Andrew’s parish now falls under St George’s parish.

However, we still know that Frank was baptised at St Andrew’s in May 1890. We also know that his father, James Hanlon was a choirmaster there as, according to family records, the church wrote to him in 1909 thanking him for his service in this role and asking him to continue. Frank was also active in church life and was one of the sidesmen (also known as ushers or assistant churchwardens). In this capacity he would have been well known to the congregation and local community, as he was responsible for greeting churchgoers, overseeing seating and taking the collection. As is common practice, he would most likely have been appointed by the church’s Annual Parochial Church Meeting.

LeedsPals

“The Leeds Pals” book

Motivated by his faith and strong personal and moral upbringing, Frank enlisted as a Private in the 15th (Service) Battalion of the Prince of Wales’ Own (West Yorkshire Regiment). This  was one of the so-called “Pals Battalions” formed by local authorities or private organisations who provided the necessary clothing, accommodation and food alongside the army providing weapons and training. The young men of Leeds (as in other places across the UK) heeded the call of Lord Kitchener to enlist (and bolster the small standing professional army of 120,000 men). The connection between the volunteers and the city was intrinsically linked – for instance, as the authors of the Leeds Pals Researchers say “the city was part of them and they were part of the city”.

According to details of the regiment published on “The Long Long Trail” the battalion was formed in Leeds in September 1914 by Lord Edward Brotherton, the Lord Mayor and the City. Frank (alongside his friends and work colleagues) would undoubtedly have seen a recruitment poster similar to the one published here.

He enlisted alongside hundreds of other clerks, engineers, schoolteachers and other men from the city and so it is likely he knew a highly educated Leeds University graduate originally from Bengal in India, Jogendra Sen (1887 – 1916) who was also one of the first men to enlist in the Leeds Pals.

The regiment initially trained locally before moving to Silkstone (near Barnsley in South Yorkshire) in December 1914. In June 1915, the battalion came order of the 93rd Brigade, 31st Division. In December 1915 the battalion saw its first service overseas when it was sent to Alexandria in Egypt to defend the Suez Canal (according to Frank’s medal card he landed on 22 December 1915 which would have made for an unusual Christmas away from home). It would very likely have been Frank’s first time far from home and first time on a long sea journey.  The memories of the voyage to Egypt are remembered on the Remembering the Leeds Pals Battalions website by a fellow Leeds Pal who survived the war, Private Arthur Pearson. He recalls that the food served on board was ‘most unappetising and most of it uneatable. Boiled mutton day after day. We swore we got the same piece of mutton day after day too, as we couldn’t touch the stuff.’

Then in March 1916, the battalion was subsequently reassigned to serve in France.

Frank would undoubtedly have fought  alongside his friends on the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July 1916). During this action, the Leeds Pals were stationed near the village of Serre, where they were ordered to attack the Germany positions. This was a deadly day and the Pals were decimated by the German artillery and machine guns. By the end of 1 July 1916, 248 members of the Leeds Pals were either killed or fatally injured. Only 72 members of the Battalion were uninjured. As Private Pearson, again remembered: “The name of Serre and the date of 1st July is engraved deep in our hearts, along with the faces of our ‘Pals’, a grand crowd of chaps. We were two years in the making and ten minutes in the destroying.”

Frank at this time was one of the ‘lucky’ ones and he went on to fight in the Battle of Arras (9 April to 16 May 1917) with the Leeds Pals. He was subsequently part of the remaining Leeds Pals who merged with the 17th Battalion or Leeds Bantams to form the 15th/17th Battalion on 7 December 1917.

By 1918, the surviving Leeds men spent the start of the year training and in reserve, in preparation to provide reinforcements to the front line. We also know (thanks to a Leeds Live online newspaper report from 11 November 1918 the circumstances which most likely led to Frank’s ultimate death). The 15th/17th Battalion that Frank served in was sent back to the front in March 1918 and so he would have have faced the German Spring Offensive, code-named Operation Michael. This German military operation consisted of an intensive bombardment on the British trenches across a 50 mile front line (stretching from Arras to La Ferre). On 26 March 1918, the Leeds Pals were isolated whilst fighting on the outskirts of Moyenneville. The Leeds Pals launched a counter attack to drive off the Germans but they continued to hit back and were able to hold out. The battalion was ordered to withdraw and hit by another attack on 27 March 1918. Subsequently, with the German’s looking to be gaining advantage, a Sergeant Alfred Mountain volunteered to take charge of 10 men and a Lewis gun to protect the battalion’s flank, killing up to 100 German soldiers. This action successfully repelled the German attack. For this action Sergeant Mountain (who ultimately survived) was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Germans however continued to advance and the Pals were were again outflanked and whilst 44 were able to retreat, the rest were captured. In all, during this whole 9 day battle, 74 soldiers in the West Yorkshire Regiment were lost and more than 1,070 men serving in the 93rd Brigade were either, dead, wounded or missing.

This reason for focusing in on this particular time period, is that we know that at some point during this military action, Frank Hanlon was captured by the Germans, after being injured. Frank was one of 10 million people, servicemen or civilians who were captured and sent to detention camps or treated in military hospitals.

Thanks to surviving Prisoner of War historical archives from the International  Committee of the Red Cross, we know that Frank was reported missing since 24 March 1918. An index card (Reference no A. 40491) also details that Frank died, aged 27, at a field hospital at Aniche on 31 March 1918 having been shot in the lung.

As a wounded prisoner, Frank Hanlon’s fate would have fallen under the 1864 Geneva Convention which stated in Article 6 that “Wounded or sick combatants, to whatever nation they may belong, shall be collected and cared for”.

The ICRC, an independent, neutral organisation, was founded in 1863 to “protect the lives and dignity of victims of armed conflict and violence and to provide them with assistance”. Their work continues to this day and you can find out more about supporting and donating to their ongoing work.

From records, we also know that Frank left a will and and probate (dated 10 September 1918) totalling £47 1 shilling 6 pence. Also touchingly his next of kin is named as his fiancee, Lucy Markinson.

Cabaret Rouge1

Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, France (Copyright: www.cwgc.org.uk)

Frank was initially buried at Auberchicourt Cemetery, in what was then German territory. However, in 1924 his body was re-interred in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France where it remains to this day. Frank’s reburial is not unusual during the period after WW1 as the battlefields were cleared of ammunition and debris and known burial sites were examined and moved to larger cemeteries. As a result, alongside over 3000 fellow British and Commonwealth soldiers, Frank has a uniform gravestone which bears a simple inscription chosen by his family – it says: “HE IS RISEN” MARK XVI. 6″.

As their eldest son and as a brother, Frank’s loss must have been deeply felt by the rest of the Hanlon family, and his death was rarely spoken of according to living descendants. His nephew Frank Hanlon Pollard was named after him.

The then vicar of St Andrew’s wrote beautifully and movingly of Frank in his Annual Report in 1918 as follows:

“There are other and sadder losses…Mr Frank Hanlon, one of our sidesmen, and all his life connected with St Andrew’s Church, has lost his life in battle. He was one of the best and we mourn his loss. He gave his life for his country and he could do no more.” 

Frank is remembered at the Commonwealth War Grave cemetery of Cabarat-Rouge in France. He is also remembered on two Civil Service War Memorials in London – the Ministry of Labour War Memorial located in Tothill Street and the Board of Trade War Memorial located at 3 Whitehall Place. A stone cairn memorial also stands in honour of the 15th Battalion (The Leeds Pals) which is located on Breary Banks. The memorial was unveiled on 25 September 1935 on the site of the first training camp of around 1,275 men who formed the Leeds Pals battalion.

The memorial in St Andrew’s Church, Burley has sadly been lost in the years since the church closed in 1958, however a photo of it still survives. It would be amazing to see if the memorial could be found or alternatively replaced. This happened as recently as 2017 when Leeds City Council rededicated the war memorial from the former  St Columba Church which also previously located in Burley, Leeds. As reported in the Yorkshire Post the restoration of war memorials is deeply symbolic, hence the ongoing work of the Department for International Trade‘s War Memorial Research Group, which cuts across all faiths, beliefs and places of origin (and other national organisations such as the War Memorial Trust). 

Chris Page, local Leeds branch secretary of the Western Front Association, who campaigned for the restoration of the St Colomba memorial, said in 2017: “It’s not really about us – it’s about them and their sacrifice which was really important.”

StAndrewsChurchWarMemorialLeeds

War Memorial from former St Andrews Church, Burley Street, Leeds

With massive thanks to the relatives (Cathy and Neil Ready) of Frank Hanlon for very kindly sharing surviving photos of Frank and his family.

(Note: Many more details of the history of the Leeds Pals can be found in books by Laurie Mills or the Leeds Pals Researchers).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »