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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: S. N. Levitt
Born: 6 November 1898
Date of Death: 29 September 1918
Age at death: 19
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Unit, Ship, etc: 16th Battalion
Enlisted:
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Decorations:  British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1 (France and Flanders)
Manner of Death: Killed in Action
Family Details: Son of Ernest W and Francs M Levitt, Winslow Villa, Mulgrave, Sutton, Surrey
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Establishments Department
Civilian Rank:
Cemetery or Memorial: Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile (III.D.4); Sutton War Memorial in Morden Park, Sutton; Sutton Grammar School; Sutton Spiritualist Church (stained glass window memorial); Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

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Sutton County Schools (Source: Flickr)

“…the premature snuffing out of life’s brief candle is particularly tragic when the flame seemed likely to have burned with special brilliance”. 

Such are the concluding words of a Mr A.E. Jones reflecting on the brief life of Sydney Levitt, whilst writing about the history of Sutton Grammar School during WW1. Sydney Levitt’s story is a tragic one of an immensely talented young man full of promise who went virtually straight from school to the trenches.

Sydney was born in October 1898 in Gravesend, Kent. His parents were Ernest W Levitt (1866 – ?) and France M Levitt (nee Broad) (1875 – 1936). He had one surviving brother Edgar Frank Levitt (1900 – 1981).

In the 1901 census, Sydney is recorded with his family at 8 High Street South, Dunstable, Bedfordshire. Sydney’s father is working as a Tobacconist, running his own business. The family are also living with Sydney’s grandfather John Levitt, a retired carpenter. By the 1911 census, the Levitt family, including Sydney are living in Sutton, Surrey and they are recorded as visitors to the family of Arthur William Cross (a gardener). By this time, Sydney’s father is now working as a butler in domestic service.

Despite his father’s change of job, Sydney was able to attend the selective local all-boys school, Sutton County Grammar School which when the school initially opened in 1899 charged fees of £2 10s per term. Sydney was talented enough to win a scholarship to the school. Approximately a quarter of boys attending the school had their fees paid by Surrey County Scholarships.

To have an idea of Sydney’s life at school in the 1910s, an interesting insight is provided in the Brief History of Sutton Grammar School, which records that “Games were not compulsory and only about 50% took part. Detention was held every day from 4.15 until 5:00pm….In 1909 the headmaster issued the advice to the youngest two years that they should go to bed for a few hours in the afternoon of prize giving in order to stay awake until the end.”

Sydney was one of the 50% of pupils who did sports, at which he excelled. A group photo of him survives dating back to 1914 showing members of the Sutton County School swimming team having won the Surrey Secondary Schools Swimming Association Senior Challenge Cup.

We also know from an article in the Retrospect magazine (Issue 11) that Sydney was actively involved in the school Combined Cadet Force (CCF). The magazine includes an article about CCF at Sutton Grammar. Sydney is specifically referred to as one of the leading participants in the unit. For instance, in a November 1916 edition of the school magazine – the “Suttonian” – a description is provided of the Surrey Cadet Battalion’s field day held near Chilworth in July 1916: “Operations were commenced at one o’clock and consisted of an attack on an ammunition convoy broken down at the crossroads…the Sutton Corps, participating in the main attack, advanced slowly under the admirable leadership of Sgt Maj S.N. Levitt, driving the opposition force before them.”

The article continues with a further history of the cadet force, which was founded by the Governors, with Old Boys asked to provide the boys uniform. A pivotal part in the CCF was played by Sydney. As the article continues to explain: “That first cadet leader was Sydney Neville Levitt, a young man whose imprint is found all over the school’s activities in 1915 and 1916, his last two years at the school. He was, it appears the classic all-rounder. A well regarded centre-forward player in the school’s First XI football team (owing his success to his ‘dash and perseverance’), he also captained the cricket team, was a member of the winning school swimming squad, a prefer of course, editor of the ‘Suttonian’ in 1915 and a regular contributor to school debates which then formed a large part of the school’s life”. 

After leaving school in 1916, he joined  the Board of Trade’s Establishments Department and also the Army Training Reserve (Regimental No TR/10/26128) in 1917.  The Training Reserve was set up on 1 September 1916 to cope with the huge numbers of men conscripted into the army.  Reserve forces meant different things depending on the exact location and context. In Sydney’s case he was part of the home force. He was then commissioned as an officer in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps and served as a Second Lieutenant. He served in 16th (Service) Battalion (Church Lads Brigade) which was originally formed in Denham, Buckinghamshire with current and former members of the Church Lads Brigade. More details of the history of the brigade can be found in a book by Jean Morris and in this factsheet.

Sydney died on 29 September 1918, as a result of leading a group of soldiers at Ossis who were trying to out-flank a machine-gun. His battalion ware under heavy attack with thick gas separating the soldiers of the company. Sydney tired to find his way through this fog.

His death is reported in the “Suttonian” of the time which reports: “‘He was found next day shot through the heart, far in advance of what was believed to be the furthest point reached in the attack, and quite close to an enemy position’. A fellow officer wrote of him, ‘No matter what the danger of discomfort were, he always had a smile and a joke. The men of his platoon would follow him anywhere, as was proved on several occasions.’ ” 

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Sutton Grammar School War Memorial

Sydney is buried in a Commonwealth War Grave at the Unicorn Cemetery, Vend’huile, France. He is also remembered on the Sutton War Memorial in Manor Park, Carshalton Road, Sutton (which includes the names of 522 young men). His name is also on the Sutton Grammar School Memorial, as well as the Board of Trade War Memorial located at 3 Whitehall Place.

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Frances Levitt (Source: Sutton Spiritualist Church)

Sydney is also remembered on a stained glass window at the Sutton Spiritualist Church, which was dedicated to his  and the memory of two other people by his mother Frances Levitt and some other church families. Frances was one of the founders and first President of the Sutton Spiritualist Church. She was part of a consortium of four people who bought for £350 the land  on which the church was built and where it still stands in St Barnabus Road, Sutton.

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Sutton Spiritualist Church

The window comprises five panels showing St Ethelbert, Mary Magdalene, St Clare and St Francis of Assissi. It also includes a brass plaque on a wooden frame which declares that “The Stained Glass windows are given in loving memory of Muriel Daisy Casperd, Beatrice Irene Fisher and Sydney Neville Levitt”. (NOTE: Sadly, we do not know the story behind why the window was also dedicated to Muriel (who died in 1931) and Beatrice – hopefully the church or other family history historians will be able to investigate their story.)

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Stained Glass Window (Source: Sutton Spiritualist Church)

According to the website of Sutton Spiritualist Church, the window was bought for £25 from a scrap dealer based in Haywards Heath, whilst the church was being built in the 1930s. It was originally thought to have come from a demolished convent and was found to perfectly fit the necessary space. The church website indicates that the church president in 1937, Mr J.A. Baker, was “told by Spirit not to buy a window for the planned space it the wall as “THEY” would find one suitable; so he waited until this one was offered for sale. When it was measured in the dealers yard, it was found to be identical in size to the space reserved for it in the wall”.

Speaking of spiritualism, according to Marq English in his book ‘Paranormal Surrey’ it might be the case that Sydney prophesied his own death. Whether we believe that or not, the lines of this poem found written by Sydney and found after his death are very moving and indicate his talent and thoughtful all rounder whose death was a sad loss to his local community and family.

Abschied Vom Leben, 
The wound burns; my quivering lips are pale; 
My heart is night to burst beneath the strain, 
Now I await the end of Life’s short reign, 
And breathe ‘They Will Be Done’. Nought can avail. 
For now the shadows of Death do e’en assail
Mine eyes, where golden piece had once domain. 
Yet courage, heart” The fond ideals we gain
On earth must live with us beyond Death’s pale,
And what I held as sacred here below
That which set youthful ardour all aglow,
The pride of freedom and the charm of love,
I see their forms seraphic up above, 
And as my body sinks down into Night,
They bear my spirit upwards to the Light. 

 

 

 

 

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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: J. McT. Rennie
Born: October 1888
Date of Death: 23 July 1916
Age at death: 27
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Loyal North Lancashire Regiment
Unit, Ship, etc: 7th Battalion
Enlisted: 1914 in London
Rank: Sergeant
Decorations: British War Medal and Victory Medal
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Killed in action
Family Details: Son of Alexander and Margaret Rennie, 65 Rawcliffe Road, Walton, Liverpool
Residence: Liverpool and Plaistow, London
Home Department: Board of Trade – Mercantile Marine Office Staff
Civilian Rank: Outdoor Officer, Victoria Docks, E
Cemetery or Memorial: Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 11A); Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London); Northcote Primary School in Walton, Liverpool; Panel 43 in the Hall of Remembrance, Liverpool Town Hall; War Memorial Bell at Memorial Community Church in Plaistow, East London

Biography:

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James McTaggart Rennie (Copyright: Galloway Gazette)

James McTaggart Rennie was born in the autumn of 1888 in the West Derby district of Lancashire. His father was Alexander Rennie, a harbour dock gatekeeper originally from Garlieston and his mother was Margaret Rennie (nee McTaggart) who was born in Gatehouse, Scotland.

In 1891, James is aged 3 and living at 67 Thomaston Street, Kirkdale staying with is mother and uncle and aunt. In 1901 he is recorded as aged 13 living with his parents at 13 Maria Road, Walton on the Hill. By 1911, aged 23, he had moved to West Ham in London and is recorded boarding at a house in 11 Ethel Road, Custom House, London whilst working for the Board of Trade.

Britain declared war on 4 August 1914 and James enlisted a month later in September 1914 with the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. The 7th Battalion was one of General Kitchener’s volunteer service or pals battalions, which were formed following Parliament’s vote on 6 August to increase the size of the army from 450,000 men to 500,000 men. A few days later Kitchener issued an initial call to arms for 100,000 volunteers aged between 19 and 30, at least 1.6m (5’3”) tall and a chest size greater than 86cm (34 inches). Hundreds of thousands of men, like James, answered the call to enlist with around 30,000 enlisting every day by the end of August and 500,000 by mid-September.

The 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment trained in December 1914 in Whitchurch and then at Tidworth before travelling over to France on 17 July 1915. The Battalion saw action in the Battle of Loos (25 September – 8 October 1915) and then at the Battle of the Somme where they were involved with the attacks on High Wood (July to September 1916), Battle of Pozieres Ridge (23 July – 3 September 1916).

James was reported missing (and later declared dead) aged 27 on 23 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. His service record has survived and from this and details from the 7th Battalion’s war diary, we can determine the last action he was involved with.

According to the “Tabernacle Messenger” – a local West Ham church magazine of the time, James was reported missing in the “Great Push” whilst working a machine gun. This short optimistic phrase stems from the words of British Army’s commander in chief, General Douglas Haig, to describe the objectives of the Somme offensive (or Battle of the Somme as it is commonly now referred to), which was launched on 1 July 1916. The aim the Somme offensive as envisaged in military planning terms was deceptively simple –  to divert German attention from Verdun, where the French army had suffered huge losses, with a large-scale British diversionary attack. Haig planned for an eight day preliminary bombardment of the German front line with aim of capturing the German positions and charging with cavalry to break the German line in two. General Haig wrote that he was convinced the offensive would win the war and said “I feel that every step in my plan has been taken with Divine help”.

As we now know with the benefit of historical hindsight, the “Great Push Forward” has been seen collectively as futile with an unimaginable number of deaths – not just on the first day when almost 20000 British men died and 40000 plus were wounded but over the next 141 days of fighting (until 23 November 1916) which resulted in 125,000 alllied casualties and over 400,000 wounded and even bigger German losses and all for a maximum advance of only seven miles at most.

When James McTaggart died, he would probably not have known the wider strategic failings of the allied commanders who were persuaded in the ultimate objectives of the offensive despite the mounting casualties. It is ironic that McTaggart died whilst operating a machine gun, which was then a modern weapon of war and which General Haig, thanks to his traditional military and aristocratic mindset, underestimated. It is alleged that Haig considered “the ability of bullets to stop horses was greatly exaggerated”.

Each British battalion on the Western Front in France had four Lewis Guns

A report of James McTaggart Rennie’s death can be found in a short newspaper snippet from the Galloway Gazette dated 21 July 1917 (and republished on 22 July 2017) which includes the photo of him included on this blog. This reads:

“GUNNER PRESUMED DEAD It is now presumed that Sergeant James Rennie, who had been reported missing on July 23, 1916, was killed on that date. Sergeant Rennie, who served in the Lewis Gun Section of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, was 28-years-old and was the grandson of Captain William Rennie, Garlieston, and Mr James McTaggart, a joiner from Gatehouse. Prior to enlisting in the army, he worked in the Board of Trade offices in London. He joined up in September 1914, a month after war started.”

Read more at: https://www.gallowaygazette.co.uk/lifestyle/teenage-farm-hand-killed-at-the-front-serving-with-black-watch-1-4510382

I can barely imagine the grief of his mother, Margaret Rennie on receiving the fateful telegram announcing his death, especially since at the start of 1916,, Margaret Rennie also lost her brother and James’s uncle Private Robert McTaggart who died on 13 January 1916 of Tuberculosis (TB) at the City Hospital, Toxteth, Liverpool.

We don’t know too much more about James since he died unmarried with no descendants. However, we know from the “Tabernacle Messenger” that he was engaged prior to his death to a woman named Winnie Brown. He was also involved as secretary of the church choir. From these small aspects of his life, he comes across as a decent human being whose life was tragically cut short like so many other of his generation who volunteered.

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War Memorial at Northcote Primary School, Liverpool

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War Memorial Bells at Memorial Community Church, Plaistow, London

James’ name is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial in France, on the  war memorial at Northcote Primary School in Walton, Liverpool, on Panel 43 of the Liverpool Town Hall War Memorial (which includes a total of 13,000 men from Liverpool who died in WW1) on the Board of Trade WW1 War Memorial and also at the Memorial Community Church in Plaistow, East London where there is a chime of 10 bells inscribed with the names of 197 local men who died in the First World War . His uncle Robert McTaggart (referred to above) is remembered online by the Gatehouse Folk research project and on war memorials in Anwoth.

In conjunction with the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that was held in November 2018, the Board of Trade War Memorial Research group remembered James McTaggart Rennie’s story as part of the “More than just a name” exhibition, which included lovely artwork made by the pupils of Northcote School in Liverpool.

 

 

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Name recorded on Board of Trade Memorial: G. W. Wildman
Born: April 1879
Date of Death: 19 April 1917
Age at death: 38
Service, Regiment, Corps, etc: Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve
Unit, Ship, etc: Attached to Royal Naval Air Service
Enlisted:
Rank: Lieutenant
Decorations:
War (and theatre): WW1
Manner of Death: Accidentally killed
Family Details: Husband of Ada Mary Wildman (nee Fletcher), 60 Berlin Road, Catford, London SE6
Residence:
Home Department: Board of Trade – Patent Office
Civilian Rank: Assistant Examiner
Cemetery or Memorial:  Pulham St Mary the Virgin Churchyard, Norfolk (north of church); St Botolph’s Church, London; Patent Office Memorial 1914-1918 now hanging at Concept House, Newport, Wales and the Board of Trade War Memorial (now located at 3 Whitehall Place, London)

Biography:

George Walker Wildman was one of several Board of Trade men who died in the UK on active service and his story particularly interests me because typically we picture the men involved in WW1 in mud and trench warfare. George’s story is different. He was born in about 1879 in the St Olave district of Southwark in London.

His parents were George Wildman (1851-1917) and Martha Esther Walker (1851-1927). His father is listed in the 1891 census as a warehouseman (outfitter) and then in 1901 as manager of a straw hat factory. He had one sister also named Martha like her mother.

In 1881 and 1891 the family are living in Rotherhithe – first at 147 Abbeyfield Road and then at 13 Rebecca Terrace. In 1901 the family has moved to “Newlands”, Bromley Road, Lewisham.

George married an Ada Mary Fletcher on 15 June 1907 at St Mary the Virgin Church in Somers Town, Camden, England. They are both recorded as married and living at 60 Berlin Road, Catford, London in the 1911 census. George is recorded as being employed by the Civil Service and is now aged 30. He has four daughters – Dora (born 1908), Hilda (born 1908), Margaret Louie (borne 1909) and an unnamed baby girl of 5 weeks (Martha Elfrieda born in 1915) . The family also employed a general domestic servant aged 15 so must have been doing well for themselves.

George was a Royal Naval Volunteer Reservist officer and his war record has survived and is accessible at the National Archives. In these papers, he is recorded as a Temporary Lieutenant from 17 March 1917. He was posted to HMS President. On 25 March he attended a Disciplinary Course at Crystal Palace and on 16 April he was posted to HMS President for Hydrogen Section, Admiralty, for hydrogen duties.

So what was he doing on hydrogen duties and why is he buried at Pulham St Mary in Norfolk so far from the Western Front trenches? The answer is that Pulham was at the cutting edge of new aerial technology and home to one of the UK’s foremost airship stations.

World War One was the first major conflict involving the large-scale use of airpower – think of the Royal Air Force which was officially formed in 1918 and ace fighter pilots – and this included the strategic use of airships. The British military recognised this new technology and established the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). By 1918 it operated from 89 sites for airships, balloons and aircraft, including a base at Pulham St Mary. This was established on farmland just south of the village in 1912 and holds an important place in aviation history. It was from this base that small non-rigid airships flew over the North Sea for observation and patrol purposes. It was also home to Britain’s first airworthy rigid airship and the world’s first permanent airship mooring mast. It was also the main research establishment for airships. After World One, Pulham was used to stored captured German Zeppelin airships. By the end of the war, more than 3000 men worked at the base, although longterm, Britain saw its aerial future in airplanes rather than airships.

Pulham also housed its own plant, which produced the highly inflammable hydrogen gas that filled airships. It was in an explosion at this plant that George was killed on 19 April 1917. The tragedy is reported in Brian J Turpin’s book “Coastal Patrol: Royal Naval Airship Operations During the Great War 1914-1918”  and also Malcolm Fife’s book “British Airship Bases of the Twentieth Century”. According to Turpin’s account, which is more precise, the accident occurred at lunch time when a loud noise was heard. He continues:

“Someone said laughingly: ‘There goes the gas plant’, little thinking that this was what had actually happened – the silicol plant had exploded. In about a minute poor little Milton, one of the gas officers, came staggering into the Mess with his hands to his head. I got him down to my cabin. His ears were full of caustic soda, which was sizzling away in an uncanny fashion I cleared out as much as I could and took him to the sick bay and went, myself, to the gas plant. Nothing could be done there. Lt Wildman and a rating had both been blown through the side of the gas house and were lying 10 and 20 feet respectively from the building; Wildman was dead and the rating badly burned, having been covered with caustic [soda] – he died later after the doctor gave him morphia. Lieutenants Bevington and Pollett and a civilian workman were also burned, the latter badly, but the others not so seriously though Pollett was burned about the face. The injured men were rushed to the large Military Hospital in Norwich. Both Pollett and Wildman had only been with us a couple of days”.

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Copyright: Brian J Turpin – “Coastal Patrol: Royal Navy Airship Operations During the Great War 1914-1918”

His funeral took place with full naval honours at St Mary’s Churchyard, Pulham St Mary and is mentioned in the local papers. According to the paper, his oak coffin was covered with a Union Jack and White Ensign and was drawn on a gun carriage, whilst preceded by an escort and a band playing the “Dead March” in “Saul”. This must have been quite a sight to behold. The service was conducted by the vicar Reverend C C Wakefield and one of the hymns sung was “When our heads are bowed with woe” whilst “On the resurrection morning” was sung at the graveside and the “Last Post” sounded. He had quite a send off!

George’s grave is located in St Mary’s Churchyard, although according to previous research conducted by the War Memorial Research Group it is no longer easily visible or legible. He is also commemorated at St Botolph’s Church in London, where he was listed as a parishioner and on both the Board of Trade War Memorial at 3 Whitehall Place and on the Patent Office Memorial 1914-1918 which can be found in Concept House, Newport, Wales.

A staff member of the former Department for Trade and Industry (DTI) visited Pulham St Mary churchyard in September 2002 but was sadly unable to identify George Wildman’s grave there, though there were several other Commonwealth War Grave Commission (CWGC) headstones (including other members of the RNVR) in the area north of the church.  It is possible that the headstone was inscribed by his family, rather than the CWGC, and that the text is no longer legible.

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For the second year running and continuing the long tradition of its predecessor departments, Department for International Trade (DIT) staff  came together on Thursday 8 November 2018 in the 3 Whitehall Place Business Lounge for the annual departmental memorial service.

This year, as part of national and local commemorations (such as the Royal British Legion’s Thank You 100 campaign) to mark 100 years since the Armistice in 1918, the department was extremely honoured for the ceremony to be attended by some of the families and relatives of some of those named on the Board of Trade War Memorial, as well as Steve Waterman (Lambeth College) and representatives from the Summerstown 182 and Ham Remembers Research Groups.

The event was led by Catherine Vaughan, DIT’s Senior Civil Service Faith Champion and included a reading of the Kohima Epithet by DIT War Memorial Research Group Chair, Jeanette Rosenberg and a beautiful rendition of “The Long Day Closes” by the ETCETERA Civil Service Choir.  At 11am an official two minutes silence was observed, which was followed by the laying of eight wreaths:

  • Remembered by the Ministers of the Department for International Trade – Secretary of State for International Trade, Rt Hon Liam Fox MP
  • Remembered by the Staff of the Department for International Trade – Antonia Romeo, Permanent Secretary
  • Remembered by Relatives and Friends of the Fallen – Denise Syms – relative of one of men commemorated on memorial, Douglas Eric Basnett (1895-1917)
  • Lest We Forget In Memory of Those who Have No Known Grave and Who Have Died in International Military Conflict – Captain Nick MacDonald-Robinson, Royal Navy
  • Remembering Their Sacrifice In Memory of All Our Fallen Colleagues – Sarah Pratt, ECJU and FCO
  • Remembered by Retired Service Personnel of the Department for International Trade – Dylan Thomas, retired Army Captain (Int Corps)
  • Remembering the Sacrifice Made by those of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern and Asian Origin – Rodney Berkley, Chair of the DIT Cross Diversity and Inclusion Network
  • Remembered by the War Memorial Research Group and in Memory of Jill Knight – Mick Essex, War Memorial research group

After the commemoration, staff had time to view the “More than just a name” special WW1 commemorative exhibition which includes beautiful artwork produced by two schools – Northcote Primary School in Liverpool and St Julian’s School in Newport, Wales – who are both connected to the department by having former pupils who are named on the Board of Trade War Memorial.

The exhibition also includes artwork produced by the Woodcraft Folk (Wheatsheaf Enfield) group, a short history of WW1 and the memorial, highlighted stories of some of the men named and a montage of photos (the group have successfully managed to trace 97 photos so far!!). The exhibition also includes a selection of WW1 artefacts including British and German medals and helmets kindly loaned by former DTI staff member, Alan Humphries.

The exhibition is on show until Monday 12 November 2018.

The event concluded with a wonderful short talk by Lesley Iles, a former history teacher at Southend High School for Boys and author of a book about the lives of the men from that school, “They Rest from their Labours“. Lesley set the context for the war at both a national and local level and spoke about two of the Southend men – Stanley Victor Bradley (1893-1917) and Percy John Francis Dines (1892-1916) – who were typical of the 305 men named on the Board of Trade War Memorial and the wider WW1 generation. Her talk was a really fitting end to the morning’s commemorations.

We were delighted and honoured to welcome all our special visitors and to mark this important occasion in the life of the department and wider community. All who attended agreed it was a moving occasion to honour all who have died in WW1 and subsequent wars.

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The 100 year anniversary of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War One, approaches on Sunday 11 November 2018.

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One of the displays in DIT’s collaborative exhibition, located in the Business Lounge in the 3 Whitehall Place London office.

The Department for International Trade’s War Memorial Research Group has been reaching out and connecting with school pupils across the UK in an effort to expand understanding of World War One amongst youngsters and to build connections between the modern day Civil Service and schools.

As part of this project, the group approached a number of schools with a connection to the Board of Trade War Memorial which ultimately led to working with two selected schools – St Julian’s, a secondary school in Wales and Northcote Primary School in Liverpool.

Both schools were selected to take part because of their connection with the memorial with both schools having a former pupil named on both the Board of Trade War Memorial and their own school war memorials.

Last week, Edwina Osborne from the War Memorial Research Group went to Northcote Primary in Liverpool, to see the amazing work that the pupils had created. The school spent the previous week learning more about WW1 and designing artwork to be included in the exhibition which is focused on the men named on the war memorial. The school also held a special assembly with the school choir singing a beautiful rendition of “Pack Up Your Troubles” and individual classes presenting their work and reading poems.

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A collage of a World War One solider, produced by pupils and teachers at Northcote Primary School in Liverpool.

James McTaggart Rennie served during World War One in the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was born in about October 1888 and died aged 28 on 23 July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme whilst manning one of the Lewis guns. His body was not recovered and he is one of thousands of soldiers remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the dead and missing of the Somme. He previously attended Northcote Road Council School which is now Northcote Primary before joining the then Board of Trade in the Mercantile Marine Office. 99 pupils, including James are named on Northcote’s war memorial. Before the war, he lived in Plaistow and he is also remembered on the bells of the Memorial Community Church there.

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Sergeant James McTaggart Rennie.
Copyright: Galloway Gazette.

John Henry Nicholas was born in 1899 and died on 14 June 1918 aged 19. He was a former pupil of St Julian’s. During the war he fought in the 18th Lancashire Fusiliers. He is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial in France, as well as on the war memorials in St Julian’s School and on the Board of Trade War Memorial. Like McTaggart Rennie, he also moved to London for work and joined the Civil Service.

In December 1914, he wrote in a letter back to his old school extolling the benefits of working for the Civil Service. He says “There are always many vacancies here….the hours are very easy”. He goes on to say that they have a Cadet Corps where they work “but we do not like the idea of joining, as they have to drill”.

Both men’s stories and those of others are remembered via the exhibition, which is on display in connection with the Royal British Legion’s Thankyou 100 campaign, to say thank you for the sacrifice and bravery of a generation of men who served and fought in the unimaginable horrors of battle.

The group greatly thanks the hard work of all the pupils and teachers at both Northcote Primary and St Julians’ involved in preparing for the exhibition, as well as members of the Wheatsheaf Woodcraft Folk Group based in Enfield, London.

We hope both Civil Service colleagues and visitors to the Department for International Trade will enjoy the exhibition over the next few weeks.

The Board of Trade War Memorial is one of about 25 central government memorials dedicated to civil service employees who died in either the First or Second World Wars. You can see the  “More than just a name” exhibition until the 12 November in DIT’s Business Lounge of 3 Whitehall Place.

Additionally on the morning of Thursday 8 November, the group will host the department’s annual Remembrance Day service in the Business Lounge, which is due to be attended by the Secretary of State and Permanent Secretary as well as relatives of those who died.

After the commemoration on 8 November, Lesley Iles, the author of “They Rest from their Labours”, a book featuring two of the Board of Trade men who attended Southend High School for Boys, will give a short talk to interested colleagues.

If you would like to get involved and find out more about this exhibition, please contact war.memorial@trade.gov.uk or follow this blog.

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