Where was 36 Casualty Clearing Station in July 1916?

I’ve recently booked my first trip to the Somme for July this year. This will be on the weekend before the centenary of my great-great-uncle’s death. I’ve told his story before, My Tommy’s War: An underage Welsh brickie on the Somme. Since writing that post, the Soldiers’ Effects Registers have confirmed that of the three casualty clearing stations listed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission as being in the vicinity in July 1916, he died of wounds in No 36 Casualty Clearing Station. This made me wonder the exact position of the clearing station in relation to the cemetery, and just who might have been caring for him in those final days after he was wounded on 16 July.

The obvious place to start was the war diary of No 36 Casualty Clearing Station (the relevant period is now held at The National Archives as WO 95/344/8). The first mention of Heilly in the diary is on 27 February 1916, when the day’s entry reads:

Arrived at CORBIE at 12.15pm and orders received from RTO [Rail Transport Officer] to go on in train to HEILLY. Orders received at Heilly from DDMS [Deputy Director Medical Services] 13th Corps to park the equipment & stores under canvas & for the unit to return to CORBIE, where half the officers & men were attached to No 5 CCS and half to No 21 CCS.

There is no entry for 28 February, but then the sequence starts again on 29 February:

Orders received from DMS [Director Medical Services] 3rd ARMY to proceed to HEILLY on 1/3/16 & open the unit in tents close to the Railway Station on the South side of the line.

A A Seeds Lieut-Col RAMC OC 36 CCS

The 1913 Medical Register suggests this was Arthur Atkinson Seeds, who joined the Army Medical Service in 1898 following graduation from the University of Dublin.

The diary continues in March:

The unit arrived at HEILLY by road from CORBIE and proceeded to pitch a camp in a field close to HEILLY Railway Station South of the line under instructions received from the DMS 3rd Army. The unit was transferred from the administration of the 3rd Army to that of the 4th from 12 noon this day.

The equipment & stores of the unit were removed from the place where they were parked near the Railway Station and brought to the camp.

The ground of the camp is 180 x 75 yards. The ground is clay and very soft. It is bounded on the W by a cultivated patch (rye grass) and on the E by ploughed land. N is the railway line & S the main CORBIE-MERICOURT Road.

2 March:

The unit was engaged in pitching tents to form a camp & in cutting trenches to drain the camp. There is no water laid on in the camp and the nearest water is fit for drinking is distant 1.5 miles

3 March:

Application was made to DMS, 4th Army for permission to cut a road running W to E at the railway end of the camp. This road is required for two purposes (1) Evacuation of patients to trains (2) Bringing in Stores, Coal, Hospital Supplies, etc.

4 March:

Captain G M Hodges ordered to proceed to CORBIE by DMS 4th Army to supervise the sanitation of that town. Some snow in the morning and a good deal of rain.

G M Hodges (later referred to as G M W Hodges) was probably George Montague Williams Hodges, the 1913 Medical Register gives his address as Ilbury House, Deddington, Oxon, graduated from the University of London in 1907.

5 March:

There was a sharp frost last night.

Captain G M Hodges departed to CORBIE.

A road was begun to be cut running W to E at the railway end of the camp. Chalk was brought from a quarry by motor lorries for this purpose. Inspection of camp by DMS, 4th Army.

6 March:

Some snow fell during the night and a little more this morning. Work resumed on the road. Cinders were fetched from AMIENS (15 miles each way). A layer of cinders was laid on first, then chalk as dry as possible, and then cinders on top of the chalk.

There’s nothing much by way of evidence of the position of the camp then until 14 March:

One lorry despatched to BOUGANVILLE for stores. Applied for extra ground for expansion to ??? officer, 15 Area, 4th Army

The expansion was in order that the unit could provide 1000 beds, rather than 200. On 21 March Hodges took over the unit from Seeds, who had been ordered east (probably Egypt). The expansion of the camp continued for the rest of the month, and involved visits from the CRE [Commander Royal Engineers] 13th Corps and DDMS 13th Corps to settle various matters and arrange works such as kitchens, water supply and latrines. Among the new tents were some larger marquees. At the end of the month Lt Col James Willes Jennings arrived to take command (joined the Army Medical Service in 1888 having been licensed in Ireland).

April continued much the same, now with 149 (Army Troops) Company, Royal Engineers undertaking some of the work. April also saw the arrival of chaplains G L Bates (C of E) and J J Colley (RC). The medal index cards suggest G L Bates was Guy Locrington Bates, and Army Chaplaincy Museum interview records give his address as Playden, Sussex. Census records show he was there from about 1895. 14 April also saw the arrival of seven nurses, led by Sister-in-Charge M E Vernon Harcourt ARRC QAIMNS(R), Sisters C L Carnegie TFNS, P Barnard TFNS, Staff Nurses M Purves TFNS, P M Jones TFNS, E M Henderson CHR, A Cooper QAIMNS (CHR). Initial arrangements were made with the Revd Walsingham Cook Kerr of 23 Field Ambulance for burials in Mericourt Cemetery. The first admissions were made on 15 April. The first death of a patient was recorded on 26 April, 8636 Pte T W Thorley. 2nd West Yorks, that was also the day the first cases were evacuated by ambulance train. A Wesleyan chaplain arrived on 29 April, the Revd James Robert Batey. Deaths of all ranks continue to be recorded by name until the end of June. The duties of the chaplains at the CCS of course included carrying out the burials of those who died there. The sheer number of deaths to be dealt with in July means that the chaplains at all three of the CCSs based around the station would have carried these out jointly in all likelihood, so their names are also recorded below. I’ve concentrated on non-conformist and C of E chaplains, as this fits best with what I know of the church attendance of the family.

On 2 May 34 CCS and 38 CCS arrived and camped close by. 34 CCS moved on to Daours almost immediately, but 38 CCS set up close by. May otherwise continued much the same as the previous month with a new RC chaplain, Revd B Schofield arriving on 7 May to replace the Revd J J Colley, and an additional nurse, Staff Nurse E M MacDonald QAIMNS (CHR) on 8 May, and two more, Staff Nurses L Clayton CHR and C (or G) Chatfield QAIMNS arrived on 13 May, while Staff Nurses P M Jones TFNS and M Purves TFNS left for 16 General Hospital, Le Treport on 14 May. The water supply to the camp continued to be a problem, an accidental meeting between the OC and the Chief Engineer of 15th Corps near the railway station on 28 May seems to have helped move things forward.

June began with Major Richard James Campbell Thompson taking over command from Lt Col Jennings who was posted to Rouen. 38 CCS opened for admissions on 19 June, and from then on the two CCS admitted on alternate days. There is no direct mention of the forthcoming offensive, but the entry for 30 June reads:

The personnel has been reinforced by 3 MOs [medical officers], 3 NCOs and 20 men from Field Ambulances of the 19th Division.

The Nursing Sisters are 10 in number –

Captain Cain – 11th Notts & Derby – with 50 PB [permanent base – ie not fit for frontline duty] men from III Corps has reported for duty.

Trench shelters have been erected
(1) to join up 2 rows of 3 marquees to form a dressing room [presumably in the sense of surgical dressings]
(2) to join up 2 rows of 2 marquees to form a large ward for serious surgical cases.

The warm ether inhalers are in general – & most satisfactory use.

Sanitation & health of personnel – good

On 1 July, 38 CCS took the initial casualties, but 36 CCS still took in 1005 wounded. Just two ambulance trains arrived at the station to evacuate the wounded along the chain to bigger hospitals, leading to the DMS closing the CCSs at Heilly to admissions, so the wounded had to go on to Corbie instead. 2 July also saw the camp visited by Sir Douglas Haig and the Adjutant General, and just over 1500 admissions. On 3 July admissions dropped to just over 500 (including 24 Germans). The diary comments:

The spirit of the British wounded is extraordinary, the men are all in good spirits

By now the ambulance trains were running properly, easing some of the difficulties, but 36 CCS was seeing many instances of gas gangrene developing in patients. The 4th and 5th each saw around 600 admissions, and on 5 July 3 additional MOs arrived from 12 CCS, plus two Canadian Nursing Sisters (sadly not named). 6 July saw only 173 admissions, the diary also mentions “Colonel Sir Wilmot Herringham CB has taken charge of the GS Wounds Chest” [gun shot wounds to the chest]. Herringham was a highly distinguished civilian doctor. he had been consulting physician at Barts since 1904 and also commanded the medical section of the University of London Officers’ Training Corps. Until a little earlier in 1916 he had been the only consulting physician attached to the BEF. On one visit to a CCS Sir Douglas Haig had noted “I saw Sir Wilmot Herringham with his coat off, setting a fine example, by washing and attending to the slightly wounded cases”. Sadly one of Herringham’s sons had died in infancy, the other, George Wilmot Herringham, had been killed in the First Battle of Ypres, and his wife Christiana (a notable artist) had been in an asylum since 1911.

On 7 July admissions again topped 800, and on 8 July were 799. On the 8th the Wesleyan chaplain, Revd J R Batey, was posted to 31st Division, while two more nursing sisters were attached from South Midland (56) Casualty Clearing Station in Amiens. Again they are not named in the diary. On 9 July admissions were back down to just over 450, 10 July around 250, 11 July just under 300 (and four more nurses from South Midland CCS). The diary notes:

From noon – 1st to 5pm 11th – 283 major operations performed in Theatre – including 68 penetrating abdominal wounds.

Admissions were 282 on 12 July and almost 400 on 13 July – including 96 Germans. The 13th also saw a visit from Surgeon General Sir Arthur Sloggett, Director-General of Medical Services of the British Expeditionary Force, and the opening of 2/2nd London (55) Casualty Clearing Station on the northern side of the railway, closer to Heilly village itself.

14 July saw the opening of the Battle of Bazentin Ridge, with the British forces drawn from 4th Army. There were almost 1500 admissions to 36 CCS (including several gassed), and a further visit from Sir Arthur Sloggett. On 15 July there were again over 1100 admissions, 36 CCS stopped receiving between 1700 and 2300 while 38 CCS admitted. Captain Cain returned to his battalion, to be replaced as an Extra Medical Officer by Lieut Wilsher?? of 7th South Lancs.

16 July was the day Fred Holbrook was wounded (according to a later newspaper report), so presumably he was among the 730+ admissions that day or the 400+ on 17 July. By now 400 admissions was regarded as “a comparatively quiet day”. The 17th also saw the installation of electric light in the operating theatre. The 18th saw just over 290 admissions. The diary also includes a brief summary of statistics for 1-15 July, in total 49 officers admitted, 9808 other ranks and 368 Germans. 410 operations had been carried out in theatre.

On 19 July there were over 670 admissions, and Captain Rawlinson and Lieut Wooler arrived from CCSs in Doullens as extra medical officers. The medical staff now stood at 16 medical officers (doctors) and 19 nursing sisters. The diary also states:

50 new beds delivered from ordnance, making 241 in use. The unit developing more and more into a stationary hospital [these units were the next larger, and were normally further from the front line].

Sir Wilmot Herringham working most devotedly on GS Wounds of chest and cases of Gas poisoning.

20 July saw over 630 admissions, 21 July 440, 22nd almost 350 and then 23 July over 1050, this day also saw a visit from Sir Edward Morris, the premier of Newfoundland. There were 290 admissions on 24 July, 300 on 25 July, and on 26 July, the day Fred Holbrook died:

A very quiet day so far as admission of wounds was concerned

Admitted OR [other ranks] sick 14, Wd [wounded] 51.

Throughout this period the diary continues to record officers who have died of wounds by name, but there is not even a daily tally of the deaths of other ranks. However the month’s entries conclude with a summary of the entire month’s activities:

Resume of the month’s work

Admitted officers 79 (22 deaths)
other ranks 16045 (401 deaths)
Germans 480 (28 deaths)
Operations in theatre 759
Penetrating shell wounds 105
Compound fracture of femura (uncomplicated by Gas Gangrene & with hope of complete recovery) 65
Penetrating abdominal wounds 167 – 46.7% recoveries

In the 167 cases are shown the quite hopeless cases who were taken to the Theatre for palliative Colotomy, return of intestines & ???? etc

In all the diary gave a reasonable insight into the care offered, and some of those involved, but only gave a hint as to the location: adjacent to the railway line and the road between Corbie and Méricourt-l’Abbé, but didn’t locate precisely in relation to the station. See the location of Heilly Station Cemetery on Google Maps:

If the map is not showing, follow this link to Google Maps. The description of the hospital’s location suggests it lay between the railway line and the road now numbered as the D120. However, it’s not clear which side of the Rue du Moulin/Hameau de Caqueval (the road which goes over a level crossing by the station and joins the D120) it lay.

The war diary does offer some hints at other leads, 36 CCS reported to the Director of Medical Services 4th Army. This post was held by Surgeon General Menus William O’Keeffe who also had to keep a war diary, now WO 95/447 for 1916 (items 1-9). This largely covers more administrative matters, but does reveal a little more about some of the staff working at 36 CCS too, for example the appointment of Ambrose Lorne Lockwood as surgical specialist there. He appears to have been a Canadian who joined the RAMC on the outbreak of war. It seems arrangements for 36 CCS had largely been made before 4th Army took over the area from 3rd Army (which suggests that the 3rd Army DMS diary may also be worth reviewing), but there is some discussion of the location for 38 CCS being selected, however, once again, the precise location does not appear to be given. Several sketch maps are in the diary, but show only the railway line, and sometimes the main road, not the local roads. In these, 36 CCS often appears (due to the scale) to be the other side of the railway. For 38 CCS we have:

Permission is also requested to locate another CCS alongside the present one at HEILLY. This only means enlarging the accommodation at present there, and requires a further plot of land to be hired.

If these two sites [the DMS also wanted to establish another CCS at PUCHEVILLERS] are approved the difficulties which at present exist in evacuating large numbers of Wounded from the front will disappear.

And in a request for engineer services:

No 38 CCS

Drinking-water will be drawn by tanks from well at HEILLY. The pipe-line for washing-water from the river, at present installed at No 36 CCS, should be extended to the site of the new CCS; or better, a tank and pump installed between the two CCSs on the South side of the CORBIE-MERICOURT road

It’s quite clear that the Somme offensive was already being planned, but it seems that the medical services were still underestimating the number of casualties that would result. Their estimate at in April was that they could manage evacuation of 35-40,000 casualties per week in the whole army area. By June however they were asking for sufficient ambulance trains etc to be made available to 4th Army to enable the evacuation of 10,000 casualties per day, and were worried by reports in delays in evacuation during the Battle of Loos the previous year. They received a rather offhand reply from the Quartermaster General at GHQ:

It is not anticipated that there will be any difficulty in meeting the needs of Fourth Army during active operations.

No reports of any delay in the evacuation of the wounded during the fighting round LOOS can be traced in this office.

The next obvious diary to investigate was that of 38 CCS, to see if that gave any definite statement of location, but this diary proved to be very sparse (perhaps supporting the desire expressed by the DMS in his diary to remove the OC 38 CCS from his command for lack of organisational skills, to which higher authorities did not agree). The most relevant entry is probably the arrival of the Revd Leslie Edward Baumer as chaplain to 38 CCS.

The diary of 149 Army Troops Company, Royal Engineers (WO 95/400/1) was equally scant. Though mentioned in all the other diaries as having been involved in various works around Heilly, the only definite mention of Heilly in this diary relates to building a railway siding.

I also tried WO 95/450/1, the diary of the 4th Army Deputy Assistant Director Medical Services (Sanitation), but again no real references to the precise situation at Heilly. The 4th Army Chief Engineer kept no diary until July 1916
(WO 95/451). None of the 13 Corps HQ diaries are yet online, but the diary of their Deputy Director of Medical Services and Commander Royal Engineers (both in WO 95/903). May yet shed some light. The only remaining diary not yet considered in this blog post is that of 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Station (also known as 55 Casualty Clearing Station), now WO 95/501/3. Again this says only that the unit was based north of Heilly Station, it arrived only on 9 July and was ordered to be ready to receive walking cases as soon as possible, and the first patients were admitted on 11 July, having notified the DMS the previous day that they could take 200 cases, or 300 at a push. Again perhaps the most significant record in the diary in relation to Fred Holbrook is the arrival on 7 July of the Revd John Waterfield as C of E chaplain to 55 CCS. However, he was replaced on 13 July by the Revd Wilfrid Parker. Parker seems to have been well-connected in the church, the 1911 census shows him as chaplain to Cosmo Gordon Lang, then Archbishop of York, who was subsequently translated to Canterbury. At the time he was interviewed about taking up a chaplaincy position (which was only on 28 June 1916) he was a curate to the Revd Dick Sheppard at St Martin-in-the-Fields. Sheppard himself had been a chaplain at a casualty clearing station in the early months of the war, but his health broke down under the conditions.

What I’d particularly been hoping to find in the various war diaries was a map reference for 36 CCS, but so far to no avail. I decided to check the trench maps that are now available online anyway, in the hopes that the position would be marked. There are two main collections online that I’m aware of, the set held by MacMaster University in Canada, and the more recently available collection from the National Library of Scotland. The search by location on the NLS website quickly showed me that the relevant sheet was a 1:20000 map 62D.NE and offered me four choices of edition. Only one of these was in 1916, corrected to 28 April, the remainder in 1918 by which time the CCSs had all moved on, so I chose the 1916 map as 36 CCS was setting up by then. As this area was well behind the lines the maps were not updated as frequently as those covering more heavily contested areas (though the NE quadrant of the map does cover Mametz Wood, but presumably it was the 1:10000 covering just that area that was updated more regularly). Sadly nothing is marked for 36 CCS. I checked the 1918 maps as well just to be sure, but unsurprisingly there was nothing on those either (though they did show that some trenches were constructed in the area during the German Spring Offensive in 1918). One nice feature of the NLS maps is that you can choose to overlay them on modern mapping, and adjust parameters of the trench map such as it’s opacity to see the modern map underneath. In this instance you can see just how little has changed in this area. The trench maps have the added bonus of showing contour lines which helps gets a better sense of the lie of the land. In this area we can see that the land rises quite rapidly as we move SE from the railway line (which is in the valley of the Ancre). I also used Google Earth to get a sense of the land (you can reach a cut down version via the Google map above, but it’s most useful by installing the full package on your computer).

At this point I decided to find out if anyone else had managed to locate it, so I tweeted a general question tagging particularly Sue Light (@Scarletfinders) who is something of an expert on the nursing aspects of the First World War, and Mark Banning (@MGBTours), a battlefield guide with whom I’d previously had some general discussion about the cemetery. Neither could turn up anything more specific, Sue pointed me to a blogpost of hers about the area, but her feeling had been that it was sited further away from the railway. Possibly that was where 38 CCS was sited, given the comment about the location of a pump between 36 and 38 CCS quoted above.

Fortunately a few other people picked up on the tweet as well, and Sandra Gittins (@ypreswoman) pointed me towards some photos in the Imperial War Museum collections that show the Heilly area in September 1916:






Of these Q 1255 is perhaps the most interesting of itself as several tents can be seen in the background, next to the railway line, and to the east of the station. There do not seem to be any tents set up in the field the other side of the road leading to the station. Does this solve the question of location? In my twitter conversations, Sue Light was concerned that there wasn’t enough room for the CCS to set up in the fields immediately adjacent to the station. However, using the measuring tools in Google Earth it’s possible to see that the original size of camp described in the diary, 180 x 75 yards comfortably fits in the field. Even if the expansion of the unit to provide 1000 beds (from 200) did actually quintuple the physical space required, there would still be plenty of room. One other factor had originally made me think that a site the other side of the road was more likely, and that was the description of the track that was built to link the camp to the station, which was described as running west to east. However, on reflection, it would of course make more sense to start building the track from the station (which was on the road) to link to the track, so that the unit’s lorries could reach the point at which work was being carried out on the track that they were actually building. Looking at the available satellite imagery though, there does appear to be more evidence of a track to the west of the station, rather than to the east, but the original could well have been ploughed up following the war. The area to the east of the station also seems a better fit for the description “It is bounded on the W by a cultivated patch (rye grass) and on the E by ploughed land” – there is no evidence of any field boundaries on the current field to the west of the station, until a patch of woodland is reached, but there is an apparent field boundary to the east, if that corresponded to the original eastern boundary of the camp, there would have been plenty of room for rye grass to the west, before reaching the road that leads from the D120 to the station. This also seems to fit with the location of the pump described above, and the description of the ground as being clay, as you move to the east, and also as you move to the south away from the railway as the ground becomes higher, the aerial imagery available shows a much more chalky hue. It’s interesting that 2/2nd London (55) CCS is said to be on the north of the railway as the contemporary maps show that as largely wooded or marshy, however, diagonally opposite the station across the level crossing there is a property with a small area of open ground.

Aerial photo of the Heilly Station Cemetery area, with overlays to highlight roads, principally the D120, and over features marked as described in the caption.

Google Earth view of the area around Heilly Station, with what I believe to be the initial location of 36 CCS marked (yellow box), or an alternative orientation (red box), each 180 yards by 75 yards. The two other red lines mark the road joining the station to the D120, about 160 yards, and the position of the apparent field boundary, about 250 yards long.

This solves the question of location fairly satisfactorily, but I will check the other war diaries mentioned once they become available online to see if any further supporting (or contradictory) evidence can be found.

Joseph Abbott (25 July 1874–27 September 1915†)

Joseph Abbott (see also his page on Lives of the First World War) was the son of Alfred Abbott and Amy nee Gibbs – their marriage was registered in the East Grinstead registration district in the second quarter 1874, and Joseph was born in Merstham on 25 July 1874, and baptised at St Katharine’s on 4 October 1874. By the 1881 census the family were living at 6 Orchard Road, Merstham, Alfred (28, from High Wycombe) was a general labourer, Amy, now 29, was originally from Worth in Sussex. By 1891 Joseph was a 16-year-old shop porter, and the family were now living at Monson Road, Redhill. By 1896 he may have returned to Merstham as there is a Joseph Abbott listed in the 1896 electoral rolls for the Reigate constituency living in Merstham.

Joseph married Lizzie Peers on Christmas Day 1899, and a son Alfred Joseph was born just four months later, on 26 April 1900 (it seems they had rather anticipated their marriage!). He was baptised on 27 May at which time the family were living at Bourne Road, South Merstham. By 1901 the couple and their son were living at Park Stile, Merstham. Joseph was now a labourer in the lime works. A daughter, Clara, was born on 5 November 1902 and baptised on 24 November 1902, their address was recorded as 6 Park Stile Cottages. Sadly Clara Abbott was just 8 months old when she died and was buried on 13 July 1903 in the churchyard of Merstham, St Katharine. Her address is given as 4 Quarry Cottages, Limeworks, Merstham. Another son, Jack, followed on 18 June 1904 (baptised 26 June 1904). He was followed by a daughter, Ivy May, on 29 April 1906 (baptised 24 June 1906), then two more sons, Albert Edward and James on 5 May 1908 (baptised 28 June 1908) and 21 February 1910 (baptised 24 April 1910) respectively. By 1911 Joseph was a lime burner, and the family were still living at 4 Quarry Cottages, Merstham (the same address is given for all the later children’s baptisms too, and in electoral register entries from 1905 to 915). The census details also tell us that the couple had had two other children who had died before the census was taken, one of these was Clara, the second still ahs not been identified, possibly she died before she could be baptised, and so was not buried in consecrated ground either (or the transcription of the records is such I have not tracked it down).

Joseph did not immediately rush to the colours immediately on the outbreak of war. It was around November 1914 that he enlisted in Redhill. 4th Battalion, Grenadier Guards had been formed at Marlow around September, it’s not clear whether he was posted to that battalion immediately, or trained at a depot first. The battalion was posted to France on 15 August 1915, joining Third Guards Brigade, Guards Division on 19 August. Joseph’s medal card indicates he was with the battalion on arrival. Just over a month later they were in action. Joseph was killed on 27 September one of 342 casualties in the battalion’s attack on Hill 70 during the Battle of Loos. He made a soldier’s will, leaving everything to Lizzie. His Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry shows that she remarried quite quickly, and registration data shows that this was on 4 February 1918. She married a man named Arthur Wood, quite possibly the man who was living with his parents, 3 brothers and a nephew at 1 Quarry Cottages in 1911: his age and occupation in 1911 are consistent with the details in the marriage register.

While a small pension would have been paid to her while she remained a widow, such remarriages were not uncommon when women still had young children to provide for. There is no mention of Abbott’s ringing activities in the ringing newspapers before the war.

A year after his father had gone to France, Alfred Joseph Abbott entered the Royal Navy as a Boy 2nd Class (he would have needed Lizzie’s permission to join up). He continued serving into the 1930s, and returned to service in the Second World War.

The present Merstham ringers rang a quarter peal on 25 September 2015 to commemorate the centenary of Joseph Abbott’s death.

William Maynard (3 July 1887-25 September 1915†)

William Maynard (or Lives of the First World War) was the son of William Maynard senior and Elizabeth, nee Whitmore who had married around 1884. William was born on 3 July 1887, and baptised at St John’s Redhill on 21 August. Possibly a sister Lilian was born 25 June 1890. At the 1891 census, and for several years after, the family lived at 8 Lower Road, Meadvale. The household at this time comprised William, his father and mother, and a boarder, William Whitmore – presumably in fact Elizabeth’s father. There is no sign of Lilian – the only Lilian Maynard in the area is the daughter of another William and Elizabeth Maynard at Pimlico Cottages, Nutfield, so possibly she was not a sister of William at all.

A brother James George was born 24 September 1891 and another sister, Elizabeth Kate “Kitty” was born 12 December 1894. By 1901 it seems that his mother was ill, while the 1901 census records the rest of the family (or at least the two Williams and James – it is not clear where Kitty was) at 8 Lower Road. Elizabeth appears to be at the Victorian and Surrey Homes, Bognor. Sadly she died later in the year, and was buried in the churchyard of St Mary, Reigate on 18 September 1901. In 1901 William junior is recorded as working as a grocer’s errand boy.

William senior remarried quite soon afterwards (it was not easy being a single father with young children), to Annie Back (31) at St Matthew, Redhill, on 1 November 1902. More family tragedy was to follow, Annie had a son (a half-brother to William junior), Harold Herbert Back Maynard, on 3 December 1905, but sadly he was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Reigate, on 15 September 1906. Annie had another child, a daughter, Eveline in 1908. The family had now moved to 75 St John’s Redhill.

When William junior actually started ringing isn’t clear, but he is reported as ringing the treble to a Quarter Peal of Grandsire Triples at Redhill on Sunday 8 January 1911, along with W Streeter, E Harman, A Gear, A Bashford, G Croucher, H Card and H Edwards. Other reports suggest that Redhill were only just trying to build a band at this stage.

By the 1911 census in early April William junior had become a carpenter and joiner, and the family were now living at 1 Lavender Cottage, Masons Road, Redhill. William senior was a brick maker and James a bricklayer’s labourer. Kitty is shown as a worker, but with no specific occupation.

With the outbreak of war, William did not join up immediately, and it was only on 12 or 13 January that he travelled to Guildford to enlist with the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), becoming Private G/4189 (the G standing for General Service, indicating a wartime enlistment). His own service record does not survive, but those of 4187 Henry David Witham and 4196 John Allen did, and allow us to conclude when he enlisted. It is also based on those records that it seems that he trained with 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion in Rochester until around April when he was posted to the 1st Battalion in France. Their war diary records the arrival of a draft of 1 serjeant and 59 privates on 25 April, when the battalion was at Bethune, and of 50 NCOs and men on 8 May when they were at Le Hamel. It is probable that William was in one of these two drafts (having spent some time at an Infantry Base Depot on arrival in France). He would probably have seen action at the Battle of Aubers in May when they were part of 3 Brigade in 1st Division. This battle was a disaster for the British, the Queen’s were not among the hardest hit battalions as they were largely in reserve, as Corps troops for 1 Corps, under the direct control of the Corps Commander. They were in a similar position during the Battle of Festubert in the second half of May. June was a quiet month, and for part of July they were involved in improving the trench system between Cuinchy and Givenchy. Then came the news that there were to be posted to 5 Brigade which they joined at Bethune on 21 July. They moved into the trenches at Cuinchy on 25 July, and although a quiet period soon began to suffer casualties. For the remainder of July and August they went through the usual routine of swapping in and out of the line. This continued for the first part of September, but on 25 September they went into action as the Battle of Loos began, this was then the largest scale action by the British Army in the war to this point, and the first large scale use by the British of gas in an attack (this did not go entirely to plan as in some areas gas was blown back into the British trenches). The battalion was not in the first wave, but was soon committed. By the end of the day the battalion had 9 officers and 266 other ranks as casualties (killed, wounded or missing). They were far from the worst hit battalion. Among their casualties was William Maynard. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. His war gratuity, just £3 (as he had less than one year’s service), was paid to his stepmother.

Estimate enlistment date from War Gratuity paid

Back in February I wrote about the newly released Soldier’s Effects Registers on Ancestry. One of the major components of the money paid out after a soldier’s death was teh War Gratuity, since the launch of the records there’s been an interesting thread on the Great War Forum, looking at how the gratuity payments were determined, based on length of service. The prime mover of this thread, Craig, has now launched his own blog https://wargratuity.wordpress.com/ from where you can download a simple spreadsheet which will calculate an estimate for when a soldier enlisted based on the gratuity paid out, and their date of death. If they received the minimum £3 payment, then unfortunately all that can be said is that they had less than 12 months service, but even this can be helpful if you compare their number against that of men having known enlistment dates as well.

As always when downloading anything from the internet, it is sensible to ensure you have up-to-date virus protection!

A Manchester Accountant on Gallipoli: John William Womersley (1884-1915)

I’ve been slightly sidetracked from ringers recently by investigating some of my own family history, including several more who had war service.

Oval-framed head and shoulders portrait photo of a mustachioed man in military uniform, with no cap

Lieutenant John William Womersley, courtesy of the Mill Hill Foundation, from original in “The book of remembrance and war record of Mill Hill School”. Efforts have been made to establish the original copyright holders, but without success, if you believe you hold the copyright to these images, please contact me.

One hundred years ago the Womersley family was in deep mourning. On 7 June 1915 a telegram had arrived from the War Office carrying the sad news of the death in action on Gallipoli on 4 June of the eldest son of the household, John William (Jack) Womersley who had been serving with 1/8th (Ardwick)Battalion, the Manchester Regiment. His father, Frederick Womersley, had barely got over the death of his wife of 31 years, Emily (nee Pare), who had died on 25 August 1914. The second son of the family, Charles Frederick, was also dangerously ill with septic endocarditis. The three younger sons of family were also all in uniform, though only Arthur Sydney was in action, serving as a trooper with (successively?) Brand’s Horse and Colonel Pyper’s Commando in the South African Forces, which were fighting German forces in what is now Namibia.

John William (Jack) Womersley was born at 59 Ducie Grove, Chorlton upon Medlock, Manchester on 3 February 1884, the eldest child of Frederick Womersley and Emily (nee Pare). Emily was the eldest sister of Frederick Pare, my great-grandfather. She, and two more sisters, Alice and Elizabeth, were born in Calais in 1856, 1857 and 1860 respectively. Their parents, John Pare and Ann (nee Norris) had married in Calais in 1853. Ann was originally from Deal in Kent, it’s not quite clear what she was doing in Calais (the 1841 census suggests her father was a boatman). John Pare was presumably learning up-to-date methods in the lace trade, the family had returned to his home town of Nottingham (one of the centres of the lace trade in England) by the 1861 census when they were living at Royal Street, St Mary’s, Nottingham. John is listed as a “Lace Machine Holder Employing 3 Men 1 Woman 2 Boys”.

Frederick Womersley’s origins are slightly more obscure, with sources variously giving his place of birth as Berkshire, Yorkshire and Manchester, although birth registrations suggest he was born at Barton-upon-Irwell in 1856, although his family was of Yorkshire origin. Census information suggests his family was reasonably well-to-do, and probably involved in the textile trade. However, his own journals, which he seems to have revisited late in life, and recorded selected information he felt was particularly important (and the final version was subsequently partially transcribed by my great-uncle David Pare, youngest brother of my grandfather) show he ended up in debt after helping out his older brother who had ended up in serious financial trouble. One employer mentioned in the journals is John Hithersay, who is probably the man shown in the 1881 census as a Lace Commission Agent, residing at 1 Heather Bank, Withington (RG 11/3892 Folio 111 Page 34), it was he who loaned Frederick money in order to help his brother Charlie, but when Frederick asked Hithersay for a further advance against his wages in early 1877, Hithersay instead gave him two months’ notice. Frederick then worked for a George Baker, due to the rather more common name, it’s not been possible to identify him. While working for Baker, Frederick moved into bookkeeping. In November 1878 he visited Nottingham with a man whose surname my great-uncle David transcribed from Frederick’s journal as Stoner (or Stonor), but the 1881 census suggests he was actually Thomas Storer. My great-uncle surmised that he was a business connection, given that Nottingham’s lace trade (and thus the Pares) would have needed thread, which would have been readily available from Manchester’s factories. However, the evidence of the census is again slightly against this, Storer is shown as a lithographic artist. He may have been involved in the fringes of the textile trade preparing illustrations for catalogues or adverts. Part of the reason they were in Nottingham was to attend a concert at Wool Alley on 27 November, this was a social club and charitable institution for the slums of Nottingham, and the Pares were heavily involved in its running. One of those performing in the concert was Emily Pare, though as a Fredrick noted in a later addition to the journal (dated 23 September 1918), he did not actually meet her at this time. The census also tells us that Storer was born in Nottingham. Taken together, I suspect that Storer and Womersley were more likely to have met at church (or, more accurately, chapel) – perhaps there was even a plan to start something similar to the Wool Alley club in Manchester?
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Fascinating background information on the Attwater brothers

I’d previously read about the cache described in a recent newspaper article on the Cuckfield Museum’s website, but wasn’t absolutely sure previously that it was the same Attwater family that crop up as ringers at St Leonard’s and Immanuel churches in Streatham. The newspaper article leaves no doubt though, as it mentions the death of Ernest during the war.

In from the cold: Herbert Jones, St Peter’s, Wolverhampton

One of the first strands of research I was involved in was going through the outstanding names on the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers for which no Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) record had been found. A number of these still remain, for one reason or another.

In a number of cases, however, it became obvious from surviving records that the man concerned had died after their discharge, and from the same cause that led to their discharge (and that this had been held to be attributable to, or aggravated by, his war service). Having come across the In From the Cold project via the Great War Forum I realised that this meant it might be possible to get them added to the CWGC register. The initial success, rather surprisingly, was with Harry Jones of Chester. I’d not held much hope of success with this one due to the extremely common name, but I found sets of records almost immediately, which combined with the death certificate gave enough for him to be accepted. This was followed by William Stanley Lynn, George Henry Barrick, Gilbert Victor Drew and others.

One of the first cases I’d actually looked at was H Jones of Wolverhampton. Searching the 1911 census found a couple of possible candidates, but nothing to tie them to records that would help. One was a general smith, the other a carter, which both seemed plausible for a man that The Ringing World suggested might have been serving in the Army Service Corps at Avonmouth. I noted down the details on a list I created and moved on. Then, when looking through The Ringing World again for this project, I found the report of a funeral of a Herbert Jones in Wolverhampton, who had served with the ASC at Avonmouth. The report also stated that he was originally from Shrewsbury, and had also lived in Sheffield before moving to Wolverhampton in 1912:

Newspaper article

Private Herbert JONES
Wolverhampton, Stafford Archdeaconry
The Ringing World: 23 May 1919 p199

With this information I quickly found surviving records which showed he had been discharged due to TB contracted while serving at Avonmouth, and this had eventually led to his death. I submitted the case back in 2013, but with the transfer of decision making from the MoD (Historical Branch – Army) to the National Army Museum, there was rather a hiatus in cases going through, and a consequent backlog. It was only on 15 April 2015 that he was added to the CWGC register.