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, absed 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.

Missed from Merstham

I originally described Merstham as “the unluckiest tower” as it appeared that only two members had served, and both had been killed. However, looking again at the Roll as published in the annual report a few days ago, I suddenly realised that that version named four more men from Merstham who had all survived the war. Two of these were the elder brothers of Ernest Morley, one of the two men from Merstham who were killed, Alfred and Horace Morley. All three brothers were living together in 1911 in the household of the eldest, Alfred, and his wife Elizabeth, at 89 Albury Road, South Merstham. Alfred (26) was a gardener domestic, Horace (17) was also a gardener, Ernest (14) a baker’s assistant. Alfred served in the Suffolk Regiment. Horace, joined the cavalry, serving with the 3rd Hussars for most of the war. After the war he joined the Tank Corps, and continued serving until 1926, when he returned to South Merstham.

Alex Frederick Cheasley served in the Royal Navy, finishing the war aboard the destroyer HMS Tower. He was born in Merstham on 9 December 1896, he’d been working as a postman until he joined up on 16 March 1916. William Henry Etherington was a chauffeur in 1911, according to the roll he served in the Royal Army Service Corps, but so far official records have not found for certain. There are several William Etherington’s to be found in the Army Service Corps, but nothing to tie any one of them to Merstham. There is even one William H Etherington, but his service number suggests he served in the Horse Transport section, rather than the Motor Transport section as would be expected for a chauffeur.

Thomas James Coppard (1871 – September 1925)

Thomas James Coppard (see also his page on Lives of the First World War) was the second child of Edward Coppard and Est[h]er Elizabeth nee Botting (the spelling of her name varies between sources as to whether the h appeared in Esther).

His parents had married at St Mary’s, Bletchingley on 30 May 1868, both were Bletchingley born and bred. At the time of their marriage, Edward was a general labourer, he could only make his mark, rather than sign, in the register. His father, Thomas, was also a labourer. Ester was the daughter of James Botting, a blacksmith, she could sign her name, but the rather scratchy and blotted signature doesn’t suggest a great deal of comfort in using a pen. Their ages are not given in the register, just that they were of “full age” (ie over 21). Their first child, Alice Hannah, arrived in early 1869, she was baptised in St Mary’s on 25 April 1869. The 1871 census was taken on 2 April, it was some time after that that Thomas was born, he was baptised at St Mary’s on 27 August.

The family was enlarged over the next few years with the arrival of Albert Edward (baptised 31 May 1874), Ellen Elizabeth (baptised 26 November 1876) and Kate Isabel (baptised 27 April 1879). At the 1881 census the family were living at Tilgate Cottages, Bletchingley. Edward was 36 and a general labourer, Esther, 38. More children followed over the next ten years, Minnie Gertrude (baptised 26 February 1882), Edwin George (baptised March 1885) and finally Charles Botting Coppard, born 24 November 1888 and baptised on 30 December.

At the 1891 census the family were still at Tilgate Cottages, Barfields, Bletchingley. Thomas was now 19 and working as a domestic groom. Alice Hannah, Albert Edward and Ellen Elizabeth weren’t in the family home, the rest of the children were still too young to work.

Thomas James Coppard and Mary Ann Jones married at St Mary’s on 30 December 1894. He was 23, and now a labourer, she was 19. Her father, William Henry Jones had been a labourer, but was deceased. The witnesses were Charles Overy and Alice Hannah Overy – Thomas’s brother-in-law and sister who had married just over a year previously on 26 December 1893. Thomas and Mary’s first child arrived just four months later, on 28 April 1895. He was hastily baptised (privately) on 29 April, but died the following day. He was buried in the churchyard on 4 May.

The following year, Louisa Annie Coppard was born to the couple on 3 June 1896, and baptised on 28 June. From the following year, Thomas begins to appear in the electoral registers, showing that they were living in Tilgate Cottages still (probably a different cottage to his parents though). A third child, Albert Henry, arrived on 6 February 1898, and was baptised on 24 April, he was followed by Francis James on 2 September 1899 (baptised 26 November). It was just over a week before Francis’s baptism that we have the first evidence so far found of Thomas as a ringer, when he is listed as ringing the third to a peal of Grandsire Triples at Bletchingley on 18 November 1899. He had presumably started ringing a little while before this, but no earlier reports have yet been found.

1900 brought more sorrow, with the death of a second child in infancy, with Albert Henry dying early in the year, he was buried in the churchyard on 1 February 1900. Their second daughter, Elsie Elizabeth, arrived on 18 February 1901. The 1901 census was taken on 31 March, the family are shown at 3 Tilgate Cottages. Thomas (now 29) is shown as a bricklayer’s labourer. No occupation is given for Mary, unsurprisingly given the recent birth of Elsie. Florence Gertrude (or May – Gertrude in his army record, May in the baptismal record) was born on 3 October 1903, and baptised on 29 October. She was followed the next year by Edward George on 30 October (baptised 29 January 1905), then Arthur William on 23 February 1907 (baptised 31 March) and Leonard Charles on 1 September 1908 (baptised 25 October). On the occasion of this last baptism, Thomas’s occupation is for the first time given as painter.

At the 1911 census the family were still at Tilgate Cottages, Thomas is listed as a house painter, no occupation is given for Mary, and the children were all still of school age except Lousia Annie who was working as a general servant for the Legg family at Newlands, Bletchingley. Archie Legg (28) is described as a grocer and draper, with him are his wife Ethel Kate, their son William Gregory (1) and Ethel’s younger brother William Geoffrey (15). They’d been married for 2 years, and had had another child who had died before the census. Later that year Thomas and James had another son, Richard Frederick, on 11 October 1911. In 1913 the family moved to Bank Cottages, Bletchingley. On 5 July 1914, their last child, Jack Stanley, was born – just under a month before the outbreak of war.

Thomas joined up at Reigate on 7 November 1914. He joined the 7th Supernumerary Company of the 2/5th Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). Supernumerary companies were raised by several Territorial Force battalions, initially for those registered as part of the Territorial Force Reserve or National Reserve, little more than lists of men held by the county territorial associations of those who had previous military experience. Thomas states he had 8 years’ service with the Volunteers. No other evidence of this has yet been found, and the use of the term Volunteers implies it was prior to 1908 when the Territorial Force was created. The surviving portions of his record are rather sketchy, so it’s difficult to work out exactly what his service entailed especially for the first couple of years. The supernumerary companies were mostly employed on the defence of strategic points (such as railway bridges), and in guarding POWs. In late 1916 he was posted to 41 Protection Company as the supernumerary companies were brought together to form the Royal Defence Corps, his duties would have remained much the same. From a subsequent medical report it seems he has based at Barking around February 1917 and this was when he began to develop myalgia and rheumatism. A further reorganisation saw him posted to 6th Battalion RDC on 11 August 1917. On 24 August he was examined by No 4 Travelling Medical Board at Dovercourt (on the coast of north Essex) and placed in the medical category CIII (the lowest) – presumably he was based somewhere in that area at the time. On 27 February 1918 he again went before a medical board, this time an invaliding board at Felixstowe. This recommended his discharge on the basis of the rheumatism and myalgia he had developed back in February 1917. The board originally rated him at under 20% disabled, when his discharge was finalised this was set at 10%. As a result, rather than an ongoing pension, he was paid a lump sum of £37 15 shillings (this accounted for his disability and dependent children Florence, Edward, Arthur, Leonard, Richard and Jack). He left the army in London on 20 March 1918 after 3 years, 134 days service.

Despite is discharge on the grounds of ill-health he seems to have subsequently become a more active ringer than he had been previously. He rang a quarter peal on 14 May 1921 for the wedding of another Bletchingley ringer, C V Risbridger, seven of the eight ringers are listed on the roll of honour: G Kirby treble, S J Coppard [sic – but no ringer known with those initials, so presumably Thomas J] on 3rd, L F Goodwin 2nd, A Wood 4th, A Cheesman 5th, W Cheesman 6th, W J Wilson. Over the next three years he rang three more recorded pieces of ringing (each of Grandsire Triples), a quarter peal on 20 November 1921 (with G Kirby Treble, L F Goodwin 2nd, W J Wilson 3rd, A Wood 4th, T J Coppard 5th, F Balcombe 6th from the roll of honour), a peal on 12 May 1922 (with Gordon H Kirby Treble (1st peal), George F Hoad 4th, Albert E Wood 5th, Thomas J Coppard 6th all on the roll of honour) and a quarter peal on 28 October 1923 (with L Goodwin 2nd, W T Beeson junr 3rd, W Wilson 5th, T Coppard 6th from the roll of honour).

Thomas died aged 54 in September 1925 at Redhill Hospital and was buried in “Centre Old Cemetery”, grave reference D3, on 22 September 1922. Mary survived him and continued living at Bank Cottages, she died on 22 January 1933 and was interred in the same plot on 26 January.

Soldiers’ Effects Registers

Another new First World War source has recently been released on Ancestry. These are the Soldiers’ Effects Registers held by the National Army Museum, Chelsea. Until this digitisation partnership, the registers could only be accessed via a paid search through the museum.

They detail amounts paid out by the War Office following a soldier’s death. The registers show the soldier’s name, the unit with which they were serving at time of death, place of death, amounts paid out, and to whom. They can be very useful when the CWGC details are scant as the relationship to the payee is also shown. They also complement the probate records released previously, as they show the actual size of the estate. A recent free weekend on Ancestry gave a good chance to get to grips with these records (though I couldn’t get through all the records for association members killed in the war).

Looking through those on the roll who were killed we find the following additional or confirmatory details. For Sydney Reddick, his death is recorded as being at 136 Field Ambulance, using war diaries it should be possible to find a more exact location for this on the date of his death, it also shows that as indicated on his will, his mother was his sole legatee. John Webb’s entry offers nothing new, but confirms that all monies were paid out to his wife. For Sidney Frank Rayner we get the additional detail that he died in Preston Hall Hospital, Aylesford, Kent. This hospital specialised in men who had been gassed, or who were suffering with TB or other lung complaints. For Albert Arthur Stoner of Burstow there is no new detail, just confirmation that the payments were made to his father, Arthur. Similarly for Walter Eric Markey, the only new detail is of the payments to his father and mother. For Frank Pickering of Carshalton again we learn that all payments went to his parents as joint legatees (though no will has been traced). C H Schooling of St John’s, Croydon is the first officer to appear in the registers, the payees here are less clear, it seems they may be passed through his agents rather than directly to next-of-kin.

Next, Arthur Frederick Roberts of Godstone, the register shows payments to his mother as sole legatee of £10 19s 1d. For George Basil Edser of Hersham payments of £7 6s to his widow, Edna. Similarly for Joseph Abbott of Merstham entry shows payments to his widow, Lizzie, of £10 1s 10d, while that for fellow Merstham ringer, Ernest Morley shows £25 17s to his father, Henry.

For the Mitcham trio, starting with Douglas Walter Drewett, for whom there were payments of £20 15s 5d to his widow, Margaret. Then for Benjamin Arthur Morris, £28 5s 7d to his father Arthur. Finally, Stanley Smith, £5 5s 1d to his father William S Smith.

This was all I had time to look at. In the majority of cases so far, there was not a huge amount new, but the very first record for Sydney Reddick gave additional information on where he died which can be followed up in the war diaries.