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

ruI’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?

The journal tells us that at Easter 1880 he met Emily’s father, John, and sister, Alice at Storer’s Manchester house. By July Storer had moved to a new house, and it was there that he first met Emily. In January 1881 Frederick entered a partnership with a J H Whitehouse, the nature of their trade is not specified, but later in the year they visited a wool spinners in Wakefield, suggesting it was textile related, which perhaps points to the Henry Whitehouse of Rusholme listed in the 1881 census as a linen draper. In March he met Emily and John Pare again at Storer’s, and they travelled to Cheadle. The 1881 census shows that Emily was staying at the Storer’s on census night, hence the certainty of my identification. Frederick was still in lodgings with his two younger sisters at 49 Fairfield Square, Droylsden (two of the others there were non-conformist ministers). In July Frederick and Emily began corresponding, and were engaged by the end of the month. Frederick visited Nottingham in August, meeting Emily’s uncle Tom (her mother’s brother).

In July 1882 his partnership with Whitehouse was dissolved, and Frederick began to work as an accountant – then a very new profession. He initially worked with a man named Ottiwell Dewhurst (the surname was transcribed from the journal as Deerhurst, but he is listed in the 1881 census as Ottiwell Taylor Dewhurst, articled clerk to an accountant). Frederick and Emily married at Friar Lane Chapel, Nottingham on 28 March 1883. They honeymooned in London and Matlock. On 3 February 1884 John William Womersley was born in the family home at Ducie Grove, he was known in the family as Jackie, and later, Jack. The Manchester rate books (which have been digitised and are online on FindMyPast) suggest that this property had actually belonged to Frederick’s father, it had perhaps been rented out while Frederick established himself. Frederick also joined the newly formed Society of Accountants and Auditors.

Charles “Charlie” Frederick Womersley was born about November 1885, he seems to have been a sickly child to begin with. Frederick’s business had been going from strength to strength, taking on additional staff and another office. There had though been some sort of serious family trouble in the Pare family, possibly with Alice Pare at its centre, during the course of 1886. 1887 saw yet more additional business, Frederick notes that he took his first appointment as trustee in bankruptcy proceedings in that year, this related to James Kay of Moseley Street (borne out by the London Gazette). Mid-1887 also saw the birth of a third son for Frederick and Emily, Arthur Sydney Womersley. Proving that Frederick was becoming highly respected in the new profession of accountancy, he was elected to the council of what was now the Incorporated Society of Accountants and Auditors.

By 1891 the family were living at 17 Leven Terrace, Droylsden. Their increasing prosperity can also be seen by the fact that they now employed two servants: Alice Ford (22, born Macclesfield), a nurse for the younger children; and Elizabeth Ann Woodward (also 22, from Crewe), a general domestic servant. The rate books suggest the move was made around 1886 or 1887, and that they moved on again in 1892 to 55 High Street, Chorlton. In 1891 Frederick entered into a new partnership with Andrew Pattison Smith, another accountant, originally from Fife (reported in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 2 January 1891, p4).

On 4 January 1892 (David) Norman Womersley was born, a third son for Frederick and Emily. Then on 1 November 1893, Dorothy Ann Womersley, finally a daughter. By now Frederick had become President of the Society of Society of Auditors and Accountants (newspaper reports suggest that this might only have been president of the Manchester and District part of the society, see eg Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 17 November 1893, p6), but for some reason decided to switch to the larger Institute of Chartered Accountants, to which he was admitted in February 1894.

At the end of 1895 the partnership with Smith was dissolved as he was about to come to London to take up the Secretaryship of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. On 12 July 1896 Frederick and Emily’s fifth and final child was born, (Frank) Gilbert Womersley. In 1897 Frederick Pare married Florence Hodson of Loughborough (a photo of her is on the Leicestershire Record Office website), so the whole family went down for the occasion, with one of the boys acting as a page. In May 1898 Jack started at Mill Hill School in north London. This is an independent school founded in 1807 with a Nonconformist religious character – the original English Public Schools generally requiring attendance at chapel, but in accordance with the Church of England services. He was a member of Burton Bank House. The Manchester rate books suggest that around the end of September 1898 the family moved to The Olives, Anson Road, Rusholme.

In 1899 a book entitled Manchester and Salford at the Close of the 19th Century: Contemporary Biographies was published by W T Pike and Co, Brighton. This seems to have been one of a series of books illustrating important people of various large towns with a photo and brief pen portrait. Frederick Womersley was included in this Manchester volume, which has been digitised as part of the project “Spinning the Web: The Story of the Cotton Industry”, undertaken by Manchester’s Archives Plus federation. The photo and description (on page 244) show him as the very image of a Victorian paterfamilias, and add further details of his activities, amongst other offices, he was Secretary of the Manchester Ship Canal Shareholders’ Association, local Secretary of the RNLI (interesting given that his former partner had gone on to be National Secretary), District Secretary of the North of England Distict Committee of the Lifeboat Fund, and Secretary of the Manchester Sunday School Union. Frederick Pare was also included in the 1901 Nottinghamshire volume of the W T Pike series, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire at the Opening of the Twentieth Century; [and] Contemporary Biographies. At Christmas 1899 various of the Pare family came to stay, Frederick and Florence’s first child, Erica Florence, had been born on 27 March 1898. Frederick Womersley’s journal shows that he was now also making substantial stockmarket investments on the back of the success of his accountancy practice.

1901 was a year of big changes for the Womersley family. Jack (now 17) left Mill Hill School at the end of 1900, and was articled to his father in the accountancy business, passing his preliminary exam almost immediately. He also came down with scarlet fever at some point in 1901, on his recovering the family took a holiday in Wales. On census night, 31 March 1901 the family were still at The Olives, and were all at home for the census. In addition to the family, there were two servants: Amy C Edward (19, born Manchester), general domestic; and rather grander, a French governess, Jeanne E Guinard (19). Emily had of course been born in France, so perhaps this is not too surprising. She would presumably have taught the younger children, and Dorothy in particular. In November 1901 the family moved into Sherwood House, Upper Park Road, Victoria Park, Manchester. This was a substantial house, originally built in 1852 by the architect Edward Walters (also responsible for Manchester’s Free Trade Hall) for developer Edward Langworthy. Four houses were built as two double villas, in an Italianate style, originally the first pair were named West View, Elbe Villa and the second pair were Ivy Villa (subsequently Sherwood House) and South Villa (later Regent House). A Rusholme local history website carries a detailed history of the buildings, and there is also a passing mention in Pevsner’s South Lancashire: The Industrial and Commercial South of 1969. Sadly the houses were demolished during the 1970s. There is a photo on the new Greater Manchester Lives website, it is described only as Regent House, but the left hand part is probably Sherwood House. Frederick Womersley records that he paid a deposit of £125 (the remainder being mortgaged), suggesting a possible sale price of £1250. Not much for “an area, on the ground, that may be roughly set down as about 53 feet square; and each has three storeys, including the underground-basement, in the front of the house, and four storeys at the back, as well as at that portion of the plan which is carried up as a tower. There are three day-rooms, or reception-rooms; and there are rooms in the upper-floors, capable of providing for eight beds (two being in the nursery): added to which are two dressing-rooms, each partly in the tower, and a bath-room. All the bed-rooms, including those of the attic-floor, are good rooms. The staircase is a noteworthy feature, being effective and large for the size of the house, and running round three sides of a parallelogram on plan. The front- and back-entrances to the house are so disposed, and shut off, that there is no draught from one to the other, as there often is in semi-detached houses.” The sale price is confirmed by the Valuation Office survey, this indicates the sale price was indeed £1250 (in July 1901), and that £250 had subsequently been spent on improvements to the house, while the map shows it was what was originally Ivy View (rather than Elbe Villa as suggested by the Rusholme Archive website). The general description of the property tallies with the account in the book described above, although it is also said to have a “motor house” (garage – the Womersleys did have a car by 1914), which would presumably have been a carriage house when the property was originally built. The Valuation Office map can be found at The National Archives as IR 133/4/97: OS Sheet Reference: Lancashire CIV 15 SE (Manchester and Rusholme), 1:1250 and the four properties are actually covered by two field books, IR 58/54689: Rusholme Assessment No. 401-500 for South View (aka Regent House), assessment no. 444 and IR 58/54690: Rusholme Assessment No. 501-600 for the remaining three properties, assessment nos. 552-554, with Sherwood House being 554. Womersley actually owned only the leasehold, the freehold was held by Sir W R Anson, Bart.

The next few years were generally quieter, though Whitsun 1902 saw a family holiday to the low countries, visiting Amsterdam, Brussels, the Hague, Leyden and Antwerp. This appears to also be the year Charlie left school and joined the firm, he took his preliminary exam in June 1902, and the record indicates he had been at Woodlands school, Fallowfield. This was small school, really more of a prep school, but at this time it took a few older pupils as well, it subsequently relocated to Deganwy in north Wales in 1904 (it may be that the other brothers also went there before going off to their other schools). The transcribed journal does not mention Arthur matriculating at Manchester University to study medicine in 1904, his university records show that, like Charlie, he had been at Woodlands. In October 1904 the family travelled with the Pares to Deal (Kent), the home town of Emily’s mother, Ann, and then on to Calais and Paris. This all seems to have been part of marking the golden wedding anniversary of John and Ann Pare, which culminated on 13 November with the presentation of a set of silver gilt plate (the gold was apparently eventually worn off by over vigorous polishing).

1905 saw Norman follow Jack to Mill Hill (also joining Burton Bank House), and it was also the year in which Jack and Charlie took further accountancy exams, the intermediate exam in Charlie’s case, and the final exam in Jack’s, both in the November/December session. In 1906 there was a holiday (perhaps just Frederick and Emily) taking in Lucerne and Paris (with visits to Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, and other major sights). This was also the year the family first visited Swaledale, taking a cottage in Smarber for several weeks. It appears that Emily and the younger children (with some of the Pares) stayed there throughout, with visits from Frederick at weekends, with his first visit (with Norman) being recorded as 4 August. In October Frederick travelled to London with Horton Allison, a local music teacher, to buy a new piano. He chose a Broadwood which was delivered at the end of the month. Dorothy and Gilbert reputedly learned to play well, Allison’s daughter Maud would also become well known to the family. Late October also saw another visit to Swaledale, with Frederick, Emily, Jack and Charlie viewing a property called Paradise in Low Row. Jack and Charlie were reported to be “enthusiastic at idea of buying Paradise.”

On 16 February 1907 Frederick Womersley agreed the purchase of Paradise from a lady named in the journal only as Mrs Taylor. This was completed in April with a stay at the King’s Head in Richmond, when he settled up with an R S Hudson. David Pare speculated that Hudson was a solicitor, and the 1911 census does indeed show Robert Sidney Hudson living in Richmond and a solicitor (RG 14/29455 and RG 78/1708 Registration District 541 Sub district 1 Enumeration district 5 Schedule Number 52). They moved in on 18 April and “spent their first night in Paradise”. The property comprised a large house, attached to which was a three storey building which had originally been a wool warehouse. Building work to modernise the property started almost immediately. In September, the Punch Bowl (the village pub) was also put up for sale. Frederick bid £255, but was not successful. Also in 1907 Gilbert headed off to Gresham’s School at Holt, Norfolk (later to be attended by Benjamin Britten). He became a member of Old School and Woodlands boarding houses. He is presumed to be in the house photos for 1908 and 1909, but no names are given on the photos.

It appears Frederick did not record much in his journal relating to 1908, or it is possible that David Pare accidentally conflated two years in making his transcription. The next entry given is that Christmas was spent as usual at Sherwood House, along with all the Pares. However, the addition of the information that “Norman was at Mill Hill and won three cups, one tankard, a case of spoons silver vase and one medal” suggests that this is Christmas 1908, as Norman left Mill Hill in December 1908 according to the school records. He had been in the First XV (rugby) and a monitor (prefect).

1909 was a mixed year, Charlie became engaged to Maud Allison, but around Christmas Emily’s father, John Pare, suffered a stroke. Arthur was despatched to Nottingham to bring Frederick Pare’s two oldest children, Erica and John to Manchester. Clive was still under 2, and Florrie would then have been pregnant with my grandfather, Philip.

On 17 June 1910 Charlie married Maud Allison at nearby the nearby church of St John Chrysostom. The register reveals that while Charlie was 24, Maud was 39, quite unusual for the time. This the first time we can definitely place the family in the church, but David Pare comments that despite his non-conformist upbringing (evident in the choice of school for Jack and Norman), Frederick would often go to the parish church as well as chapel on a Sunday (particularly when they were at Low Row). The older John Pare died on 19 September 1910, with most of the Womersley family going down to Nottingham for the funeral. This seems to have been the year Jack fully qualified as an accountant, with the first notice of an official appointment as receiver on 22 November. 1910 would prove to be the last Christmas all the Womersley children were at home together, in 1915 Frederick added a note to his diary for 1910: “Last year all family at home: alas, alas. But God be thanked for the previous ‘Spacious’ years: Now I am a bereaved desolate old man in spirit if not in years, yet possessing the greatest of His blessings, the peace of God which passeth understanding.”

On 2 April 1911, the night of the census, Jack, Norman and Dorothy were at Sherwood House, along with their aunt Elizabeth (Lizzie). Jack is listed as chartered accountant, so had presumably completed his training, while Norman was still in articles. The family now had three servants: Jennie Rowlands (23), waitress domestic; Laura Grace Lloyd (17), housemaid domestic; and Kate Ellen Jones (28), cook domestic. Slightly unexpectedly, all were originally from Blaenau Ffestiniog in Wales. Strictly, Jack should have been listed as head of the household, but he put himself down as son, despite the fact his father wasn’t there. Charlie and his wife were living at 24 Park Range, presumably one of two houses in Park Range that Frederick bought on 10 May 1910. They also had a live-in servant, Emily Anne Gill (18), general servant domestic, originally from Masham, Yorkshire. Charlie is listed as an accountant, and Frederick’s journal indicates that he passed his final exams in 1911. Arthur was a medical student, living in a hotel at 28/29 Bedford Place, Bloomsbury. The location may suggest he was studying at University College Hospital. Frederick and Emily were in Low Row, they had two Manchester friends staying with them, Robert Glassford Lawson, a 57 year old solicitor, and Elizabeth More Bayly, a 59 year old widow. No occupation is given for her, not even “private means”.

Arthur failed his second bachelor of medicine exam on 9 May. He went up to Aspatria in Cumberland, presumably to consider his options. It seems he decided that medicine was not for him after all, on 1 July he was aboard the SS Braemar Castle as it departed Southampton for Cape Town. Dorothy also left the UK, to spend a year at a Swiss finishing school.

A 19th century castle-like building with towers and battlements, photographed against a blue sky with aircraft trails

1912 was another mixed year, Charles and Maud had a daughter early in the year – Margaret Allison Womersley (known in the family as Margot). She was baptised at St Chrysostom’s on 2 March. Frederick became president of the Manchester Accountants’ Society, and also took the decision to become teetotal. Late in the year came news from Arthur in South Africa – he was in hospital in Bloomfontein suffering from enteric fever (a generic term for typhoid and paratyphoid). Fortunately he would recover.

1911 and 1912 had also been a busy years for Gilbert at Greshams, this being the first volume of the school magazinein which he appears in the online archive. He appears in the reports of sports days, the debating society and winning a music prize. He was apparently a great fan of Dickens (and would introduce some mention of him into debates at the slightest opportunity). In one debate in 1912, on the topic that “this House considers that the present estrangement between England and Germany is due to the action of the Press in the two countries, and not to any natural antagonism between the two peoples”, he pointed out that “his best friend was a German”. In another, debating the motion “this House disapproves of the Enfranchisement of Women”, he “could find no justification for militant suffragism” (although he doesn’t appear to have been against the principle of women having the vote).

It was also at the end of 1912 that Jack joined the Territorials, he signed his application for a commission in 8th (Ardwick) Battalion, the Manchester Regiment, on 27 December (and his commission was subsequently gazetted as being from that date). He had presumably made some visits to the battalion at their base at the Ardwick Green drill hall before this. His application was forwarded to the East Lancashire Territorial Force Association by Major & Hon Lieut-Colonel G W Heys, commanding 8th (A) Battalion, on 3 January 1913, with the recommendation that his application should be accepted, as he was “a fit and proper person to hold His Majesty’s Commission, and that he will be acceptable to the Officers of my Battalion”. George William (or William George) Heys was a long-serving volunteer officer who had seen active service in South Africa during the Boer War. It’s slightly odd that Heys is described as being in command, Walter E Lloyd had been promoted to Lt-Col on 27 April 1912, and other sources indicate that he was commanding the battalion at this time. After this Jack would have begun attending the battalion’s regular training evenings, and also the various social events they would have organised: the first of those may have been on Saturday 11 January when F Company gathered at Beresford’s Restaurant, Pall Mall (Manchester Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 13 January 1913, p10). During the dinner the battalion adjutant announced that 1913’s annual camp was expected to be in August at Aldershot.

13 boys in rugby kit, with hooped shirts, variously standing, sitting and kneeling in front of a doorway in a brick building

Greshams School rugby team 1913 (used by permission of the school archives).

Family-wise the year began with a New Year party at Paradise and a dinner party for locals on 3 January, 15 sat down to dinner, and this was followed by music. On 1 February the mortgage on Sherwood House was paid off. 28 March 1913 was the 30th anniversary of Frederick and Emily’s wedding, the occasion was marked by improvements to the dining room at Paradise, including copper smoke hoods at either end engraved with their initials and “1883” Gilbert continued to appear in the school magazines, in addition to continued participation in various societies he was promoted to lance-corporal in the OTC, and played rugby for the school – this gives us another photo in which he is presumed to appear, but again with no names given. The Manchester Regiment’s territorial battalions did indeed head to Salisbury Plain in August, and presumably Jack was with them, he’d also managed to pass the “A examination” in June at Ashton-under-Lyne (presumably at the regimental depot there). This meant his commission was confirmed and he was eligible for promotion. Frederick and Emily visited Nottingham at the start of December, and it was after this that Emily first became unwell.

She still wasn’t well at Christmas, but this did not stop the normal visit to Paradise for New Year. They took the train to Askrigg, and were collected by John Bearpark, who farmed the land around Paradise. There had been heavy snow which made the journey difficult, and did not help Emily’s health, she developed a heavy cold and Frederick was also unwell. They did manage to get out and about in early January, before returning to Manchester on the 6th. At the same time Gilbert was taking the Cambridge entrance exams, he would also take the OTC “A Certificate” shortly after, both would have important consequences in the not too distant future (and put him only a few months behind his much older brother). Emily had seemed to improve, but by 8 March and fallen ill again. Charlie also showed the first signs of illness, fainting at the office on 14 March. Despite this, on 18 March Frederick and Emily went to Paradise again, but on 23 March she had an attack of what was then described as colic, but was probably the first signs of gall bladder trouble. Emily then spent much time at Paradise. Jack was still busy in the territorials. The battalion started a swimming club, with its first meeting at the Mayfield Baths on Friday 15 May, Jack was elected vice-chairman (Manchester Evening News 18 May 1914 p7). A week later Jack was promoted to lieutenant. This was all shortly before the annual camp, which began on the Whitsun bank holiday weekend, and continued for the next fortnight. In 1914 most of the Manchester units were based at Carnarvon, various manoeuvres were carried out, all widely reported in the local papers. There were also sports competitions, and the recently established swimming club quickly made its mark, with the battalion carrying off the trophy for the best overall performance (Manchester Evening News, 11 June 1914, p8).

Meanwhile the family firm was also continuing, Norman passed his intermediate accountancy exams (apparently with the assistance of “Messrs Penningtons, university tutors, Oxford Road – Manchester Evening News, 24 July 1914, p4). Presumably though Frederick wasn’t doing much work at this point, with Emily becoming increasingly unwell, and still at this point in Yorkshire. It was on 4 August that she came back to Manchester for the last time: Frederick, Emily and Dorothy left Low Row by car at 9:30 am and made it back to Sherwood House at 5:30 pm. By now of course war was imminent, and this was the day the Territorial Force was mobilised, with war actually declared at 11pm as Germany did not respond to the British ultimatum regarding the neutrality of Belgium. Lt-Col Heys had officially taken command of the battalion in March 1914, and by all accounts was a very active and effective CO: he was known for selecting recruits (both officers and men) very carefully. He was also a longstanding freemason, as were several other officers of the battalion. It was presumably as a result of these connections that Jack also joined the East Lancashire Centurion Lodge (No. 2322), he was initiated on 2 March 1914, and “passed” on 6 April. The Ardwicks were part of the Manchester Brigade in the East Lancashire Division. The brigade comprised the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Battalions of the Manchester Regiment. Initially all the battalions remained stationed around their own drill halls, though some had to sleep in local schools or church halls. They undertook training locally, including several route marches. Though somewhat understrength on mobilisation, former members rejoining soon reversed that, and new recruits were generally turned away. The primary purpose of the Territorial Force was for home defence, but individuals could volunteer for overseas service by signing the Imperial Service Obligation. According to local press reports, by 14 August 99% of the 8th Battalion had done so (Manchester Evening News, 14 August 1914, p2). All the territorial battalions were “duplicated”, and those who had volunteered for overseas service became 1/8th Battalion, while those who would carry out the home defence mission were 2/8th (first eighth and second eighth). On 20 August the battalions of the Manchester Brigade moved to various locations around Littleborough, north east of Rochdale. The Ardwicks were at Hollingworth Lake.

On 25 August Emily died at Sherwood House. Frederick wrote, “the end came without any distress either to EW or to me. I was wonderfully calm much to my surprise. And this ended the earthly married connection which had lasted nearly 32 happy years. May God comfort me and grant that my dear wife’s spirit may continue to be my ever present Guardian Angel.” A death notice was published in the Manchester Evening News on 27 August stating that that the funeral was to be the following day at St Chrysostom’s. Curiously though, David Pare’s transcription of Frederick’s journal indicates that the funeral was indeed on 28 August, but at Low Row, with the Pares present who were staying at Paradise, where they remained until 14 September. However, the burial register for Holy Trinity, Melbecks (the parish in which Low Row lies) indicates that Emily was initially cremated, and not interred there until 25 August 1916, the second anniversary of her death. This seems to suggest that a Manchester funeral was more likely. Where ever, it is not clear if Jack was able to attend. Arthur was of course still in South Africa.

Norman joined up on 4 September at Manchester Grammar School. He joined the newly raised “Public Schools and University Corps”: at this stage of the war the rate of recruitment was still such that many of those of the class and educational background (like the Womersley boys) who would normally have been expected to take a commission if they were to join the army could not get one as so many were joining. As a result the corps was formed so that they would at least be serving with their own class, even if they had to slum it in the ranks. It eventually became the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st Battalions of the Royal Fusiliers. Norman became private 2265 in the 18th Battalion. The battalions formed at Epsom on 11 September and would train in the surrounding area for several months.

The following day, the East Lancashire Division (of which the Manchester Brigade was a part – the division was subsequently redesignated 42nd Division) was warned for overseas service – the first territorial division to be ready for foreign service. The soldiers of the division were probably rather disappointed as it became clear that they would not be headed for France, but rather the Middle East. On 9 September the Ardwick’s departed for Southampton, and on the 10th boarded RMS Corsican, a ship of the Allan Line, for Alexandria, where they landed on 25 September after 15 days at sea (a photo of the ship carrying the battalion is available online). There had been 2500 men on the ship, of 1/8th Battalion, 1/6th and also several artillery batteries, the men were rather crammed together, but the officers fared rather better, with a report based on a letter from a man of the 1/6th commenting, “The officers’ food would have done credit to the Midland Hotel.” (Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 17 October 1914, p8.) They had had a brief stop at Gibraltar on 17 September, and passed Malta on 21 September.

October was full of further upheaval. The family firm was coming under strain, Frederick had been easing back in his day-to-day involvement with the business, but now with both Jack and Norman having joined up, and Charlie’s health becoming uncertain, he was forced to spend more time at the office again, but the war meant that business was not so good. Whether it was entirely because of that, or whether he was in modern terms “downsizing”, Frederick was beginning to consider selling Sherwood House, and had an enquiry from a Mr J C B Percy (who seems to have been a local newspaperman) on 7 October. On 12 October Gilbert went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge to read maths, however it wasn’t long before he was thinking of applying for a commission. On 18 October Arthur joined up in South Africa, enlisting as a trooper in Brand’s Horse (or possibly this date is when the news reached Manchester). This unit served in the suppression of the Boer Rebellion and the South-West Africa Campaign. Charlie was again unwell. On 19 October half the Ardwicks were sent to garrison Cyprus, while the other half remained in Alexandria, one other battalion of the Manchester Brigade was also despatched to Khartoum to form the garrison there. It is not clear whether Jack went to Cyprus or remained in Egypt. Following the entry of the Ottoman Empire into the war at the start of November, Cyprus was formally annexed by the United Kingdom on 4 November, it had been administered by the British since 1878, but had legally still been a part of the Ottoman Empire. This arrangement had been made in order that the Turks gained British backing against Russia in the Balkan Wars.

Frederick closed the year in his journal on a rather despairing note:

Last day of the most disastrous year of my life.

  • Loss of dear wife.
  • Absence of boys and attendant anxiety
  • Break up of house (must leave Sherwood House)
  • Loss of money!!!
  • Loss of business (this war)!!!!
  • Necessity for increased attentioni to business (not capable of it)

God have mercy on us and bless us and cause his face to shine upon us

On 15 January 1915 Gilbert was recommended for a commission, which was gazetted on 26 January (the date is given on the previous page). On 20 January the detachment of the Ardwicks on Cyprus returned to Egypt, having been relieved by the Malta Militia. They were based at the Abbassia Barracks on the outskirts of Cairo from 23 January. On 28 January Frederick received an offer of £1100 for Sherwood House, which he accepted (though it was less than he had paid originally). 3 February Frederick later recorded as the first day of Charlie’s last illness. In late January and early February Norman received a two-part inoculation against typhoid.

All this increased the stress that Frederick was feeling. Most unusually on 22 February he records that he “quarrelled with Dr Allison about Charlie”. By now elements of 42 Division were involved in the defence of the Suez Canal against Ottoman attacks, but it seems that the Ardwicks were still in Cairo, which must have been slightly frustrating for them. On 28 February Frederick marked his 59th birthday at home with Dorothy and Gilbert, who was on leave. This was the last Sunday in Sherwood House. On 3 March the family moved out to 40 Park Range. Charlie was becoming increasingly ill, and by the end of March a nurse had been employed – and a water bed brought in! The old family doctor in Swaledale told Frederick that he though Charlie had only 1 chance in 100 of surviving.

To ease the business worries somewhat Frederick agreed to enter into a new partnership with brothers Charles Meredith Tweedale and Geoffrey Tweedale, both shown in the 1911 census as articled clerks (one living in Wilmslow, the other in London). They were from another Manchester professional family, their father being a barrister, and other relatives also in the law. Their father, James, had died in 1913 which probably gave them a sound financial position. David Pare states “their situation was somewhat similar, the son being in the army”. In fact, it seems he must have slightly misunderstood the original journal, Charles was born in 1887, and Geoffrey in 1888, so they were more of an age with the Womersley sons themselves. It seems that it was Geoffrey who was going in to the army, he was commissioned on 31 July 1915. The Tweedale’s office was also on King Street, and Charles at least was involved in golf and constitutional club, as was Jack, so there was a good chance the two families had been fairly well acquainted even before the merger of their two firms.

The merger officially came into effect on 1 May 1915 creating the new firm of Womersley and Tweedale. It was also on that day that 1/8th Manchesters received orders to entrain for Alexandria on the night of 2/3 May. On 3 May Norman formally applied for a commission. He was still in Epsom with 18th Royal Fusiliers, and was perhaps tiring of not getting into action and saw taking a commission as a quicker way of getting there. For reasons that are now unclear he asked to be appointed to 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion, Royal West Kent Regiment: perhaps one of his schoolmates had an attachment to that regiment. He had obviously been putting the wheels in motion for a while before his application was complete, the character reference section of the form had been signed by C R Pattison Muir, Rector of St Chrysostom’s on 1 May (by strange coincidence he would later become vicar of Epsom), and a reference from the headmaster of Mill Hill is dated 30 April. Meanwhile HQ, machine gun section and A and B Companies of 1/8th Manchesters boarded a train at Palais Kubber Station and left for Alexandria at 1115 on 2 May, to be followed by C and D companies at 0200 on 3 May. They arrived at Alexandria at 0515 and 0800 respectively on 3 May. There the majority of the battalion embarked on HT Ionian (along with 1/7th Battalion), with the transport section (including horses) boarding HT Cuthbert. Ionian departed at 2100. It is not clear from the war diary whether their destination was known as they departed. It could not have been kept secret for long though, the name Gallipoli was already well known.

Norman had a period of leave at home with Frederick before his commission went through (on probation) in 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalion, Manchester Regiment, on 14 May. So much for the Royal West Kent Regiment! He seems to have served with them on home defence duties around Grimsby for about a year (his commission was confirmed on 9 December).

Meanwhile, 1/8th Manchesters landed at W Beach (aka Lancashire Landing) over the course of the morning of 6 May, having spent the night anchored off the coast. The landing place is described as being between Helles Burnu and Sedd-El-Bahr Fort, and they then moved into bivouac on the cliffs NW Helles Burnu. By 17:30 the whole battalion, including the transport was ashore, and they then moved to the banks of Krithia stream to bivouac for the night by 19:00. By this time they had already suffered two wounded. The next couple of days were relatively quiet as they gradually found their feet, and made small moves but were not yet in the front line proper. However, everywhere was under fire, and four more men had been lightly wounded by 9 May. The war diary as describes seeing a Turkish sniper killed within 50 yards of their dugouts at 17:30 on 9 May. On 10 May they had their first man killed, along with 6 more slightly wounded, and what were described as “many narrow shaves”. On 11 May they moved into the front line for the first time, relieving 1st Battalion, Essex Regiment and the New Zealand Otago Battalion (this was at the left of the British line). The move was made in darkness, but over open country, under long range artillery and rifle fire. The battalion was formed up in column of platoons, and guided by men from the Essex Regiment. Despite this, there was much confusion in the darkness with different groups crossing over each other, and 70 officer and men getting separated and rejoining over the following days. Another dozen men were wounded over the next couple of days, including two officers, the adjutant Capt C H G Collins and also Capt H C F Mandley. The 1/8th were now in the centre of the brigade positions, with 6th Battalion on their right, 7th Battalion on their left, and 5th Battalion in support. They remained in and around the front lines until 22 May, with brief periods roadmaking, and casualties steadily mounting amounting to over 20 killed, and 30 wounded. They then went back into bivouac further back from the front, though again they had to provide fatigue parties, largely for improving the roads. 25 May saw heavy rain around Achi Baba which caused the stream by the bivouac to rise several feet and flood the surrounding area. They moved forward into the reserve trenches, which were also flooded. Over the following days, various small attacks were made to try and straighten out the line, and casualties immediately began to mount again. By the end of the month the battalion had suffered totals of 4 officers and 45 other ranks killed, 4 officers and 138 other ranks wounded (from an initial strength of somewhere between 900-1000 all ranks).

On 1 June the Ardwicks were pulled out of the firing line, replaced by 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment, and the Ardwicks took up the position that the 6th had been occupying. On 2 June, the war diary notes only “All quiet, Lieut Hepburn sick to base”, however over the course of the two days the margin also records 6 killed, 11 missing, on 1 June and 1 killed, 2 wounded. On 3 June came notification that were to attack the following day, with their left wing moving along the Krithia Nullah (a dry valley), and extending 300 yards to the right, with the remainder of the brigade (all from the Manchester Regiment) around them, 6th Battalion on their left (just the other side of the nullah), and 5th and 7th Battalions to their right, each battalion with a frontage of 300 yards. This was to become known as the Third Battle of Krithia. Again the battalion suffered 2 killed and 2 wounded over the course of the day. On 4 June, the artillery bombardment commenced at 11am, and the infantry attack at noon. A and B companies led the way to the first objective, the main Turkish trench line, which was taken, C and D companies then passed through in order to take the second objective, higher ground overlooking the trenches. They took the ground, and in fact A and B companies also continued forward with them. They then held the position all day, heavily counter-attacked all the meanwhile. Unfortunately, the wider attack did not progress so well around them, and so they were left isolated, the 7th battalion (on the far right) were compelled to fall back to the first objective, with the rest of the battalions in the brigade falling back in their turn. The battalions then fell to consolidating this position. They had suffered extremely heavily over the course of the day, having begun with 17 officers, 9 had been killed, 7 wounded, with just 1 left standing. The list of killed officers started at the very top of the battalion, with Lt Col Heys, then Captains Oldfield, Rose, and Talbot (this last man attached from 1st Lancashire Fusiliers), and then Lieutenants Helm, Heywood, R Marsden, Hall, Ingram and Womersley. Wounded were Captains Bluhm, Lings and Bird (the last attached from 1/8th Lancashire Fusiliers), Lieutenants Wallwork, Railton, Bluhm and Murdock. In addition to the war diary, there is also a personal diary covering this period written by Private Joseph McLean.

The news slowly filtered back to England, Frederick received the War Office telegram on 7 June, just as he was writing a letter of condolence to another father. He wrote, “I am wonderfully and inexplicably calm. Glorious death: restoration of 1st born to his mother. May I increasingly have their dear spirits in attendance with me. I thank thee O God for all the dispensations of Thy Providence”. Unsurprisingly he received many cards and letters of condolence in the days following, but one that seems to have made the strongest impression, “Train Guard very kindly expressed sympathy and shook my hand: which made me proud.”

Unsurprisingly the action, and its consequences, was widely reported in the local press in Manchester. The death of Lt Col Heys received most column inches, particularly after it became known that he had been in the act of taking over from Brigadier-General Noel Lee, who had been mortally wounded, when Heys himself was killed. He received most of a column on page 3 of the 10 June edition of the Manchester Evening News. While the fate of many of the northern Pals Battalions on the first day of the Somme has entered into the general consciousness, the losses of the Territorials at Gallipoli have been rather forgotten, though the effect could be just as devastating, as these units were similarly drawn from tight-knit communities. 10 June appears to be the first day that casualty lists began to appear in the local papers, although Jack’s name was not included that day. Further lists continued to appear over the following days, with a brief biography of Jack on page 5 of the Manchester Evening News on 11 June 1915. A memorial service was quickly organised to commemorate all ranks of the 8th Manchesters who had fallen to be held at Manchester Cathedral, 1pm on 14 June. 3/8th Manchesters, the reserve unit associated with 1/8th were still stationed in Manchester at the time and so a large contingent, 560 men, with band, were present at the service, having marched through the streets of Manchester. At the close of the service the organist, Sydney Nicholson (later to be organist of Westminster Abbey), played the Dead March from Handel’s Saul, and this was followed by the Last Post by the 3/8th’s buglers. The service was reported in the Manchester Evening News the same day (page 3), and in the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser on 15 June 1915 (page 5), along with photos of dignitaries arriving for the service.

The 14th also saw the casualty lists appear in the national press, both Telegraph (page 6, the whole edition can be downloaded from the paper’s website, 30 mb PDF) and Times (page 9; Issue 40880, subscription access required). In The Times was a brief biographical sketch (very similar to that which had previously appeared in the Manchester papers). On 26 June a roll of honour notice appeared on p 842 of The Accountant magazine, again the biographical information was much the same as had previously appeared elsewhere in the press (albeit with a slightly stronger emphasis on the accountancy side of things), the same day Jack’s photo appeared in the Illustrated London News, as part of a double page spread of those “Dead on the Field of Honour: Officers Killed in Action”. Unfortunately he is on the second page, and there does not seem to be any way in the free online version to see the original version of that page, but clicking on the “Web version” tab does give a way to see the photo, which appears to be essentially identical to that used at the head of this post (from Mill Hill School). There are various photographers credited across the top of each page, but it is not clear which was responsible for Jack’s photo. Presumably it was the only photo of him in uniform. On 14 July Jack’s death was reported to the council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and formally recorded in the minutes (reported in The Accountant, 17 July, p74). At some point Frederick received a letter from the battalion adjutant, details from which appeared in Jack’s entry in Bond Of Sacrifice: Officers Died In The Great War 1914-1916, Volume 2, pp 520-1, “You have every reason to be proud of his action. He was shot while leading his Platoon in the attack, and at the moment he was jumping into a Turkish trench, which we captured.” The entry also carries the same photo as used by Mill Hill School and in the ILN, and states that he buried in Krithia Nullah, next to the grave of Major Staveacre of the 7th Manchesters. He still lies there today, in what’s now Redoubt Cemetery, Grave XI A 13, with Major James Herbert Staveacre in Grave XI A 12. A friend of mine, geologist and military historian Professor Peter Doyle, happened to be in Turkey for a conference on the campaign shortly before the anniversary of Jack’s death, and kindly took some photos of Jack’s grave for me. There are also some general photos on the CWGC page for the cemetery, Jack’s grave is in the left foreground on the first photo, and towards the top right of the second (which faces towards the cross).

A small gravestone in the foreground, looking out over a cemetery with several similar stones, large grassed areas, and planting between the stones

The grave of Jack Womersley in Redoubt Cemetery, courtesy of Prof Peter Doyle, taken 23 May 2015. The inscription requested by the family is visible, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith”.

On 19 July Gilbert was apparently at Hursley Park near Winchester, seeking to join the Royal Flying Corps. His bid for a transfer was unsuccessful. He had turned 19 on 12 July, and so was now eligible to serve overseas. By 27 August though he was home on leave, and apparently suffering a crisis of confidence, according Frederick’s report, he said that “fighting [was] unchristian”. Frederick’s thought’s on this were, ” I was sorry to find that he is shaken in his belief that he has done right in joining the army. God direct him and satisfy him that he has done the right thing.” Frederick also notes in the margin of this page that “dear Jack made a will in the trenches at Gallipoli bequeathing all his possessions to Dorothy, a high souled affectionate son.” However, his War Office file, WO 374/76233 and the probate calendar for 1915 indicate that Jack died intestate with Frederick granted letters of administration as his legal next of kin. Presumably he wrote something indicating his wishes, but it did not pass as a formal will,, or given the date it simply had not come to light at the time probate was granted on 9 July. Unfortunately there is no list of effects in his papers, so one mystery is how his binoculars ended up in Belgium. Possibly either Norman or Arthur were given them after they were returned from Gallipoli, or one of the surviving Ardwicks officers “acquired” them. The probate entry indicates that his estate was valued at £830 9s 9d, which could be worth as much as £500,000 today (figure based on the economic power value produced by the Measuring Worth website). Almost the last entry on the previous page of the 1915 probate calendar was for Jack’s mother, Emily. Her estate was £245 19s (up to £150,000 today).

Frederick’s journal now increasingly includes reminiscences of happier times past, though he continued to also record notable events. He was spending most evening now sitting with Charlie, who showed no sign of improvement. On 29 November Arthur arrived back from South Africa in order to take up a commission. On 2 December Charlie slipped away at home, Aysgarth, 24 Park Range. A brief obit published in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer on 6 December 1915 (page 12 – due to the family owning Paradise, snippets appear in the Yorkshire papers as well as those in Manchester) puts his illness down to overwork caused by the absence of Jack and Norman. In fact septic endocarditis is commonly a result of earlier rheumatic fever, so it’s possible he had had that earlier in life. This piece also indicates that Gilbert was now on his way to the near east (probably Egypt). As if things were not bad enough, the Allison family immediately seem to have decided that the Womersleys were not doing enough for Maud and Margot, there is apparently an earlier reference in the original journal to the fact they had not been able to obtain life assurance for Charlie. However, his estate (probate was actually granted to Norman on 3 January 1916) was still worth £580 18s 4d, as much as £300,000 in today’s terms. Charlie’s funeral was on 6 December, and as with Emily he was cremated.

At this point I will leave the story for now, except to cover those things directly concerned with Jack, I will continue the war story of Arthur, Norman and Gilbert in another post. The details of Arthur and Norman’s service are rather hard to work out as their records are still held by MoD (both served again in the Second World War).

As mentioned previously, the ashes of Emily and Charlie were not interred at Melbecks Church until the second anniversary of Emily’s death, 26 August 1916. The grave is close to the church porch, looking out over Swaledale. Given it was only designed for the interment of ashes, it’s possible that the slab and so on were already prepared at this point, or at least the initial inscription would have been prepared very soon after, and this records Emily, Jack and Charlie (with the rest of the family added subsequently). Via the Great War Forum I discovered that another member had photographed the grave due to its mention of Jack’s death in action, and Berenice has kindly allowed me to use the photos in this post.

Dorothy seems to have used some of Jack’s estate to pay for a memorial window (of Alfred the Great) to him in St Chrysostom’s Church where he had been sidesman. Details are given in the Imperial War Museum’s war memorial archive, and a photo of the window (and the plaque below it) can be found in the blog post published by the church on the anniversary of Jack’s death. Interestingly the window bears the same inscription used on Jack’s grave, “I have fought a good fight, I have kept the faith” (from 2 Timothy, Chapter 4, verses 7 and 8). A final payment was also made to the East Lancashire Centurion Lodge on his behalf in 1917, and after the war the lodge contributed to the main Freemasons’ memorial in memory of Jack and the other members who died in the war, several with him on Gallipoli. Jack also appears on the main St Chrysostom’s memorial, and on the Mill Hill School memorial.

Finally, thanks to all those who have helped me find information for this post: the archivists at Mill Hill School (Kate Thompson), Gresham’s School (Liz Larby), Manchester Grammar School (Rachel Kneale and Mary Ann Davison), Manchester University (James Peters) and at the Library and Museum of Freemasonry (Louise Pichel), in addition the Library of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales supplied material from The Accountant which I was able to find thanks to their First World sources guide (and my wife’s status as an FCA meant I could avoid the usual small charge for the information). Also to others who have helped me with access to images, or taken photos specifically for me, Luci Gosling at the Mary Evans Picture Library for helping with my query about the Illustrated London News, Professor Peter Doyle for the photos of Jack’s grave on Gallipoli, and Berenice Baynham for photos of the family grave at Low Row. I think that’s everyone, and apologies if I’ve missed anyone out.

Each brother also has a profile on Lives of the First World War, I’ve begun building them up with the various sources mentioned in this post, so do take a look at Jack, Arthur, Norman and Gilbert.

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