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(Please note that this section of our site is still under construction)


The war memorial in St Cuthbert’s churchyard, Kirkby-in-Furness, carries the names of 30 men of the village who died for their country – 23 in the First World War and 7 in the Second.

This part of the website is dedicated to their memory, and to the memory of other men with connections to Kirkby who died in war but are not named on our memorial, perhaps

because they are on other war memorials in Furness. 




Kirkby war memorial was unveiled by the Mayor of Barrow, Colonel Wadham, accompanied by the Mayoress and by Miss Wadham, on Easter Sunday, 1920. The NW Daily Mail of 6th

April reported that a large gathering of villagers and about 50 Great War veterans witnessed the ceremony, at which the Mayor made a short speech.


The Information Panel


The Information Panel grew from a suggestion by David Cooper. It was researched in the main by Roger Rushton with help from Andy Moss and erected by William Todd. It was fronted by the History of Kirkby Group with the very much appreciated support of the local slate quarry Burlington Stone who kindly provided the material for the stand. The cost of the panel was supported by relatives of those commemorated on the War Memorial, members of the Village, CGP Kirkby Ireleth Parish Trust Fund and the History of Kirkby Group. It was unveiled by David Cooper in the presence of a large group from the village on the 28th September 2013.



Connections with other memorials


There is another war memorial in the village, at the quarry offices of Burlington Stone, and six men of the village who worked there are also commemorated on it. In the nearby town

of Ulverston, Ulverston Victoria High School preserves the memorials from Ulverston Grammar School and Victoria Secondary School, and two Kirkby men from the Second World War

are remembered there. Two of our men worked for the Furness Railway Company before going off to the First World War, and that company’s memorial, now displayed in Barrow station

booking hall, carries their names. Many Kirkby men appear on national, regimental and Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorials, and where these are known about the

information is given in the entry under the casualty’s name.


The History of Kirkby Group welcomes any information that corrects errors or adds to the stories told in these pages. We will also respond to enquiries about the men named on the war

memorial. Please email rbrushton@btopenworld.com .

The names on the War Memorial are given below in the order they appear on it. Click on a name to be taken to the relevant page which contains all the information that we have.


1914 - 1918

Mark Grigg

John Carter

John Wilson

Eric Rothery

Isaac Hudson

Isaac Knight

John Russell

 Roger Preston

William Sykes

William Relph

Thomas Heaton

Thomas Martin

John Shepherd

Richard Knight

Joseph Fleming

Vernon Rothery

Richard Townson

William Proctor

Lewthwaite Shaw

Robert Rawlinson

William Brockbank

Ernest Cartwright

John Cranke


1939 - 1945

Clarence Chambers

Fraser Farish

Thomas H. Hudson

Gilbert P. Johnson

Fred Simpson

William G. Spry

Joseph M. Cartmel

Mark Grigg (Gregg)


Le Touret Memorial

Son of Adam and Agnes Grigg of Grizebeck.

Private, 2719, 1st/4th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Killed in Action, 15th June 1915, near Rue d’Ouvert, aged 30.

Commemorated on Panel 5, Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France and on the Burlington Slate Quarry Memorial.

(Note: The family name was sometimes spelled ‘Gregg’.

Also, for some unknown reason Mark Grigg’s Army Service Record has him as ‘William Grigg’ of Grizebeck, although his Attestation Papers, signed on joining up, show his name as ‘Mark Grigg’.)

Mark Grigg’s father, Adam, worked at the quarry, was injured in 1907 and became a weighman. Mark himself was a river and slate-dresser, and his younger brother George also worked in the quarry. Their older brother, John, was in farm service; there were other siblings, Agnes and Joseph, and two older married sisters, Elizabeth Crowe and Jane Brockbank. Mark’s mother had died in 1907, aged 60, and Adam died in 1921, aged 71.

Thanks to Mark Grigg’s army records surviving the blitz in WW2, we know quite a bit about his military service, which totalled just 252 days. He enlisted in Ulverston on 7th October 1914, probably with fellow quarry workers Addison Bell of Lowick, and Edward Greenhow of Gawthwaite. Although all three went into the 1st/4th Battalion of their local regiment, part of the Territorial Force, Grigg’s army record shows he declared that he had not previously been in the Territorials. (In fact the Territorials had been mobilised two months earlier.) The three quarry men may have stayed together through their whole war, only the last six weeks of which was spent in France: Bell was killed on the same day as Grigg, and Greenhow died of wounds two weeks later. All three are named on the Burlington Slate War Memorial, and Bell and Greenhow are on the memorial in Lowick churchyard. In June 1917 a memorial service was held at St Cuthbert’s Church for Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Thomas Heaton, Isaac Hudson and Joseph Fleming.

Mark Grigg was in B Company of the 1st/4th Battalion, and the war diary shows that they went into the line at Le Touret on 14th June 1915, in preparation for a planned offensive by the British. The attack began at 6pm on 15th and by 6.20 the Company was reporting that two lines of German trenches had been taken. The Germans counter-attacked on 16th June and the 1st/4th Battalion came out of the line at 6pm, being relieved by the Liverpools, but by this time Grigg and Bell were "missing" and Greenhow had been wounded. In that action the Battalion lost 5 officers and 147 other ranks, killed, missing, wounded or taken prisoner.

In October 1919, his wife already dead, Adam Grigg received his son’s British War Medal, followed in March 1920 by his 1914/15 Star, and, in 1921, by the Victory Medal (known affectionately as ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’). By the end of the year, Adam himself was dead.

(Another Kirkby man, William Sykes of Marshside was killed in the same Battalion action but in A Company. Although he himself worked for the Furness Railway, his father, David, was a slate loader at the quarry, and must have known Adam and Mark Grigg. Thomas Martin of Soutergate and Lewthwaite Shaw of Head Cragg may well have taken part in the same action but survived to die later, Martin on the Somme in 1916 and Shaw in hospital in Barrow-in-Furness in 1919.)


Le Touret Memorial bears the names of 13,400 British soldiers killed between October 1914 and September 1915, when some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war took place in this area. Their bodies could not be identified, so they have no grave. The names are organised by Regiment, and the Kirkby and Burlington Slate casualties are named on Panel 5.

The memorial is in Le Touret Commonwealth War Graves’ Cemetery, which is on the south side of the Bethune to Armentieres road, the D171, about 1km on the Armentieres side of Le Touret village.



Andy Moss

Soldiers Died in the Great War HMSO (1921)

Burlington Blue Grey by Stanley Geddes (1991)

The 1891, 1901 and 1911 Censuses

King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment 1st/4th Battalion war diary

Lions of England by Stuart Eastwood (a history of the King’s Own Royal Regiment) (1991)

Back to 1914-1920 list


John Carter

Of Sandside Cottage, Sandside.

Son of Joseph Hartley Carter and Eleanor Carter later of 13 Hall Street, Dalton-in-Furness.

Private, 42563, 10th (Service) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (Grimsby Chums).

Formerly Private, 36468, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Enlisted in Barrow

Killed in Action 22 March 1918 (second day of the Ludendorf offensive), near Croiselles, France, aged 26.

Commemorated on the Arras Memorial Bay 3 and 4, Pas de Calais, France, and on the War Memorial of St. James’s Church, Grimsby, Lincolnshire.

Joseph Carter was an iron ore miner living in Sandside in 1911 with his wife Eleanor. John, sometimes known as Jack, was their first child, born in about 1893 when they were 21 and 23 respectively. Four more children, Lizzie, Lena, James and Eleanor Ann, followed at two year intervals. John was a farm labourer in 1911, living in at the farm of William Coward in Beckside. (At that time his parents were still living in Sandside, and had another daughter, Hilda Mary, aged 6. Sometime later the family moved to Dalton.)

John Carter enlisted in Barrow in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, but was apparently transferred to the 10th Battalion the Lincolnshire Regiment in the field, probably to help fill the gap following the Grimsby Chums’ disastrous losses at La Boiselle in the Battle of the Somme, when on the first morning the battalion lost 15 officers and 487 men. Depending on the date of his transfer, Carter may have fought with the Lincolns near Arras in May / June 1917, and at Passchendaele in October 1917, before being killed in the 1918 German Spring Offensive, also known as the Ludendorff Offensive.

The Ludendorff Offensive

The Ludendorff Offensive began at 0930 on 21st March 1918, when 1 million German soldiers attacked along a 50 mile front between Arras and St Quentin. By 5th April the German lines had advanced 40 miles, at a cost of 200,000 casualties on both sides.

At the time of the attack the 10th Battalion of the Lincolns were in reserve, and were ordered forward at 1450 the same day. After a pause during the night of 21st March, the German attack was resumed at 0200 on the morning of 22nd, when A, B and D Companies were in the line; all three Companies, who had been defending Henin Hill near the village of Croisilles, were forced to retreat to the Sensée River. In two days, the Grimsby Pals Battalion suffered 159 casualties, of which 52 died. John Carter of Kirkby-in-Furness, aged 26, was among them. Their Commanding Officer, Colonel Blockley, while acknowledging a most serious loss, was proud of his men under the circumstances they faced: ‘It will be seen how well each Company of the Chums supported each other, often taking considerable risks to do so.’

 Map showing the extent of the German gains in the 1918 Spring Offensive

     John Carter was killed near Arras on 22nd March.

On 18th May 1918 the Barrow Guardian reported on page 3:


SOLDIER MISSING.- Mr. and Mrs. J. Carter, Sandside, have received word from the War Office that their eldest son is reported missing.

                                                                                                    The Arras Memorial to the missing

                                                                                                                                            (courtesy of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

The Arras Memorial commemorates 35,000 Commonwealth soldiers with no known grave. John Carter is named in Bay 3.


Andy Moss

UK Census Collection

Barrow Guardian reference courtesy of Penny McPherson and Diane Ayres.

What Happened to Joe? Immingham’s War Dead Remembered by Mary Leitch

Battlefields of the 1st World War by T and V Holt

Grimsby Chums by Peter Bryant

The Story of the Chums by Peter Chapman


The History of the 10th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (Grimsby Chums)

Wartime memoriesproject.com

Back to 1914-1920 list


John Atkinson Newby Wilson

Apparently born in Kirkby.

Private 21899, 6th Battalion, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. (Enlisted in Kendal.)

Killed in action 19th November 1915.

Buried in White House Cemetery, St. Jean-Les-Ypres, Belgium.

Eric Montagu Fitzroy Rothery

Son of William Brockbank Rothery and Margaret Hannah Rothery (née Todd-Newcomb), of The Muirlands, Kirkby Ireleth.

(A brother, Vernon Rothery, also died in WW1 and is named on Kirkby war memorial.)

Died on 15th February 1917 of ‘Gumma of the brain’ and convulsions, at Birkenhead Union Infirmary, Tranmere, aged 27.

Buried in Flaybrick Cemetery, Bidston, Birkenhead, (now Flaybrick Memorial Gardens), (Church of England Section), Section 4, Grave 105a.

Occupation given as ‘Marine Engineer, Merchant Service’.    Memorial service held in June 1917 in Kirkby. 


                                The Muirlands today 

The Muirlands, the rather grand mansion at the extreme southern edge of Kirkby-in-Furness, has seen its share of tragedy. Eric and Vernon Rothery both died in the First World War, and in the Second World War Kenneth Herbert Price from the same house was killed over Holland in a Wellington bomber. (Price is not on Kirkby’s war memorial, but rather on Barrow cenotaph.) The Rotherys had already lost one twin, Laura, at just one month old in 1895, and Mrs Rothery herself died in horrific circumstances at their other home in Chambres Road, Southport in 1912 (see below). Mr Rothery left Kirkby in 1917 and lived at 10 Chambres Road until his death in 1946 aged 85, when he was buried in his son Eric’s grave in Birkenhead. The Rotherys have a stone memorial with a cross and anchor in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard just opposite the porch. Mrs Rothery is buried there and so is Laura Irene Marguerite. The whereabouts of the graves of the other members of the family are unknown. 

The Parents

William Rothery was born in Workington, then in Cumberland, and became an engineer, by the age of 32 rising to ‘Inspector of Railway Material’. In 1881 he was living at 1 Cocken Villas in Barrow, the home of his stepfather, and by 1891 he had built The Muirlands for himself in Kirkby, and his mother and step-father had moved to Little Croft.

Margaret Hannah was born in Kirkby to the Todd-Newcomb family of The Guards. In 1879 she first married John Parker, a farmer of 117 acres at Chapels Farm, but by the early 1880s John had died very young, leaving her with one daughter, Miriam Isabel, born in 1880.

According to the Barrow News, neighbours William Rothery and Mr Todd-Newcomb, Margaret’s brother, were friends with a common interest in Askam Football Club, and by 1891 Margaret Hannah had married again to William Brockbank Rothery and taken Miriam to live with him at The Muirlands. 

The Children

William and Margaret had 12 children together, and it must be admitted they had a way with names:

Clifton Ulric Hume, born 1888

Eric Montagu Fitzroy (1890-1917)

Wilbert Darcy Newcomb, born 1891

Augusta Mary (1892-1962)

Reginald, born 1893

Norman Bernard Vernon (1894-1917)

Laura Irene Marguerite, born 1895 and died at one month old

Nora, her twin, born 1895

Maurice, born 1897

Esme (1900-1980)

Mary, born 1903

Myrtle, born 1904

 Rossall School archway

Clifton and Eric attended Rossall Prep School in Thornton Cleveleys from 1899 and 1900 respectively, until 1902. (At that time the family were living at least part of the time at 14 Woodville Terrace in Lytham.) Clifton joined the Mercantile Marine in World War 1 and as far as we know, survived. Eric seems to have followed his father’s profession, becoming an ‘engineer apprentice’ from 1907 to 1910, with the London and North Western Railway Company. He then followed his younger brother, Vernon, who was recorded as an ‘engineer at Cammel Laird’s’ when he signed on for the army at Birkenhead on 14 July 1916. (See separate webpage for Vernon.)

Eric became an engineer in the Mercantile Marine (Merchant Navy) on the SS Ultonia.  

The SS Ultonia’s Part in Eric’s Story


The Steam Ship Ultonia was a passenger-cargo vessel built at Swan Hunter’s Yard in Wallsend-on-Tyne in 1898. Originally intended to carry cargo and cattle, it was altered to also carry 675 3rd class passengers on the North Atlantic run to America. In 1904 accommodation was added for 120 2nd class passengers and a total of 2,100 3rd class, for emigrants travelling to America.

It is believed that Eric Rothery joined the SS Ultonia as an engineer in 1910. Therefore he may have been aboard when it was involved in the war effort as early as August 1914, first bringing regular army ‘Old Contemptibles’ back from Malta, and then taking Territorial troops out to India to relieve regular soldiers for the war.

Then in 1915 Ultonia was reconfigured yet again in New York to bring 2,000 horses per voyage from America to the war in Europe. It was at this point, on 25 April 1915, that Eric was recorded on Incoming Passenger Lists as arriving in Liverpool aboard the SS Orduna. The Orduna was being operated on the transatlantic route by Cunard, the same company as the Ultonia, and Eric was described as ‘Engineer ex Ultonia, of 6 Price Street, Birkenhead’. Presumably he was returning to Britain to continue his war service with the company while his own ship, the Ultonia, was refitting in America.


Extract from Incoming Passenger Lists

Eric Rothery’s Death

There are no records to show where Eric Rothery was between April 1915 and his death on 15 February 1917, but his death certificate describes him as ‘Marine Engineer (Merchant Service)’, and gives his address as 288 Conway Street, Birkenhead. The National Probate Calendar confirms his address and adds that he ‘died 15 February 1917 on war service’ and left £580 13s 5d.

The Death Certificate issued to Mr Rothery gave the cause of death as 1) Gumma of the brain and 2) Convulsions. A gumma is a soft, non-cancerous brain tumour, sometimes resulting from an injury or the presence of a foreign body in the brain, but also sometimes resulting from syphilis. It occurs when granulation tissue is formed in response to infection or inflammation, which the immune system is unable to combat. Since the only known incidents happening to SS Ultonia occurred after Eric’s death (see ‘Post Script’ below), the cause of his ‘gumma’ is likely to remain unknown.

 Death Certificate, Eric Rothery


 10 Chambres Road, Southport today


MEMORIAL SERVICE.- On Sunday a memorial service was held in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby, in memory of six Kirkby men who have died for their country, their names are: Mark Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Ernest Heaton, and Joseph Fleming. The Vicar, the Rev. W. G. Sykes, preached an appropriate sermon, and special psalms and hymns were sung. At the conclusion of the service, the organist, Mr. J. B. Richardson, played the Dead March in “Saul.”

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, June 16, 1917; page 6

Post Script: After Eric Rothery’s death, the Ultonia was involved in a collision with a British collier off Land’s End on 27 March 1917, after which the collier sank. Then on 27 June 1917, on a voyage from New York to London, Ultonia was hit by a torpedo from German submarine U-53, and sank 190 miles southwest of Fastnet. Only one life was lost (though presumably up to 2,000 horses died). 

Mrs Rothery’s death in 1912

By 1912 the family had a large house in Southport as well as The Muirlands in Kirkby, and it was at ‘Hazelmere’ in Chambres Road Southport that Mrs Rothery died in tragic circumstances. Margaret Hannah Rothery, then aged 52, was in the house with one ‘young daughter’, (probably Nora, who would then have been 17), Maurice, 15, Myrtle 8, and a maid, Florence, when a fire broke out.                                             

At 5am Nora, if it were she, bravely rescued everyone except her mother, who had locked her bedroom door.

Mrs Rothery’s remains were later found in horrific circumstances, and it was thought she had burned to death, having caught her hair or clothes on the gas fire, perhaps by falling. A verdict of accidental death was recorded by the Coroner, who praised Miss Rothery for her “great intelligence … presence of mind … practical knowledge and ability to cope with an emergency”.

Mrs Rothery was buried with her baby daughter Laura Irene in the family grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard in Kirkby.

[Transcribed Press Report from February 1912]


                                                                                                                                            KIRKBY LADY’S TERRIBLE                                                                                   


                                                                                                                        CORONER’S INQUIRY.

                                                                                         DAUGHTER’S BRAVERY


                  “We fully endorse what the Coroner has said regarding the great courage displayed by  Miss  Rothery,” said the foreman  of the jury at the inquest at Southport  on  Saturday,  on  the  body

            of  Mrs. Margaret     Rothery     (52),     wife     of a      mining      engineer,      who      was burnt      to      death      in     a     terrible fire  which  broke   out   in   the   family’s residence, Hazelmere,

            Chambres road, Southport. The deceased lady was a sister of the late Mr Todd-Newcombe, of Kirkby-in-Furness, and Bankfield, Urswick, and along with her husband was well known in this

            district. The evidence showed that her young daughter had most courageously risked her own life in a vain endeavour to save her mother from the flames, She said that he mother suffered from a weak

            heart and rheumatism in the legs. On the day of the fire she was engaged in her ordinary household duties, cleaning etc. Besides Miss Rothery and her mother there were in the house Maurice, her brother,

                  ged 15, her sister Myrtle, aged 8, and a maid Florence Preece. They retired to rest about a quarter to twelve, and Miss Rothery lighted a gas stove in her mother’s bedroom, which was over the

            dining-room the fire of which was practically out when they left. She went upstairs at the same  time as her mother, and they spoke together for a few minutes. Her mother seemed very tired,

            and as she started to undress she complained of her heart being bad and of a pain in her side. A few minutes later Miss Rothery said good-night, and went to her own room, which she occupied

            with her sister, Myrtle. She heard her mother lock the door of her bedroom, which was her usual custom, and before she got into bed Miss Rothery thought she heard her mother put out the gas

            stove. She then fell asleep and remembered nothing further until just before five o’clock the following morning, when she awoke and found her room full of smoke. She switched on the electric

            light, but the smoke was so dense that she could not see anything in the room. She jumped up and opened the window, carried her sister  downstairs, and placed her outside the front door out

            of danger. She then returned upstairs, and knocked at her mother’s bedroom door, but could get no answer. She shouted and screamed out, and tried to rouse her, and endeavoured to break

            open the door, but could not. She then rushed to her brother’s room, Roused him, and told him the house was on fire. She shouted to the maid, and they all went downstairs.

                   She told her brother to ring a large handbell which was kept on the landing, and to shout at the front door for help. She then returned upstairs, which was dense with smoke, and again tried

            to force the door of her mother’s bedroom, but failed. She groped her way downstairs again, and opening the dining-room door, found the room in flames. Several gentlemen neighbours came to

                   her assistance, and the door of her mother’s room was broken open by them. Her mother was not in bed, and could not be seen in the room. Her sister, brother, the maid, and herself took refuge

                   with various friends in the neighbourhood. Her mother frequently read to them from the newspapers, and on hearing or reading of any burning fatality, always expressed her horror at such

                   occurrences, and hoped that such a fate would never be hers. During the last few days her mother read of a burning fatality, and told them how careful she had been with them as children and

                   how particular she always was about fires being low before retiring. She always impressed it upon them that if at any time a fire broke out they must keep their heads.

                         Harry Johnson, architect, of 18, Chambres road, said that about five o’clock he was aroused from bed by the loud ringing of a handbell in the street. He partially dressed, and along with his

                   brother George and his father, went to the Rothery’s house. They heard that Mrs. Rothery, who was sleeping in one of the rooms, had not been found. Finding the bedroom door locked, they

                   procured an axe and forced it open. The room was full of smoke. They examined the bed, which was empty, but appeared to have been occupied, and examined the room, but could not find any

                   trace of Mrs. Rothery.

                    Sergt. Leadbeater, whose hand was bandaged as the result of an injury at the fire, said he made an immediate search of the bedroom and bed, but could not find any trace of Mrs. Rothery.

             The floor was completely burnt away for a space of 4ft. square between the front of the bed and the gas stove, which was fixed in the fireplace. He then searched the dining-room, but again

             failed to find any trace of the deceased. The house was then systematically searched right through, but without result. The fire by this time had been practically extinguished, and a more

             detailed search was then made of the burnt out room, and Mrs. Rothery’s remains were then found lying in front of the dining-room fireplace, immediately under the hole burnt in the bedroom

             floor. The head lay inside the kerb, and the trunk and limbs were over the hole burnt in the floor and supported by the joists. The floor boards were completely burnt away to the cellars. The

             body was burnet beyond all recognition, but a felt slipper and a portion of stocking could be discerned on each foot. He was of the opinion that Mrs. Rothery was at the foot of the bed, and

             that she fell in a more or less insensible condition with her head over the stove, and that her hair or clothing caught fire from the stove. In forming this opinion, he had in mind the fact that the

             lady suffered from a weak heart, and had been working harder than usual, and had complained of not feeling well before she retired.

                   The Chief Constable thanked the Gentlemen of the neighbourhood who rendered such material assistance to the family and to the brigade when they arrived.

                   Coroner Brighouse said that Miss Rothery for her age showed great intelligence, and no doubt aided materially in saving her brother and sisters. She showed great presence of mind,

                    practical knowledge, and ability to cope with an emergency.

                   The jury returned a verdict of “AcciDental death.” expressed sympathy with the bereaved family, and endorsed the coroner’s compliment of Miss Rothery’s courageous conduct.


                                             Inscription reads:

                                       Sacred to the Memory of


                                   Margaret, the beloved wife of


                        William Brockbank Rothery of The Muirlands,


                         who passed away at Hazelmere, Southport,


                                    Feb 1st 1912, aged 52 years.


                                         "THY WILL BE DONE"


                                  Laura Irene Marguerite Rothery


                                Died Nov 7th 1895, aged 1 month





                                                                                                        The Rothery family grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

                                                                              Only Mrs Rothery (died 1912) and Laura Irene (died 1895, aged 1 month) are buried here.


Andy Moss

National Census Collection

The Barrow News (courtesy of Diane Ayres)

Mannex’s Directory of Furness and Cartmel, 1882 (online)

Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960

Burial Records of St Cuthbert’s, Kirkby Ireleth

St Cuthbert’s Churchyard Inscriptions (History of Kirkby Group)

Civil Register of Births, Marriages and Deaths

National Probate Calendar

Burial Records, Flaybrick Cemetery, Birkenhead (Courtesy of friends of Flaybrick Cemetery)

Derek Stansfield (former owner of The Muirlands)

Back to 1914-1920 list


Isaac Hudson

(photo: Barrow News)

Son of James and Agnes Hudson, of the Sun Inn, Soutergate.

Private 30150, 8th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. (One of the KORLR's  four "Kitchener" battalions of volunteers. Enlisted in Ulverston.)

Killed in Action 11th April 1917 near Monchy-le-Preux (Battle of Arras), aged 22.

Commemorated on the Arras Memorial, (Bay 2), Pas de Calais, France and on the Burlington Slate Quarry memorial.

Also named on the family headstone in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

Isaac Hudson was the eighth of James and Agnes Hudson’s nine children. His older siblings were: John, Eleanor, Ann, James, Jane, Mary and Joseph; and his younger brother was Ernest. James was born in Broughton-in-Furness and his wife was from Kirkby. They lived variously in Chapels (1881), at Dove Bank (1891), in Sandside (1901), and in Soutergate, (1911); the last of these was the address Isaac gave on enlistment; the youngest member of the family, Ernest, gave his address as Herschell Terrace.  

James worked in the quarry, and by 1911 Joseph and Isaac had followed him and were working as apprentice slate rivers (splitters). Isaac was a keen member of the village football team, and is reported as having a lot of friends. James died in 1935 aged 76, and Agnes died in 1940 aged 80; Ernest died at the age of 38 in 1935, and the eldest child, John, died in 1952 aged 72. All four lived in Sandside at the time of their death, and are buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard (close to the Churchyard side gate, a little over halfway down the path from the porch, on the right towards Chestnut Cottage); Isaac is also named on the family headstone

  The inscription reads:                                

             In Loving Memory of

        James, beloved husband of

                Agnes Hudson,

died January 25th 1935, aged 76 years.

      Also the above Agnes Hudson,

   died Jan. 8th 1940, aged 81 years.

             Also Isaac their son,

      killed in action April 11th 1917,

                 aged 22 years.

            Also Ernest, their son,

    died May 19 1935, aged 38 years.

            Also John, their son,

died August 17th 1952, aged 72 years

              “Thy Will be Done”

Ernest also served in the army in the First World War, as a Driver in the Royal Engineers. He survived, but it is not known whether his early death at 38 was connected to his military service.

  Ernest Hudson’s Medal Roll Index Card

Isaac Hudson enlisted in Ulverston, joining the 8th Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. His Attestation Papers were among the ‘burnt documents’ damaged during the Second World War blitz, and are mostly unreadable. However his Medal Roll Index Card survives, showing that he did not receive the 1914 or 1914-15 Star, indicating that he did not go abroad until after 1915.

  Isaac Hudson’s Medal Roll Index Card

 The Second Battle of Arras

160,000 British and 125,000 German casualties were sustained in the Second Battle of Arras, between 9th April and 16th May 1917. The Battle, like the Battle of Vimy Ridge which claimed the life of Joseph Fleming in April, was part of the French ‘Nivelle Offensive’: Vimy Ridge and Arras were diversions to draw German troops away from the French attack 50 miles to the south.

The War Diary of the 8th Battalion, KORLR, shows a sequence of failed communication, misunderstandings and faulty planning, coupled with unrealistic expectations and poor timing. Isaac Hudson’s battalion moved into the front line on 9th April, with their own 1st Battalion on one side and the Gordon Highlanders on the other. The 8th Battalion was already in poor shape: after three weeks at the Front they numbered only 350 men, and these were exhausted from a week of digging trenches, which was mostly done at night, losing them sleep. They also carried ammunition for the 8th Brigade, and then were ordered to attack at 7pm on 9th April. However they were given only 25 minutes notice of this action – not enough time to get to the jumping-off point one and a quarter miles further forward. The Gordon Highlanders were already further forward and began their attack, but failed to take their objective and broke up and began to fall back as the King’s Own moved forward. The 8th Battalion continued to advance, not knowing its own objective, nor how far it was to the front line. They spent the night of 9th digging in and were relieved by the 8th Brigade before dawn on 10th to rest.

A Company of the 8th Battalion King’s Own went over the top at 7am on 11th April, but nobody told C Company that the attack had been delayed half an hour, and they set off on their own at the original time of 6.30am. Men spent that day crouched in shell holes, unable to move in daylight because of the German machine guns, which had not been disabled by British artillery. According to Colonel Cowper’s history of the King’s Own, there also occurred during this battle an example of what came to be called “friendly fire”, when British machine guns trained on the German lines caught their own advancing comrades as they passed over a rise in the terrain.

At some time in this disastrous sequence of events, Isaac Hudson was killed; his body was never found, which is why he is named on the Arras Memorial in the Faubourg d’Amiens British Cemetery.

 The Arras Memorial


                                                                                                  The Faubourg d’Amiens cemetery and Arras Memorial    (photos: Julie Rushton)

Isaac Hudson is named on Bay 2 of this memorial, alongside the 35,000 servicemen who died in the Arras sector between Spring 1916 and August 1918, and who have no known grave. The memorial is in the Faubourg d’Amiens Cemetery, which is on the Ring Road, near the Citadel. Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Lutyens.

                                                                                        A note on the 8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment

The 8th was one of the New Army Battalions, formed as a result of Kitchener’s appeal for 100,000 men.

After training in the south of England, the Battalion served on the Western Front from September 1915, fighting with distinction at The Bluff and St Eloi in March and April 1916, and on the Somme later the same year. Presumably Private Isaac Hudson of Kirkby-in-Furness was among them.

Press Cuttings


KIRKBY MEN KILLED AT THE FRONT.- The sad intelligence is to hand that Messrs. Heaton, and Hudson, who until a short time ago worked in the local slate quarries, are amongst the killed in the recent fighting in France. Pte. Fleming, from Canada, is also among the list of killed. The deep sympathy of the people of Kirkby goes out to the relatives of these gallant men.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, May 5, 1917; page 11.

We can only imagine the extra distress caused to Isaac Hudson’s family as a result of this inaccurate report in the local paper:


            Mrs. Hudson, of Soutergate, Kirkby, has received news from the Rev. M. P. G. Leonard, chaplain, that her son, Pte, Isaac Hudson has been killed in action. It appears that deceased took part in the successful charge which his battalion made on Easter Monday against the German position; but two days later, while the battalion was attacking a certain village, a heavy machine-gun fire was opened, and Hudson was hit and instantly killed. The body was interred in the military cemetery near where he fell. The deceased, who was 22 years of age, was well known as a player in the Kirkby Association team. He had many friends in the village and district, and his loss is deeply regretted.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, June 9, 1917; page 14.

 For a time the family must have thought their son would have a war grave in a military cemetery after the war; but if the report of his burial were ever true, the location of his body must have been later lost, and all they had was his name on one of the many memorials to the missing on the Western Front.


MEMORIAL SERVICE.- On Sunday a memorial service was held in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby, in memory of six Kirkby men who have died for their country, their names are: Mark Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Ernest Heaton, and Joseph Fleming. The Vicar, the Rev. W. G. Sykes, preached an appropriate sermon, and special psalms and hymns were sung. At the conclusion of the service, the organist, Mr. J. B. Richardson, played the Dead March in “Saul.”

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, June 16, 1917; page 6.

(Courtesy of Penny McPherson and Diane Ayres)



Andy Moss

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

St Cuthbert’s Kirkby Ireleth Churchyard Inscriptions (History of Kirkby Group)

Burial Records of the Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Kirkby Ireleth 1813-1997 (Furness Family History Society)

Lions of England: A Pictorial History of the King’s Own, by Stuart Eastwood

Soldiers Died in the Great War

UK Census Collection

8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment War Diaries


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Barrow Guardian 1917

Barrow News 1917

Barrow-in-Furness Record Office

Burlington Blue Grey by Stanley Geddes

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Isaac Allan Knight

Son of William and Ann Knight, of Church Cottage, Beckside. (Mr Knight was an iron-ore miner. The family later lived at Bankhouse for many years.)

Gunner 283394, 23rd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery. Enlisted in Burnley. (May have transferred from King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, because a photo of him (?) in KORLR uniform exists.)

Died of wounds, 1st May 1918, aged about 36.

Buried in Esquelbecq Military Cemetery, Nord, France.

Memorial service held in Kirkby in August 1918.

John Russell

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        (Photo courtesy of Ann Thompson)

 Son of John and Isabella A. Russell of Soutergate

Private 20535, 8th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Killed in Action 21st August 1918 at Courcelles, France, aged 21.

Commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, Panel 3.

The 8th (Service) Bn KORLR was one of four battalions raised by the local regiment in Lancaster in response to Lord Kitchener’s appeal for a hundred thousand men. John Russell did not join up until 17th August 1915, in Kendal, signing on with a ‘canvasser’ or recruiting agent. (See ‘The Derby Scheme’ below.)

Russell gave his occupation as Farm Hand, and his address as living with his parents in Soutergate, which is where the census shows them living in 1901, although ten years later they were at Gargreave; but perhaps they returned to the village, as people moved around a lot more in those days.

John Russell senior was an iron ore miner, and he and his wife had four children: John, the eldest, born in March 1897, Elizabeth Margaret, two years younger than John, then Ivor and Horace, respectively six years and ten years John’s junior.

The Derby Scheme


Introduced in the autumn of 1915, Lord Derby’s scheme followed up on Lord Kitchener’s appeal in 1914 for 100,000 volunteers. Local Parliamentary Committees appointed agents called canvassers who approached men aged 18 to 41 who were not in reserved occupations and handed them Lord Derby’s letter; they were then asked to say whether or not they would join the forces. Those who answered in the affirmative (and they were under pressure to do so) promised to report within 48 hours, when they would be paid two shillings and nine pence.


John Russell was recruited by a canvasser in Kendal, and reported to the regiment’s headquarters in Lancaster, where he added a few months to his true age, declaring himself to be 19 and 2 months, when he was only 18. Perhaps he had seen this recruiting poster, which asks for men aged 19 to 40.

John Russell’s war

John Russell had a long (3 years 5 days) and eventful war. After signing on he was given a few days home leave, and then, following a period of training he was posted to France on 3rd June 1916 with the 11th Battalion, KORLR. On 6th March 1917 he was wounded, receiving a bullet in the right arm:


WOUNDED.- News has been received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Russell, Soutergate, that their son, Pte. John Russell, has been wounded in the arm in France, and is at present at a base hospital in that country. Pte. Russell is attached to the King’s Own, and has been out in France for a considerable time.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, March 17, 1917; page 5.

It tells you something about the suffering of the men at the front that Russell’s wound was not treated until 14th March, six days after the injury was sustained. He spent 38 days in Rouen Hospital, after which his wound was declared to be healed and his arm able to be moved, although it was “still weak”.  He was discharged on 20th April and given a period of home leave. Unfortunately the wound was not judged serious enough to see him out of the war with a ‘blighty’, and John Russell had to return to the front in June. (It was probably at this time that he was transferred from 11th Battalion to the 8th).

The War Diary

The 8th Bn, KORLR war diary for 21st August 1918, the day John Russell died, tells the story:

Battalion under orders of General Officer Commanding (the) 8th Brigade for attack on railway embankment (at) COURCELLES.

Assembly position in Purple Reserve (trench) near ADINFER WOOD. 5am moved from assembly position to AYETTE.

Thence advanced in support of Royal Scots Fusiliers, 8th Brigade.

Passed through 8th Brigade and gained objective (at) 8.30am (railway embankment) and consolidated order of Companies: left to right, D A C B.  Patrols pushed out east of railway.

Casualties: 12 Other Ranks killed and 88 wounded.

Captured 30 prisoners (and) 30 machine guns.

9.30pm Battalion withdrew and reorganised in Moublain Trench, west of COURCELLES.

Morning: thick mist which cleared at noon.

John Russell was one of the ‘Other Ranks’ killed, but his remains were never found. His name therefore appears on the Vis-en-Artois memorial to the missing.

                                                                      C Company, the 8th Battalion, KORLR in 1915                                                     (Photo courtesy King’s Own Museum)

The Vis-en-Artois Memorial to the Missing

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s 1st World War cemetery between Harcourt and Vis-en-Artois in the Pas de Calais department of France contains the bodies of 2,344 British and South African casualties.

In addition the memorial is inscribed with nearly 10,000 names of men who died between 8th August 1918 and the end of the war in November of that year, but who have no known grave. John Russell’s name can be found with his regiment on Panel 3.

                                                                                                                                         The Vis-en-Artois Memorial                        (photo Julie Rushton)


Andy Moss

Soldiers Died in the Great War

UK Census Collection

British Army Service Records

UK Birth records

Barrow Guardian

8th Bn KORLR War Diary

King’s Own Museum

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Roger Preston

The Menin Gate

Son of Richard and Eleanor Preston of Soutergate. Husband of Elizabeth Agnes Preston (nee Taylor).

Private, 18381, 2nd Battalion Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment).

Killed-in-Action, 26th April 1915 in the Langemarck area during the 2nd Battle of Ypres, aged 35.

Commemorated on the Menin Gate, Panel 10-26-28, Ypres, Belgium.

Roger Preston (‘Rodger’ in Canadian military records) was born on 28th October 1879, the eldest child of Richard, an iron ore mining engineer, and Eleanor Preston, then living at Sea View in the Parish of Dalton-in-Furness. By 1891 the family had moved to Soutergate, and Roger’s parents went on to have six more children, of whom only 2 were still alive by 1911, when Eleanor was living alone with her granddaughter, Mary E. (Elizabeth, after her mother?) Preston, then aged 7, still in Soutergate.

Roger himself had married Elizabeth Agnes Taylor in Settle in the West Riding of Yorkshire, in 1898 when he was 20. He spent 10 years in the police force in Keighley, before he and his wife emigrated to Canada sometime in the first decade of the century, apparently leaving their daughter Mary behind in Soutergate with her grandmother.

The couple lived at 1138 6th Vermilion, Edmonton, Alberta, where Roger found work as a labourer and was a member of the ‘Active Militia’, Canada’s equivalent to the Territorial Army. As soon as war broke out Preston volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, joining the 2nd Battalion Canadian Infantry on 18th September 1914. His Attestation Papers describe him as 5’ 10", of dark complexion, with dark brown eyes, black hair, and an appendix scar. He gave his religion as C of E.

The Eastern Ontario Regiment was part of the 1st Canadian Division of the CEF, the First Contingent arriving in France in February 1915. Their first major engagement was in the Second Battle of Ypres, which began on 22nd April. Before their surprise attack, the Germans released a cloud of poisonous chlorine gas, which drifted over the Allied lines. The subsequent battle lasted four weeks, but Roger Preston was killed at Brielen near Langemarck on the fifth day. His body was never found, and after the war the Canadian Army had his name included among the 54,896 on the Menin Gate Memorial to men who had died in the area but had no known grave.

It was not until 5th November 1915 that the North Western Daily Mail reported that Private R Preston of Kirkby had been listed as killed; the Parish Magazine had already described him as "fallen" back in June. On 9th January 1916, a joint Memorial Service was held for Roger Preston, Richard Knight, William Sykes, William Nicholson Brockbank and John Wilson.

It is not known whether Mrs Preston ever returned from Canada.

Roger Preston commemorated on the Menin Gate



Soldiers Died in the Great War

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Canadian War Graves Register

Canadian Expeditionary Force Attestation Papers (Ancestry.com)

1881 Census

1891 Census

1901 Census

1911 Census

Births, Marriages and Deaths Index (Ancestry.com)

North Western Daily Mail (Penny McPherson)

St Cuthbert’s Parish Magazine, June 1915, January 1916

Andy Moss


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William Sykes

Son of David and Elizabeth Sykes of Marshside.

Private, 2066, A Company, 1st/4th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Killed in Action 15th June 1915 near Rue d’ Ouvert, aged 22.

Commemorated on Panel 5, Le Touret Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, and on a plinth, probably the remains of a cross, in St Cuthbert’s old churchyard, also named on the Furness Railway War Memorial in Barrow Station.

William Sykes was a Sunday School and Choir member, and a regular communicant at church. He worked for Furness Railway as a clerk before the war and is named on the company’s war memorial at Barrow Station. His father, David Sykes, worked in the quarry as a slate loader. David and Elizabeth had five children, of which William was the oldest, the others being David, a clerk in Vickers’ shipyard, Richard and Ethel. John Knight Sykes, born in 1899, had died at 11 months. All the children had been born in Kirkby, and the family had been living at Friar’s Ground in 1901, but by 1911 they were at Marshside. (David died in 1939 aged 77, and Elizabeth died in 1945 aged 74; both are buried in St Cuthbert’s churchyard.)

William Sykes enlisted in Lancaster and was in A Company of the 1st/4th Battalion of the KORLR (the same Company as Addison Bell of Copp, an apprentice slate river at the quarry). The Battalion left England in May 1915 and went into the front line at Le Touret on 14th June, for an offensive on 15th during which Sykes must have been killed, though his body was not found. He was reported wounded and missing in the North Western Daily Mail of 5th November 1915, and was among the five casualties given the first memorial service of the war at St Cuthbert’s Church on 9th January 1916. (The others were Roger Preston, Richard Knight, William Nicholson Brockbank and John Atkinson Newby Wilson.)

Le Touret Memorial

The memorial at Le Touret in the Pas de Calais, France, commemorates more than 13,400 British soldiers who died between October 1914 and September 1915, and who have no known grave. This part of the Western Front saw heavy fighting in the first year of the war, and Panel 5 of the memorial carries the names of three men from the Kirkby area: Mark Grigg, William Sykes, and Addison Bell of Lowick who worked at the quarry in Kirkby.

The memorial is within the Le Touret Military Cemetery on the south side of the Bethune to Armentieres road, the D171, 1km on the Armentieres side of Le Touret village. The memorial was designed by John Reginald Truelove and takes the form of an open loggia surrounding a courtyard, with the names listed by regiment on panels in the walls of the court and gallery.

Le Touret Memorial



Andy Moss

1901 and 1911 Censuses

Soldiers Died in the Great War

The War Diary of the 1st/4th Bn, King’s Own Royal (Lancaster) Regiment

Lions of England – A pictorial history of the King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) by Stuart Eastwood.

1st/4th Bn, KORLR War Diary

Photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

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William  Relph

 Photo courtesy of Susan New

Son of Stephen and Agnes Relph of Town End Cottage, Soutergate.

A horse driver at the quarry in 1913.

Private, 17203 King’s Royal Rifle Corps, transferred to Private, 31842, 17th Company Machine Gun Corps (Infantry).

Killed-in-Action 4th September 1916 near Longueval (Battle of the Somme).

Buried in Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, Nr Albert, Somme, France. Row IX, Grave 38.

William Relph was born in Soutergate around 1895, the first child of Stephen Relph of Coniston, an iron ore miner, and his wife Agnes, of Heathwaite. They went on to have six more children, Joseph, Thomas, Hartley, Agnes Jane, Stephen and Ann. (William’s brother, Joseph Sawry Relph, was killed at Roanlands, Lady Hall, The Green, presumably while in farm service, in 1913, aged 18.) It is believed that Hartley and Thomas may have joined up with William; if so they both survived the war. Stephen died in 1938 and his wife Agnes in 1940.

By 1911 William was working for a farmer, Robert Hartley, at Park Stile, Broughton-in-Furness, but according to the Barrow News, at the time of his enlistment in Millom in November 1915, he was working on Rectory Farm, Kirkby, for Mr William Coward. Relph gave his occupation as ‘horseman’, his age as 21 years and 5 months, and his status as single. He took the oath in front of a Millom Justice of the Peace on 16th, and by 27th he was in Winchester Rifle Depot being approved by a Lieutenant for Machine Gun Corps training.

Fortunately William Relph’s military records were among those that survived the blitz in the Second World War, so we know that he first signed to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and was then transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. The following information is also contained in his record:

17th July 1916: embarked Folkestone, arrived at Boulogne the same day.

18th July: arrived at the Machine Gun Corps base at Camiers, France.

24th August 1916: joined 17 Company, Machine Gun Corps.

2nd September 1916: in the field with 17 company.

4th September 1916:  Killed in Action.

On 30th September 1916, The Barrow News reported as follows:


Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Relph, of Soutergate, Kirkby, received the sad news on Saturday that their eldest son, Pte. William Relph, No. 31842, Machine Gun Corps, had been killed in action, on the 4th September. Pte. Relph enlisted last November in the King’s Royal Rifles, along with three more Kirkby young men, and later they were attached to the M.G.C. He, with one of his mates, was transferred to France a few weeks ago. Previous to enlistment he was in farm service at Mr. Wm. Coward’s, Rectory Farm. He was 23 years of age, and a fine young fellow, had a cheery word for everybody, and was very popular with his comrades. Much sympathy is extended to his parents in their sad bereavement.

The war Office report says:- The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of his Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow. J. S. Dewhurst, Capt., Officer in Charge of Records.

According to the Barrow Guardian of 30th September 1916, William Relph was: ‘a fine type of a British soldier, manly and upright’.

Relph was remembered in a memorial service at St Cuthbert’s on 10th June 1917, along with five other Kirkby men killed in the war, Mark Grigg, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Ernest Heaton and Joseph Fleming.



Andy Moss

Susan New

Soldiers Died in the Great War

British Army Records

CWGC database

The Barrow News

The Barrow Guardian

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Thomas Ernest Heaton

Of The Row, Grizebeck, husband of Nellie Heaton (née Milburn) and father of two children.

A quarryman in 1913.

Born at Woodland; son of Robert and Jane Heaton, of Pearl Syke, Grizebeck.

Lance-Corporal 23715, 8th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Enlisted in Ulverston.

Killed in action 9th-12th April 1917 (first few days of the Battle of Arras), aged 32.

Buried in Tilloy British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France. Named on the Burlington Stone war memorial at Kirkby Quarry.

Memorial service in Kirkby, June 1917.

In 1891, Robert (35) and Jane Heaton (33) were living at Pearl Syke, Grizebeck, with their daughter Jane, aged 8, Thomas Ernest, 6, and Robert Edward, just 4 months. Robert senior, who gave his occupation as ‘General Labourer’, had been born in Egton-cum-Newland, and his wife in Kirkby. Altogether they were to have seven children, only five of whom survived to 1901.

Previously, in 1881, the married couple had lived in Chapels just with one Thomas Heaton (a widower at 66) as a boarder. At that time Robert worked as a labourer at the quarry, and Thomas senior gave his occupation as a miller.

By 1901 Thomas was 16 and his elder sister was no longer at home, but he now had three younger brothers, Robert (10), John (7) and Charles (4). Thomas was working in the quarry. He was still single and at home in 1911, by then a slate river. Robert junior had become a clerk on the railway, and John Henry was an apprentice in the quarry, while the youngest, Charles, was still at school.

In the second quarter of 1912, Thomas married Nellie Milburn, a farmer’s daughter and dairy worker from Birchbank, Blawith, and they went to live at The Row, Grizebeck, not a stone’s throw from his parents at Pearl Syke. Their first child, William E., was born later the same year, followed by Ernest in the second quarter of1914.

At some point Thomas enlisted in his local regiment, the King’s Own Royal Lancasters, and was posted to the 8th (Service) Battalion. This Battalion, part of Kitchener’s new army, first went abroad in September 1915, but we know from the war medals he was awarded that Thomas had not joined by then. It is possible that he was conscripted, because even married men could be called up by June 1916. Probably he was sent to the 8th Battalion to fill one of the many gaps left by casualties. The surviving records also do not show when Thomas Ernest Heaton was promoted to Lance Corporal, but certainly he was in the front line by the start of the Battle of Arras on 9th April 1917. At that point the 8th Battalion, having been in the front line for three weeks, numbered only 350, instead of the usual just over 1,000 officers and men.

Note: Heaton may well have gone to war with fellow quarry worker Isaac Hudson (q.v.): both went into the 8th Battalion KORLR; neither went to France before 1916, and both were killed on the same day in June 1917 in the Battle of Arras. Finally, they shared a memorial service at St Cuthbert’s on Sunday 10th June 1917, at which Mark Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson and Joseph Fleming were also commemorated – the worst month of the whole war for casualties from this village.

The Nivelle Offensive and The Battle of Arras

The Battle of Arras, in which Thomas Heaton was killed near Tilloy-les-Mofflaines and Isaac Hudson died near Monchy-le-Preux, was part of the ‘Nivelle Offensive’, the French General Nivelle’s plan to use the British and Canadian forces as a diversion from the main French attack in the Aisne region to the northwest of Rheims. British forces were to attack fifty miles away at Arras and Vimy Ridge on 9th April 1917. The French attack was a disaster, and after losing 187,000 men killed or wounded, it was called off on 6th May and Nivelle sacked on 15th. Although the British and Commonwealth armies were partly successful in taking their objectives, it was at a cost of 130,000 casualties, four of whom came from Kirkby. For once Field Marshall Haig was not to blame for this failed strategy, having been over-ruled in his opposition to the plan by Prime Minister Lloyd George. No doubt Haig remembered the carnage of the Battle of the Somme.


                                                                                                                                                                French General Robert-Georges Nivelle     British Prime Minister Lloyd George


Colonel Cowper’s history of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment shows the tragedy and inevitability of the deaths of Kirkby men Isaac Hudson and Ernest Heaton:


Extract from “The King’s Own, The Story of a Royal Regiment”, Volume III, 1914-1950, by Colonel J. M. Cowper.


When 8/King’s Own returned to the line on April 10 it occupied trenches in front of Monchy and was therefore in the sector next to the 1st Battalion, on the other side of the river. Three weeks’ continuous shelling and sniping had reduced it to three hundred and fifty rifles and it was hardly numerically strong enough to hold the front allotted to it. During the previous week when the battalion was theoretically resting, it had been continuously employed digging communication trenches, and the men were worn out by strain and want of sleep. On the first day in the trenches Second-Lieutenant A. W. Holgate, who had been commissioned from the ranks only a short time before, was wounded. It was in the afternoon of the 11th that the battalion was ordered to attack a trench which was to be incorporated in the British front system, and after three minutes’ drum fire the men went over the top at 6 p.m. Their failure to reach their objective was due to a cause as unfortunate as it was unexpected. They were subjected to heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from both flanks and they were also caught in their own machine-gun barrage which, though accurately laid on the enemy trenches, swept in its trajectory the crest of a rise over which the battalion had to pass. Assailed on all sides, the attack launched in two waves on a three-company front had not enough momentum to carry it through. Five officers were wounded as soon as the battalion rose from its trenches and thirty-eight other ranks were killed or missing. When the survivors struggled back under cover of darkness, the battalion numbered only a hundred and sixty-seven.

(See webpage for Isaac Hudson for a summary of the battle as fought in by Heaton and Hudson.)

The 8th Battalion War Diary gives more detail, although since we don’t know which Company either Hudson or Heaton were in, and since only officers were named as casualties in war diaries, it doesn’t help us work out exactly what happened to them. However, being almost ‘recorded history as it happened’, the war diary does give a powerful sense of what it was like to be there, and just how dangerous it was.

Extract from the War Diary of the 8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, April 1917.






















                                                                                                                                       Tilloy British Cemetery at Tilloy-les-Mofflaines, France

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission


 Press Cuttings

(courtesy of Andy Moss,  Penny McPherson and Diane Ayres)



KIRKBY MEN KILLED AT THE FRONT.- The sad intelligence is to hand that Messrs. Heaton, and Hudson, who until a short time ago worked in the local slate quarries, are amongst the killed in the recent fighting in France. Pte. Fleming, from Canada, is also among the list of killed. The deep sympathy of the people of Kirkby goes out to the relatives of these gallant men.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, May 5, 1917; page 11.



Word has been received by his wife, Mrs. Heaton, of Beanthwaite, of the death of her husband, Pte. T. E. Heaton, of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, and eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. R. Heaton, of Grizebeck. Deceased before joining the army was employed at the Burlington Slate Works, and was 32 years of age. He leaves a widow and two young children.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, May 5, 1917, page 8.



HEATON.- Killed in action, Pte. T. E. Heaton, King’s Own R.L. Regiment, of Beanthwaite, Kirkby.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, May 5, 1917, page 8.


HEATON.- In sad but loving memory of my dear husband, lance-Corporal Thomas Ernest Heaton, King’s Own Royal Lancaster regiment, who was killed on April 9th, 1917, aged 32 years.

"The call was short, the blow severe,

I little knew that death was near,

Only those who have lost are able to tell

The pain that I felt at not saying farewell."


"Fondly we loved him, he is dear to us still,

But in grief we must bend to God’s holy will:

Our sorrow is great, our loss hard to bear,

But angels, dear husband, will guard you with care."


 From his loving wife and children; also his father, mother, sister, and brothers, Kirkby-in-Furness.

 -: Barrow News, Saturday, May 5, 1917; page 16.


[Photo] Pte. Thomas Heaton, brother of Mr. Ed. Heaton, of Millom, who has been killed in action, and reference to whose demise has already appeared in the “News.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, May 19, 1917; page 3.




MEMORIAL SERVICE.- On Sunday a memorial service was held in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby, in memory of six Kirkby men who have died for their country, their names are: Mark Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Ernest Heaton, and Joseph Fleming. The Vicar, the Rev. W. G. Sykes, preached an appropriate sermon, and special psalms and hymns were sung. At the conclusion of the service, the organist, Mr. J. B. Richardson, played the Dead March in “Saul.”

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, June 16, 1917; page 6.


HEATON.- In sad but loving memory of my dear loving husband, Lance-Corporal Thomas Ernest Heaton, King’s Own Regiment, who was killed in action in France on April 9th, 1917, aged 32 years, late of Beanthwaite, Kirkby-in-Furness.

 “Oft we think of you, dear husband,

When our hearts are sad with pain,

Oh, this world would be a heaven

Could we but hear your dear voice again.”


“God knows how much we miss you,

How we miss your loving face,

But you have left us to remember

None could ever fill your place.”

“May his reward be as great as his sacrifice,.”

 “Sadly missed by his sorrowing wife and little sons; also his loving father, mother, brothers, and sisters.”

-: Barrow News, Saturday, April 13, 1918; page 12.

 Medal Roll Index Card for Thomas Ernest Heaton

                                                                                courtesy of Andy Moss



Andy Moss

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

St Cuthbert’s Kirkby Ireleth Churchyard Inscriptions (History of Kirkby Group)

Burial Records of the Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Kirkby Ireleth 1813-1997 (Furness Family History Society)

Lions of England: A Pictorial History of the King’s Own, by Stuart Eastwood

The King's Own: The Story of a Royal Regiment, Volume III: 1914–1950, by Colonel Julia Cowper (1957).  Aldershot: Gale & Polden.

Soldiers Died in the Great War

UK Census Collection

8th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment War Diaries


Barrow Guardian 1917

Barrow News 1917

Burlington Blue Grey by Stanley Geddes

Back to 1914-1920 list


Thomas Martin

Lidget, Soutergate, around 1900

Grandson of Thomas and Agnes Martin of Lidget Soutergate.

Private, 200674, 1st/4th Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. (Territorial Service number 2865)

Killed in Action at Guillemont, near Albert, 8th August 1916 (The Battle of the Somme), aged 27.

Commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing, Somme, France, Pier and Face 5D, 12B.



Thomas Martin’s name is one of more than 72,000 names of ‘missing’ British soldiers from the Battle of the Somme inscribed on the white panels of the Thiepval Memorial

Thomas Martin was brought up by his grandparents at Lidget (sometimes ‘Ledgate’ or ‘Ledegate’), Soutergate. Thomas senior had been an iron ore miner but had retired by 1911, when he and his wife Agnes were living at Lidget with their unmarried daughter Agnes Ann, then 41 and described as a ‘charwoman’. Then in their early 70s, Thomas and Agnes had had eight children during their 49 year marriage, three of whom had died. Their grandson Thomas, had been born in 1889, but by 1911 was apparently working as a general labourer in Dalton while lodging with Henry and Mary Martin at 16 Goose Green. Grandfather Thomas had died by the time of Thomas Martin’s death on the Somme in August 1916.

Thomas Martin enlisted in the Territorial Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment in Ulverston, probably between 11th and 13th November 1914. Throughout the winter of 1914-15 the 1st/4th were training in the south of England, and by March 1915 they were in France for the Battle of Festubert, in which Kirkby men Mark Grigg and William Sykes were killed.

On 8th August the 1st/4th Battalion were on the Somme, taking part in the attack on Guillemont near Albert as part of the 164th (North Lancashire) Brigade in the 55th (West Lancashire) Division. At 0345, while the allied artillery shelled the German lines, two platoons of A,B,C, and D companies left the advanced trench and crept into No Man’s Land. Soon afterwards a second line left the trench, and at 0415 the enemy began a return bombardment, followed by heavy machine gun and rifle fire. It was soon evident that the allied artillery had failed to cut the barbed wire, and the Battalion was forced to retire and dig in. The situation, along with very poor communications between the attacking forces meant that by 12 noon the attack had to be abandoned. The next night was spent clearing the battlefield of wounded and strengthening defences in case of a counter attack by the enemy. At 0355 on the 9th August the 1st/4th were relieved by the 10th Liverpool Scottish and withdrew to the south-west of Carnoy.

The Battalion had lost 8 officers killed, including its Commanding Officer, and 9 others wounded, and 48 other ranks killed and 206 wounded or ‘missing’. Among the latter was Thomas Martin of Soutergate. (Soldiers were not usually declared ‘dead’ until they had been missing for about a year.)

Thomas Martin was included, with Richard Townson, John Shepherd and Isaac Knight, in the memorial service held in St Cuthbert’s on Tuesday 5th August 1918.


The Sunken Road at Guillemont

Guillemont village soon after the action in which Thomas Martin died



Andy Moss

The Fourth Battalion The King’s Own and The Great War by Lt Col. F.H.A. Wadham and Captain J. Crossley.

Barrow News

Barrow Guardian

UK Census Collection 1891, 1901 and 1911

Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 to 18

Medal Index Card for Thomas Martin

Commonwealth War Graves Commission database

Furness Family History Society’s database of the Burial Records of the Parish of Kirkby Ireleth, 1813 - 1997


Back to 1914-1920 list


John Tyson Shepherd


                                                         Barrow Guardian

Son of Isaac and Margaret Shepherd of Ghyll Beck, formerly of Head Cragg and Sandside.

Lance-Corporal, 200603, 1st Battalion King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

Killed in action 12th April 1917 (4th day of the Battle of Arras), aged 23, leaving a wife and son.

Commemorated on the Arras Memorial (Bay 2), Pas de Calais, France and on the war memorial, Burlington Stone Quarry, Kirkby.

The family

In 1891 Isaac (26) and Margaret Shepherd (née Tyson, 23) were living at 27 Main Street, Millom, where he worked as a ‘general labourer’. They had two daughters, Sarah A. Tyson, 2, and Hannah Shepherd, 7 months. In the next few years they had Mary, then, on the 25th January 1894, John Tyson, followed by another boy, William; Eleanor was born about 1898, by which time the family had moved to Sandside, Kirkby; still to come were Isaac, Elizabeth, Isabella, Thomas Henry (Father of Bessie Ellwell), Margaret and Agnes – 12 children in all. In 1901 Margaret’s widowed mother, Sarah Tyson, described as ‘living on her own means’, was living with them at Head Cragg – no doubt they were glad of the help!



The Shepherd family at Head Cragg (photo:Robert Todd / History of Kirkby Group)


It is believed the family made their living from fishing.             

John Shepherd was born in January 1894 when the family were still in Millom.

They were at Head Cragg by the end of March 1901, when John would have been 7.

John Shepherd married Elizabeth Ann Tyson in Kendal early in March 1915, perhaps when he was on embarkation leave before his deployment to France. She is believed to have re-married after his death, to John Grigg.

In 1916 they moved to Ghyll Beck

Isaac Shepherd, of Ghyll Beck, died in 1951, aged 86.

His wife, Margaret, died in 1957 aged 90.

Thomas Henry, John’s brother, died in 1960, aged 55.

All three are buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

The family headstone reads:

Shepherd, Isaac, of Ghyll Beck ob. 1951 aged 86

Margaret, his wife ob. 1957 aged 90

Children,    Eleanor ob. 1912 aged 14

Isabella ob. 1913 aged 10

John Tyson Shepherd’s military service

John Shepherd was 20 and working in Kirkby quarry alongside his father and brother William when war was declared, and he was one of the first Kirkby men to enlist in Ulverston, joining the Territorial Battalion, the 1st / 4th, of his local regiment, the King’s Own Royal Lancasters, before 10th October 1914. He arrived in France as Private, 2712, John T. Shepherd on 3rd May 1915, but by the time of his death in April 1917 he had been transferred to the 1st Battalion and given a new Service Number. (The 1st was one of two regular battalions before the war. When it was mobilised in August 1914, it was made up to strength with reservists.) Since we don’t know the date on which John Shepherd changed Battalion, we can’t be sure which actions he was involved in. Below are two lists, one for the 1/4th (the Territorial Battalion), and one for the 1st Battalion – Shepherd would have seen plenty of fighting with either. Certainly he was in the 1st Battalion by the start of the Battle of Arras, and by the time of his death he had been in France over 18 months.


 Actions involving 1st/4th Battalion (up to the date of Lance-Corporal Shepherd’s death)

(Courtesy of KORLR website)


4 August 1914

Mobilised at Barrow in Furness

Winter 1914-1915

Stationed in Southern England

3rd May 1915

Arrived in France. Landed at Boulogne. Joined 154th Infantry Brigade, 51st Infantry Division

15 June 1915

Battle of Festubert

7 January 1916

Joined 164th Infantry Brigade of 55th West Lancashire Division

8 August 1916 (Shepherd wounded?)

The Somme: Battle of Guillemont. Attack on Trones Wood

11 September 1916

The Somme: Battle of Ginchy. Attack on Delville Wood

27 September 1916

The Somme: Battle of Flers

28 September 1916

Attack near Mametz

23 December 1916

Raid on Cameroon Trench

Actions involving 1st Battalion (up to the date of Shepherd’s death)

22 April to 25 May 1915

2nd Battle of Ypres

2 May 1915

Repulse of Gas Attack (Wieltje Farm)

24 May 1915

Repulse of Gas Attack (La Brique)

24-25 May 1915

Battle of Bellewaerde Ridge

12 April 1916

Raid at Rausart

1 July to 18 November 1916

The Somme

1 July 1916

Assault of North of Beaumont Hamel (Serre)

1-13 July 1916


The Somme: Battle of Albert.

(If Andy Moss’s hunch is right, it would be at this point, returning from leave after recovering from a wound, that Lance-Corporal Shepherd transferred from the 1st/4th to the 1st Battalion.)

23 October 1916 

Capture of Spectrum Trench

9 April - 4 May 1917

The Battles of Arras

(Shepherd killed on 12th April)

9 April 1917

Capture of Fampoux

11 April 1917 to 11 May 1917

Capture of Roeux


In October 1916 the Barrow News reported that Lance-Corporal John Shepherd had been back in Kirkby, spending a few days with his wife and child, having been wounded in the hand and in hospital in England. Since the 1st Battalion were not involved in any battles around that time, it is likely that he was still in the 1st/4th (Territorial Battalion) at the time of his wounding, and was transferred to the 1st Battalion between getting back to the Front and The First Battle of the Scarpe, in which he died.

Andy Moss suspects Shepherd was wounded at Guillemont, near Albert, on 8th August 1916, during part of the Battle of the Somme. The 1st/4th sustained heavy casualties that day in a night attack on German trenches near Trones Wood and the Guillemont Road. 7 officers and 46 other ranks were killed, and 10 officers and 154 other ranks, probably including John Shepherd, were wounded. (Coincidently, 60 years later the nearest town to John Shepherd’s home, Ulverston, was to be twinned with Albert, the nearest town to this battle.)

The First Battle of the Scarpe, part of the British Arras Offensive, began on 9th May 1917 with an attack on German defensive positions near Arras, The attack was highly successful at first and the British moved forward a record distance for trench warfare, but then the stalemate of the Western Front was resumed; the cost in lives had been 160,000 on the British side, and125,000 on the German. Among them was 24 year old John Tyson Shepherd of Kirkby-in-Furness, first reported wounded and missing on April 12th, and his parents informed at Ghyll Bank; eventually the Army Council concluded that he must have been killed or died of wounds on that date, but this process took about a year.

In August 1918, John Tyson Shepherd was remembered at the Memorial Service at St Cuthbert’s, alongside Thomas Martin, Richard Townson and Isaac Knight.

            Guillemont Station after the First Battle of the Scarpe. John Shepherd may well have died near here.


                     Albert at the end of the war.                                              The statue of Mary and the infant Jesus still stands on the Basilica

                                                                                                          the legend was that whichever side made it fall would lose the war.



                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Medal Index Card for John Tyson  Shepherd



Ghyll Beck Farm – the Shepherds were living here at the time of John Shepherd’s death


Andy Moss

King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum, Lancaster


National Census Collection

Soldiers Died in the Great War

Burlington Blue Grey by Stanley Geddes

Burial Records of St Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby Ireleth, 1813 – 1997 (Furness Family History Society)

St Cuthbert’s Kirkby Ireleth Churchyard Inscriptions (History of Kirkby Group, 2008)

Barrow News

Barrow Guardian

Robert Todd

Back to 1914-1920 list


Richard Knight

Photo: Barrow News

Grandson of Richard and Mary Knight of ‘Headgate’, Soutergate.

Worked as a postal clerk, and went to Canada around 1911.

Private, 51292, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (Eastern Ontario Regiment).

Killed-in-Action, 8th May 1915 at Bellewaarde Lake (Second Battle of Ypres), aged 27.

Commemorated on the Menin Gate, Panel 10-58. Also named on his grandparents’ headstone in St Cuthbert’s churchyard.

Richard Knight was born in Kirkby on 12th September 1888, and brought up by his grandparents, Richard, an iron ore miner, and Mary Knight, at Headgate, Soutergate, from at least the age of 3. His grandparents had 6 children of their own, the youngest of whom, Isabel (on some documents Isabella), was only 6 years older than Richard. In 1891 two girls, Elizabeth (19) and Eleanor (16) were in service in Settle and Ulverston respectively. Their oldest child, John (25) was then a farm servant but still living at home.

A mystery surrounds Richard Knight’s parentage. His Attestation Paper on joining up on 3rd November 1914 in Edmonton, named his next-of-kin as his aunt, Mrs Isabel Knowles, of Vale Cottage, Cartmel. (This was the youngest child of his grandparents, alongside whom Richard had been brought up in Soutergate, who was now married to William Knowles, a coach painter and decorator, with four children of her own.) However in 1918 a notice was placed in the Roll of Honour in the Barrow News by “his mother, Mary Knight, Mission city BC”. Then in 1924 the Commonwealth War Graves Commission sent a registration form to a Mrs Mary Knight of Mission City, British Columbia. And it was to her rather than Isabel Knowles that the Canadian authorities sent a copy of the Grave Register in 1929. However despite searches of UK and Canadian censuses, no conclusive record of a ‘Mrs Mary Knight’ has been found.

Richard himself seems to have emigrated to Canada in 1911, and in 1914 gave his occupation as ‘postal clerk’ and his status as unmarried. Like a number of Kirkby young men in the early 1900s he had been a part time soldier in the 4th Battalion of the King’s Own North Lancashire Regiment, and in Canada he was in D Company of the 101 Edmonton Active Militia. As such he lost no time in joining the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force once war was declared, and was passed ‘fit’ by the Medical Officer on 3rd November 1914.


 Men of the P.P.C.L.I. at Levis Camp, Quebec, prior to leaving Canada in 1914.

 We know quite a lot about Richard Knight’s short war from the regimental history and battalion war diary. Having signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 3rd November 1914, by March 1915 he was back in England, training near Tidworth on Salisbury Plain. From there he wrote this letter to a friend, Jack Patterson, back in Canada, which was printed in full in the Barrow News after Richard’s death.

Dear Jack,

I expect to go to the front on Monday March 15th, and quite likely I will not come back. I am the only one from the Prairie here. I happened to be here through being picked for a draft at Quebec out of the 23rd Battalion to reinforce the Princess Patricia’s. They called for volunteers today, so I thought I would not be a shirker or a Sunday afternoon soldier, and would go and do my best. One would not think there was a war on to see the people here; and work – they cannot get enough men and wages are very good. I have met a good many back from the front. I guess there will be something doing in about another month or so. It will be a pretty rough time I think, but I expect the Allies to be victorious. Constantinople will soon fall into the hands of the Allies, and that will be another road to Berlin. Well I don’t think I have much more news this time. Give my best respects to all, and look in the casualty list for 51292, and then you will know how I am getting along.”


A group of the P.P.C.L.I. on Salisbury Plain prior to leaving for France.

The Battle of Frezenberg Ridge

As part of the defence of Ypres, The Princess Patricia’s moved into the front line near Bellewaarde Lake early in May 1915. On 4th May, a day of continuous shelling by the enemy they lost 28 men killed and 94 wounded. Over the next two days GHQ was shelled and several officers were wounded. On 6th May, 3 & 4 Companies moved into the fire trench in front of Bellewaarde Lake and 1 & 2 Companies occupied the support trench. On 7th the fire trench was shelled all day, 3 men being killed and 13 wounded. At the end of the day, 1 & 2 Companies and 3 & 4 Companies swapped positions. All this activity was a preparation by the Germans for an all-out attack on 8th May. Shelling resumed at 4am and at 05.30 the attack began. By 6 o’clock the first attack had been repulsed and the German howitzers began sending over high explosives. The battle raged all day, and, as the war diary records, the battalion was continually short of ammunition. At some point Richard Knight was one of a party carrying ammunition from Ypres to the trench, when they were hit by a shell near Bellewaarde Woods. Private Knight and one other were killed. Later their bodies were buried and the location recorded, but no cross was able to be erected as that sector was then in the hands of the enemy. 

Trench map, with the PPLI’s position in front of Bellewaarde Lake marked.


Memorial to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

near Bellewaarde Lake, Ypres.

                                (photo: Andy Moss)

The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry

(Eastern Ontario Regiment)

The Canadian Regiment known to the 1st World War public as the ‘Princess Pats’ is still in existence today, though it prefers to be known as “the Patricias’. In 1914 the Governor General of Canada was the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, and his youngest daughter was Princess Patricia of Connaught. When war was declared, the Montreal entrepreneur and former Captain, Andrew Hamilton Gault, offered to give $100,000 to raise and equip a battalion for overseas service, with the balance of the costs being met by the Canadian Government. In eight days over a thousand old soldiers, most of whom had experience in South Africa, had volunteered and been signed on, and the Princess, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter, agreed to the Regiment bearing her name.

The PPCLI was the first Canadian regiment to go into battle in The Great War, and suffered huge numbers of casualties in the Second Battle of Ypres, including Richard Knight. Major Gault, as he was then as second in command of the regiment, was wounded three times, losing a leg at Sanctuary Wood during the Battle of Mount Sorrel in June 1916. He survived the war and was recalled to active duty in England in World War II.


                                                          H.R.H. Princess Patricia of Connaught                                                              Brigadier Andrew Hamilton Gault



Andy Moss

Barrow News

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Canadian Army Records

UK and Canadian Census collection


The Regimental History of the PPCLI

The War Diary of the PPCLI (WW1)

PPCLI Association website

Back to 1914-1920 list


Joseph Fleming

Son of James Collinson Fleming and Mary Bibby Fleming of Bolton Ground (previously of Well House and later of 90 Harrogate St, Barrow).

Private 706901, 54th Battalion Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment).

Killed in action 9th April 1917 (first day of the attack on Vimy Ridge) near Givenchy-en-Gohelle, aged 33.

Buried in Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery, Neuville-St. Vaast, Pas de Calais, France, Plot1, Row A, Grave 1.

Named on his parents’ headstone in St Cuthbert’s churchyard.



      The Fleming family headstone (right) reads:

         In loving memory of James C. Fleming,

   who died 28th November 1918, aged 64 years.

       Mary Bibby, wife of the above who died

              9th July 1938, aged 81 years.

                Also Joseph, eldest son of the above,           

           killed in action at Vimy Ridge 9th April 1917,

                                aged 32 years.


                       “Peace perfect Peace”


                                                                             A memorial service for Joseph Fleming and five others was held in St Cuthbert’s Church on 10th June 1917.        (Picture courtesy of Andy Moss)

According to the Canadian burial register, by the time Joseph was killed his parents had moved to 90 Harrogate Street in Barrow. James Fleming died in November 1918, aged 64, and his wife stayed in Barrow until her death in 1938, aged 81; both are buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard, just opposite the porch.

Joseph Fleming, like his father James before him, was an apprentice river in Kirkby Quarry in 1901. His mother was born in Witherslack and married James around 1883. Joseph had two sisters and a brother, Ada, Dinah and William, and by 1911 he was no longer with the family at Bolton Ground; according to his parent’s notice in the Barrow Guardian, he went to work for the City of Manchester Police.

Shortly before the outbreak of war, like a number of young and not-so-young Kirkby men of his day, Joseph emigrated to Canada, but unlike some he had not previously been a Territorial soldier in England. Certainly he had left the quarry before the start of the war, which is why he is not named on the quarry war memorial. 

We know quite a lot about Joseph’s enlistment in Victoria, British Columbia, on 1st February 1916 (see below), and from the regimental history. The 54th Battalion (Kootenay), Canadian Expeditionary Force was formed at the end of 1914 in Southern British Columbia, and was mobilised at Nelson, where Fleming was living. He had already been passed fit by the Medical Officer on 4th January, and on 1st February he took the oath of allegiance to King George Vth in front of a witness, signing on for at least a year.

 Attestation Form of Private Joseph Fleming.

                                                       Library and Archives of Canada, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 3139 – 9.


  Presumably after a period of training, the 54th Battalion embarked for Britain on 25 November 1915, and moved to France on 14 August 1916. Before the Battle of Vimy Ridge, in which Joseph Fleming was killed, they had already taken part in battles on the Somme, the Ancre and at Arras.

The 9 April 1917 dawned with flurries of snow as A, B and C Companies formed up in the front line trench. Their objective was the German held ridge that allowed them to dominate the ground over which the Battle of Arras was soon to be fought. Their advance, following a barge that crept forward in front of them, was almost completely successful in taking its objectives. However it was at a cost of 4 officers and 20 other ranks killed; 5 officers and 100 other ranks wounded, and 100 other ranks missing. A large number of the wounded died of their wounds in the coming days. Since only officers are named in the war diary, we cannot know at what point on the 9th Private Joseph Fleming lost his life.

 The War Diary of the 54th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (typed-up version)


  Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery

                                                                                                                                                     Givenchy Road Canadian Cemetery, Neuville-St Vaast                ( photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission)

Givenchy Road is a tiny, completely round cemetery containing the bodies of 111 soldiers, of whom all but 6 fell on the 9th April 1917, the first day of the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge. The cemetery is inside the Vimy Memorial Park, approximately 8km (5 miles) north of Arras on the N17 towards Lens. Outside the circular walls are pine trees, and the ground is pock-marked with shell holes.

 Canadian Expeditionary Force – Circumstances of Casualty


The burial register (below) shows that Fleming was first buried in Canadian Cemetery No 2, before his body was exhumed and reburied in Givenchy Road. (Givenchy Road was previously known as Canadian Cemetery No 1 and is only 250 metres from where Fleming was first buried.)

Commonwealth War Graves Commission Burial Register (Canadian)

For some reason Mrs Fleming’s address is given as 8 Scholes Lane, Prestwich, Manchester, as well as 90 Harrogate Street, Barrow-in-Furness.

 The War Diary of the 54th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (original handwritten version)


   The Battle of Vimy Ridge.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge was a military offensive by the Canadian Corps against the German Sixth Army along the Western Front in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France, from 9th  to 12th April 1917.  It was part of the opening phase in the wider-scaled Battle of Arras, which served as a diversionary attack for the Nivelle Offensive by the French Army. The immediate objective of the Canadian Corps was to take control of the German-held high ground that dominated the Plains of Douai, to permit the southern flank of the Arras offensive to advance without being fired upon in enfilade.

Vimy Ridge had fallen under German control in October, 1914, during the First Battle of Artois. Situated 8 km northeast of Arras, the ridge is approximately 7 km in length and culminates at an elevation of 145 m, providing a natural unobstructed view for tens of kilometres. The German Sixth Army had heavily fortified the ridge with tunnels, three rows of trenches behind barbed wire, artillery and numerous machine gun nests to more effectively protect the Lens coal mines, which were essential to their war efforts. During the Second Battle of Artois, the French 1st Moroccan Division managed to take possession of the ridge, after an astonishing 4km advance, but was unable to maintain it due to a lack of reinforcements, and consequently suffered heavy losses. The French suffered approximately 150,000 casualties in their attempts to gain control of Vimy Ridge and surrounding territory. Following the Third Battle of Artois the Vimy sector became calmer with both sides taking a ‘live and let live’ approach.

The British XVII Corps, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng, relieved the French Tenth Army from the sector in February 1916 permitting the French to expand their operations at Verdun. It was quickly discovered that German tunnelling companies had taken advantage of the relative calm on the surface to push aggressive tunnelling and deep mining activity against French positions, taking full control of the underground in the Vimy sector. Royal Engineer Tunnelling Companies were immediately deployed along the front to combat the German mining nuisance. This underground clash developed into a fierce struggle, with both sides blowing mines to destroy enemy infantry positions, and camouflet charges to destroy the opposition's mining activity

In response to increased British mining aggression, German artillery and trench mortar fire intensified in early May 1916. On 21 May 1916, after shelling both forward trenches and divisional artillery positions from no less than 80 out-of-sight batteries on the reverse slope of the ridge, the German infantry attacked the British lines along a 2000-yard front in an effort to repulse them from positions along the ridge. During the battle, Lieutenant Richard Basil Brandram Jones won his Victoria Cross for having led his platoon’s defence of the important Broadmarsh Crater, and having personally shot 15 of the enemy before being shot in the head attempting to throw a Mills bomb.

The German advance, having captured their objective of the British mine craters, halted and entrenched their position. Small counter attacks by units of 140th and 141st Brigades took place on 22 May, but did not manage to change the situation. The newly-formed Canadian Corps relieved the British IV Corps stationed along the western slopes of Vimy Ridge, in October 1916.

On 25 March 1917, the largest artillery barrage in history up to that point started. Over a million shells were fired onto the German trenches for 24 hours a day, for an entire week. The German artillery pieces were hidden behind the ridge, but by using aerial observers and microphones on the ground to triangulate the sound and flashes from the guns' firing (techniques known as "sound ranging" and "flash spotting"), the Canadians were able to locate about 83% of the German guns. The German troops called this period the "Week of Suffering".

Additionally, the heavy artillery was strongly reinforced, with nine British heavy artillery groups supplementing the 1st and 2nd Canadian Heavy Artillery Groups, for a total of 245 heavy guns and howitzers. The supporting field artillery was also reinforced to include "seven divisional artilleries ... eight independent field artillery brigades, 480 eighteen-pounders and 138 4.5-inch howitzers". Available if required were "132 more heavies and 102 field" and "a few heavy guns held under the command of the First Army". This fire power gave a density of one heavy gun for every 20 yards (18 m) of frontage and one field gun for every 10 yards (9.1 m): in contrast, the proportions at the Somme had been one heavy gun to 57 yards (52 m), and one field gun to every 20 yards.

After a cold night the mud had hardened underfoot by dawn on Easter Monday. At dawn the assault divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked. The mines were fired, a blanket of shells from the barrage crept towards the German front line, and the first wave of the Canadian Corps walked closely behind it. As insurance, heavy machine-gun fire, calibrated to four hundred feet to their front, arced over their heads towards the German lines. The first wave of about 15,000 Canadian troops attacked positions defended by roughly 5,000 Germans, followed by the second wave of 12,000 Canadians to meet 3,000 German reserves. Over 1,100 cannon of various descriptions, from British heavy naval guns mounted on railway cars miles behind the battlefield, to portable field artillery pieces dragged into place by horses, mules, or soldiers just behind the Canadian lines, fired continuously. Nearly 100,000 men in total were to take and hold the ridge. The first wave advanced behind a creeping barrage, known specifically for the battle as the Vimy Glide. This tactic had been used earlier at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle and the Battle of the Somme, but required fine tuning in the absence of voice control.

After less than two hours, three of the four Canadian divisions had taken their objectives; the 4th Division, however, was held up by machine gun nests on the highest point of the ridge, known as Hill 145, or by its nickname, "The Pimple". The 85th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), who had been intended to function in a supply and construction role, were sent in as reinforcements and the hill was captured by the end of the day. It would be three days before the entire ridge had been cleared. The total cost would be 3,598 Canadians killed and 7,104 wounded. The German Sixth Army, under General Ludwig von Falkenhausen, suffered approximately 20,000 casualties. The Canadians also took 4,000 Germans as prisoners.

The attack and objective had only limited grand-strategic significance, as the simultaneous British and Australian attack to the south of the Ridge was unsuccessful. Vimy Ridge came to have a strong symbolic significance, and to the Canadian Corps was an enormous boost to their confidence and sense of identity.

         On April 9th, 1917, the 54th Battalion, Canadian Infantry, attacked to the south of Givenchy-en-Gohelle.

   Canadian troops on Vimy Ridge in 1917.


29th Canadian Infantry Battalion advancing over No Man’s Land

through the German barbed wire and heavy fire during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

 (photo: Library and Archives Canada)


                                                                                                                                                                                    Operations at Vimy Ridge in April, 1917.


                                                                          The view from Vimy Ridge after its capture shows its strategic importance as high ground.        (Photo: Library and Archives Canada.)

  90 Harrogate Street, Barrow, today: Mary lived here until her death in 1938, aged 81.

                                                                    Scholes Lane, Prestwich today. At one time Mary Fleming may have lived at No 6, now a blind shop.        (Pictures courtesy of Google Street View.)


 Press Cuttings

(Courtesy of Penny McPherson and Diane Ayres)


News has been received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Fleming, of Bolton Ground, of the death of their son, Pte. Joseph Fleming, who came over with the Canadian Contingent and was killed in action on April 9th at Vimy Ridge. Before going to Canada the deceased was attached to the Manchester City Police Force, and was 32 years of age.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, May 5, 1917, page 8.


                                                        FLEMING.- Killed in action, Pte. J. Fleming, of the Canadian Contingent, of Bolton Ground, Kirkby, aged 32 years.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, May 5, 1917, page 8.

                                                                                                                                                 ROLL OF HONOUR.

FLEMING.- In loving memory of Pte. Joseph Fleming, 54th Canadians, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Fleming, of Bolton Grounds, Kirkby-in-Furness, who was killed in action on Vimy Ridge, April 9th, 1917.

“I have fought a good fight.”

- From his sorrowing Father and Mother, Sisters, Brother, and Brothers-in-law.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, May 12, 1917; page 8.


MEMORIAL SERVICE.- On Sunday a memorial service was held in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby, in memory of six Kirkby men who have died for their country, their names are: Mark Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Ernest Heaton, and Joseph Fleming. The Vicar, the Rev. W. G. Sykes, preached an appropriate sermon, and special psalms and hymns were sung. At the conclusion of the service, the organist, Mr. J. B. Richardson, played the Dead March in “Saul.”

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, June 16, 1917; page 6


Andy Moss

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Canadian War Graves Register

St Cuthbert’s Kirkby Ireleth Churchyard Inscriptions (History of Kirkby Group)

Burial Records of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Kirkby Ireleth 1813-1997 (Furness Family History Society)

Soldiers Died in the Great War

UK Census Collection

Library and Archives of Canada

Canadian Expeditionary Force War Diaries


Google Street View

Barrow Guardian 1917

Barrow-in-Furness Record Office

Burlington Blue Grey by Stanley Geddes

 Back to 1914-1920 list


Philip Norman Bernard Vernon Rothery

Son of William Brockbank Rothery and Margaret Hannah Rothery (neé Todd-Newcomb) of The Muirlands, Kirkby-in-Furness, and ‘Hazelmere’, 10 Chambres Road, Southport.

(Brother of Eric Montagu Fitzroy Rothery,  q.v.)

Private, 45266, 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.

Died in Mesopotamia 3rd November 1917, aged 23.

Buried in Baghdad (North Gate War Cemetery), Iraq. Commemorated on Memorial 254.

The Rotherys had 12 children at The Muirlands on the very edge of Kirkby. The eldest, Clifton, aged 26 in 1914, may have fought in the First World War, but no record has been found and he is not named on the War Memorial at St Cuthbert’s. Eric, their second child, died while serving in the Merchant Service, and is on Kirkby War Memorial.

(For detailed information about the family, please see the web page for Eric Rothery.)

Vernon’s short career

In 1911, at the age of 16, Vernon was living in the household of Joseph Williams, engineer, at 26 Well Lane, Rock Ferry, Birkenhead. Vernon was an Apprentice Engineer Fitter at Cammel Laird’s shipyard in Birkenhead – in effect following his father and older brother Eric, who were both engineers.

The incomparable military researcher, Andy Moss, has found more army records for Vernon Rothery than I have seen for almost any other casualty. They show that when Vernon enlisted as a Private in the Cheshire Regiment, he had in fact been in the army before, as a 2nd Lieutenant, but was dismissed following a court martial for drunkenness. This does not seem to have been picked up by the local Barrow papers, although it was reported in the London Gazette of 12th July 1916:

 The Barrow News only reported: "Mr Rothery has been bereaved of his two sons in the war", and offered the news that: "Mr Rothery and family… are leaving the district this week." In fact Vernon Rothery was not yet dead, but was a Prisoner of War in Iraq.

The Barrow News 1st September 1917

Courts Martial

As an officer in the 11th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, Vernon Rothery had served with the British Expeditionary Force early in 1915.

"The two sons of Mr Rothery, The Muirlands, have both gone off to join their regiments."

The Barrow News

The Court Martial on 29th June 1916 was his second offence: he had been Court Martialled first on 5th October 1915 for drunkenness while on duty in the vicinity of Belhus Park Camp in Essex, and had got away with a severe reprimand, so he can have had few complaints about his dismissal for the same offence eight months later. In the second Court Martial he was found guilty of being drunk at Caterham Railway Station on 15th May1916.

According to his army service record, Vernon Rothery enlisted as a private soldier on the 14th July 1916, (less than a month after his dismissal) at Birkenhead and Chester, in The Cheshire Regiment, 8th Bn. (His Army Service number is variously given as 45266 and 45366, and his age as 21.) The 8th (Service) Battalion had been raised in Chester in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s First New Army. By the time Vernon Rothery joined, the Battalion was battle-hardened, having served at ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay in 1915, been evacuated from Helles in January 1916, and then defended the Suez Canal in Egypt. In February they had moved to Mesopotamia where they fought the Battle of Kut Amara and were the first troops to enter Baghdad in March 1917.


First, however, Vernon was sent to the 3rd Battalion for training: this battalion was used to provide drafts for the battalions in the field. By the end of January 1917 he had joined the 8th Battalion in Iraq; in August 1916 he had been promoted to Lance-Corporal, but on 3rd March 1917, now in the field, he was deprived of his ‘Lancashire Stripe’ again for ‘misconduct’.

Prisoner of War

By the end of April 1917 Norman Bernard Vernon Rothery had been posted as ‘missing’ in Mesopotamia, having been taken prisoner with 50 members of his battalion by Turkish troops. Eventually he was admitted to be a POW, but not until after his death from dysentery; on 3rd November the Red Cross reported he had died at Nisibin. He had left no will.

Baghdad War Cemetery

Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery in Iraq was begun in 1917 and used by the Allies in both World Wars. After the Armistice in 1918 2,975 bodies were re-buried there from other graves, and many were recorded only as ‘Buried near this spot’, which is why Vernon Rothery is commemorated on Memorial 254.


 Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery

                                                                                                                                                    (The Commonwealth War Graves commission does not recommend travel to

                                                                                                                                                            this cemetery in the current climate of political instability in Iraq.






                                                                                                                Medal Index Card for Norman B. Rothery (WO 372/17)

(The official date of death is given as 3rd November 1917)



                                                        This earlier Medal Index Card shows that Norman Bernard Vernon Rothery had been a 2nd Lieutenant in the

                                                                                   11th Battalion, The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment.

A summary of Vernon Rothery’s Military Career

According to Andy Moss, Vernon Rothery’s Army record shows that he enlisted first in the 11th Service Battalion, the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment on 19th August 1914, aged 19. After 305 days he was discharged to take up a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 11th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. After two courts martial for drunkenness (see above), Vernon Rothery was dismissed from the army, but less than a month later, on 12th July 1916, rejoined as a Private in the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion, the Cheshire Regiment, defending the River Mersey at Birkenhead.

After a month Vernon Rothery was promoted to Lance-Corporal and posted to the 8th Battalion in Mesopotamia (present day Iraq). On 3rd March he was demoted to Private for an unspecified offence. On 30th April 1917 he was in a group of fifty of his battalion cut off and captured by the Turks in a counter attack. He died as a prisoner of war around 3rd November 1917.

Extract from the Manual of Military Law 1914

Every person subject to military law who commits the following offence; that is to say, the offence of drunkenness, whether on duty or not on duty, shall be on conviction by court-martial be liable, if an officer, to be cashiered, or to suffer such less punishment as in this Act mentioned, and if a soldier, to suffer imprisonment, or such less punishment as in this Act mentioned, and, either in addition to, or in substitution for, any other punishment, to pay a fine not exceeding one pound.

News Cuttings

The two sons of Mr. Rothery, The Muirlands, have both gone off to join their regiments.

Barrow News, Saturday, early 1915.


MEMORIAL SERVICE.- On Sunday a memorial service was held in St. Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby, in memory of six Kirkby men who have died for their country, their names are: Mark Grigg, William Relph, Eric Rothery, Isaac Hudson, Thomas Ernest Heaton, and Joseph Fleming. The Vicar, the Rev. W. G. Sykes, preached an appropriate sermon, and special psalms and hymns were sung. At the conclusion of the service, the organist, Mr. J. B. Richardson, played the Dead March in “Saul.”

Barrow Guardian, Saturday, June 16, 1917; page 6.


LEAVING THE DISTRICT.- Mr. W. H. Rothery and family, “The Muirlands,” are leaving the district this week. Mr. Rothery took up his residence a few years ago, coming from Southport, after the death of his wife. He built this mansion many years ago, and took great interest in the Askam Football Club when it was in its prime – indeed he and the late Mr. Todd-Newcombe very seldom missed a match. Sad to relate, Mr. Rothery has been bereaved of two of his sons in the war.

Barrow News, Saturday, September 1, 1917; page 10.

As far as is known, no local paper reported the Court Martial and dismissal of Vernon Rothery on 29th June 1916.

The action in which Vernon Rothery was captured:

On 28th April, 1917, the 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment moved into a position known as “Three Ridges,” north of the village of Satha (about 100 miles north of Baghdad). At 5 a.m. on April 30th, 40th Brigade, including the 8th Cheshires, led another attack on Turkish positions. The Regimental History recounts: “Our men advanced across the bare plain under the protection of an artillery barrage and a screen of smoke and dust. They drove the Turks from their trenches, suffering few casualties. The enemy seemed surprised and retired behind Adhaim village. …….the men pressed on into the village under a storm of rifle and machine gun fire and drove the Turks out with bomb and bayonet.”

The Cheshires and the South Wales Borderers had achieved all their objectives, had captured enemy artillery and taken 800 prisoners, but were now two miles ahead of the support troops and out of communication. This was quickly spotted by the Turkish commander who sent in a counter attack of 2000 men at 8.15 a.m. The Regimental History continues: “A bloody hand-to-hand struggle took place behind the screen of dust. The Turks regained seven of their guns and more than half the prisoners”. Light Lewis machine guns covered the desperate withdrawal of the Cheshires but there was no time for them all to retreat. About 50 men were cut off north of the village and taken prisoner.

                                                                                                         The Rothery family grave in St Cuthbert’s churchyard.

In fact only Margaret, who had been born in Kirkby, and Laura, her one month old daughter are buried there.

Mr Rothery, who didn’t die until 1946, is buried with Eric in Birkenhead.



Andy Moss

Diane Ayres and Penny McPherson

UK Census Collection

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

St Cuthbert’s Church Burial Register

National Probate Calendar

St Cuthbert’s Kirkby Ireleth Churchyard Inscriptions (History of Kirkby Group)

Burial Records of The Parish Church of St Cuthbert, Kirkby Ireleth 1813-1997 (Furness Family History Society)

 Back to 1914-1920 list


Richard Townson

Grandson of Edward Townson, quarryman,of Marshside, and nephew of Mrs M. Springham of 50 Dersingham Avenue, Manor Park, Essex.

A clerk on the Furness Railway from the age of 14 at Foxfield station. He attended ambulance classes with the Furness Railway.

Private, 72183, 44th Company, Machine Gun Corps (Infantry). (Formerly Private, 9107, 8th Battalion, the Seaforth Highlanders; enlisted in Whitehaven.)

Killed-in-Action during 3rd Battle of Ypres, 2nd August 1917, aged 21.

Commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial, Ypres (Panel 56), and on the Furness Railway Memorial, Barrow-in-Furness Railway Station. Townson was included in the memorial service held at St Cuthbert’s Kirkby-Ireleth in August 1918.

The Family

In 1901 Richard Townson, aged 5, was living in Chappels with his grandfather, Edward Townson, then aged 58 and a widower. Edward worked in the quarry. In the same household close to Chappels Farm lived: Edward’s daughter, Nancy, aged 29, unmarried and a ‘domestic servant’; two nephews of Edward: Robert Townson, 35 and a slate quarry man, and Henry Townson, 18, working as a clerk on the Furness Railway; and Edward’s niece, Matilda Townson, then 23 and married. Also living-in was domestic housekeeper Margaret Parker, originally from Liverpool and a widow of 63; she seems to have been Edward’s late wife, Mary’s, sister and she was to marry Edward in 1904. There also appears to have been an older brother to Richard, namely William Townson, a quarry worker, who had left home by 1901, and married Jane Rigg of Beanthwaite in February 1909; and finally there was another sister who had left home before Richard was born, named Agnes.

By 1911 Edward (67) and his second wife, Margaret (73), had moved to Marshside, and their household had become much smaller, comprising just the couple themselves and Richard, now 14 and working for the Furness Railway Company like his Uncle Henry, at Foxfield Station.

Edward Townson died aged 71 in 1915, and is buried in St Cuthbert’s churchyard. Richard’s next of kin was recorded by the army as his aunt, Mrs M. Springham of 50 Dersingham Avenue, Manor Park, Essex. According to the Barrow News at the time of his death, Richard had been a member of the choir at St Cuthbert’s Church.

According to Andy Moss, Richard Townson’s army medal roll index card shows that he was eligible for the 1914 star: this means he must have served in France or Belgium between 5th August and 22nd November 1914. Certainly the Whitehaven News reported recruiting going on in the town throughout September and October 1917, and Townson may have been among the first Kirkby men to volunteer.

Seaforth Highlanders 8th Battalion

 The 8th (Service) Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders was raised at Fort George in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's Second New Army and joined 44th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division. They moved to Aldershot for training and in November moved to Petersfield, then to to Chisledon Camp on Salisbury Plain in February 1915, then to Tidworth for final training in May. They proceeded to France, landing at Boulogne in the second week of July 1915. They were in action in the The Battle of Loos in 1915. In spring 1916, they were involved in the German gas attacks near Hulluch and the defence of the Kink position. They were in action during the Battles of the Somme, including The Battle of Pozieres, The Battle of Flers-Courcelette and the capture of Martinpuich, The Battle of Le Transloy and the attacks on the Butte de Warlencourt. In 1917 they were in action in The First and Second Battles of the Scarpe, including the capture of Guemappe during the Arras Offensive. They then moved north to Flanders and were in action during the The Battle of Pilckem and The Battle of Langemark. In 1918 they fought in The First Battle of Bapaume, The First Battle of Arras, The Battle of the Soissonnais and the Ourcq taking part in the attack on Buzancy, and The Final Advance in Artois. 

 The Machine Gun Corps

  Vickers Machine Gun crew in action

                                                                                                                            (photo: www.wartimememoriesproject.com)

The Machine Gun Corps did not exist prior to the First World War, which began with rifle-calibre Vickers Machine Guns being operated by units within existing infantry regiments. Once heavier machine guns were introduced, it was decided to form a specialist Corps, which was raised during the conflict, only to be disbanded soon after the war.

We know that Richard Townson enlisted in the Seaforth Highlanders in Whitehaven, probably as a volunteer. He could have been a machine gunner in that regiment, which would explain him being selected to transfer to 44th Company, the Machine Gun Corps, part of the 15th (Scottish) Division from January 1916.


                                                                                                   Soldiers of the Machine Gun Corps                                                    The Vickers Machine Gun

                                                                  pose for the camera before battle

The death of Private Townson

Army records show that Richard Townson first entered a theatre of war in October 1915. Assuming he had up to a year’s training in the south of England, as most enlisted men did, he must have volunteered early in the war, perhaps in response to Lord Kitchener’s ‘Your Country Needs You’ appeal.

According to the Barrow News of 19th August 1916, Private Richard Townson had been wounded in recent fighting. (From 8th August to 3rd September 1916 the 44th Company were involved in the Battle of Pozières Ridge in the Somme campaign.) If he had recovered sufficiently, Townson may have fought in other battles through September and October 1916, and in April 1917. By July 1917 his unit had moved to Ypres, and on 2nd August Private Richard Townson fell at Pilckem Ridge in the Third Battle of Ypres. He was just 21 years old, and his remains have never been found.

On the fourth anniversary of the start of the war, Townson was remembered in a Memorial Service at St Cuthbert’s, along with Thomas Martin, John Shepherd and Isaac Knight, all of whom had been killed since the last Memorial Service.

 Press cuttings

(courtesy of Andy Moss)


WOUNDED SOLDIERS.- A few of the Kirkby soldiers have been wounded in the recent severe fighting, viz., Privates R. Townson, John T. Leece, A. E. Warriner, Lewthwaite Shaw, and Lance-Corpl. Ivan Menzies.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, August 19, 1916; page 6.


FOR KING AND COUNTRY.- We regret to record the death of Pte. Richard Townson, Machine Gun Corps, who was killed in action on the 2nd August, in France. He was an old member of St. Cuthbert’s choir, and his loss is keenly felt by his many friends.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, September 8, 1917; page 10.


SPECIAL SERVICE.- On Tuesday last, it being the fourth anniversary of the war, special services were held at St. Cuthbert’s Church, Kirkby. There was also a commemoration of those who had fallen since the last memorial service, namely, Thomas Martin, Richard Townson, John Shepherd, and Isaac Knight. The collections during the day were in aid of Lord Roberts’s Memorial Fund for disabled soldiers and sailors.

-: Barrow Guardian, Saturday, August 10, 1918; page 3.


Andy Moss

UK Census Collection

Barrow News

Barrow Guardian




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William Proctor

(also ‘Procter’)

Son of John Callow Proctor and Mary Ann (née Atkinson) Proctor of Bolton Ground.

Private, 20344, 1st Battalion, Highland Light Infantry.

Killed in Action 4th December 1916 near Kut-al-Amara, Mesopotamia, aged 34.

Buried, Amara War Cemetery Part II, Amara, Iraq, Block XXXI, Row F, Grave 14.

William Proctor was born in Kirkby to John and Mary Proctor of a cottage between Bank House and the farmhouse in Sandside. The couple had six other children, Richard, Joseph, Ann, Hannah Mary, Eleanor, and Elizabeth. William, born in 1882, came between Eleanor and Elizabeth. By 1891 the family had moved to Bolton Ground, and in 1901 they were at Friars’ Ground, though William had left home by then. In 1911 John and Mary Ann were at High Ghyll House with just a grand daughter, Jane, and a grandson, William. Mary Ann died in August that year, aged 67. Soon after William was killed, John died on 28th February 1917, aged 72. Both parents are buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

John Procter, as he usually spelled his name, spent his whole working life in the quarry, and William worked there briefly in 1904. Before that William had been in farm service at Whitbeck near Bootle, where at 19 he worked with cattle and lived in Town End Hall with the family and workers of the farmer, John Dixon. His brother, Richard, sixteen years older than William, was an iron ore miner, and by 1911 William himself was working up the coast at Frizington, mining. There he lodged with William Wilson at 147 Park Gate, who, with his son, was in the same trade.

Sometime after the outbreak of war, Proctor enlisted in Egremont in the Highland Light Infantry, joining the 1st Battalion. We know from the tiny bit of his army record that survives, that he did not embark before the end of 1915. In December 1915 the 1st Battalion transferred from the Western Front to Mesopotamia, and Proctor must have joined them there. As part of the 3rd (Lahore) Division, the HLI had the goal of capturing Bagdad and defending British interests there against the Turks, who were threatening oil supplies. The 1st Battalion took part in actions at Fat-ha Gorge on the Little Zab, and The Battle of Sharqat. It saw out the war still in Mesopotamia, but William Proctor did not, being killed in action on 4th December 1916.

Amara War Cemetery, Iraq

The headstones were removed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for repair.

Before considering a visit to Iraq the Commonwealth War Graves Commission strongly recommends that you check the advice given by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office on the travel section of their website: 

Amara War Cemetery contains 4,621 burials of the First World War, more than 3,000 of which were brought into the cemetery after the Armistice. 925 of the graves are unidentified. In 1933, all of the headstones were removed from this cemetery when it was discovered that salts in the soil were causing them to deteriorate. Instead a screen wall was erected with the names of those buried in the cemetery engraved upon it.

During the present instability in Iraq, the CWGC is unable to maintain its war cemeteries in that country. As a temporary measure the Commission has produced a Roll of Honour listing all casualties in Iraq. The two volumes may be seen at the Head Office in Maidenhead.




Andy Moss

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

UK Census collection, 1871 to 1911

Soldiers Died in the Great War

Army Register of Soldiers’ effects 1901 to 1960, National Army Museum

The Long, Long Trail website

Highland Light Infantry Association website

Back to 1914-1920 list


Lewthwaite Shaw

Son of James and Sarah Jane Shaw of Head Cragg.

Private 204226, 1st/4th Battalion, King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Transferred to the Labour Corps (Home Service) after being wounded in the chest.

Died of wounds, Cambridge Street Military Hospital, Barrow, 27th July 1919, aged 37.

Buried in the only war grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.

Also commemorated on the Burlington Stone war memorial.


                                                                                                                                                                                                        photo courtesy Andy Moss

 Lewthwaite Shaw’s is the only war grave in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard

     Lewthwaite Shaw was the youngest of James and Sarah Shaw’s five children, and followed his father into the quarry when he left school. By the time he was 19 his father had died and his mother had married again, his step-father being George Casson, also a slate quarry man.

    By 1901 all the siblings apart from Lewthwaite had left home. In the 1911 census Lewthwaite, still single and living with his mother and step father, is recorded as working in the shipyard in Barrow as an ‘iron moulder’. His last civilian job was working as a labourer for Mr Hugh James of Marsh Side.

    (Sarah Shaw’s other children, all with James Shaw, were: Eleanor, Jane, George and William. Both parents and all five children were born in Kirkby. James Shaw died in 1891 aged 54 and is buried in St Cuthbert’s Churchyard.)

    His medal record cards show Lewthwaite Shaw’s date of enlistment as 5th October 1914, and his arrival in France as May 3rd 1915. The Battalion War Diary records that on 31st July 1916 the 4th Bn KORLR suffered casualties in the trenches near Trones Wood and Guillemont: four men were killed and 12 wounded, one of whom was Lewthwaite Shaw. His wounding was referred to in the Barrow News of 10 October 1916:



Private L. Shaw, of the King’s Own R.L. Regt.,

has been at home this week with his parents at Head Cragg.

Private Shaw was wounded in the back and side in the

beginning of August, and has been in hospital, but is now convalescent.

    There is some confusion over Lewthwaite Shaw’s status at the time of his death: he is not listed in Soldiers Died in the Great War, and he had been discharged from the Army at the time of his death, yet he had a war pension and a war grave and his headstone bears the badge of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster regiment. In fact you were eligible for a Commonwealth War Graves Commission grave up to 31st August 1921, if your cause of death was the war. Private Shaw’s discharge record refers to shrapnel wounds, to his tuberculosis, and that he was blind in the left eye. He was also deaf in the left ear and had a discharge from it.

    When declared unfit for military service, Shaw was transferred to the Labour Corps and posted to the 548th Agricultural Company at Melton Constable in Norfolk, where he worked on the land. In February 1919, now working at Prees Heath in Shropshire, Lewthwaite Shaw was admitted to hospital with the influenza that killed so many just after the First World War. On 27th July, now back in Barrow at the military hospital in Cambridge Street, Private Shaw died of tuberculosis.

    Since Private Shaw was discharged from the Army as unfit, he was entitled to the Silver War Badge and certificate. This silver badge, introduced in September 1916 for officers and men discharged from the forces due to sickness or injury caused by war service, was inscribed ‘For King and Empire; Services Rendered’ which caused it to be known colloquially as ”The Services Rendered Badge”. More than a million Silver War Badges were issued for service in the First World War.


Lewthwaite Shaw’s death at the early age of 37 was well covered by the local papers.

The Barrow Guardian reported on 2nd August 1919:


    DEATH OF MR. L. SHAW.- The death took place on Sunday, at the Military Hospital in Barrow, of Mr. Lewthwaite Shaw, formerly of the King’s Own R.L.R. Deceased joined up in 1914, and went to France in 1915, where he saw much fighting. He was severely wounded in 1916, and was brought to a hospital in Glasgow. He, however, never regained his usual health, and was kept in England, principally working on farms, until he was released early in the new year. He was of a jovial nature, and was the life and soul of his comrades in the trenches – which was much needed during the early days of the war. The funeral took place on Wednesday, in the St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard, Kirkby, and was attended by a large number of relatives and friends. Beautiful wreaths were sent by the Discharged Sailors’ and Soldiers’ Association, the Kirkby Cricket Club, Mother and Step-father, members of the family, and others. The Rev. Canon James (of Worcester), who is in residence at the vicarage during the next six weeks, officiated, and the hymn, “Thy will be done,” was sung in the Church. The bearers were Corpl. W. Shepherd and Messrs. James Sawrey, Arthur Burns, and Edward Rigg (D.S.S.A.), who were in uniform, and the coffin was covered with the Union Jack.

And the Barrow News of the same day recorded:


    FUNERAL OF KIRKBY SOLDIER.- The remains of Lewthwaite Shaw, aged 37 years, were interred at St. Cuthbert’s Churchyard on Wednesday last, the service being impressively conducted by the Rev. Canon James. The deceased man joined the 4th King’s Own in 1914, and had seen much active service, his death being the result of shrapnel wounds. His body, the coffin being covered with the Union Jack, was carried to the grave by naval and military men, viz., Privates E. Rigg, J. H. Sawrey, Wm. Shepherd, and J. Burns. Many friends attended to pay a last tribute of respect, including a number of discharged soldiers and sailors, who also sent a most beautiful wreath, also a wreath from Kirkby Cricket Club, of which deceased was a prominent member, and wreaths from other friends. Much sympathy is extended to his mother and family circle.

    Private Lewthwaite Shaw had been through a lot in his war: in the 4th Bn KORLR he must have seen action at Festubert, Guillemont, Ginchy and Flers before his wounding caused him to be sent home. It is likely that he served with William Sykes from Kirkby and Bell and Greenhow from the quarry, until they were all killed in June 1915.


Andy Moss

Barrow News 10 October 1916

Barrow Guardian & Barrow News, 2 August 1919

4th Battalion KORLR War Diary

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 Back to 1914-1920 list


Second-Lieutenant Robert John Rawlinson, M.M.

                                        Photo taken on leave in 1915 or 1916      (photo courtesy of the family)

Son of William and Frances Mary Rawlinson of the Buck Horn, Beanthwaite. Husband of Frances May Rawlinson (née Tyson) of Grizebeck Post Office, and father of Jessie, born 1912, died 1968. Grandfather of Ros Tyson. He was a quarryman of Grizebeck in 1904. Went to Canada in March 1913.

Private 21879, 8th Battalion, Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment).

Awarded the Military Medal in the field, 21 December 1916, and promoted to Sergeant. Later promoted to 2nd-Lieutenant

Died of wounds at No 33 Casualty Clearing Station, 30th September 1918, aged 27.

Buried in Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux, Pas de Calais, France, Plot III, Row B, Grave 2.

Robert Rawlinson came from a whole family of quarry workers: his father, William, as well as keeping the Buck Horn Hotel, was a slate river and rockhand, who died in 1934 aged 65; his brother, Richard, was an apprentice in 1913, and himself went to Canada in 1928; another brother, W. Granville, an apprentice in 1924; Robert John’s uncle, Robert Rawlinson, who died in 1907, had been a quarry man; and his nephews, Ernest and Robert J., had been apprentices for a while.


                                           The Buck Horn, Grizebeck Hill, now a private house                      (photo: Julie Rushton)

Like a lot of young men of his era, Robert Rawlinson must have been persuaded a better life awaited in Canada, for he emigrated in 1913, two years after his marriage to Frances. According to the local paper, writing after the award of the Military Medal, Robert John Rawlinson, having been for four years a Territorial with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was among the first in Canada to join up when war was declared. When signing on he gave his occupation as ‘Gardener’. Having arrived back in England he went for training on Salisbury Plain.

Rawlinson saw plenty of action with the Canadians, being wounded more than once and promoted first to Sergeant and then 2nd Lieutenant. The formal photograph of him with his family on leave (above) may have been taken after the award of the Military Medal, but if so it must have been before the medal was presented to him, as no medal is on view.

The Military Medal

This medal, introduced in 1916 could be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth forces from 1916 on, for “Acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire”. Unlike the VC, it was awarded purely on the say-so of the Commanding Officer in the field. The Military Medal was replaced by the Military Cross in 1993. It could only be given to non-commissioned officers and ‘other ranks’, so Robert Rawlinson must have been promoted to 2nd-Lieutenant before the attack on Bourlon Wood but after the award. The medal was worth sixpence a day in extra wages as well as a one-off gratuity – money that may have been very welcome in Grizebeck in 1916.


As far as we know, Robert John Rawlinson was the only Kirkby man to be awarded the Military Medal, or to be decorated for bravery in the First World War.

The attack on Bourlon Wood, 27 -29 September 1918

The disastrous operation in which Robert Rawlinson was mortally wounded is recorded in detail in the Battalion War Diary. This document, compiled by a junior officer as events unfolded, is usually a dispassionate factual record, but in this case it places the blame for the mistakes, which cost the lives of every officer in A and C Companies, squarely on HQ. The attack was “a hurried affair, engineered by higher commands, regardless of the battalions”. Casualties could have been avoided “if more control had been allowed the Battalion Commander”; but “we were to reap the fruits” of the failures of the senior leadership.

At 6am on 29th September the British and Canadian forces began their attack on Bourlon Wood, south of Arras, behind a barrage, which was meant to cut the barbed wire between the trenches. The War Diary does not blame the gunners, who had had no time to prepare, but when the advancing troops reached the wire, it was intact, and they had to fight their way through. Even worse, the barrage was falling short and killing men on its own side – what became known in subsequent wars as “friendly fire’.

The excellent Canadian Army records clearly and painfully tell how Lt. Rawlinson died:    


 Bucquoy Road Cemetery

For some reason Robert John Rawlinson shares a Commonwealth War Grave with 46463 Private J.B. Biddle of the Manchester Regiment, who died the day before him.

The relevant text reads:


R.J. Rawlinson M.M.

8th Bn Canadian Infantry

30th September 1918 Age 27

Rest in the Lord

And wait patiently for him.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     (Photo: Julie Rushton)

Bucquoy Road Cemetery in Ficheux, Pas de Calais, France, already contained 1,166 burials when the Armistice came, and was greatly enlarged later by bringing in bodies from other smaller cemeteries: it now contains the bodies of nearly 2,000 allied soldiers, including 136 from the Second World War.

Robert John Rawlinson M.M. of Kirkby-in-Furness lies in Block III, Row B, Grave 2.


Andy Moss

Barrow Guardian, 19 October 1918

Canadian Expeditionary Force records

The War Diary of the 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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William Nicholson Brockbank

A tipper at the quarry in 1904, but had left by the start of the war, so is not on the quarry memorial. Of Sandside. Brother of Thomas Henry Brockbank.

Private W/929, 13th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment.  Enlisted at Port Sunlight.

Killed in action, 8th November 1915, near Ypres.

Buried in Tancrez Farm Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium.  

Memorial service in Kirkby January 1916.


Ernest Cartwright


                                                                    (Photo: Barrow News)

Son of Herbert and Minnie Cartwright, of Wooldale, Huddersfield, Yorkshire.

Husband of Dora Alice Cartwright (née Winder) of ‘Morden’ Soutergate, Kirkby-in-Furness.

Enlisted 23/8/1914.

2nd Lieutenant, 5th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment from October 1917.

Killed-in-Action, 1st November 1918, near Famars, France, aged 26.

Buried in Maing Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord, France.

In 1911, at the age of 17, Ernest Cartwright was in lodgings in the house of Mr and Mrs Jones in Leeds, where he worked as a labourer for a rug manufacturer. His father, an engine tenter1 in a woollen mill, his mother and seven brothers and sisters (four other children having died) all lived at home in Wooldale. His 12 year old sister, Beatrice, worked part time as a rug maker.

Cartwright’s wife-to-be at that time, Dora Winder, daughter of Thomas Winder, the retired Soutergate blacksmith, was then working as a cooking and laundry teacher and living in lodgings in Manningham, Bradford. At 31 she was still single, but in April 1917 she married Ernest, already in the army for over two years since enlisting early in the war as a Territorial soldier, though in the register he gave his occupation as ‘Commercial Traveller’.


                                    The blacksmith’s shop in Soutergate.               (Picture: History of Kirkby Group collection.)

1 An engine tenter’s job in a woollen mill was to operate the machine that stretched the cloth as it dried. The occupation is recalled in such place names as Tenter Bank, and in expressions like “on tenter hooks”.

In truth Mr and Mrs Cartwright were unable to spend much time together in their marriage: Ernest only had one period of leave between their wedding and his death. It is said that Dora bought his commission for him, although as the practice of climbing the ranks by payment was abolished in 1871, this is doubtful.

The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment

Ernest Cartwright arrived in France on July 15th 1915. Andy Moss thinks he was originally in the 1st6th Battalion, and was transferred to the 1st 5th at the time of his commission. (Both Battalions were part of the Territorial Force) The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment is still the only regiment in the British Army to be named after an individual who was not a member of the royal family. Arthur Wellesley, after defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, was recognised as our greatest military commander. Following his death at the age of 83, Queen Victoria gave authority for the 33rd Regiment to be renamed ‘The Duke of Wellington’s’, and later the ‘(West Riding)’ was added to the name.


       Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington

The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment was in France and Flanders for the whole of the First World War, and its 63 awarded Battle Honours read like a history of the First War itself. it is believed Ernest had only one period of leave in all that time. Having arrived in France on 15th July 1915 he almost made it to the end, dying in action just a few days before the armistice. We can only imagine Dora Cartwright’s pain, since most people were celebrating the end of ‘The Great War’ as she had to receive the news that her husband would not be coming back.

Back to 1914-1920 list


John Victor Cranke

Youngest son of John and Margaret Cranke, of ‘Ellermire’, Grizebeck.

Private, 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment (transferred from Royal Field Artillery).

Killed 20th April 1918 at Givenchy (Battle of the Lys), aged 30.

Commemorated on the Loos Memorial, Pas de Calais, France, Panel 92, and on the civic war memorial in Millom. Also named on his parents’ headstone in St Cuthbert’s churchyard.

John Cranke was born around 1888 in Drigg, near Holmrook, Cumberland to John and Margaret Cranke (probably née Kirkby, originally from Aldingham) who were farming at Mere Beck, Kirkby-in-Furness, by the census of 1891. John was their youngest child: his siblings were Bessie (10 years older), James (7 years older), George Kirkby, (3 years older) and Annie May (1 year older).

By 1901 the family had moved to Ellermire in Grizebeck, and they were still there in 1911 when John Victor was 23 and a farm worker. John Cranke senior became quite a prominent man in the early years of the century: he farmed at Ellermire and Coal Ash, was on the Parish Council and was one of the managers of Grizebeck Council School. He died in 1929 aged 77, according to the family grave stone in St Cuthbert’s churchyard, which also records the death of Margaret in 1913 at the age of 64, and commemorates the loss of their son, John Victor, who "fell in action at Givenchy in 1918, aged 30".

At some point before October 2016, while Cranke was fighting in France, the family moved to Marsh Side, Millom, which is where he came on leave after a spell in hospital in Wales. He was there again early in 1917, recovering from being gassed; he returned to the Front for the third and last time in February.


John had enlisted as a Private in the Royal Field Artillery in Millom in May 1915 and had been given the service number 98991. At some point before going to the front in November 1915 he had been transferred to the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment, with a new number, 19142. According to the regimental history, the 1st Battalion was in the Ypres Salient for four months after the end of 1917. In April 1918, with the great German offensive now threatening Amiens, the battalion was moved to Cuinchy, just south of La Bassée Canal, where they went into the front line on 4th. On 9th April, in what came to be known as ‘The Battle of the Lys’, the Germans launched an offensive against the Allied line, and fought their way into Givenchy, though they did not hold it. A few days later the Germans still held a piece of high ground north of the village, and the 1st Battalion was given the task of re-capturing the position. At 4.30am on 20th April, A and C Companies formed up and began the advance behind their artillery barrage. They passed through the battered remains of Givenchy and, in the face of heavy machine gun fire, captured the German trenches in twenty minutes. Reinforced by two platoons of B Company, A and C Companies succeeded in holding the position under heavy German bombardment. The Northamptonshire Regimental history describes the casualties as ‘not unduly heavy’. One lieutenant had been killed, another was missing, and two other lieutenants and a captain had been wounded and one lieutenant gassed; there were 96 casualties among the ranks. Two officers won the Military Cross for gallantry during the attack, and 15 other ranks received the Military Medal.

John Victor Cranke, then aged 30, was one of the casualties, having been first reported as ‘missing’. Since his body was never found, he is commemorated on Panel 92 of the Loos Memorial, behind Dud Corner Cemetery, on a busy road outside the northern French town of Loos, near Lille. The gardens are beautifully kept, and in June are full of roses; fields of corn and maize surround the spot.

Outside the Memorial, the inscription reads:

‘To the glory of God and in memory of 20,598 officers and men of the forces of the British Empire who fell in the battles of Loos and Bethune, and other actions in this neighbourhood, whose names are recorded, but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.’

News cuttings:


HOME ON LEAVE.- Private J. Cranke, youngest son of Mr. J. Cranke, Marsh Side, Millom (formerly of Ellermire, Kirkby), is at home on sick leave. He enlisted in the R.F.A., but was transferred to the Northamptonshire Regiment, and was drafted out to the Front in November, 1915, where he saw heavy fighting. He has been in hospital in France and Wales for two months suffering from pleurisy, but now looks fit and well.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, October 21, 1916; page 13.



Mr. J. Cranke, Marsh Side, Millom, and formerly of Kirkby, has received official news that his youngest son, Private J. V. Cranke, Northamptonshire Regiment, has been missing since April 20th, 1918. He joined up in May, 1915, and proceeded to France in the following November. He was gassed last August, and returned to France for the third time last February.

-: Millom Gazette, Friday, May 24, 1918; page 3.


Pte. J. V. Cranke, Northampton Regiment, has been officially reported missing since April 20th. He is the youngest son of Mr. J. Cranke, Marsh Side, Millom, and formerly of Ellermire, Kirkby. He enlisted in May, 1915, and went to France the following November. He was at home in February last after having been gassed on the Somme, where he saw some severe fighting.

-: Barrow News, Saturday, June 1, 1918; page 3.



The death in action is reported on April 20th of Private J. V. Cranke, aged 30 years, youngest son of Mr. J. Cranke, Marsh Side, Millom, or formerly of Ellermire, Kirkby. Pte. Cranke volunteered for service in November, 1915. He was twice wounded, returning to France, the last time in March of this year. He was first reported " missing," but two of his comrades now in hospital say when he was within 80 yards of the German trench at Givenchy he was calling to the others to " Come on !" when he was killed instantaneously by a shell.

-: Millom Gazette, Friday, October 11, 1918; page 3.


A mystery surrounds the inscription of John Cranke’s name on the Kirkby War Memorial. As will be seen in the photo, his name was apparently added after the others: according to the Furness Military Chronicle, it was on a separate stone as late as 1937.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                (Photo: Julie Rushton)

Why John Cranke was not named on the memorial unveiled in 1920, and why he was then added, apparently after 1937, is not known.

It may be connected to the fact that his father, by now a widower, had moved to Millom by then, and John was named on the Millom War Memorial. John Cranke senior died in 1929 and was buried in St Cuthbert’s churchyard. The family headstone reads:

In loving memory of Margaret, wife of John Cranke of Ellermire who died 29th March 1913, aged 64 years.

Also of John Victor, their son, who fell in action at Givenchy April 20th 1918 aged 30 years.

Also of the above John Cranke, who died 18th Jan. 1929, aged 77 years.

"At Rest"

Present day local stonemason William Todd explains that the memorial is made of local limestone, and the names are done by cutting away the background stone. The mason had originally left a border around the names, which space was used some time after 1939 to add Cranke’s name. The names on the memorial are not in chronological order of the date of death, nor are they in alphabetical order; rather the stonemason seems to have made the length of each name determine its place in the list, so making a pleasing bowed shape with the lettering.


Millom’s Civic War Memorial, with J.V. Cranke’s name in its logical position.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Photos: Julie Rushton

John Victor Cranke’s name on the Millom Civic War Memorial, which was erected in 1925, five years after the Kirkby Memorial at St Cuthbert’s.

Dud Corner Cemetery and the Loos Memorial.

Since John Cranke’s body was never found, he has no known grave but is commemorated on the Loos Memorial in northern France.


The pyramids seen here behind the Loos Memorial to the Missing are two of the five 146m high slag heaps (the highest in Europe), resulting from 130 years of coal mining here on the France - Belgium border.

On the far right in the photograph below you can see the panels bearing the names of the 20,500 dead having no known grave from the Battles of Loos and Bethune.

John Victor Cranke’s name is on Panel 92.

                                                                                                                                photos: Julie Rushton


Andy Moss

William Todd, stonemason, of Low Ghyll Farm,

Soldiers Died in the Great War

Commonwealth War Graves Commission website

Bulmer’s Directory 1909 and 1912

1891 UK Census Collection

1911 UK Census Collection

Furness Military Chronicle

Millom Gazette and Barrow News (courtesy of Andy Moss)

The History of the Northamptonshire Regiment, 1914 – 1918

The Museum of the Northamptonshire Regiment

St Cuthbert’s Kirkby Ireleth Churchyard Inscriptions, pub. The History of Kirkby Group, 2008

Back to 1914-1920 list


Clarence Chambers

Of Sandside, formerly of the Railway Crossing House, Soutergate. Husband of Emily and father of twins Val and Michael.

Private, 3715835, 1st Battalion Essex Regiment (transferred from King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry).

Killed in an accident on the Indo-Burmese border, 12th May 1944, aged 29.

Buried in Kohima War Cemetery, India, and commemorated on the Burlington Stone quarry war memorial, Kirkby.

Clarence Chambers, also known as Clarence Atkinson, came as a baby to live in Kirkby with his grandparents, Mr and Mrs Atkinson, first at Bank House, and then at a house belonging to the railway, for which Mr Atkinson worked. This second house was near the railway crossing at Soutergate, on the Duddon Estuary side of the tracks, which perhaps explains why it was later pulled down.

Railway Crossing House Soutergate.

Clarence lived here as a baby with his grandparents, Mr and Mrs Atkinson

Clarence’s mother was in service in the Shap area and couldn’t keep the baby, perhaps because she was ‘living in’, so he lived with his grandparents and used their name, though he was never legally adopted. According to Mr Dick Cooper, Clarence found out his real name was Chambers some time before he married Emily Mary Carson in Ulverston Registrar Office on 23rd September 1939. Twins Valerie Ann and Michael John were born in 1940, and the family lived in a cottage in a row of three which have since been demolished in Sandside, where Bracken Bank and Westerley now stand.

The house in Sandside where Clarence lived with his wife and their twins

stood approximately on the join between these two modern semis

Clarence is named in Burlington Blue Grey as a ‘Burlington Man’, but whether he was called up from the quarry like Harry Hudson, or left before the war is unknown. He went first into the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, later being transferred as a Private to the 1st Battalion, the Essex Regiment. Dick Cooper remembered receiving a letter from Clarence written in green ink, in which he wrote he could not say where he was, but it was an English-speaking place. This is likely to have been on the border between India and Burma, in the largely mountainous region known as Nagaland where the 29 year old Clarence Chambers died on 12th May 1944. His death was recorded by the army as accidental, and the persistent belief in Kirkby is that it involved a tank or other vehicle.

Nagaland, one of the most remote regions of India, where Clarence lies

The Battle of Kohima, fought for possession of Kohima Ridge from 4th April to 22nd June 1944, was one of the most significant battles of the Second World War; it was the turning point of the Japanese offensive into India and the first time Japan lost the initiative to the Allies during the war. The 1st Battalion the Essex Regiment were not involved in the Battle of Garrison Hill itself, but were carrying out a long-range penetration role, harassing the enemy at every opportunity in the hill villages around Kohima.

Seven or eight years after the war Emily Chambers re-married while still living in Kirkby, but then moved away to live in the North East.

Clarence’s daughter, Val, and her husband at the grave

Kohima War Cemetery

The cemetery, maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, contains the graves of 1,420 men who died in the hand-to-hand slaughter of one of the most bitter battles of the war.

The cemetery is close to the centre of Kohima, the capital of Nagaland state, 120 miles from the India / Myanmar border.

Clarence Chambers lies in Grave 29 of Row A, in Plot 12.

Summary of Clarence Chambers’ Military Record

Date and place of birth: 2nd July 1914, Kirkoswald, Cumberland

Occupation: labourer

Description: Height: 5ft 6 inches

Weight: 126 lbs

Hair: fair

Eyes: hazel

Physical development: good


20/6/1940: enlisted into the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry as a Private and posted to Infantry Training Centre.

28/2/1941: transferred to Royal Armoured Corps and posted to 18th Hussars.

15/2/1942: posted to 52nd Training Regiment.

15/6/1942: served in India until his death.

21/2/1943: posted to 163rd Regiment.

24/12/1943: transferred to 1st Battalion Essex Regiment.

12/5/1944: accidently killed.



1939/45 Star

Burma Star

Defence Medal

War Medal 1939/45

The Battle of Kohima

The 1st Battalion of the Essex Regiment had been converted to Special Forces or ‘Chindits’, trained by General Wingate as part of the 23rd Brigade, and carried out extensive patrols in very inhospitable country. When three divisions of the Japanese 15th Army crossed from Burma into India, one headed for the strategic town of Kohima. General William Slim ordered his commanders not to withdraw without permission, and two battalions supported by artillery occupied the highest point of the ridge two miles west of Kohima, later to be known as Garrison Hill. The Japanese attacked on 5th April, and the Commonwealth forces defended from their slit trenches day and night. By 13th April the situation was desperate, and a message was sent to the 5th Brigade that without reinforcements, Kohima would fall. Somehow they held Garrison Hill until the 20th, when the Royal Berkshires broke through to relieve them. However the battle was still going on and at its fiercest in mid-May, when men of the Dorset Regiment were given the task of clearing the Japanese from bunkers around the British Deputy Commissioner’s tennis court and bungalow, which was completely destroyed in the action. This hard won victory proved the turning point, and by early July 1944 the Japanese army pulled out of India, having lost 65,000 troops in the invasion attempt.

The Kohima Epitaph

The 17,857 British and Indian troops killed, wounded and missing at Kohima have their own epitaph inscribed on the 2nd Division Memorial:

"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,

For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"

The Grave of Clarence Chambers



Mrs Ethel Atkinson

Mr Dick Cooper

Valerie and Dick Tennet

Miss P Tyson

Mrs Dorothy Hudson

Burlington Blue-Grey, by R Stanley Geddes

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The Burma Star Association

The Essex Regiment Museum

The Ministry of Defence Record Office


Clarence at the railway crossing house

The Atkinsons’ railway crossing house

Clarence’s daughter and son at the grave

all courtesy of Lynne Dixon


Sandside in the present day

Julie Rushton


Back to 1939-1945 list


Fraser Farish

Son of William and Anne Isabell Farish, of ‘Bank House’, Sandside;

Husband of Kathleen May (née Dickinson).

Pilot Officer / Air Bomber Fraser Farish 188313, 97 Squadron RAF Volunteer Reserve.

Killed 10th November 1944 near Cernay-en-Dormois, Marne, France, aged 21.

Buried in the Clichy Northern Cemetery, Paris, France, Plot 16, Row 13, Collective Grave 3. Commemorated in Books of Remembrance in York Minster and Ulverston Grammar School (now Ulverston Victoria High School).

Fraser Farish, the son of William and Anne Isabell Farish, and middle brother of Andrew and Alan, was born on 24th August 1923. He was brought up at Bank House, Sandside, Kirkby-in-Furness (then still housing a bank), and attended Ulverston Grammar School before taking a job at the LMS Railway Company office at Millom station.

Shortly before the Second World War, Fraser’s father was the village reporter for the local newspaper, but he was ill when a mysterious event occurred, and Fraser had to take his place. On the dark and rainy night of 28th July 1939 an RAF de Havilland Rapide bi-plane, carrying the Air Minister, Sir Kingsley Wood, made a crashed-landing on Gunson Height, the highest point of Kirkby Moor. Five passengers were injured, and Sir Kingsley spent the night at the Vicarage. Fraser visited the scene of the crash, investigated and wrote up the story for his father.

Very soon afterwards when war broke out, Fraser wanted to fly, but had to wait until he was 17. All three brothers volunteered to serve their country, Andrew in the Army, Fraser in the RAF Volunteer Reserve, and Alan in the Merchant Navy. As soon as he was old enough, Fraser was posted to the Aircrew Reception Centre (ACRC) in St John’s Wood in London. The first planes he learnt to fly on were biplanes; next Fraser was sent to Canada for a year to undergo aircrew training.

On 25th May 1944, while home on 3 weeks leave, Sergeant Fraser Farish married Kathleen May Dickinson at the Church of Christ, Wallend, the church attended by both families. The bride was 19 and the groom 21, and tragically he was to be killed only six months later. Their wedding was recorded in the grammar school magazine, The Ulverstonian (Vol. XI No.2), under the heading ‘Old Scholars’ Weddings’.

Kathleen believes that one of Fraser’s missions was to attack the German battleship Bismarck, which had been spotted at anchor in a Norwegian fjiord. This was probably in May 1941, when the battleship is known to have been there with the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen. If so, the German ships sailed under cover of cloud before the RAF could get there.

From September 1944, Fraser was flying in Lancaster bombers out of Coningsby, Lincolnshire with 97 Squadron, Bomber Command. A new American Long Range Navigation system (LORAN)1 was being tested, and Lancaster Mark 1 bomber PB200 was among six of 97 Squadron’s Lancasters flying a training operation on the night of 10th November over France; two did not return. Fraser was not in his usual plane, but LORAN required an extra wireless operator to join the flight, and he volunteered for the operation in order to qualify for six weeks leave, having missed one operation with his own crew through having ‘flu.

Kathleen first received a telegram saying Fraser was missing; then a week later a second brought the news that his plane had crashed and all 7 crew were killed.

On the back of her photograph of Fraser in RAF uniform, his mother had written "Killed due to enemy action", and it is presumed that was what caused PB200 to dive 2225 feet into marshy ground 180 km to the north east of Paris. The small village of Cernay-en-Dormois (around 150 inhabitants) is in the départment of Marne and the region of Champagne-Ardenne. There, in marshy ground, the plane made a crater 15 feet deep and 20 feet across. Of the eight crew, only the bodies of the pilot, Flying Officer Peters, Sergeant/Flight Engineer Ace, Sergeant/Navigator Saunders and Flight Sergeant Farish were found at the scene. They were taken to the U.S. Army Hospital at Chalons-sur-Marne, and later buried in Commonwealth War Graves in Clichy Northern Cemetery on the outskirts of Paris. The plane was completely burnt out and the other crew members, Flight Sergeant/Air Bomber Welham, Sergeant/Wireless Operator/Air Gunner Piper, Flying Officer/Air Gunner Negus and Sergeant/Air Gunner Worley were presumed to have baled out or been killed by enemy action.

Fraser was described in the operation log book as one of "the squadron’s most capable operators". As was common practice with men who had served their squadron well, Flight Sergeant Fraser Farish was promoted to Pilot Officer after his death. We know of two memorial services for Fraser Farish: one was held at the Church of Christ in Kirkby and reported in the Barrow News of 7th December 1944; the other was on All Saints Day in 1955 and was for all ‘Fallen Airmen’, in York Minster with the Duke of Edinburgh in attendance. His Royal Highness made a speech in which he recognised the great contribution of the RAF in the Second World War.

Fraser’s bravery and sacrifice cannot be overstated: following his training in Canada he was offered a post as a trainer – a job which would have kept him safely on the other side of the Atlantic for the rest of the war. He refused, arguing that he had not joined up for that, but rather to help defend his country. At that time, life expectancy for Bomber Command aircrew was six weeks.

Fraser’s brothers, Andrew and Alan, survived the war. Andrew was in Italy in November 1944 and one night he recorded in his diary dreaming of Fraser crashing in a plane. It was only when he came home after the war that Andrew discovered Fraser had died that very night, 10th November 1944.

1 The LORAN (LOng RAnge Navigation) system was an American development of the British GEE radio navigation system, which used two transmitters in England sending out parallel radio beams 70 yards apart. One carried Morse Code dots and the other dashes, and the pilot had to fly between the beams. If he only heard dots or only dashes in his headphones, then he had deviated from the correct course. As the bomber approached the target, Morse letters were transmitted directing the crew where to drop their bombs.


The Lancaster bomber

Flight Sergeant Fraser Farish’s missions from RAF Coningsby in Lancaster Bombers

Fraser first appears in the mission log on 11th September 1944, and his death is recorded on 10th November 1944.

He flew only 10 recorded missions, mostly as Pathfinders dropping flares and sometimes bombs over German targets, before he was killed. Bomber Command air crew had a life-expectancy of six weeks. Fraser’s missions with 97 Squadron lasted just eight weeks.


Fraser’s regular crew consisted of:

F/O D. Simpson

Sgt A. F. Park

P/O J. Mollison

F/Sgt F. Farish

Sgt G. L. Grantham

Sgt A. M. B. Smith

Sgt K. Setchell


On occasions they were joined by:

Sgt S. B. Morgan

P/O H. E. Roberts

F/O J. P. Humphreys

F/Sgt D. E. Lacey

Flight Ops Record Book of 97 Squadron

11/12 September 1944 - Darmstadt

PB410J F/O D.Simpson, Sgt S.B.Morgan, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, Sgts G.L.Grantham, A.M.B.Smith, P/O H.E.Roberts.  Up 2056 Down 0237.  11 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay). Weather clear, hazy at 10,000’.  Identification of target by H2S and visually on green TIs. Illumination from flares good and a spread from flares appeared satisfactory. At 2349 first green TI. These were backed up by more green, and red TI were in centre. Bombing wind at 2355 hrs was 083/13. Whole attack seemed to proceed according to planned instructions.

12/13 Septenber 1944 - Stuttgart

PB410J F/O D.Simpson, Sgt A.J.Park, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 1910 Down 0135. 8 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay). Clear, some haze, vis good.  Target confirmed on H2X. Target area clear st time of release. Flares ignited underneath us immediately after release, illuminating built up area. Green TI seen in centre of flares. Red TI seen very wide immediately afterwards but Controller warned to ignore this. Rear turret u/s at 2215 hrs due to hydraulic failure.

18 September 1944 - Bremerhaven

PA973A F/O D.Simpson, Sgt A.F.Park, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G/L/Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 1830 Down 2242. 11 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay). No cloud, vis good, slight haze at 17,000’. Nothing down before own bombs released. After bombing saw large fires in docks one mile from centre of town. 6 to 8 sticks of incendiaries along water edge running NW from town centre. Very good concentration later.

19 September 1944 - Munchen Gladbach

PB409F F/O D.Simpson, Sgt A.F.Park, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F/Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 1907 Down 2309. 12 x 7" clusters, 2 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay), 2 rec flares. No cloud, slight haze, vis moderate. Target confirmed on H2X. Dropped flares on Box. Definition poor. Approx 3 minutes after release, rear gunner saw red TI cascade amongst the flares. Some icing on route between position B and C at approx 12,000’.

23/24 September 1944 - Munster

PB410J F/O D.Simpson, F/O J.P.Humphreys, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grabham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 1915 Down 0010. 10 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay), 2 x yellow TI No 16.  10/10ths cloud at 7-8000’ strata cu. Target confirmed by H2S. Yellow TIs already down when we arrived and as message received to say "Main Force bomb green TIs" we did not drop our yellow TIs as they were unnecessary. We were not satisfied with first run so we orbited and came in again thus making us late in bombing.

27/28 September 1944 - Kaiserslautern

PB133C F/O D.Simpson, F/Sgt D.E.Lacey, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 2141 Down 0439.  1 x TI red B22, 1 x TI red No 16, 7 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay).  Cloud over target, identified on H2S. First flares went down just after aircraft had bombed. First RSF seen about 2 minutes after bombing, then cloud obscured other markers. Controller at 0102.5 hrs heard to order Main Force to bomb concentration of RSF with overshoot as ordered, and ignore two stray reds, and to attack from 4000’. Prior to this, at approx 0101 hrs he was heard to order Main Force on town to bomb green. Glow from fries could be seen on return 25 minutes later. Not sufficiently satisfied with bombing run to drop our red TI.

6 October 1944 - Bremen

PB473F F/O D.Simpson, Sgt A.F.Park, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 1736 Down 2139. 1 x TI red B22, 1 x TI red B24, 6 x 1000lb MC (1/2 hour delay).  1/10th cloud otherwise very clear except for haze. Target confirmed on H2S. Clear picture on Box. As we released green and red TI seen on ground. Our TI overshot by approximately 3½ miles. Our TI were immediately backed up by green TI and also bombed.

28/29 October 1944 – Bergen (U Boat Pens)

PB473F F/O D.Simpson, Sgt A.F.Park, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 2204 Down 0441. 1 x TI green B22, 9 x 7" clusters. 10/10ths cloud base 5000’ – 2000’ until near target. Area identified on H2S. Target could not be identified visually and box was distorted a few seconds before TI green was due to go on bombing run. No request for flares. Told by Controller to return to base at 0158 hrs approx. Only glow could be seen, possibly from flares. Visibility bad. Landed at Driffield.

4 November 1944 – Ladbergen (Dortmund-Ems Canal)

PB588E F/O D.Simpson, Sgt A.F.Park, P/O J.Mollison, F/Sgt F.Farish, F/Sgt G.L.Grantham, F/Sgt A.M.B.Smith, Sgt K.Setchell. Up 1731 Down 2129. 1 x TI green B22, 6 x 7" clusters. Clear, good visibility. Target located on H2X (checked by GPI run from Munster). First flares very nicely positioned across length of target, down on time. One green seen to fall on NE bank of east arm of canal about 400/600 yards north of where RSF fell later. Second green fell to SE of first RSF. A third green appeared approx 600 yards to NW of later RSF concentration.

10/11 November 1944

5 aircraft bombing training, 6 on night Loran cross countries also high level bombing & fighter affiliation took place. Two aircraft and the crews, F/O Peters and crew and F/L Runnacles & crew with two additional set operators have been reported missing from the night Loran cross countries. Another aircraft was shot up by flak on crossing the coast line. No news whatsoever has been heard of the missing crews since they left base for the training which was carried out over the continent.  F/Lt Runnacles was one of our most promising pilots together with his crew. F/Sgt Farish and F/Sgt Farrell who were the extra set operators were two of the Squadron’s most capable operators.


The operations book states that Fraser was a Flight Sergeant, but as was common practice with men who had served their squadron well, he was promoted on his death to Pilot Officer.

Details of Fraser Farish’s last flight

On the evening of 10th November 1944, Avro Lancaster MkIII PB200 coded OF-G of 97 Squadron took off from RAF Coningsby for a night training sortie over France to gain experience in the use of the LORAN navigation system.


The crew were:

Flying Officer Cyril Edwin Thomas PETERS

Pilot (Captain)

aged 21

Sergeant John Henry ACE

Flight engineer

aged 20

Sergeant George Maurice SAUNDERS


age not known

Pilot Officer Fraser FARISH

Bomb aimer

aged 21

Flight Sergeant Leonard Charles WELHAM

Bomb aimer

aged 22

Sergeant Patrick Michael PIPER

Wireless operator

aged 23

Sergeant Leonard WORLEY

Air gunner

age not known

Flying Officer John NEGUS

Air gunner

aged 23


For reasons not known, the Lancaster dived into marshy ground near Cernay-en-Dormois at 22:25 hours. All of the crew were killed and are buried in Clichy Northern Cemetery.

From a website about Flight Sergeant Welham


On 16th November a signal was received from FRU (BASU) that F/O C.E.T. Peters, Flt./Sgt. Farish and Sgts. J.H. Ace and G.M. Saunders had been found killed at Cernay en Dormois in the district of Marne, the rest of the crew having baled out or been killed by the presumed enemy action. The aircraft was completely burnt out and had disintegrated. The bodies were all taken to the U.S. Army Hospital at Chalons sur Marne and later buried in two adjacent graves in Clichy Northern Cemetery, near Paris.

Source: Cumbrian Aviation Research Group


Cernay en Dormois War Memorial


We know of two memorial services that included Fraser Farish:

The first was held at The Church of Christ at Wall End, as reported in the Barrow News in December 1944

The second was at York Minster in 1955, attended by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The memorial is an astronomical clock installed in the North Transept, and a book of remembrance inscribed with the names of those airmen who made the ultimate sacrifice. The page is turned four times a year.

Fraser Farish lies in a Commonwealth War Grave in Clichy, a suburb of Paris.

How the local paper reported Fraser Farish’s death.

Her Majesty the Queen recently unveiled this memorial in Green Park, London, to honour the 55,573 men of Bomber Command who lost their lives in the Second World War.



Mrs Kathleen Clampitt, Fraser’s widow.

Mr and Mrs Andrew Farish

Mr Freddy Wayles M.B.E. (Kirkby Caller article)

Mr A Butterworth of Liverpool, author of a history of 97 Squadron

RAF Air Historical Branch

Mr J. Austin, Chairman, Cumbrian Aviation Research Group

‘Pathfinder Force’ by Gordon Musgrove, pub. Crecy Books 1992

‘The Ulverstonian’, Ulverston Grammar School Magazine

97 Squadron website, http://www.97squadronassociation.co.uk


Photos of Cernay-en-Dormois, of Fraser’s grave and of the Bomber Command Memorial by Julie Rushton.


Back to 1939-1945 list



Joseph Milburn Cartmell

Son of James and Isabella Cartmell of ‘Cumbria’, Sandside.


Sergeant / Air Gunner, 12 Squadron RAF Volunteer Reserve.


Killed 2nd March 1945 in a raid over Cologne, aged 21.


Buried in Rheinberg War Cemetery, Germany.


Thomas Henry Hudson

(Known as ‘Harry’)

Of Chapels Row, and previously of Witherslack. Husband of Grace (née Barnes).

Gunner, 1809178, 79 Battery 21st Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Died as a prisoner of war, 17th January 1943 at Fukuoka No. 1 Camp, (also known as Kumamoto), Japan, aged 36.

Buried in Yokohama War Cemetery, Japan, Plot P, Row C, Grave 16.

Also commemorated on the war memorial in St Paul’s Church, Witherslack, and on the Burlington Slate Quarry

war memorial. 

Gunner Thomas H Hudson, known as Harry, was born in 1907. He had two sisters, and the family lived at Witherslack, then in Lancashire, but now in Cumbria.  Harry worked in a gentleman’s house, and then on a farm, and at some point he met and married Grace Barnes, daughter of quarry worker Robert Barnes of Coal Ash and Marshside, Kirkby. After about ten years they came back to Kirkby to live at Chapels Row, and Harry got a job in the quarry in 1939. (This was a fateful move that ultimately resulted in Thomas ‘Harry’ Hudson’s death, because at the time farming was a reserved occupation, and he would not have been called-up, but quarry work was not.)

Mrs Leece remembers Harry being a practical joker. He once went to the farm for a stone of potatoes, and while Mrs Leece was weighing the potatoes, he undid her pinny from behind, so that it fell off when she stood up. 

The 21st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery, of which there were three batteries, embarked from Gourock, Glasgow, aboard HMS Warwick Castle on 7th December 1941, with Gunner 1809178 T H Hudson on board. They were headed for the Middle East, but by the time they reached Durban in South Africa, the situation in the Far East demanded that they were diverted to Singapore.

HMS Warwick Castle 26-10-1942

                                                                                                                                                        (Picture courtesy of the Imperial War Museum)

HMS Warwick Castle was built for the Union-Castle Mail SS Co Ltd in 1930 by Harland and Wolff in Belfast. She was intended for the Britain - Cape Town run, but in 1939 was requisitioned by the Navy as a troopship. (In November 1942, long after Harry Hudson knew her, she was sunk by U boat 413 off Portugal, with the loss of the Master, 61 crew and 34 service men.)

In 1941 /1942 things were moving fast in that theatre of the Second World War, and before they reached what was then Malaya, they were diverted again, this time to Batavia, now called Djakata, in Java. Harry Hudson landed on February 13th 1942, just two days before the surrender of Singapore to the Japanese, and was sent to help defend Bandong in Java. But on 5th March the Dutch surrendered to the Japanese, and Harry became a Prisoner of War.

Gunner Hudson was transported with 600 – 1,000 other prisoners in one ship, from the port of Surabaya in the south of Java to work in the coal mines and shipyards in Japan – something that was against the Geneva Conventions of 1906 and 1929, on the treatment of POWs. There were 25 prison camps in the Fukuoka Administrative Area of Japan’s South Island, and Harry went to No 1. Ten months later he died, officially of ‘acute colitis’ (in effect dysentery) but in reality probably from over work , malnutrition and the cold, mining coal for the Japanese war effort. Harry had formed a friendship with a Manchester man, and they agreed that if only one survived they would inform the family of the other. Eventually this unknown man travelled from Manchester to Kirkby to tell Grace that he had buried Harry himself, and to present her with Harry’s army belt. After the war, the scattered graves were gathered in by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and Harry was re-buried in Yokohama War Cemetery.


Yokohama War Cemetry, Japan

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (picture courtesy of CWGC)

Harry’s wife, Grace, married again and lived the rest of her life in Soutergate, Ulverston.

‘Post Script’: On 5th December 1941, on hearing that Harry was about to leave for the East, Grace’s brother, Fred Barnes and his wife May, then living at Coal Ash on Grizebeck Hill, decided to send Harry a 5 shilling Postal Order for some cigarettes. We now know that Harry was already a prisoner by the time the letter and PO were returned in May 1942 by the Army Post Office, marked ‘It is regretted that this item could not be delivered’. The Army had thoughtfully renewed the Postal Order so that the senders could cash it. When I went to see Harry Hudson’s sister-in-law, Mrs May Barnes, at her house at Dove Bank in the 1990’s, the returned letter was still one of a pile of letters she kept behind the clock, some fifty years later! And she kindly allowed me to reproduce it here:


Letter courtesy of Mrs May Barnes

 Letter reads:

send us a line when you can                                                        Coal Ash


5th December 1941

Dear Harry,

We were pleased to receive your letter, sorry to hear you are going abroad. We wish you all the

best of luck, and hope it won’t be too long before we see you again. Seems a bit hard luck –

you seem to have got sharp market. It may not be long before they get old Hitler smashed up.

Bill Leece is home on leave this week and Eddie  Harrison is expecting (to be) here for Christmas.

Well we haven’t much news for you, Harry, but here’s all the best. Find enclosed five shillings.

Buy yourself some fags.

With best wishes from Fred & May.





Mrs May Barnes, Dove Bank

Mrs Margaret Leece, Combe Crescent

George Woods (newspaper cutting)

Peter Dunstan’s British Far East Prisoners of War, graves archives

Royal Artillery Historical Trust

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Imperial War Museum

Andy Moss

 Extracts  from a report on conditions at Fukuoka No 1 Camp from 7 March 1944, to 16 April 1944. Report by Major Walter A Kosteck1, UA Army Medical Corps.

 Warning, contains upsetting information.

“During my incarceration at Fukuoka Camp No. 1, which includes these three camps above described, I had approximately l00 English, Australian, Dutch and American deaths. At no time was I permitted to keep clinical records. Upon the death of an individual, the Japanese made up their own clinical records without any knowledge of the patient's illness and insisted that I sign these records to which was attached a death certificate. I signed these death certificates under duress. Since these records were in Japanese script and since I was not able to read them, I informed the Japanese, through Masato HATA whose position was that of Japanese medical corpsman and compiler of Japanese medical records at Fukuoka Camp No. 1 that I was signing under duress. The Japanese had posted in the camp rules and regulations for the camp which included absolute obedience to Japanese orders regardless of what the orders were. If any order was not carried out, it constituted "failure to co-operate" with the Japanese which was regarded by the Japanese as actions verging on sabotage and therefore punishable by death. Thus, when I was ordered to sign the death certificates, I could do nothing else but sign them--practically on threat of death.


“Officer prisoners who reported atrocities committed by Japanese personnel to SAKAMOTO were immediately confronted in SAKAMOTO's presence with the Japanese individual regarding whom the complaint was made. In substance, the questioning and conversation were as follows: SAKAMOTO would ask the Japanese individual, who had been reported, about the incident. The Japanese concerned would deny the atrocity charged. SAKAMOTO would then turn to the reporting officer prisoner and say, "Japanese soldier says that he did not do this. Why are you lying? Why are you trying to get Japanese soldier in trouble?" The officer prisoner would answer that his charge was true and SAKAMOTO would answer, "Japanese soldier never lies." SAKAMOTO would then turn the officer prisoner into the custody of the Japanese soldier for disciplining. The Japanese soldier would then take the officer prisoner outside and administer a thorough beating. 


To Fukuoka Camp No. 1, non-perishable foodstuffs were sent approximately once a month. These supplies consisted of rice, dried fish and dried seaweed. Perishables, such as meat, fresh fish and vegetables, were sent in periodically; for example, once in two weeks, once a month and sometimes not until two or even three months had elapsed. These always came in small quantities. As soon as non-perishables arrived in camp as specified above, the Japanese organization of the camp began systematically to cut rations of the prisoners, and, before the month had finished, a number of bags of rice, dried fish and seaweed would be left over. These leftovers, which amounted many times to approximately 50% of the prisoners' food rations, were then placed upon a truck by Japanese personnel in full view of Yuhichi SAKAMOTO and taken away from the camp to an unknown destination. Whenever the Japanese commanding officer of all the prison camps at Kyushu arrived for an inspection, all surplus stores were hidden from view. These were taken from the camp by the Japanese and later returned after the high Japanese inspecting officer had gone. SAKAMOTO witnessed these activities. About two or three days after surplus goods were taken by truck away from the camp as described above, a load of food of inferior quality, such as bean flakes, rice sweepings and mildewed wheat would arrive at the camp. These inferior articles were then mixed with rice and we were given then a diet consisting of a mixture of rice and the above-mentioned inferior foods.


“Perishable foods were received at the camp at periods of time ranging from three weeks to two to three months. Upon receipt of meat into the camp, which never amounted to more than 50 kilograms for approximately 600 men, the Japanese garrison would help themselves to more than half of the meat and then turn the balance over to the camp for the feeding of prisoners, which never amounted to more than 30 kilograms for the whole camp. The same may be said for vegetables and fish. Vegetables in particular were a sore point because in the case of such items as tuber vegetables, turnips, carrots, onions, etc., the root itself would be taken by the Japanese and the tops would be fed to the prisoners. We were issued the rotten bottoms and the tops of all vegetables and the Japanese helped themselves to the carrots, turnips, onions, etc.


“I wish to point out that the preparation of food which the prisoners were permitted to make under Japanese supervision was a definite contributing factor to the death of many of the prisoners. The Japs would issue us a daily ration of fuel for the purpose of preparing the food. This fuel never amounted to more than enough to keep the fires in the prison galley going for more than an hour at the most. As the result of this, food was undercooked and could not be prepared in a form which the prisoners could digest, particularly in their weakened, starved and, in many cases, diseased condition. Thus, the diet which was given to the prisoners and which was so low in calorific value that it would barely sustain resting metabolism in anyone was rendered by improper preparation to even lower value as food. I and other doctor prisoners reported to Yuhichi SAKAMOTO, the commanding officer, through the interpreter, KATSURA, that the majority of the camp, probably 70 to 80%, had developed a severe acute dysentery or diarrhoea and were passing undigested uncooked rice and bean kernels and vegetables. The answer to the protest was usually the same, briefly as follows: "Japan is a very poor country, has very little wood and coal." Meanwhile, I and other prisoners, from personal observation of the stoves in the Japanese galleys and wood piles, knew that the Japanese had adequate fuel available for the preparation of their own food.


Red Cross food, which was sent to us in the form of prisoner of war food parcels, was kept in the Japanese storeroom in the camp and issued to us at the pleasure of SAKAMOTO. During the entire time I was in Fukuoka Camp No. 1, the prisoners received only two issues of Red Cross foodstuffs. One issue of Red Cross foodstuffs was made about Christmas of 1944 and the other issue of Red Cross foodstuffs was made in February of 1945.


“The prisoners were not issued any soap except on very rare occasions. During one period of eleven months no soap at all was issued and then the Japanese gave out one small cake of soap for the use of four men. During all this period there was plenty of soap available in the camp. The Japanese had sufficient soap of their own and, in addition, they had large quantities of soap which they took from Red Cross packages and set aside.


“I should like to add that practically every day those prisoners who were weakest were singled out to remain after the group taking calisthenics was dismissed. These weaker prisoners were then required by Masato HATA to run around the compound until they fell from sheer exhaustion; most of them fell unconscious. I would also like to point out that the commanding officer of Fukuoka Camp No. 1, Yuhichi SAKAMOTO often witnessed the calisthenics by the prisoners as conducted and directed by Masato HATA. SAKAMOTO during these exercises witnessed and condoned the brutal and inhuman treatment, including the beatings administered to the prisoners, by Masato HATA as above described.


“Corporal William Ivarson, a prisoner of war whom I knew well at Fukuoka Prison Camp No. 1, was a man who was on a working party continually. He reported to sick call occasionally, but not too frequently. His physical condition was fair. By that I mean that he showed evidence of starvation and malnutrition, but was otherwise in fair condition. At about two o'clock in the morning one day in February 1945 I was called in to give medical treatment to Ivarson. When I found him he was unconscious; and although I knew the man I did not at first recognize him from his appearance. As soon as I was told who he was, I recognised him immediately. I then took his pulse which I found to be very rapid; and he looked as though he were going to die. I might say at this point that I always had to plead with the Japanese for their permission to have men hospitalized. In this instance, by the time I had made arrangements with the Japanese for hospitalization of Ivarson he was dead. At this time I heard from fellow prisoners whom I knew well and whom I know to be reliable that Ivarson received a serious beating from a guard named HONDA, nicknamed "The Slob." HONDA, I know from personal experience and observation, particularly well because of beatings which he gave me personally, frequently and regularly came into the hospital and gave severe beatings to patient under my care.” 




Walter A. Kostecki 
Major, Medical Corps



T. Howard 
Special Agent, SIC


A more detailed report is available at  www.mansell.com/powresources/camplists/fukuoka/fuk


Back to 1939-1945 list


Gilbert Parker Johnson

Son of Parker and Elizabeth Johnson of Wall End.

Merchant Navy Commissioned Electrician, serving on armed merchant cruiser HMS Rawalpindi.

Died when sunk off Iceland, 23rd November 1939, aged 43. (Only 37 men of a crew of 300 survived.)

Also commemorated on the Liverpool Naval Memorial.

Fred Simpson

Son of George and Mary Simpson of Soutergate.

Private, 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders.

Killed in Sferro, Sicily, 20th July 1943, aged 27.

Buried in Catania War Cemetery, Sicily.

Also commemorated on the war memorial at Field Broughton, Cumbria and in the Book of Remembrance of the Highlanders in Edinburgh Castle.

William George Spry


Son of Amos and Maggie Spry of Wall End.

Lieutenant, 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, Royal Armoured Corps.

Killed in his Cromwell tank near Cheux, France, 30th June 1944, aged 22.

Commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial, Calvados, France, and in the Second World War Book of Remembrance of Ulverston Grammar School.





                            William G. Spry

Lt. William George Spry, 276064, 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry RAC Missing, presumed killed, 30th June 1944, at Cheux, Normandy, aged 22. Commemorated on the Bayeux Memorial, Calvados, Panel 10, Column 2 (Also named in the Book of Remembrance for WW2 of Ulverston Grammar School, now Ulverston Victoria High School, Cumbria)

Billy Spry's parents were Amos and Maggie Spry (nee Lewis), of Kirkby-in- Furness, where he attended Burlington School. At the start of the war Billy lived with his wife at Wallend, Kirkby.


The 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry, in which Billy Spry served, was the heavy armoured reconnaissance regiment for the 11th Armoured Division, and was part of the spearhead of the Battle for Normandy which began with the D- Day landings in June 1944. This battle was to cost over 200,000 casualties, 40,000 of them killed, of which Billy was one.

The 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry was based in Driffield, E. Yorkshire in 1943, and it was there that Billy Spry suffered an accident that resulted in a cracked pelvis. He was hit by a reversing tank and hospitalised for a few months, but returned to the regiment in good time for the invasion of Normandy.


A and C Squadrons of the 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry landed in Normandy on the 16th June, but B Squadron was delayed by bad weather in the channel.


An operation by the British 8th Corps, codenamed "Epsom", began on 26th June, in which Lt. Spry's Cromwell was Rear Link Tank for A Squadron. His job was to maintain radio contact with Regimental Headquarters for A Squadron, and his normal position would be the 3rd tank of the 4 tanks of H.Q. Troop. (The remainder of A Squadron consisted of 4 fighting troops of 3 tanks each.)


Operation Epsom was part of the allied break-out over the River Odon, and its objective was the capture of Hill 112.   On 26th June A Squadron went into action at Cheux to recce, and if possible secure, three bridges over the river.


On the night of the 9th, while going to the assistance of the 15th Scottish Infantry in the area of Belval Farm, A and C Squadrons ran into the n SS Panzer Corps: all 7 officers, and 27 other ranks were killed, captured or wounded in this action. Mr. Reg Spittles of Northampton, himself a Troop Corporal in A Squadron, believes Billy Spry's Cromwell tank was hit by enemy fire at this time. Since no investigation was possible until later when the area had been made safe, Billy was first posted as "missing". Due to the effect of a direct hit on a tank, it was not uncommon for no bodies to be found, with the result that Billy Spry has no known grave.





Recruited in the spring of 1939 as a territorial regiment, was called to the colours and entered WW2 on Sept 3rd 1939. Initially having very little equipment was used to do guard duties at Wyton aerodrome and Weedon Ordnance Dept (near Northampton).


1940 After Dunkirk it was equipped with Guy armoured cars and served as the Recce regiment with the 1st Arm'd Div.


1941 Saw a change and equipped with Valentine tanks, became an armoured regiment of 6 Arm'd Div.


1942 Along with its sister regiment (1NY) and the IRGH (1st Royal Gloucester Hussars) was removed from 6 Arm'd Div (who went to North Africa) and became the Independent 20 Arm'd Bde.


1943 20 Arm'd Bde was disbanded and 2NY was posted to Driffield, Yorkshire to become the "Heavy Arm'd Recce Regt" for 11 Arm'd Div.


1944 Equipped with Cromwell tanks the Regt was now ready for action. On June 16 -17 2 squadrons, A and C, along with RHQ, elements of echelon and its own recce troop of scout cars landed in Normandy.


June 26 "A" squadron under Mjr Bobby Peel went into action at Cheux to recce and if possible secure three bridges over the River Odon. The following day, joined by C squadron; they both continued to join the battle code named "EPSOM"; object to capture Hill 112, a prominent feature.


On.the night of June 29, the two squadrons were sent to the assistance of the 15 Scottish Inf in the area of Belval Farm. The approach was made with "C" sqn on the left flank, "A" sqn onthe right flank. Unfortunately "A" sqn ran right into the centre of the main enemy thrust, losing most of their tanks and every officer being either killed, captured or wounded, with atotal loss of 27 killed. This effort by "A" and "C" sqns resulted in the total stoppage of the enemy attack. 


The two sqns were withdrawn from action next day and were joined by B sqn from England the following week.


The next battle, codenamed "Goodwood", was to liberate Caen from the SE flank and open up the approach to the Falaise Plain. The action had limited success due to the fact that the German 88mm guns on the Tiger tanks dominated the area. The British Cromwell and American Sherman tanks, equipped with 75mm guns in open country being completely outgunned. The action covered mainly 18/19 July, 11 AD being withdrawn on 20 July.


The final battle, codenamed Bluecoat, for 2NY commenced in the area of Caumont to the West of Caen on 31 July. During Bluecoat, 2NY were mainly responsible for protection of the right flank of the Div. During August 2/3/4 in the vicinity of the town of Vire, defending an open flank of 6 miles with no infantry or other support, 2NY were attacked by a force of Tiger tanks supported by Panzer Grenadiers. After 48 hours of heavy fighting the enemy attack was held, but at the cost to the regiment of the loss of 47 tanks, from a total of 61 to 14, forming a composite squadron. The Guards Div took over responsibility and 2NY were withdrawn to refit. On 13 August they were once more back into action, assisting in the liberation of the town of Vassy. Two days later with "B" squadron in the lead, the regiment liberated the town of Flers.


On 17 August with the Regiment once more in open country beyond Flers, the order came to hold our positions which were then taken over by 15/19 Hussars fresh from England. 2NY were then returned back to Bayeux to be disbanded and used as re-enforcements to other units, mainly to 7 Arm'd Div (Desert Rats), others to their sister regiment 1NY.


Reg Spittles, ex-tank commander 2NY. 17.8.94.


Operation "EPSOM"


            Instead of a sweep as intended, the advance  became a “follow-my-leader" one tank following another through the gates and gaps in the banks. One tank of "C" Squadron was knocked out by an unseen opponent, after which 4 Mk IVs were met, suddenly, at point-blank range, one being knocked out and the rest vanishing in the, dark with no loss to "C" Squadron, who reached their objective and linked up with the infantry. In the dark 8 tanks, of "A" Squadron got lost — fortunately as it transpired later — and rejoined the Regiment next –day.  The remaining 7 tanks of "A" Squadron overshot their objective, failed to find any friendly infantry, and ended up practically within the German forward positions. Here they were systematically shelled, mortared, bazooka-ed and sniped at to shoot back in the dark was of little avail, the flash only giving away the exact position of the tanks. Twice permission was asked to, withdraw the squadron but was refused. At about 1.0 a. m. communications .broke down, after which no more was seen or heard of "A" Squadron, except for the 8 lucky tanks, which had got lost on the way. Lt. J. G. Hobson and 2 ORs, were reported killed, 15 ORs wounded and 37 missing including Major R. M. Peel, Capt. H. Edgar, Lts. W. G. Spry, A. W. A. Stock and N. P, Sharpe.


On the 30th the Regiment was drawn into reserve and moved back to leaguer in some wheat fields N. W. of Norrey-en-Bessin alongside 29th Armoured Brigade. Next day the Regiment moved into harbour to the North of Putot-en-Bessin, where it remained till July 8th reorganising and re-equipping. Capt. J. P. McGillycuddy took command of "A" Squadron with Capt. A. B. Venner as 2 IC. Several "C" Squadron tanks were recovered from the battle-field and also a Cromwell, which had been captured by the Germans from the 7lh Armoured Division used by them in the battle and knocked out by the Regiment. On the 8th the Regiment moved up to some corn-fields South of Le Mesnil-Patry in a counter-attack role. On the 11th "B" Squadron landed and on the 12lh joined the Regiment.


Meanwhile "A" Echelon under Major de Pinna had spent most of the time some few miles back at Cully. Normally the Technical Adjutant and fitters accompanied RHQ, with "Al" Echelon under the RSM consisting of petrol and ammunition lorries keeping as close up as was safe, and the rest of (he Echelon vehicles under Divisional control rather further back. The tiring and dangerous work of the Echelon commanders and drivers bringing up supplies to the tanks too often was taken for granted, whereas in fact no praise was too good for them.




OPERATION EPSOM; NORMANDY, 29 JUNE 1944. MY RECOLLECTIONS. By R Spittles; No 2 Troop Cpl, A sqn, 2nd Northants Yeo'y

OFFICERS: Sqn Ldr = Major Bobby Peel;

2/i/c = Cpn Haig Edgar,

4 Troop = Lt Stock,

2  Troop = Lt Hobson,

3  Troop = Lt Lowenger,
1 Troop = Lt Sharpe,
Rear link = Lt Spry.

As I recall 29 June had been a normal day protecting the right flank of the 4 Arm'd Bde who were giving the main armour support to elements of the 15 Scottish Infantry Div in the area from Grainville on the left, also Beval Farm and Brettevillette on the right. "A" Sqn's right flank protection was basically the area from Brettevillette to Rauray. This area towards Rauray was an upward slope so we were kept on our toes with attempted enemy infiltrations; nothing too heavy for us lo handle and so far as 1 can recall we had no losses of either tanks' or crews. Our other sqn "C" was taking care of 4 Arm'd Bde left flank down to Grainville. I might say that by now after several days of real fighting 1 was very happy with my crew.


As the day came to a close, normal practice (when possible) was for the tanks to withdraw to a rear area (or a fairly safe area) for our "A" echelon vehicles (soft) to come up and replenish our needs - mainly petrol, oil, etc. This had been dealt with and by approx 10.30 at night we were now ready either to retire to a harbour or take up a position of defence for the night.


Suddenly there was a call for Troop Leaders to go to HQ. It was obvious there was a panic on (loosely speaking). Back comes Lt Hobson with the news which appeared to be that a sudden attack had developed in the Beval Farm area and it seemed the 4 Arm'd Bde tanks were not in a position to give immediate support; 1 suppose they too were being attended to by their own echelons. It was thought by Brigade that the situation could be held by our two squadrons being sent straight away to help the Scots. (1 should point out that we had been put at the command of 4 Arm'd Bde from our own 11 Arm'd Div over the last 24 hrs. Therefore there is no blame attached to our own colonel for what happened).


The plan was for "C" squadron to follow some sort of track down the left flank and for "A" squadron to take a road down the right flank towards Brettevillette after going through a sort of hamlet, and before reaching Brettevillette we, A sqn, were to take a left turn which would bring us into the right flank of the infantry, and take whatever action was required to support them in their hour of need; "C" sqn doing the same on the left flank. 1 would like to point out to avoid any confusion from the reader that the Regt had only two squadrons in Normandy at that time; "B" squadron were still in England awaiting transport.


The order of the day was for our two squadrons to sweep the area as we went forward. Considering it was approx 2300 hrs and pitch black, one can imagine all we could do was to advance in a column. This we did. At this stage our 2nd troop was somewhere in the centre. At the start the approach was on a sunken road bounded by woods and orchards. But suddenly we emerged onto a completely open area. We knew from our daytime work that we had about half a mile of open land before we reached the hamlet. Running away to our left was a thick belt of trees (note this point). By the time the whole squadron was out in the open we had started to come under fire. It was decided not to fire back as we only had flashes to go by and as we were moving it was obvious the enemy themselves were firing at obscure objects. The further forward we went the firing increased; the logical conclusion to be drawn was that this was a large force who had by-passed the 15 Scottish and were using our road as their centre line - not a happy situation. We then had our first tank hit; this was 3 Troop leader's tank and although the tank was not put out, Lt Lowenger was killed.


At about this time, Bobby Peel decided to break off the action by ordering the squadron to disperse and regroup along the front of the thick belt of trees (previously mentioned) - these ran away from the road at a right angle. One can imagine, this placed the squadron in a line but not in any order of troops. At this time a request to withdraw from our own centre line and cross over to use "C" sqn's line of advance was refused; up to this time "C" sqn had not had any problems. This refusal to withdraw was the first of two requests!!


Our problem now was to get the squadron back on the road in good order in quick time. Bobby did this in a simple manner. HQ had four tanks; they were ordered to start up and take the lead. After the 4th tank of HQ troop had passed the last stationary tank on the right of the line, he having counted up to four, then identified himself to his troop on the B set, started up and proceeded up onto the road followed by his other two tanks. The next troop then repeated the procedure. This resulted in the whole squadron being on the road at least in troops. (The obvious thing happened; as soon as our tanks started their engines, the enemy opened fire) As each complete troop was on the road they advanced, so you had a troop going down the road with a gap between them and the next troop. It so happened that my troop became the last troop in the column with myself in the lead, Lt Hobson next and Sgt Jack Mann in the rear.


As we moved off down the road, we began to pass crews walking back so it was obvious tanks had already been hit. As we approached the hamlet we came up behind a Cromwell standing in the middle of the road. To find out if this was the tail-end of the column, I dismounted and examined it. I found it to be an isolated abandoned vehicle with no apparent damage, not to any outward appearance. (1 had a later experience with 1RTR which could have explained it). 1 remounted and explained this to Lt Hobson who told me to stay put He then passed me and took the lead. About this time Major Peel instructed that whoever was in the last tank should turn back and collect the walking and wounded. Jack told me later he had collected about 17 people. The reason for this instruction was because a second request to withdraw had been refused. So began the destruction of "A" sqn.


As Lt Hobson had gone on ahead and 1 had had to reverse back a bit to be able to pass the stationary tank and Jack Mann was about to go back, 1 had become isolated, completely alone. (I should explain I am using the term "I" or "me" so as not to cause any doubts by saying "we" - you realise there are five of us in each tank).


Having passed the stationary tank, 1 continued forward. All hell was going on beyond the hamlet. I could see what appeared to be at least two tanks burning. The enemy was putting up a continuous quantity of star-shells, so keeping the area beyond the hamlet in a see-able light. In the hamlet was a crossroads which was receiving a sustained rate of mortar fire. It appeared that as I drove into the hamlet there was a long stone building on my left and a very high earth bank on my right. Because of the quantity of star-shells varying, you had moments of quite bright light and suddenly all blackness {very awkward). As 1 approached the crossroads I noticed on my right a stone monolith about 5 ft tall, half embedded in the bank. This created a problem for me on my return trip. Choosing what appeared to be a lull in the mortar fire, I shot over the crossroads (having taken the precaution of closing my flaps). Before I had time to get my flaps open again, the tank came to a sudden stop. It appeared we had at last caught up with the main part of the squadron. We were in a narrow road with very high banks, orchard on the right, an open field on the left. I informed the crew of my intention to walk on ahead to see what was happening. Bill Bagguley, my operator R/T, took charge of the tank (a method we had decided on during our first three days fighting).


The tank in front was Lt Hobson; we had a brief conversation, then I went forward past several of our tanks which were undamaged with crews in them, but because we were in a sunken road nose-to-tail, we were not in a very good position for defending ourselves, I could see by now that the front of our column was in a mess, I ran back and climbed up onto Lt Hobson's tank to put him in the picture but he was more than excited about me shifting my tank back so he could move. He was quite right because up to this time the enemy ground troops had not bothered with our end of the column yet; but it wasn't going to be too long before they got over the surprise of the impact This problem was resolved when I got back to my own tank because Bill Bagguley told me Major Peel had said everybody to do the best for themselves as he considered the action finished, this being his final message to the Squadron. I would point out that we had not reached the point at which we were to turn left.


I told Bill Benmore, my driver, to reverse and then go forward left up the bank into the field. I knew we stood a good chance of either going back down the bank on our side or shedding a track. Fortunately we did neither and so having got up into the field, above ground as it were, with the light from the burning tanks and the star-shells we were obviously a target I told Benny to take a wide sweep left so we could have a bit of speed and we made our way back to the comer of the field near the crossroads where the bank seemed lower. 1 had decided to get on the road and return the way we had come, so closing our flaps we tried to estimate the gaps in the mortar fire and taking our chance went over the crossroads - fortunately not a scratch.


I was now back with the large stone building now on my right and the high earth bank on my left. I was of course now back in normal control, flap open, head and shoulders out for maximum vision. Suddenly out of the night came a tank from the opposite direction. We became jammed side by side between the stone building and the bank. Taking out my revolver first, I jumped across onto the other tank because in the darkness you can't see much difference between a Cromwell and a German Mk IV, and I wanted to get the first shot in, if needed. Fortunately it turned out to be Sgt Nimrod Spence from "C" sqn. They had run into trouble and some of their tanks had gone adrift; well, Nimrod had anyway.


1 suddenly had a very horrible thought of Lt Hobson thundering straight up the road into the two of us, and at the same time realised that we were on our nearside jammed against the monolith we saw earlier. The problem was resolved by my driver holding tight and Nimrod going forward. (Benny never forgave me for the ruin of his off-side mudguards and toolbox). Putting Nimrod in the picture of the situation and my intentions, I then continued up the road back towards our start line. After passing the tank still standing in the middle of the road and one other lying on its side in the ditch, we came to the point where the thick belt of trees went across country, now on our right hand side,


I decided that as we had a fair amount of camouflage still on the tank, we would be quite safe to sit out in the open and would be in a better position to see if anyone attempted to approach us, so I pulled over to the left off the road, switched off the engine and waited, listening for any wireless reports; none came.


After a time we heard a Cromwell coming up the road. One can always identify the noise of its Rolls-Royce Merlin engine. Tracer started to show from someone firing at it, I think it must have been hit twice, the first unlucky as it removed the exhaust cover over the fish-tails and this allowed carbon particles from the engine to fly up into the air like glow­worms thus giving the enemy something to fire at once more because there was a bright glow and the tank stopped and all became silent. It turned out to be Lt Hobson's tank; he was killed and of the other 4 crew members, 3 were wounded. (That makes another story!)                                 


A few minutes later another Cromwell started to come up the road and again tracer started to fly, but having to fire blind and at the noise only and not having a second bit of luck, gave up as the tank got further away. This turned out to be Nimrod Spence. I gave him a flash from my hand torch and he pulled in alongside of our tank. As he switched off the engine, we started to compare notes on the night’s affair. It was about this time that Bill Bagguley, my wireless operator, ever a droll one, perked up and said "What a bloody fine start for a new day!" I looked at my watch and noticed it had just turned 12.30 or 0030 hrs, 30 June.


Suddenly coming along the thick belt of trees, mentioned before, was a Cromwell; it appeared not to be in a hurry at all (one can tell by the tone of the engine). We gave him a flash with the hand torch, so we now had three tanks. This turned out to be a Lt White from "C" sqn, also adrift. They had as it turned out had their bit of bother but not to the same degree as "A" sqn. They did at least manage to get several tanks lo the 15 Scottish, all credit to them for their effort.


I would like to put on record at this point that sad to say Lt White was killed later at Courmelles, 19 July 1944, and that Sgt Nimrod Spence was killed at Caen on 18 July 1944.


We now had another conference and Lt White suggested that as we now had as it were a complete troop, with Lt, and Sgt, and Cpl, we could carry on with the original plan. Both Nimrod and myself managed to convince him of the situation "A" sqn had been in and he was not very happy about where he had come from. It was decided to wait a couple of hours; by 3 o'clock one could begin to see a bit of light Another was that our own troops seemed only to know Sherman and Churchill tanks and would often mistake Cromwells for Germans, shoot first arid say sorry later. So about 3 o'clock, Lt White and Nimrod wandered off back towards their own area and we in our Cromwell made our way back to our echelon area.


One more thing worth a mention: "A" sqn people will no doubt remember that through the goodness of our officers and Capt Wyvell Raynsford in particular, each tank in "A" sqn was issued with a half pint bottle of rum. This did much to sustain the crew of Baker tank, 2 Troop, "A" sqn, on the night of June 29 1944.



Cpl Spittles = Commander

Tpr Bagguley = operator/loader

Tpr Wells = gunner

Tpr Benmore = driver

Tpr Barnett = co-driver.




         From the reading of books in later years it would appear that "A" and "C" sqns were not having to deal with a local counter-attack, but a full-blooded attempt by 11 SS Panzer Corps to destroy the attempt by the British 8th Corps to take Hill 112 and get onto the Falaise Plain. The centre-line of this attack was the road from Brettevillette through Haul du Bosq and Cheux, the road "A" sqn was themselves using. This would mean that our Regimental Historian was wrong to say "A" sqn over-ran the enemy positions; the truth was that "A" sqn was run-over by the 11 SS Panzer Corps, and paid the price by losing every officer in the Squadron, either killed, captured or wounded, with a total of 27 killed for two hours work.

I quote from the book of the 11 Arm'd Div, "TAURUS PURSUANT", page 20.

29 Armoured Brigade had driven a wedge into the enemy country and held it for two days against its best troops.

2 Northants Yeomanry had withstood the fiercest counter-attacks of the operation and repelled them, though sustaining heavy losses, especially on the first day and during the big German effort on the evening of 29 June.

                                                                                    26 May 1991        R J Spittles




Mr Reg Spittles, Northampton

Mrs Ethel Atkinson

Mrs Gwen Croft

Mr and Mrs Andrew Farish

Taurus Pursuant", the History of the 11th Armoured Division

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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