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Wednesday 17 December 2008

Charney Hall World War 2

When I was a child World War 2 remained a recent event that still resonated in people's lives. My father was immensely proud of his service, of his status as a soldier, of being a 'Tankie'. But most of all of being a member of Montgomery's desert army. He talked about it quite freely and, with me at his side, would pore over the many illustrated publications produced during the war. Names of places and people became very familiar.

Thus it was quite poignant when I discovered the memorial in Grange parish church that lists the old boys of Charney Hall school who died in the Second World War. One name on the memorial was very familiar; that of William Henry Ewart Gott, CB, CBE, DSO and bar, MC.

'Strafer' Gott was a long term desert officer rising from Lt Colonel in 1939 to Lt General commanding XIII Corps by 1942 by way of commanding the 7th Armoured Div - the immortal 'Desert Rats'. After Auchinleck's defeat by Rommel in the summer of 1942 he was appointed by Churchill to take command of he Eighth Army but having hitched a lift to Cairo from the front line was shot down and killed. He is buried at El Alamein War Cemetery.

The other 'Old Boys' served all over the world.

Derek Vionee Alexander, native of Colne and a pupil of King's School, Canterbury, was killed serving as a young Artillery Officer during the German invasion of Greece in April 1941. He has no known grave.

Almond, Barr, Bain & Coffey died at home.

Pilot Officer John Norman Fisher (RAFVR) was killed on April 9, 1941 while flying with 9 Squadron RAF, probably on a night sortie over Germany. His remains lie in the Reichswald British War Cemetery.

John Bernard Windham Hale (RNVR) died aged 40 in a road accident at Plymouth in August 1945 while serving as a Commander(S) on the battleship HMS Valiant.

Lt Commander Humphrey Wilkinson Metcalfe RN, Fleet Air Arm, served aboard the carrier HMS Victorious. He died in a crash on June 22, 1943 while engaged in flying duties off Noumea, New Caledonia and Bougainville in the Pacific.

JB Miller is uncertain, probably Major John Binns Miller MC., West Yorkshires, buried at Imphal War Cemetery, India.

Proctor, probably Lance Bombardier Richard Martin, died at home.

Pilot Officer Peter Herbert Rayner was killed flying his Hurricane over France on May 12, 1940 aged 27. He is buried at Seuil churchyard, close to where he fell to earth.

Lt Philip Overend Simpson, Royal Artillery, died at home.

2nd Lt Michael Stonehouse Royal Artillery died at home.

Pilot Officer Alan Roger Wales was killed on June 27, 1940 over Holland.

Blenheim L35434 took off at 12.55 hrs from Bircham Newton to patrol off the Ijsselmeer. The flight made landfall near Noordwijk and turned towards Amsterdam. Just south of Schiphol they were attacked at 15.00 hrs by a large number of Me 109's from Soesterberg.

Wales' plane was shot down at 15.30 hrs by Lt J. Schypek of 2./JG 76 and tried to make a forced landing. It ploughed through a meadow and came to rest against the embankment of a ditch in a field along the Valkenburgerweg at Oegstgeest close to the community of Rijnsburg.

Sgts John Needham aged 25 & Thomas Jordan aged 18 also died. All three are buried at Oegstgeest Protestant Cemetery, Holland together with 12 other flyboys and 2 Canadian artillerymen

Air Cadet Peter Eric Wolton died aged 16, probably at Bethnal Green Military Hospital.

An interesting tale. Odd that so many died at home but the numbers who died serving in the RAF is to be expected. The whole structure of loss in WW2 was vastly different to the Great War.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Low Wray - Philip Abbleby Robson

An intriguing question posed by War Memorials is why a memorial is as it is? In particular why a specific designer or architect?

When I first started looking at these things I spent a whole summer driving round The Lakes trying to look in every church and in every community. Many memorials were pretty unimpressive but I was also amazed at the originality and craftsmanship that had been employed in the creation of some of these things. One that blew me away when I first came across it was the memorial cross at the church of St Margaret of Antioch, Low Wray, on the west side of Windermere.

The church was built in 1856 by James Dawson, a retired surgeon from Liverpool, who built Wray Castle next door and intended the Church as a chapel for the spiritual benefit of his family, retainers, estate workers, servants and friends. After Dr Dawson's death in 1875, the estate was inherited by his nephew Preston Rawnsley who in 1877 appointed his cousin, Hardwicke Rawnsley, as vicar.

The cross was designed by the architect Philip Robson and sculpted by Jackson's monumental masons of Ambleside in beautiful local green slate. So why was Robson chosen as the architect? Quite honestly I don't know but there are some pointers.

Philip Appleby Robson (1871-1951) was initially articled to his father E R Robson, the first architect appointed by the London School Board in 1870, before joining J L Pearson’s office in c1890. He was in private practice in Westminster by about 1898, where he remained until 1939. However, there were other offices in Tunbridge Wells and near East Grinstead, where he lived from 1905. Between 1919-22 he also had an address in Manchester as an architect and designer. He was very much an architect of the establishment.

The Manchester connection might be interesting. This church was the preferred place of worship for a number of families of considerable wealth and influence; industrialists who had great houses close by. Thus, inside the church there are four brasses for officers who died during the Great War. One commemorates Brian Crossley of the Halifax carpet family. The rest describe three brothers of the McIver family of Wanlass How, Bowness & of Bebington on the Wirral. The memorial itself was unveiled by a fourth brother, Captain Alan McIver MC, on Good Friday 1921. I rather suspect that these families, or the Rawnsleys, favoured Robson when the awarding of the commission to design the memorial was being discussed.

Saturday 6 December 2008

A death in Nelson's Navy - HMS Aeolus

Wonderful places - old churches - if time is taken to look around. They are rather like note books with monuments or memorials that act like prompts to remind the visitor of people and events long forgotten. Some, like a small memorial in the north of Cumbria, brush past famous men, in this case the immortal Nelson.
Kirkbride church is a small and ancient chapel built on the banks of the river Wampool. The chancel arch, described as Norman, may well have been the gate-arch of a Roman fort that once stood close by.

Set into the ledge of the window is a small marble memorial. It reads

to the Memory of
in His Majestys Ship AEOLUS, and
second Son of the Revd E Metcalfe
Rector of Kirkbride and HARRIET
his wife. Who died  6th Sept 1808
Aged 16 years

HMS Aeolus, a 32 gun fifth rate frigate launched in 1801 and broken up in 1817, was the second ship of the name. She fought throughout the Napoleonic wars and was involved at Santa Domingo (1803), in Strachan's action off Cape Ortegal (1805) and Martinique (1809). After Metcalfe's death she was heavily involved in the War of 1812 fought against American imperial ambition. On April 27, 1811 Frederick Marryat (1792 - 1848), who achieved fame for writing Mr Midshipman Easy & Children of the New Forest, joined the ship at Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Captain Frederick Marryat - E Dixon - c1830

He earned distinction by leading the effort to cut away the Aeolus' mainyard to save the ship during a storm off New York and, continuing a precedent set in earlier ships, saved one of his shipmates from the sea.

This painting shows a 36 gun fifth rate of the size and type of the Aeolus
So what of 16 year old Midshipman William Metcalfe? He probably joined the ship when she sailed from Portsmouth in August 1804 under Captain Lord William Fitzroy to serve the King at Weymouth. He may have partaken in Strachan's action of November 4, 1805 when some of the ships that escaped Trafalgar were captured. The prize money will have been considerable.

Strachan's Action After Trafalgar - Francis Sartorius- 1807
The Formidable, of 80 Guns, Dugay Trouin, Mont Blanc, Scipion, of 74 Guns each, which had separated from the remains of the Combined Fleet after the Action off Cape Trafalgar, were taken the 4th Inst. off Rochefort, by the Squadron under command of Sir Richard Strachan, consisting of the Cæsar, Hero, Courageux, and Namur Men of War, Revolutionaire, Phoenix, Santa Margaritta, and Æoleus Frigates, after an Action of 3 hours and a half. The Enemy had between 5 and 600 killed and wounded; our loss about 30 killed and 100 wounded. The Cæsar, Courageux, Hero, and Revolutionaire arrived at Plymouth
In 1807 Aeolus was at Halifax. In the following year young William Metcalfe fell from the rigging. On these ships a fall is a long way down!
He was one of 12 children. His older brother, Francis, followed their father as vicar of Kirkbride. His next younger brother, Henry, was an ensign at Waterloo. John died at Madras in 1833 as a Captain in the army. Younger brothers Leonard died in Egypt as a Lieutenant, RN, and George died at sea. Some of his sisters married well, others found no match.
Quite a family, but typical of minor gentry where sons pursued careers in the church or in the forces of the crown and daughters sought husbands. Where would the Empire have been without them?
Prints of two of the pics can be purchased from the National Maritime Museum

Generosity - Nathan Harker Leach - Selside

Looking at the many war memorials through the county it is self evident that in almost every instance vastly more were killed during the Great War than in the second World War. Indeed, quite a few communities seem to have suffered no losses between 1939 -45.

At Selside, a small fellside community on the southern approaches to the Shap fells, a roll of honour and a brass plaque were erected after 1918 listing all who served and died.

No names were added after 1945 giving the impression that the village escaped fatalities in the later conflict. However, this was not the case.

On 12th May 1944, 25 year old Nathan Harker Leach, a driver in the Royal Corps of Signals, died of wounds in Italy and is buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in the countryside south of the town of Ancona. He was probably wounded in the Eighth Army's advance up towards the Gothic Line during the spring of the year. My own father was part of these actions.

Nathan was the son of Thomas Ellwood & Mary Leach of High Borrowbridge, Selside. Thomas was the local road mender - a man of low social status. For some reason his son's death was not commemorated in the community.

A few years ago I was sunning myself by the ancient church of St Anthony, Cartmel Fell and struck up conversation with a couple of guys, clearly gentry, one of whom hailed from Selside. It appeared that some years before one of these guy's had, I think at his own expense, paid for a memorial for young driver Leach.

A nice gesture

Friday 28 November 2008

Lych gates

Through the course of the nineteenth century the established church struggled to find a place for itself in an increasingly secular society. The encounter with mass death of 1914/18 propelled it centre stage and by 1919 onwards it had regained its place as a primary repository of memory. I do struggle to understand the dynamic which prompted small communities to invest relatively large sums of money in lych gates, but I guess they are appropriate. In mediaeval times the coffin would rest here prior to being given Christian burial, a final farewell. In the years following the war each new generation of a village or parish would pass the names as they made their rites of passage thro' christening, marriage and death.

There are considerable numbers of lych gates in the county. That at Plumpton on the old A6 south of Carlisle is particularly attractive. It stands at the approach to the delightful Deco church of St John the Evangelist built 1907 in a beautiful creamy sandstone to a design of Sir Robert Lorimer. Always locked but must get in; it has a Morris window!

A slightly less ambitious affair is this memorial gate at New Hutton a lovely quiet spot above Kendal.

Set at the village end of a long church approach it has two panels, a dedication and a short list of names. Within the Webster church of 1828 there is also a small wooden cross with name brasses and formerly an organ (see earlier posting!). I believe there is also a roll in the village hall, but I have never managed to get in to check this out

Lych gates were also appropriated for personal memorialisation. At Sebergham this elegant structure commemorates a young officer, Captain William Adamson of the 6th Bn Loyal North Lancashires.

An old boy of Sherborne School, he was killed in Mesopotamia on April 24 1916 aged 31. His name appears on the memorial to the missing at Basra - clearly his body remains unidentified somewhere in Iraq, a long way from the hills and fells. His parents William & Eliza were of Langham Tower, Sunderland though an inscription on this memorial describes him as being of 'Greenfoot', presumably near Sebergham. I know nothing more of him.

I was talking to a friend earlier this week who once did a Master's in Law. He observed that such as memorial brasses, windows or lych gates might be tax deductible; churches are, and were c1919, charities! Adds another dimension to theories of altruism and the 'gifting' of memorials!

Thursday 13 November 2008

Brian McGuire, Royal Dublin Fusiliers - killed at Mons 1914

There are many sad stories associated with memorials throughout the county - pretty obvious really. But when I was first getting involved in them I found one which seemed to say a lot about the way in which the dead of the Great War were remembered until quite recently. To all intents and purposes they were largely forgotten - and indeed many, including this guy, still are. Nor is it everyone who treats memorials with the respect that they deserve.

In Ulverston cemetery there are quite a number of family headstones & gravemarkers that bear the names of men who died during, or as a consequence of, the Great War. One such is this neglected memorial to the McGuire family.

The memorial itself is broken. The cross which originally surmounted the base, & which has vanished completely, probably fell as the monument sank into the grave. Upon the base can be read the words;

In Honoured Memory of
Brian McGuire, 2nd Lt
Royal Dublin Fusiliers
Younger son of
George McGuire
Fell at the Battle of The Aisne, France
14th Sept 1914, aged 20 Years
How sad that it is so neglected. But it seems that there was probably no-one to care for it.

Brian's father died on May 8, 1899 aged 37 and is buried in this plot with Eleanor, Brian's grandmother, who died August 3, 1880 aged 50. In his working life George was Town Clerk of Bradford. Brian's medal card shows that his mother, Florence Hannah, remarried becoming Mrs Craven. She probably lived at Collingworth, Yorkshire in 1914/15 and later in 1917/18 at Beaufort Mansions, Chelsea. By the early '20s she was at 'The Bungalow', Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight.

Young Brian McGuire is buried at Vauxbuin, a concentration cemetery adjacent to large French and German war cemeteries. It was established after the armistice and contains close to 300 British dead of which 162 are identified. These bodies, mostly of 1918 casualties, were brought in from about a dozen dispersed burial sites around Soissons. Interestingly the CWGC website indicates that one grave at Vauxbuin contains the remains of a man killed in September 1914 and whose initial burial place was at Pargny-Filain, a German Communal Cemetery. Was this Brian McGuire?

I briefly checked on the web to see whether Brian McGuire is listed on Bradford's Memorial and was appalled to discover that a week before Armistice Day, 2008, many of the bronze plaques naming the dead had been ripped off the memorial and stolen.

Tuesday 11 November 2008

Cartmel Valley Memorials

Just had an email from Howard Martin. His website on the War Memorials of the Cartmel Valley is up at running @
Apart from anything else it has, or soon will have, some great pics of the valley

Monday 10 November 2008

My family's story of Remembrance

I know this blog was supposed to be about Cumbrian War Memorials, and mostly it still is. But you must forgive me if I slip in one or two postings about other stuff around the general theme. Yesterday I went to the cross at Ulverston and watched the Ceremony of Remembrance. That was after watching The Cenotaph on TV in the morning. On the Saturday evening I had also watched the Festival of Remembrance. Overkill you might think. But I find it all intensely moving.

When I was a child watching the Festival of Remembrance with my family was the most important event in our year. We sat in the lounge with a big open fire and sang the old, familiar songs of The Great War with Ralph Reader. Indeed Remembrancetide, as my gran called it, was far more emotionally charged than Christmas. In May 1918 my grandfather was killed in France. On 19/20 December 1941 my mother lost her only cousins, Harry & Cliff Waterworth, when their ship HMS Neptune was sunk off the Libyan coast (see ). Their father, Harry, my gran's brother, died of a broken heart soon after.
The last photo of Harry & Cliff aboard the Neptune. Writing home to their young wives, Sally & Doreen.

My own father fought with the 50th Royal Tank Regiment from the Battle of Alam Halfa in July 1942 through Sicily & Italy and on into the Greek Civil War. In Athens in 1945 he had the job of scraping the blasted remains of George Sprackland, his driver and dearest friend, off the side of a building and shovelling him into sandbags. How do you deal with that??

My father is extreme left, George second left. In the Western Desert, 1942.

This spot of film shows a few of the appalling events of the Greek Civil War, probably in Athens. The Tanks are perhaps of my father's unit who reclaimed their armour after a brief period as infantry.

So now when I watch these the events of Remembrancetide I am again with my family. I feel the presence of Sarah Elizabeth Alice my lovely gran, Claribel and Harry, my mother & father. What a man he was. A wonderful guy and an amazing Dad. At this time I miss them though they have been dead 20-30 years. I never valued them then.

I personally feel that Blair and others who voted on a lie for our involvement in America's wars, including John Hutton, my illustrious MP, should be made to spend a month with the families of war dead before sending boys out to kill & be killed. I loathe them for what they do in my name.

If kids are reading this - give yer mum 'n dad a hug. And yer gran 'n grandad! Ask them about their lives..........

Saturday 8 November 2008

At the going down of the sun ............


Whitbeck - Cumberland

Bit of info on this from Andy.........

"This simple, yet poignant, little memorial has always fascinated me ever
since I first noticed it about fifteen years ago. It tends to get hidden by
the fuschia during Spring and Summer !!

The Private Harold Mutton listed on it can present the war memorial
researcher with a bit of a puzzle.

He is described as being in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry and as
having been killed at Loos, although he is officially commemorated by the
CWGC as being in the Border Regiment and having been killed at Ypres
(commemorated on the Menin Gate).

However, being intrigued by this discrepancy, I did a bit of digging and
found that he had, in fact, been transferred to the KOYLI from the Border
Regiment and was serving with them when he was killed during the Battle of
the Somme. Hence, he should be commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial!!

I have passed on my findings to the MoD to have his commemorative details
corrected but there is no response from them as yet."

Friday 7 November 2008

Drowned on the Lusitania

It is too easy to imagine that all the casualties of war are military; men and women who signed up for service in the full knowledge of the dangers they faced in or around combat. However, the wars of the twentieth century were total wars engaging entire populations and vast numbers of civilians were killed.

One of the seminal events of the Great War was the sinking of the Cunard Liner RMS Lusitania on May 17, 1915 off the south coast of Ireland while making her way back to Liverpool from New York. Torpedoed by the U Boot U-20 she sank in 18 minutes with huge loss of life. Of 1,959 passengers aboard, 1,198 drowned. Many of the dead were Americans, people of wealth and influence. Indeed, the ship's sinking contributed to the United States eventual entry into the war.

In the parish church at Grange-over Sands there is a small plaque commemorating Evan Arthur Leigh of Yewbarrow Hall who was one of the dead. He was born on 28th April, 1850 the son of Evan Leigh of Newton Square, Manchester. After attending Mill Hill school he became an Engineer and Merchant of the firm of Leigh and Butler, Boston, U.S.A., and Temple Chambers, Brazenose Street, Manchester, and founder of E.A. Leigh & Co., 196, Deansgate, Manchester.

He was a major benefactor in Grange.

For details of the Lusitania disaster and a history of the ship start out at

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Fulfilling a promise

As the 90th anniversary of the armistice approaches this rather inadequate blog becomes especially poignant.

In the 1980s I put an article in the Manchester Evening News requesting information about the 16th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers - 2nd Salford Pals - the unit with which my Grandfather, James Arthur Wilkinson, was serving when he was killed on the night of May 28th 1918. I got a few replies informing me of the names and addresses of a few surviving veterans. One such was Bill Dutton formerly a Sergeant in the 15th Bn LFs, 1st Salfords. Aged about 94 he lived on a council estate in Salford, pretty much staying in his kitchen drinking tea, puffing on a broken old pipe and relying on neighbours for meals. He told lots of tales and also extracted a promise from me.

Bill had joined the 15th LFs in August 1914 with a bunch of pals. Among these was Percy Morrell Fensome, his best friend. They trained together through 1915 before going out to France at the back end of the year. In June of 1916 they had an argument and fell out. Then Percy was injured and went to hospital. However, on the night of June 30th as the Bn gathered in the front line trenches below Thiepval Ridge, Percy reappeared. He had wangled his way out of hospital to join his mates as they went over the top in 'The Big Push'. Making his way to the front line he looked out his best chum, Bill Dutton. In the previous week Bill's mother had written telling the pair of them to be friends. So there, in the trench looking out over no-mans-land, they hugged and made up.

Bill & Percy never met again. On the following morning, July 1st 1916, Percy was killed by machine gun fire while Bill spent the day in a shell hole before crawling to safety as night fell.

In 1923 Bill got on his bike in Salford and cycled to the Somme to try and find Percy's grave. He went back many times over succeeding years with the same purpose, finally giving up the search when he was approaching 70 years old. Percy's body was never identified; his name is on the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing of The Somme.

While we sat in that kitchen together in 1986 Bill, tears rolling down his cheeks, gave me this photo of his pal in his boy-scout uniform and I gave him my word that I would always do all I could to keep his old friend's memory alive.

So I have told the story again and now Percy is in cyberspace for the whole world to see.

My promise fulfilled.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

A gem of a memorial

Memorials, specifically of the Great War, reflect perceptions of purpose. People agonised over designs and details when trying to decide how best to commemorate the men of a community who had served or died in defence of King and Country. In many there is a poignancy in their naive execution, whereas others are sophisticated things, professionally created by artists of high repute.

One such is this Roll of Honour in the county. It is a wonderful piece of work. When I first came across it I was astonished, a real discovery. It is signed Jessie Bayes, but who is she?

Jessie was the youngest of four children born to Alfred Walter Bayes R.A. (c.1832 - 1909) & his wife Emily (nee Fielden) of Todmorden. Alfred was an Etcher, Engraver & 'Painter in Oil Colours', specialising in portraits, biblical subjects, landscapes and angling scenes. Daydreams is one of his paintings.

Alfred & Emily's children were: Emmeline (born London, c.1868), Walter John (1869-1956), Gilbert William (1872-1953) and Jessie (1878-c.1940). Three became artists.
Walter studied at the City and Guilds Technical College, Finsbury 1886-1900 and then at Westminster School of Art, 1900-2. He was a founder member of the Camden Town Group and of the London Group of Artists. He married his model, Kitty Telfer, in 1904.
He was Art Critic of the Athenæum (1906-16), a highly regarded teacher as the Headmaster of Westminster School of Art (1918-1934) and Lecturer on perspective to the Royal Academy and Slade School and Director of Painting at Lancaster School of Art. During the Great War he painted many pictures of the conflict such as The Underworld. London Tube c1917.

Gilbert was primarily a sculptor in Bronze and an architectural and monumental designer. Studied at the City and Guilds College, Finsbury, the Royal Academy Schools, 1896-9 and in Paris. He married fellow sculpter, Gertrude Smith, in 1906. He designed many medals and trophies including the Great Seal of King George V and the Seagrave Trophy. Other work includes the Great Clock at Selfridges Department Store in London (1931), the stone relief of sporting figures (1934) outside Lord's Cricket ground, History of Pottery through the Ages for the headquarters of Doulton’s on Albert Embankment, London (1938) and History of Drama through the Ages for the Saville Theatre (now the MGM Cinema), Shaftesbury Avenue. In 1935 he designed a medal to commemorate the launching of the new Cunard ocean liner, the Queen Mary. 

From 1939-44, he served as President of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.
After the Great War Gilbert designed a number of War Memorials, notably that at Broadstone, Dorset (detail shown here).

Others can be seen at Holme Lacey, Herefordshire, Todmorden, Yorkshire and at Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Other work can be seen in St. Mary's Church, Hampstead, London and monuments in bronze can be seen in St. James Churchyard, Warter, Yorks, to G.V.Wilson (1909) and Lord Nunburnholme (1910). There is also a statue (with W.C.H.King) of philanthropic industrialist Robert Owen in Newtown, Powys. All of these can be found on the WWW.
And finally, Jessie

She was born at Hampstead, London and as her brothers established themselves as artists she went to work at the Prudential Insurance Company earning £40 per year. Rescued by her brother Gilbert who financed evening classes for her at the Central School of Arts & Crafts she soon made a name for herself as a miniature painter and designer in the Arts and Crafts style and was elected a member of the Royal Society of Miniature Painters, Sculpters and Gravers (RMS) in 1906. From 1908 she exhibited at the Royal Academy .

The roll which so impresses me is made on a wood base with plaster embellishment in the style of a vaguely late mediaeval altar piece or icon. The flanking columns have relief renaissancesque decoration and above and below the list of names there are figures of angels and St George slaying the dragon.

The angel figures are taken pretty much direct from works such as Fra Angelico's fresco, The Annunciation, of 1437.

 The detail of St George is delightful.

Above the list of names, arranged by Regiment, are the armorials of (probably) King George V and of the ancient Borough to which the long list of names of the men who served and died belonged.

I have taken some of the pics from an informative and comprehensive history of the Bayes family which can be found 

I apologise if I offended.

Thursday 4 September 2008

An empty grave

Scattered throughout the county are a number of what appear to be gravestones marking the last resting place of deceased servicemen. In this, however, they are misleading, for there is no body and they must be viewed as memorials.

One such rather neglected example is in the churchyard of St Thomas's Church, Kendal where a stone commemorates Captain Evelyn Henry Le Mesurier Sinkinson, 24th Punjabis. He 'Fell Heroically' near Nazirieh (Nasariyah), Mesopotamia (Iraq), on July 4th 1915, aged 33.

Why is the memorial here? The CWGC Debt of Honour register shows that his mother, Katharine Irene - the widow of Edward James Sinkinson of the Indian Civil Service, was remarried to a Mr Fisher by the time the Imperial War Graves Commision was gathering personal information in the early 1920s and living at 49 Haverstock Hill, Hampstead, London. Captain Evelyn was born in Allahabad. So, did they live in Kendal during the war years? Was Captain Evelyn married with a home in Kendal?

Since adding this posting I have received a message from

The administrator of this WW1 chatroom/blog listed the posting and the following appeared;

Eldest surviving son of the late James Sinkinson, sometime Financial Secretary to the Supreme Government of India, and of his wife, Irene Sinkinson, now Mrs. Victor Fisher, and grandson of Colonel C. B. Le Mesurier, C.B., D.S.O., and of Contessa Zancarol. Godson of the late Lord Roberts.

Captain Sinkinson joined the Militia in 1901, and volunteered for active service in South Africa. He was gazetted to the Liverpool Regiment in 1902. During operations in the Transvaal he was severely injured in the leg and was unable to rejoin his Regiment until 1904: he received the Queen's Medal and three clasps. He then transferred to the Indian Army, and was gazetted Captain in 1911. While in India, during 1914, he was Recruiting Officer for the Sikhs and Dogras. His great ambition, however, was to see really active service, and this was gratified, when, in 1915, he was sent to Mesopotamia and succeeded in getting into the firing line, "where every keen soldier must desire to be," as he wrote home.

After the action of July 14th, 1915, he was reported as missing. Two months later a telegram was received saying, "Captain Sinkinson's dead body has been found and buried where he fell by the Regiment."

Major Cook-Young, of the Indian Expeditionary Force D, wrote;

"The Regiment as usual did magnificently, but were attacked by Arabs behind the Turkish position in front . . . the operation was mostly in deep water, up to the waist and higher. Captain Sinkinson was not at first wounded, and, it appears, tried to rally the men. What is so sad is that he could have got out of it, but refused, and sent two men back for ammunition. These two Sepoys were grand men and tried forcibly to carry Captain Sinkinson out of action he would not permit it. . . . On returning to the place where they had left him he was not there. The obvious thing was that he had been killed, and his body lost in deep water.
His loss to me is irreparable. I never had any affection for any individual in this world as I had for him, and I only wish I had been there to save him or to die with him."

Tuesday 2 September 2008

A bit further with Denton Lee, Langdale

Just received an email from Agnes Ebrey about James Denton Lee's memorial stone in Busk Wood, Langdale. It was sent to her by a third party who continues to look into the stone's origins.

Apparently James' sister, who never married and became a successful hairdresser
in Blackpool, paid for a National Trust woodland to be planted and James'
memorial to be placed there. She also paid for a seat to be placed in his memory
at Trinity College Cambridge.

So probably more to come in due course. The next thing is clearly to email the archivist at Trinity College, Cambridge for info on James. Watch this space!

Monday 18 August 2008

A statistic

When discussing the losses in the Great War, and specifically those suffered by the industrial communities of the north such as Accrington, the focus is invariably on the Pals Battalions; units raised in local neighbourhoods and often stripping whole streets or factories of young men. However, the appalling losses of such as the Accy Pals at Serre on July 1 1916, were often suffered by territorial units. Maybe not quite so bad, but bad enough.

The graph below shows when the men and boys listed on Ulverston's primary memorial were killed. (August 1914 to December 1918).

The most striking feature is the huge peak of July (14), August (25), September (8), 1916 when the lads were fighting on The Somme. Nothing approaching such a concentrated loss was experienced before or after. Nor should it be forgotten that for every man killed approx 3 would be wounded - thus, with 47 dead, 'Lile Oosten' probably suffered a total of some 200 casualties during this period. 20 of these men were killed in July/August fighting with the 1/4th King's Own, the local Territorial unit that recruited throughout Furness and Cartmel. Indeed in the whole three month period the unit lost 194 men killed and perhaps 500-600 wounded.

These casualties were largely a consequence of the attempt the break the second German line on The Somme at Guillemont. The men of Furness and Cartmel attacked a quarry to the north west of the village from a start line at Arrow Head copse just to the west of 'The Sunken Lane'. They were cut to pieces. A description of this place is contained in Ernst Junger's classic 'Storm of Steel'; as a young German soldier Junger was fighting in The Sunken Lane some weeks after the 1/4th attacked. Check out . The pic show the site of Guillemont Station some 200 yds north of where the ulverston lads fought. This was a railway station! The village used to be on the horizon!

One of those killed, on 8 August, was John Burrow, Assistant Master in Dalton School. He is buried at Guillemont Rd Cemetery - close to Raymond Asquith, son of Herbert Asquith, Prime Minister in the early years of the war. Raymond's grave is just to the left of the entrance, seen here. John's is at the back of the cemetery.

John Burrow was an old boy of Ulverston Victoria Boy's Grammar and although his name is on the school's memorial his photograph does not seem to appear on the school's photographic roll.

Of all the guys killed in this three month period, July - Sept 1916 and named on Ulverston Cross, one died in Tanzania, one in Iraq, one at Ypres and two at home. The rest were killed on the Somme. 26 have no known grave and are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to The Missing of the Somme.

The graph is interesting in other ways. The first peak of casualties (reading from the left) illustrates losses suffered at Festubert in the summer of 1915, shortly after the 1/4th went to France. Also the losses of 1918 (54) approached those of 1916 (69). Indeed for the country as a whole the casualties increased in each year of the war. It is only in small communities, such as Ulverston, that the losses are skewed by the involvement of a territorial or a Pal's Battalion.

Tuesday 5 August 2008

Charney Hall, Grange over Sands?

One of the things I keep coming back to is the number of memorials that have either vanished or about which very little is known. A friend of mine recently came up with one at Silverdale, just outside the borders of Cumbria. A Roll of Honour of the men of a local church had at some time in the past been used as a backing board for another more recent picture. It only came to light a few months ago when the picture required cleaning and re-framing.

Another mystery is presented by this photo postcard I recently bought on ebay for a couple of pounds.

The picture clearly shows a building described as 'Charney Hall Memorial Hall'. But where is it? Until the 1970s (I think) there was in Grange over Sands a private preparatory school called Charney Hall. Sadly the entire school complex was subsequently demolished and is now a series of residential buildings.

During the early years of the last century the school was run by George Podmore, who describes himself on the 1901 census as MA Oxon, Private Schoolmaster, with the help of assistant master, George Antrobus . There were some 20 boarders including a number of the Wordsworth family. A number of local gentry families sent their sons here to prepare them for one of the greater public schools. In due course many of these joined the forces and it is thus no suprise to find in Grange parish church a memorial to old boys killed in the Boer War. Indeed, the church also holds the battlefield cross of Hubert Podmore, one of George's four sons, who was killed around Ypres in 1917. See this posting on the Great War discussion forum for exhaustive details of Podmore's carreer.

However, there is no memorial that I am aware of to the old boys who were killed in the Great War. I find that strange and thus wonder whether the above picture is in fact the school's Great War Memorial. A contemporary OS map shows an isolated building to the north east of the main house which seems to have the same shape and plan as the photo.

I have made some rather desultory enquiries in the town but no-one seems terribly interested or to have any memories of the school prior to its demise. But surely the school had a memorial?

Monday 7 July 2008

A case of mistaken identity at Backbarrow?

Some time ago I had a phone call from a chap in Backbarrow to inform me of a memorial, marked on the Ordnance Survey map, that seemed not only to have disappeared but which nobody in the village had any knowledge of. In doing so he presented me with yet another mystery.

The words 'War Memorial' are quite clearly marked on the 1973 1:10,000 map covering South Lakes at SD 35555 54635.

However, on the First Edition Lancashire sheet 12.2 - 1:2,500 surveyed in 1888 and published in 1890 there is no indication of a memorial but there are the letters 'W.M', very close to where a memorial is indeed marked on the earlier map.

Online conversation with the Charles Close Society, a bunch of map enthusiasts, has confirmed that the letters 'WM' on an OS map normally signifies a weighing machine. But before accepting the fallibility of the Ordnance Survey and entirely abandoning the notion of a memorial it would be good to know what all the other editions of the OS survey of Backbarrow indicate. So if you have any old maps - check it out and let me know!

Wednesday 25 June 2008

Day out in Dalton - part 3

The principal Great War memorial in Dalton is set in a small garden on Station Rd on land that was gifted by the Furness Railway Company. In April 1921 the contract for its design was given to Oakley of Barrow.

As often encountered with the construction of memorials there was a deal of discussion around the design and difficulties with finance. In March 1921 a meeting of the War Memorial Committee was rather preoccupied withg the cost of landscaping the site, some £400, against £600 for the memorial itself. At that time £780 had been raised and there was a suggestion from Mr Spencer that 1d be added to the rates, already 3s 6d in the £, to cover the outstanding cost. Councillor Fisher thought such an idea was 'repugnant' and Mrs Layland, secretary, suggested that they should undertake 'yet another appeal to a number of people in the town who were well able to give and who had contributed nothing at all'. In the meantime, however, it was agreed that all the churches in the town be approached to have collections on April 30th, 'Forget-me-not Day', to raise funds for the memorial. It was further agreed that Dalton Urban District Council would maintain it in perpetuity, a task now undertaken by Barrow in Furness District Council.

Just opposite Dalton's memorial is a very nicely proportioned Georgian house, set back behind a large front garden. This is the Conservative Club where there is another memorial, a rather pleasant illuminated item with a picture of King George V, cut from a magazine, as a centrepiece. It is unsigned but must have been put together by a member of the club.

Dalton is a typical example of the diversity of memorialisation after 1914 as various organisations strove to establish their place in the Great Sacrifice as a statement of engagement with local and national endeavours in the war. There is certainly a sense of ownership of the soldiers. Nor is Dalton parts 1.2 & 3 likely to be the totality of memorials; local schools will almost certainly have established rolls of serving men (& women) after 1915 as will the various non-conformist chapels. Whether they survive, in attic or cellar, must remain unknown although I have a memory of a newspaper article in the North West Evening Mail some ten or more years ago (before I began to obsess) describing the discovery of two memorials in an attic in the town. I will try to trace them.

Monday 16 June 2008

Our former enemies

While spending inordinate amounts of time describing war memorials in Cumbria it is easy to forget the losses of other nations, in Europe and beyond. As war is the universal human condition, so too is the consequent loss; to family, community and country. Thus does each search for appropriate ways to express ideas of service or sacrifice, employing an iconography and language that best expresses national or communal perceptions of purpose; in the case of the Great War the validation of mass death.

I recently bought a job lot of old photos on ebay, among them was this image of the dedication of a war memorial in some anonymous village in Germany or Austria.

A group of rather stereotypical German gentlemen of all ages (no women!) are gathered around a new stone memorial. At the top is a rather modernist figure of a naked man holding a broken sword, gazing heavenwards towards what appears to be a cloud with rays emanating downwards. The dedication in the central panel, above and below the list of names, reads,

Unsere tapferen Gefallenen fur Volk und vaterland zur ehre und zum gedenken.
Die dankbare gemeinde gross besten
I would appreciate a translation!

What does this imagery, somewhat different from British memorials, mean? What does it tell us about post 1919 Germany or Austria?

Saturday 14 June 2008

Day out in Dalton part 2

When I first started looking at Great War memorials for my MA I thought it would be easy; a gentle jaunt round South Lakes taking a few pics, a few hours in the archives and Bingo!! A dissertation! How wrong I was! It soon became obvious that the listing at the IWM, upon which I was basing my research, was terribly incomplete. Great War memorials are everywhere, probably thousands of them, created from 1914 through to the present. Communities erected a multiplicity as individual churches, chapels, schools and businesses laid claim to their citizen soldiers. Dalton in Furness is a typical example. The large memorial on Station Road, to be shown in a later posting, is rightly considered to be the 'Town War Memorial'. But the presence of many others in the town shows that the processes of memorialisation after the Great War were much more complicated than the erection of a single, centralised memorial.

The first Dalton posting describes those in St Mary's parish church, though even this listing is unlikely to be complete - I didn't check every item of furniture, the communion plate, church warden's staffs or even the Bible in daily use. (At Mansergh the Bible used in every service has the names of the WW1 village dead on the fly page).

Beyond St Mary's there are more WW1 memorials. In Dalton castle, owned by the National Trust, there is a large unsigned brass plaque commemorating five men of the Dalton Co-operative Society who died.

It is unlikely to belong here. But where might it be from? In 2001 I received a letter from a long time resident of Dalton who remembered seeing a memorial in the co-operative buildings at the bottom of Chapel Street during the early 1990s. So is it from there? Almost certainly not. The castle's plaque has been in this position for many years; certainly more than twenty. But apparently there were a number of co-operative shops and offices in the town; so was the memorial from one of these? Don't know! Dalton resident required.

I have already posted a pic of Aircraftsman Redhead's memorial in the Methodist church, but this not the only one in that building. There is also a rather imposing marble plaque bearing the names of 16 men who died between 1914 - 1919, and as an afterthought one who died in 1921 'From the effects of the war'. A further 4 are named who died in the second war. (I will return to this interesting memorial in a later posting).

Finally, for the time being, there is a unsigned plaque in St Margaret's Catholic church with the names of 21 men who were killed in the Great War.

These, however, were not Catholics. Until, I think, the 1960s this was an Anglican church which became redundant before being adopted by the town's Catholic community.

Not finished with Dalton yet - there will be more described in part 3!!

Monday 9 June 2008

Shake loose the border

Another beautiful summer day today, so I took off up the west coast with a friend. After a look around Millom, an astonishingly interesting little town, (reputedly the only place in England with a Salvation Army 'Fortress'!) we made our way to Muncaster. As with so many others the ancient church there is replete with reminders of an ancient history. One memorial was particularly fascinating, a reminder of the turbulent days of border warfare that ravaged Cumberland, Westmorland and Lunesdale for centuries.

In Memory of Will Penyngton Arm(?) whose fyrst Wife was Ioan Wharton daughter of Thom Lord Wharton. His secondde wyffe was Dame Bridgett Askew daughter of Sir Iohn Hudlestone By whom he had 3 sons Joseph John & William.
Will Penyngton & all his tried Horsemen were called out upon Service of the Borders
Iuorum animabus propitiehur dens ani

This brass has a companion, stylistically identical, that is dated 1801. But although retrospective it clearly commemorates the service of William Penyngton in the wars of the 16th century.

On November 24, 1542 William Pennington was with his father in law, Thomas, Lord Wharton, Warden of the English West March, at the Battle of Solway Moss where some 18000 Scots were pretty much trounced by a few thousand Borderers. After the battle Lord Wharton submitted a report to Henry VIII.

And so the Scots after a greatand long chase of our prickers at Akeshawhill [Oakshawhill], returned down towards Artureth howes, and there great numbers then perfectly in our sights and partly as we stood, with their sides towards us burning homeward, and our prickers not pricking because of their ordnance and great powers, they then something homewards, we with six standards, [that is] to say my lord Parre's in the order of my near cousin Walter Strickland and two hundred archers of Kendale with him; my cousin Sir William Musgrave's; my brother-in-law Sir Thomas Curwen's; my cousin and deputy John Lowther's; my son in law William Pennington's; and my own with the number of twelve hundred men or near thereabouts; come over the water of Levyn more than a pace on horseback to Howpsikehill full in the sight of the Scots, and there a little paused on horseback to put the six standards with those men to the most show and safety for the relief of our prickers...

What this is basically saying is that the English raised their standards on a hill above the Scots and faced them out to relieve the 'prickers' who were harassing the Scots army. The 'Prickers' were the men of the English border clans; Grahams, Armstrongs, Hetheringtons & Elliots who, mounted on their sturdy little horses, pricked their foes with their long lances. Seeing the great standards of the border lords raised on the hill above them, the Scots, under a confused and dysfunctional command lost their morale and started to collapse. The subsequent rout was total.

Within weeks the Scots king was dead & his young daughter, Mary, on the throne. In the years that followed Will Pennington was heavily involved in the 'Rough Wooing' that reduced the border to a state of bloody anarchy. Check out the English Heritage link for more information on the battle.

Saturday 7 June 2008

day out in Dalton part 1

Nice day today so decided to take an afternoon in Dalton. I wanted to photograph a group of pamphlets in the castle about the town's war memorials and drop off a copy of Danny Elsworth's article from last years transactions on the possible Castellum at Dalton & the Roman roads through Furness. It was my second attempt at photographing the pamphlets, first time batteries went flat, this time blurred! Maybe third time lucky? But St Mary's parish church was open.

The elegant Great War marble memorial of red veined and white marble is on a column at the west end of the nave. It was unveiled on June 19, 1921 by Major EB Pooley TD of the 1/4 King's Own Royal Lancaster Rgt., with the assistance of Canon Herbert Campbell, Chancellor of the Diocese of Carlisle.

Close by are two further WW2. memorials, a larger one of Burlington Blue and a smaller one of oak, commemorating the men of the parish of Dalton and, separately, of St Mary's church who died in the conflict.

It is unusual to see two distinct memorials listing the men of parish and church in this way. It also illustrates the manner in which, even after 1945, the Anglican communion continued to see itself as the focus of community remembrance irrespective of faith, creed or denomination. I wonder how it would cope with the multi-culturalism of today?

The church has a number of high status memorials erected to commemorate members of the Baldwin family. A group on the north side of the sanctuary were created for three who died in War. The earliest two, of repousse copper mounted on oak, are for Midshipman Anthony Edward Baldwin who died on HMS Queen Mary at Jutland, aged 16 & Lt Hugh Reginald Baldwin, Irish Guards, killed in action in France, August 27, 1918, aged 20. They are unsigned but look like Keswick School.

The central plaque, of pink granite, commemorates Dorothy Baldwin killed in the London Blitz, December 9, 1940 while serving as an Air Raid Warden.