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Saturday 26 January 2008

Cumbrians in Canada

Before 1914 many young guys from Cumbria emigrated to the colonies, and judging by the names on war memorials primarily to Canada. Quite a few of them were miners, maybe tempted by the hope of prospecting for gold following the Klondyke Gold Rush of the 1890s. But there were also considerable numbers of professional men who left the hills of Lakeland to make a new life.

At St Martin's church, Bowness on Windermere, there is a fine memorial window to 163, Lance Corporal James Everett Bownass, Princess Pat's Light Infantry. An Associate of the Royal Insitute of British Architects and the son of John Titterington & Bessie Bownass of Grove House, Windermere, his attestation papers show that he joined the Canadian army in Ottowa on August 24, 1914, just a couple of weeks after the outbreak of war. He was killed in action aged 32 near Ypres on May 8, 1915.
The impressive window, signed by A K Nicholson shows (l to r) the first depiction in England of the canonised Joan of Arc, St Martin & St George. Beneath these imposing figures are three panels depicting the ruined cathedral at Ypres, an explosion on the battlefield with a white dove rising from it - presumably the boy's soul - and an angel holding a wreath, signifying victory over death. It is one of a number of memorial windows in the church. There is also a quite amazing war memorial chapel, entirely furnished with articles given in memory of fallen soldiers.
Before moving across the pond, James, ARIBA, had served some time with the Middlesex Yeomanry. In death he became another of the missing, his name is engraved on the Menin Gate.

There are other Canadian soldier's pictures on the Roll at Ulverston Victoria. Among these is 523248, Gunner Alan Miles. Aged 25 and married to Ethel Helena he joined up in Calgary on April 18, 1916. The Grammar School magazine for Christmas 1916 lists him as serving with the Canadian Mounted police but subsequent issues have him as a Gunner. Although his attestation papers state that he was born at Cark in Cartmel, the 1901 census suggests that it was Egton cum Newland, probably at Mount Pleasant where his family was then living. His father, Harvey, aged 64, was a Norwich man who earned his living as a 'stone carver' & two of his four sisters were employed as domestic servants. He did well to obtain a place at Ulverston Grammar School, probably through a supported scholarship; his parents must have been proud of him.
He survived the war, presumably his grandkids are over in Canada somewhere, unaware that Grandfather's pic is now on the web!
Both of these guys had engaged in military service before the Great War. Bownass had served for two years with the Middlesex Yeomanry and Miles two years with the Westmorland and Cumberland Yeomanry. Such Territorial service was popular in late Victorian & Edwardian England, it gave young guys a chance to get away from home with their mates and play soldiers and it fitted well into an ethos of service to King and Empire promoted by the 'muscular Christianity' of the pre-war church establishment.

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