Category Archives: Great War

A Hundred Years Ago…

Sorry, this is a bit of a downbeat post, but it relates to events 100 years ago today, and it seems appropriate. This is from the Clitheroe Advertiser on 21st December 1917.

Obituary notice - Wm H Wilson

Obituary notice – W H Wilson

It’s not quite accurate, as he’d originally volunteered in 1914 but been turned down (my grandfather went with him to volunteer that day but claimed to be less than nine months younger than him – this was hailed as a medical miracle by the recruiting sergeant, who also rejected my grandfather.) The fact that he wasn’t called up until  a year after conscription could indicate that he was needed on the farm as part of the war effort, but there is no indication on his card.

He joined the battalion in July 1917 and was wounded in action on 22nd October, a slight gunshot wound to the head according to his medical records. Slight? They were obviously tougher in those days.

He rejoined the battalion on 5th December, and was, as reported in the paper, fatally wounded whilst in trenches in the Ypres salient on 12th December.

He is buried in Lijsssenthoek Militart Cemetery and is unusual amongst the three members of the family killed in the war in having a marked grave.

 

This is the lisy of personal effects sent home to his mother – photos, wallet, cigarette case, cards, 2 cap badges, 2 numerals (probably shoulder titles), 9 carat gold ring (WHW), 1 farthing, bag.. They would later send a tin case containing a safety razor and blades. Shaving was a complicated subject in the trenches.

WHW Effects

He was, according to one of my great-grandmother’s letters, walking out with a local woman, before being sent to France. At that point he had only five months to live and was to be wounded twice and mentioned in despatches in that time.

    

The war memorial in Slaidburn (currently being restored) features his name, as does my great-grandmother’s gravestone (which also mentions my great-grandfather). If you compared the war memorial  figures at Clitheroe and Slaidburn you will see that they are the same, something I learned whilst pteparing the previous post on Clitheroe. She never recovered from Billy’s death (he was Billy to the family – William to record-keepers) and threw out anything that reminded her of the war. That, we are told, is why there is no existing photo of him.

Great-grandmother is buried in Chatburn, the village where my mother was bombed, and where I later went to school less than 100 yards from the gravestone, which I never knew about until a few years ago.

This closes the circle as her son-in-law is commemorated on Chatburn war memorial – something else I never knew when I went to Chatburn school – the school is the building in the background of this photograph.

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Clitheroe and Family History

We went to Slaidburn on Monday, taking the tree picture on the way. It’s a fascinating old village, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Harry Potter film (or a Hammer House of Horror film for those of us who remember them).

I’ll be writing about that visit in a couple of days.

Then we went to Clitheroe. It’s a pleasant small town not far from Pendle Hill, and it has cropped up a few times in recent posts, mainly as a residence for various members of my family. I used to enjoy visiting it when I was a child, though I have to say that I never noticed how hilly it was when I was younger.

It was a dullish day so I had a go with the effects on my computer – not sure if it’s worked or not. One of my early memories is of visiting the war memorial with my grandmother and being shown her father’s name on the side.

 

Like so many others he’s just a name on a memorial now, I doubt if anyone who knew him is alive now.

These are various homes of the Carus family over the years. The one with the red car is where my grandmother was living with her widowed mother in 1917, and may be the one where the family photo was taken. The view of the castle is the one they would have seen when they stepped outside.

Harry Carus and family. Clitheroe 1915.

Harry Carus and family -1915

The house with the silver car outside is the one where all the family lived in the late 19th century – all nine of them!

The other one, with the box balls in the front garden, is where Isaac Newton Carus lived, before handing it on to one of his sons.

I have a lot more to do, so this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s a strange feeling, seeing all these places where family used to live, particularly as I must have passed within 100 yards of one of them dozens of times without realising.

Poppies – Yes, it’s That Time of Year Again

Julia and the Garden Group made poppies a few weeks ago, cutting the bottoms of plastic bottles, fitting wire stalks, spraying them red and sticking the bottle tops in the centres.

It’s not a very complicated process, though the step I missed out (smoothing the cut edges using a candle flame) does have the occasional interesting moment. Julia tried making leaves using green plastic bottles, but they turned out a bit see-through. She doesn’t have enough money in the kitty for green paint, in case you were wondering.

With the addition of some scrim netting (because it’s slightly military) and some rosemary (for remembrance) it is now forming an art installation in the garden. See how easily I slip into the language of the aesthete – art installation indeed. It’s some plastic flowers on a fence post. It also includes some sedums (because they are still in prolific flower) and some chicken wire (because there wasn’t enough scrim).

One of the group has printed out a suitable poem too. It’s the Moina Michael poem “We shall Keep the Faith“. I’ve left a link rather than displaying it in full. To be honest, I don’t really like it . Apart from the sentiment I don’t like the way it rhymes red and dead twice in seventeen lines.

As she’s the originator of Poppy Days I will cut her some slack and say no more. After all, my view may not reflect the views of posterity.

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Poppies and Rosemary

 

 

Peace Medals

When all the fighting was done, the UK decided to have a national Peace Celebration. The selected day was Saturday 19th July 1919. This was a little optimistic as the Great War was not officially over when they started the planning, and we were still engaged fighting the Bolsheviks in Russia. We were also still fighting amongst ourselves, with mutinies in Southampton, Calais and Kinmel and tanks on the streets of Glasgow.

There was trouble during the celebrations too, with the riot at Luton being the best known. The town museum, as I remember from a visit many years ago, has a livelier version of events than The Guardian. They blame trouble between the The Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation and the Comrades of the Great Warfollowed by a riot which involved looting a piano shop and playing Keep the Home Fires Burning after setting fire to the Town Hall. The two ex-service organisations had different political outlooks, the Comrades of the Great War being set up as a right wing alternative to The Discharged Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Federation. Eventually they were to resolve their differences and become founder organisations of the British Legion.

Part of the Peace Celebrations featured the giving of medallions, often in white metal, to local school children. Unlike 1911, Nottingham didn’t produce a medal. The Nottingham Peace Celebrations provided sports, cinema visits, fancy dress parades and teas for 30,000 children, though there is no mention of medals, apart from sports prizes.

Some places provided generic medals, though others were specifically made for individual towns and villages. The Derby Peace Medal in the header page is one of the better examples of design – featuring the badge of the local regiment.

The Sheffield medal is more typical, with a generic figure of Peace on one side and the city coat of arms on the other side.

The Birmingham medal is slightly better from the design point of view – I’ve always liked this representation of Victory. It features on a generic peace medal, with an agricultural scene on the reverse, which was the first of these medals I ever had (given to me by my grandfather back in the 1970s).

This is the obverse and reverse of the Derby medal.

Note: I’ve added a link to the previous post to access a picture of the 1911 silver steward’s jewel.

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 3)

W D Carus (2)Only one of the other three brothers seems to have served in the war.

Thomas, the oldest brother, was a Labourer in a Print Works in 1891, a Cotton Mill Oiler in 1901 and a Corporation Labourer in 1911. According to his obituary (September 1938) he joined the Clitheroe Fire Brigade in 1911 and served for 26 years. I’ll leave that for another post.

Albert, who was unmarried, and a Print Works Labourer in 1911, died in 1913. I don’t know anything about the circumstances, so that’s another avenue of research. In 1911 there was someone else in the Carus household too – Margaret Evelyn, a grand daughter aged seven. She was born in Aldershot, and that is part of Walter’s tale.

In 1911 Walter was living with wife and two younger children in Aldershot, where he was working as a carman for a furniture company.

There is little military paperwork, just an index card (pictured above) for a Walter Carus indicating that he went to France on 18th August 1914. On the back of the card is a Clitheroe address.

Adding Aldershot to a soldier who went to France within two weeks of the start of the war, I decided that it was likely that Walter had been a regular soldier before the war, and he had been called back from the Reserve (they mainly signed on for seven years in the army and five in the Reserve).

And that, as I often say, was that.

Looking through the papers, I was able to find this article in the edition for 3rd August 1917. The superimposed blue frames are part of the search process.

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From the mention of artillery, it looks like he may have been in an artillery ammunition column, delivering shells to the front. I can see that three years of that would produce “some exceedingly narrow escapes”.

The next time he appears in the paper is in 1955, when 50 members of the family took part in a reunion, when a son and a daughter, and their respective spouses, returned from overseas military postings. The full family was three sons, seven daughters, 34 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. Plus in-laws. One of the sons-in-law produced cakes for the party – he was a prize-winning member of the Army Catering Corps so they were in safe hands.

His final appearance in the paper is a short obituary in 1957, which reveals the additional details that he served in the Army Service Corps for 19 years and was an Old Contemptible and member of the British Legion. He was a joiner by trade and retired from his last job, at the Ribblesdale Cement Co Ltd when he was 65.

I had three other relatives working there around that time, all from different branches of the family tree.

An Old Contemptible, in case you aren’t familiar with the term, is a soldier who served in France and Belgium with the British Army in the first phase of the war – 5th August 1914 to 22nd November 1914. They were referred to as a “contemptible little army” by the Kaiser.

It’s true they weren’t a very big army, and they didn’t have great equipment. If you subscribe to traditional views of history they may even have been badly led.

But they did what was necessary.

 

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 2)

I didn’t really know anything about the rest of the Carus family – my Grandmother had been brought up by her mother’s family after she was orphaned and her uncles had all  died before I was born.

Using census records I was able to reconstruct the family – Susannah (b 1872), Thomas (b 1876), Isaac (b 1879), Walter (b 1882), Albert (b 1884), Harry (b 1887) and Charlotte, who seems to have become Margaret (b 1890). I must spend a few minutes sorting out her details. There were also three children who died in the gaps between censuses. In the 1911 census they asked how long a couple had been married, how many children they had had and how many of the children were still living.

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Because Isaac was Isaac Newton Carus and Walter was Walter Dugdale Carus, which were both distinctive, I checked them out through the army records – there were only 16 entries for Carus in the medal record cards so I thought I had a good chance. Isaac N Carus popped up – entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal with the Lancashire Fusiliers. There was a note on his card that he had enlisted on 8th December 1915, several months before conscription, and had been discharged on 12th September 1918 under King’s Regulations 392 xvi. This is a catch-all regulation – “No longer physically fit for service”. It could be through wounds, disease or other causes. The next step was to check what they call the Silver War Badge Roll – it provides the additional information that I N Carus served overseas, was 39 on discharge and was issued with badge number B6.

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The Silver War Badge was first issued in September 1916 to servicemen who had left the service for a variety of reasons and was meant to show that they were not shirkers, deserving of a white feather. The first 450,000 men were given badges with no prefix, then they started the badges with the B prefix. Great Uncle Isaac was 6th on that list.

That was where I had to leave Isaac for the time being.

I was, however, able to pick him up quite easily when I took a look at the papers as he was the first Carus reference to come up. He died in Blackburn Royal Infirmary on 17th May 1947 at the age of  68. He is called “one of the best known Clitheronians” and had been badly disabled after being wounded with the Lancashire Fusiliers in 1917.

He worked as a printer, ending up with the Clitheroe Advertiser, but had to retire in 1925 due to his war injuries. He was active in the Oddfellows, the Weslyan Church (a Sunday School teacher for over 20 years) and the cricket club. He played football in his youth and was a regular in the cricket team (mainly as wicket keeper for the seconds) until his wounding, after which he became scorer and joined the committee.

He was survived by his wife, two sons and two daughters. The sons both served in the Second World War and survived to play in many post-war cricket matches.

Unfortunately I have no photographs, but am working on that.

 

Bicycles and the Military Cyclists

Today, the image of soldiers on bicycles seems incongruous, but in the late 19th century we were not blessed with quite so much technology. We take personal transport for granted, but at this point in history you either walked or, if you were rich enough, used a horse. Bicycles, in their way, were a quiet revolution.

The earliest cycle design dates back to 1534 when Caprotti, a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci, sketched a design. The first modern cycles, without pedals, were used in the early 19th century and pedals appeared in 1863. The Scots were at the cutting edge of bicycle design at that time (a fact I throw in for Tootlepedal). Designs moved on to the “ordinary” or “penny farthing” design.

Thomas Stevens used a penny farthing on his trip when he became the first man to ride round the world on a bicycle in 1884-6. Annie Londonderry was the first woman to travel round the world with a bicycle, in 1894-5.

The first British military cyclists to see action were the messengers attached to the Jameson Raid in 1895-6. They appeared again during the Second Boer War of 1899-1902, when one unit was equipped with specially adapted tandems to ride along railway lines and guard them from sabotage. Both sides used bicycle troops as couriers, scouts and raiders.

Unlikely as it may seem to a generation that needs four wheel drive to cross open country, bicycles were seen as the solution to moving quantities of troops rapidly across open ground and in Switzerland they were able to travel on terrain that horses could not. With a network of roads available to them bicycle troops were seen as cheaper, quieter and easier to train than cavalry.

Both sides used bicycles in the Great War and they were also a feature of the Second World War (the Japanese using 50,000 bicycle troops in Malaya),  Vietnam and the Tamil Tigers’ uprising in Sri Lanka. The Swiss disbanded their bicycle troops in 2001, whilst the Sri Lankan army still has bicycle troops.

At the beginning of the Great War the British Army had 14 battalions of bicycle infantry ready for use. Many were used on coastal defence in the UK, and others served on the Western Front, though they were not particularly useful until the resumption of open warfare at the end of 1918.

Although this may not seem like good value it was at least as effective as the cavalry, and bikes, unlike horses, didn’t need food or stables and didn’t produce manure.

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Painted enamel brooch of the Northern Cyclists – about three times life size, which is why some of the detail looks a bit blurred.

The Kent Cyclists served on  the North West Frontier during the war and, along with the 25th (County of London) Cyclist Battalion served in the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

The 2/10th (Cyclist) Battalion, Royal Scots (Lothian Regiment) served in the North Russian campaign.

The Army Cyclist Corps was disbanded in 1920 and all the units were redeployed by 1922.

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Sweetheart brooch of the Huntingdonshire Cyclist Battalion. They spent most of their war guarding the Yorkshire coast. The fact that it is still there speaks highly of their efficiency and a job well done.