The featured image is a bronze memorial plaque from the First World War. They were given to the families of servicemen, and women, who were killed in the war. Around 1,355,000 were issued, with 600 being named to women.
We bought it in the shop a couple of years and it has been lying in the back room since then. It’s clearly had a hard life. The hole at the top with wire loop is a modification you regularly see. It’s a defacement, but at least it means that the family displayed it for a while in memory of the life it represents. There’s a nick in the edge, probably where it was dropped, and green specks in several places. Normally that is verdigris, but in this case it’s what I’ve always thought was Windsor Green paint, a traditional shade used on exterior woodwork in old cottages. On looking it up I’m not quite so sure. It may actually be Brunswick Green.
Whatever it’s called, it’s an external paint and suggests the plaque might have spent some time outside or in a shed. It won’t be the first one to have suffered like this.
The final fault is that someone has polished the bronze, so it looks bright and shiny. I’m not sure it’s an improvement. However, it’s 100 years old and it’s seen many aspects of life in that time – from a memorial to a family member, hung on a wall, to a piece of history offered for sale at a car boot sale. One of our customers saw ti and brought it to us.
Meanwhile, what of Mr Dunkerley?
He is actually traceable because only one Charles Dunkerley died in the war. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website has details of 46 Dunkerleys. They came from Australia, Canada and South Africa, though the majority came from the north-west of England. They are buried from the UK to the Far East.
Charles Dunkerley’s military records are still available on-line. He was a clerk, who enlisted in 1915 aged 32. He served in Mesopotamia with the Manchester Regiment, being wounded by shrapnel in the shoulder on 9th January 1917 at Kut al Amara, during the retaking of the city. It had been the scene of a humiliating defeat in 1916 and is not one of those campaigns that attracts much notice. He was treated in hospital in India and was posted to Egypt in December 1918.
He appears to have been employed as a clerk after his wounding, and is listed as Category B 2. Category B meant that he was not fit enough for General Service but still fit enough to serve overseas on lines of communication. B2 denotes that he was able to walk 5 miles to and from work and see and hear sufficiently for ordinary purposes. To be B1 he would have had to be fit enough to march 5 miles and shoot with glasses. I’m guessing that marching involved full kit where walking was less onerous.
His parents were both dead by the time of his return, and he had one sister. The address he gave on enlistment was the same as her address, which he gave as his address when embarking on his demob leave. The journey home began in Egypt on 4th July 1919 and he went to Prees Heath (a dispersal depot which received men landing at Liverpool). He was released on 22nd July and made his way to Manchester. He was, according to his sister, in perfect health on 25th July but complained of a pain in the head on Friday 26th. After a few days of illness he began to feel better but on Friday 1st August relapsed into unconsciousness. He was admitted to Nell Lane Military Hospital, where he died at 5.55pm on Saturday 2nd August. Cause of death was due to Acute Infective Meningitis, probably due to parasites from sandfly fever.
The 1911 census shows that he was living with his mother, Alice. I know this is her name as she was still alive in 1915 when he enlisted. His sister Martha Ann (Martha Ann Whittaker as she became on the service record) was 20 and still living at home.
In 1911 Charles was a Railway Engine Fitter’s Labourer/Student. He had obviously moved up in the world by 1915. His father died somewhere between 1891 and 1901 and he also seems to have lost both a brother and a sister between 1891 and 1919.
It’s taken me two years to write this, but there is clearly more to do. That’s the allure of working in the shop, the ability to reconstruct a story, even imperfectly. It’s not a happy story, but I like to think it was worth doing – his sacrifice merits more than just being sold at a car boot sale.