Tag Archives: WW1

The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1)

I just took out a subscription to an internet newspaper archive last week and the first task I set myself was searching for some family history. With one branch of the family it has come up trumps.

You may have heard some of this before as I have mentioned it and have used the photographs before. Sorry for the repetition but with new information, and it being exactly 101 years to the day since his death, I thought it was worth another post.

I have many common names in the family but am fortunate in having one branch with the name of Carus. To make things better, they come from Clitheroe – a small town with its own newspaper.

Harry Carus (1887-1916) was my great grandfather. When I started researching him I knew that he was one of a large family, that he’s on the Clitheroe war memorial and that he left a wife and three daughters when he died. He was a chapel-goer, Sunday school teacher and member of  a self-improvement club called the PSA (I believe that’s Peaceful Sunday Afternoon). He joined up as a volunteer and, on his last leave before going to France, laughed when his irate wife discovered that the three girls had found, and mostly eaten, the special cake baked for his last visit.

It had been on a top shelf in the kitchen and my grandmother had climbed up the lower shelves like a ladder before passing down to my Auntie Peggie – second in age and partner in crime.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission gives the information that he died on 10.10.16. He was a Corporal, aged 28, belonged to “B” Battery of the 180th Brigade
Royal Field Artillery. He was the son of H. A. and Margaret Carus, of 27, West View, Clitheroe, Lancashire and husband of the late Ellenor Carus.

This was during the latter, rainy, part of the Somme battle and was probably every bit as hellish as we imagine the First World War to be.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, the iconic arched memorial that lists the names of  72,396 Somme casualties who also have no known grave. In a later post I may well come back to the phrase “no known grave” as it’s an interesting subject in itself.

As more details became available from the release of records I was able to learn a little more about him.  He had four brothers and two sisters, worked for a grocer and his last known address is still standing. I have visited it using Google Maps.

The army medal rolls show that he went to France on 28.11.15 and is entitled to the 1914-15 Star, War Medal and Victory Medal. They spell his name “Carns”. His family was also given a bronze commemorative plaque and a scroll. On the subject of names, his wife was Eleanor, so even CWGC aren’t perfect.

When I searched the newspapers I was able to find the memorial notices posted a year after his death, and pin down a couple more family addresses. The family was still together in those days – the remarriage and death of Eleanor  and the separation of the girls was still to come, as Harry’s death continued to affect them in the coming years.

I was also able to find a mention of his death in the “25 Years Ago” column, when it was noted that he had been in a gun pit with six others when a shell landed in it and killed five of them. Presumably this was what had been contained in a letter at the time of his death – my grandmother had always said he was hit by a shell that killed him instantly and left nothing for burial. It’s nice to have corroboration but I’m not sure it’s true, it was just what people wrote home to parents and widows to hide the truth.

That, in a nutshell, is the life and death of Harry Carus.

Poppies

Roadside Poppies

Military Sweetheart Brooches

The brooch in the featured image is one of the earlier ones you will see about. It is a hollow silver horseshoe with the dates of the Boer War on the front and a Victorian crown at the top of the badge. It’s actually hallmarked 1904 on the back, but sweethearts can be a bit like that, and aren’t always as accurate as you would like.

The earliest sweethearts date from the 1890s but the first surge of popularity took place during the Boer War (1899 – 1902) then in the Great War things really took off. This is logical when you think there were millions of men in the army, and consequently millions of wives and girlfriends to buy the brooches for.

At this time they also became cheaper and less well made. Brass and enamel sweethearts from this time are very common, as are the ones with plain mother of pearl surrounds.

There were other styles, including ones mounted on rifles and swords (though you’ll have to settle for rifles at the moment as that’s all the photographs I have).

The next step up in terms of quality were the silver rimmed mother of pearl brooches, often stamped “Sterling Silver Rim” on the back. There were also silver badges and silver-rimmed tortoiseshell brooches. The silver ones are often stamped “Silver” or “Sterling” on the back, but the silver rimmed tortoiseshell brooches are usually hallmarked.

These two brooches demonstrate another feature of collecting – the Machine Gun Corps was a war-raised unit and existed from 1915-22. Their brooches are sought after by collectors of Great War memorabilia, despite the fact they shouldn’t be rare –  over 170,000 men served in the corps during the war.

By contrast, the Royal Engineers aren’t a sought after unit as there were so many of them – in August 1917 there were 295,668 men serving in the RE. Despite being common, and made from tortoiseshell, the RE brooch does have a significant advantage over the more desirable MGC brooch – it is hallmarked on the back.

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Hallmarks on the back of the brooch

This allows us to tell that it is sterling silver (the Lion), was hallmarked in London (Leopard’s head) and dates from 1916 (letter a). The maker’s mark “C Bro” is the mark of Corke Brothers and Co.

This is just a brief view of sweethearts – there are other types so, as my photography catches up there may be other posts on the subject.

They have a much closer connection to the men of the Great War than medals, for instance. At least you can be sure that most of these brooches were bought by soldiers and worn by mothers or girlfriends. Sometimes you find one still pinned to its original card, where it has been stored in a drawer for years, but most seem to have been worn.

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Notts and Derby – still on original card

Contrast this with the medals from the Great War. Many, when sold by families, are still in the boxes, having never been worn. My grandfather kept his in a drawer and never showed them to anyone. We all thought that his mother had thrown them out when she threw away his brother’s medals. Having lost a son and a son-in-law, got rid of everything connected with the war and refused to discuss it until the day she died in 1930. Those who died in the war, of course, never even saw their medals.

 

 

 

Book Review: The Final Whistle

The Final Whistle – The Great War in Fifteen Players

by Stephen Cooper

History Press 2012, this edition Spellmount 2013

Paperback 347pp    Paperback £9.99     Oxfam £1.99

ISBN-13: 978 0 7524 9900 0

I’ve always been interested in rugby and the Great War and I did some research on rugby internationals who were killed in the two World Wars, but it came to nothing because (a) I’m lazy and (b) Nigel Mccrery wrote Into Touch.

This book takes a slightly different approach, looking at the lives of fifteen members of Rosslyn Park rugby club who were killed in the Great War. They represent about 20% of the club’s fatalities during the war (72 killed from 350 members or ex-members who served in the war).

I’ve always liked this sort of book, with stories that turn statistics into people, and I’ve always liked rugby, as I’m not fashioned by nature for games of grace and skill. On the quiet I’m also an admirer of Edgar Mobbs, a well known player of the time. However, this isn’t about Mobbs, as he didn’t play for Rosslyn Park.

It is about Charles Bayley, great-nephew of General Gordon, who was one of the first two Royal Flying Corps officers to be killed in action in the Great War, on 22nd August 1914 or Guy du Maurier, regular soldier and playwright (yes, he was one of that du Maurier family), who killed in action in 1915 at the age of 49. It’s about other people too, including international players, an Olympic silver medallist and a VC winner.

Don’t expect a cross section of British casualties though; it’s about officers or people who could have been officers. Rugby was a game for people from good schools, and they were required to name their school when applying for membership. That, as the author admits, was a great help in doing the research James Urquhart is an exception to this, listing Grimsby Municipal College as his school (though he did end up at Cambridge University). In truth he wasn’t even a Rosslyn Park player, he just seems to have given them as his team when he played for the Barbarians (captained by Edgar Mobbs) versus Shoreham Camp. He only gets a couple of lines.

Despite this, it’s an excellent view of the Great War and rugby of the period, including the Western Front, Gallipolli, aircraft, ships, tanks and balloons, and obviously written by a man with a good command of the subject and a great enthusiasm.

 

 

Bombardment, Bones and Captain Cook

We decided to give Whitby another look on the way back from Sandsend. There’s a lot to see in Whitby and we decided to have a look at the Captain Cook statue and the whalebone arch on the West Cliff.

The first thing we saw was the Bombardment Garden, which commemorates the East Coast bombardment of 16th December 1914. On that day two groups of German warships sailed down along the coast and attacked the towns of Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool. One group attacked Scarborough, killing 18 people, before steaming up the coast and killing three more in Whitby. The other group attacked Hartlepool, killing over 100 people.

To be fair to the Germans they were attacking military targets -they shelled a naval radio station at Scarborough and the railway at Whitby. At Hartlepool they engaged shore batteries and the Royal Navy.

The garden represents a house destroyed by a shell.  The shell in the middle of the living room floor is a proper WW1 shell that was given to the town for fund-raising during the war and donated to the project by the town council.

 

Just along the cliff is the statue of Captain Cook. He was born at Marton, which is now part of Middlesbrough, lived at Great Ayton, was apprenticed to a haberdasher on the coast in Staithes and finally ended up in the Merchant Navy at Whitby. He first came to official notice for his service in the Royal Navy when his charts of the St Lawrence River helped General Wolfe to take Quebec. This led to him being selected to make his famous voyages of discovery, with a certain William Bligh acting as his sailing master on the third and final voyage.

Despite his great achievements he is little more than a cycle rack and seagull perch these days.

 

The third thing of note on the cliff top is the whale bone arch. Whitby was a major whaling port and between 1753 and 1837 the Whitby fleet accounted for 2,761 whales, 25,000 seals and 55 polar bears.

The inventor of the Crow’s Nest (William Scoresby) came from Whitby and used to be commemorated by a modern sculpture (now replaced by a war memorial). His son, also William Scoresby, was, like his father, a whaler and arctic explorer, but also a scientist and priest, who was quoted by Ishmael in Moby Dick.

The original arch was set up in 1853 to signify the importance of whaling in Whitby’s history. That set lasted around a century and were replaced by a set from a Fin whale donated by Norwegian whalers. They only lasted until the 1990s, when their replacement caused a certain amount of ethical concern. One suggestion was that there might be some bones preserved in the cold of the Falklands. In the end Whitby’s twin town of Barrow in Alaska came to the rescue with a set of jawbones from a Bowhead whale killed in a legal hunt by Alaskan Inuit.

I don’t know what I’d do if I was in charge of the whalebone arch. Fibreglass and plastic have been considered but dismissed, which I think is fair enough, but I’m not easy with the idea of using real bones, even if they are legally taken. I think I’d opt for a nice stainless steel sculpture.

Or a plaque saying that there used to be whale bones there but we have moved on.