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Friday, 26 July 2013

Joseph James Sweet

Joseph James Sweet
Born 1894 in St Columb, Cornwall.  Died 29 October 1918 51st Stationery Hospital, Italy
Driver T/3/028659 Army Service Corps, No. 2 Aux. Pack Train


Joseph was born towards the end of 1894.  His parents were Samuel Sweet and Mary Grace Morris. The couple had married in 1891.  Samuel was the son of St Allen Parish Clerk, Henry Sweet.  

Samuel and Mary had three children:

William Henry (1892 - 1961?)
Joseph James (1894 - 1918)
Dorothy (1899 - ? )

Mary Sweet died in 1900, aged about 28.  Samuel had help in bringing up his children from his sisters Bessie and Clara.

In 1904 Samuel married Mary Annie Williams.  The couple had a daughter, Hilda Esther, around 1905.

Samuel died on 13 April 1907 leaving his widow with £190 17s 6d.  After their father's death, William and Dorothy seem to have moved to live with their aunt Bessie at Carn Brea.  William worked with her husband in the tin mines.  Joseph stayed with his step-mother and step-sister on the farm; his uncle William Sweet was also living there.  Like his father, Joseph became a horse trainer.

On 26 October 1914, 20 year old Joseph (who may well have been known as James) married 18 year old Millicent Benson Trethewey from Fern Pit, East Pentire in Newquay.  The couple set up in lodgings with a Mrs Leary on St John's Road in Newquay. They didn't have long to enjoy married life; Joseph joined up on 13 November 1914.  The couple had apparently been courting for a while; their daughter Dorothy was born on 23 March 1915.

Joseph was sent to the Army Service Corps, not surprisingly as a driver.  His skill as a horse trainer would have been invaluable in driving a team of horses.  Joseph's medical records show that he was a small man, just short of 5'6", weighing 126 lbs.  His health was described as good.

On 3 August 1915 Joseph left Southampton, arriving at Le Havre the following day.  He was appointed an acting Lance Corporal on 3 October 1915.  He had a week's leave in March 1916 and received a Good Conduct badge later in the same year.  In July 1917 Joseph received some cuts to his arms and face whilst attending to his horses which his commanding officer recorded was not Joseph's fault.  

Joseph was taken to the 39 Casualty Clearing Station on 19 October 1918 complaining of a headache and pain.  It was noted that he his tongue looked "dirty".  He was transferred to the 51st Stationery Hospital on 21 October.  He had chest pain, a cough and looked debilitated.  The doctor noted that he was "very ill".  On 24 October he had a temperature of over 100, which dropped back slightly the next day.  However, it remained high for several days, his pulse becoming rapid and feeble.  He was given four hourly doses of brandy and also oxygen.  It was in vain; Joseph died at 5.30am on 29 October 1918, a victim of influenza.

Millicent seems to have married again a year after Joseph's death, and again in 1946 after her second husband's death in 1944.  Her second marriage produced three sons.  She died in 1985.  Her daughter with Joseph, Dorothy, doesn't seem to have married and died in the same year as her mother.





R G Rawle

Reginald Garland Rawle
Born 1896 in Newquay, Cornwall, Killed in Action 23 November 1917 at Cambrai
Lance Corporal 202010 7th Battalion DCLI
Commemorated at Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France


Reginald was the eldest son of Lewis Garland Rawle and Mary Brenton Trembath.  The couple had married on 23 December 1893.  Lewis was a carpenter living in Newquay, Mary was a spinster living at Shop.  Both were 23 years old.  

By 1901 the Rawles were living at 8 Belmont Place.  A few doors away lived John Jacka, another carpenter, whose son Sydney was the same age as Reginald.  Both boys would lose their lives during the Great War.

The couple had seven children:

Reginald Garland
Florence Mabel  (17 Jan 1897 - 1979)
Gwendoline Violet  (1899 - 1935)
Robert Garland  (1901 - 1953)
Lewis Edgar  (7 Feb1902 - 1971)
Edna Mary  (15 Sept 1907 - 1972)
Dorothy May  (5 Dec 1908 - 1985)

In 1911, the Census recorded that Reginald was working as a Golf Caddy.  His sister Florence was a shop girl.

I can't find when Reginald joined the Cornwalls.  However, by 1917 he was with them in the front line at Cambrai.  The Battle of Cambrai was a British offensive, designed to surprise the enemy.  The 7th Cornwalls  relieved the 13th Green Howards in the front line trenches on 4 October 1917.  They were relieved on 16 October and then moved back to Bray a week or so later, possibly for training with the tanks which were to be used in the upcoming offensive.  On 18 November, the Battalion was again in the front line and endured a few days of heavy rain awaiting the onset of the Battle of Cambrai.

The Battle of Cambrai was a British offensive, which began at dawn on 20 November.  The Cornwalls would have left the trenches behind the wire-cutting tanks and alongside the fighting tanks.  A and B companies were successful in capturing their objectives, but C and D companies were hindered by problems with the tanks.  Despite this, the Cornwalls managed to capture around 150 Germans and kill another 50.  Their own losses were 61 wounded, 10 killed and 8 missing.  Following the first day of battle, the Cornwalls were dispersed in support.

By the 23 November, the weather was fine.  There was shell-fire from the Germans, but apparently no one was hit.  However, a barn in which some of the men were occupying was hit by three shells causing an evacuation.  There is no mention of anyone being killed, but perhaps this was where Reginald died.




Sunday, 6 January 2013

R C Rowett

Richard Cardell Rowett
Born 1900 in Portugal  Killed in Action 23 August 1918
Pte 85297 1/4 Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) (Previous DCLI)
Buried Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux



Richard was the son of Charles Rowett and Florence Annie Pengilly.  Charles and Florence married at Redruth in 1893.  Charles was a mine engineer whose work took him abroad to Portugal and South America.  Several of the couple's children, including Richard, were born in Portugal.  Florence must have made friends in Portugal as she continued to travel back to the country after her husband's death.  The Rowetts had seven children, five of whom survived infancy:

Florence Kathleen (1895 - 1964)  Florence was left in Cornwall with her maternal grandparents in 1901 while the rest of the family were in Portugal.  Her grandfather Charles Pengilly was an arsenic manufacturer and preacher. 
Charles Edward (1899 - ?)
Richard Cardell
John Ernest (1901- 1972)
James Stanley (1903 - ?)

The three youngest boys were all born in Portugal.  In 1911 Florence and the five children were living in Scorrier.  Charles shows up on immigration records as arriving back in the UK from South America in late 1914.  He died soon after, aged 44, on 1 March 1915 . His probate records give his address as 1, Colchester Villas, Newquay and his occupation as mine engineer.  Florence was left £200.  She later moved to 43 St John's Road.

Richard joined the DCLI at Truro.  He was posted to the 1/4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers). The 1/4th were part of 56th (London) Division and Richard would have joined them at the Third Battle of Albert between 21 and 23 August 1918 (a phase of the Second Battles of the Somme).  The 1st DCLI were also at the Battle and the Regiment history notes that Friday, 23 August was an exceedingly hot day.  It was also exactly four years since the British first met the Germans at the Battle of Mons. 

The British offensives in the summer of 1918 marked the beginning of the end for the Germans.  Sadly, there were still many casualties, including Richard, in the final months of the war.  Richard is buried at the Bucquoy Road Cemetery.





Monument to the Royal Fusiliers in WW1 at Holborn in London
Wikimedia - Public Domain








Saturday, 5 January 2013

W J Oxman

William James Oxman
Born c 1891 in Newquay  Died of Wounds 16 October 1917
Pte 14185 5th Battalion Dorsetshire Regiment (Previously Devonshire Regiment)
Buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium


William James, who was sometimes known as James, was the son of William and Lavinia Glanville.  The elder William was a coachman, then became a fish hawker, whilst Lavinia was a charwoman. Lavinia (or Levinia) was the illegitimate daughter of Jane Glanville, a field labourer and washerwoman, who had a great number of children born out of wedlock.  Jane and several of her children spent some time in the workhouse at St Columb Major.  

William and Lavinia were married in 1875 and had the following children:

  • Thomas Henry (1878 - 1880)
  • Thomas Henry (1880 - 1959)
  • Lavinia "Janie" (1882 - ?)
  • Clarice Adelaide (1884 - ?) Worked cleaning train carriages during the war
  • (Agnes) Maud (1887 - 1960)
  • William James 
In 1911, young William had a job as a grocery storeman.  He was living at home with his parents, which was at 1 Norman Court.  The family had a lodger; Frederick Wills, a carriage cleaner with the GWR.  Perhaps Clarice Oxman got his job when he went away to war (Frederick married in 1913, went to war with the the Royal Engineers Railway Operating Division and died in 1955.  Clarice's employment as a carriage cleaner shows up in the GWR records).

William joined up in Launceston and was assigned to the Devonshire Regiment, although I don't know which Battalion.  At some point he was posted to the 5th Dorsets.  In October 1917 the Dorsets, with 11th Division, were involved in the 3rd Battle of Ypres, or Passchendaele.  It seems likely that it was during one of the battles, perhaps at Poelcapelle, that William was fatally wounded.  

There was a Casualty Clearing Station at Proven and the Mendinghem Military Cemetery is now on the site. William is buried in the cemetery along with 2441 other soldiers, 51 of whom are German.

Back in Newquay, William's mother died in late 1918; his father disappears from the records.





Monday, 31 December 2012

W M Spiller

Walter Matthews Spiller
Born 1897 at Upottery, Devon  Killed in Action 28 March 1918 in Syria
Lance Corporal 23rd (County of London) Battalion (Formerly RAMC)


Walter was the son of Walter Spiller, a blacksmith, and his wife Agnes Cecil ("Cecie") Matthews.  Agnes was from Newquay, where her father earned his living as a sailor.  Walter and Cecie's marriage was registered in Taunton in 1889.  The couple had several children, born in Devon and Somerset:

  •  Parry (c. 1890 - 1983 - served with West Somerset Yeomanry)
  • Oswald (c. 1891 - ?)
  • Guilo Anita (c. 1893 - 20 August 1911)
  • Walter Matthews (c. 1897)
  • Edgar (1899 - 1988 - served with Somerset Light Infantry, then Bedfordshire Regiment)
  • Ruby?


By 1911 the couple were living in Trevena Terrace, Newquay.  Sadly, their daughter Guilo (or Guila) died in that year.  Walter is described as a "worker" on the census of 1911, but no occupation is listed.

Walter's medal card shows that he joined the RAMC and was then transferred to the London Regiment.  I believe that he was part of the Egyption Expeditionary Force and lost his life at the First Attack of Amman.  The EEF had to march to Jordan from Jerusalem and had considerable difficulty in bridging the River Jordan.  Australian, New Zealand and British swimmers made several attempts to take lines across the river so that pontoon bridges could be built.  They did this under heavy fire from the Ottoman troops on the opposite bank.

Major General Shea, commander of the 60th (London) Division, to which Walter was attached, was ordered to attack Amman with the object of destroying a viaduct and tunnel, thereby disrupting an important Ottoman railway link.  Amman was the headquarters for the Fourth, Seventh and Eighth Ottoman armies; a number of German troops were also stationed there.  Shea was to attack with his Division plus the Anzac Mounted Division, the Imperial Camel Corps Brigade, 10th Heavy Battery RGA, a light armoured car brigade, Desert Mounted Corps Bridging Train and pontoon building units.

Shea's force was successful in crossing the Jordan and taking the town of Es Salt but then faced a trek across treacherous terrain in abysmal weather (sleet and heavy rain) to Amman.  The time that it took to make the march gave the enemy plenty of time to prepare their defences and they were ready for Shea when he launched his attack on 27 March 1918.  The battle continued until 30 March when a retreat was ordered.

The London Division suffered 476 casualties, including Walter.  He is buried in the Damascus Commonwealth War Cemetery.




60th Division marching from Jerusalem to Jordan March 1918
[Wikimedia - Public Domain]





Sunday, 1 July 2012

J W B Russell

John William Binfield Russell
Born 1896 in Bridport, Dorset.  Killed in Action 7 July 1916
Second Lieutenant 9th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment


John Russell was the eldest son of William Russell and Lucy Binfield Newman.  William, the son of a manufacturer, was a London-born school master, whilst Lucy was a dentist's daughter from Liverpool.  The couple married in London on 25 April 1895.  William must have secured a position in Dorset, because that is where John was born the following year and where the family were living in 1901.  John's brother, Frederick Stratten Russell was born in 1897.  A sister, Mary Veronica, was born in 1899 but died the following year.

William Russell set up a school in Newquay sometime between 1901 and 1911 in a house called St Andrew's on Pentire Avenue.  In the 1911 Census he has several boys listed at the school, including John Vivian Godden Teague who is also listed on the Newquay war memorial.  John Russell was not educated by his father.  In 1911 he and Frederick are listed on the Census at Oundle School in Northamptonshire.  John was clearly an intelligent young man; he gained a Senior Open Classical Scholarship to Oxford in 1914. 

I can't find John's date of enlistment, but he was made a temporary Second Lieutenant on 5 January 1915, as listed in the London Gazette.  His regiment went to France later that year, landing in Boulogne on 15 July 1915.  The regiment were under the command of 52nd Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division.  John would have been deployed to the southern part of the Ypres salient, where the 17th Division held the front lines.  Later, they would take part in the Battle of the Somme.

The 12th Manchesters were with 9th Duke of Wellingtons and their war diary for the period leading up to 7 July 1916 sheds some light on John's last movements.  The Brigade marched to Morlancourt on 2 July, leaving the following day to relieve 21st Division north of Fricourt.  The Manchesters (and presumably the Duke of Wellingtons) were in Lozenge Wood for a few days until 3.30am on 6 July when they received orders to relieve the 9th Northumberland Fusiliers in Quadrangle Trench.  The diary entry for 7 July says that 9th West Ridings/Duke of Wellingtons had already tried and failed to gain the objective.  It is possible that John was lost in this failed attack.  The diary entry goes on to mention the failure of the Manchesters, under barrage and enfilade machine gun fire, to gain the objective.  They list the lost of many of their own officers.  

John's body was not recovered and his name is inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial.  His CWGC listing is here.  His probate record shows that he left £163 to his father. 

William and Lucy Russell remained in Newquay.  William died in 1946 and Lucy lived until 1957 (she was 90 when she died.)   

Frederick Stratten Russell went on to have a highly distinguished career.  He served in both World War 1 and World War 2.  In WW1 he took aerial photographs and was decorated for his bravery.  He joined RAF Intelligence in WW2.  In civilian life, Russell was a marine biologist and it was he who pioneered the measurement of fish stocks.  He was knighted in 1965.  




Monday, 13 February 2012

Archive May Help Identify WW1 Soldiers in Unmarked Graves

I am not sure if the authorities will have the time or the money to follow this up, but it would be fabulous if someone could.  We have two members of our family who fell at Pozieres and who don't have graves, which means that we don't have a focus for our remembrance, other than their names on a monument.  I am sure that other families would like to be able to lay flowers on a grave.

Read about historian Peter Barton's discovery in the Red Cross Archive in Geneva.  He feels that it may hold the key to identifying the bodies of fallen soldiers.  The archive contains detailed records of burial plots compiled at the time of burial.  I hope that this new information will be acted upon.