Saturday, 28 May 2011

W F Currah

William Francis Currah
Born at 10 April 1888 Yardley, Worcestershire  Killed in Action 11 April 1916 near Ypres
Cpl 10516 7th Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Enlisted at Bodmin

William was the son of John Currah and Sarah King.  In 1881 John and Sarah were living near Yardley where John worked as a farm bailiff.

(Update:  the couple lived on the "Bickenhill Road to Gilbertstone".  It may be coincidence, but Gilbertstone House was at that time owned by Cornishman Richard Tangye (later Sir Richard).  Tangye was the son of a farmer from Illogan, but later became the owner of an engineering company and a philanthropist - he also introduced the Saturday half-day holiday, soon adopted by all engineering works.)

The couple had one child at the time, Emily.  John gave his birthplace as St Austell, whilst Sarah was born in Stratford on Avon.  It seems likely that Sarah's age was given inaccurately - she claimed to be 30 years old, against her husband's 43 years.  From later Census returns it seems that 10 years was added to her age.  

By 1891 John would appear to have died (although I cannot find a record) and Sarah had remarried Alfred Causer, a house painter.  He had not only taken Sarah on, but her children - Emily, Maud, Alice and 2 year old William. For some reason her eldest son, 9 year old John Henry Currah, is recorded at the Temperance Orphanage in Sunbury, Middlesex.  Ten years later, William was working for his step-father as a brush boy.  He also had three half-brothers, Clarence, Bromley and Roy.  William stayed with his family in Yardley certainly until 1911, when he is recorded on the Census.  

Why William came to Newquay is a mystery; there were certainly Currahs in Newquay (and still are).  It may be that he came to work with a cousin.  Although John Currah gave his birthplace as St Austell, there was a Thomas Currah living in Newquay, a couple of years younger than John, who was born in St Eval - perhaps his brother.   It may be that "St Eval" was mistaken for "St Austell" by the Census Enumerator.

What is certain is that William joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in 1915.  He was a part of the 7th Battalion, later joined by the celebrated Harry Patch.  William's Battalion were under the command of 61st Brigade, part of 20th (Light) Division.  This Division were bedevilled in their early training by a lack of officers, NCOs, and equipment.  However, by the summer of 1915 they were fully equipped and landed at Bolougne in July.  By the spring of 1916 the Battalion were in the Ypres Salient, and it was here, probably during the Action of the St Eloi Craters, that William was killed.  

St Eloi was to the south of Ypres and had been heavily mined by both sides since 1915.  The Germans had a slightly advantageous position, holding the higher ground from which they could observe British positions.  In late March 1916 it was decided to launch an offensive against the Germans.  I have not been able to find an account of the DCLI's part in the action, but I know that William was not the only one of his battalion to be killed that day - Pte John Lawrence of Tintagel was killed and like William he too is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. (A list of Tintagel men killed in WW1 can be found here.)

William's mother, Sarah, had an anxious war.  Her eldest son, John Currah, had joined the army in 1903.  His career in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers had not been overly glorious - he had been on charges for being drunk, returning to barracks late without his uniform and had been treated for venereal disease.  However, on the outbreak of war he returned to his regiment, only to be wounded and taken prisoner in late 1914.  He spent time in Switzerland, being repatriated in September 1917.  He was suffering from paralysis and died at his mother's home, aged 37, on 6 November 1917 following a haemorrhage.  Two of Sarah's younger sons, Clarence and Bromley, also served in the war, and one of them (possibly Clarence) was also taken prisoner.  

I haven't been able to find a photograph of William, but have found a post on the Great War Forum mentioning John and including his photograph.  Many thanks to Kevan Darby.  You can find the original thread here.

Posted 09 January 2010 - 04:03 PM
Another from a Birmingham newspaper

The interment with Military Honours has taken place at Yardley Cemetery of Pte John Henry Currall, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, a repatriated prisoner of war. Pte Currah who was an old soldier, was wounded and captured at the begining of the war, and was afterwards sent to Switzerland, and came back to England later.
He was thirty six years of age and the stepson of Mr Causser of 36 Church Road, South Yardley. A brother is a Prisoner of war in Germany, another Cprl W F Currah was killed at Ypres in April 1916.

Attached image(s)

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Update 16 July 2011

I have found some further information from the Cornish Guardian dated 25 May 1915

Cpl  W F Currah joined up at Newquay (conflicting information!) in August 1914, one of the first men to do so.  He had worked for three years as a painter (which ties in with his step-father's job) for Mr W Trebilcock.  He was killed the day after he celebrated his 28th birthday.  There is a photograph of William, I hope to be able to take a copy when I visit the Cornish Studies Library.

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