Friday, 8 August 2014

B A Pollard

Bertram Alfred Pollard
Born circa 1874, in London?   Killed in Action 13 October 1915 
Buried at Spoilbank Cemetery, Nr Ypres
Company Sergeant Major 3/6084 6th Btn Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry

The earliest census return for Bertie is 1881.  Aged 6, he is living in Penzance with 64 year old Elizabeth Wallis, a retired general servant.  She is the head of the household, his relationship to her is "boarder.  His birthplace is stated as Banbury, Oxfordshire.  Ten years later, he is still a boarder with Ms Wallis, though he is now said to have been born in London.  On his army records he said he had been born in Penzance and at one time he lists an "E Wallis" in Penzance as his next of kin, stating that she is his aunt.  There is a Bertram Alfred Pollard recorded as born in Kensington, London in the last quarter of 1874, so perhaps this is Bertie.

His parents are conspicuous by their absence.  On his CWGC records it states that his parents are Mr and Mrs Alfred Pollard of Penzance, though I've not found any other record of them.

Bertie, a harness maker, enlisted with the regular army on 5 June 1893, having already joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry militia .  On 2 June 1873 he had been examined at Bodmin.  He was 5 feet 4 1/2 inches tall, weighed 116 pounds and had a chest measurement of 32 inches - 34 1/2 inches when expanded.  His complexion was sallow, his hair dark brown and his eyes blue.  The examining doctor was unimpressed and considered him unfit due to his chest measurement.  Three days later, a captain declared him fit and Bertie embarked on a long career with the Army with the 2nd Battlion DCLI.  His records show his service at home and abroad as follows:

5 June 1893 - 9 Dec 1894         UK
10 Dec 1894 - 20 Feb 1900      India
21 Feb 1900 - 17 Aug 1901      Ceylon
18 Aug 1901 - 7 June 1905      Home
8 June 1905 - 2 Sept 1907        Gibraltar
3 Sept 1907 - 19 Jan 1910      Bermuda
20 Jan 1910 - 10 Mar 1913    South Africa
11 Mar 1913 - 4 June 1914   Home

On 28 April 1905, Bertie married Alice Ann Jones in Penzance.  

 His discharge came on 4 June 1914, just two months before the outbreak of the Great War.  He and Alice must have found a home in Newquay, as the town is given as his place of residence on the casualty records.  He re-enlisted at Bodmin and was posted not to his previous Battalion, but to the 6th Battalion.

Bertie's medal card shows that he was in France by 21 May 1915.  

The history of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry gives no details of the incident in which Bertie was killed; in fact, it simply states that for the final three months of 1915 in Ypres, nothing of great note happened to the 6th DCLI. 

British wounded being evacuated from Ypres
By Rogers, Gilbert (MBE) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bertie is buried with three other men of his battalion who fell on 8, 9 and 11 October.

Alice had his gravestone inscribed with the words  "In fondest remembrance RIP".  She appears to have moved back to her native Wales, dying in Cardiff in 1949.  She and Bertie do not appear to have had any children.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

F H Passmore

Frederick Herbert Passmore
Born 1888 in Plaistow, London  Killed in Action 1 May 1918
Buried Nine Elms British Cemetery, Belgium
Lance Corporal 80803 Royal Army Medical Corps  Enlisted Newquay 30 October 1915

Frederick was the son of Frederick Thomas Passmore and Florence Louisa Parr.  The couple married in 1882 in Bristol.  Frederick Snr was a pastor, working as a city missionary in London during his son's childhood.

The couple had four children, one of whom died in infancy.  The three surviving children were:

Edith Miriam b. 1884
Frederick Herbert
Dorothy Winifred b. 1900

By 1911, Mrs Passmore and Dorothy were living in Golf Terrace, Newquay.  Frederick Senior was visiting in Devon at the time of the census.  Frederick Herbert had found work in Bristol as an assistant chemist.  He must have moved back to Newquay by 1915 since that was the year he made two important decisions and both record him as living in Newquay.

Frederick had met Helena Maud Irons, a young woman born, like him, in 1888.  Helena was the daughter of George and Eliza Irons, her father making his living as a master mariner.  Helena worked as a shop assistant and lived with her parents at Alma Place.  On 30 October 1915 Frederick and Helena married in the town and, on the same day, Frederick enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Very little of Frederick's service records survive.  They do tell us that he was a small man, just 5 feet 3 1/2 inches tall, with a 33 1/2 inch chest.  The RAMC was probably delighted to have him; he was a registered dispenser and his records show that he passed his first aid course earning him an increment on the pay scale.  He was posted abroad on 31 July 1916.  No doubt he was needed, that being the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Frederick's record shows that he was promoted to Lance Corporal on 27 December 1917.  This is confirmed by the Commonwealth Graves Commission Registration Reports, but he is shown as a Private on both the Roll of Honour and his gravestone.

The CWGC Registration Report shows that four other men of the 75th Field Ambulance died alongside Frederick on 1st May 1918.

His widow asked that his gravestone be inscribed with the words "The blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanseth us of all sin".

Helena appears not to have remarried and lived until 1968.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Lamps Went Out

Yesterday marked the centenary of Britain's entry into the Great War.  Sir Edward Grey, the Foreign Secretary, famously remarked on the eve of war that "The lamps are going out all over Europe and we shall not see them lit again in our life-time".  The British Legion adopted the quote to inspire their Lights Out campaign which called on the British public to turn off their lights, bar one, between 10 and 11 pm to remember the outbreak of war.

I decided that there was only one place for me during Lights Out:  the war memorial.  I set off with a candle, a makeshift lantern and a lighter and was at the war memorial just before 10 pm.  My first problem was the wind.  My plan was to set a candle above the plaque, making it visible from town.  Unfortunately, the wind was blowing too hard to allow the candle to stay alight, so I had to move it around to the other side of the memorial, facing out to sea.  Hopefully, some fishermen spotted it

For the first half-hour or so, I was on my own.  Then I heard the crunching of gravel and two other women arrived.  They set up candles too and we stood and swapped stories.  A rain shower passed over, but we kept vigil.  Just before 11 pm we were joined by a gentleman who had been watching the centenary events on television and had felt moved to get in his car and drive up to the war memorial.

At just about 11 pm it started to pour with rain, which seemed appropriate.  We stayed for a few minutes more and then packed up our candles and left. 89 men of Newquay, and family members, remembered on the centenary and always.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

W A Coom

William Alfred Coom
Baptised 29 January 1888, St Austell  Died of Wounds 21 April 1917
Private 1170 17 Battalion D Company Australian Imperial Force
Enlisted 2 February 1915 at Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia
Buried at Grevillers British Cemetery, France

William was the son of Alfred Coom, a gardener, and his wife Emily Luke. Emily was the daughter of William Luke, a tinker from Dulverton in Somerset, who had settled in the West Hill area of St Austell.  The couple married in St Austell on 30 October 1885 and lived in St Austell, Roche and, by 1911, were living at Windsor Cottages off Berry Road in Newquay.  

 In the 1911 Census return Mrs Coom states that she had 10 children, 5 of whom were still living.  I've not found all of their names, but as best I can tell, here are 7 of them:

Lillian Maud born 1886
William Alfred 
Edith Gladys born 1889
Maud Mary  born 1891
Thomas Henry 1892 - 1972
Gladys Mary born 1893
Reginald born 1894 (died as an infant)
Reginald born 1898 

I can't find an emigration date for William, but he evidently left for Australia and found work as a station hand.  He enlisted in early 1915 and was soon aboard SS Themistocles bound for Gallipoli.  He soon ran foul of the army; he was caught sleeping at his post on 12 September  and sentenced to Field Punishment No. 2.  for a period of 28 days.  Before the 28 days were up, he was in hospital suffering the effects of dysentery.  A bout of enteric fever (typhoid) followed and William was sent to Graylingwell War Hospital, Chichester by the end of the October.  He was back at a base in London for a couple of months, where he was docked pay for a deficiency of kit.  In August 1916 he was in France.

17th Battalion waiting for troop trains in Italy 1915
By photographer not identified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William had several more hospital visits, for scabies, trench foot and boils.  His final visit came after he was wounded in action on 19 April 1917.  He had gunshot wounds in his foot and abdomen.  He died on 21 April 1917.  William was killed during the Battle of Arras, which lasted from 9 April to 16 May 1917.  The Unit's War Diary does not make any mention of casualties on 19 April, though there are many reported a few days earlier on 15 April.  What is certain, is that the Australians were heavily outnumbered but managed to inflict more casualties than they sustained.

Back in England, Alfred never knew his son's fate; he died a month before war was declared.  Emily seems to have lived through another war, dying in 1947.  William's brother Thomas found a job with the Post Office and worked in Newquay.  

On a personal note, one of my great-uncles, Ernest, was also with the 17th Battlion (A company) and travelled out to Gallipoli on the same troop ship as William.  Ernest and  one of his brothers, Reginald, had moved to Australia to live with my great-grandmother's brother, who was the foreman of the goods yard at Sydney Railway Station.  So, William may possibly have bumped into my great-uncle on board the ship, or my great-great uncle through his work as a station hand.  

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Louisa Tearle

Today's post is a little different, in that the subject is not listed on the Newquay War Memorial.  You can, however, find her war grave in the town's cemetery on Crantock Street.

Louisa Tearle (Nee Lees)
Born 1878 Lambeth, London  Killed by Enemy Action 28 March 1915 Bristol Channel
Stewardess/Purser SS Falaba

Louisa was the daughter of Arthur and Emma Lees (nee Farnham).  She had a brother, George Farnham Lees, who may have emigrated to Canada sometime after 1911.

In 1902 Louisa married Henry James Tearle, who worked for the Elder shipping line.  The couple had five or possibly six children:

Arthur James 1902 - 1979
Ernest Henry b 1905
Gertrude Louisa 1906 - 1987
Frank George b 1909
Donald Stanley 1910 - 1984

There is also reference on some sites to a brother named Ivor who died at the age of 16, although I have not been able to find any records for him.

Henry Tearle was killed in Lagos, Nigeria in 1914, in unknown circumstances.  Louisa, who may already have worked for the Elder Line, went to sea as a purser according to some accounts, although she is listed as a stewardess.  

The SS Falaba set off from Liverpool for Sierra Leone with 95 crew and 147 passengers. After leaving Merseyside on Saturday, 27 March, she met U-28, captained by Baron Siegfried Von Forstner in the Bristol Channel.  The U boat gave the Falaba 10 minutes to dismantle her wireless equipment and abandon ship.  According to the Germans, the crew of the Falaba used this time to try to contact the Royal Navy with the position of the U boat.  They then allowed a further 10 minutes for the lifeboats to be launched before firing.  The British claimed that they were given only 10 minutes and were then fired upon, the Germans laughing at survivors as they struggled to get aboard lifeboats.  The Germans refuted this, claiming that they were in fact moved to tears to see lifeboats being overturned in the rough sea.

The ship went down rapidly and although the lifeboats were launched, 104 people perished (57 passengers and 47 crew).  One of those who lost his life was an American, Leon Chester Thrasher.  His death almost sparked the entry of the US into the war, but assurances that the captain of the Falaba had been given adequate time to launch the lifeboats and a suggestion that she carried contraband explosives allowed the US to back off from war - until the sinking of the Lusitania.

Louisa's body must have been recovered by a Newquay boat, although I've not found when she was brought ashore.  Her children were now orphans.  Gertrude, who was partially sighted, became a successful teacher working in both the UK and Australia.  Her youngest brother Donald was adopted by an aunt who emigrated to Australia in 1925. He became a miner and enlisted with the Australian Army  in 1939.  He was taken as a Prisoner of War in 1941 and interned until the end of the war.  He was later granted the Military Medal for bravery.

On Donald's records he listed his next of kin as his brother, A J Tearle, HMS Rosemary, Portsmouth.  I can find no other information on Louisa's other children, particularly "Ivor" who is mentioned as being an inspiration to Gertrude and who was apparently, like her, partially sighted.

There is a copy of the British inquiry into the sinking of the SS Falaba here.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

C E Ditton

Charles Edward Ditton
Born in March 1888, Truro, Cornwall   Killed in Action 16 October 1918 near Heule, Belgium
Lance Corporal  43387 Royal Irish Fusiliers  9th (North Irish Horse) Battaliohn
Formerly with 1/9 London Regiment

Charles was born in Truro in March 1888. He was baptised at St Paul's, Truro, on 24 April 1888.  He was the second son of Frederick Ditton and Edith Jewell.  The couple had 14 children in all:

Ethel 1884 - 1915?
Lillian 1885 - 1952
Frederick James 1887
Charles Edward
Sidney Jewell 1889 - 1959
Clara Gwendoline 1891 - 1990
Edith Mary 1893 - 1977
Florence Gertrude Helena 1895 - 1984
Harry Jewell 1897 - 1984
Dorothy May 1898 - 1984
Frances Anna 1900 - 1960
Marion Grace 1902 - 1998
Kathleen Marjorie 1905- 1954
Phyllis Monica 1908 - 2005
 (Approximate dates)

Frederick, a native of Brixton, London, was a grocer, as was his Cornish mother, Eliza Lukes.  Edith was the daughter of farmer James Jewell and his wife Ann.  She was born at St Erme.  The couple married on 27 May 1883 at St Paul's, Truro.  

Curiously, Frederick's widowed mother, Eliza Lukes Ditton, married Frederick's widowed future father-in-law, James Jewell, in 1881.  Even more curiously, James had been married to Anna Lukes, Eliza's sister.  She was therefore Edith's aunt by blood and became her step-mother, as well as her mother-in-law!

Frederick died in 1909, leaving Edith to bring up the younger children on her own.  

By 1911, Charles and his brother Frederick had moved to London to work for Cook, Son & Co., at that time the country's largest wholesale clothing company.  Both men were living at the company's hostel for their commercial travellers.  They would have travelled the country by rail with samples of their employer's merchandise.  

Charles joined the London Regiment as a rifleman in 1915.  In  November 1916 he was discharged so that he could join the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  This was also the year in which he married Nora Lucinda Pemberton Stevens, a school teacher from Penzance.  The couple had no children.

In May 1917, Charles fell "dangerously ill" - a telegram to this effect was sent to his wife, and a further letter advised her that permission to visit her husband  (suffering lumbar pneumonia) at the hospital in Boulognecould not be granted.  The Lance Corporal rallied and was well enough to have a furlough from 29 August to 7 September 1917 which he spent with his wife at "Delafosse", Tower Road, Newquay.

According to the unit's war diary, The Royal Irish Fusiliers were at Dadizeele at the beginning of October 1918.  On 4 October they relieved the 9th Royal Inniskilling Rifles at Hill 41.  They had 13 officers and 390 other ranks.  By the 7 October, it was noted that the enemy were cutting wire at night in preparation for an attack.  A raid was carried out by the Royal Irish on 11 October and 14 prisoners were captured and 10 enemy soldiers killed, losing 6 men themselves when the enemy counter-attacked.  They then went into reserve.  Back in the line by 14 October, the 9 Battalion joined the Battle of Courtrai.  

The Battalion's principle objective was to attack, capture and hold the crossing over the River Lys.  The advance started at 5.35am.  The Royal Engineers knocked out the bridges and by 6pm the last of the Battalion withdrew.  One man of the Battalion was killed that day:  Charles Ditton.

Nora stayed in Newquay after the war, along with her mother Lucy and two of her sisters. Her War Widow Pension was sent at first to 50 Tower Road; she was awarded 13 shillings 9d a week.  Later she lived at Arlington House on Berry Road.  Nora did not remarry and died on 9 May 1945, leaving her sisters £4,170 in her will.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

C A Colmer

Arthur Cecil Colmer
Born in 1893 in London.  Killed in Action 1 July 1916 in France
2nd Lieutenant Royal Field Artillery "A" Battery, 96th Brigade
Buried at Dartmoor Cemetery Becordel-Becourt

Arthur was the son of Arthur May Colmer and Anna Letitia Pateson.  Arthur and Anna married on 9 January 1892 in Great Queen Street Chapel.  Arthur's father was recorded as Oliver Colmer, a draper, whilst Anna's father, Reuben, was a toy importer.  The bridegroom, a native of Liskeard, listed his profession as "warehouseman", though he would go on to be a draper like his father.

The Colmers moved back to Liskeard sometime around 1895 and Arthur Snr set up shop as a tailor and outfitter on Pike Street.  By 1911, at the age of 43, Arthur had retired and was living in Looe. 18 year old Cecil (it's possible that the family called him Cecil rather than Arthur, so that's how I'm referring to him here) had followed his father into the drapery trade and was a tailor cutter working on his own account.  The family was completed by 16 year old Dorothy and Anna's sister Elizabeth who, like their father, was a toy importer.

Between 1911 and 1914 Cecil moved to Newquay and lived at "Hannafore" on Headland Road.

Cecil joined up fairly quickly on the outbreak of war.  He was posted to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and his medal card notes that he entered the theatre of war on 14 November 1914 (thus earning him a 1914 Star).  From the Cornwalls he moved to the Royal Engineers as a corporal, then went to the Royal Horse Artillery & Field Artillery as a Second Lieutenant on 10 September 1915.

Cecil was killed on the first day of the Battle of Albert, which formed part of the Battle of the Somme.  His battery would have been part of the bombardment of enemy lines on the days leading up to 1 July, the hope being that the shelling would leave the way clear for the infantry to advance unchallenged.  In the event this didn't happen.  The Germans were in their bunkers and emerged with their machine guns to pick off the British as they advanced.  More than 57,000 men fell, either wounded or killed, on that first day, 23 year old Cecil among them.

Cecil's sister, Dorothy, was the executrix of his will, in which he left £258 9s 3d.  Arthur and Anna retired to Bournemouth. Dorothy married, had four children and passed away just short of her 100th birthday in 1993.