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.