Sunday, 22 February 2015

J L Rogers

John Lewis Rogers
Born 1890 Truro  Died 15 November 1918 Cairo
Captain 1/4 Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Buried Cairo War Cemetery

John was the son of china clay merchant Joseph Rogers and his wife Elizabeth Webber Salmon.  Joseph was born in Ireland, though he had moved to Cornwall at an early age.  The couple lived in Kenwyn, Truro.  

The couple had five children, of whom four survived:

Ruby Lillian (did not marry) (born 16 October 1883 - 1981)
Hazel  Salmon (married George Darel Senhouse Le Messurier) (born c 1885 - 1947)
Olive Mary (born c 1887)
John (born 1890 - 1918)

On the 1911 census, John is listed as a shipping clerk, boarding at a house in Blackheath.  His parents had by this time moved to Newquay, living at Bolowthas with two of their daughters and a couple of domestic servants.  

I can't find the date on which John joined up, but I have found a report in the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser from 18 July 1912 in which he is mentioned.  The annual training of the Cornwall Territorials took place in Newquay and J L Rogers is listed among the Lieutenants of the 5th DCLI.

After war was declared, John's battalion was stationed during the war. The 1/4 left Truro in 1914 and sailed for India on 9 October 1914, arriving at Bombay on 10 November.  They remained in India for over a year, leaving early in 1916 and landing at Aden on 28 January.  After a year with the Aden Brigade, they travelled to Egypt, arriving on 13 February 1917.  John is mentioned in the DCLI History on 9 April 1918.  He was taking part in an action against the Turks in Palestine, near Ballut Village, commanding A Company.  Along with another company, his men were occupying a ridge and came under heavy fire with the result of 17 men losing their lives and 46 being wounded.  

The 1/4 DCLI were last in action on 31 October 1918.  Sadly, having safely come through several battles, John lost his life due to pneumonia on 15 November 1918. 

John's parents erected a memorial to him at St Columb Minor Church, which also lists the other men who fell during the Great War.  

During his war service John kept a personal war diary, which is kept at the Imperial War Museum.  

Friday, 20 February 2015

1000 Speak for Compassion: Compassion in the Trenches

Was the War a Compassion-Free Zone?

I’m taking part in a global initiative called 1,000 Voices for Compassion.  Today, bloggers all over the world are writing posts about compassion.  I was slightly at a loss when my good friend Yvonne mentioned her idea – wonderful though it is, it doesn’t seem to fit comfortably with military history.  I thought I might have to give it a miss, until I read the Pope’s Lenten message.  There, he referred to the globalisation of indifference, a state in which we are often so caught up in our internal world that compassion gets left behind.   It led me to wonder what happens to compassion when we are caught up in the horrors of our external world; when there’s a war, for instance.

Compassion:  It's Not Just for Christmas

Artist's Impression of the Christmas Truce 1914
Source:  Wikimedia, Public Domain

Amid all the carnage of the Great War, it’s tempting to think that compassion was blown away, shattered like the tree stumps on the Western Front.  The narrative that we have received supports this idea.  War poets like Wilfred Owen recounted their experiences in words dripping with pain and bitterness; films dwell on the drama and gore.  But in those four years did stiff upper lips replace kind hearts; did cynicism overtake kindness; was compassion overtaken by duty?

My feeling is no, compassion did not wither away.  It was alive and well, although it was sometimes forgotten in the everyday routine of life, just as it so often is today.  I’ve not undertaken any great research on this, it’s just my opinion, based on snippets of information I’ve read over the years.  Some of it’s in the public domain, some of it is amongst my family’s papers. 

One of the most iconic moments of the war was rooted in compassion:  the Christmas Truce and football match of 1914.  The men on the ground left their trenches and met in no man’s land to fraternise, celebrating peace and exchanging small tokens.  No hate, no rancour, just care and empathy for their fellow men.  Over all too soon, but a glimmer of compassion in the midst of the mud.

Greater Love Hath No Man

The Noel Chavasse Memorial
By Gaius Cornelius (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In the panic and chaos of the trenches, compassion could go unnoticed, but occasionally it was seen and rewarded.  The Victoria Cross is awarded to military personnel who display bravery, valour or self-sacrifice in the face of the enemy.  Often, the men who received the award during World War 1, did so because they were attempting to rescue wounded comrades.  628 VCs were awarded during the war to 627 men.  Captain Noel Chavasse VC received the award twice.  Captain Chavasse, a doctor with the RAMC was first awarded a VC for his action in recovering and treating the wounded whilst under heavy fire at Guillemont on 9 August 1916.  He received his bar (second award) for refusing to leave his post for two days, despite being wounded, and assisted in not only treating men, but carrying them to safety whilst again under heavy fire.  He was to die of his own wounds shortly thereafter. 

I can think of no greater compassion than to ignore the risk to one’s own life in pursuit of the safety of another’s.  Men awarded VCs, like Captain Chavasse, are not the only ones to have risked themselves.  Many unarmed stretcher bearers laboured in the mire of no man’s land to recover their comrades and bring them to safety.

Uncommon Kindness for the Common Man

Combat on the front line produced its heroes, but away from the action there were everyday deeds of kindness too.  My great-uncle Sidney was wounded early in 1917.  Somehow, someone got word to one of his brothers.  Edwin was stationed, I believe, at a hospital far away from Sidney, where he worked with St John Ambulance.  There must have been thousands of men wounded at that time, but rather than treating this family crisis as a commonplace occurrence that must be endured, Edwin’s superior officers organised a train ticket and gave him leave to visit his brother.  Despite a frantic dash across France, he arrived “too late to see the last of Dear Sidney”, assuring his parents in his letter home that the hospital staff were kind and sent condolences.  Edwin stayed overnight with an NCO who gladly offered to share his quarters.  The next day, Edwin bought flowers for the funeral and again was treated kindly by the military and hospital staff.  Back at his own hospital, he was met with condolences and recognition of the pain of his loss from comrades and superiors alike. 

It seems to me that there was plenty of compassion in the war, and not just the great acts of bravery and heroism, but small, simple gestures that made life slightly more bearable in a time that could have become all too unbearable.  Today, as the Pope said, we are in danger of becoming indifferent to our neighbours and losing our compassion for our fellow beings.  Yet, if these soldiers, medics and nurses could show compassion in the midst of all the suffering around them, never losing sight of their humanity, we can too.  More good reason to say:

Lest we Forget

Thursday, 19 February 2015

S Brown

Samuel Brown
Born circa 1878 in Perranzabuloe  Killed in Action 15 July 1916
Buried at Mazingarbe Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France
Sapper 98226 155th Field Company, Royal Engineers
Enlisted Newquay 9 May 1915

Samuel was the son of a copper miner, Samuel, and his wife Elizabeth Pascoe.  The couple had another son, William, who was born two years before Samuel.  Samuel was baptized on 28 November 1878.  His parents are listed as residents of Bolingey.

Elizabeth was the daughter of surgeon Richard Pascoe, himself the son of a surgeon.  By the 1870s the Pascoes were living in Perranzabuloe, where presumably Elizabeth met Samuel Brown Snr.  The couple were married on 4 July 1876, the 22 year old groom stating that his occupation, like that of his father William's, was a miner.  21 year old Elizabeth gave her father's occupation as "Gentleman".  Her sister Emmeline was a witness.

Elizabeth and Samuel do not appear to have enjoyed a long married life.  Elizabeth is shown as widowed on the 1891 census.  She went  on to marry Samuel Kitto, a miner, and she and her two sons were living with him in Newquay by 1901.  Elizabeth's sister, Emmeline, married Samuel Kitto's son, Jonathan.

Samuel Brown is listed as a joiner on the 1901 census.  He married on 5 October 1908, to 21 year old Maud Elizabeth Carter, whose father James was a Newquay fisherman.  The couple were living in Commercial Square by 1911, where Samuel had his own business as a tobacconist.  Their son, William Kenneth, had been born on 9 November 1909.

Part of Samuel's service record exists and shows that he joined up on 9 May 1915.  He stated that his occupation was a carpenter and joiner.  His number of dependents had increased, a second son, Cyril Owen having been born in November 1913.  Samuel left for France on 18 December 1915.  The entry on his record detailing his death is indistinct.

After he enlisted Samuel went to the Royal Engineers and became a sapper, the RE's equivalent of a private.  155th Field Company were part of the 16th (Irish) Division and arrived in France in December 1915.  Samuel was killed before their first major battle, at Guillemont, a phase of the Battles of the Somme.  The 16th (Irish) Division were concentrated around the Bethune area until they moved up to the front in September 1916.  Samuel is buried in the cemetery extension that the Division opened in April 1916 for their war dead.

Both of Samuel's sons appear to have passed away in the early 1980s.  Maud does not seem to have remarried and lived until the mid 1960s.

Mazingarbe Cemetery Extension
By Wernervc (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

K C Campbell

Kenneth Gordon Campbell
12 February 1895, Cambridge  Killed in Action 25 September 1915
Buried at Dud Corner Cemetery, Loos
Lieutenant 12th Battalion Highland Light Infantry

Kenneth died at the age of 20

The inscription on the war memorial is incorrect; the initial "C" should be a "G".  

Kenneth Campbell is connected to Newquay as he and his parents - Frederick Gordon (a barrister) and Blanche Campbell - came to the town for holidays.  Eventually his parents bought a house here, overlooking the golf course and Kenneth became quite proficient at the game.  They appear to have moved away shortly after the war.

I'm not going to write any more about Kenneth, since I've found two excellent articles already written about him and they cover all the bases, so I shall link to them.  

Winchester College article about their former student.

A very comprehensive article about Kenneth and his family on the Mill Road Cemetery website.