Welcome to my blog......

The purpose of this blog is to remember the fallen heroes of the Great War, whose names are recorded on the memorial plaque situated in St Barnabas Church, New Whittington, Chesterfield.

To mark the centenary of World War 1 I aim to research all of the men on the memorial. I hope to ensure that the brave men who gave their lives for their country 100 years ago are remembered and each man's story told.

I would love to hear from anyone who may have information regarding the men; photos, letters or passed down memories. Any descendents are most welcome to contact me and I will provide copies of the research that I have undertaken.

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them"

For The Fallen,
Laurence Binyon September 1914.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

THOMAS HENRY ROBERTS

THOMAS HENRY ROBERTS

 

Corporal 15208

9th Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry

Killed in action - 28th January 1916

 

The story of Thomas Henry Roberts has been kindly documented by his Great Grand Daughter Alison Megahy...

 

"Thomas Henry Roberts was born in Brimington, Chesterfield in 1882. He was the son of Welshman Phillip Roberts and Mary (nee Fletcher.) At the time of the 1901 census Thomas was living in Queen Street, Whittington Moor, with his mum, stepfather Samuel Fairs (who had married Mary after the death of Phillip), brothers George and John, sister-in-law Alice, Niece Phillipa and nephew Fletcher.

On 9th February 1903 Thomas, now living in Duke Street, married Hannah Mosely of neighbouring Foundery Street, Whittington Moor. The service was held in St John’s Parish Church, Newbold. The couple’s first child, Eva died in infancy, probably from Hydrocephalus.  
By the time of the 1911 census, Thomas, Hannah and children Doris (4), Thomas (2) and Wilfred (5 months) were living at Quarry Lane, Woodlands, Doncaster. Thomas, a collier, was working at the recently sunk Brodsworth Colliery on the Thellusson’s estate. Their home was on a model village, designed and built as tied cottages for the miners. Thellusson, a philanthropist, ensured that the village offered extensive open spaces and living conditions superb for the time. Over the next few years Thomas and Hannah had two more children, Sam and Ruby.
In the September following the outbreak of the First World War, Thomas enlisted as a corporal in the Kings Own Yorkshire Infantry, 9th Battalion. The following year the 9th were shipped to France.  Thomas fought in the Battle of Loos and at Hill 70.

On 28th January 1916, at the age of 33, Thomas was killed “by the bursting of a shell and died instantly.” He was buried at Cite Bonjean Military Cemetary, Armentieres, France.  On the 11 February a tribute to Thomas was published in the Doncaster Chronicle entitled "Brodsworth Hero".  The article described how he was “one of the first to offer his services to King and Country.” A quotation from a letter from a comrade to his widow offered condolences: “I wish you to accept my deepest sympathy in your bereavement and also that of the NCOs and men of his platoon and company. He was a man that was well liked by everyone.” The article finished with a poem that Thomas had recently written from the front:
Just a line or two in rhyme
About our boys in the firing line.
They enlisted a year this last September,
No doubt some of you will remember
No thought had they two years ago
That they would thrash this German foe,
But, “Come you’re wanted,” England said;
“As Britons true, the war-path tread,”
They volunteered, yes, straight away.
And here they are in France today.
They belong to the regiment, Y.L.I.
Who’ll fight like lions until they die
For if death’s nigh these lads don’t care,
Their motto’s Onward and ne’re dispair.
In the greatest battle that was ever seen
They proved to all their fighting was keen,
For they gave the Germans some Kitchener’s pills
At the top of ‘Seventy’ Hill.
 
Some of our N.C.O.s I’ll name
And begin with Company-Sergt. Major Cain
At Loos he showed his bravery then
He held a trench with twenty men.
Then Sergt. Major Couch, our R.S.M.
He gives us our orders and quick we obey,
For we all thank him for what we are today.
Then S.M. Crossland’s as good as the rest,
He’s always there when put to the test.
 
I have no room to mention all the N.C.O.s
That fought so nobly down at Loos,
But now we’ve moved and holding trenches
Waiting for Belgians and the Frenchies
When they come up and not until
Shall we advance on Kaiser Bill,
And when we do with bayonets fixed
We shall astonish Karl and Fritz.
And when for mercy they all cry
Their just rewards will be to die.
 
But whilst we’re fighting o’er the foam
What about you boys who stay at home?
Whatever you will have to say
When we have nobly won the day;
When we come home, a victory won,
And get three cheers from everyone!
You will certinly hide your face,
Knowing you have been a big disgrace.
Although old England needed you,
Your heart was too small your duty to do.
 
Penned by Corporal T Roberts 1916
 
Thomas left a wife and five children. My Grandma Doris, aged ten at the time of his death, ensured that the next generations of the family knew about his life and death. She treasured a few precious mementos for the following eighty years: two letters, a birthday card and an embroidered silk handkerchief bearing the inscription “Souvenir de France 1916,” which was to be the last gift from her beloved father". 

After the war Hannah had to leave the colliery house and went to live with her cousin in Doncaster town centre.  She remarried and moved to Armthorpe with the opening of the mine - Markham Main, where her husband got a job.  Later she moved to a cottage in North Notts called Rock Cottage. 

Doris, my Grandma, born in 1906, worked at a shop in Armthorpe wher she met and married her husband James Henry Criddle.  They married on Boxing Day when she was 19.  She has three children."

by, Alison Megahy, Great Grand Daughter of Thomas Henry Roberts
 
 
Life before the Great War....

 

Thomas Henry Roberts was born in 1882 at Brimington, not far from New Whittington.  His father (John) Philip Roberts had married Mary Holmes nee Fletcher on 18th December 1866.  Mary was a young widow, she had married Joseph Holmes on 9th October 1864.  Joseph died a year later in 1865, and so Mary met Welsh man Philip Roberts.  The couple had five children; Mary Ann, John, Jane, George and Thomas.  On the 1881 census the family were living with Mary's father at Victoria Street, Brimington. 

 
Derbyshire Times 24th July 1886 page 5

Mary suffered yet another loss when Philip died on 21st July 1886, he was 42 years old.

 
Probate entry for Philip Roberts
www.ancestry.co.uk

Thomas was aged about 4 years old, his mother Mary was left to bring up five young children alone.  Mary was around 38 years old and a widow for the second time in her life.  Philip left a will and the probate entry states that his executor was George Yates, boot and shoe maker of Brimington.  Philip's personal estate was the sum of £46 8s.

 

On 30th December 1888 Mary married her third husband; Samuel Fletcher a widower.  Samuel had a young daughter named Fanny (1).  Aged just 4 years old Fanny was brought up by Mary and became one of the family, another sister for Thomas Henry.  On the 1891 census the family were living at Glasshouse Lane in Whittington.  Samuel was aged 40 years old and worked as a coal miner, John was working as a pony driver down the pit, Jane, George, Thomas  and Fanny were all still at school.


Thomas's eldest sister Mary had married Samuel Storer on 30th July 1887.  In 1891 they were living on London Street, New Whittington.  They had one daughter named Lilian aged just 1 year old. 

More heartache for Mary....
 
Derbyshire Times - 15th July 1893 page 5
Fate appears to have dealt poor Mary another blow when on 8th July 1893 her third husband Samuel died, he was buried on 11th July at Whittington Church.
 
But would life's tragedies keep Mary down? 

well no.... looking at the 1901 census Mary was married to Samuel Fairs a railway engine driver aged 53 years old.  Mary married her fourth husband in 1894.  Samuel Fairs was born in Suffolk and had most likely come to Chesterfield with his career on the railways.  In 1901 they were living on Queen Street in Newbold.  Thomas and his brothers John (along with his own family) and George were still living with their mother; Thomas was a coal filler, John a collier hewer and George worked as a colliery clerk. 
 
John had married Alice Compton on 19th April 1897 at Whittington.  By the time of the 1901 census they had two children; Philippa aged 3 years and Fletcher Philip aged 2 years. 
 
Mary and Samuel Storer were living at King Street in Newbold.  Samuel was a bricklayer and their daughter Lilian was 11 years old.  Fanny was also living with the family, she was 17 years old by now.  A year later in 1902 they had another daughter born named Mary Hannah.   Sadly in the early days of February 1907 Mary Ann died aged 39 years old.  She was buried at Whittington on 16th February 1907. 
 
Jane married Albert Dury on 26th August 1895 at Whittington.  On the 1901 census they were living on Foundry Street, Whittington Moor.  Albert was a coal miner and they had a daughter named Gertrude aged 4 and a son named John aged 1 year old.
 
Wedding bells....


Thomas Henry Roberts married his sweetheart Hannah Moseley on 9th February 1903 (2).  At the time he was living at Duke Street, Whittington Moor and was aged 20 years old.  Hannah was a local girl, she lived just around the corner on Foundry Street.  She was the daughter of William Mosley (deceased) and was 19 years old.  They married at St John's Church in Newbold.  Hannah lived on the same street as Thomas's sister Jane and her husband Albert.  They must have been close friends as they were both the witnesses at the wedding of Thomas and Hannah.
 
1911 the eve of WW1....
 
1911 Census showing hand written name and address
www.findmypast.co.uk
 
Thomas and Hannah had settled into family life by 1911.  They had moved to Doncaster around 1910 and were living at Quarry Lane, Woodlands, Adwick Le Street.  They had three children; Doris 4, Thomas 2 and young Wilfred aged 5 months. 

Life at the Woodlands Model Village in which they lived would be the height of modern living for The Roberts family.  Their homes were newly built, the houses in various rural cottage styles as opposed to the rows of identical  terraced houses Thomas and Hannah were used to.  There were gardens and open communal areas, a new church and many social clubs were established including the sports and cricket club.
 
Thomas's mother Mary was living at 60 Duke Street, Whittington Moor with Samuel Fairs and her two grandchildren; Philippa 13 years and Fletcher Philip aged 12 years old.  Philippa and Fletcher's parents John and Alice Roberts were living at 19 Inge Lane, Adwick Le Street, Doncaster close to Thomas and his family.  Samuel Storer the brother in law of John is also living with the family; having lost his wife Mary Ann a few years earlier.  Fletcher (Philip) is recorded on this census record also, so he may have been just visiting his grandma Mary's home in Chesterfield. 

Jane and Albert Drury were now living at 25 Main Street, Shirebrook.  Along with their own two children Gertrude and John Thomas they had also adopted Jane's neice (Mary) Hannah Storer, the daughter of Mary Ann and Samuel Storer.
 
George had married Ethel Myhill on 30th October 1901.  In 1911 they lived in Chesterfield town centre; George was a publican and ran the Bulls Head in The Shambles.  The couple had three children; Ivy Amelia, Philip and Winifred. 
 
Fanny had married Harry Wilson on 30th January 1907 at Shirebrook.  By 1911 they to had moved to Adwick Le Street in Doncaster; living only a few doors away from John and Alice at number 25 Inge Lane.  Fanny had a 3 year old daughter named Nina Irene.

Thomas' war....

Thomas answered the call for men to fight for King and Country in September 1914, when he most likely travelled to Pontefract to join the 9th Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).  Soon after, the newly recruited men would march off with their comrades to Berkhamstead, arriving at Halton Park for training in the October of 1914. 

The 9th Battalion received their orders to move to join the British Expeditionary Force in the early days of September 1915.  Thomas had been with the battalion for a year now and was probably wondering if they would ever see active service.  The battalion moved out in two sections; the first line and machine gun sections sailed from Southampton on 11th September to Le Harve, the right and left half battalions sailed from Folkestone on 11th September on the S.S St Seiriol (a steam powered minesweeper) and arrived at Boulogne at 1am on 12th September. 

The two sections were united on a train journey to Zutkerque on 15th September.  They billeted there until 20th September, continuing with their training.  After this date the battalion spent time marching from billet to billet and only days later on 22nd September they were faced with the reality of their task.  Upon arrival at Amettes at 9.50pm "it was originally intended to billet but owing to the dirty condition of the billets and the presence of infectious disease it was decided on the accommodation of the Medical Officer".

By 25th September the battalion had reached its intended destination; Loos.  They "advanced in double columns of companies for a distance of about 2 1/2 miles, being under heavy artillery fire during the advance".  At 1.30pm on 26th September the war diary states "Battalion took part on the attack on Hill 70....F. G Elliott suffered from the effects of gas".  Before the advance had commenced on 25th September the British launched their first chemical attack of WW1, sending 140 tonnes of chlorine gas ahead into the enemies trenches.  The plan being that the gas would make up for the lack of troops and cause death or disability to the majority of the enemy.  In fact, sadly the gas was blown back towards the British troops when the wind unexpectedly changed its direction.  This caused seven deaths and several thousand injuries to the British troops.

Thomas and his fellow men had been in France for less than two weeks and they found themselves straight in the middle of one of the most noted battles of the Great War.  Thomas may well have witnessed the horrific effects of chlorine gas, he may even have been one of the men who were injured by its effects.  On that one day of 26th September the battalion "lost 215 rank and file, killed wounded and missing".

News to boost the battalions morale would come on 19th October 1915 when they were told that Lance Corporal Mc Kelvey had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for Gallantry for his actions at Hill 70 on 26th September. 

November and December saw the men repairing trenches, marching and relieving other battalions.  The war diary comments on the amount of rain fall during December ad the trenches were becoming flooded; "particulary in trench 83 which has at least 18" of water in every part".

On 23rd January 1916 the battalion relieved the 1st East Yorkshire Regiment in the trenches.  They remained in the trenches for the coming days being relieved on 29th January.  There was a mixture of heavy bombardment by both the British and the enemy during that week.  On 26th January considerable damage was done to trench 84. 

On the day of the 28th January, the day Corporal Thomas Henry Roberts was killed the following account is given in the war diary "shortly after 4am the enemy opened a heavy bombardment on our left and the trenches further north.  Throughout the day (....unreadable) T84 & S84 were heavily bombarded by the enemy, especially between 9am + 10am and 3pm + 4pm, this caused some casualties......... at its height the bombardment was intense".



 
Corporal Thomas Henry Roberts is buried at the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery, Armentieres, France.  His grave ref is 1X E 37. 

Thomas was one of five men killed on 28th January 1916 serving with the 9th Battalion KOYLI.  All five men are buried at the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery.  The men who died alongside Thomas are -

Lance Corporal C Dawson 13394
Lance Corporal H Thomas 16726
Private W Hamblin 11140
Private J Hurp 15921

 
 
Medal Card Corporal Roberts
Thomas was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 15 Star for his service.

Life went on....
 
Register of soldiers effects, showing pension awarded
to Hannah Roberts
www.ancestry.co.uk
 
Hannah and Thomas had two more children before the outbreak of WW1; Sam around 1913 and Ruby in 1915.  After Thomas's death Hannah and the children remained in the Doncaster area until Hannah remarried a miner named Enoch H Staton.  The family then moved to Armthorpe to work at the Markham Main Colliery.  Hannah had another daughter named Ethel born in 1924.  Hannah and Enoch moved to Rock Cottage, North Nottinghamshire later and Hannah died in 1959 aged 75 years old.

Handkerchief sent to Doris from Thomas
Birthday card sent to Doris Roberts from her loving
Dad Thomas Roberts
Pictures property of Alison Megahy, kindly offered to the blog.
 
Thomas's daughter Doris married James Henry Criddle in 1925.  She died at the grand age of 94 years old.  She treasured her beloved fathers memory and the special keepsakes and letters which have all been passed on through the generations.  Thanks to Doris, Thomas Henry Roberts will remain forever in the hearts of his descendants; 100 years on from his untimely death his memory lives on.
 
Thomas worked at Armthorpe Colliery, following in his fathers footsteps he became a miner.  Although his occupation deemed him exempt from duties during WW2 he still played an important part in the countries defence by becoming a home guard.
 
Wilfred served with the Navy during WW2.
 
Sam may have died in 1919, aged only around 6 years old. 
 
Ruby married a man who served with the RAF during WW2.

Mary had become ill in late 1913.  She had become bedbound for around 5 weeks when on 7th February 1914 she attempted to get out of her bed.  She was sleeping with her grand daughter Philippa at the time and so luckily was not alone at her time of need.  She fell over and Philippa summoned the help of Samuel to assist in getting Mary back into the safety of her bed.

It was found that Mary had fractured her left thigh bone and was removed to the Chesterfield Royal Hospital.  Sadly Mary was too ill by now as she was suffering from kidney disease.  She remained in hospital and died on Sunday 22nd February 1914 aged 67 years old (ref Derby Courier 24th February 1914 page 8). 

 

 
 
 
 
I have not found any definite information on Thomas's siblings; John, Jane so would love to hear from any descendants who might be able to fill in the story.

George moved from the Bulls Head in the Shambles to run The Forge Inn at New Whittington.  He transferred the licence to a Harry Freeman in March 1918. 

Fanny and her husband Harry Wilson appear to have travelled. She is recorded on the passenger lists entering Canada on 28th July 1923.  There is also a departure listed for her from Southampton on 21st August 1928. 

Their daughter 16 year old Nina also travelled to Canada in July 1923.  Her "Declaration of passenger form" tells that she was intending to work as a housemaid.  Her passage was paid by her father and she entered the country with £10.  

On 12th March 1932 Harry, Fanny, Nina and a Vera Madeline (documented as sister to Nina) arrived in Northport, Washington, USA.  The border card for Nina states that she travelled into the USA regularly and had "several visits last year". 

What became of the Wilson family after this I have not been able to confirm for definite.
 
*****
With very special thanks to Alison Megahy for
her contribution to the remembrance blog
for Thomas Henry Roberts
and her additions of family heirlooms
to be included also.
 
*****
Special thanks also to Doncaster Local Studies Library for providing a scanned copy of the Doncaster Chronicle in which Thomas was remembered on 11th February 1916.
*****
 

If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on Thomas Henry Roberts or his family please do either leave comments via the pen icon below or drop me an email.

I hope that I have not given details of living persons, if so please advise and I will remove immediately.

Please note all information has been taken from online indexes and sources.  Due to the sheer numbers of people to be researched I am unable to purchase vital event certificates to confirm my research.

(1) As stated above I have not purchased a birth certificate for Fanny Fletcher.  However there is a baptism for a Fanny Fletcher, daughter of Samuel and Emma Fletcher on ....... there is a death for Emma Fletcher registered in .......  NB this would need to be confirmed by purchasing the relevant certificates to prove my hypothesis.

(2) marriage certificate kindly provided by Thomas' Great Grand daughter Alison

****

Ref and further reading  -

Census
Parish registers
Medal rolls
Soldiers who died in the Great war
Register of soldiers effects
Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times & Doncaster Chronicle
CWGC  http://www.cwgc.org

War Diary 9th Battalion Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry ref - piece 2162/1 via www.ancestry.co.uk or can be accessed via The National Archives, UK.
 

www.ancestry.co.uk
www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk
www.findmypast.co.uk
http://www.1914-1918.net/notts.htm


http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/battles/battles-of-the-western-front-in-france-and-flanders/the-battle-of-loos/

http://www.remembrancetrails-northernfrance.com/history/battles/the-battle-of-loos-25-september-to-19-october-1915.html


Thellusson Estate, Woodlands, Adwick Le Street & Brodsworth Colliery

http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/rd/f42817d5-90b6-47f3-a955-edab2d73c503