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.

Monday, 26 September 2016

WALTER FURNESS

WALTER FURNESS


Private 24704

9th Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment

Missing presumed dead - 26th September 1916



Walter Furness was the youngest child of Alfred and Sarah Furness.  He was born in New Whittington around 1892.  

Alfred Furness married Sarah Ann Slater on 24th June 1874 at Sheffield in an area known as Wicker.  Alfred and Sarah both originated from the village of Eyam, the famous plague village.  Alfred had moved to find work in the smokey city of Sheffield, famous for its steel industry.

By 1881 the Furness family have moved to the Derbyshire side of Sheffield and lived at Fallswood Terrace, Coal Aston.  Alfred was still employed as a labourer in the steel works.  The couple already have a growing family; Mary 9, Annie 5, Emily 3 and Thomas aged 11 months.  

Mary was born before the couple were married, her birth was registered under her mothers name as Mary Ann Slater.  She was baptised in February 1872 at Eyam, with only the mother noted.

Over the next ten years the family grew, on the 1891 census the Furness family have moved to New Whittington. They live on Bamford Street and the two new arrivals; Alfred aged 3 and baby Elizabeth.

Two family members are missing from the household; Mary Ann and Annie; 

Mary Ann was living with Alfred's parents, Richard and Ann Furness back at Eyam village.  Described as their grandaughter, she was 17 years of age and helped around the house.  Mary married Job Ollernshaw Robinson at Eyam in 1900.

Annie was aged 15 years old and worked in service at Dunston Villa, Sheepbridge.  Her employer was William Haslam was a forge manager. On 4th July 1898 she married John Cathorall at New Whittington. Annie died in the early months of 1899, aged just 22 years old she was buried on 8th February 1899 at Cresswell/Elmton.

Walter was the last child born to Alfred and Sarah, born in 1892 he was aged 8 years old on the 1901 census.  He would be attending the local school and enjoying his time playing in the surrounding fields.  his father and elder brother Thomas both worked at the local iron foundry as pipe moulders.  

Newly weds Mary and Job were living at Town Head, Eyam.  Job worked as a carter.  

1911 the eve of war....

Walter and his family were still residing at 21 Bamford Street. He was 19 years old and worked as a surface man at the colliery.  

Mary Ann and Job had two young children now, John aged 7 and William aged 5 years old.  Some good fortune must have come their way as Job was now farming his own farm at Shepherds Flat, Eyam.  The couple had lost two children, so times had not all been rosy.  

Emily married James Fish on 15th April 1901 at New Whittington. A year later they had their first child, a son named Leonard.  Two more children were born but sadly died; Clifford born and died in 1906, he was buried at New Whittington on 25th June 1906. A little girl named Emily was baptised 25th July 1908, no birth or death was registered. 

In 1911 Emily and James were living at 11 London Street, New Whittington.  New baby girl May was just 10 months old and would be keeping Emily busy.  James worked as a coal miner hewer.

Thomas married Ethel May Hutchinson on 24th June 1901, a son named after his Uncle was born a year later; Walter Furness.  More children followed; Ethel May 1904, Edith 1907 and Thomas 1909.  In 1911 the growing family were living at 84 Handley Road in New Whittington.

Walter's life just prior to WW1....

Walter was a sporty chap, he was well known for his achievements as a footballer and cricketer.  He was employed by Glapwell Colliery and was a member of their cricket team.




Walter's war....

Walter served with the 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, a local battalion which many of his friends and work colleagues would also have been part of.  Another man named on the St Barnabas Memorial was also missing in action on the same day as Walter; George Mears whose story can be read here.

Walter's service records have not survived but we know that he was a Private, soldier number 24704.  He was awarded the 15 Star, which means that he served overseas between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915.  

The 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters were part of 33rd Brigade, 11th Division.  They were formed at the outset of WW1 in August 1914 and landed in Sulva Bay, Gallipoli on 7th August 1915.  The battalion saw some terrible fighting in Gallipoli and two other New Whittington men were killed in those early days of August 1915; Norman Croaysdill and John James Kirk.

The war diaries for the 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters during August 1915 are missing however searching the internet I have managed to locate a post which gives details from the 33rd Brigade War Diaries which includes an account of the 9th August 1915 for the 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.  The article can be found here.

The diary states that the 9th Battalion left at 4am on 9th August to take up their position in line at Damak Jelik Bair by 6am.  They were soon caught up in sniper fire but were not able to return that fire.  By 15.30 that day many of the battalion had been forced back; A and B Coys were both under Captain Squires; "He was at once killed and his left platoon decimated as the Turks had pushed a larger force about 2 Coys into the gap and began to open a heavy enfilade fire on both A and B Coys"  ref from the above link to the post on the WW1 invision forum.




To join the British Expeditionary Force in France....

The 9th Sherwood's were evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 and moved on to Egypt.  On 1st July 1916 20 Officers and 526 Other Ranks of "A" and "B" Coys embarked on the H.T Oriana and set sail at 8am. The ship sailed to Malta where it rested for 2 hours before setting sail once more, they passed the island of Sardinia at 10am on 2nd July and arrived in the French port of Marseilles at 7pm on 3rd July.  By 8.30am on the morning of the 4th July Walter and his comrades were entrained, and on their way to Rouen.  The "C" and "D" Coys were met over the coming days, being full strength by 10th July.  For the rest of July the battalion was split, each Coy was given different objectives, some received further training, others were sent on working parties.

August 1916 a month into the Somme attack, many thousands of soldiers wounded, missing and killed in action.  The 9th Sherwood's had relieved the 9th Rifle Brigade in the trenches near to Arras on 28th July. The month was relatively quiet, regular enemy aircraft flying overhead, occasional gas attack alerts, enemy fire and time spent as working parties, fixing wire and making good the trenches.  The men were relieved on 18th August and returned to Headquarters at Berneville.

The battalion then spent 10 days at Gouy-En-Artios where they received many days worth of training, which the war diary records as having included numerous lectures.  On to Astree Wamin and more training and then on 3rd September the battalion arrived at Acheux where they received lectures on Battalion Attack.  It would appear that the allies were taking no chances and wanted their men to be fully educated and ready to produce an effective attack on the enemy.  A small rest bite from combat, but no time for relaxation.




School time over....

Walter's further education was at an end and so on 6th September the battalion relieved the 13th Cheshire Regiment in the trenches just south of Thiepval.  They remained in the trenches under some very heavy enemy fire.  On 12th September just before they were to be relieved the battalion war diary tells "Enemy send over large number of tear shells which exploded in our trenches.  It was suspected that poisonous gas shells were mixed up with these.  Gas helmets were worn and no casualties occurred".  At 6am the men fell into the reserve trenches when they were relieved by the 6th Lincolnshire Regiment. 

Over the coming days the men were moved in and out of trenches. There was great artillery fire by the British, which were a success and enemy prisoners were taken.  The Germans then retaliated bombarding the 9th Battalions occupied trench, "Constance Trench" "was heavily shelled by enemy with whizz-bangs".  

On 22nd September the men were relieved once more and returned to Mailley Mallet where they rested and undertook a parade, with new clothing issued.  On 24th September the men rehearsed the forthcoming attack on Thiepval.  Orders were given that the men should be ready to move at short notice, Walter and his friends would be aware that the coming attack was to be the culmination of the weeks of training and rehearsals.  

26th September 1916....

The men found themselves once more stationed in Constance Trench, ready for the coming attack on Thiepval.  They were reported as all being in position by 3.30am on the morning of 26th September.  They were then given "M & V rations* and tea was sent up during the morning" .

Once fed, the men were moved into positions ready for "the whistle signal at ZERO 12.35pm".  During the attack the battalion received many casualties, however it also took many prisoners and large scale items of equipment were also claimed from the enemy.  The battalion were part of the 33rd Brigade of the 11th Division which successfully captured Zollern and Hessian Trenches, despite heavy machine gun fire at times.  It is said to have suffered 600 casualties

The battle carried on into 27th September, on 28th the battalion spent time in consolidating Joseph Trench, they were shelled throughout their work.

The heroic fighting by all of the 11th Division was noted in a memo sent from General Sir H Gough, Commanding Reserve Army.  It reads;


"My best congratulations to you and your division on 
their gallant fighting today and throughout the
successful operations in which you have been engaged 
since the capture of the WONDER WORK.

You have all done splendid work"


Walter was presumed dead on the date of 26th September when he partook in the "splendid work" along with his comrades in arms of the 11th Division.  The action became known as The Battle of Thiepval Ridge.


Walter was reported missing in action, presumed dead on 26th September 1916.  He has no known grave but is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, France.  Ref pier and face 10C 10D & 11A.





Private 24704 Walter Furness was awarded the Victory, British and 15 Star Medals for his service.  

Harry was remembered in the Derbyshire Times 4th November 1916 page 8, with a photograph on page 5. The obituary read....


"Another name to be added to the roll of 
honour is that of Pte. Walter Furniss (sic) 
a son of Mr and Mrs Alfred Furniss (sic)  of Bamford Street.

The first misgiving that all was not well was 
caused through receipt of several photos, which were sent
to their married daughter who resided in Eyam.  The 
soldier stated that he had found them on the battlefield
bearing her address.  Since then the parents have 
received a letter from the soldier above referred to, who
regrets to say that Walter was killed in the great advance.
He had come across the body and extracted some 
photos and letters before interment.  He assures them
that their son died a true soldiers death, and expresses
sympathy with them at their loss.

Pte. Furness was a well-built young fellow of 24.  He 
joined the Sherwoods in the early stages of War, and 
having been in France a long time had shared in much heavy 
fighting.  He was a well known footballer and cricketer.  
Formerly he worked on the surface at Markham No1 Colliery,
belonging to Staveley Coal and Iron Co. but later he received
an offer of employment at the Glapwell Colliery, where
he became a playing member of their Cricket Club.  

The date he was killed is not known"




Life went on....

Alfred and Sarah Ann, Walter's parents are recorded as living at Bamford Street on various documentation after Walter's death.  Sarah Ann died first in 1920 aged 68 years, Alfred a year later in 1921 aged 72.

Mary Ann and Job continued to live in Eyam. They had another child, a daughter named Emily May in 1913. Mary Ann lived until aged 85 years old when she died in 1957.  Job died in 1941.

Emily and James two more daughter's; Alice in 1912 and Adelaide in 1916.  In 1939 Emily, James and Adelaide were living at 11 London Street, New Whittington.  James worked as a miner, below ground. Emily died in 1955 aged 77 years old,  James ten years later in 1965.

Thomas and Ethel lived in West Handley.  They had another daughter in 1922 named Hazel.  Thomas worked as a coal miner.  He died in 1944 aged 64 years of age.  

Alfred married Elizabeth Heywood in 1914.  The couple had a son named Stanley in 1916.  In 1939 Alfred was recorded as being employed as club steward.  He lived at 156 High Street, New Whittington.  Alfred died in 1953 aged 65 years of age.

Elizabeth married John Ward in 1911.  The couple had four children; Eilleen in 1914, Walter in 1917 (no doubt named after his brave uncle Walter who had lost his life the year earlier),Thomas 1920 and Sheila 1927.  Elizabeth and John appear to have remained in New Whittington, living at 150 Devonshire Avenue in 1939.  Elizabeth died in 1958 aged 67 years old.

*M & V rations are Meat and Vegetable rations.  See the link to read more about the food and rations during WW1.

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If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on Walter Furness 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.

*****


Ref and further reading  -
Census
Parish registers
Medal rolls
Soldiers who died in the Great war
Register of soldiers effects
Service record - www.ancestry.co.uk

Newspaper articles - 
                               - Derbyshire Times 4th November 1916 p8 & 5


Battle of Thiepval Ridge

http://www.cwgc.org/the-somme/battle-of-the-somme/morval-and-thiepval-ridge.aspx

http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_thiepval_ridge.html