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.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

WILFRED KIRK

WILFRED CECIL KIRK



Private 13/555

13th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment 

Died of wounds - 31st July 1916


Wilfred Cecil Kirk was the son of Samuel and Caroline Kirk.  He was born in New Whittington and baptised there on 11th May 1894.  Wilfred had four brothers, however there had also been another child born to Samuel and Caroline which had not survived.

Samuel was a local lad to New Whittington, he met and married Caroline Gregory from the neighbouring village of Newbold in the winter of 1891/2.  Their first son was born, named after his father Samuel in later in 1892.  The couple lived in New Whittington for the early days of their marriage, Horace was born there in 1897.  

By the census of 1901 the family had moved to Barnsley, they lived at 60 Cooper Street and Samuel was employed as an iron moulder.  A 1 year old son named Harry was the newest addition to the family, he had been born in Worsborough.  Joseph followed in 1903 born at Lincoln. 

1911....

On the 1911 census the Kirk family were all at home together, they now lived at 9 Eveline Street in Cudworth, Barnsley.  Samuel was still employed as an iron moulder, his sons Samuel, Wilfred and Horace had all found employment as coal miners.  Young Harry and Joseph were still attending school.




Wedding bells....

Wilfred met a young lady named Lydia Mabel Lobb.  Lydia was the daughter of William and Harriett.  She was a few years older than Wilfred being born on 21st February 1891.  Lydia had been born in Brisbane, Australia.  Her father William was a bricklayer, he may well have travelled to work in Australia.  He married Lydia's mother Harriett on 4th March 1890 in Queensland.  Lydia had returned to England by 1896 when her sister Joyce was born in Cudworth.  

Wilfred and Lydia married on 28th October 1912, a happy occasion which Wilfred would be able to remember when he was fighting for King and Country.  

A son was born to newly wed couple late 1912/early months of 1913. He was named after his Uncle; Horace.  Sadly this child died very soon after his birth.  (note, I have not purchased the registration certificates to confirm this fact).

Samuel, Wilfred's elder brother was next to marry.  His fiancee was Mary Guest and they made their vows at St John the Baptist Church in Cudworth on 25th August 1913.

Wilfred's war....

Wilfred's service records have survived and although they are not very clear in places they are very informative.  Wilfred enlisted at Barnsley on 22nd September 1914, at that time he lived at 11 Well Street in Cudworth with his new wife Lydia.  He was employed as a coal miner at Houghton Main Colliery before the war.

Wilfred was given a soldiers number; 13/555 the number 13 meaning that his Battalion was the 13th Battalion, serving with the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment.  The 13th Battalion was a service battalion, it was formed on 17th September 1914, just days before Wilfred had enlisted.  The 13th was a "Pals" regiment, local men were encouraged to join up with their friends, family and work colleagues.  This would, it was thought lead to a more productive and happy group of soldiers. The 13th were thus known as the Barnsley Pals.

Wilfred and his friends marched around the country and undertook their basic training.  In December 1914 they moved to Silkstone where they remained until May 1915 when they spent two months at the Penkridge Camp at Cannock Chase.  In December 1915 the men were moved on to Salisbury Plain, from there they set sail for Egypt.

The 13th were part of the 31st Division whose job was to guard the Suez Canal.  The Suez Canal had been attacked earlier in 1915, it was a major trade route for the British which needed to be kept under our control and so was heavily guarded.  In December of 1915 a new strategy was adopted which meant that the canal would be guarded from a short distance away, which was hoped would ensure that our troops would not be such easy targets for the Turkish gun fire.  The railways around the area were also doubled using local men to build these new lines.

March 1916 saw the Barnsley Pals join the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) in France.  They left their camp in Kantara at 6.30am and marched to the train station where they entrained for Port Said at 8.30am arriving two hours later.   At 7.30pm on 11th March Wilfred sailed out of Port Said harbour on the H.M.T Megantic destined for Marseilles.  They eventually arrived at the port of Marseilles at 9am on 16th March but were anchored off shore and remained on the ship awaiting further instructions. 



Entry to the French theatre of war....

The men were disembarked on 18th March and took a train to Pont Remy from where they marched onward to various destinations over the coming weeks.  Their time was spent assisting with mining duties and they often subjected to enemy fire.  On 6th April at Mailly Mallett the battalion were heavily shelled for 90 minutes, which included gas shells also.  Two men were wounded on this day.

They remained based at Mailly Mallett until 23rd June 1916 when the battalion moved out to Warnimont Wood.  The war diary notes "23rd to 29th daily routine and practising attack formations".  The strength of the battalion at that time was 38 Officers, 1003 Other Ranks.  

Attack on Serre....

On 30th June most of the battalion set of to their assembly trenches just west of the town of Serre.  They left behind 10 Officers and 174 other ranks as reinforcements.  Wilfred and his comrades were ready in their allotted assembly trenches by 5am on 1st July 1916.  At 7.30am "attack on Germans and village of Serre commenced".  Wilfred was with "B" Company which left the trenches at 7.40am under the command of Major Guest.  The war diary tells "the advance was carried out in perfect order under a terrific hostile artillery bombardment and machine gun fire.  Major Guest and all his officers as well as those of the "chasing party" being killed or wounded before reaching the first German line".

The men of the "B" Company carried out their duty with bravery, "although this advance had to be carried out under a perfect tornado of fire all the ranks advanced as steadily as if on a drill parade".  We can be proud of the bravery which Wilfred and his Barnsley Pals showed in huge amounts on that first day of the Battle of the Somme.  The night of the 1st July was spent "in collecting wounded and dead within our line and from NO MANS LAND"  "C Company did splendid work in rescuing wounded from NO MANS LAND under continual fire".

Wilfred was wounded on 1st July 1916, that first day of the Somme offensive, he received a gun shot wound to the chest.  He was taken to the field hospital for immediate medical care.  We can only begin to imagine how many other wounded men were also at that field hospital over the coming days and weeks.  Wilfred would be one of thousands of men needing treatment at that time.  

By 20th July 1916 he was transferred to No2 Stationary Hospital where he sadly died of his wounds on 31st July 1916.  Wilfred was buried at Abbeville Cemetery and given full military honours at his funeral on 2nd August 1916.

The war diary for the 13th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment gives the following figures for the date of 1st July and the time in the trenches on 2nd, 3rd and 4th July;


"Officers - Killed 6, wounded 6
Other ranks - Killed 40, wounded 183, missing 51
Total number of casualties = 286"




Private 13/555 Wilfred Kirk is buried at the Abbeville Communal Cemetery, Somme, France.  His grave reference is Vi F.8.  His grave shows the sign of the cross with no further inscriptions from the family.





Wilfred was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal for his service.

Wilfred's obituary was written in the Barnsley Chronicle 12th August 1916.  The obituary tells how Lydia received letters of condolence....


"The Sister wrote; "Your husband had a severe 
hemorrhage from the chest; he gradually sank
and passed peacefully away. I know that it 
will be a terrible blow to you and his mother
for he often spoke of you both to me"

The Chaplain (Rev E Milner-White) forwarded
the following; "Dear Madam, - By now you will have 
heard the sad news of your husband's death in hospital
from wounds.  Despite the short time here, I knew him
well and the suddenness of it was a great shock.

He was buried in the lovely cemetery of Abbeville, 
with full military honours and a church service.  
How tenderly cared for are the graves you will 
see by the photo.  If you wish, I can send, in 
two months time or so, a photo of the actual grave
and the cross already standing.  The French folk
covered the grave with flowers"

Life went on....

Lydia Mabel moved to 19 Bridge Street when Wilfred went off to war. She would mourn her loss along with her many friends and family around her. The nursing Sister who was nursing Wilfred and the Reverend who also grew to know Wilfred during his time at No2 Stationary Hospital in France both wrote personal letters to Lydia telling her of his time in the hospital, his death and his burial.  She would received her late husbands belongings and medals through the post in the years after his death.

Happy times did return for Lydia when on 26th February 1917 she married Charles Watson at St John the Baptist Church in Cudworth. Charles was a boiler fireman aged 34 years old, he had not been married before.

Lydia and Charles went on to have six children; William, Annie, Ada, Eveline, Mary and Eunice.  In 1939 they were living with their daughters Eunice, Annie and her husband Joseph Vamplew.  

Lydia died in 1970 aged 79 years of age.  She was buried at St John the Baptist Church in Cudworth on 14th April 1970.

Samuel & Caroline Kirk what became of Wilfred's parents has been difficult to ascertain.  Caroline may have returned to Barrow Hill with her sons; Horace, Harry and Joseph shortly after WW1.  The deaths for both Samuel and Caroline are not known but Caroline may have died in 1928, registered in the Chesterfield area.  

Samuel Kirk was serving with the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry during WW1.  He was wounded prior to Wilfred's death and was transferred back to England to receive medical care at Lord Derby's War Hospital in Warrington.

After the war he returned to Barnsley and in 1939 he was living with his wife Mary at 17 Albion Terrace. He may have died in 1964 aged 72 years old.

Horace Kirk also took part in the Great War.  He enlisted on 6th October 1914 aged 19 years and 4 days old. He was described as having "blue eyes, fair complexion and auburn hair". He was attached to the machine gun section of the York and Lancaster Regiment, the 13th Barnsley Battalion.  

Horace, Private 547 was sent to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 28th December 1915 where he remained until moving to France on 11th March 1916.  He did well and was promoted to Acting Lance Corporal on 1st December 1916 until 8th July 1917 when he was moved on to work at the Depot.  

The horrors of war did take their toll on Horace and he went absent without leave for 3 days in March 1918. His service records record "Shell shock, caused by active service".

Horace's conduct was also noted on the records as "Character very good".

After the war Horace returned to civilian life and lived for a brief time back near Chesterfield at 10 Furnace Hill, Barrow Hill.  On 22nd May 1920 Horace tied the knot with Hilda Quinton.  Hilda and Horace lived next door to each other at 19 and 21 Albion Terrace, Cudworth.  Their marriage took place at St Peters Church in Barnsley.

Horace died in 1945 aged 48 years of age.

Harry Kirk & Joseph Kirk  what became of Wilfred's two youngest brothers is not known at this time.  If any one is related to these two men and would like to add to this blog then please contact me.

CUDWORTH, BARNSLEY....


Cudworth War Memorial
kind permission of Linda Hutton
Cudworth War Memorial
kind permission of Linda Hutton



















Wilfred was born in New Whittington but he spent most of his life living in Cudworth, he attended school there and married there.  He is thus remembered on the towns war memorial.  

He was also remembered twice in the Barnsley Chronicle; his wound was reported on 22nd July 1916 and his death and photograph appeared in the 12th August 1916 edition.

The lives and stories of the men of Barnsley who served during World War 1 are being researched and remembered by a group named Barnsley War Memorials.  The work they do can be viewed by clicking here.

Wilfred is also remembered on the Cudworth Park Somme Memorial which can be seen here.

Special thanks to Linda Hutton for her help with this post, Linda provided me with the photographs above and also copies of the two newspaper articles.  Thank you Linda for your assistance and agreement for use of the photos on my blog to remember Wilfred Kirk.

Linda also writes a blog and this can be accessed by clicking here.


*****

If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on Wilfred Kirk 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 - Barnsley Chronicle


War diaries - Piece 2365/2 13th York & Lancaster Regiment March 1916-Feb 1918




Lives of the First World War community https://livesofthefirstworldwar.org/community/1353


Barnsley War Memorials Project http://www.barnsleywarmemorials.org.uk/





Wednesday, 27 July 2016

JOSEPH BOOTH

JOSEPH BOOTH


Private E/1573

Royal Fusiliers, 17th Battalion City of London Battalion

Killed in action - 27th July 1916


Known as Joe, Private Joseph Booth was the son of Herbert and Mary Booth.  Joe had an elder half brother named William and a full sister named Florence when he was born in the summer of 1895.

Joe's mother Mary was born in Netherton, Leicestershire, she had married Abel Hardy in 1887 but sadly Abel died the following year leaving Mary with a young baby son to bring up.  Mary was living in Wigan, Lancashire where she remained for a few more years.  In 1891 she was living with the Holland family, she had a job as a dressmaker and young William was just 3 years old.

A couple of years later in 1893 Mary married Herbert Booth in Chesterfield.  They soon started their own family with the birth of baby Florence in 1894.

The Booth family....

By 1901 Joe had two more sisters; Ethel and May.  The Booth family were living at 64 High Street, New Whittington.  Joe's Aunt Rosannah and Uncle Mark Garratt were also living with the Booth family at the time.  Herbert, Joe's father was born in Heanor, he most likely moved to the area for the employment in the coal mines.

1911, the eve of war....

The 1911 census finds Joe and his family had moved a short distance to live at number 130 High Street, still in New Whittington.  Joe was aged 15 years old by now and was employed as a coal miner along with his father Herbert.  Florence was 17 years old and worked as a dressmaker, no doubt taught the tricks of the trade by her mother Mary.

The past decade had seen happy and sad times in the Booth household; two new children were born, Herbert and Frank but sadly May had died in 1905 aged just 4 years old.

Joe's half brother William had married Nellie Neale in 1908, that same year the couple had their first child; a daughter named May.  In 1911 they bore a son named Harold.  They were living at 14 Back Lane, South Street in New Whittington at this time.

Joe's war....

Joe's service records have not survived but his medal card states that he entered the field of war on 17th November 1915.  His obituary tells that Joe joined up with the Royal Fusiliers in January 1915 and undertook his basic training, leaving from Salisbury Plain to join the British Expeditionary Force in November 1915.  They left from Folkestone on 16th November to arrive in Boulogne and moved on to the rest camp at Ostrohove.

Joe, Private E/1573 was to serve with the 17th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers Regiment , also known as the City of London Regiment, the 17th Battalion had formed on 31st August 1914.  Just after Joe had arrived in France with his battalion they became part of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Division.  

The first weeks of January 1916 were spent in billets at Norrent Fontes, a fairly restful time in comparison to many other battalions.  By the end of January Joe would have witnessed his first enemy fire, as they were shelled "intermittently".  The following months would be made up of moving from billets to trenches in different locations, working parties sent out at night, digging and repairing trenches.  Joe would be bombarded by enemy whizzbangs, mortar bombs and shells on a regular basis.

At the beginning of July 1916 the 17th Battalion were in trenches at Villers Aux Bois.  They moved in and out of trenches and billets and in the early hours of 26th July they found themselves in Delville Wood being heavily bombed by the enemy for 15 minutes.  They were forced to move to the area known as Longueval Alley.  The war diary goes on to say they were "shelled all day with shrapnel.  casualties 3 O.R killed, 12 O.R wounded".    The enemy bombardment lasted all day and included gas shells later on in the day, one ordinary rank soldier was gassed.

On 27th July the bombardment continued, at 7.10am the attack on Delville Wood commenced by the 99th Brigade.  "Longueval Alley heavily shelled, all communication with the wood broken".  That afternoon a messenger arrived with news that it was suspected that the Germans were getting "thin in the right flank". The "A" and "B" Coys moved up into Delville Wood around 2pm that afternoon.  

The war diary continues "Shelling of Longueval Alley continued all day....Casualties Lt Robinson wounded, Captain Parsons wounded, Capt. Knocker wounded, 2/lt Penny killed, Lt Fletcher killed, O.R 16 killed, 90 wounded, 7 missing".  The next 3/4 days of July followed in the same vain, the 17th Battalion put up a fight in Delville Wood, they moved on to attack at Guillemont on 30th.  Many more casualties and deaths were sustained.

Joe was killed in action on 27th July 1916, he is one of 127 Royal Fusilliers killed on that day and remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.




Private E/1573 Joseph Booth is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial in France.  His name can be found on the panels Pier & Face 8, C9A + 16A.



Joe was awarded the British War Medal, Victory Medal and 15 Star for his service.

Joe had his obituary written in the Derbyshire Times issue dated 12th August 1916, page 4.  It reads....


"Another Whittington soldier to fall is
Pvte. Joe Booth, who formerly resided with 
his parents in High Street, New Whittington.  

He was only 21 years of age, and joined the Royal Fusiliers in 
January of last year.  He was trained at several places, 
the last being at Salisbury Plain before being sent 
to France in November last.  

In a letter to the parents Major McKenzie says;
"i very much regret that your son was killed in action,
charging the enemy on July 27th.  He was a very
gallant soldier, and I wish to express to you my 
deepest sympathy in your loss as I am proud to
have commanded men like your son".

From information through another source Booth, it appears,
was hit by shrapnel in the chest and lived only a few minutes.

Before enlisting he worked at the Glapwell Colliery"


Life went on....

Herbert & Mary Booth remained in New Whittington.  Herbert died in 1931 aged 60 years old.  Mary lived on until 1949 when she died aged 82 years old.

William Hardy and his wife Nellie suffered the loss of their second child Harold in 1912 when aged only 1 year old he died.  They had at least one other child, a son named Eric in 1913.  

In 1939 the William and Nellie were living at The Beeches, Swallownest, Yorkshire.  William was employed as a colliery deputy.

Florence Booth married Charles Asher in 1913.  Charles was from Codnor in Nottinghamshire, he worked as a stallman in the coal mines. They had a son named Charles on 22nd November 1913.  In 1915 the couple also lost a baby, another female child named once again May (after Florence's deceased sister maybe?).  

On 25th May 1916 Florence named her newest arrival, a baby boy after his Uncle; Joseph.  Little did they know that only two months later fate would take away brave Uncle Joe.  A few years on in 1918 a daughter was born and named once again as May.  

In 1931 Florence and Charles became parents once more, a son named Herbert was born.  Sadly Herbert died in 1939 aged just 7 years old.  He had been admitted to Langwith Isolation Hospital suffering from Scarlett Fever.  

A son named Robert in 1921, daughter named Doreen in 1923 and another daughter named Winifred in 1935 may also be children of Florence and Charles but I have not confirmed these with the relevant birth certificate. 

Florence died on 17th March 1951, her address at the time was 13 Barrow Street, Lowgates, Staveley near Chesterfield.  Her probate entry shows her executors were; her brother Frank Booth who worked as a schoolmaster and her son Charles who was an omnibus driver.  Her effects came to £2090 13s 9d.  Her husband Charles died in 1965.

Ethel Booth I have not confirmed any marriage for Ethel.  If anyone can add to Ethel's story please do let me know.

Herbert Booth left school and found employment on the railways.  He worked as a fireman at the London, Midland & Scottish Railways locomotion sheds.  He had been employed their for six years when in April of 1924 he became ill with pneumonia.  Herbert suffered with the illness for only six days but sadly he lost his fight and passed away.  He was only 22 years old.

His obituary can be found in the Derbyshire Times 19th April 1924 page 7, which tells how he was a member of the Social Institute and Comrades Institute at New Whittington.  He was buried at St Bartholomew's Church in the village.

Frank Booth studied hard and qualified as a school teacher.  His first post was in 1926 when he would be aged around 19 years old.  In 1939 Frank was living with his mother Mary at 122 High Street, New Whittington.  Whether Frank married or when he died I have not confirmed at this time.


*****

If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on Joe Booth 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

Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times

CWGC  http://www.cwgc.org

War diaries - Piece 1350/2 17th Battalion Royal Fusilliers November 1915 - January 1918


The book "The Royal Fusilliers in the Great War" by C O'Neil can be read on the Internet Archive via the following link https://archive.org/stream/royalfusiliersin00onei/royalfusiliersin00onei_djvu.txt



Tuesday, 26 July 2016

GEORGE HENRY MEARS

GEORGE HENRY MEARS



Private 9192

9th Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment

Killed in action - 26th September 1916


George was the first born child of Elizabeth and Henry Mears.  Born in Staveley sometime around early 1885, he was one of five children, a relatively small family for the times.  He was named after his maternal grandfather George and his own father Henry.

George's parents Henry Mears and Elizabeth Ann Horner married on 3rd November 1884 at Staveley.  Henry was originally from Apethorpe in Northamptonshire, he was boarding with the Moorcroft family on Handley Road in 1881.  Henry was employed by the Midland Railway as a guard.  Elizabeth was born in Staveley, the daughter of George and Mary Horner.  Her family lived in the coal miner's residence, Hartington Cottages, George was a coal miner deputy.

The family soon grew; Arthur Alec was born in 1886, Sarah Ellen in 1890, Elsie in 1894 and Reginald in 1897.  Sadly baby Reginald died as an infant baby, he was buried at Whittington on 11th September 1897.

The 1901 census records George as living at 58 South Street, New Whittington.  He was aged 16 years old and employed along with his brother Arthur as a labourer at the furnaces.  His father was noted as married, but Elizabeth his wife is not living with the family on this night. The two daughters; Sarah and Elsie were also in the household. 

George's father Henry died in the summer of 1908.  

George joins the army....



Aged 19 years and 1 month George enlisted to serve for King & Country.  He signed up to serve 3 years with the Colours and would remain in the Army Reserves for 9 years after.  

He was serving with the local Notts & Derbys Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters); Private 9192.  His service began in February 1904 and would offer George more excitement than his job back in New Whittington where he worked as a pipe moulder.  

The service records describe George as 5ft 4 1/4" in height and weighing 125lbs.  He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and brown hair.  

1911 the eve of war....

George does not appear on the 1911 census, his service records are unclear as to whether he extended his army service to this date.

His siblings had all moved on with their own lives to; Arthur married Maria Starkey in 1910, they were living with her parents John and Mary at Melbourne Villas, Albert Avenue in 1911. Arthur worked as an iron pipe maker. On 22nd April 1913 the couple had a baby son, named William Robert.

Sarah married Albert Brent also in 1910.  Albert was from the neighbouring village of Barrow Hill.  A son was born in 1911 named William Edward.

Elsie was 17 years old and worked as a servant for a widowed Irish coal miner named Michael Kelly.  They lived at 8 Bamford Street, New Whittington.  In 1914 she married Joseph Whitehouse, a local boy he was living at 64 South Street in 1911.  Not long after, the couple had their first child; a daughter named Edna was born on 18th March 1915.





Wedding bells also rang for George when on 9th October 1911 he married Emma Short.  Emma was the daughter of Jepson Short.  She was born in New Whittington around 1888.  The witnesses to the weeding were Arthur James Mitchell and Edith Mitchell.  

Emma had spent some time in London; aged 16 years old, she was living at 74 Acre Lane, Lambeth and was undertaking training in domestic service. By 1911 she was back home in New Whittington, working at the Royal Hotel.  

Emma and George were soon to find themselves parents; on 3rd March 1912 a son was born, named after his father George Henry Mears. George jnr was baptised on 4th April 1912.  A second son named Thomas Arthur was born on 24th March 1915.

George's war....


Service record
www.ancestry.co.uk

As part of George's terms he had agreed to remain in the Army Reserve for 9 years after his earlier service had ended.  And so he would find himself receiving his call up as soon as the war had been declared.  He was called to mobilise at Derby on 5th August 1914.  

The 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters were part of 33rd Brigade, 11th Division.   On 8th September 1914 George set sail to join the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) in France.  A seasoned soldier, the war would be over by Christmas, they would soon put an end to the enemies fight. 

Emma would be in the early stages of her second pregnancy at this time, it is possible that George didn't even know of this great event when he set sail that September of 1914.    

The war diaries for the 9th Battalion during 1914 -1915 are not online and so I cannot fill in any gaps on the service of George at that time.

At the end of July 1915 George received an injury to his right hand, he was sent to the field ambulance and then transferred back to England on 5th August.  He was a patient at the Bagthorpe Hospital (now Nottingham City Hospital).  This hospital was reasonably local for George, being situated on Hucknall Road in Nottingham.

His fellow comrades would remain at the battle front, they 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 9th Sherwood's were evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915 and moved on to Egypt.  George remained on home turf until 14th November 1915 when he set sail once more, this time to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (M.E.F).  On 29th January 1916 he sailed from Imbros Island the M.E.F headquarters, the island housed a hospital, airport and all the huts needed for admin and stores.  Arriving in Alexandra on 3rd February 1916.

The Somme, 1916....


Service record
www.ancestry.co.uk

According to his service records George and his comrades once again set off for France, they began the journey on 26th June and arrived on 4th July 1916.  They were being called upon after the tragic day, the 1st July, the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  The 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters were much needed reinforcements for the British.

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 several 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....

George's combat education was at an end, it was time to put the new skills into practise; 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, George 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 position 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"


George 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.



Private George Henry Mears, 9192 was laid to rest at the Regina Trench Cemetery, Grandcourt; grave ref Vii H 7.  His grave is marked simply with the sign of the cross, no other inscriptions were added by George's family.


Medal card - Private 9192
*See notes below re different Battalion & death date

Private 9192 George Henry Mears was awarded the Victory, British and 14 Star Medals for his service.  

*His medal card appears to show George Mears, Private 9192 as being attached to the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters.  Looking at his service records and other documentation, all information for WW1 confirms George served with the 9th Battalion. The date of death is recorded as 20th September 1916 not 26th, again all other paperwork states 26th September 1916.

Walter Furness another New Whittington man also served with the 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.  He to was presumed missing in action on the same date, 26th September 1916.  His story can be read here.

Arthur James Mitchell the witness at George and Emma Mears wedding was also killed and remembered on the St Barnabas Memorial.  His story can be read here.

Life went on....

What became of George's mother Elizabeth Mears is unknown at this time.  

Emma and her two sons George jnr and Thomas Arthur Mears were awarded a pension of 22s 11p per week commencing on 23rd April 1917.  She lived at this time at 21 Station Lane, New Whittington.  

Emma remarried in early 1918, her husband was Samuel Toseland another New Whittington lad.  The couple went on to have four children; Elsie, James, Samuel and Doris.  More sadness was unfortunately to come into Emma's life when she lost her two sons as young children; James under 1 year and Samuel aged just 4 years old.  Samuel died in 1956, Emma in 1960.

George Henry jnr married Mary Levers in 1935.  On the 1939 Register the newly weds were living at 35 Brearley Street, New Whittington.  George worked as a labourer at the steel works.  George died on 30th November 1981, his address at the time was 27 Wellington Street, New Whittington.  Mary his wife died in 1989.

Thomas Arthur Mears married Alice Hawkins in 1938.  The couple lived at 13 Beetwell Street in Chesterfield town centre.  Thomas worked as a bus conductor.  They had a daughter named Jean.  Thomas died in 1990, Alice in 1993.

George's siblings....

Arthur and Maria had another child, a daughter named Lillian born on 9th June 1915.  The family were living at 2 Albert Avenue on the 1939 Register and Arthur had been promoted to foreman at the iron foundry.

Arthur died on 6th May 1961 at Walton Hospital.  He was aged 74 years old and had moved away from New Whittington, his address was 38 Windermere Road in Newbold.  Maria had died in 1955. Their daughter Lillian Mary died a spinster aged 78 years old in 1993.

Sarah and Albert Brent had more children; Violet in 1912, Henry in 1913, John in 1915 and George in 1920. Albert served during WW1, which would explain the break in children born during those years.  The couple lived at Cotterill Lane in Brimington.  

William Edward Brent, Sarah's son was a Sergeant Instructor in the Royal Artillery.  He had joined the services before WW2 but sadly died at home aged 32 years of age on 3rd April 1943.  His obituary was written in the Derbyshire Times newspaper on 9th April 1943 page 6.  It told how he was a "fine athlete and gymnast" "while in the Army he reached the semi-final of the Light Heavyweight Army Boxing Tournament". He had served in India for six years and was married to Mary Brent.  William was buried at Brimington Cemetery.

Elsie and Joseph Whitehouse had two more children; Winifred in 1917 and Joseph in 1920.  The couple stayed in the village of New Whittington, in 1939 they were living at 98 South Street with their eldest daughter Edna.  Joseph was working as a coal miner.  Elise was written as "Edith E" on the 1939 Register.  There are several possible deaths for (Edith) Elsie Whitehouse, which would need verification with the death certificate, Joseph died in 1969.  

*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 George Henry Mears 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.


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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