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, 31 July 2017

JOHN PATRICK LEESON

JOHN PATRICK LEESON 

"PADDY"



Private 22398

1st Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment 

Died of wounds - 31st July 1917


John Patrick Leeson was known to his friends as "Paddy" (I will also refer to John as "Paddy" throughout this article).  The son of Martin and Mary Leeson he was born at Intake, Sheffield on 11th September 1891, one of eight children.  Martin Leeson married Mary Ann Flynn in 1875, they were both born in Chesterfield to Irish immigrant parents and followed the Roman Catholic faith.

Martin worked as a coal miner, he worked around the East Midlands coal fields where ever the work was to be had.  Martin and Margaret's first son Michael was born in 1876 followed by Martin jnr in 1879.  By 1881 the Leeson family were living in Handsworth in Sheffield, Mary's brothers Michael and Bartholomew Flynn were living with them.

The next ten years saw three daughters born to Martin and Mary Leeson; Mary Ellen, Margaret and Catherine and then came John Patrick (Paddy) in 1891, he was baptised into the Roman Catholic faith on 27th December 1892 at the Church of St Marie which can still be found in Sheffield city centre.   On the 1891 census the Leeson family were living on Intake Road in the Attercliffe area of Sheffield, Martin and his eldest son Michael worked at the coal mines.  

The move to New Whittington....

By 1894 toddler Paddy and his family had moved to live in New Whittington.  His two younger sisters were born there; Annie born 1894 and Julia born 1897.  The Leeson family was now complete.  In 1901 they lived at 138 High Street.  

Paddy's elder siblings Michael, Martin, Mary Ellen and Margaret had all left home;

A soldier in the family....

On 9th June 1897 Paddy's brother Michael left the family and enlisted with the York & Lancaster Regiment at Sheffield.  Michael was aged 20 years old and had been employed as a coal miner.  His service records tell that he was a short fellow at 5ft 3 3/4" and he weighed 118lbs, with a fresh complexion and brown eyes and hair.  He had a couple of scars on his forehead and eyebrow.  

Michael, Private 4895 found himself in trouble when at Colchester on 28th February 1898 he got into a fight with another soldier named Private Moore.  The pair were not on duty and had been playing a game of skittles in the yard when their disagreement had led to a fight. Private Moore was alleged to have bitten Michael's finger during the altercation, which resulted in Michael being on sick leave for a while.

Michael served his full term of nine years with the colours; between December 1898 and November 1904 he was stationed in India. On his return he was transferred to the Army Reserve and discharged on 8th June 1909.  Michael returned to his home village and found employment in the coal mines, not long after in 1906 he married Mary Martin.

Martin emigrates....

On 27th November 1897 19 year old Martin sailed from Liverpool on the Campania headed for the United States of America.  He arrived at New York on 15th December 1897.  Martin most likely went to stay with his Uncle Michael Leeson who had emigrated to the USA in 1885.

Martin married Margaret Cadden on 18th October 1904 in Pringle, Pennsylvania, USA.  The couple had three children; Mary, Mark and Margaret.

Mary Ellen does not show on the 1901 census, but her sister Margaret was living in nearby village Middle Handley.  She was employed as a general domestic servant for the Marples family.

1911 the eve of war....

Paddy aged 19 years was employed as a labourer at the blast furnace.  He lived at 145 Inkerman Place, New Whittington with his parents, paternal grandmother Ann Leeson and his nephew Matthew Gregory (eldest son of Margaret and Percy).

Michael and Mary his wife were living at 7 Duke Street, Sutton in Ashfield, he worked as a coal miner.  A young lady named Maggie Martin was living with them, described as Michael's "daughter".  She was born around 1895, before Michael and Mary married.

Margaret had married Percy Hayward Gregory in 1907.  Percy worked as a drayman and in 1911 the family had moved away from New Whittington to live in Sheffield.  They had three sons; Matthew aged 3, John aged 1 and Terrance just a baby at 5 months old.  Matthew was staying with his grandparents on census night, as Margaret would also have a 1 year old and a 5 month year old to look after she would need all the help she could get.

Catherine aged 22 was employed as a domestic servant at the Mason's Arms public house in Crookes, Sheffield.  Catherine was employed by Fred and Annie Hardwick who ran the drinking establishment.

I have been unable to find Annie on the 1911 census.  

Aged 14 years of age, Paddy's youngest sister Julia was in service, working as a general servant to Catholic Priest Patrick Hickey.  She lived at St Catherine's Roman Catholic Church, Andover Street, Sheffield.

Paddy's war....


Medal roll entry - Private John Patrick Leeson
www.ancestry.co.uk

Unfortunately the service records for Paddy have not survived but using medal rolls, medal cards, newspaper reports and war diaries I can piece together some of his service.

Paddy enlisted in the early stages of WW1, he was given the soldier number 22398.  Looking at the medal roll entry (above) it appears that he served with both the 1st and 2nd Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment.  It is likely that he joined the 2nd battalion when they were stationed locally, at Sheffield.  The recruitment officers would visit the neighbouring town of Chesterfield and encourage the young men to enlist, in the war that "would be over by Christmas".

The 2nd battalion were part of the 18th Brigade, 6th Division, on leaving Sheffield they moved on to Cambridge before embarking for St Nazaire, France in September 1914.  On arriving in France the battalion were launched straight into action when they fought at the First Battle of Aisne in September 1914.  Fellow soldier Arthur Mitchell from New Whittington served with the 2nd battalion and lost his life on 20th October 1914.

From there they moved north and up into the Ypres area of Belgium, where they remained for just over a year.  In the summer months of 1915 the battalion took part in the fighting at Hooge.  According to the medal card for Paddy, he entered the "theatre of war" (France) on 17th August 1915.  He would then have made his way to join the rest of his battalion in Belgium.

After thirteen months in Belgium the men were moved back into France, to the area known as the Somme.  On 5th August 1916 the battalion took over the trenches at Beaumont Hamel.  The war diary notes "trenches seem to be in quite a good condition, but a great number of British dead are lying both in front and behind our own trenches.  The hot weather has made them smell rather unpleasant".  The diary writes that the men buried many bodies during the days ahead.

Paddy was injured whilst serving with the 2nd battalion, he was wounded in his shoulder during 1916.  If Paddy was in trenches at the time then he would be sent to a casualty clearing station where his immediate care would be given, the wound would be cleaned and dressed.  He would then be transported either by horse drawn carriage or motor vehicle to the nearest hospital.  From then a decision would be made as to the severity of the wound and its effect on the man's ability to serve as an efficient soldier.  Paddy was returned to the UK where he remained for 12 weeks, to rest and recuperate before being deemed fit for active service once more.



1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters....

It is not known when exactly Paddy returned to join the B.E.F in France or when he was transferred to the 1st battalion.  In June 1917 the men of the 1st battalion found themselves moving away from the familiar territory of the Somme across the French/Belgium border, on 15th June they arrived in Ypres.  

The camp at Ypres came under heavy enemy shelling and so on 21st June it was moved to Linde Goed Farm near Busseboom.  The battalion were marched from camp to camp in July, being shelled and attacked by the enemy as they went forth.  In mid July they were in billets at Beaumetz Les Aire, where they began instruction and practise in attack, including lectures on bayonet fighting.  

On 18th July Sir Douglas Haigh was present and watched the operations, the battalion must have been aware that there was an air of impending action about to come their way.  Morale would be boosted and spirits would no doubt be high as the men trained to their best abilities for the fight of their lives.  The Officers and N.C.O's were all shown a large picture  map of the land which was to be their future battlefield, possible concerns were discussed at length between the Officers.

On 21st July the training was over and the men were route marched to St Hillaire and then on to Liller where they entrained to Abeele.  From there the battalion were billeted and slept under canvas at Reninghelst. The coming days were spent in preparation; Officers had more meetings, they even had a group photograph taken. The ordinary ranks were now also sent along to view the large picture map.  A service was held which was officiated by the Arch Bishop of York, the men's spiritual well being was most important for morale. During the evenings men carried the gas shells up onto the waiting positions in anticipation for coming events.  The weather was fine.


On the evening of 24th July Paddy and his comrades marched to Halifax Camp.  The weather changed, it was a very wet day.  The men were given a special treat when the 17th Battalion Sherwood Foresters came to join them for tea on 25th July.  A fellow New Whittington lad named David Cresswell was serving with the 17th Battalion, maybe the men met up for a few words and exchange of family news that night?

During the next couple of days more equipment was issued to the men, the large map was revisited and lectures were given.  On one evening several of the men from each corps were taken and questioned by the C.O.  The men must be fully knowledgeable on the lay of the land and the instructions for the upcoming attack.

At 9.30pm on the night of 28th July 1917 the battalion set of, leaving the camp to a position known as "Halfway House".  Each company set off 200 yards behind the preceding company.  The men marched into the night and into the unknown.  The journey was a hot one, the weather was fine, enemy fire was constant and gas shells were also used upon the battalion.  Once at the dugout they shared this position with the Scottish Rifle Brigade, however the area was too crowded and the Sherwood Foresters split away from each other by company into different areas. 

The day of the 30th July was spent resting, around 10pm that night the battalion's companies rejoined in the assembly trenches, in their positions just behind the Northamptonshire Regiment.  They then waited "for Zero hour the following morning".  Each man no doubt in his own place for those final hours, thinking of the past and trying so hard not to think of his future and the fate that was to follow.

Zero day....

31st July 1917 the war diary reads 

"This was Zero Day.  The hour for the attack was 3.50am.  The barrage started at 3.50am and the attack commenced at 4am.  The Battalion moved forward in artillery formation and passed on the right (sic) BELLEWAARDE LAKE to their forming up position, under cover of the ridge".

Private John Patrick Leeson was killed in action on 31st July 1917, the day which would signify the first day of the bloody, muddy battle known as Passchendaele.  

The CWGC list that 80 members of the 1st Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment lost their lives on that same day.




John P Leeson was buried at the Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Belgium; grave reference; cem 2, mem 6. His grave is marked simply with the sign of the cross, no other inscriptions were added by John's family.

The original burial place for Private Leeson was destroyed in later battles, his body was exhumed and relocated.

A memorial was erected and reads;

                      "To the memory of these four British soldiers,
killed in action in 1917, 
and buried at the time in BIRR CROSS ROADS 
CEMETERY NO2
whose graves were destroyed in later battles.

"THEIR GLORY SHALL  NOT BE BLOTTED OUT"


Private 22398 John Patrick (Paddy) Leeson was awarded the Victory, British and 15 Star Medals for his service.

Paddy was remembered in the Derbyshire Times 6th October 1917 page 4, along with a photograph the obituary read....


"The parents of Lance-Corporal* "Paddy" Leeson
of 19 Station Lane, have received official notice
that he was killed on July 31st.

Early in August a letter was sent by a chum of
the deceased soldier saying he saw him wounded
and taken away to a Casualty Clearing Station.
After that no trace of him can be found,
his parents making enquiries from different centres.

The official notice came last week saying he was
killed in action.  Pte. Leeson enlisted when war broke out,
and was drafted to France, where he was wounded
in 1916, in the shoulder, and was in hospital
12 weeks in "Blighty".  He was sent out again to France
where he had been up to the time of his death.

The deceased soldier was 26 years of age,
and before enlisting worked at Sheepbridge Works.
The parents received a message of sympathy
from his Commanding Officer saying how well he was liked
by Officers and men of his battalion.

*NOTE - The article refer's to Paddy as both Lance-Corporal and
Private Leeson.  It is not known whether Paddy was 
promoted to Lance-Corporal.  His CWGC memorial states Private.


Life went on....

Mary & Martin Leeson lived on into their 70's; Mary died in 1933 aged 76 and Martin the year later in 1934 aged 78 years.  At some time in between 1911 and 1917 they moved home to live at 19 Station Lane.

Mary and Martin had a tremendously difficult life, one full of heartache; they lived to see at least six of their children die before them.  How terribly sad this must have been for this couple.

Michael may have died in 1915 and his wife Mary in 1919, however this has not been confirmed.

Martin and his family remained in the USA.  Martin died in Chicago, Illinois on 10th June 1922.  He was buried back in his home town of Pringle, Pennsylvania at the Saint Ignatius Catholic Church Cemetery.

Mary Ellen I have not found any information on Mary, anyone who can add to her story please do let me know.

Margaret and her husband Percy Gregory had three more children; Catherine, Margaret and Mary Ellen.  Percy died in 1935 aged 49 years.  In 1939 Margaret was living at 191 Duke Street in Sheffield with her daughter Mary Ellen.  She died aged 83 years old in 1967.

Catherine married Tom Collins in 1915.  The couple named their first child Patrick in 1916, no doubt named after his brave Uncle Paddy.  Heartache followed though, when baby Patrick died aged under 1 year old, he died before his Uncle Paddy.

Catherine died in 1918, at the young age of 30 years.  It looks likely that she died in childbirth as a daughter Kathleen also died around the same time.

Tom was the brother of John Collins who is also named on the St Barnabas War Memorial.  For Catherine and Tom the war took a devastating turn when each lost their own brothers on the same day: John "Paddy" Leeson and John Collins, both men served with the 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters.

Annie married Bertie Griffin at Chesterfield Registry Office in the year 1913.  The couple had at least eight children; Evelyn, Harry, Annie, John Douglas, Lawrence, Donald and Sheila.

In 1939 the Griffin family were living at 35 Tapton View Road, Stonegravels.  Bertie worked as a colliery washerman.  Annie was widowed in 1947, she lived on and died in 1973 aged 79 years old.

Julia died in 1914 aged just 17 years of age.  A family member I made contact with tells me that poor Julia died in the Chesterfield Union Workhouse.


****

For service on the dates of 31st July and 1st August 1917 the 1st Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment awarded 14 members of the Non Commissioned Officers and Men the Military Medal for their "Gallantry and devotion to duty during operations near Ypres".  Also awarded were - 

2 x Distinguished Service Orders
1 x Bar to the Military Cross
5 x Military Cross
8 x Distinguished Conduct Medals

****

With special thanks to Pat for all her additional information that she added to this story.


****

If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on John Patrick Leeson 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 www.ancestry.co.uk
Soldiers who died in the Great war
Register of soldiers effects

Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times 6th October 1917 page 4

CWGC  http://www.cwgc.org

War diaries - 2nd Battalion Piece WO 1624/1-5
                      1st Battalion Piece WO 1721/1-4

1st and 2nd Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-derbyshire-regiment/

1st Battle of Aisne https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_the_Aisne

St Marie Roman Catholic  Church https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_Church_of_St_Marie,_Sheffield







                    

DAVID CRESSWELL

DAVID CRESSWELL



Private 22099

17th Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment

Killed in action - 31st July 1917



David Cresswell was born in 1887 at Barrow Hill a small mining village just a few miles away from New Whittington.  He was the son of Elijah and Emma Cresswell, the eighth child born into the family, one of thirteen children.  Elijah and Emma nee Brough married at St John the Baptist Church in Staveley on 10th April 1871.  The family remained in Staveley, living at 14 Railway Terraces.  Elijah worked as a coal miner and the couple had five children; Ferdinand 7, Sarah 5, Ernest 3, Joseph 1 and baby Mary was just 3 weeks old in 1881.

By 1891 the Cresswell family had moved to live on "The Blocks" at Barrow Hill.  The Cresswell household had grown further; Martha, Stephen, DAVIDCharles and Arthur.  Three children were missing on the census return for 1891, Sarah aged 16 years old was employed as a domestic servant in the village of North Bierly in Yorkshire.  

Sadness and heartbreak....

Joseph sadly died aged just 5 years old.  He was buried at Staveley on 20th May 1884.  

Ernest died tragically on 19th December 1889 aged 13 years of age.  He was employed at Ireland Colliery and was crushed between two full trucks as he tried to cross the railway lines (Coal Mining Accidents and Deaths Index).  

The Derbyshire Times (14th December 1889 page 5) covered his admittance into Chesterfield Royal Hospital with a few lines on the events which led to this terrible accident;

"Ernest Cresswell 13, pony driver, with double fracture of the skull, and severe scalp wounds was returning home from the Ireland Colliery, Staveley and was knocked down by the buffers of a passing engine.  He lies in a very critical condition".

David would never have known his sibling Joseph, he would only be around two years old when Ernest died so unlikely to remember his older brothers who were taken at such young ages.

Family life continues....

Times were hard in the late 19th Century, grieve they would but not at the expense of work time.  Elijah would need to get up each morning and set off to work, if not his family may go without food.  Emma would also continue to care for her growing family, with seven children still living.  A year later in 1890 a new life would hopefully have brought happiness to the Cresswell household when baby Arthur was born in the summer of 1890.

Another daughter was born in 1892, named Cora (sometimes spelt Kora/Korah) she was baptised on 7th April that year but sadly died in the autumn/winter months of that same year.

Emma would have found herself pregnant around the same time as baby Cora passed away as on 13th July 1893 another little girl was born into the Cresswell family, named Hidagarde.

Further heartache for the family when in 1900 poor 9 year old Arthur also died.  

Bon Voyage....

David's eldest brother set sail on an adventure of a lifetime, when on 11th May 1897 Ferdinand boarded the ship Aurania in Liverpool for the bright lights of New York.  Ferdinand was 23 years of age at the time of departure and worked as a coal miner.

He married Maud Smith on 14th March 1899 at Potage, Ohio.  Maud was also a British born girl, she was the daughter of William and Sarah Smith.  Born in Leeds on 7th January 1880 she had emigrated around 1882.  

David would have been around 10 years old when Ferdinand left the family home, the little boy in New Whittington no doubt heard stories of a bright new world from his excited big brother in the lead up to his goodbye's.

1901....

David and his family had moved once more, just a small move this time to number 227 The Blocks, still in Barrow Hill.  David was 14 years of age and had finished his education, he was employed as a pony driver at the coal mine along with his elder brother Stephen.  Their father Elijah was still working down the mines as a coal mine labourer.  The girls Mary and Martha have no occupation listed and the young ones Charles and Hilda would be still attending school.

Sarah was settled living in Leeds now, she had married Alfred Moore at St Michael's church, Headingley on 22nd January 1898 and had a 4 month old daughter named Ida.  Alfred worked as a cloth dresser in the mills.




Romance....

David married his sweetheart Florence Gertrude Hutchinson around late 1907/early 1908.  They married at the United Methodist Free Chapel on Marsden Street in the centre of Chesterfield.  "Florrie" as she was affectionately known was born in New Whittington, the daughter of Elizabeth and Samuel Hutchinson.

Their first daughter Ivy was born on 26th August 1909.  

1911 the eve of WW1....

David and his young family were living at 82 Handley Road, New Whittington.  David worked as a coal miner fitter and Florence would look after one year old baby Ivy and run the household.   On 12th July 1913 a second daughter was born, named Doris, a little sister to four year old Ivy.

David's parents remained in Barrow Hill, but his father Elijah had left the coal mines.  Aged 60 years old he was now working as a newsagent.  Radio was not commonly found in household's until the early 1920's when the BBC began to broadcast, no televisions existed, Elijah would have been the centre of village life, all news would be heard and discussed from his newsagency. 

Younger siblings Charlie and Hilda still lived with their parents, Charlie worked down the mines as a loader.  

Sarah and Alfred had two more children now; Cora aged 6 and (Norman) Elijah aged 1 year.  They lived at 14 Harold Street, Burley, Leeds.  Eldest daughter Ida was staying with her grandparents Emma and Elijah at Barrow Hill.

Mary married John Mitchell at Staveley on 24th January 1903.  John was a labourer at the blast furnaces and they lived at 215 Brick Yard Terrace at Barrow Hill with their two children; Kenneth and Trixie.

Stephen lived at 185 Barrow Hill, near to his parents.  He had married Phoebe Brough at Holy Trinity Church, Chesterfield on 6th May 1905.  Phoebe and Stephen had two children; Wilfred aged 6 and Edna aged 2.  The census return also records an 12 year old school girl named Ann Braybook living with them, she is recorded as a servant.  Stephen was a working class man, he worked as a coal miner.





David's war....

Unfortunately David's service records have not survived but we can piece together some of his story using other resources which are available; medal cards, medal roll, newspaper articles and the relevant war diaries.

David joined the Sherwood Forester Regiment in the January of 1915, at this time enlistment was done on an entirely voluntary basis, so long as the recruit was over 5ft 6 inches and had a chest size of 35 inches.  Letters were a frequent occurrence in the local newspapers, encouraging men to take up the challenge and fight for King & Country.  Maybe this was all the encouragement David needed to do "his bit" for his country.

The medal card for David tells us that he entered the "theatre of war" on the 18th August 1915.  The eight months prior to this would have been spent learning how to be a good soldier, how to charge and use a bayonet, look after his rifle, look after his uniform and his kit..... the list was endless.  The tutorials, no matter how in depth would not prepare David for what he would encounter when he joined the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F) in France.

The medal roll lists David as having been attached to three battalions of the Sherwood Forester Regiment; 2nd, 1st and 17th (Welbeck Rangers).

It is most likely that when he enlisted he was placed with the 2nd battalion and would join the B.E.F. with this battalion also.  His obituary states that he "was wounded on two occasions" indicating it was likely that he was placed with a different battalion each time he returned to France.

The battalions....

The 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters had landed in France during the September of 1914.  Arthur Mitchell the first soldier to die who was named on St Barnabas Church WW1 War Memorial was with that battalion.  In October 1915 the battalion became part of the 71st Brigade in the 6th Division.

The war diary for November 1915 tells "After last nights rain the trenches are worse than any we have yet experienced in our 14 months of trench warfare.  They are falling in every few yards and are full of water."  

Included in the war diary of November 1915 is an interesting hand written list entitled "2nd Bn The Sherwood Foresters, programme of work"  this lists the daily activities the men would carry out when not in the trenches....


"7.30 - 8am      Physical training, running drill, rapid marching
9.30 - 10.15      Squad drill, under Section Commander
10.15 - 11am    Platoon and Coy drill
11 - 11.30         Musketry, under Sec Cmdr's, fire control, rapid loading &  firing
11.30 - 12.30    Route march
2 - 2.30             Physical training
2.30 - 3.30        Squad drill & musketry"

The 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters had been stationed in India prior to the onset of WW1.  They were thrust straight into the war in Europe. With it came a totally different set of strategies and obstacles from those that they were accustomed to.  They played a key part in the fighting at both Neuve Chappell and Loos.  After a heavy winter in 1915, a winter of trench warfare the battalion had suffered great losses.  

The 17th Battalion Sherwood Foresters were also known as the Welbeck Rangers.  This battalion saw themselves in the thick of many of the most well known battles of the war; Thiepval Ridge, Ancre Heights, Menin Road Ridge, Polygon Wood and the infamous Passchendaele.

David's is recorded as serving with the 17th battalion on his Commonwealth War Grave Commission certificate, this usually indicates the last battalion the soldier served with when he was reported as deceased.  How long David would have served with the 17th is not known at this time.

The month of July was a tough one for the 17th battalion Sherwood Foresters, throughout the month there were several occasions when the men were prepared for an advance, only to have the attack cancelled in the nearing hours.  

At dawn on 20th July 1917 the battalion took part on a Brigade attack on the village of Tiques.  The attack was over by 8am and the men were moved on by bus to the camp for rest.  The war diary for the coming days reads the same each day "Routine, Company training under Coy Officer".

On 29th July the men were "resting and drawing stores etc for the forthcoming operations.  At 8.30pm the battalion move to CANAL BANK (Hill Top Sector)".  David and his comrades were preparing for battle, again.  On 30th the dairy continues "Y day resting prior to Z day.  At 10.30pm the battalion move up to place of assembly in the Hill Top Sector".

31st July 1917....

"Assembly complete at 1.15am, Z day.  No casualties occurred whilst the battalion was assembling.  This is the 3rd Battle of YPRES.  Zero hour at 3.50am".  The men moved on at 3.50am into "no mans land", and had crossed the area before the enemy barrage started.  They soon reached their first target with "slight casualties".  

The advance continued under the protection of rifle guns and Lewis guns, the enemy retaliating with machine guns and snipers.  When they arrived at the eastern side of "Kitchener's Wood" "two enemy machine guns open fired on us from Alberta, these were engaged with our Lewis guns, rifle Grenadiers, and Stokes guns and with the assistance of two tanks which open fire at close range".  As a result of the return fire, the enemy moved back into concrete dug outs, the 17th were then able to capture the farm and the surrounding area.  There were 120 prisoners taken at this stage including four machine guns and one anti-tank gun.  All of this took place before 5.35am.

Over the next five hours more prisoners were taken and positions were won.  At 7.55am heavy machine gun and rifle fire bombarded the battalion which caused several casualties.  The war diary report on the battle concludes with "We succeeded in stopping the enemy's advance by Lewis gun and rifle fire and inflicting heavy losses on him, some of the enemy only being stopped when about 12 yards from our position".

The men were complemented on their work "the behaviour of the Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men under the awful climatic conditions was exemplary throughout".

The war diary gave the following numbers for the date 31st July 1917....


"Killed in action - 42 Other ranks
  Died of wounds - 3
  Wounded - 208
  Missing - 12
  Gassed - 8
  Shell shock - 1
  Wounded at duty - 3
  Hospital - 39"

Private David Cresswell, 22099 was reported missing on the 31st July 1917.



Private 22099 David Cresswell is remembered at The Menin Gate Memorial in the Belgian city of Ypres.  His name can be found inscribed on the panel 39 or 41.



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

His death was reported in the Derbyshire Times 17th November 1917, page 8, his obituary included a photograph and read....


"After being reported missing on July 31st
news has just reached New Whittington that Pte.D Cresswell
whose wife resides in Handley Road, was killed on that date.

Upon being reported missing Mrs Cresswell got into 
communication with the British Red Cross Society,
with the result that they found one of his comrades who has 
forwarded particulars of his death.  In writing he says:-

"I am sorry to inform you that your husband was killed on July 31st.
I was not near him at the time, but word came down the trench
that he and Toplis, of the same section, 
had been blown to pieces.  It was a great shock to us all,
and his place will be hard to fill.  He was a good soldier
and always did his duty cheerfully.  I am sorry I can't
give you more information, but nearly all the old boys
have been killed or wounded.  We all sympathise with you 
in your loss"

Pte Cresswell was 30 years of age, and joined the Sherwood's
in January 1915.  He had been wounded on two occasions
and he returned to France for the third time.  
Before joining the Forces he worked at Markham No1
Colliery.  In addition to his widow there are two little children
left behind"

Life went on....

Florence Cresswell, David's wife found herself alone with two young daughters to care for; Ivy aged 7 and Doris who had just had her 4th birthday.  

Florrie did start a new life when she remarried on 26th October 1918 at Old Whittington Parish Church.  Her husband was 36 year old bachelor William Warwick.  William was from Staveley and worked as a fireman, most likely in the iron foundry.  Florrie and William may have two children; a son Leslie born in 1922 who died aged 1 year old and a daughter Iris in 1925 (not verified).

William died in 1938 aged just 56 years old.  Florrie would find herself widowed once more.  The 1939 Register records her living at 84 Handley Road, now named Florence Wilson..... I believe she married a William Wilson that same year.  But, she is again stated as widowed, whether this was an error or had William Wilson also died?  

A death was registered for a Florence Wilson in Chesterfield in 1960, if this was Florence then she died aged 71 years of age.

Ivy Cresswell the eldest daughter of David and Florrie married George Williamson at St Barnabas Church on 6th August 1928.  The couple may have two sons Geoffrey and Dennis (this would need confirmation).   In 1939 Ivy and her family were living in Calow, on Chesterfield Road. George worked as an iron moulder.  

It appears that Ivy remarried in 1950, her husband was named Clifford Thickett and they wed on the Isle of White.  If this is correct then Ivy died in Macclesfield in 1990, aged 81 years of age.

Doris Cresswell the youngest daughter of David and Florrie married Harold Handforth in 1934.  In 1939 they were living at 5 Brearley Street, New Whittington and had one son named Eric.  Harold's mother had died in the May of 1936 and so his father also named Harold was living with them.  Both Mr and Mrs Handforth senior were enthusiastic members of St Barnabas Church, Harold senior being a sidesman (usher) for the Church.

Doris lost her husband in 1963  but she lived on until she died in 1997 aged 83 years old.


Derbyshire Times 22nd December 1939 p10

Davids parents; Elijah and Emma continued to live in Barrow Hill.  Elijah died the year after David's death on 19th June 1918.  He was 68 years of age.

Emma was remembered in the Derbyshire Times newspaper after she had passed away on 26th December 1937.  She was a patient in Chesterfield Royal Hospital where she died aged 85 years old.  The newspaper article referred to her as "Believed to be the oldest native of the village".  She was buried at Staveley Cemetery following a service at St Andrew's Church, Barrow Hill.

Ferdinand Cresswell lived out his life in the USA.  He became a naturalised United States citizen on 18th September 1909.  Maud and Ferdinand had four children Sarah, Arthur, Hilda and Mamie.  The family lived in Saline, Illinois and Ferdinand continued to work as a coal miner.

Ferdinand died on 14th April 1932 aged 58 years, his wife Maud died on 10th July 1941.

Sarah was widowed in 1916 when her husband Alfred died aged just 41 years old.  What became of her after this date is unknown at this time.  Her children all married and lived in the county of Yorkshire.

Mary and her husband John were living at 12 Lilac Street, Staveley in 1939.  John was still working as a labourer at the iron foundry.  The children had both married but still lived close; Kenneth in Barrow Hill and Trixie in Stonegravels.  John may have died in 1953 but I have not been able to pinpoint a death for Mary.

Martha has been difficult to locate after the 1901 census when she lived with her parents aged 17 years of age.  

Stephen died in 1926 aged 42 years.  His wife Phoebe remained in the family home of 185 Barrow Hill, she married John Limb in 1930.  Their daughter Edna married Leslie Bates and son Wilfred married Vera Withnall and moved to live in Repton.

Charles married later in life aged 39.  His wife was "Lily" Webb and they married in 1928.  A son named Colin was born a few years later and the family lived at 227 Barrow Hill in 1939.  Charles was employed as a rope splicer in the coal mines.  Charles died in 1971 aged 82, his wife Lily died in 1989.

Hildagarde married William Bird in 1913, they lived at 17 Devonshire Cottages, Barrow Hill in 1939 with their two children; Ferdinand and Dorothy.  William worked in engineering as a machinist.  Hildagarde died in 1970 aged 77 and her husband William died in 1967.


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If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on David Cresswell 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
Immigration records - www.fmp.co.uk & www.ancestry.co.uk

Newspaper articles - 
                               - Derbyshire Times 14th December 1889 page 5
                               - Derbyshire Times 17th November 1917 page 8
                               - Derbyshire Times 31st December 1937 page 10
                               - Derbyshire Times 22nd December 1939 page 10  






PASSCHENDAELE

PASSCHENDAELE....


THE 3rd  BATTLE OF YPRES....


"MUD AND RAIN"


By Siegfried Sassoon


Mud and rain and wretchedness and blood.  

Why should jolly soldier-boys complain?

God made these before the roofless Flood - 

Mud and rain.  


Mangling cramps and bullets through the brain, 

Jesus never guessed them when He died.  

Jesus had a purpose for His pain, 

Ay, like abject beasts we shed our blood, 

Often asking if we die in vain.  

Gloom conceals us in a soaking sack - 

Mud and rain


As we go about our daily lives during this, the summer of 2017 its difficult to even begin to contemplate the horrors which our ancestors were living through 100 years ago.  

Many of us are looking forward to the summer days ahead, holidays with the family, warm balmy nights sat on the patio sipping a glass or two of Prosecco........ complaining about our lack of sunshine and yes, the torrential downpours of rain which are a daily event at present, more like April showers than summer I hear you say.

Well, rewind 100 years and for some of the men of Chesterfield who were fighting for King & Country over in Belgium the rain was causing nightmare conditions.  The rain was said to have been the heaviest the area had witnessed in the previous 30 years.  Torrential rain coupled with the constant bombardment of shells, broken drains and the sheer numbers of men, animals and equipment trudging through the land and you are left with one quagmire of MUD.  

This mud would prove a death sentence for thousands of men, figures suggest the Allied troops suffered around 325,000 casualties and the Germans 250,000 casualties in the three months of the 3rd Battle of Ypres.

The battle started with allies launching an infantry attack on 31st July 1917.  On that day New Whittington lost three of its young men; 


Please click on the soldiers name above to read his own personal story.

John Collins and John Leeson were brother in laws (their siblings Catherine Leeson and Tom Collins married). They were both serving with the 1st Battalion Sherwood Forester Regiment. 

David Cresswell was also with the Sherwood Forester's but attached to the 17th Battalion.  

Private 7029 John Collins



Private David Cresswell



Private John Patrick Leeson "Paddy"


Each mans story will be told in the coming days on this blog.

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Lest we forget
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