Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Sleeping companions: 18382 Pte M J Cawley, MGC & 18144 Pte W Briggs, MGC

Michael Joseph Cawley and William Briggs, both of A Company, 38th Machine Gun Corps, lie next to each other in The Guards Cemetery at Lesboeufs. Both were killed in action on the same day - 2nd September 1918 - and both were exhumed from the same spot on the battlefield and re-buried here in September 1919. The unknown soldier on the left was also brought in from the battlefield, but from a different location.

Note that Michael's name has been rendered incorrectly in the dedication supplied by his widow. The CWGC headstone records his name as MICHEAL although it is impossible to say whether this was an error introduced by the CWGC or by his widow. One would presume it was the former.

Michael was the son of Michael and Mary Cawley (nee Coleman) and the husband of Mrs. E. McCauley (formerly Cawley), of 101, Canton St., Providence, Rhode Island, USA. He was 23 years old when he was killed. 

Less is known of William Briggs. He was born in Radclffe, Lancashire and enlisted at Bolton in February 1916. His and Michael's regimental numbers are close enough together for them to have enlisted, if not on the same day, then certainly within a few days of each other. They have lain together in a foreign field for nearly 98 years. RIP.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

St Peter, South Weald, Essex

I have only barely scratched the surface here, but wanted to record the names of the men commemorated on four wooden panels in the parish church of St Peter, South Weald, Essex. Not for the first time, I was staggered by the number of names for such a small community. The panels only give the briefest of details and where possible I have expanded these by referring to Soldiers Died in The Great War and The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. I would not be at all surprised if someone out there has not already researched these names, but having visited the church briefly on Sunday, I thought the least I could do was to record the names of the fallen here.

S Barker
B Branch
16472 Pte William Joseph Brown, 11th Essex; KiA 26th September 1915
C Clarke
W Clarke
J/8305 AS Frederick John Cornish, HM Submarine E15; KiA 18th April 1915
A Crabbe
44554 Pte Joseph William Cross, 9th Essex; KiA 10th August 1918
14240 Pte Ernest James Downing, 11th Essex; KiA 14th February 1916
21711 Pte Thomas George Downing, 11th Essex; DoW 9th August 1918
16366 Pte Frederick James Everitt, 2nd Grenadier Guards; KiA 20th September 1914
2150 Pte Gordon Goodchild, 24th Royal Fusiliers; 7th May 1916
200790 Pte William Henry Gurton, 4th Essex; DoW 28th March 1917
W Hammond
F Hollingsworth
W Hollingsworth
32293 Pte Charles Henry Jennings, 9th East Surrey; 24th June 1917
W Joyce
G Kemp
R Dorrien Kirby
E Kirby
R Lagdon
G Lewis-Brown
G/692 Edward James Marsh/March, 6th Queen's; DoW 1st September 1916
24719 Pte Arthur William Middleton, 9th Loyal North Lancs; KiA 26th March 1918
E Morgan
E Morter
1269 Pte H A David McTurk, Essex Yeomanry; KiA 14th May 1915
15737 Pte William Pearl, 2nd Essex; KiA 13th May 1915
A Rainbird
F Rainbird
10512 Pte Percy Rainbird, 9th Essex; KiA 12th October 1915
W Sheldon
46373 Pte Herbert Samuel Shelley, 23rd Northumberland Fusiliers; KiA 29th April 1917
A Stokes
200655 Pte George Isaac Stokes, 4th Essex; Died 29th August 1917
21195 Pte Joseph Sutton, 9th Essex; KiA 18th October 1916
326192 Pte Joseph Sweeting, 1/8th A&S Highlanders; KiA 16th May 1917
H Swingler
Lt Christopher Cecil Tower, Essex Yeomanry; KiA 2nd October 1915
Captain Hugh Christopher Tower, 60th Sqdn RFC; KiA 19th September 1916
F Trickett
C Turner
H Webb
J White
H Wood
W Wood

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

25793 Pte James Walters, 9th Sherwood Foresters

During my recent trip to the Somme, I came across this grave in Delville Wood Cemetery. James Walters was 16 years old when he was killed in action on the 9th August 1916 and had already served at Gallipoli. 

He had enlisted at Nottingham on the 3rd May 1915 giving his date of birth as the 15th September 1896 although his true date of birth was the 15th September 1899. He was therefore just 15 years old when he took the King's shilling. Furthermore, his attestation papers in series WO 363 indicate that he signed up as a career soldier - for seven and five - rather than for the duration of the war.

Born in Old Basford, Nottingham, James was the second eldest child of James and Hannah Walker and appears with his them and six siblings on the 1911 census. If anyone questioned his age, this certainly did not prevent him from sailing for Gallipoli on the 18th September 1915, three days after his sixteenth birthday and with a little over four months' training under his belt. He survived Gallipoli, embarking at Imbros on the 29th January 1916 en route for France, via Alexandria.

At the time of his death he was attached to the 8th South Staffordshire Regiment and his papers record his date of death as the 11th August 1916 although this was later officially amended to the 8th August. His mother asked for the words, WORTHY OF EVERLASTING LOVE to be chiselled onto his headstone.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, WE WILL REMEMBER THEM.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

SD/2268 Pte Ernest James Coppard, 12th Royal Sussex Regiment

I have just returned from a three-day trip to the Somme. I wanted to mark the 100th anniversary of the South Down battalions' decimation as part of a diversionary attack on the so-called Boar's Head at Richebourg L'Avoue on the 30th June 1916, and so I attended the commemoration ceremony at St Vaast Post Military Cemetery which contains a number of South Downs dead from that day.

It's not hard to find touching inscriptions on headstones on the Western Front but I was particularly struck by this one on the headstone of Ernest Coppard. It reads, "Safe from the fume and fret / You whom I never forget".

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission notes that Ernest was the son of Albert and Sarah Coppard, and the husband of Alice Emily Coppard of 26 Seville Street, Elm Grove, Brighton. The words on the headstone were chosen by Alice and cost her 11 shillings and 11 pence to have chiselled into the Portland stone. Ernest was 29 years old, a Brighton-born man who enlisted at Hove in February 1915. He and Alice had been married for under a year when he was killed in action. General Register Office marriage records show that he married Alice Gearing in Brighton in the third quarter of 1915 and so he would have spent precious little time with her before sailing for France in early 1916.

Alice Coppard never re-married. She appears on the 1939 Register, still living at 26 Seville Street and working as a book-sewer in a public library. Her widowed mother, Florence Gearing, was also living with her. She died in Brighton in 1972 at the age of 85. At the time of her death she had been a widow for 55 years. There were no children from her all-too-brief marriage to Ernest.

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