by Harold Heys​​
replied the Dodger
added Charlie Bates
(Oliver Twist)
SURGERY - not many years ago - was often rough and ready, especially in and around the battlefields. In the early years of the last century standards were sometimes poor, even in hospitals.
This photograph is of an X-ray on the left leg of soldier John Albert Harwood of Darwen who was shot while serving in the 1914-18 war. And, yes, those are rusting joiner's nails pinning the bones together...
XRAY Sepia.jpg 
 ​* The X-ray picture of Private Harwood's knee has not been digitally enhanced in any way.
© Harold Heys - terms and conditions
John Albert enlisted in the East Lancashire Regiment and later transferred to the 1st Manchester Regiment. A ship he was on was machine-gunned and he was hit in the left knee.
Back in England a Canadian surgeon named Joyce carried out an experimental operation at a military hospital near Reading, cutting away shattered bone from above and below the knee and fitting the bones together with ordinary nails - a six inch round-headed nail and a four inch countersunk nail. Private Harwood had nearly 200 stitches in the leg and was in hospital for 18 months.
A professional strong man before the war, Mr Harwood set up as a shoe maker and clog repairer in Pitt Street, Darwen, and he and his wife Bertha had a fourth child. However, as the nails rusted away, blood poisoning set in.
John Albert Harwood was a brave and a hard man, but he was in agony in his final months and he died in Grangethorpe Military Hospital, Manchester, in April 1924.
Consultant surgeon Hugh Thomas, one of the foremost authorities on war wounds, examined the X-ray photograph a few years ago and described the attempted fusion as "extremely crude." His "uncomfortable conclusion" was that it would have caused "very considerable pain, suffering and continued infection."
Mr Thomas said he had attempted to discover whether the use of nails in this manner had ever been a feature in our military hospitals "but everyone was reluctant to admit this - very understandably." He said he had never come across a case quite like it.
It's perhaps not surprising that Authority, over the years, has chosen to turn something of a blind eye to the sad story of the experimental operation on Private Harwood's leg. It isn't the sort of image the Army is keen to promote, even now. The Imperial War Museum North in Trafford were very enthusiastic a few years ago but then, suddenly, they lost interest.
Private Harwood left his widow to bring up four children; two boys, Tom, aged 13 and Joe, aged 11 and two girls, Margaret, aged 7 and a baby, Mabel. He was 38 years old.
In his 90s, Tom remembers his father coming home for the first time in his hospital "blues". "On his left leg he wore a boot which was built up several inches and he had to use crutches to get about. We were in very poor circumstances. We didn't have any carpets or lino on the floor, just sand. We used to buy it in a loaf tin for a penny.
"Before he became really bad he managed to get my mother pregnant again. We didn't know, but one day we were sent to a neighbour's house and when we came back we found we had another member of the family.
"My father became seriously ill and he used to have kidney fits and thrash around on the bed. My mother used to run next door for help and two big lads called Hindle would come and sit on him to hold him down because he was so strong.
"We couldn't afford to go and see him when he was finally taken to hospital because his fits had become so bad. We phoned or telegraphed occasionally from the post office and one day I remember watching as the chap on the counter wrote out a note that my father had died that morning. I had to go and tell my mum”.
Tom remembers the funeral well. "It was quite a modern affair because instead of the usual horsedrawn hearse we had a motorcar.  I remember all the men at the side of the road doffing their caps as we passed. It was a traditional courtesy in those days”.
John Albert Harwood died of nephritis - inflammation of the kidneys - and uraemia, a serious toxic condition caused by an accumulation in the blood of waste products. It is characterised by violent headaches, vomiting and, in its acute form, convulsions and coma.
His widow lived to be 90 and is buried in the same grave at Darwen Cemetery 

Article by Harold Heys, grandson of John Albert Harwood.
Harold Heys
Harold Heys is a semi-retired journalist who has always lived in his home town of Darwen. An old boy of Darwen Grammar school, he was a journalist with the Lancashire Evening Telegraph before joining the Sunday People where he became chief sports sub-editor and production editor. He retired as editorial systems manager of Newsquest in 2001. He has had a lifelong interest in Darwen and its history and is on the committee of the town's Civic Society. Among his other hobbies he includes horse racing and its history, DIY, snooker, painting, design, writing and computers. He says he is now, in his early 60s, "a professional grandfather."
You may freely reproduce this image and/or text provided you do not do so in the course of a business and state clearly that the image/text was provided by Harold Heys for use in the Cotton Town digitisation project: www.cottontown​.org.


Percy A​lmond

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Percy Almond was a casualty in the Salonica campaign. He was invalided out and sent home with war wounds. According to the Memoriam he died on the 10th April, 1928. He was buried at New Row Chapel on the 14th April. He was the oldest son of Marion Frances and the late John W. Almond. The home address was 4 Railton Avenue, Green Lane, Blackburn.

 Thomas Milton​​ Barlow

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Thomas Milton BARLOW
© Blackburn with Da​rwen-terms and conditions

The posed photograph of Thomas reading a letter in a studio reveals the regiment in which Thomas served.  Dominic Butler from the Lancashire Infantry Museum identified the badge on the left hand shoulder as “Army Service Corps”.  Further research by Dominic revealed Thomas’ medal index card and regimental number M2/020756 indicating that Fred served in France.

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 Thomas Milton Barlow's shoulder markings

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Early Blackburn Driving Licence belonging
 The driving licence issued by the County Borough of Blackburn in 1914 shows Thomas living at 73, Dickens Street.  Dominic notes that Thomas, as a member of the Army Service Corps Motorised Transport 61 Company, Divisional Supply Column , would have been more than likely to have been deployed in moving ammunition, goods and equipment around and would have been in the thick of action.  61 Company was attached to 2nd Division which was one of the first British formations to move to France.  The 2nd Division remained on the Western Front throughout the war

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Thomas Milton Barlow's Family

The group photograph depicts a  family portrait showing Thomas, his wife Gertrude (nee Flintoff) and their children Millicent and Fred.  Judging from the stripe on Fred’s left arm, he had attained the rank of Lance Corporal at this point. Gertrude and Thomas married in 1911 and Millicent (Milly) was born in 1912, followed by Fred in 1914. 
With grateful thanks to Mr Brian Smart who donated the photographs and driving licence and provided  information relating to Thomas’ family connections.


Private Fred Cumpstey​​

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Private Fred CUMPSTEY
© Fred Cumpstey - term​s and conditions

My Grandfather, Fred Cumpstey, was born on 7 November 1883 in Blackburn, Lancashire. He married Clara Heyes at St Philip’s Church in Blackburn on 27 September 1902.  At the outbreak of the Great War he volunteered to join Kitchener’s 2nd Army and at the time of his Enlistment on 4 September 1914 he was 30 years of age and at that time had 4 young children, aged 8 years, 7 years, 4 years and 12 months old.
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He joined the 12th Battalion Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort’s Own), which was formed in Winchester in September 1914. Subsequently, he underwent intensive training moving to Blackdown in February 1915, to Witley and then in April 1915 to Larkhill. On 21 July 1915, the Battalion arrived at Southampton Docks and in the evening embarked on SS Viper to sail to Havre, France. The following day they arrived in St Omer before marching into billets at Tatinghem.

My Grandfather was severely wounded in the fierce fighting which occurred on 25 September 1915 at Pietre in a Battle which was associated with the Battle of Loos. He survived, and was  discharged from the Army on 16 May 1917 as a consequence of his wounds.

Although disabled, his right leg was pinned at the knee and he suffered other injuries as a result of mortar fire and shrapnel, he lived an active and fulfilling life until his death in March 1963 in his 80th year.

He was a remarkable man.

Photograph above supplied by Mr Fred Cumpstey gransdon of Private Fred Cumpstey (knealing, front row, far right).
Fred Cumpstey (Grandson) January 2014

Please use the following link to find out more about Fred's research Remembrance: The Story of My Granddad, An Involuntary Hero​

Lieutenant George Duerden

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Lieutenant George Duerden, R. F. C., who died of wounds, was the younger son of Mrs and the late Mr I Duerden, of Mearley Hall, Clitheroe. He joined the ranks in August 1914, and after a short period in France as an infantry officer, after gaining his commission, he transferred to the Flying Corps, and he had been on active service in that branch of the service for about two months. Twenty-five years of age, Lieut. Duerden was associated with his uncle, Mr Duerden, auctioneer and valuer, at Clitheroe.
Blackburn Weekly Telegraph 20th April 1918.


Sergeant William DUERDEN

Mrs. Duerden, of 59, Harwood-street, has received word that her son, Sergeant Duerden, has been wounded in action. Sergeant Duerden was with the Kut relief force, and was wounded during a charge on the Turkish trenches on April 5th. "You see", he writes to his mother, "we were trying to relieve General Townshend at Kut. We made the charge about five o'clock in the morning. My! You ought to have seen the Turks run. It was splendid. We cleared then out of the trenches at the point of the bayonet and got them in the open. Then our artillery opened fire with shrapnel. We were chasing them all day. It was pretty warm work under a hot sun. Then about seven o'clock at night we made another attack. We had almost got on the top of their trenches when I took the 'wallop'. But everything is merry and bright again here (the hospital). The only complaint one has to make is that the sun is terribly hot".
 Blackburn Times 27th May 1916.

Cor​poral Walter Shorrock

1/4 Battalion East Lancashire Regiment  - Uncle Walt.
walter shorrock from Fred Cumpstey 3 CT 17.09.2019 640.jpgWalter Shorrock was my Great Uncle and my maternal Grandmother's brother. Walter was born in Blackburn Lancashire in 1885 and was a Weaver in the local Cotton industry. At the outbreak of War, he enlisted in the 1/4 East Lancashire Regiment and after a brief spell of training in England he sailed from Southampton on 10 September 1914 disembarking at Alexandria in Egypt on 25 September 1914. The Division was concentrated around Cairo for acclimatisation and further training. The purpose of the East Lancashire Division was to defend the Suez Canal from Turkish troops. Walter fought throughout 1914 to 1916 in Egypt and was involved in the reinforcement of the beleaguered Garrison in Gallipoli -it was during this time that Walter was promoted to Corporal.
He also saw active service at the Helles bridgehead and around the fierce fighting to capture the dominating heights at Krithia. During these Battles, the East Lancashire Division lost more than one third of its men. After a brief spell in Mudros, Walter returned to Alexandria. Walter was further involved in the Battle of Romani which involved hazardous trekking in loose sand and scorching conditions. At the beginning of March 1917, Walter moved with his Division to the Western Front which involved trench warfare under very different conditions to those he had experienced in Egypt and Gallipoli.

After arriving at Epehy, Walter moved to Havrincourt facing the severity of the German Hindenburg Line at Cambrai. Walter was then involved in the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele including an attack on the strong point of Sans Souci on 15 September 1917. Later that month he moved over to Belgium at Nieuport before on to Givenchy on the La Bassee Canal near Bethune.
Walter was wounded in action on 29 June 1917 and days later was gassed after heavy shelling.  He battled on and after re-joining his Battalion he saw further action before succumbing to gastritis which eventually saw him discharged from the Army in October 1918 - after completing 4 years and 77 days in the Great War.

Walter survived the War and continued to live a contented life until his death in 1973 at the age of 88 years. I am proud to say I knew and met Walter on several occasions when he visited my Grandmother. He was a kindly, quiet and self-effacing man who belied the tortuous experiences he had been through in the service of his Country. He never married and lived with Grandma’s youngest sister, Elizabeth (Auntie Lizzie), who was a Spinster.
Fred Cumpstey,  October 2014



Rifleman Frank Lowe

 38360, 16th Ballion King's Royal Rifle Corps (K.R.R.C.)

Mr Philip Old of Darwen has very kindly given Cotton Town permission to share his Great Uncle's military service papers.  The collection was given to Philip in 1972 by his uncle shortly before his death.  Philip notes that Frank had carried all his documents in his battle dress throughout the war.  It is rare to find such a complete set of documents. Apparently, the 16th Battalion K.R.R.C. were known as churchmen as they were all church lads brigade members.  Philip notes that Frank who was his Grandmother's (Fanny Foster) younger brother informed him that Philip, at 12 years old, was too big for the trenches.  Frank was  only 5ft 4". ​​

                                  Recruting Form.jpg                         Pay Old.New .jpg
                                                                                                                                               Recruitment papers                                                           Separation Allowance                            


                                   Short Service Certificate2.jpg                         Trans to Reserve.jpg
                                                                                                                                                 Attestation papers                                                    Certificate of Transfer to Reserve


William Sh​earer (1879 - 1956)

Twice "blown up" at sea during the First World War
I suspect that relatively few mariners survived the traumatic experience of being twice “blown up at sea” during wartime, and yet, this is precisely what happened to my Great-uncle William “Billy” Shearer from the parish of Orphir, in the west Mainland of Orkney, a group of islands lying off the north-east tip of Scotland.
He was born on 18 March 1879 at the Cot of Roadside, a seven-acre holding in the district of Smoogro, which his grandfather, Andrew Groundwater, leased from Dr Charles Still of Burgar, a retired army surgeon. Later the same year the family moved to a small croft called Aikislay in the same parish, near the Loch of Kirbister (formerly Loch of Groundwater), where William’s parents, William Muir Shearer, a ploughman, and Mary Groundwater, were to have eleven more children, the second of which was Margaret, my paternal grandmother.

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Cot of Roadside, Smoogro, Orphir, Orkney, birthplace of William Shearer
©​ Peter G Russell​

While still only 15 years of age an adventurous young William enlisted in the Royal Navy and joined HMS Caledonia (originally HMS Impregnable, built 1810), the boy cadet training ship, that was anchored off Queensferry in the Firth of Forth, near Edinburgh. He served 11 years with the Fleet, three of these being spent patrolling the temperate waters of the Mediterranean.  In 1901 he was stationed at HMS Wildfire, the RN Gunnery School at Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, in Kent.  The final period of his service in the Navy was spent in Chatham, Kent and, it was around the time of his honourable discharge that he wed 24 year-old Winifred 'Winnie' Ann Brooks, a cotton spinner, daughter of John Brooks, a blacksmith's striker, and Margaret Holden, from Preston. They were married in Bromley, also in Kent, in 1905 and moved to Leith, a suburb of Edinburgh. Initially William worked in the docks but when their first child, Winifred Ann (b. 1906), was born he found more secure employment as a postman with the GPO in the Scottish capital. Some twelve months later he was transferred to Blackburn, where Winifred had four more children - William (b. 1907, died in infancy); Victor (b. 1909); Ruby (b. 1913); and Elizabeth (b. 1918). The Census taken on the night of 2 April 1911 found the family living in 49 Scotland Road, Blackburn when William was recorded as a postman and Winifred a cotton weaver in a local mill..
At the outbreak of the First World War William Shearer was called up along with thousands of other reservists, and from the very beginning Fortune smiled on him. He joined the 12,000-ton cruiser HMS Cressy as a leading seaman but was almost immediately recalled to the depot. A few weeks later the Cressy and two other cruisers were sunk off the Belgian coast with heavy loss of life. His next ship was the Duchess of Devonshire, an armed boarding steamer working in the English Channel.

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 Leading Seaman William Shearer, Royal Navy, photograph taken from 'The Orkney Herald,' 1916.

Towards the end of 1916 William Shearer was posted to Scapa Flow, Orkney, where he joined HMS Negro, a 1,025-ton ‘M’ class destroyer; the vessel on which he was to have his most nerve-racking experience. In December that year Sir David Beatty, Commander-in-Chief Grand Fleet, decided to take the fleet out into the North Sea and the events that followed are best told in Shearer’s own words as reported in The Orkney Herald, 4 April 1934:
“We left the Fleet somewhere north of the Fair Isle to escort another vessel [the Hoste, a 1,666-ton flotilla leader] back to the [Scapa] Flow. It was a dark night, freezing cold and stormy. We were just off Fair Isle when it happened. The fellow we were escorting dropped a depth charge, whether through carelessness or otherwise nobody ever quite found out, but anyway we planted our bow on to it and it blew us up as completely as if we had been torpedoed. In fact we supposed it was a torpedo at the time.
“An attempt was made to launch the boats, but it was no use. It was evident that the Negro was done for, and we saw that the ship we were escorting had also received the benefit of the explosion and was sinking fast. She had her searchlight on and I saw her going down from the fo’c’sle of the Negro…………Our masts were broken and trailing overboard, and we were settling in the water. It was apparent we might go at any moment. I jumped just a few minutes before the Negro went down, and it looked as if I was out of the frying pan into the fire. The water was icy, and it was all I could do to hang on to the bits of wreckage that was floating about.
“It was half-an-hour before I was picked up by the Marmion (also an ‘M’ class destroyer), which came to our rescue. She was just in time. Another ten seconds would have finished me. Only thirty-four of us were saved out of a crew of eighty-five. The heart-rending sounds of drowning shipmates crying out for their mothers will haunt me for the rest of my days.”
After this traumatic experience Shearer was given ten days survivor’s leave. His next posting was on the P.20, a 613-ton armed patrol boat, which was engaged on escort duty with the Dover Patrol. Early in 1918 he joined the crew of HMS Scott, a 1,801-ton Scott class flotilla leader, one of the most modern and largest vessels of her class that saw service in the First World War. She was commanded by the Hon. William Spencer Leveson-Gower (pronounce ‘Loosen-Gore’), who curiously enough, had been captain of the Marmion. It was while he was on the Scott, as a gunlayer, that Shearer was ‘blown up’ for the second time.
On 15 August 1918, while on patrol off the Hook of Holland, the Scott and the Ulleswater (a 921- ton ‘R’ class destroyer) were both torpedoed by a German submarine. The Scott was in the act of rescuing survivors from the Ulleswater when she herself was hit and actually sank before the ship she was attending.

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HMS Scott launched 18 October 1917, sunk 15 August 1918.​​

 “This was a picnic compared with the Negro affair,” said Shearer. “Only twenty-nine of the Scott’s 164-strong crew were lost. The rest of us were picked up quite easily, as it was a fine day and the sea was calm. The tragedy of the Scott, as far as I was concerned, was that I lost my bagpipes, but the captain heard of my loss, and presented me with a new set, which I still possess.” Captain Leveson-Gower was married to Lady Rose Bowes-Lyon, daughter of the 14th Earl of Strathmore, which made him an uncle of the Queen! He died in 1953, the year of her coronation.
Shearer had learned to play the bagpipes during his first spell in the Navy and his skill as a piper was a byword in the Blackburn area, where over a period spanning more than forty years he performed the time-honoured ceremony of “Piping in the Haggis” at Burns Suppers. He always took great pride in his appearance and looked resplendent in the full highland dress of Clan Gunn, whose motto, “Either peace or war,” seemed especially appropriate.

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 A young William Sheare​r in full highland dress - date unknown.

After the cessation of hostilities he returned to work as a postman in Blackburn with the GPO and remained in its employ until reaching the age of fifty-five, when he elected to take early retirement. It had long been his dream to return to live in Orkney.  “It has always been my intention to permanently reside in my native islands when I retired,” he told a reporter on the Orkney Herald, 31 March 1934. “I am returning to Orkney because I am, and have always been, an Orkney lover. I have frequently visited the county during holidays from my work, and have many friends in my native parish and throughout the isles.
William and Winifred rented a four-roomed wooden hut, grandly named 'Cornesquoy', that had originally served as officers’ quarters at the nearby Houton army camp during the First World War. Cornesquoy is situated in the remote district of Clestrain in Orphir and lies some six miles from the port of Stromness and twice as far from the county town of Kirkwall. It is not entirely surprising therefore to learn that city-born Winnie was unable to adapt to living in such a 'godforsaken place'. Apparently she would spend many a lonely hour gazing out of the window, not at the majestic grandeur of the hills of Hoy but in the oft-forlorn hope of seeing the postman making his way up the rough track leading from the distant Stromness-Kirkwall road to deliver a much-awaited letter from her family and friends in faraway Blackburn. Almost inevitably, William Shearer’s lifelong dream of being back in Orkney was soon shattered and in less than eighteen months of their arrival in the islands, the disenchanted couple gathered up their belongings and returned south to Blackburn

A much-modernised Cornesquoy Cottage, Orphir, Orkney, overlooking Scapa Flow.

He devoted the rest of his life to his children, grandchildren, the local Presbyterian Church and passing on his piping skills to a younger generation. The old salt finally 'crossed the bar' at the age of 77 on 22 April 1956. Although he had spent the greater part of his life in Blackburn, and his mortal remains were laid to rest among 'the dark, Satanic Mills' of industrial Lancashire, I believe that Great-uncle Billy's spirit will dwell forever in his beloved Orkney Isles.

 Piper William Shearer in later life - date unknown.​

William Shearer was a talented artist and his fine watercolour of the ill-fated HMS Scott was given pride of place in the Pleckgate Road home of his daughter, Elizabeth "Betty" Brown, until her death a dozen or so years ago. It was a poignant reminder of a brave, unassuming man who served his God, his country and his local community with such distinction.
Winifred Ann Shearer (née Brooks), died aged 81, in 1962, in the nearby registration district of Clitheroe.
 Article and images by kind permission of Peter Groundwater Russell, Bexleyheath, Kent, April 2016



​Harry Aspin

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The Medals of 1171 Bombadier Harry Aspin
Royal Field Artillery.


The Medals of Harry Aspin. This trio of medals were affectionately known as “Pip, Squeak and Wilfred".  "Pip", the 1914, 1914-15 Star, "Squeak", British War Medal and "Wilfred", Victory Medal. These three medals are worn together and, in the same order, from left to right.

The medal on the left is the Gallipoli Star, Ottoman War Medal, a decoration awarded by the Ottoman Empire. It was introduced by the Sultan Mehmed Reshad V, on the 1st March 1915, for gallantry in battle. The medal was made of nickel-plated brass. It was probably picked up as a battlefield souvenir by Harry.

Harry Aspin.jpg
The above picture is a Christmas greeting card​ from the Dardanelles. 
The greetings and Royal Field Artillery badge are embroidered on to card. The photograph is of a mounted Harry. 


Henry Jukes​

The Story Below Was Taken From The Blackburn Weekly Telegraph of 31st August 1918.​
Five Birthdays At The Front


Blackburn Soldiers Striking Record.

Five birthdays in the trenches and only once slightly wounded, though he has fought almost continuously since the war broke out, is the remarkable record of Private Henry Jukes of the Coldstream Guards, whose home is at 78 Cherry-street, Blackburn. He celebrated his thirty-second birthday in the line on Monday with bayonet fixed and participating in the present great push. He was following his employment at Messrs Yates and Thom's Foundry when as a first-class army reservist with almost thirteen years' service in, he was called to the colours a week or two before his twenty-seventh birthday, and was one of the first batch of French's “Contemptable little Army" to accept the challenge of the Germans in Belgium.

With the exception of the usual furloughs, he has been fighting almost without interruption, and having regard to the fact that he has from and including the memorable retreat from Mons figured in almost all the big engagement, it is something of a miracle that he has only once been wounded, and then only so slightly that he was able to resume after treatment at a field dressing station.

The battles Private Jukes has participated in includes, Mons, Villascotre, the Aisne, St. Julian, La Bassee, Armentieres, Loos, Landrecies, the Marne, Super, Rouhil Wood, Neuve Chapelie, Ypres, Laventie and the Sommie, so that of the excitement of war he has had plenty. With him “going over the top" became a familiar habit, and ass to be expected, he has had an abundance of hair-breadth escapes. He was once carrying in his haversack two bombs when the haversack was struck with a shot. The material started to burn, but, with the presence of mind of a hardened soldier, he removed the bombs, and after placing them in safety proceeded to extinguish the burning haversack. A less experienced soldier might have removed haversack and bombs together, with consequences of a very different character. During the battle of Ypres, he was buried on three occasions, and was in in each instance extremely fortunate, inasmuch as the shells which caused his temporary internment did not in any instance explode. Many gallant soldier's have fallen on either side of him, and he wonders how it is that he has been so much more fortunate than many of his comrades.

Just prior to an engagement on July 31st last year he shook hands with Richard Smith, of Holehouse, a member of the Blackburn Borough Police Force, who had previously won the D.C.M., and each wished the other the very best of luck. Jukes came out of the ordeal, severe as it was, unscathed, but Smith was killed.

A Short Biography of Henry Jukes

Henry Jukes story was not unique. Many soldiers went through the entire war sustaining only minor injuries only a few would have their stories printed. Little of conditions and the life he led in the trenches is given in the article, and even though the names of the battles he fought in are given the bloodiness and ferocity of these engagements are simply brushed over. Other than a small rather blurred photograph was printed with the article it is still not imposable to get a picture of the man. I have done some research on Henry Jukes and now share it with you.

Henry Jukes was not a Blackburn man. Born in 1886 at Madeley, Shropshire he was the son George Arthur Jukes and Fanny Corfield, and named George Henry Jukes. He was the eldest son and second eldest child of 7. Between 1892 and 1898 the family moved to Manchester and by 1901 they had again removed to Newton-street, Blackburn. The census for that year shows Henry as a warehouse boy. On the 28th November 1904, when he was 18 Henry joined the army choosing the Coldstream Guards. There is something of a mystery surrounding this, on his attestation papers his name is given as Dukes, underneath this it says “Alias Jukes", he also signs his name Dukes. On a paper from his pension record dated 13th August 1914 there is a note which says; “Pte G.H. Jukes (has been permitted to change his name from Pte G.H. Dukes)". I cannot find any reason why he might have called himself Dukes. Could it be that he did not have permission from his parents to enlist in the army? He was under twenty-one, the age of consent, at the time. We also learn something of how Henry looked from his army records; he was 5ft 7in tall weighing 118lb after six months he had grown 1in and put on 16lbs. His complexion was fresh, he had grey eyes and brown hair, his religion is Congregationalist. He was accepted into the army and became Private 5868 George Henry Dukes of the Coldstream Guards. Henry's, first battle experience of WW1 took place almost immediately after he landed in France, that was the battle and subsequent retreat from Mons. On the 22nd of October probably at the battle of La Bassee he got a shrapnel wound to the head, which was not serious and he was soon back in the fray.  On the 31st July 1917, the beginning of the battle of Ypres, the article says he met and shook hands with Richard Smith of the Blackburn Borough Police the article says that Smith died but there is no Richard Smith on the police Roll of Honour and I can find no other information about him.

He received his discharge papers out of the army on 31st March 1920, having served 14 years as a soldier and reservist. The medals he was presented with were the 1914 Star with clasp, the Victory Medal and British Medal.

Henry had married Elizabeth Ogden Heatley, on the 18th November 1909, at Blackburn Congregational Church, Chapel Street. They had three children, George Robert, b. 1910, Norman Ogden, b. 1911 and Walter Stanley, b. 1913. There address at the time of the 1911 census was 2 Fawcett Street, Blackburn. In 1914, Elizabeth and one son, Walter Stanley, 7 months old at the time, went to America arriving in June of that year she is on the American census for 1920 and on a paper in Henry's pension record is this note; “Next of Kin (wife) Elizabeth 442 Sawyer St. New Bedford Massachusetts USA." In 1918 Henry was “Granted leave to America" from March to April. It seems, however, Henry was back in Blackburn and living in Cherry-street by the 31st August 1918 when the above article was written. Whether he went back to America later I cannot say, however I cannot find any record that he ever did. It is also a mystery as to why his wife went to America with one son, leaving the rest of the family behind.

George Henry Jukes died in Blackburn on the 18th of June 1933.

If anyone has further information about this man or his family please contact Cottontown

​​back to top​​

William Heyes

Heys William.jpgLance Corporal William Heyes - 1/4 East Lancashire Regiment (Service Number 201254) - Killed in Action.

William Heyes was my paternal Grandma's (Clara Cumpstey), youngest brother and my Great Uncle. William was born in Blackburn in 1889, the youngest child of Thomas and Ellen (nee Withrington) Heyes who lived in Avondale Street, Blackburn. William married Ellen Hoole, also from Blackburn, in 1913 at All Saints CE Church, Blackburn and they subsequently had two children, James born in 1913 and Ellen born in 1915.

At the onset of the First World War, William voluntarily enlisted in the 1/4 East Lancashire Regiment and, after initial training, sailed from Southampton to Alexandria in Egypt, arriving on 25 September 1914. William fought throughout 1914 to 1916 and was involved in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

William continued to see active service at Helles, Krithia and the Battle of Romani which involved some hazardous trekking in loose sand and scorching heat. In March 1917, William moved with his Division to the Western Front which involved trench warfare; a far cry from the conditions experienced in Egypt and Gallipoli.

Having been involved in fighting at Havincourt, facing the severity of the German Hindenburg line at Cambrai, William was then involved in the Third Battle of Ypres or, as it became known, the Battle of Passchendaele. This offensive was launched on 31 July, 1917 in the most appalling and deplorable conditions. Heavy rain had fallen on ground already destroyed by artillery which rendered swamp like conditions.

After enduring so much in the service of his Country, William was killed in action on the first day of Passchendaele. His body was never recovered but his service, bravery and supreme sacrifice is acknowledged with his name on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

It is interesting to me that William would have fought alongside another of my Great Uncles, Corporal Walter Shorrock, who was my maternal Grandma's youngest brother. Walter, however,  survived the War and lived to the age of 88 years. My tribute to Walter is recorded under the "Surviving Soldiers" section.

Fred Cumpstey, 2018, Great Nephew of William Heyes.


Private ​​John Murphy​​

​1st Battalion, Irish Guards, 5233

Murphy John 3.jpgIn 1915, my great grandfather John Murphy was killed during the First World War. He was missing in action for three months, and his body was never found. His story was lost, but now it is being told. John was born in Blackburn in 1888. His mother Annie Cranston was Irish. She came to England with her family in the 1870s when she was a teenager. She was from a small village called Tempo in Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. They settled in Fleetwood, where her father worked on the docks. John’s father was born in Blackburn, but he was from an Irish family. His father also worked at Fleetwood docks. John’s parents married in Fleetwood but they then moved to Larkhill in Blackburn. 

As a young man, John worked as a labourer in the Greenbank Iron Works in Gorse Street, which was owned by Henry Livesey Ltd. They manufactured cotton looms, including the Northrop looms. John married Margaret Walsh in 1908. Two years later, their only child Florence was born. She is my grannie. They must have been very poor, because when the 1911 Census was taken, they were boarding in a terrace house on Fisher Street in Cob Wall. However, their one year old baby daughter was living with Margaret’s parents in Crabtree Street, which is now where the entrance to the Tesco superstore is. Before the First World War, John was an Army Reservist and he served with the 1st East Lancashire Regiment. His Regimental Number was 8888. Within six weeks of the beginning of the First World War, he had joined the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards. This was quite unusual because most lads joined their local regiment. He was a tall man, being 5 foot 11 inches. His Regimental Number was 5233. When he enlisted, he was working as a deckhand on a steam trawler in Fleetwood, but he was now living with his wife’s family in Crabtree Street, with nine people living in a 2-up 2-down terrace house!

John’s death on the battlefield in shrouded in mystery, and it makes little sense. Officially, his death is recorded as being on 18 May 1915. This was during the Battle of Festubert in France, when the Irish Guards went ‘over the top’. The day before, the Worcestershire Regiment had been wiped out in the same location. Just imagine how terrifying that must have been. The Irish Guards were next. The day didn’t start well. A low mist descended over the trenches, and it was impossible to see where the enemy was. The early morning start was postponed, but the Irish were made to stand there in the open trenches all day. During the day, whilst they waited for the weather to clear, forty men were killed in the trenches as they were constantly bombarded by enemy trench mortars. What a waste. It was late in the afternoon when they took their turn to die, and left the trenches to walk over no-mans land towards the enemy. At this time during the war, soldiers were ordered to walk towards the enemy and not to run, so that they would all arrive at the enemy trenches at the same time. Madness. John’s body was never found. 

His army service records are ambiguous. One record states that he was ‘killed, missing in action’ on 18 May 1915. However, his Casualty Form - Active Service record states:
9 September 1915 - ‘unconfirmed report Killed in Action by CSM McVeigh, can death be confirmed?’
16 September 1915 - ‘Missing believed killed’
29 February 1916 - From the War Office – ‘In accordance with the decision of the Army Council, this soldier is to be regarded for official purposes as having died on or since 18 May 1915’ 
John is listed as being a Category C2 Casualty.

It is well documented that the Irish Guards fought in the Battle of Festubert on 18 May 1915. The Irish Guards’ war diaries from the frontline and from the Battalion Headquarters were later transcribed into a best-selling book called ‘The Irish Guards’, which was written by Rudyard Kipling. His son was an officer in the regiment, and he was killed in September 1915. Rudyard Kipling then devoted his life to finding his son, and after the war he immersed himself within the regiment. From the book, we know that on 9 September when John is recorded as being killed in action, the Irish Guards had been billoted away from the front line. They were recovering in a small village several miles from the battlefield. So, it is safe to say that John Murphy wasn’t killed on 9 September. It is probable that he was indeed killed on 18 May 1915 when the Irish Guards went over the top.

John Murphy is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial in Calais, along with 53 of his comrades from his regiment who have no known grave, and who were killed on 18 May 1915. It is not known how many in total were killed on that day.

The Blackburn Times newspaper printed John’s obituary on 21 August 1915. This proves that the army records are incorrect, because this is three weeks before he was reported as being missing. The obituary states that:
‘Private John Murphy of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards was officially reported missing some months ago, and it was not until Tuesday morning that his wife learned that he was killed in action so long ago as 18 May 1915. The information was contained in a letter from an officer who stated that he had made the fullest investigation concerning his fate and he expressed sympathy in her loss. He leaves one child.’ That child was my grandmother, who was only four years old at the time.

John’s wife Margaret was awarded a widow’s pension of 15 shillings a week, with effect from April 1916. When the war was over, the families of those that were killed were awarded a posthumous ‘War Gratuity’ from the government. Margaret was awarded £3 in October 1919. In the Army’s ‘Register of Soldier’s Effects’ she is now listed as Margaret Marsden because she had remarried, just 18 months after John was killed. John had also saved £4 and 3 shillings whilst he had been at war. Margaret’s new husband also worked in an iron foundry, so he very probably knew John. They had two sons together, and my grandmother was brought up with a new family.

John’s story was never told in the family. My grandmother Florence died in 1965, the year that I was born. When my grannie got married, John Murphy is recorded as her father on her wedding certificate as being a ‘deceased steam trawler hand’, so she clearly knew who he was. My father was never told about his grandfather’s death, and he never mentioned his family at all. I studied war poetry for my O Levels at school, so I developed a fascination with the Great War. It was only recently when I researched my family tree that I discovered all of this. 

John’s death isn’t recorded in this country, so I made an assumption that he was killed abroad during the war.
As you can imagine, there were countless men called John Murphy who were killed during the war, so it took a great deal of research to properly identify my great grandfather. All I had was his name. A book was published after the war called ‘Ireland’s Memorial Records 1914-1918’. There is a short record entry for every Irishman who was killed during the war. It contains a record for:
‘John Murphy, Regimental Number 5233, Private, Irish Guards 1st Battalion, killed in action 18 May 1915, born Blackburn’.  Blackburn was the magic word! Was this him?
I then searched using his Regimental Number, which then produced his Army Will. This showed his wife’s name, Margaret. She had remarried and was now called Marsden. I then searched for and found a Murphy/Marsden wedding in Blackburn in 1917. This took me to the 1939 census where they were living in the same house which is shown on my grandmother’s wedding certificate. I then applied to the government John’s Army Service Records. I then found his Blackburn Times obituary in Blackburn Library after his photograph was uploaded onto Cotton Town’s website.
John wasn’t missing anymore.

Colin Worswick, Hoghton, November 2019.

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Private 27386 Albert Goulding​
7th Battalion Kings Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment​

Albert Goulden.jpgAlbert Goulding was my maternal Grandma's cousin who served initially with the 3/4 East Lancashire Regiment and, subsequently, with the 7th Battalion Kings Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment during World War 1.

He was the son of Michael and Jane Alice Goulding who lived at Avondale Street, Witton, Blackburn. Albert was born in Blackburn, in 1887, and his siblings were William, born and died in 1885, and, Peter born in 1888.

He was a "Derby Man" which meant he was part of a scheme designed to encourage as many men as possible to volunteer for the armed forces thus avoiding the need for conscription. The scheme's author was the then Earl of Derby, Edward Stanley, 17th Earl of Derby who was Kitchener's Director General of Recruiting. Under the terms of the scheme all men aged between 18 and 41 years (apart from those employed in essential occupations) were required to make a public declaration that they were willing to enlist. Once the attested they promised to go to the Recruiting Office within 48 hours.

Mobilised and posted to 3/4 East Lancashire Regiment on 29 February 1916, Albert​ was shipped out to Bolougne and the Etaples Base Depot on 9th September 1916. After training, he was posted to the 4th Reserve Battalion of the Kings Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment, and later, to the 7th Battalion Kings Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment on 20th September 1916.

During 1916, Albert saw active combat in an assault on the Zollen Trench, and the Battle of the Ancre (Grandcourt). In 1917, he saw service in the Battle of Messines (West of Flanders Belgium) including the raid at Bois Quarante, the attack on Messines Ridge and the advance near Oosterverne.
The attack on Messines Ridge opened with the explosion of the mines, causing a virtual earthquake that immediately killed as many as 10,000 German soldiers. A hurricane bombardment by 2000 guns preceded the advance of British and Australian infantry divisions which proved a complete success.

His Battalion moved on to Passchendaele and the 3rd Battle of Ypres. Sadly, on 31 July 1917, the first day of the Battle,  Albert was one of 42 other ranks killed in action, with 42 missing. As fate would have it, Albert's cousin, William Heyes, (my Grandma's brother) was also killed in action on that same day  in the same Battle.

Albert Goulding and his service to his King and Country is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial Panel 12. Albert is also honoured on Blackburn's Roll of Honour which is published on the Cottontown website.
Fred Cumpsty, January 2020


Signaller John E Moody, M.M.​

img027 Moody, John E cropped b.jpgJohn was my maternal grandmother's brother which makes me one of his great nephews. He was brought up together with his brother and three sisters in the Wensley Fold area of Blackburn. His family were committed members of the Church of England Church there (St. Barnabas, I think) although John was later a member of the Methodist Church, and, at the end of his life, he and his wife attended the Methodist Church in Leamington Road.

I persuaded John to talk with me, in the early 1980s, about how he won his Military Medal. Sadly, I did not make a recording of that conversation nor did I make notes. As a result, the following account is based on my recollections of that conversation almost 40 years ago.

"John was with his Regiment on the front line - I don't know where. The Company commander asked for a volunteer to carry out what he described as a simple but important task. John stepped forward after a very few moments consideration. He was convinced that he would be killed anyway so he thought that he might as well be killed doing something special. The task, he was told after volunteering, was to repair the damaged telegraph wires from their position to Company H.Q. A simple but dangerous task because of the potency of enemy snipers. He was also told that another volunteer would be carrying out the same task from the other end and so he would only have to go halfway. In reality, the other volunteer was killed but John was able to carry out the repairs over the whole length. When he arrived at his destination, the first thing he did was to light up a cigarette for which he was reprimanded. I know that he was very angry about this". I have tried to find details of the location of all this but without success.

John died in the late 1980s in Blackburn and he is buried in Pleasington Cemetery.

On his death, his Military Medal was passed on to a nephew of his wife and I am currently trying to make contact with this side of the family in order to discover if anyone knows the whereabouts of John's Medal.
Norman Barton, February 2020

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​​​​​Petty Officer Robert Entwistle​​

​Petty Officer  Robert Entwistle - Royal Navy Division - 10th Section, D Company, Hood Battalion
Petty Officer Robert Entwistle was born in Blackburn, in 1878, to James Entwistle and Ellen Wilkinson. He was my Great Uncle, having married my paternal Grandmother's sister, Mary Ellen Heyes at St Philips Church, Blackburn on 17 April, 1897.  Both Robert and Mary Ellen lived on Avondale Street; Robert at number 27 and Mary Ellen at number 8. Sadly, a double tragedy struck Robert when first, in 1897, he lost his new born son, Thomas, and secondly, in 1906, when my Great Aunt, Mary Ellen, passed away, aged 30 years.

In 1894, Robert had enlisted in the Royal Navy initially for a 12 year period. Subsequently, however, his enlistment was cancelled by purchase, but, within 2 years, he had re-enlisted on 6 January, 1896 and continued to serve for a further 22 years. On enlistment, Robert was a Blacksmith like his father.

During his Naval service Robert, or Uncle Bob, as he was popularly known to the family, served on a number of ships including HMS Isis, as part of the China Squadron in 1900, before transferring to HMS Severn, briefly to HMS Anson, before joining HMS Sapphire. Following a spell ashore, based at Chatham, he served on HMS Lancaster and HMS London. On enlistment, Uncle Bob held the rank of Stoker 2nd Class before advancing to Leading Stoker 2nd Class, Stoker 1st Class, and subsequently,​ Petty Officer. 

At the outbreak of the Great War, the Royal Naval Division was formed from the Royal Navy and Royal Marine reservists and volunteers who were not required at sea, since the concept of sailors and marines fighting on land was not new, and, with a surplus number of sailors available, "Churchill's Little Army" was put into action. Eight Battalions were formed and named after Naval Commanders hence Uncle Bob became part of the Hood Battalion.

It is fair to say that the Siege of Antwerp and Gallipoli saw some of the fiercest  fighting of the conflict. Gone were those early days when everyone was in good spirits and there was something of romanticism seen in going to war. Uncle Bob was soon to realise that the difference between life and death was a daily occurence and the sense of loss underpinned every waking hour. It was in the theatres of war at Antwerp and in the Gallipoli/Dardennelles Peninsula that whole generations were to be swept aside and lost.

In September 1914, the Belgian fortress at Antwerp was compromised and at great risk as the Germans advanced with their heavy artillery - hence, there was a threat to the Channel ports which had to be kept open at all costs. With British infantry divisions stretched and unable to help, the Royal Naval Division were prepared for the rescue. Uncle Bob and his comrades left for Belgium on 5 October, 1914, and, on arrival, as they passed villages, they were greeted with the sight of dispirited Belgian troops funnelling back in the opposite direction. Later, as they settled in prepared trenches, Uncle Bob's Brigade occupied positions on the right flank between Boschhoek and Vrende. The positions were 2 miles from the German Front Line at Lierre. Following a double change of orders Uncle Bob's Brigade now occupied positions between Forts 5 and 6. Despite having to undergo and withstand incessant heavy fire and themselves putting up a furious fussilade a withdrawal route for the Hood Battalion was put into place. In October 1914, Uncle Bob's Division received orders to withdraw from their position. 

It was in Gallipoli that many believed was an opportunity to change the course of the War and, by so doing, save countless lives and reduce the time span of conflict. History would reveal that it didn't work out that way and delays, bad planning and sheer incompetence heralded a dismal failure and a calamitous loss of life. 

The Hood Battalion were shipped to Egypt and fought at the Battle of Gallipoli, at Anzac Cove and Cape Helles. The Battalion was one of  two British Divisions at the Gallipoli landings and their role was to make as if to land just before dark and return after night fell. Just after dawn the decoy force sailed south to join the main landings on 30 April 1915.

The Hood Battalion remained at Gallipoli throughout that conflict.

Following a series of bouts of illness, which was commonplace during the Great War, Uncle Bob left the Hood Battalion in 1916 and returned to his life at sea.
Uncle Bob re-married in Liverpool to Annie Delhanth, but continued to visit Blackburn and the Heyes family. Sadly, I have no information on where or when he died.
Until I started to research Uncle Bob's War service, I was unaware of the Royal Naval Division or the Hood Battalion and their pivotal role during the Great War. In the briefest of overviews, I fear I might have done scant justice to Uncle Bob's role in the service of his Country and that too of the Hood Battalion. For those who have taken the trouble to read my pen picture of my Great Uncle and, like me, have found the exploits of the Royal Naval Division in general and the Hood Battalion, in particular, fascinating, I can highly recommend Leonard Sellars book "The Hood Battalion" for more considered reading.

Fred Cumpstey, Great Nephew, September 2020


 William Rothwell​

William Shaw.jpgOn first looking at this obituary you might think the wrong picture has been used. What is an Australian soldier doing on our war memorial? Well, it is the correct picture and William was an Australian soldier.  He was born in Blackburn in 1893 and was baptised in St Mary’s Church in April of that year. The family first lived in 25 Craig Street and then moved to Galligreaves Street behind where St Winfred's school is located.
His Mum and Dad were Sarah and Robert and he was one of five boys with Robert, Walter, John and Albert all being younger than him.

About 1903, the family moved to 13 East Street, and, it was here that the youngest boy, Albert was born. Dad had a job as a stoker in the Eclipse Cotton Mill. Until he was twelve William went to school in the lower church hall which was, until 1907, the village school. Feniscowles Primary as we now know opened in 1907. When he was thirteen, William went to work as a paper makers assistant at either the Sun or Star paper mill. As an older teenager, he joined the Oddfellows Friendly Society who had premises in the centre of Blackburn and some of the best billiard tables in town. William stayed as a paper maker until he was twenty one when he got itchy feet.

On the 19th May, 1914 he took the train to London and boarded the S.S. Commonwealth which, on the 20th, set sail for Australia. William's ticket number was 779. Going via Cape Town, they arrived in Port Adelaide six weeks later on the 2nd July 1914. His first sight of Australia would have been Kangaroo Island.  From Adelaide he went on to Melbourne and lived at the Royal Park Hostel which housed a lot of immigrants until they could be found jobs and somewhere to live. And find a job he did; William moved to the small town of Maffra and worked at Ravenswood for a Mr. Longmore. We don’t know what his job was but the area was a big farming area, mostly cattle and sugar beat growing and processing.

The sound of drums beating in Britain was also being heard in Australia. Less than a year after arriving William enlisted into the Australian Imperial Forces on the 21st June 1915. He started his training at
Broadmeadows Depot near Melbourne with his service number being 1989. The camp was mostly tented, the ground marshy and the rain followed him from Lancashire. The conditions were grim and a lot of sickness prevailed. 
At the start of August he was back on board a ship, heading for Egypt, and, after sailing up the Suez canal, joined  the 21st Btn. who were based in Heliopis. From their camp ii was a twenty minute electric tram ride into Cairo. So, in a year, he had gone from the sheep of Feniscowles to kangaroos in Australia to camels and dusky maidens in Egypt.

The 21st were the garrison Btn. for Cairo which gave them more time for training. On the 30th August the Btn. embarked on the troopship ‘Southerland’ and headed for Gallipoli.

The voyage was uneventful until the ship had nearly reached her destination, Mudros Bay, when they had their first test of discipline in the face of enemy action. At this time, the regulations for the wearing of lifebelts, submarine guards and the like had not been instituted, so, they were very much taken by surprise when the transport was torpedoed off the Island of Stratae, at 9.50 am on the 2nd September 1915. The troops on board were just assembling for 10 o’clock parade, and many saw the torpedo coming. It struck just forward of the bridge and the ship listed rapidly. There was some confusion among the crew, but the troops quietly put on their life belts and stood by at their boat stations. 

By 11am all the boats, mostly collapsibles were launched and the few troops left on board were taken off by the hospital ship "Neuralia", which, together with several other vessels arrived on the scene a little before noon. A volunteer party of eighteen remained on board and under the directions of the ship’s officers got up steam before a salvage crew was put on board from a destroyer. The "Southland" then, under her own power was beached in Mudros Harbour about 7 pm. All the small boats were picked up by 3.30pm and the Btn. was reorganized and refitted on board the "Transylvania" at Mudros Bay. Casualties were ‘light’ amounting to only 30 to 40 all told. 

The 21st transshipped to the transport "Abassieh" on the evening of 6th September and were landed at ANZAC Cove before midnight. Next day, they took over the line which was to be their home for 3 months.  The situation was at a deadlock when they arrived and remained so until the evacuation. Casualties from enemy action were slight but constant work in the front line, short rations and dirt caused much sickness and during their stay; they dwindled from 1000 to 650 strong even with the addition of more reinforcements who joined them on the 11th October.

On the morning of the 17th October, the Turks in front of our lines fraternised with our troops for about half an hour during which time bully beef was exchanged for tobacco and other trifles. Part of our routine was to supply a beach fatigue party of 100 men. Although casualties with this party were more frequent than in the trenches, there was great competition to be included in it, when it changed monthly on account of the extra freedom of movement out of the line.

At the end of October, William contracted dysentery and pneumonia  and was evacuated by hospital ship to Malta.
Despite getting treatment William died on the 5th November 1915. 

He is buried in the Pieta Mill Cemetery in Malta. The earth is shallow on Malta and many joint burials were made as graves had to be cut into the underlying rock. Most of these graves are marked by recumbent markers on which several inscriptions could be carved, William shares his grave with L/Cpl A T Goodman and Gunner  H Somborn. His head stone is engraved with the words 

Next year when you sing ‘Remember remember the 5th November’ just spare a thought for William.

​​Compiled by Sandy Woods and published December 2021.

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