The Remembrance Service 2014 at St Firmin’s Church was something very special, not only was it the 100 year anniversary of of WW1 but it was a service where we came to know more about those men in the village whose loss we remember.
Our Remembrance Services between 2014 and 2018, the 100 year anniversary of the end of WW1, were interspersed with short biographies of all of the men from the village who lost their lives in this war. Our Roll of Honour was presented as a short film presentation. We feel that to all, the fallen men of Thurlby are now real people, who lived in the village with their families, who grew up in the village, attended school, church and chapel here and whose terrible loss effected many.
View the Roll of Honour film presentation here https://youtu.be/9VWYUhwnVDY
We now have in church a memory chest – this has been donated in memory of Claire Jocelyn Bostock who passed away in 2012. In this chest are the files of research carried out on the Men Who Didn’t Return from WW1. These files are for all to read. If you can give us any further information on these men we would love to hear it. The research will continue. Please do not remove the files from the church.
Below is a brief account of our researches so far on the “men behind the names” on our WW1 and WW2 Memorial.
We are always very grateful for any further information and photographs, and corrections that you can give us to further our stories of these brave men, eventually all this information will be published in a book. We would also like to put together a full list of men from Thurlby and Northorpe who went to the Great War (see Memorial Roll tab) and returned safely.
We have a Memorial Roll but know there are gaps- can you help?
HARRY BRIGGS 1881—1915
Harry Briggs was born in 1881 to Henry Simpson Briggs and Sarah, Harry had four sisters Jane, Lilian, Florence and Annie.
In 1881 they were living in Gainsborough and in 1891 in St George Hanover Square, London.
Harry enlisted on the 14th March 1898 at Warley in Essex aged 18 and served with the Essex Regiment in the Boer War, in South Africa and India. On returning to England he transferred to the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment.
He entered the fray in November 1914 fought in France and Flanders, he was killed in action 9th May 1915. He was reported to be the first casualty of the war from Thurlby. Harry is remembered on the Ploegsteert Memorial Belgium.
LEONARD BRUTNELL 1897 –1917
Leonard Brutnell was born in Thurlby in C1897 and was baptised at the Methodist High Street Chapel in 1900, he was the son of John Richard and Mary Jane Brutnell (formerly Sandall), he had three sisters and two brothers.
In 1901 Leonard was living in the High Street and in 1911 he was at the home of his Maternal Grandmother and Great Aunt in Thurlby.
Leonard enlisted at Bourne, his regiment was the 11th Reserve Cavalry, 9th Battalion Yorkshire Hussars (Alexandra, Princes of Wales’s Own).
He fought in France and Flanders and died of his wounds on the 7th February 1917, aged 19. He is buried at the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinge, Belgium.
SIDNEY WALTON BROTHWELL 1894 –1815
Sidney Walton Brothwell was born on the 12th August 1894 at Lound, Toft to Walton and Emily Brothwell, he had a brother Wilfred and three sisters Olive, Edith Emily and Lucy.
In 1902 the family lived at the bottom of Northorpe, by 1911 Sidney was boarding in Uffington and was a 2nd Waggoner on a farm, when enlisting he was an agricultural labourer (horseman)
Sidney enlisted on the 2nd September 1914 ages 21, in the 8th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. He fought in France and Flanders.
Wilfred was killed in action on the 26th September 1915 and is remembered on the Loos Memorial, Calais in France.
HERBERT CLAUDE BROWN 1888-1919
Herbert was born in Thurlby and baptised at the Methodist Top Chapel in that year. He was the son of William Brown, a Blacksmith and Alice and had one brother.
In 1891 the family were living off the High Street in Golden Well Lane. In 1911 he was living with an Uncle in Nottingham. His employment was as a Drapers and Tailors Traveller.
Herbert married in 1913 to Agnes Mary Cheshire from Nottingham and they had a son Herbert Claud in September 1913.
Herbert enlisted in Northampton in December 1915 and served with the 4th/1st Siege Bde. Royal Garrison Artillery.
Lance Bombardier H C Brown died on the 18th October 1919, possibly either of wounds received in war or of the terrible flue which claimed so many lives.
He is buried in Nottingham General Cemetery where he is remembered on the war memorial
ARTHUR COUSINS 1893-1918
Arthur was born in Witham on the Hill on 4th July 1893, he was the third son and fourth child of Samuel and Susan nee Pick. His family had lived in Witham for generations before moving to Thurlby fen in early 20th century when his father was a farm foreman.
In 1901 Arthur was seven and living at Holme Bottom Farm, Witham, where his father was a shepherd. By 1911 seventeen year old Arthur was a horseman on the farm down Thurlby fen. During his time at Thurlby he attended the League for Boys against Smoking and Gambling. When he enlisted at Bourne on 21st February 1916 his occupation was steam Presser.
Arthur was posted to 9th battalion Machine Gun Corps and would have trained at Belton House, he saw action in the battle of the Somme, the Ancre and the Scarpe which was part of the Arras offensive. After the battle of Polygon Wood his final battle was the battle of the Selle.
After more than two years of service he died of wounds on 26 October 1918, so near to the end of the conflict. He is remembered at Moorseele Military Cemetery, Wevelgem West Flanders and also on his parents headstone in St Firmin’s churchyard.
ROBERT WILLIAM DAY 1884-1918
Robert was born on 15th November 1884 in Bainton, his parents were Robert William and Elizabeth, nee Holliday, and they had married in 1882.
They lived in several locations, but in 1901 16 year old Robert was working as a warehouse porter and living with his parents at 54 Grant road Battersea.
We do not know where Robert was in 1911,when his parents were at Thurlby fen, his mother being a Thurlby native. As he enlisted in London in 1914 presumably he stayed in London after his parents moved to Thurlby.
Robert enlisted in 149th brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He saw action throughout the war but was killed on 11th May 1918 and is buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery where his grave shows the inscription ”Not dead but gone before”and also “Ubique quo fas et Gloria ducunt” the motto of the Royal Artillery. He was awarded the Victory and British medals and also in recognition of his early enlistment-the 1914 medal –“the Mons Star”
ARTHUR ELVIDGE 1894-1917
William Edis Arthur Elvidge was born at Thurlby on 30th January 1894, his parents were William Edis and Eliza Ann nee Robinson who were married in 1893.
Arthur was the first child of the family who lived at The Priory High Street, where his father was a farmer and grazer and Arthur worked on the farm. He had two younger brothers and one sister.
Arthur enlisted at Lincoln sometime after October 1915 and joined the Machine Gun Corps Infantry, he would have done his training at Belton House.
Arthur saw action throughout the war and took part in the 3rdbattle of Ypres and it was at the Battle of Poelkapelle where he was killed on 26th October 1917.
He is remembered at Langemark Poelkapelle West Flanders.
His family moved away from the village to Laindon in Essex in 1916 but his death was recorded in the Grantham Journal on 10th November 1917.
FRED FAIRCHILD 1892–1915
Fred was born on the 27th July 1892 in Thurlby. His parents were Joseph, a publican ’and dray maker’ in 1891 at the Blue Bell Inn situated on Thurlby crossroads, and Sarah Ann Fairchild. Fred was a ‘highly respected parishioner…a Sunday school scholar and a valuable member of the church choir’ (Rev J S Pettifor, vicar of Thurlby).
By 1901 Joseph was a farmer (Ivy House) and in 1911 Fred was a milkman on the farm, whilst one of his older brothers Harry was a horseman.
Fred began working for the P & O Group in October 1913 as a general servant and baggage steward on the SS Mantua before transferring to the SS Persia in August 1914: his home address is listed as Walthamstow. As a baggage steward Fred was very busy on embarkation days but when at sea passengers could request to have luggage brought up so that they could replace clothes previously worn; he would also be expected to turn his hand to whatever was required when baggage assistance was not needed.
The Persia was the company’s largest and most expensive P & O luxury liner to date travelling the ‘Empire Run’ between London and Bombay some 70 times. It’s final journey started from London on the 18th December 1915. With some illustrious passengers, a large shipment of mail and an alleged consignment of gold bullion the ship was struck by a torpedo without warning on the afternoon of the 30th December 1915 some 70 miles south of Crete. 334 of the 501 persons on board were lost, including Fred. He is remembered on his parents’ gravestone in Thurlby cemetery.
ERIC JOHN GARWOOD 1891-1916
Eric was born in Thurlby on 10th January 1891 and baptised in the Top Chapel. He attended Thurlby school and the Technical Institute in Grantham. His parents, William Edis and Annie Wade Garwood were farmers on Station Road. William was also a local preacher highly regarded for his preaching skills and a member of the Temperance Movement. Eric had two sisters. He grew to be well respected in the community—a keen sportsman, a Good Templar and member of the Wesleyan church.
Tragically both of Eric’s parents died just before the outbreak of war: his father committed suicide as a result of depression in 1913 and his mother died almost exactly one year later. Eric took over his father’s farm in 1913 but passed it to his uncle in 1915 when he decided to enlist in the Lincolnshire Regiment, 6th Battalion which came under command of 33rd Brigade in llth (N) Division. Eric had been a member of the Volunteer Training Corps and was described as ‘a crack shot and an expert ‘bayonetter’.
The Division was ordered to embark from Liverpool for service in Gallipoli from 30th June 1915 sailing on the Aquitania and Empress of Britain.
After only 10 days in action he contracted enteric fever (typhoid fever), wasshipped first to hospital in Malta and after 6 months returned to Liverpool where he died. His body was returned to Thurlby where he was buried.
GEORGE EDWARD HEALEY 1896–1916
George Edward Healey was born in Corby, Lincolnshire on 23rd July 1896.
He was only 20 when he was killed in action. He enlisted in Lincoln on the 17th May 1915, aged 19. He had his medical on the 25th May 1915. Height – 5ft 7inches tall. 36” Girth. Range of expansion 2 “
He was approved by the 4 Lincolns. He was now Private Healey, Regimental no. 4063
When he left the shores of England, duty bound for France, he was in the Lincolnshire Regiment. On the 20th September 1916 he was transferred to the Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) 1st Battalion. Service no. 27253
It was believed that George was killed by a sniper on the 20th Dec 1916
GEORGE INKLEY 1885-1917
George was born 12th March 1885 in Thurlby, the eldest son of George and Susannah (Wade). In 1901 the family comprised of George, John Nicholas, Arthur Wade, Elizabeth May and Olive Myra. They lived at Inkleys place on the High Street, Thurlby, Lincolnshire.
George Senior was a property owner and a farmer in Northorpe. At the age of 16 George Junior was a Grocers Apprentice and later on, shortly before enlisting, he was in the employ of Messrs J. G. Noble and Sons, Boring Contractors, Thurlby.
George joined up in 1915 in Bourne Lincs. He was in the Lincolnshire Regiment 5th Battalion
George was killed in action on 30 April 1917 and buried at Maroc British Cemetery, Grenay, Pas de Calais, France. RIP
ALFRED HERBERT MITCHLEY 1894–1916
Alfred was born on 15 April 1894 to Ernest, a master tailor and Miriam (Lebbon) in Felixstowe. Alfred spent his early years in Felixstowe but moved with his family to Huntingdon between 1901 and 1911. There he got a job as a Grocer’s assistant, and later moved to the Bourne area, working for Wherry’s in the retail Grocery business.
He enlisted in Bourne on 3rd April 1915 for’Short Service’. His enlistment papers show he was 5ft ll’Ains and weighed list 2lb. He joined 10th (Service) Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment, known as the Grimsby Chums, and was sent to Brocklesby camp near Grimsby for training. Whilst stationed at Brocklesby, Alfred married Lizzie Aquila Peasgood at the United Chapel in thurlby. They were both 21 at the time.
Alfred was quickly promoted to Lance Corporal on 3rd February 1916 and Corporal on 3 March 1916. We know the 10th Lincolnshire was sent to Flanders and France and were involved in the Battle of the Somme. They were involved in the Battle at La Boiselle, where vNo Man’s Land’ was particularly wide. The morning of 1st July 1916, the day Alfred Died in action, started with a huge explosion forming a massive crater, but failed to sufficiently weaken the German defences. The 10th Lincolnshire was virtually wiped out that day.
ELIJAH NEEDHAM 1897 – 1918
Elijah Needham was born on Tuesday 23 November 1897 the son of Sandall Needham and his wife Sarah (former Burgess). Elijah was their second son, a little brother for Elizabeth, and John who also perished in the Great War. Elijah’s mother registered his birth on the 16th December 1897 and called her new son after her own father Elijah Burgess.
Elijah began his life living at The Green, Thurlby, but before 1911 the family had moved to Church Street, Thurlby, and aged 13 Elijah had left school and was working as a labourer on a farm.
We know he was a member of the “Excelsior Band of Hope” and in 1904 he and his friend Sidney Rogers gave a recital which gave “much cheer” to all attending.
Like his brother John, Elijah joined the Lincolnshire Regiment, and became a member of 2nd Battalion.
Elijah was killed in action during the battle of Aisne on Wednesday the 29th May 1918 and is remembered with honour at the Soissons Memorial, a soldier with “no known grave”.
JOHN NEEDHAM 1896 – 1917
John was born in Thurlby on Sunday 19th April 1896 the son of Sandall Needham and his wife Sarah (formerly Burgess).
Known as Jack to family and friends at 4 years old Jack and the Needham family lived at The Green, Thurlby. Jack was Sandall and Sarah’s first son with an elder sister Elizabeth. He was to have 4 “little” brothers and one more little sister. Dad, Sandall, was a “teamster” on a farm on Census night 1901.
At age 15 Jack is a “labourer on a farm” with his 13 year old brother Elijah, and father Sandall is now a Horseman at the “wood yard”. They have now moved to Church Street, Thurlby to a house described as having 3 rooms. All 7 children, Sandall and Sarah are living in this property, perhaps situated just behind the Horseshoe public house.
John joined the Lincolnshire Regiment, enlisting at Bourne, and became part of the 1st/4th Battalion Territorial Force. His family received a letter from his Captain dated 3 August 1917 saying John had been killed, “shot by a sniper”.
John is remembered with honour at the Philosophe British Cemetery.
WALTER NEEDHAM 1889–1917
Walter Needham was born on Wednesday 23 January 1889 the second son of John William Needham and his wife Eliza (formerly Kemp). Walter’s father registered his new son’s birth on the 2nd March 1889 and describes himself as a “farm labourer”.
In 1901 12 year old Walter and his siblings are living at “bottom Northorpe” and father John is a Woodman. Walter would have gone to the local village school along with his elder brother and sister, and younger siblings. His mother died when he was 15.
In 1911 we find 22 year old Walter living with a family at Moulton Marsh and working as a “waggoner on farm”. Walter married Elizabeth E Rowlett at the Abbey Church, Bourne in 1913 and they made their home at Waterside, in Willoughby Road, Bourne. Two children were born to Walter and Elizabeth.
Walter enlisted with the South Staffordshire Regiment and fought with the 1st Battalion. Walter died of his wounds on Friday 20 April 1917 and is buried and remembered with honour at the Ervillers Military Cemetery in France.
CHARLES HENRY RANDALL (HARRY) 1890–1918
Charles Henry Randall was born in Sheffield on 21st July 1890. He was the first son of Charles and Lydia Mary (Knipe) Randall.In 1901 they moved to 12 Northorpe. Charles Randall owned his own Carpenters Shop which was on the site of 12 & 14 Northorpe. By 1905, Charles and Lydia had two sons and four daughters. Charles helped his father alongside his younger brother William Leonard.
Charles, at the age of 25, signed up on 21 February 1916 in Bourne, Lincolnshire. He was in the Cheshire Regiment 16th Battalion.
Charles was killed in action on 4 April 1918 aged 27. He was laid to rest a Pozieres Memorial France.
WILLIAM LEONARD RANDALL 1895 – 1917
William was born in Freiston in 1895. In 1901 the family were living in Northorpe at No.12 William’s parents, Charles Randall and Lydia Mary (Knipe) had a carpenters shop on the site of 12 & 14 Northorpe. William worked with his father alongside his brother Charles in the Carpenters shop.
Records have not been found to confirm when William joined up but he did join the Royal Engineers 69th Field Coy as a Sapper.
Sadly he was killed in action on 20 June 1917 aged 22. He is laid to rest in Monchy, British Cemetry. Monchy-Le-Preux.
JOHN ROBERT ROBERTS 1889-1915
John was born on 17 August 1889 to William Roberts and Lillian, formerly Walpole, in Belmesthorpe, Rutland. His mother was soon widowed and he spent his early life living with maternal grandparents, mother and younger brother Alfred. The 1911 Census shows that he was living in Thurlby, where his mother was housekeeper to Henry Rudkin. John was working as a farm labourer. His mother later married Henry Rudkin and they lived in Crown Lane.
John joined the Sherwood Foresters, Notts and Derbyshire Regiment in the 1st Garrison Battalion. This was formed in Lichfield in July 1915 and moved to Malta in October 1915 and then onto Egypt. Garrison Battalions were generally raised from men who were too old/young/unfit for full service. They literally ‘garrisoned’ areas, leaving regular battalions free to fight. Egypt was a popular posting for them. As John was 26, it may be that his health was not good.
John died on 26th November and is buried in Hill 10 Cemetery, Suvla on the Gallipoli peninsula. It is not known when he moved there from Egypt, but we know there was a lot of illness there and also some very extreme weather conditions.
HARRY HERBERT ROWE 1888-1917
Harry was born on 14th August 1888 to Henry Rowe, a Cottager and Emily Rowe, formerly Kemp. The family lived in Station Road Thurlby until at least 1911. At this time the census shows he was a Waggoner on a farm. He had two younger siblings, William H R and Mabel.
He was a well known figure in the neighbourhood and was a good worker at the Wesleyan Chapel, Thurlby in the Sunday School and Wesley Guild. He also acted as poor steward, an office which had been held by members of his family for over twenty years.
Harry may have been reluctant to enlist, as he applied for exemption. The Grantham Journal reported on Sat 18 November 1916 that he was refused exemption. He was described as a horseman, and was apparently living in Northorpe.
He joined the 2nd/5th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment). We know he fought in France and Flanders, most likely at the Battle of Bullecourt, part of the flanking operations around Arras. The Grantham Journal reported that it was initially believed he may have been taken prisoner, but it was later declared that he had been killed in action on 3rd May 1917.
He is remembered on the Arras Memorial and on his parents’ headstone in St Firmin’s Churchyard
WILFRED ARCHER SNEATH 1888–1917
Wilfred Archer Sneath was born 15th March 1888 at Bowthorpe Park Manthorpe to Henry Andrews Sneath and Elizabeth (formerly Garwood). He was the middle son of three boys. He spent his childhood in Northorpe , enjoying adventures in the village and countryside with his brother Alec and his best friend Hettie Holmes, who recorded this happy time.
Both Wilfred and his brother were extremely clever and his many acheivements were regularly reported by the Grantham Journal, both boys were at Manchester University. Wilfred went on to Manchester University in 1906 to train as a Doctor, he graduated with a First Class Honours Degree . In his short life he had a very distinguished career with many scholarships and awards. He became Dr Wifred Archer Sneath MB, ChB, LRCP, MRCS, FRCS Eng. This by the age of 25.
Wilfred enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corp, where he gained the Military Cross for “conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operation”
He died of wounds in 1917 in Belgium when a shell burst, wounding him seriously, as he returned from a tour of inspection. He is buried in the Coxde Military Cemetary, West Flanders, Belgium
JOHN JOSEPH TASKER 1893 — unknown
John Joseph Tasker was born in Deeping St Nicholas on the 27th January 1893 to George and Rebecca Tasker, he had one brother and four sisters.
John’s mother had died in 1902 and the family fell on hard times. By 1911 his sisters Grace and Maud, also sister Florence with her 1 year old son George, were in the Spalding workhouse. Sarah was an inmate being trained for domestic service in Bell Vue House, Lincoln (formerley the Lincoln and Lincolnshire Penitent Females Home) Lincoln, his brother Herbert had died, in 1904, aged 17. John now aged 18 years old, was living in Postland, Crowland on the farm of Charles and Hannah Reynolds, he was a horse keeper. The connection to the village of Thurlby is through John’s father’s sister, Rachel, who was John’s Aunt. Rachel Tasker married Frank Bailey in 1893, the year John was born.
A reference has been found in a local newspaper, Lincs Free Press: 22 December 1914, by Joyce Stevenson, that John Tasker joined Kitchener’s Army, this would have been right at the beginning of the war in 1914. Kitchener’s Army or, disparagingly, known as Kitchener’s Mob was an (initially) all-volunteer army formed following the outbreak of hostilities in the First World War. It was created on the recommendation of Horatio Kitchener, then Secretary of State for War.
John’s record has been traced through the soldiers effects, his details were Private John Joseph Tasker of the Lincolnshire Regiment Reg no. 30974, he was entitled to the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. John died on the 31 July 1917 on the opening day of the 3rd Battle of Ypres, where he disappeared presumed dead. It is believed that it is the JJ Tasker commemorated also at Spalding War Memorial.
GILBERT RINGHAM TYLER 1897-1918
Gilbert was born on the 28th February 1897 in Thurlby to Thomas Tyler and Harriet Edith Tyler (Ringham). The family were Methodist and Gilbert was baptised at the Top Chapel. In 1901 the family, father Thomas a coal merchant, mother Harriett and Gilbert aged four lived in the area of Station Road, by 1911 they had moved to Northorpe and Gilbert had three brothers. Thomas was given as a coal merchant, and farmer, and George worked on the farm.
Gilbert did not want to go to war however he was conscripted in 1916 following a tribunal at which he was refused exception. George was post to the 2/5th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment, he embarked for Le Havre on 5th January 1917.
At Chaumuzy Gilbert took part in the attack on Bligney, in this action twenty two men were lost, one of which wasGilbert. This is reported in the book “Massacre of the Marne”, A history of the Regiment, unusually, although not an officer, Gilbert is named as lost in action.
Private Gilbert Ringham Tyler is buried at the Chambrecy British Cemetery, Marne, France.
GEORGE EDGAR WRIGHT 1892— 1917
George was born on the 22nd June 1892 and baptised in the Top Chapel in the same year. His mother was Mary Susan Wright nee Pear who died in 1896, soon after the birth of Edward Victor, one of George’s brothers. George’s father, William, remarried to Henrietta between 1896 and 1899.
William was a groom and gardener when George was born and then became an artesian well borer in the village. He was working as a gardener in Tinwell in 1881 where Mary Susan Pear was an unmarried domestic cook.
George joined the Metropolitan police force in 1914. No photographs yet but he was 6 feet 2 inches tall. He was posted to ‘H’ division in the East End and lived at the Shadwell police station on King David’s Lane. He married Ethel Hardes on the 8th January 1917 living in Bromley by Bow and then enlisted at Whitehall, Surrey into the Lincolnshire Regiment, 1st Battalion, No.31278. George was killed in action on 26th October 1917.
He is remembered alongside 35000 others at the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium dedicated to the missing from the Battle of Ypres. The Third Battle of Ypres commenced in 1917. The inscription on the family gravestone in Thurlby cemetery more specifically states that he died at Polygon Wood. This was taken by Commonwealth forces after the 26th September 1917, but it was bombarded by the Germans in the autumn of 1917 with gas shells as well as shrapnel.
Although not natives of Thurlby these two men are remembered on a memorial in the Sanctuary of St Firmin’s Church.They were both Grandsons of Richard and Mary Bettinson who lived at the Manor House in Thurlby
THOMAS RICHARD CUSSON 1885-1916
Although not natives of Thurlby these two men are remembered on a memorial in the Sanctuary of St Firmin’s Church.They were both Grandsons of Richard and Mary Bettinson who lived at the Manor House in Thurlby
Thomas Cussons was the son of John Cusson and Annie, formerly Bettison. Thomas lived in Beverley Yorkshire. In the Giggleswick School Register it says that he resigned from the East Yorkshire Regiment (TF) and took up farming in New Zealand.On the outbreak of the Great War he joined the New Zealand Imperial Forces. As a Private he served in Gallipoli and France. He served in the 1st Bn., Auckland Regiment in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and he died 22 September 1916 aged 31. He is remembered at St.Sever Cemetery, Rouen in France.
GEORGE CUTHBERT WABURTON HARKER 1888-1917
George Harker was the son of Thomas Harker and Lucy (formerly Bettison)Captain George Harker served in the 12th Bn.,London Regiment (The Rangers) and died on the 1 December 1917. He is remembered at Achiet-Le-Grand Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas De Calais, France. Captain George Warburton Harker was awarded The Military Cross (M.C.) for gallantry during active operations against the enemy.
The following article is from John Hamblin who has a connection to King’s School, Canterbury, through his three daughters who attended there and he says a mild obsession on commemorating the men who died in both wars. The information comes from a wide range of sources such as battalion war diaries and George Harker’s officer file which survives in the National Archives.
Harker, George Cuthbert Warburton Captain MC
A Company, 1/12th (County of London) Battalion (The Rangers)
Died of wounds on the 1st of December 1917 aged 27
He was born at 11 Dashwood Road, Stroud Green in Middlesex on the 23rd of October 1890 the younger son of Dr Thomas Harker MD, surgeon, and Lucy Jane (nee Bettinson) later of 90 Ebury Street, Pimlico in London SW and of “Coronation House”, Ilfracombe in Devon. He was christened at Holy Trinity Church, Stroud Green on the 30th of November 1890.
After attending Glengorse School in Eastbourne he obtained an entrance scholarship to the King’s School Canterbury where he was educated from January1905 to July 1910. He subsequently won a Junior Scholarship and in 1910 was appointed as Secretary of Cricket. He served as a member of the Officer training Corps where he rose to the rank of Corporal.
In July 1910 he went on to Pembroke College Cambridge where he gained a 3rd Class History Tripos Part 1 in 1912, a 3rd Class Law Tripos in 1913 BA and LLB degrees after which he was articled in 1913 to Messrs Coward, Hawksley and Chance of 30 Mincing Lane in London.
Following the outbreak of war he enlisted in London as Private 2898 in the 2/12th (County of London) Battalion (The Rangers) on the 9th of September 1914. At a medical examination, which was held on the same day, it was recorded that he was five feet seven inches tall. He later became an NCO and he volunteered for overseas service on the 12th of December 1914. He applied for a commission on the 23rd of February 1915 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the same battalion on the 7th of April 1915. After completing his training he landed in France on the 17th of July 1915 where he joined the 1/12th Battalion of his regiment in the field. At the time the battalion was part of General Headquarters troops.
He was evacuated from the battalion on the 8th of May 1916 suffering from suppuration of the cervical glands in his neck and was embarked on board a hospital ship from Le Havre on the 9th of May, landing at Southampton later the same day. He was taken to the Military Hospital, Millbank from where he was discharged for light duty on the 17th of August 1916. He rejoined his battalion in the field on the 24th of September 1916.
On the 7th of October 1916 the 1/12th (County of London) Battalion (The Rangers) was tasked with the capture of Dewdrop Trench, between Les Boeufs and Le Transloy on the Somme. The battalion was deployed on a three platoon front in four waves at fifty yard intervals. At 1.45pm the men moved forward from Rainy Trench and immediately came under heavy fire from Dewdrop trench. By the time they had gone fifty yards there was only some fifteen remaining from the leading wave and the attack stalled. The second wave also suffered heavily and the survivors went to ground in shell holes in no man’s land. A further attack was made by the remaining two waves from Burnaby Trench at 2.05pm but the result was the same with a wounded officer reporting that not a man from the third wave was still standing from the third wave after covering forty or fifty yards with the fourth wave meeting a similar fate.
George Harker was wounded by a gun shot during the attack and was evacuated back to England from Calais on the 14th of October. He landed at Dover later the same day and was taken to the 2nd Western General Hospital where a Medical Board sat on the 15th of December 1916 to report on his case: – “The Board find that this officer was hit by rifle bullets during an attack. 1) There was a deep gutter wound transversely across the inner side of the left buttock, 4 inches in length. This has now healed, but there is a little stiffness left. 2)A second wound involved the left die of the scrotum congenitally, involving skin and dartos only. The wound is also healed but the scar is rather tender.”
He was later declared as being fit for general service by a Medical Board which sat at the Military Hospital, Exeter.
He was promoted to Lieutenant on the 30th of March 1917 with precedence from the 1st of June 1916 and was promoted to Acting Captain on the 22nd of June 1917 whilst in command of a Company. On the 27th of November 1917 A Company, 1/12th (County of London) Battalion (The Rangers) was in trenches to the left of their battalion’s line at Tadpole Copse near Cambrai. Just before 3pm a heavy barrage fell upon their trenches which was quickly followed by an enemy bombing attack at “Hindenburg Trench” and at “Tadpole Lane”. Blocks in the trenches were made by the defenders and a chain of men was formed to pass up bombs and rifle grenades but in spite of this the enemy managed to gain the upper hand and initially managed to force the London men back from the block. This was short lived as the men of A Company regained the block and, with the enemy beginning to fall back, George Harker led a group of men across open ground armed with a Lewis gun and rifle grenades.
He was almost immediately wounded in the head but the Lewis gunners brought fire on “Tadpole Lane” and the Germans abandoned the position but maintained their attack up “Hindenburg Trench”. Reinforcements arrived from C and B Companies who poured rifle grenade fire into the trench “with many shouts and groans being heard.” Shortly afterwards it became clear that the attacking force had been wiped out. George Harker was evacuated to 45 Casualty Clearing Station but died of his wounds there four days later.
For this action he was awarded the Military Cross which was announced in the London Gazette of the 4th of March 1918. The citation read:-
“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. A determined attack being made on the left flank of the battalion, he directed the operations of his company with complete disregard for his personal safety, and, on the enemy attack wavering, he endeavoured to press home the advantage by leading a counter-attack over the open, in which he received a wound in the head.”
His Commanding Officer wrote:- “His death deprives us of a very cool and courageous officer.”
The Battalion Adjutant wrote:- “As a great personal friend of Captain Harker, I can say that his loss is a very great one, and we have lost not only a splendid friend but a magnificent soldier. He was always the cheeriest and coolest man in any action we took part in, and its effect upon the men was wonderful. They would follow him anywhere. He was wounded in the head while making a very gallant attempt to outflank the enemy, who counterattacked our position. Largely due to his own personal example, his company succeeded in repulsing the attack.”
He is commemorated with his cousin on a memorial in the Sanctuary of St Firmin’s Church, Thurlby in Lincolnshire.
He is buried at Achiet Le Grand Communal Cemetery Extension Plot I Row K Grave 14
The following article was published in the Rutland and Stamford Mercury, Friday November 7th, 2008 – this will give us a great place to start
The 23 names never to be forgotten – by Joyce Stevenson.
On the ll th hour of the l l th day of the ll th month in 1918, after four years of war, Armistice was declared. The troops laid down their arms – the Great War was over – peace at last.
After the war, grieving families and friends of those killed during the conflict found some comfort from a local memorial, or plaque, bearing the names of their loved ones. The memorial in their own community was a permanent reminder of the lives sacrificed for that peace. Ninety years on, what do we know of the men whose names are carved on our town and village war memorials; the men who went to war and never returned?
There are 23 names on the war memorials in Thurlby. Most of the men were young; there were brothers, cousins and friends from schooldays.
Corp Harry Briggs, 34, a native of Thurlby, was a career soldier who served with the Essex Regiment during the Boer War, in South Africa, and for eight years in India. After 11 years overseas he returned to England with the regiment. Harry transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment and was posted, first to Gibraltar, followed by Nova Scotia and then Bermuda.
When war was declared he sailed for Europe and arrived at the battle front on November 5, 1914. Serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Lincolns, he came through the Neuve Chappelle battle unharmed, but as killed in action in the battle-fields of Flanders in May 1915.
Fred Fairchild, 23, the youngest son of Joseph and Sarah Ann Fairchild, was well-known in the village. He attended Thurlby Board School, and was a Sunday school scholar and chorister at St Firmin’s Church. Fred became a sailor, and in 1915 he worked as a baggage steward on the P & O liner Persia. The Persia left London bound for Bombay on December 18, 1915. The ship was sailing through the Mediterranean, south of Crete on December 30, when, without warning, it was struck by a torpedo fired from a German submarine. The Persia sank within five minutes, taking two of the lifeboats with it – 334 of 501 passengers and crew, including Fred Fairchild, were drowned.
Alfred Mitchley, 22, worked for Wherry’s (Bourne) in the retail grocery department and was well-known in the Bourne area. He enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment shortly after the outbreak of war. In 1915 he married Lizzie Peasgood of Northorpe House, Thurlby. Corp Mitchley saw action with the 10th Btn of the Lincolns during the Battle of the Somme. The first offensive, on July 1, 1916, saw the British Army suffer its worst defeat for over a century, with massive numbers of men killed and wounded, mainly from machine gun fire. On the first anniversary of their wedding day, Lizzie Mitchley received the news that her husband, Alfred, was killed in action on July 1, 1916.
L/Corp Eric Garwood, 25, was born in Thurlby and attended the village school. His parents, William and Annie Garwood, both died shortly before the outbreak of WW1. Eric enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment, and while serving in Gallipoli in 1915, he contracted enteric fever (typhoid fever). He was shipped back to a military hospital in Liverpool, where he died on August 7, 1916. L/Corp Garwood was brought home for burial in St Firmin’s churchyard. His is the only Commonwealth War Grave in Thurlby.
Dr Wilfred A Sneath, 30, son of Henry and Elizabeth Sneath, and cousin of Eric Garwood, was educated at Thurlby Board School and Grantham Technical Institute. He qualified and practised as a highly gifted and successful doctor and surgeon, and was awarded several scholarships. At the outbreak of war he volunteered for service, and was given a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps. When serving with the 6th Welsh Regiment (Territorials), in France in May 1916, Capt Sneath was mentioned in Despatches. In August he was awarded the Military Cross “for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.” He was later transferred to No 1 Field Hospital, and in June 1917 he spent home leave in Thurlby. The day following his return to duty – while on a tour of inspection with two fellow officers, Capt Sneath was wounded. On July 12 he died from his wounds.
Leonard Brutnell, the eldest son of Frederick and Mary Brutnell, worked as a labourer and horseman for his father, a builder and farmer. Leonard ploughed, sowed and harvested the fields with teams of horses, and carted building and road maintenance materials around the local area. He was a handsome young man described as “of a quiet, sensitive, amiable nature.” He had attended the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and Sunday School throughout his life. Leonard was conscripted in October 1916. Following his basic training he came home for six days leave before being sent to the front with the Yorkshire Regiment in December. January 1, 1917, marked his 19th birthday. At the end of January he was wounded by shell-fire, and died on February 7.
A few of Thurlby’s war dead are commemorated on family gravestones in the churchyard. Henry Sneath gave a funeral bier to the parish in memory of his son Wilfred; but only his nephew Eric is buried at St Firmin’s. All the other casualties of war lie in a foreign field, or have no known grave. It is fitting that the lives of all these young men – friends from childhood are remembered in the village churches. It is particularly appropriate that Leonard Brutnell’s name is inscribed on the memorial in the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel, as it was built by his father.
Memorials to the boys who went to war.
By Joyce Stevenson Published in the Stamford Mercury 6th November 2009
THE war memorials in our own communities remain as a permanent reminder of lives sacrificed during two world wars.
Following the awarding of Victory Medals, inscribed The Great War for Civilisation 1914-1919, in the 1920s, a new generation of children were attending Thurlby Board School. Their mischievous faces, captured on the school photographs, thankfully show nothing of what lay ahead for some of them.
During the Second World War, a few of those young boys were to be involved in the hostilities. Four of them would never come home again.
Edwin Sleight, son of Herman and Winifred, was one of those boys. At the age of 21, he had become a merchant seaman, serving as an assistant steward on the SS Saganaga. The ship was anchored off Belle Island, Newfoundland, on September 5, 1942, when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. There were 13 survivors, but Edwin died with 28 of his shipmates. Edwin Sleight’s name appears on the Tower Hill Memorial, which commemorates 24,000 of those in the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets who died during the Second World War and, like Edwin, have no grave but the sea.
Two months after the sinking of the Saganaga, during the invasion of North Africa, the SS Viceroy of India sank after being torpedoed by an enemy submarine on November 11. Among the survivors was ships steward Ernest Sandall, a native of Thurlby. He was later to survive the sinking of the Hospital Ship Newfoundland. After the war, he continued his service with the P&O shipping line – eventually becoming a chief steward.
Edgar Stevenson and Arthur Curtis had been classmates at Thurlby school, and during the Second World War they both joined the 6th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. It must have been difficult for parents Charles and Katherine to see Edgar go off to war; but it would have been heartrending for Arthur’s parents, Ethel and Victor – Ethel’s brother, Arthur Cousins, died from battle wounds just 15 days before the First World War armistice. With the 6th Lincolns, Edgar and Arthur sailed for North Africa on board the MV Sobieski. The ship docked in Algiers on January 17, 1943. The battalion made its way by rail, road convoy and on the march over mountains, valleys, and through forests to the Medjez-el-Bab sector of the battle zone. It was here that Arthur Curtis, 23, died on February 10, 1943. He is buried at Medjez-el-Bab war cemetery, Tunisia. The 6th Lincolns moved on to the northern sector, where they took part in the first battle of Sedjenane between March 2 and 4. Private Edgar Stevenson, 23, was listed among the casualties on March 4 and is buried at Tabarka Ras Rajel war cemetery, Tunisia.
Peter Ward was another classmate of Edgar and Arthur. The son of Harold and Edith Ward, he lived with his brothers and sister at Thurlby Manor.By the age of 25 he had married, and was a lieutenant in the Lincolnshire Regiment. The Nigerian Regiment RWAFF, was his secondary Regiment and he was attached to the 5th Battalion. Between 1943 and 1945, the Lincolns served in the jungles of Burma (Myanmar), and it was here, on February 27 1945, that Lt Peter Ward died. He is buried at Taukkyan war cemetery, north of Rangoon (Yangon).
As boys, these four young men were in class photos at Thurlby school during the late 1920s. Through the village war memorials they are reunited and remembered. Edgar, Arthur and Edwin were baptised at Thurlby Parish Church, and Peter was baptised at St John’s Church, Baston.
It is fitting that, as a lasting memorial, the font cover in St Firmin’s Church bears the names of these casualties of the Second World War.