Posts Tagged ‘Somme’

Frederick Pickup

November 11, 2014

Frederick Herbert Pickup was born in 1879. His birth was registered in the June quarter of that year at Wakefield but he was born at Normonton. His parents were Henry Pickup, a 37-year-old blacksmith and Sarah Jane (nee) Peel. Amongst baby Frederick’s elder siblings was Clara Pickup – my wife’s great grandmother.

In 1881 Frederick was still the youngest in the family, with five elder brothers and sisters. The family lived at 7 Buxton Yard in the Hunslet area of Leeds. Dad was working as a blacksmith and Frederick’s eldest brother, James Henry, who was 18, was at work as a Lithographic Artist’s apprentice. Frederick’s eldest sister, 14-year-old Emma Louisa was nominally at work as a domestic servant, but at the time of the census she was unemployed.

In 1882 Frederick’s young sister, Annie was born – the last child of Henry and Sarah Jane.

We next encounter Frederick at the time of the 1891 census. The family now lived at Number 2 Hapwell Terrace in Hunslet. Just possibly the family were quite well off at this time. Father, Henry, was working as a nut and bolt maker. Also there were four children at home who were working. Susannah, aged 24, was a hat finisher. Clara, aged 22, was a cloth weaver, George, aged 17, was a clerk at an engineering works and Walter was a lithographic printer.

Frederick, in 1891, was a 12-year-old scholar.

By 1901 the family had moved to a new address, being at 20 Whitehouse Street in Hunslet. Henry, the nut and bolt maker and his wife Sarah still had three children at home. All were working and Frederick was a packer of tin ware goods.

Frederick married Lelia B Marriott in the June quarter of 1910, in Leeds. We believe they had two sons. Frank was born in 1911 and Edward in 1914

In 1911 Fred was a storekeeper living in Leeds with his wife and son.

Frederick joined the West Yorkshire Regiment. We are told that his number 15/1094 makes him one of the ‘Leeds Pals’ who signed up at the start of the war.

In December 1915, The Leeds Pals were in Egypt, defending the Suez Canal, but in March 1916 they were sent to France.

Frederick was killed on 10th June 1916 – a fortnight before the battle of The Somme started. He was 37 years old. His death came at a time when it was considered that not much was happening but in fact Frederick was just one of 125000 British casualties in this ‘quiet’ period.

Frederick was laid to rest at the Sucrerie Military Cemetery near Colincamps, some ten miles from Albert. We visited this cemetery on October 26th 2003.

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It is, of course, immaculately kept and features a sweet chestnut tree (and others) standing sentinel over the graves.

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And here is  Fred’s grave.

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Le Tommy Café

November 6, 2014

 

It was just about ten years ago that my wife and I visited Le Tommy Café. This eating house is at Pozieres, the site of fierce fighting in the battle of the Somme in World War One. The café recreates (or did ten years ago) a little bit of trench life for diners and drinkers to see.

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Here we peep into a trench or dug out and see the soldiers awaiting their turn to go over the top.

And here’s debris and junk scattered near the trench.

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As you can see Le Tommy is a café and a museum in one. Apart from the recreations outside, the walls inside are a mass of photos. It is (or was) a very handy visit for we folks finding where our ancestors had to fight.

 

Frederick Thomas Cooker

May 7, 2014

First World War victim

Frederick was a cousin (strictly a half cousin) of my grandfather,  Reg Ware. He was the son of Walter Cooker and his wife, Mary Susan Ware. Mary Susan was, in her turn, the daughter of John Ware and his first wife, Mary Susan Ward. Mary Ware didn’t know her mother for she died the year that Mary was born. John Ware died in the 1884 train crash at Sevenoaks, so Frederick Cooker never knew his Ware grandparents at all.

Walter Cooker, a resident of Maidstone, married Mary Susan Ware (who may have been known as Susan) in 1889. By the time Frederick arrived, there were already two older brothers and two more brothers and four sisters followed. Walter Cooker lived all his life in Maidstone and worked as a cocoa fibre matting weaver. In 1901 the family, including Frederick, lived at Tassell Row, London Road East in Maidstone.

To give something of the family character, I include a newspaper report on Walter, when he died.

from the Kent Messenger

OLD RESIDENT PASSES. Employed by Messrs. James Clifford and Son Ltd., of Maidstone for more than 59 years Mr. Walter Cooker, of 69, Melville Road, Maidstone, was buried at Maidstone Cemetery on Monday. Aged 86. he died at his home the previous Thursday. Mr. Cooker had lived in the town all his life. He was a member of the Maidstone Old Folk’s Club, and was a keen amateur gardener. Three sons and four daughters are bereaved. The service at St. Philip’s Church was conducted by the Rev. W.J. Wright, Vicar, and mourners were Mr. And Mrs. G. Cooker, Mr. And Mrs. J.Cooker, Mr. and Mrs. A. Cooker (sons and daughters-in law), Miss R. Cooker, Miss A. Cooker, Mr. And Mrs. A, Brown, Mr. And Mrs. F. Dadson (sons-in-law and daughters), and Mr. W. Clifford and Mr E. Clifford of Messrs. James Clifford and Son, Ltd. Funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs. J.T. Pickard, of 88, Lower Stone Street, Maidstone. The sons and daughters of the late Mr. Walter Cooker wish to thank relatives and friends for sympathy and flowers sent in their bereavement.

This was 1953, long after the death of Frederick, but seems to portray a solid, ordinary sort of family. Mary, Frederick’s mother, does not get a mention so presumably she had died earlier. This report also carried a photo of Walter.

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But back to Frederick. Frederick joined the local West Kent Regiment and in 1916 he was on The Somme. He was obviously a capable young man for he had become a sergeant in the 6th battalion. No doubt they were part of the Somme offensive in the summer and autumn of that year – summarised below.

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

For Frederick, the end came on October 7th. At that time his parents lived at 69, Melville Road, Maidstone. I presume that Frederick’s body was never recovered for he is commemorated on the huge Thiepval Monument (Pier and Face 11 C.)

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The memorial and a school party laying a wreath.

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Thiepval and Ernest Edward Clark

April 10, 2013

People who want to be convinced of the folly of World War I should visit the big memorials. The one on the Somme is called Thiepval. It is enormous.

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It has to be enormous for on it is the names of seventy two thousand men who died on the Somme during the war and who have no known grave. Oh, that’s just one side of the story. There could be another similar number from the other side, all killed for no very obvious reason. And of course, many of those that died did have their bodies recovered and they will be commemorated in properly constituted war graves. Those 72000 are just those whose bodies were never found.

Amongst them is a distant relative of mine – Ernest Edward Clark. He descends from my 3 greats grandfather so he is a third cousin, once removed in fact. By the way some branches of the family had a final e – Clarke. Others were just Clark. It probably depended on how somebody first wrote it down.

Ernest Edward Clark was born about 1896 at Heathfield in Sussex. He was the second child of Edward Jessie Clark and his wife Harriet Elizabeth (nee) Leadbetter. Ernest Edward had an older sister, born about 1894 and named for her mother, Harriet Elizabeth Clark. By the start of the 20th Century there were two more sisters, Jane Elizabeth and Ida May Clark. All four children were Heathfield born suggesting that their father (Edward Jessie) was coping as a bricklayer in the area.

One can guess that an 18 year old lad was keen for the adventure offered by the war but I do not know just when Ernest Edward joined up. His regiment was the Royal Sussex and he found himself on the Somme in 1916. Ernest Edward would have been involved in the Somme offensive of July 1916.

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter. In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918. The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 31 July 1932. The dead of other Commonwealth countries who died on the Somme and have no known graves are commemorated on national memorials elsewhere.

Ernest Edward Clark fell on 17th July of 1916. There is no known grave for him and so he is one of the 72000 names on the Thiepval memorial. Without guidance it would be a hard job to find an individual name.

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These are just some of Ernest’s regiment – The Royal Sussex. We can see that a couple of names have been removed. This will be because bodies have been identified and they have joined the dead in a war grave cemetery.

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There he is – a simple name: Clarke E. E.

On this visit, which was in 2004, an English school party were laying a wreath. It really was rather moving.

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Behind the youngsters is one of the name covered pillars – it gives us a sense of scale.

The Baie de Somme

November 23, 2012

Yes, it is France again. Perhaps this love of France proves I’m not really a nerd. I do like the Somme estuary for all sorts of reasons. Some might see it as a flat, dreary landscape, but I see it as a wondrous panorama of light and gentle colours. We know just where to go for a pretty well guaranteed sighting of seals. We can enjoy the bird life both within the bird park at Parc du Marquenterre and more generally. We’ll enjoy wandering the estuary to find what we call ‘the sheep of the mud holes’. That was a poor bit of computer translation about the sheep that feed on the brackish lands around the Somme.

On the south side of the estuary, Saint Valery sur Somme is a lovely town whilst on the northern banks of the mighty Somme Le Crotoy is very pleasing.

We also found, on longer journeys, that the Baie de Somme services on the motorway, near Abbeville are a cut above the average UK service station. It’s a suitable distance after leaving the ferry at Calais for a break and a breather. Climb the distinctly ugly observation tower for a view over the whole Baie de Somme area.

But now to be a nerd again. An attraction rarely seen by me, for we tend to travel out of season, is the narrow gauge steam railway. It has two branches starting at Noyelle sur Mer (but a long way from the sea). One goes to Saint Valery and the other to Le Crotoy. The railway caters for fans of steam by having two trains starting at Noyelle at the same time. As they run more or less alongside each other, speeds are changed so that one train overtakes the other and then is overtaken again.

It’s a fantastic experience as we found in June 2004.

This is the train at Le Crotoy where we joined.

Two trains alongside each other at Noyelle.

I’m on the train on the left – it goes around quite a curve. The other train is chasing us.

They don’t seem to use the cleanest fuel – but we are being overtaken.

The two routes diverge.

I’ll commend it as a wonderful experience. It was much loved by children as well.