Posts Tagged ‘World War 1’

Sutton Veny Graveyard

October 10, 2015

Effects of Spanish Flu

If you are asked ‘what killed 50 million people just before 1920 the answer is not World War One. It is Spanish Flu.

It was a different world when the ANZACS came over here to fight in World War One.  Louis Bleriot’s rather shaky aeroplane had not long crossed the English Channel. It was only after the end of the war that Alcock and Brown managed to get a plane across the Atlantic – and that by only a whisker landing ignominiously in Derrigimlagh Bog in Connemara, Ireland.

Soldiers from Australia and New Zealand had to travel long journeys on ocean going ships to reach Europe. It was something people just didn’t do and that meant that most of our Southern Hemisphere fellows had never encountered anything like Spanish Flu and they hadn’t developed antibodies to help fight off such infections.

Sad to say they perished in droves throughout 1918 and 1919.

Some of them chanced to be in Wiltshire and are buried in the churchyard at Sutton Veny.

image002This burial ground has 169 war  graves of which more than 140 are of Australians. A goodly 100 of these succumbed to the flu pandemic which swept across Wiltshire through late 1918 and 1919.

To me there is something particularly poignant about a family man – and clearly a successful soldier for he had earned a Military medal, coming to the end of his life on the very day the armistice was signed.


His wife probably had to pay for the message at the bottom.

There is also something particularly poignant about a teenager laying down his life, quite some time after the war itself had ended.


Again an extra message has been paid for by a grieving family.

And of course the whole graveyard is poignant and redolent of the futility of that war and maybe wars in general.


How sad that these young men and women had to die far from home and loved ones.

A Cimetière Chinoise

October 12, 2014

Were Chinese people involved in the Great War of 1914 – 18? The answer is yes, they were. After the battle of the Somme in 1916, Britain was so short of manpower that it effectively bribed Chinese people to come and do labouring jobs behind the lines. They were offered far more money than they could earn back home and they came in droves.

Although the Chinese people were never front line soldiers, quite a lot were killed or died of sickness. There are Chinese cemeteries in various places in Northern France.

This one, between Calais and St Omer and is called Ruminghem. It contains the bodies of some 75 Chinese men.


Now I may be more international in attitudes than some people. I like to remember that, in war, there are many losers. One loser is the side that gets defeated, of course, and they tend to be forgotten, but in The Great War both sides believed they had God on their side.

The Chinese worked for what proved to be the winning side in that war, but really there were only losers back then.

It was the year 2000 when we came across this graveyard, quite by chance. Like most people, I had no idea that the Chinese had been involved. I found it singularly moving to find graves of people so far from home brought down by a war which was nothing to do with them.


At least the graves are well kept by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Number 20546 was, of course, somebody’s son and may have been a husband and father as well. A waste of a life, I say. This is not the only Chinese cemetery. 20456 is one of 2000 of his countrymen who perished.

Harold Lanceley

October 9, 2014

Harold was not a close relative – a cousin three time removed which means he was a cousin of my great grandfather. My great grandfather was twenty years older than Harold but they lived in much the same part of Cheshire so they may have known each other from 1891 when Harold was born until about 1905 when great grandfather moved south.

I had managed to beg little bits of the life of Harold from other researchers.

8 June 1891 at (Thompson Villas) Stockport Road, Timperley.
1901 with parent
30 March 1918 at St John’s Church, Altrincham. Age 27, occupation: Lieutenant, residence 8 Byrom Street, Altrincham. Married after banns. Witnesses Emily Lanceley and Charles Sowerbutts.
Was posted missing for a day after going over the top at Gommecourt – returning from noman’ s land with injured comrade. A bullet hit him in the nose and it wasn’t reset properly.  Also had a piece of shrapnel lodged behind the ear which stayed as a lump.
Had a brother Ernie, both in A Company 5th Battalion Cheshire. Ernie was captured by Germans and spent time in prisoner of war camps.
1919 living at 8 Byrom Street, Altrincham; occupation Nurseryman’s Salesman (ex-Army)
1930 registered father’s death, living at Wood Lane, Timperley.
1939 living at Birkin Farm, Ashley; occupation Nurseryman (at Clibran’s nursery?).
1947 registered mother’s death, living at Birkin Farm.
After he lost his job at Clibran’s, he and Ginnie (Jane) had to move in with his son Eric and his wife, as they lost their home with the job.
d 18 February 1971 at Wythenshawe Hospital aged 79 of bronchopneumonia and carcinoma apical segment right lower lobe bronchus (lung cancer) certified by R.Kean L.R.C.P., municipal gardener retired of 16 Hough Green, Ashley. Informant Alfred Edward Sant, son in law, of 23 Park Ro ad, Hale. Registered 19 February 1971.

All good and interesting stuff, no doubt but just recently I found that somebody had put some photos on a WW1 web site at . So from that site here we see the marriage of Henry, in military uniform, to Jayne Royle back in 1918.


And from a little earlier we see the two brothers, Ernie and Henry in uniform.


I’d love to hear from others who might know more about these relatives of mine, particularly, of course, the person who posted them.

Will Ware – First World War survivor

May 31, 2014

We have already met Will on this blog. He was my great uncle and he led a varied and, no doubt, interesting life. Not least amongst the matters of interest was the fact that he was born a couple of years before his parents married and he was registered with his mother’s surname of Kesby.

Evidence suggests that Will was not always happy at home and at quite an early age he stowed away on a ship for Canada.

During World War One he returned to Europe as a Canadian Soldier. He was quite seriously injured and was evacuated to England in 1917.

I do not know when or where he met his future wife, Flo Simmons, but here we see the two of them together with Will in his Canadian uniform.


The couple married in 1919 and Will remained an Englishman ever after.

As far as I know he became a Ware, formally, in 1929.

Will died in 1959. I never knew him but I know my mum was fond of her Uncle Will. He lived and worked in the Margate area and I know mum used to visit him there.

Let’s finish with any photo of Will in his Canadian army uniform.



Meet the Relative – Great Uncle Sam

October 26, 2013

This blog celebrates its first anniversary today.


If I ever met Great Uncle Sam I don’t recall it. That’s a shame for it seems I was almost ten when he died. Had he lived a little longer we’d have had a family car and might have got to see him.

So my knowledge of Sam is based on what my dad wrote – and here is his paragraph about Sam.

UNCLE SAM. Sam was dad’s brother nearest to him in age and was the most obviously bright of the brothers, not necessarily more intelligent but more of what would now be called a lateral thinker. He had risen to the rank of warrant officer during the war when the others had all remained as privates or gunners. We did not see him often but in some sense he was my favourite Uncle. He was Recorder for East Sussex Milk-Recording Society travelling around to check the reliability of records maintained on member farms. (He checked my weighings once during the war when I was looking after a herd.) In my childhood he lived at Hadlow Down which had the disadvantage of being difficult to reach from Bexhill by public transport. His wife, Nell (Unsted) was a bit sharp spoken and I never felt wholly at ease with her. When I last saw her in 1941 or 42 she was a distressing site being warped by arthritis; she died soon after. Sam kept the home going but he died of a coronary around 1958.

I can comment on the inconvenience of travel in times past. It was but 15 miles in a straight line between Sam’s house and the Bexhill home of my grandparents and dad. But the journey was nigh on more than could be achieved in a day. They’d have needed a bus to get to the central station in Bexhill, followed by a train to Lewes and another on from there to Buxted. Then they’d have needed a bus to Hadlow Down and still something of a walk to Sam’s house. That public transport journey worked out at about 38 miles, hardly a major distance, but it involved four different buses or trains and waiting times. It would have taken hours.

So Sam and his family remained a bit of a hazy set of people. But of course, I have photos although Sam seemed not to be in the Edwardian family postcard writing set.


This must be Sam, the new recruit, ready to go off to fight in World War 1. By then he was already married to Nell and they had two sons.

Sam was promoted in the army.


This family photo shows Sam the sergeant and Nell with sons Aubrey and Don.

I have no photos from Sam’s later life.

Another Kesby Grave

October 9, 2013

My own immediate Kesby ancestors don’t seem to have had the money for grave stones but if we look to the family of my Great Great Great Uncle, James Kesby then we can find a good grave with a lot of family history on it. It is at Smarden churchyard in Kent. Smarden is a little village about 8 miles west of Ashford in Kent.


The grave starts by commemorating Kate who was James’ wife. She was Irish in origin – Miss Kate Mahon who was born in 1848. She married James Kesby in 1868 at Birr in County Offally. She had the dubious pleasure of having two of her sons killed in World War 1. They are remembered on the same grave stone.

This is Thomas


And this is Percy


Next listed on the grave we have James Walter Kesby who was the brother of my Great Great Grandfather, Fred Kesby. James was a professional soldier and the father of the 13 children that Kate bore him. They travelled and amongst the children, one was born ‘at sea off India’.

Eleanor Emmeline was their last born, in 1888. She married Thomas Rutherford in 1911. As far as I know the couple had three children.

So, a grand grave for a bit of history.