Roll of Honour The Great War
There are three memorials in South Willingham dedicated to the fallen of the Great War, 1914-1918; two of these are in the church of St Martin, the third is on the wall of the parish hall.
Of these three memorials, one is a plaque situated in the church and dedicated to members of the Tharratt family – Thomas Henry Tharratt of South Willingham, and George Vanes Tharratt, a native of Liverpool.
The plaque on the wall of the parish hall lists just four names:
An article entitled ‘A Munificent Gift’ that appeared in a local paper August 1922 (not sure which one and the exact date) described the opening of the parish hall, a gift to the community by Lord Heneage. In this article there was a section regarding the memorial tablet, which read:
“On the invitation of the Rector, the company then proceeded to the outside of the building for the unveiling by Mr Arthur Johnson, an ex soldier, of a memorial tablet in memory of the men from this village who fell during the Great War. The tablet has been placed in a prominent position facing the roadway, and the inscription, which can be seen distinctly by those who pass, is as follows: ‘In grateful memory of John Thomas Anderson, Frederick Prescott, George Edward Prescott, Thomas Henry Tharratt, who fell in the Great War, 1914-1918′.
The Rev Temperley said that now they had got a village hall it was fitting that the first thing to be done should be the unveiling of the memorial which was intended to perpetuate the memory of the men from South Willingham who had fallen in the war. After the memorial had been unveiled by Mr Johnson, it was dedicated ‘in grateful and honoured memory of those who fell’ and suitable prayers were offered”
The small ‘roll of honour’ wall-hanging in the church lists eight names:
From the above, it may be deduced that there is either a discrepancy or, possibly some dispute as to which of the named men were of the parish. Appended below are the eight men listed on the church ‘roll of honour’ (George Vanes Tharratt excluded, as he was not a native of the parish).
Edwin Rhodes died June 1915
Harold Crow died 1915
Tomas Henry Tharratt* died 29 October 1916
Frederick Prescott* died 1916
George Edward Prescott* died 21 October 1916
Charles Grundy died July 1917
John E Simons died 1917
John Thomas Anderson* died March 1918
Those marked thus* are listed in the church and on the parish hall.
Interrogation of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) web site reveals no information for an Edwin Rhodes, Harold Crow, Frederick Prescott or John E Simons. A Charles Grundy and a John Thomas Anderson are listed (although there are several entries in the name of J T Anderson) but no reference is made to where they lived before enlisting. The entry for Charles Grundy lists him as a Private in the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regt and states that he died on 25 July 1917 aged 29. Of the several entries for a John Thomas Anderson, the closest match is for a man who died 27 March 1918 and he was in the 2nd/4th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regt.
The CWGC site does record two men as having parents living in South Willingham: Thomas Henry Tharratt is listed as being the son of George Thomas and Jane Locker Tharratt and George Edward Prescott is listed as being the son of Charles and Mary Prescott (Prescotts were local to the area and suffered dreadfully during the Great War – the Prescott family from East Barkwith lost son Harry, who died 10 October 1917, whilst son John (‘Jack’), although he returned from the front, had been wounded in the war and was severely affected by shell shock; he could be regularly seen in the surrounding area for the next sixty years or so as he walked the local highways and byways – Jack died on August 7, 1982, aged 85 years).
NOTES ON THE FALLEN
IN HONOUR OF EDMUND RHODES
When I looked at the war memorials in the village, and after subsequently interrogating the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) web site, it seemed to me that certain anomalies existed and that there may even be incorrect information displayed on one, or both, of the commemorative plaques displayed in this village – one in St Martin’s Church, the other set in the wall of the parish hall. Indeed, one or more of the men listed may not even have been of this Parish. It is not uncommon to find the names of the fallen on memorials that are several counties away from where the men actually lived; sometimes when memorials were being erected by public subscription people were invited to pay to have the names of their loved ones inscribed on the memorial – the men didn’t actually have to have had any connection with the locality. Additionally, names are sometimes recorded on more than one memorial; George Edward Prescott, for example, son of Charles and Mary Prescott of South Willingham, who is recorded on both of the plaques in this village, also has his name inscribed on the war memorial at Stainfield.
The first fatality, in 1915, amongst the eight men listed, appears to have been a man named as Edwin Rhodes, although a Harold Crow is second on the list of eight names and he too is recorded as having died in 1915. A search of the CWGC database revealed no one by the name of Edwin Rhodes. I did note, however, that one Edmund Rhodes, Private 14384, 1st Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment and son of Hannah Rhodes, featured in the records. Edmund, who enlisted with the Lincolnshire Regiment at Louth, died June 16 1915, aged 18 in ‘Flanders fields’, having arrived in France on 30 April that year. He died from wounds received in the fighting around Hooge, in the Ypres Salient. Edmund has no known grave and his name is inscribed on the Ypres Memorial at the Menin Gate – an inscription on a stone wall and, still in the safe keeping of the family, his Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1914-15 Star, seemed to be all that remained to recall the life of a young man, nay, a boy, who gave his life for ‘God, King and Country’ (the British War Medal was a silver or bronze medal awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial Forces who either entered a theatre of war or entered service overseas between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918 inclusive; the 1914-15 Star was awarded to all who saw service in any theatre of war against the Central Powers between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 (except those eligible for the 1914 Star) and the Victory Medal was awarded to all those who received the 1914, or 1914-15 Star, and the British War Medal). I decided that this must be redressed; this article, and seeing his name appropriately recorded on the ‘roll of honour’ in St Martin’s Church seemed like a reasonable start.
So, I had made notes from the CWGC website about young Edmund, just in case the ‘Edwin’ Rhodes on the plaque happened to be Edmund Rhodes. The next stage of research would be to look at census returns – enter Chris Chesney. Having access to various genealogy websites, Chris volunteered to check ancestry records for me. For this I am extremely grateful, and her patient and thorough research certainly paid dividends for, recorded in the 1901 and 1911 census returns is one Edmund Gray Rhodes, grandson to the head of the household, William Rhodes. Edmund was born to Hannah Rhodes on 20 February 1897 at Covenham St Bartholomew, near Louth, Hannah being one of William Rhodes’ six daughters. Unfortunately, Edmund’s birth certificate does not reveal the name of his father, but his second Christian name, Gray, undoubtedly holds a clue to whom that might have been. In 1901 the Rhodes’ address is recorded as Barkwith Road, South Willingham, whilst in 1911 it is simply ‘South Willingham’. In that 1911 census Edmund is recorded as 14 years of age with the occupation ‘farm boy’. A hard working life, no doubt, but life in this rural idyll would soon be shattered for the farm boy from South Willingham who would end his life in an unknown grave in the fields of Flanders. Where Edmund worked is currently still unknown; his grandfather William worked on the Heneage Estate (where his average pay was 30 shillings a week, altering depending on the seasons, for an average working day of ten and a half hours!) but the wages book for 1910-1914 does not list Edmund and he was therefore presumably employed by one of the tenant farmers locally.
As the issue of manpower for the armed forces came to the forefront of Parliamentary debate in 1914, many men volunteered for active service. It is well-recorded that when Great Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, most believed the hostilities would be over by Christmas of that year. But Christmas came and went, and it became clear that the war would not be won in a matter of months as had been optimistically predicted. In consequence, public and political attention quickly turned towards maintaining the war effort. This meant that the need for skilled workers in the UK began to compete with the need for soldiers on the front line.
A culmination of factors – simple patriotism and the appeal of a regular wage being two prominent reasons – meant that Lord Kitchener’s volunteer campaign, spearheaded by his famous call-to-arms poster ‘Your Country Needs You’, encouraged over one million men to enlist by January 1915. However, as the war continued to grind on, and the casualties increased, the voluntary system of enlistment began to prove insufficient for the insatiable appetite of the Western Front. It eventually became clear that there was no alternative – compulsory active service was the only way to enlist men into the military in an effort to win the war.
In consequence, 1916 saw the Military Service Act passed into law and this imposed conscription on all single men aged 18 to 41, effective January 27 1916, with exemptions for those in essential war time employment, those deemed medically unfit, religious ministers, and conscientious objectors. However, although conscription proved necessary during this time to ensure all those who were eligible enlisted, many of those on the front line had joined the armed forces as volunteers, and Edmund Rhodes was one of these. Patriotism, a thirst for adventure, ‘secure employment’ – one wonders what it was that drove young Edmund to enlist at the age of 17, and who was to become one of the nearly 10,000 men of the Lincolnshire Regiment to lose their lives in the Great War.
Of enormous interest to me is that a distant relation of mine, Henry (Harry) Scott, married Lizzie Rhodes, one of William’s daughters, on February 27 1913; I have a photograph of them on the pathway in front of what was their cottage, the first in the pair of semi-detached cottages owned by the Heneage Estate, on Blacksmith’s Lane. Before her marriage to Harry, Lizzie had worked for Dr Denny at East Barkwith. Harry died young (33 years of age) of influenza, just five years after marrying, but his widow Lizzie survived until July 1964 – I lived across the road from her at East Barkwith for the first twelve years of my life (the last twelve of hers). Interestingly, she had two sons, one of whom was named John Edmund (in remembrance of Edmund Rhodes, Lizzie’s nephew?). John, or ‘Ted’ as he was known to distinguish him from the other four John Scotts who lived in East Barkwith at that time, married Albina ‘Biny’ Pixsley from Spring Gardens, East Barkwith. My ‘aunt’ Biny, still alive and well at 91 years of age as I write this article, confirms that the young Rhodes boy from South Willingham who died in the Great War was, in fact, Edmund, not Edwin Rhodes. Not only this, but Biny also recalls Hannah Rhodes, Edmund’s mother. Intriguingly, however, Hannah, by then married to Joseph Woodcock of Bardney, was known to the family as ‘Nance’. Biny never knew her as Hannah. But this certainly was Hannah because records show that Hannah, born at Thorganby, is listed on the 1881 census, aged 7, living with her family at Barkwith Road South Willingham. Hannah is next seen in the 1891 census living as a ‘general servant’ with an aunt and uncle in Mablethorpe and then reappears in 1901, four years after Edmund is born at Covenham, as a ‘general domestic servant’ in the service of one William Varlow at Bardney. One of Hannah’s brothers, John Lusby Rhodes is recorded as living at Covenham with his wife in the 1901 census, so Hannah may well have gone to stay with John when she was carrying Edmund. Two years later she marries Joseph Woodcock and in 1911 Hannah and Joseph are recorded as living on Abbey Road, Bardney, with their son William – this is where my aunt Biny recalls them.
The outbreak of World War One soon impinged upon the life of the country and those left at home carried on with such duties as were required. One example of where the remaining population were called upon to perform extra duties was in the area of Parish Constable. Henry Scott, Lizzie’s husband, took up such a position at East Barkwith, where the couple were now living, in February 1915. A letter to him from the Lincolnshire Constabulary, and dated February 15, 1915, read: I am forwarding a Parish Constable armlet, which you are requested to carry in your coat pocket, so that it will be available for immediate use at any time, to prove your authority, should the occasion arise. The armlet must be worn on the left arm, halfway between the elbow and shoulder.
Accompanying the armlet was a copy of the Lincolnshire Constabulary’s ‘General Instructions to Parish Constables’. The leaflet warned that, on penalty of a £5 fine, Parish Constables were ‘held responsible for acting, if necessary without further instruction, in the execution of your duties’. Some of the ‘more important duties’ were listed, variously, as:
‘You shall apprehend, without a warrant if necessary, for any of the following offences: setting fire to house, church building, out-houses, stack or rick; murder, manslaughter, inflicting grievous bodily harm with or without a weapon or instrument; cutting, stabbing or stealing any goods or articles… …You may also arrest any person wandering abroad and lodging in any barn, outhouse or enclosed premises, not having visible means of subsistence and not giving a good account of himself or herself.’
When about to make an arrest, Parish Constables were instructed to distinctly tell the person what the charge was, and to say, ‘I arrest you in the name of the King.’
So, as Edmund went to war, his uncle took up the duties as described. Edmund must have been very close to Lizzie, and he knew her as a sister, rather than an aunt. This is reflected in a letter that he wrote to Lizzie from barracks in Grimsby, the postmark bearing the date 31 January 1915. Edmund’s complete army records do not, unfortunately survive, so he either joined the 5th Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment (a territorial unit where enlistment was permitted from age 17), the headquarters of which was at the Drill Hall Grimsby, or he joined (underage?) the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion which trained men up as replacements for the front line units. Originally based at Lincoln, the 3rd moved to Grimsby at the outbreak of war. By the time he went to war, he had transferred to the 1st Battalion. Edmund’s note is headed ‘Wellington St Grimsby’, and in it he describes to Lizzie some of the activities in which he had been engaged. Initially, he begins by suggesting that, although well enough as he wrote the letter, he expected to be quite ill on the morrow. This was due to the fact that he had just received vaccinations, adding that “it is just beginning to take hold of us; I have a lump under my arm the size of a nut”. Edmund then describes a route march that the men had undertaken; “we went nearly to Waltham and we had two rests on the way”, adding that “the officer (who) was with us is a nice man, he let us smoke and talk and sing and he bought five mouth organs for some of them to play so we was alright”. Describing a little more of the training regime he added “I have had ten shots at a target. We have got a 25-yard range put down here now. The first five shots I got a three-inch ring and the next five I got a two-inch ring so I hope I should get a bull the next time we shoot.” The 3rd Battalion was charged with the defence of the coastline on the south side of the Humber and Edmund makes reference to that by writing “Last Sunday we was confined to our rooms all day and all of us had 100 rounds (of ammunition) on us. Four German boats was not far off us but two of them got put under the water for a good job. I should not be surprised if they don’t try to get here before long by what they say.” Interestingly, Edmund signs off with the words ‘with best love from your loving brother Ted’.
Not only was aunt Biny able to add some more flesh to the bones of what little was known of Edmund but, rather poignantly, she gave me a copy of an article which appeared in the Lincolnshire Echo some time after Edmund’s death. In that article was a poem attributed as having been sent home from France by ‘E. Rhodes of South Willingham’.
It is some time ago
Since I left old England’s shore
And went to foreign countries
To fight for home and all
It was hard lines I can tell you
But I soon forgot all that
My eyes were watching something
As I shall ne’er forget.
It was the night we landed
And we all went down the lane
The shot and shell were flying
O’erhead and on our way
And as we neared the bridges
The shells came thick and fast
The captain shouted now my lads
Across that bridge you get.
And two by two he ordered us
Across that bridge to get
So that the enemy could not see us
Or where to fire upon
And then their lights began to shine
Upon the black dark night
To see if they could find us
In fours upon our way.
But as good luck would have it
A large black hedge was there
And there we laid behind it
And they lost us on our way
And there we stayed a little while
Till everything was quiet
And then we went upon our way
As happy as you please
We landed at an old white house
And there we stayed the night
The shot and shell were flying
Above us all the while
We did not sleep but little
As you will understand
And when the morning came again
We were up again quite well
We went then to the trenches
To fight our enemy
We had not been there very long
Before they fired at us
But we did not mind about it
As we fired at them again
And soon we finished the battle
And then went home again
We were not at all downhearted
As the Lord was by our side
He guarded us safe through it all
And brought us home again
And if we only trust Him more
He’ll always be our guide
And take us home to heaven
When we die and leave this earth.
One final piece of evidence, in addition to the compelling case already made for the argument that ‘Edwin’ Rhodes is, in fact, Edmund Rhodes, is taken from the Lincolnshire Regiment’s official roll of honour for the 1st Battalion where there is a record of one Pte Edmund Rhodes. Simpson’s History of the Lincolnshire Regiment, taken from the Regiment’s Official History, describes the action in which Edmund lost his life. The 1st Lincolns were to attack Bellewaarde Ridge in the area of Hooge, and by 1.15am on June 16 the battalion was in position, having lost four other-ranks wounded on the march to the front line; it is not thought that Edmund was one of these because if he had been, and had later died from his wounds, he would probably have had a marked grave. After a day of fierce fighting, the Lincolns were relieved by the 4th Gordons at about 9.30pm. The following day, back at Red Wine Camp, a roll call was taken at midday and the reported losses amongst other ranks were 22 killed, three died of wounds, 76 missing and 265 wounded. Edmund, presumably, was amongst the 76 missing…….
So, although we know precious little of Edmund’s life, we now know that he is the ‘Edwin’ referred to on the roll of honour in St Martin’s Church. I would now like to see that mistake corrected and Edmund’s name rightly recorded as being among the fallen of this Parish – he is undoubtedly owed that………….
IN HONOUR OF DAVID HAROLD CROW
From the foregoing it will be seen that I have made the suggestion that not all of the men listed on the war memorials to be found in the village may necessarily have been of this Parish.
We have already discovered that the first entry on the roll of honour that hangs in St Martin’s Church – for ‘Edwin’ Rhodes – is incorrect. It has been conclusively established that this entry should actually read Edmund Rhodes; not a very good start, and it brings into question the authenticity of the remaining seven entries.
Following Edmund Rhodes, the second fatality amongst the eight men listed appears to have been a man named as Harold Crow; no firm date of death is given, just 1915. A search of the CWGC database revealed no one by the name of Harold Crow. I did note, however, that one David Harold Crow, Private 23249, 10th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment featured in the records, and that he had died in 1915, which fitted with the year of death quoted on the roll of honour in the church.
There does seem to be a tenuous link with South Willingham but the suggestion on the roll of honour that the eight men listed were ‘of this parish’ does not appear to stand scrutiny with the listed ‘Harold Crow’.
It seems probable that David Harold Crow is the ‘Harold Crow’ listed on the roll of honour. David was born at Donington on Bain in 1894 to parents Charles and Lydia Crow (nee Brown) who had married the previous year, and was the eldest of nine children, the first six of whom were born at Donington. At the time of the 1911 census David was living with his family at Calcethorpe, near Louth, with the occupation of ‘day boy on farm’; the family had moved from Donington (actually, Welsdale) about 1902. By the time of his enlistment, David was working as a waggoner.
The link with South Willingham appears to come via David’s mother Lydia, for in both the 1901 and 1911 census returns Lydia’s brother David is listed as living at South Willingham with his wife Sarah and daughter Lily.
David’s service records show that he enlisted originally with the Lincolnshire Regiment and that he enlisted at Wragby on 1 September 1914. They also give his residence as Louth (probably Calcethorpe, as in answer to the question on his Attestation Form ‘have you resided out of your father’s house for three years continuously….’ he answered ‘no’). On 7 September 1914 a major in the Royal Army Medical Corps passed David, at 20 years and four months of age, ‘fit for the army’. Of Wesleyan faith, he was described as being five foot seven and a quarter inches in height, weighing in at 136 lbs (a little under 10 stone) and with blue eyes, a fair and fresh complexion and very light brown hair. From this description we can see that David was of slight build only, which was perhaps a little unusual for his arduous work as a waggoner, although his physical condition was described as ‘good’ by the examining officer.
David remained in the UK for just over a year before being transferred to the Western Front on 10 September 1915. Seven days earlier, on 3 September, he had transferred from the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (Service No.12165) to the 10th (Service) Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment (Service No.23249). As with so many young men, David didn’t survive long at the Front. The Army casualty form lists him as being ‘killed in action, in the field, about 26.9.15’. 26 September 1915 was the second day of the Battle of Loos and, having no known grave, David is commemorated on the Loos Memorial adjacent to Dud Corner Cemetery. On this second day, the attacking British forces were decimated by machine gun fire, although it is not possible to say if David was a casualty of this murderous fire. Dud Corner Cemetery stands almost on the site of a German strong point, the Lens Road Redoubt, captured by the 15th (Scottish) Division on the first day of the battle. The name ‘Dud Corner’ is believed to relate to the large number of unexploded enemy shells found in the neighbourhood after the Armistice. The Loos Memorial forms the sides and back of Dud Corner Cemetery, and commemorates over 20,000 officers and men who have no known grave, who fell in the area from the River Lys to the old southern boundary of the First Army, east and west of Grenay.
On 29 April, 1919, Lydia Crow filled in Army Form W5060 ‘Statement of names and addresses of all relatives of the deceased that are now living’. The address for herself and her husband is given as Hall Farm Binbrook, and David’s uncle – David Brown – is listed as South Willingham (so too a Joseph Brown, another uncle). In earlier correspondence (1916) Lydia’s address is given as ‘Lambcroft’ Binbrook Lane, Louth; however, I believe that this may actually have been Lambcroft Cottages on the road between Calcethorpe and Binbrook as it passes by the old airfield of Kelstern – that part of the road closest to Binbrook is known as Blands Hill whilst the section between Lambcroft Cottages and the Calcethorpe/Kelstern crossroads is un-named, although it may have been known as ‘Binbrook Lane’ 100 years ago. Three days earlier, Lydia had signed for a book forwarded to her by the Infantry Records Office at York, the only item of personal property received by that office up to that time. It seems likely that the book, and the three medals to which David was entitled (Victory Medal, British War Medal and 1915 Star), are the only items that his mother took possession of following his death three and a half years earlier.
Correspondence between Lydia Crow and the War Office provide another clue to the belief that David Harold Crow is the Harold Crow named on the roll of honour. In a letter to the War Office concerning the remainder of David’s possessions, Lydia refers to him as Private D. Harold Crow; this probably indicates that he was known as ‘Harold’. At no time are David Harold Crow’s parents referred to as living at South Willingham, and neither is David himself, so it seems that, as with Edmund Rhodes, the roll of honour can not be relied upon as a true record of the men from the Parish of South Willingham who died during the Great War. David Harold Crow’s name may have been added to the roll of honour at the behest of his uncle David and no one would deny Harold Crow a memorial close to home; I have been unable to find any other memorial to him in the locality, having checked at Donington, Binbrook and Louth (although I think the reference to Louth is a red herring). There is, of course, the possibility that he may have lodged with his uncle in South Willingham for a short time, but we have no evidence of this – even if he did, he was not really ‘of this parish’. It would be interesting to learn from any of the residents of the village who have lived here for a considerable number of years what recollection they may have of the roll of honour in St Martin’s Church, ie when it was erected and from where the information came; as I expand on this account more inaccuracies will be revealed with regard to the roll in the church. At this point I would also like to thank Chris Chesney for tracking down David’s service records and census information on-line and for investigating the link to South Willingham.
IN HONOUR OF GEORGE EDWARD PRESCOTT
October 1916; it was now some sixteen months since South Willingham had received news back from the Western Front of the death of one of the villagers when Edmund Rhodes, a mere boy of 18, was notified as missing in action. George Edward Prescott was little older than Edmund, and at twenty years of age had yet to reach his Majority.
Unfortunately, we know precious little about George’s short life and of his brief service in the Army (many Army service records from WWI were lost during a bombing raid in WWII, George Prescott’s apparently being amongst them).
Born at South Willingham in the first quarter of 1896 to parents Charles William and Mary Ann Prescott, George is recorded in the 1901 census as living with his parents on Barkwith Road. By the time of the 1911 census, however, the family is recorded as living at Tibbs Inn, Hainton. Did the family return to South Willingham again? Why are there only four names (including that of George Edward Prescott) listed on the plaque set into the wall of the Parish Hall – is it because there is some specific link with Hainton or the Heneage Estate? These are just some of the questions yet to be resolved……….
With regard to George’s service career, we know that he enlisted at Lincoln, with the Lincolnshire Regiment, and was allotted Service Number 4729. However, he then transferred to the 10th Battalion Essex Regiment as 40633 Private George Edward Prescott.
Little further is known except that he is listed as being killed on 21 October 1916 and, with no known grave, is recorded on the Pier and Face 10D of the Thiepval Memorial. We do, however, know from Army records that he was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. As there is no mention of the award of either the 1914 Star, or the 1914-1915 Star we may presume that he did not arrive in France until 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. 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. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. 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, George amongst them.
Adding a final twist to the mystery surrounding the life and fate of George Edward Prescott is that his name appears on the war memorial at Stainfield……… …….but perhaps there is a simple answer to this. George’s Uncle John, brother to George’s father Charles, lived at Low Apley. As has been alluded to in an earlier article, the Prescott family locally suffered terribly during the Great War. John and Fanny Prescott lost two sons, Charles Henry and George Frederick; both are commemorated on the War Memorial outside St Andrew’s Church and it seems as though George’s name may have been added later, as the style of the inscription is slightly different. One can only speculate why the family decided to add George’s name to the memorial at Stainfield – was it because there was no likelihood of a permanent structure being erected at South Willingham; if so, what of the plaque set within the wall of the Parish Hall – when was this commissioned? Had it previously been erected at Hainton? Even if it had, we return again to the question of why only four names appear on that plaque. Certainly, there should be five, because Edmund Rhodes, who lived for most of his short life in the village, deserves a more permanent memorial. It cannot be said that the four names are those who were born at South Willingham, because Thomas Tharratt was born at North Willingham.
Above: The War Memorial in the grounds of St Andrew’s Church Stainfield and, below, a close-up showing the name of George E Prescott inscribed upon it.
Above: The inscription on the memorial reads: ‘In honoured memory of the men of Stainfield and Apley who died for their country and the world’s freedom in the Great War 1914-1918. George, of course, was a resident of South Willingham, so one cannot take at face value the records presented on war memorials……..
IN HONOUR OF THOMAS HENRY THARRATT
Some sixteen months after South Willingham received news of the death of Edmund Rhodes, a mere boy 18 years of age, news came from the Front of another casualty; this time, however, it was a man of twice Edmund’s age, a little unusual as many of the casualties on the Front were boys or very young men.
Born at North Willingham on 5 June 1879, where his family farmed Dawson’s Barn Farm, Thomas Henry Tharratt is the third man listed on the roll of honour in St Martin’s Church and the first for which the roll is correct in all respects other than, chronologically, he should have been placed after George Edward Prescott who had been killed eight days earlier.
Born to parents George Thomas and Jane Locker Tharratt (nee Row) who were married in 1864, Thomas remained a bachelor. His mother died in 1906, followed five years later by his father. The headstone can be seen in St Martin’s churchyard and if one looks closely it will be seen that the inscription for Thomas’ mother reads Jane Looker Tharratt.
By the time of the 1891 census the Tharratts had moved to South Willingham and were farming at The Grange, Barkwith Road (farmed for many years now by the Hyland family). Ten years later the family address is Rectory Farm (possibly the same as The Grange as the farm was, and is, owned by the Church Commission), although Thomas does not appear on the census record. By the time of the 1911 census both parents have died, and Thomas is listed along with two housekeepers at an address given simply as South Willingham. Now aged 32, it seems that Thomas was now a farmer in his own right.
Four years later, and according to his Attestation, Thomas was called upon to enlist. This seems somewhat strange given Thomas’ profession, although he may have been sharing Belmont Farm with his brother William at this time. So it was, at close on 36 years of age, Thomas Henry Tharratt enlisted at Lincoln on 23 March 1915. A tall man for the day, at a quarter of an inch under six feet, no other details are given on the available records to describe Thomas. He joined the 10th (Service) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment before being posted to the 11th (Reserve) Battalion on 11 October that year. On 31 August 1916 a posting to the 3rd Battalion was quickly followed by embarkation for France. Leaving Folkestone on 13 September 1916, Private 1407 Thomas Henry Tharratt set sail for Calais, never to return to these shores. He was officially transferred to the 9th Battalion on the following day, 14 September.
The Somme battles of 1916, in which all battalions of the Lincolnshire Regiment took part, alternated with periods in training camps or in the drudgery, discomfort and, of course, the danger of tours in the trenches. The 1st Lincolnshire was moved back to the Brigade Camp near Fricourt on 22 September. It is believed that it was here, at Brigade Camp, that Thomas Tharratt joined the 1st Battalion on 28 September.
The official history of the Lincolnshire Regiment records no specific action for the 1st Battalion during the remainder of 1916, although it does state that casualties were still being sustained, principally as a result of artillery fire and snipers. It seems likely that the thigh and knee wounds suffered by Thomas on 15 October 1916 were the result of shrapnel. He was admitted to 65 Field Ambulance on that date with wounds officially described as ‘gunshot wounds, right thigh and left knee’. (The Field Ambulance was a mobile unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps. It was situated quite close behind the fighting front, and received wounded and sick men. Some men may have received rudimentary treatment at the front-line aid posts. The job of the Field Ambulance was to treat men who could be quickly returned to unit (the slightly wounded or sick) but, more generally, to prepare the men for a move to a Casualty Clearing Station which, in the case of Thomas, occurred the following day when he was admitted to No.1 CCS).
Five days later, Thomas was transferred to No.7 General Hospital at St Omer where, sadly, he died of his wounds on 29 October 1916, and was subsequently buried at Longuenesse (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery. (No.7 G.H. was a Base Hospital and part of the casualty evacuation chain, further back from the front line than the Casualty Clearing Stations. Base Hospitals were manned by troops of the Royal Army Medical Corps, with attached Royal Engineers and men of the Army Service Corps. In the theatre of war in France and Flanders, the British hospitals were generally located near the coast. They needed to be close to a railway line, in order for casualties to arrive (although some also came by canal barge); they also needed to be near a port where men could be evacuated for longer-term treatment in Britain. There were two types, known as Stationary and General Hospitals. They were large facilities, often centred on some pre-war buildings such as seaside hotels. The hospitals grew hugely in number and scale throughout the war. Also know as Malassises Hospital, No.7 G.H operated from St Omer between June 1915 and May 1918).
Subsequent to Thomas’ death the War Office informed Infantry Records at Lichfield that any personal possessions were to be sent to his brother William at Belmont Farm and any medals (Thomas was entitled to the British War Medal and the Victory Medal) to another brother, George R. Tharratt at Liverpool. George was the father of George Vanes Tharratt, a lieutenant in the King’s (Liverpool Regt), who was lost at sea in 1915 and is also commemorated on a plaque in St Martin’s Church but is outside the scope of this research.
Uniquely for South Wilingham, Thomas is commemorated on three memorials – the plaque set in the wall of the parish hall, the plaque in St Martin’s Church and the hand-written roll of honour in St Martin’s Church.
IN HONOUR OF CHARLES GRUNDY
Despite his name appearing on the Roll of Honour in St Martin’s Church, there appears to be no real connection with South Willingham for Charles Grundy and his family. The nearest connection seems to be that the family lived in Benniworth in 1901 and 1911. His mother, Elizabeth (who had obviously been widowed and was now married to Thomas Wilson of Benniworth) lived at East Cottages, Benniworth, according to surviving WW1 records.
So, although it would appear that Charles Grundy was not from the Parish of South Willingham, it may be of interest to record here what little we know of him.
Born at Wickenby in 1888 to parents John and Elizabeth (nee Bonnett) Grundy. Still in Wickenby at the time of the 1891 census, by 1901 the family was living in Benniworth. In 1909, Elizabeth married a Thomas Wilson, her first husband John having died; the only names on the 1911 census are for Thomas and Elizabeth Wilson and for Tom Grundy, one of Elizabeth’s sons by her first marriage. By this time, our hero Charles was working as a waggoner at Mill Hill Farm Reepham, for a Mark Chambers.
Charles volunteered early in the war, enlisting at Lincoln on 9 November 1914; it is not known for sure where he was living at this time, but the ‘UK Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919’data base suggests that it was Benniworth – this, of course, may be based purely on the fact that his mother’s address was Benniworth. The certificate of medical examination describes him as being of fresh complexion, with blue eyes and brown hair, and standing at just 5’ 3 ¼” tall with a physical development described as ‘good’. One distinguishing mark is recorded, this being a large birthmark under the left scapula. His declared age is recorded as 26 years and 105 days. On this day, 9 November 1914, Charles Grundy enlisted as Private, 9997, 6th (Service) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment –‘Service’ refers to the battalions, of which there were five within the Lincolnshire Regiment, that were formed after war started in response to Kitchener’s call to arms.
On 1 July 1915 Charlie Grundy embarked at Liverpool with the 6th Lincolnshire bound for the Dardanelles. 6th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment was raised at Lincoln in August 1914 as part of Kitchener’s First New Army and joined 33rd Brigade in 11th (Northern) Division (33rd Brigade was commanded by Brigadier-General R.P. Maxwell, former CO of the 1st Lincolns, whilst the Brigade Major, Captain F.G. Spring, was also of the Lincolnshire Regiment). After initial training close to home, it moved to Belton Park, Grantham. On 4 April 1915 the Division assembled at Whitley and Farnham, with 33rd Brigade taking over the tented camp at Frensham for final training. Following the voyage to the Gallipoli Peninsula 6th Lincolnshire went straight to ‘V’ Beach and disembarked from lighters. The 6th Lincolnshire landed near Lala Baba at Suvla Bay on 7 August. Over the two days 20/21 December 1915, the Division was withdrawn from Gallipoli, moving to Imbros then to Egypt at the end of January, arriving at Alexandria on 2 February 1916. Here it concentrated at Sidi Bishr and took over a section of the Suez Canal defences on 19 February 1916.
Like many of his contemporaries, it appears that the climate and conditions were unsuited to Charles’ constitution, for on 1 December 1915 he was admitted to hospital (although we do not know the nature of the malady). The official diary for the period records that, @sickness, the legacy of a desperately trying summer took heavy toll on the survivors of so many arduaous conflicts’. Seventeen days later he was transferred to rest camp at Abbassia and then joined the Base Depot at Mustapha on 29 December; he eventually rejoined the unit at Ballah on 7 March 1916. The words of William Blake’s poem, later turned into the anthem Jerusalem by Sir Hubert Parry in 1916, must, if indeed he knew the poem, surely have been ringing in Charlie Grundy’s ears as he swapped his ‘green and pleasant land’ for the hell-hole that was Gallipoli……………..
On 17 June 1916 11th Division was ordered to France to reinforce Third Army on The Somme. The last units left Alexandria on 3 July 1916 and by the 27th they were in the front line on the Somme.
Just over a year later, on 15 July 1917, the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment took over reserve positions in the St Jean sector and was accommodated in dug-outs or shelters on the eastern banks of the Yser Canal. Two days later, the battalion took over front-line trenches. The opposing lines were very close together and when the allied guns were engaged in shelling the enemy’s front-line trenches the Lincolnshire had to temporarily vacate its trenches. The enemy retaliated in a heavy and systematic manner – the much-dreaded gas shell was used in large quantity and for several nights box respirators had to be worn continually. Relief came on the night of 24/25 July but it was on this point of relief that Charlie Grundy met his death; gas was the killer, as recorded on the casualty form……….
So it was, that within days of his 29th birthday (based on his medical records), on 25 July 1917, Charles Grundy met his end. Buried in Gwalia Cemetery in the Poperinge, West-Vlaanderen district of Belgium, Charles lies amongst 467 Commonwealth comrades from the Great War.
The cemetery was opened at the beginning of July 1917, in the period between the Battle of Messines and the Third Battle of Ypres. It lay among the camps in flat, wet country and was used by infantry units, artillery and field ambulances until September 1918.
Charles was entitled to the 1914/15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals, all of which were sent to his mother at Benniworth. A number of Charles’ personal possessions were also returned home and these comprised: letters; photos; disc; religious book; belt and key; purse containing one coin; cap badge; tobacco tin; two notebooks; cards; knife; ring; two pencils; bracelet. These items, and a commemorative scroll received by Charles’ mother during July 1920, were all that was left to mark Charles Grundy’s service to God, King and Country during the Great War…………….
As with other entries on the roll of honour for the ‘Parish of South Willingham’ hung in St Martin’s Church, the one for Charles Grundy appears not to be relevant to this Parish. This is further reinforced by the plaque illustrated below, which hangs in St Julian’s Church, Benniworth. Will we ever know how the hand-written roll in St Martin’s Church came to be erected, who carried out the calligraphy and who gathered the information? It would certainly appear as if no significant research was carried out and one wonders if the roll was compiled purely on (unreliable) memory?
IN HONOUR OF JOHN EDWARD SIMONS
The Roll of Honour in St Martin’s Church lists a John E. Simons as having died in 1917. Research suggests that the listed man was quite probably John Edward Simons, who was born at Stickney in Lincolnshire. There appears to be no family connection to South Willingham and the only reference to John Simons having any ties to the village is the statement on his Attestation Form under ‘place of residence’ as ‘South Willingham Lincoln’.
Our man signed his Attestation Form at Louth on 16 February 1916. His occupation was given as ‘farm horseman’ and his age as 18 years and 124 days on the day of his enlistment; the following day he was placed on the Army Reserve List. Physically, he was described as being 5ft 6ins tall, weighing 136 lbs, with a chest measurement of 36ins. A little over a year later, on 26 April 1917, he was mobilised and the following day transferred to The Depot, Lincolnshire Regiment as Private 38120 John Edward Simons.
He was posted to the 3rd Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment and was registered on ‘Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service’ on 12 May 1917 as being posted to the Battalion at Grimsby. On 4 August 1917 he was posted to the 10th (Service) Battalion of the Lincolnshire Regiment. The ‘Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – Active Service’ is a somewhat misleading document as it is not, as its title suggests, purely for the purpose of recording injury or death. With dates recorded under the ‘casualty’ columns on the form this may explain why the Roll of Honour in St Martin’s Church records his date of death as 1917.
But John Simons had yet to meet his end and was transferred to the 2/6th Battalion of the North Staffordshire Regiment (No. 40892) on 23 August 1917. Unfortunately, those records that do remain are not entirely legible but it seems that he became a casualty during 1917 as he was admitted to a Field Ambulance Station in France on 23 October as a ‘casualty in the field’.
Not yet having attained his Majority, the young man who had given his place of residence as ‘South Willingham, Lincoln’ during his Attestation just over two years earlier, became another soldier with no known grave when he was reported missing in the field on 21 March 1918. His name is recorded on the Arras Memorial and his father took receipt of John’s Victory Medal and British War Medal at the family home in Holton cum Beckering.
Before he was called up, John Simons is recorded in the 1911 Census as being a farm labourer (aged 13 years), the family living at the time at Top Barn Hatton, near Wragby. It may be that five years later, upon enlistment, he was working (and ‘living-in’) on a farm at South Willingham, which is why he gave his place of residence as South Willingham. However, it cannot be truly said that this young man was ‘of the Parish of South Willingham’, and as with the entries for David Harold Crow and Charles Grundy on the Roll of Honour, it remains a mystery quite why the compiler of that memorial sought fit to include the names of three men that were not ‘of the Parish of South Willingham’…….