History of the West; Utes, Mormons, and the USA

utesThe American West, and the use of land therein has become a major political topic in the USA in recent years.  The Mormon Hammond Ranchers were prosecuted for infringements on Federal lands, which sparked the somewhat notorious Mormon Bundy Family and their Militia sympathisers to occupy Government buildings causing an armed stand-off with State and Federal Authorities both in support of the Hammonds and to highlight the issues around use of Land for grazing Cattle.  In the latest turn of events, the Utes and other Native American Tribes are taking on vested commercial interests wishing to mine Uranium in the Bears Ears Mountain, asking President Obama to designate the area a National Monument as it has both cultural and religious relevance to the local Native American Tribes.

What may be less known are that all these issues have their ancestral roots in the mid 19th Century, where the mindsets and relationships of all involved have been formed by a triangular relationship of friction between mainly English descended Mormons, Native Americans, and the US Federal Government.

A typical picture of the history can be seen in the family story of a single Lancashire Family, who were amongst the first European settlers in Utah.  It just so happened that Time Detectives researched the English Branch of this family and, in the process threw up a little known (outside of Utah) history of the American Mormon Branch of the Family.

Go West Young Man

The Story begins in 1837 with a great Mormon Evangelist, Heber Kimball, travelling thousands of miles from the USA to the North of England to find converts for the growing Mormon Church amongst the rich vein of non-Conformist Anglicans in Lancashire.heber-c-kimball-2
Kimball had little in common with the “wooden shoed” common men and women from the Docksides and villages of Lancashire, but used his gift of oratory to sell the Mormon religion.  The upshot was that after high jacking a local Methodist congregation and putting his own ministers, Heber Kimball bowled the locals over  by his charismatic preaching, and his offer of land and a good living on Earth, as well as the obligatory salvation in the after life.  Heber sent the best of his converts to other parts of Northern England to drum up more converts to the Mormon following.  Individuals, families and couples , travelled to the USA with other Mormon converts, up the Mississippi by steamer, to Nauvoo the Mormon Capital City in Illinois.

The Mormons had had a rough time with the State of Missouri, the Governor issuing an infamous extermination order against them if they didn’t leave the state.  This had lead to the Mormons setting up the Church Militant arm of the Danites, a Guerrilla insurgent movement sworn to protect the Mormons against the State Militia.  The most famous of the Danites was one Orrin Porter Rockwell, a dry humoured, psychopathic gunslinger, called The Avenging Angel, it was alleged that he attempted to assassinate the Governor of Missouri in retaliation  for the extermination order, at his trial when asked if that was the case, Rockwell replied sanguinely:

“When I shoot someone they stay shot.  He’s alive ain’t he?”oprockwell

The Mormons had moved on to Illinois, and had built a city on the Mississippi as their new Capital of Nauvoo.  Unluckily for the family I was tracing, a week after they set sail, the Mormon leader Joseph Smith had been captured by the Illinois Militia, and killed by a mob. As Richard the Methodist Carpenter and his young wife Phoebe stepped off of the steamer in Nauvoo the Mormon City on the Mississippi, he became Richard the Mormon Soldier fighting against the State Militia.  Indeed Phoebe would give gave birth to their son whilst the battle for the town was raged on around them.

Outnumbered and out gunned Mormons in Nauvoo fought for their lives.  Although perilously close to losing, the Mormon defenders held out long enough to force a perilous negotiation and a cessation of hostilities in 1845, with agreement that the Mormons would abandon their city by 1846.  However, despite the truce, state and federal agents entered the city and attempted to capture Mormon leaders, prompting a thousand Mormons including Brigham Young and other Church Elders to flee in secret across the frozen Mississippi and head west. Others followed, and eventually only about a thousand of the poorest Mormons, including Richard, Phoebe, and Thomas along with the other most recent English immigrants, were left to defend the City of Nauvoo.  They had no choice, as only recently having arrived with a few bags of belongings they had not the time to raise enough money to buy the Wagons and provisions to get out.

On realising that so many Mormons had left, and the remnants were mainly a group of ragged English immigrants, the State Militia broke the truce, about fifteen hundred of them marched on Nauvoo, genocide on their minds.  As the Militia streamed into the City, Richard and a hundred and fifty Mormon men and boys prepared to defend their women and children. They threw up barricades in the streets, and although outnumbered ten to one, fought the Militia to a standstill.

Many of the English Mormon refugees made their way down river to St Louis, where in general they were welcomed, as the time needed craftsmen, and people with skills to service the thriving community there, especially in the less salubrious areas near the waterfront with its bars, whore houses, and gambling dens.  The religious, trustworthy, and hard working refugees.  Richard was a skilled carpenter, others worked as butchers and in other trades.  They caused no trouble, worked hard and saved their money, until they had enough to buy wagons, livestock, and provisions, and moved north from St Louis, through Illinois, to a point where they could join a Mormon Wagon train and head West to Utah, or Deseret as the Mormons called their new land.

oxwagonThe pioneers had many tribulations on the way west, across the plains in their slow
plodding Ox wagons.  Cholera killed a number of them, and the survivors had to bury the bodies as best as they could in unmarked graves on the trail.  During this time the Richard and Phoebe adopted thirteen year old orphan girl whose parents had died during the march west.  More spectacular, were the huge herds of Buffalo which would stampede in panic at the approach of the Pioneers, especially if shot at.  The group would draw up the wagons in a defensive wall, with their oxen and horses drawn up inside the circle, and the pioneers crouching as best they could behind their beasts.  Then it was a matter of keeping their heads down and covered to keep the huge cloud of dust out of their eyes and noses, some of the women even pulling their voluminous skirts up over their faces for protection.  As long as they held their ground the Buffalo would swerve around them, but break ranks and they would be trampled.  Occasionally there was a more insidious fear, as Indians would be seen trailing the Wagon Train, but a small band of Indians would not generally risk an outright attack on a well armed group of settlers, at this time they were largely relegated to spectators as their land was crossed and colonised.

Eventually, after months of travel, the party of Pioneers made it to Salt Lake City, a journey of over one thousand three hundred miles.  Looking forward to settling down to a quiet life now that the summer of 1850 was turning to winter, Richard and Phoebe were to be told by Brigham Young, the Patriarch of the Mormon Church that they had been chosen to help found a new settlement in Southern Deseret (Utah).  Loading their chattels back on the Ox cart, Richard and Phoebe must have needed more than their share of Lancashire stoicism, as they did what they were bidden, and headed south into Ute Indian Territory with another party of Pioneers.  What they probably weren’t aware of was that there was a decided lack of enthusiasm among the established Mormons in Salt Lake City to go south, and so Brigham Young brought as much pressure as he could on the new settlers with less to loose in order to get the wagons rolling.

Into the Wilderness Again

The reason Young was so keen to get a new settlement in the south at a place called Center Creek was that in January 1850 Parley Pratt and an expedition of Mormon explorers had discovered the Valley of the Little Salt Lake, and assessed its nearby Iron Deposits for mining.  They raised a Liberty Pole at Heap’s Spring to claim the land, and named the uninhabited site, rather ambitiously, The City of Little Salt Lake.  They reported back to Brigham Young that the prospects were good, and so Young wanted to dispatch a party of settlers south to set up a farming community that would provide a base for others to prospect, mine, and smelt Iron from the hills, thus making Deseret independent of Iron imports from the USA.

So in December 1850 with about 170 other Mormon Pioneers under the leadership of Mormon Apostle George A Smith, Richard, Phoebe, and their little family, set off as “The Iron Mission”  towards Center Creek. They travelled in 101 Wagons, and on 100 horses, 12 mules, 364 oxen, 166 cattle plus assorted cats dogs and chickens, and tons of food supplies and tools.  For defence against Indian attack the men had, 129 rifles, 52 pistols, and 9 swords, plus 1,000 rounds of ammunition, and a cannon called “The Old Sow” that had travelled across the plains from Nauvoo with the first party of Mormon pioneers.

The real enemy they faced wasn’t the Indians, it was the cold.  To cross the great plains in the summer was one thing, to cross the mountains of Deseret in the winter was quite another.  The portly expedition leader Smith, and the adopted son of Brigham Young, John D. Lee who had reputedly offered to pay Brigham Young $2,000 in order to avoid going on the expedition, were the only two on the expedition to travel in carriages with stoves, the rest of the band would have to make do with heavy clothes and camp fires. Unfortunately they had to set off in the winter in order to get to their destination before the spring in order to get crops planted, and cattle out to grass, otherwise they faced the risk of starving through the following winter.  This was untamed territory, the men would build bridges and roads as they went, Richard Benson as Carpenter and Joiner would have played a crucial role.  On Christmas Day 1850 they encountered the Sevier River and four inches of snow with the thermometer at 16 below zero, but they pushed on, got over the black mountains, firing off a salute on the Old Sow Cannon to celebrate, and after weeks of hardship they circled the wagons at the mouth of the Parowan Valley at one o’clock in the afternoon of 13th January 1851.

Settlement, Growth, Haves and Have Nots

Pleased to be there, the families set about cutting timber and marking out the settlement, a Fort and log cabins were given priority but it would be some months before they were finished.  The settlement was renamed Fort Louisa in memory of Louisa Beaman a wife of first Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young who had died in 1850.  On 16th January the settlers elected a Captain Jefferson Hunt to represent them in the State legislature of Deseret, and celebrated a Thanksgiving service around a bonfire, the worst of their trials seemed to be over.

However not everyone was happy; from their first day of arrival many of the experienced farmers said that the soil and altitude made much of the uplands worthless for farming, and it was not long before those with better land up near Salt Lake City were heading back to a more comfortable and profitable existence there.  However Richard and Phoebe didn’t have this option, they had arrived in Deseret with a little money and the essentials to stay alive in the wilderness, had not had the time to build up any other assets before being dispatched to this wild place, so for them it was make or break.

Come March Wah-Kara, the Chief of the Native American Utes, or wahkaraKing of the Mountain as the settlers called him, paid a friendly visit to Fort Louisa, was entertained with a plentiful rustic banquet by the towns folk, and explained something of their surroundings to them including the Ute name for the area and band of Paiutes who lived near the lake, “Paragoon” meaning vile water and Marsh people depending on which it was applied to.  Brigham Young arrived in May to see progress, and anglicised the name Paragoon into Parowan.

At this early period the view of the Mormon Native American tribes was a somewhat sentimental one, seeing them as the lost 13th tribe of Israel, and therefore to be treated with respect, who although tending to sin, were not intrinsically inferior to Mormons other than in some of their “fallen” morals, a type of noble savage. But allowances weren’t really made for their ignorance of Western Civilisations laws and processes, with regard to land and property rights.  The process of unopposed acquisition of Native American land was well underway, without real understanding on the part of the Utes, who saw the settlers as a novelty and source of trade goods, food via stolen cattle, and petty theft, while the average settlers just saw a seemingly empty, unowned landscape, just crying out to be claimed and built upon with settlements.  Richard would have been kept working flat out as logs were dragged from the canyons to be trimmed, sawn, adzed, morticed and tenoned, into homes and public buildings. Once established, non-Mormon settlers started to pass through the town of Parowan on their way to other regions.

The 1850 census of Iron County in the new US Territory of Utah was carried out a year later on May 12th 1851, he federal authorities started to take a much closer interest in the area now that the hard work was already underway by the Mormons.  For their part the Mormons saw “Utah” as “Deseret” their promised land, and could no see how the US Federal authorities thought that they had any claim to it.  The Utes just watched in bemused amazement at the “White Mans'” strange belief that anyone could “own the land”.

There were some deep divisions between the new English Mormons, and the more established American born Mormon’s.  Richard and Phoebe are shown in the census living in Parowan, and despite the fact that they’d helped build the town in the first place, interestingly,  they are not assessed as owning any property of value, unlike their neighbours American born neighbours.  All Richard owned was a Wagon, a log cabin, and as the town carpenter, some tools.  On average the bigger neighbours owned between $40 -$5,000 of land and property, and even other some foreign immigrants owned $100 – $140 worth, whereas Richard and Family had been dispatched south to found the place with next to nothing.  What is also noticeable are the mixed origins of the Benson’s neighbours; England, Ireland, and 12 different US States and Territories, and of these only one, two year old little boy was actually born in Deseret Territory.  All these people, except for the new child, had crossed the great plains, before trekking through the mountains to get to Parowan.   Their average ages were fairly young with a sprinkling of more experienced men.  Everyone here has a hands on practical job, and knew what was expected of them in this new community, so in many ways those who had got this far must have felt that they could really make something of this fresh start, and perhaps weren’t too upset to see the farmers who wanted an easier life go back north to Salt Lake City.They had braved Indians, Buffalos, Cholera, heat and cold, forded rivers, and built roads, literally to carve a new life for themselves and their families.  Also contrary to popular fiction, and the predilections of the Mormon gentry, the ordinary folks at this time were very solidly monogamous.

By 1852 the promise of better things offered by Heber Kimball to Richard in Lancashire had started to be fulfilled.  Richard registers a Cattle Brand in September a capital “B” on the cow’s left thigh, showing that he was building up some wealth, no doubt trading his carpentry skills for livestock.  This was far beyond what Richard could ever have hoped for In England.

The Ute War

In 1853 relations with the Ute Indians, specifically with Wah-Kara their chief, deteriorated.  The trouble to some extent stemmed from Wah-Kara’s nomadic raiding lifestyle, which involved mounting raids against other tribes to take captives who were sold on as slaves to the Spanish settlers in the South West of the USA along the Spanish Trail that ran through Parowan.  This trade was very profitable for Wah-Kara, and helped him keep control as pre-eminent Chief of the Ute tribes.  All the tribes in the area did the same, it was an accepted, and indeed highly praised part of their way of life, and in general they made a point of not taking Mormon slaves, as the repercussions were likely to be too high coming from a culture that did not partake in the culture of slavery.

The Mormons philosophically objected to slavery, and it was especially alien to the English born working class Mormons in the area, slavery having been outlawed in the British Empire two decades before.  At this time the Royal Navy actually intercepted slaving ships and freed the captives, as well as sending Royal Marines in to attack Arab and African slave trading posts on the coasts of Africa. So there was a heavy cultural aversion to the practice amongst the British, more so than some of the American Mormons who were from Slave owning US States.  This came to a head when Mormon settlers started to break up such deals, and the Mormon trail had opened up the area to many non-Mormon “Gentiles” who regarded the Indians in a much more hostile way than the Mormons.  There were a number of incidents where Natives had been murdered by these non-Mormon “Gentiles”

There were a number of incidents with such Gentiles.  One particular score stretching back years lead to The Danite Destroying Angel, Orrin Porter Rockwell, being accused (but never convicted) of attacking one such Gentile group.  This group included a Missourian, one of the great Mormon Leader Joseph Smith’s unconvicted murderers.  He had been very ill advisedly in deciding to travel through Deseret on his way West; the man was discovered dead with his head cut off by a Bowie knife.

In 1853 Wah-Kara found himself being squeezed politically by a number of pressures; the Shoshones were starting to raid his lands and muscle in on his trade routes, the Mormons were interfering with his traditional profitable slave trading, the Gentile whites were killing innocent Indians, and a number of outbreaks of measles epidemicshad devastating effects on the Indians who had no genetic resistance to it.   The fact that it mainly killed Utes and not the Settlers lead the Utes to believe it to be caused by White Men’s “magic” specifically to kill their enemies.

The Ute War (or “Walker’s War” Walker being the Anglicised name of Wah-Kara) started in July 1853 with an argument between settlers and Utes that resulted in the death of a number of the Utes.  The Utes demanded reparations, which amounted to an eye for an eye under their laws, but the Mormons refused to give any settlers up to them.  In order to even things up the Utes started raiding outlying farms, and the Mormons retaliated against groups of Utes.  One family of Mormons were murdered whilst driving their Ox Wagon through the territory, so the Mormons retaliated by capturing a number of Ute young men and executing them two days later, these young Ute men probably had nothing to do with the Ox Wagon massacre, but the sides had become polarised and anyone from the other side was now considered a legitimate target in tit for tat killings.  Brigham Young ordered Mormons from outlying farms to pull back to the safety of Mormon forts like the one at Parowan.  The killings were ended by a personal negotiations between Brigham Young and Wah-Kara in the winter of 1853, with a treaty finally agreed and signed in May 1854, this stopped the immediate killing, shored up the relationship between Mormons and Utes, but did not solve the underlying problems.  A year later Wah-Kara died and relations between Utes and Mormons became much harder to predict.

The Utah War

Things got no easier for the Mormons; during the 1850s the US Federal Government in Washington tried to exert greater control over the various individual states and territories, this would be one of the factors that would eventually lead to the American Civil War in the 1860s, foretaste of this came in 1857.

The senate and Congress in the East had received a series of often highly inaccurate reports from Federal Agents and Journalists in Utah concerning the Mormons, and indeed these were parodied by one Washington commentator who said that the various reports from Federal Agents “left unclear whether the Mormons habitually kicked their dogs” but apart from that they were smeared with every slander available.  For their part Brigham Young the Mormon Leader and Governor of Utah said:

“I love the government and the Constitution of the United States, but I do not love the damned rascals that administer the government.”

The situation was made worse when Brigham Young, fearful of an invasion of Deseret in 1857, declared Marshal Law, and forbade settlers to pass through Deseret without Mormon permits.  Apostle George A. Smith of the Benson’s hometown of Parowan told the people of the isolated fortified townships of Parowan and Cedar City to prepare for the apocalypse by stockpiling supplies and arms ready for an invasion by the United States, not to sell food and fodder to any settlers passing through, and to be prepared to fight, and if necessary burn their homes and take to the Hills, he also advised the local Utes to fight with the Mormons against any invading force from the US.

Mountain Meadows Massacre

Into this powder keg of paranoia trekked a party of settlers from Arkansas and Missouri heading for California.  The Mormons refused to sell them supplies, and resentment between the settler wagon train and the Mormons increased, fuelled by idle boasts from some of the more confrontational members of the wagon train that they had taken part in the assassination of Joseph Smith and were former members of the Missouri Militia.  These were probably empty taunts grown out of bad feeling, but to the minds of the Mormons, worked to a pitch by the exultations of their leadership, these taunts and rumours grew more solid with each retelling, culminating in the Militia from Cedar City to exact “Blood Atonement” on the settlers for the murder of Joseph Smith.

The settler wagon train divided into two parts, the Duke party from Missouri took a johndleenorthern route and made their way to California, the larger group, the Fancher party from Arkansas, on advice from the Mormons took a southern route through Cedar City and up to Mountain Meadows on the Deseret/California borders.  Whilst camped there they were attacked by a group of Indians covertly lead by Major John D Lee the Mormon Indian Agent and a leading member of the Cedar City Militia, Brigham Young’s step son.  Although badly mauled by the attack the settlers circled their wagons and held out, until a group of Iron County Mormon Militia rode up to them under a white flag, and offered to negotiate with the Indians for the settlers’ safe passage back to Cedar City.  The settlers quickly agreed, not realising that the Militia were orchestrating the attack, and as part of the agreement gave up their weapons to the Militiamen.  Once they were unarmed and marched out of their defensive formation, Major Lee gave the order to attack and 120 settlers were shot, clubbed, and stabbed to death, the only survivors being 17 children who were thought too young to bear witness.  It was even rumoured that two of the girls in the settlers’ party were raped before being murdered.  Although the massacre was subsequently condemned by the Church authorities in Salt Lake City, the fear of invasion from the US, meant that no attempt was made to bring the perpetrators to justice.  It would be 20 years before the US government was able to bring John D Lee to trial and execution by firing squad on the spot where the original massacre took place at Mountain Meadows.  He had been made a scapegoat and took more or less the entire blame for the massacre, the other perpetrators cutting a deal with the US prosecutors, testified in person or in writing against him, and escaped justice.  Distrust of US law was reinforced.

The United States Invades


With news of the massacre reaching the United States, the scene was set for a reckoning, and shortly after his inauguration in 1857 President Buchanan decided to replace Brigham Young as Governor of Utah, and sent a third of the US Army with the new Governor to make sure it happened.  What he didn’t do was try to talk with Brigham Young about this, and the first the Mormons knew of it was when the lurid reports of impending War reached them from the Eastern News Papers.  Given that the Mormons had already fought two minor wars of extermination against them by the State of Missouri, and the Militia of Illinois, they naturally believed that they now faced another one with the Federal Government.

The US army marched west, and the Mormons again called in the settlers from the outlying farms back into the Mormon Forts, and it appears that English immigrant Richard took a leading role in the evacuations, being mentioned in John D Lee’s journal as taking families by Wagon into fort Parowan.  The Mormon Militia, including the Danites lead by their terrible Avenging Angel, Orrin Porter Rockwell, the men who had served in the Mormon Legion at Nauvoo, and the Mormon Battalion who had served in the US Army during the Mexican War of 1846 (including two men that Richard’s sister would later marry), all took to the saddle along with their Ute Indian Allies and harassed the US Army, ran off their horses, and generally skirmished them to a standstill in the mountains and passes of Utah.


However Brigham Young realised that a political settlement was needed, so after stalling the Army long enough to make them ready to negotiate, Young agreed to step down as Governor, and his federal replacement was put in place.  This allowed the federal agents to say they had won, whilst the Mormons of course carried on governing themselves with their own hierarchy and religious courts, running a parallel administration in the State for many years. To make sure the Mormons were contained, the Army was stationed in Utah  until merican Civil War in 1861, when the US Government sold off their holdings in Utah to the local Mormons at knock down prices.  The   Federal soldiers were recalled, some going North, some South, depending on where their loyalties lay, and the Mormons were left in relative peace again.

Black Hawk War


But the frontier was by no means quiet or safe, and in 1865 war with the Utes erupted in what came to be called the Black Hawk War, named after a local Ute Chief Antonga Black Hawk the nephew of Wah-Kara, who led the Ute, Paiute, and Navajo tribes against the Mormons.  Young Indian men lead cattle raids against Mormon settlements, and a number of Mormon men women and children were killed.

This war seriously held up Mormon expansion in Utah, the Mormons considered themselves in a state of open warfare with the Utes, the federal state refused to send help, probably due to the depredations of the Civil War taking its toll on available troops, and so the Mormons took matters into their own hands, building forts, abandoning exposed settlements, and rounding up any groups of Indians they came across whether apparently hostile or not.

Richards son also named Richard served in the Indian Wars.  Richard was only 17 when he joined the Deseret Militia as a Scout.  His platoon made up of men from Parowan.

They rode out to join a bigger body of Militia from St George sent out by General Erastus Snow under a Captain Andrus, and formed the 5th Platoon of his Company of men.  The company were all volunteers, hired guns having been allowed to leave. The men rode out on a Scouting expedition to the area of the Green River to locate any enemy Ute activity in the area and deal with it.

Richard and his company subsisted on sweet potatoes and wild chickens they found in the brush as well as a good ration of Beef Jerky.   They had skirmishes with Utes and lost one man and one horse to enemy action, but for the most part the Indians were out of the area, and the few that remained avoided contact with them.

The small band of men travelled up through Rabbit Valley, and crossed Dirty Devil Creek (Fremont River) to within sight of The Green River, but found the going very tough in the area, and so camped before making their way back across country.  What they didn’t realise is that once at the Green River, they were within 3 miles of Black Hawk’s camp and herd, which were only defended by a group of old men, squaws, and children, Black Hawk and the Warriors being off on a raiding party.  If Captain Andrus had had a little more fortitude, he could have captured Black Hawk’s camp and cattle, and thereby probably single-handedly brought Black Hawk to submission, or at least removed his means of continuing resistance for any length of time.  Such are the fortunes of war.

They trekked down the East Fork of the Sevier River and passed through the town of Circleville, where they they rested and foraged their horses in a field of Oats that had ripened and not been harvested. Now, Circleville was infamous as the site of a recent atrocity.  The town had been subject to raids by Utes, who penetrated right into the town, and initially the locals were not strong enough to defend themselves adequately resulting in the loss of cattle, and the massacre of families on outlying farms, so in response they organised themselves into a Militia, and decided to round up the local Paiutes, who, although peaceful, where armed, and were rumoured to be giving intelligence to the Utes.

The Paiutes were disarmed, and placed under guard in the Town’s Meeting Hall, the men bound, the women and children placed in the cellar.  However one Paiute man had been shot dead during the round up when he tried to escape, and so they must have been extremely nervous as to their fate.  Some of the Paiute men managed to slip their bonds, overpowered the guard in the Meeting Hall and made a break for it; the militia panicked, shot the men, and then, to remove any Indian witnesses who could have told other Indians what had happened, brought the women and children up from the cellar and executed them by slitting their throats.  In the panic and confusion of the executions, three of the Paiute children managed to temporarily escape, by the time they were eventually found, some form of sanity had overtaken the Militia’s bloodlust, and the children were taken in by Mormon families appalled at what had occurred.

There were also stories of the heads of murdered Indians being displayed on poles in the town square, however it is not clear if this is true as it seems that the townsfolk and militia having realised that the violence had gone too far, buried the bodies and tried to cover up what had occurred.  It had such a profound effect on the less blood thirsty town’s folk, that, fearing retribution from the Indians and wanting to distance themselves from the perpetrators, they left the town.  By the time that Richard rode into town ahead of the Militia column from St George and Parowan, the town was completely deserted, it had literally died of shame.  However, given the provocation of the Utes, and the fear engendered in the Mormons by their raids and indiscriminate killing of men women and children, the powers in authority in Salt Lake City verbally condemned the massacre but took no action against the perpetrators, however they were generally shunned by the majority of peaceable Mormons, and the Mayor of Circleville was forced to earn a living as a ranch hand, never again able to hold an office of responsibility.

Richard’s Patrol moved off from the ghost town of Circleville through Bear Valley, catching some chickens on the way, before descending into Parowan the following day.  They had been away for two months, had put their lives at risk, and had made sure there was no Indian threat in the immediate future, and to the delight of the Parowan men, the column were greeted as heroes when they entered their home town; the flags were out, the girls put their best dresses on, and tables heaved with food and drink, the band struck up and a dance was organised.The following day the column divided, the men from Parowan, and Captain Andrus took the rest of the company back to Cedar City and from there to their homes.

As for the Utes, Black Hawk eventually surrendered, made his peace with the Mormons and retired to the hills where he died in 1870.  Then, in 1871, with the hard work of the war already done for them, the US federal government sent in troops, rounded up the remaining Utes from the hills and herded them onto a desolate reservation.

Aftermath and betrayal of the Utes



The roots of the War lay partly with the duplicity of the US federal Government, who, signed a treaty with the Utes in 1865 coercing them into giving up most of their land for a pittance of an annual allowance (62 cents per acre) and forcing them to move to a reservation.  This treaty was resisted by a number of Chiefs, especially the relatives of Wah-Kara, but being advised by Brigham Young that it was the best they were going to get from the Federal Government, they signed and for the most part were herded onto the reservation.  However the US Congress subsequently refused to ratify the payments, and the Utes were cheated of their money.  They had been played for fools by grasping and greedy politicians. Between the 1930s and 1980s the Utes managed to buy back and gain jurisdiction over many millions of acres of their former lands, although facing occasional setbacks due to Government duplicity like 100 years before, when in 1965 the Federal Government negotiated the diversion of a major river from Ute land, only to renege on the agreement to provide additional water storage for the Utes, fortunately the modern Utes are much more able to defend themselves legally than in the past, and financial compensation was paid in lieu.

It is estimated that Ute numbers were about 30,000 when the Mormons settled in Utah.  By 1909 more than 90% of them had been wiped out by disease, starvation, and military action.  To add insult to injury, a party of Mormons dug up Black Hawk’s grave in 1919, stole his body and put it on display, first in a Co-op shop in Spanish Fork (the Co-op being another innovation brought over from Lancashire), then in the Mormon Church Museum in Salt Lake City, only being finally returned to the Utes and re-buried in 1996.

The Mormons built a thriving State as part of the USA but always slightly out of step with the Government, and of course the USA is the richest Country on the planet.  For the Utes it was a different story.

If you’ve enjoyed this story from a Family’s History, and would like your own Family History traced, please feel free to drop us a line at paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk


The Krays on The Hamble Peninsula

The Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire

Royal_Victoria_Military_Hospital,_Netley,_Hampshire;_from_th_Wellcome_V0013983The Royal Victoria Country Park at Netley Abbey is due to undergo a £2.68M restoration of its historic buildings, via the Heritage Lottery Fund, secured by Hampshire County Council.  As part of this the human side of its history is being brought together from memories of the site from locals with family or other links to the site.  In charge of this is Paul Del-A-More, a Hamble local who is Project Manager for the venture.  Paul’s Blog can be seen here:


Being based in the area Timedetectives decided to do some digging of our own, and came up with some interesting connections to the area via the Family History of the Kray Twins.

The Royal Victoria Hospital was a personal project of Queen Victoria, and when built was the largest Hospital in the world.  It served the British armed forces from the time of the Crimean War, through the 19th century and on into the First and Second World Wars, until the demolition of most of the buildings in 1966 during the Philistine demolition boom that destroyed so much British History in the 1960s.

During its time, from the aftermath of the Crimean War to WW2 the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley served generations of soldiers from all over the United Kingdom, its Colonies, and allies.  To understand how such a place could have an effect on generations of British Families I have taken an example of the Kray Twins Family as an extension to other Kray stories in this Blog.

The Kray Twins are of course synonymous with East End Gangsters, but the twins had an enduring connection with this area of Hampshire spreading from Southampton in the West, through Netley and the Hamble Peninsula, out to Waterlooville in the East, even ignoring Reggie Kray’s time in Prison on the Isle of Wight.

The First Kray in Netley Hospital

John William Kray, the Kray twins Great Grandfather’s brother, had left his job hammering rivets all day, to take up a life in the army at 18 years of age and in 1870 when he had joined the 65th Regiment of foot.  His career in the army was a fractious one, with constant bouts of indiscipline and sickness. He came to be in Netley Hospital whilst stationed in England as veteran soldier with seven years under his belt.  He was admitted on 30th April 1877, for a mystery illness, and the doctors scratched their heads whilst John Kray the brawny ex-riveter spent a lovely couple of weeks of bed rest and recuperation chatting to the nurses in the grounds of the large beautiful Hospital bordering the Solent.  Eventually  the Doctors after scratching their heads and listening to his diverse description of his ailments, decided that despite his protests of illness, there was nothing actually wrong with him other than a likely case of malingering by an experienced old lag of a Private.Netley-Pier-01_800

Having failed to prove himself sick, he deserted for six months in 1879, then voluntarily re-joined in the same year having got bored with being on the run.  On his return he was sentenced to a month’s hard labour and stoppages of wages.  Shortly after this the Army decided that he would be better off out of harms way in the Far East, where he spent the next fourteen years serving in the East Indies; India, Aden, and the Soudan (sic).  Having failed to get sick whilst at Netley, John Kray surpassed himself in India where he managed to get six year’s worth of diarrhoea, Malaria, Dysentery, Gonorrhoea, and Syphilis, despite this he continued serving, given his particular ailments he obviously made the most of his time in the tropics.  He no doubt longed to be back in Netley enjoying the sea breezes off the Solent.

In 1884 the regiment was sent to the Sudan to fight the ISIS of their day, The Mahdists, led by the man from whom they derived their name, the “Mahdi” or the “Mad Mullah” as he was nicknamed by the British Troops.  The Mahdi was , who had killed British General Gordon and overrun an Anglo-Egyptian outpost at Khartoum in the Sudan.  John Kray would see some real action in the Sudan for the first time in his military career.  John’s regiment engaged with the Mahdist Army after the Mahdists had destroyed an Egyptian force sent against them, and had captured the Egyptians’ modern British manufactured  firearms in the process, so posed an even greater threat to the British Protectorate.  1884eltebred

The Mahdists had a defended position at El Teb but were overrun by British forces with light casualties (John’s regiment only receiving seven casualties) but killing two thousand Mahdists in the process.  The Mahdists were later re-engaged by John’s regiment at the battle of Tomai where for a loss of just over two hundred the British killed four thousand Mahdists.  1884tamai2red

After the actions in the Sudan John Kray’s regiment is sent home, and in 1889, after nearly twenty years in the Army John went  back to civvie street, where he married, and settled down in Leeds where he worked as a commissionaire.  The only member of the family at this time to move away from the London area.  He would die in Leeds in 1906.

No doubt when John Kray reminisced to the rest of the Kray clan about his adventures in the Army, he would have told stories of his best remembered time during a balmy English Summer malingering in the grounds of Netley Hospital; his two weeks of contented holiday on the Banks of the Solent.

The last Kray at Netley Hospital

Clement Henry Kray, a second cousin of the Kray twins, also ended up in The Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley.  The circumstances of him arriving there were very different from those of his malingering distant cousin John who we heard about above.

While the Kray Twins line of the family had been Lamp Lighters, Clement’s line of the family via his Grandfather had pulled themselves up by the boot straps to open a small tobacconist shop in Bethnal Green, and Clement’s Father, Henry Joseph, had managed to get an education and move into lithographic printing, eventually opening a small printing business for himself.

in 1900 Henry had volunteered for the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC), not actually as implied by its name an artillery unit, but a mixed unit of Infantry and supporting artillery, drawn from Londoners from the area of the City of London, and the oldest volunteer Regiment in the British Army.

Clement Kray, Henry’s eldest son, had been doing well for himself before the War, he was a young commercial traveller from Harlesdon, and no doubt enjoyed life and expected great things to develop, as the Country moved from Victorian seriousness and poverty for the working classes, into a time of opportunity and a developing Middle Class in the Edwardian era.  In 1910 he followed his Father as a part time volunteer soldier in the HAC, so had a good career, some status in a well respected volunteer force, and a bright future.  But the Great War would change all of that.

Clement was shipped over to the French/Belgian border to fight the Germans in 1914.  The HAC took part in the Battle of Ypres, and Clement’s unit was dug in around Kemmel, the highest point on the battlefield, which of course put them up as a prime target for the Germans.  The Kray Twins’ Grandfather “Mad’ Jimmy Kray was in France in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC) another London regiment, at the same time as Clement, and no doubt heard about the action at Kemmel where his second cousin Clement was fighting.

hackemmelThe HAC were soon heavily engaged during the bitter winter of 1914.  On 15th December 1914 the HAC went over the top and charged the German lines after an artillery bombardment, having to run uphill many of the HAC had been cut down by the Germans on the way in.  Despite this they had overrun the German positions and had taken a terrible revenge on the Germans who had surrendered, shooting many of them out of hand in revenge for their fallen comrades. By their own admission many of the men had a blood lust brought on by battle, and such incidences of brutality outside the rules of war were far from uncommon amongst the hard-bitten British professional soldiers, for example in the same battle 300 German prisoners were reported slaughtered after  surrender by the Royal Scots.  Clement was one of the unlucky HAC soldiers who was wounded in the Battle.  The wounds were far too serious to be treated in the field, or even further back from the battle front, bad enough in fact for Clement to be shipped back to England.

Clement was shipped back to Blighty on a hospital steamer, unloaded onto one of the specilaised Hospital Trains at Southampton Docks, which steamed the few miles down the coast to Netley, where he was taken into the care of the volunteer nurses at the Royal Victoria._wsb_360x203_brcsnetley

Netley, after much criticism, had been added to with a large number of huts to accommodate patients in better conditions than were previously available in the wards, and was visited by Sir Frederick Treves in November, just a month before Clement Kray was shipped across from from to it.  Treves was famous as the rescuer of Joseph Merrick (sometimes mistakenly called John Merrick) better known as The Elephant Man.  Treves was now very senior in the Medical Profession, looking after the Royal Family, and had also served in a field hospital in the Boer War, so was keen to make sure that facilities were as good as they could be for wounded soldiers in the Great War.  In his report he describes The Royal Victoria Hospital as:

“It is a ‘Hut Hospital’ of 500 beds, essentially a Field Hospital capable of being readily moved. When completed at the end of the present month, it will be made up of 45 Huts disposed as follows:- 25 for patients, 9 for nurses, 5 for orderlies, 3 as recreation rooms, and 3 for isolation wards.
At present only 25 Huts are occupied, 10 of these being Ward Huts. The Operating Theatre is not yet completed. The staff under Sir Warren Crooke-Lawless consists of 18 medical officers, 65 female nurses, all fully trained, a matron, 20 quartermasters, and 130 N.C.O.’s and men. The Hospital is rationed from Netley. The wounded are brought into Netley by a special ambulance train, thence they are transported by stretcher to the Hospital, a distance covered in some four or five minutes.

The number of patients in the Hospital is at the moment 140; 80 being British soldiers and 60 belonging to Indian troops. In another week the Hospital will be able to accommodate 300 patients. As an illustration of efficient transport it may be said that a large batch of patients now in the wards were wounded on a certain Friday and were in bed at Netley on the following Monday. There has happily been only one death at the Hospital, that of a soldier with a desperate shell wound of the skull exposing the brain. The first major operation performed in the Hospital was not upon a soldier, but upon one of the Hospital orderlies, who was seized with appendicitis and is now a cheery convalescent in his own ward. The cases are practically all gunshot wounds. There has been no tetanus and little gangrene. No cases of typhoid fever have been received. The medical cases have been light, although among them are six cases of Beri-beri.

The Hospital has the general appearance of a toy town made up of grey Huts arranged, with great formality, in a meadow behind Netley. The Huts are the best of the type I have seen. They are light, airy and well ventilated. They are lit by electric light, are warmed by slow-combustion stoves (two to each Hut) and are amply supplied with water. The sanitary arrangements are quite admirable, the many difficulties that presented themselves having been surmounted with complete success. Each Hut contains 20 beds and has a well-arranged annexe. The furniture, beds, bedding and general equipment of the Huts leave nothing to be desired. The Hospital kit, issued to each man by Lady Wolverton is excellent and – if I may venture to say so – is better than that supplied by the Army. It consists of a blue jacket and trousers, both lined with flannel, a vest, shirt, night dress, towel, handkerchief and slippers.

The Red Cross store, managed by Lady Lawless and Mrs. Miller, is a model of efficiency and order. The new Operating Theatre, built under the direction of Mr. Cuthbert Wallace, is admirably arranged and will soon be completed. The nurses’ huts, with 9 cubicles in each, are very comfortable. The kitchen is furnished with every requirement for a hospital of 500 beds, and the sergeant cook is very proud of it. He exhibited a roast fowl and a bowl of beef tea with the confidence of an artist who was displaying finished works of art.

The Medical Officers, under the direction of Mr. Cuthbert Wallace and Dr. Miller, are doing excellent work, and these gentlemen speak in the highest terms of their efficiency. The matron pays a compliment to the Society in its selection of nurses by her assertion that her staff gives the greatest satisfaction and there is not a single nurse she would wish to change. The orderlies are men drawn from various Voluntary Aid Detachments throughout the country. It will be of interest to the Society to know that Sir Warren is not only entirely satisfied with these men and their exemplary behaviour, but also – although the staff is so large – that he has not had occasion to make a complaint of any one of them.

A whole-hearted enthusiasm and a determination to do their best pervade the entire staff of the Hospital from the highest to the humblest. This excellent spirit derives its inspiration partly from the fine example set by Colonel Crooke-Lawless himself and partly from the fact that everyone at work in Netley is proud of the Hospital he serves. In that pride the Society may well participate.”


Clement spent Christmas 1914/15 and New Year in Netley, but sadly died of his wounds on 22nd January 1915.

Clement’s Father had already lost his youngest son Frederick earlier that year, and had the sad task of having Clement’s body shipped back to London by Trainhis Mother and Father buried him at New Southgate Cemetery Enfield, with the following epitaph:

Clement Henry Kray

1st. Battalion Honourable Artillery Company who fell in the Great War.  Wounded at Kemmel, nr. Ypres, 15th. Dec. 1914, Died at Netley Hospital, 22nd. Jan. 1915, aged 22 years

“Duty bravely done is the rising of the Sun of glory”


The Twins

During the Second World War when Reggie and Ronnie Kray were children, their mother took therm away from the Blitz in London to the relative safety of Hampshire, it is not clear where exactly, but the episode did not end well, as the twins’ unruly behavior proved too much for the kindly Doctor who had agreed to take the family in, and very soon they were back to Lopndon, andn then evacuated again to Suffolk, where they saw out much of the War.

This time in the country made a big impression on the twins, although they were Cockney born and bred and the family had been since the 1700s, they had an abiding love of the country, and when things got a bit too intense in the East End, thye twins would come down to Hampshire for a little holiday, here Ronnie coulkd play Lord of the Manor with his silver topped cane and tweeds, while he and his brother Reggie would drink in their favourite Pub outside of London, The Bugle Pub near the waterfront in Hamble.

So taken were the twins with Hamble, that they bought a small house in the village, Hamble Manor Lodge, right next door to Hamble Manor.  The twins didn’t just take it easy while in Hamble, they are rumoured to have had various dealings with the local underworld in nearby Southampton, where the docks were rife with money making opportunities, and there are even stories of a motor launch that was owned by the Twins being abandoned at Southampton Docks when they were finally banged up for murder.  Maybe it was just a pleasure cruiser, or maybe it was used for other purposes?  “Mad Axeman” Frank Mitchell was said to have been wrapped in Chicken wire, weighted down, and dropped in the Sea after he was murdered by the Kray’s associates.

There are also stories of a collection from a Bank Manager in Waterlooville of £85,000 that was taken to Ronnie Kray while he was in Prison.  Maybe there are still some mysteries to be uncovered?

If you’d like to see the Time Detectives interview with Fred Dinenage on ITVMeridian you can find it here   The Kray Twins on The Hamble Peninsula

…and if you have your own Family Stories about servicemen who spent time in The Royal Victoria Hospital Netley in Hampshire let me know and I’ll pass them on in time for its historic restoration.  Please feel free to leave a comment on this page.

If you’d like your own Family History professionally researched, please contact me on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk



Running off with Sailors

“If I had my way, I’d treat some of these Continental fellers like we used to treat Chinese dope smugglers – hang ’em.”

The Amazing Baker Girls

It’s always interesting to discover a previously unknown story in a Family Tree, especially when the detail turns out to be unusual or sensational, and I had one such occurrence recently when re-rersearching Danny Baker’s Family Tree during the airing of his BBC comedy series Cradle to Grave ( #CradleToGrave ) based on his autobiography Going to Sea in a Sieve ( #goingtoseainasieve ), and now that he’s making an appearance in “I’m a Celebrity” I thought this would be a good time to share the amazing story of his female ancestors again.

It came about due to some missing links in the original tree that I researched back in 2005, notably with a number of the women in the Baker Line.  It is a fact that on the average women are generally far less straightforward to trace than men in Family Trees.  There are two main reasons for this; first, historically it has been the norm in most English speaking countries for women to change their surname when they marry, and therefore they suddenly disappear from your line of sight, and secondly, and this is a fact born of years of research not just stereotyping, women have a much greater tendency to knowingly lie about their age on census forms and marriage certificates, especially where there is a large age difference between a woman and her husband.  So there tend to be lose ends to tidy up on the female sides of trees once the main research is complete.

The thing was, Danny’s Great Grandmother and Great Aunts had done a bit of a disappearing act in the archives, and so additional digging was required.  One of their stories would yield a world spanning adventure, but we start with Maria Baker – Danny Baker’s Great Grandmother.

Ma Baker

Maria was a farm girl from Salisbury, daughter of a Dairyman. She had come to London looking for work, which she found as a domestic servant, and she also found Robert William Baker, the son of a Chemist from Kensington and the grandson of Queen Victoria’s Yeoman of the Royal Wine Cellars at Windsor Castle.

Robert William, failed to follow his father into the Chemist’s trade, instead he was apprenticed to a Lamp Maker, making Tin Signal Lamps for the railways.  This came about after a family split, caused by Maria, when she and Robert William started “living in sin” away from the upmarket surroundings of Kensington, in the working class cheaper parts of London’s East End – Bow and Poplar. The couple had seven children in the 12 years between 1877 and 1889, five boys and three girls.  During that time Robert William moved from making signal Lamps for the Railways, to working as a Journeyman Tinsmith in a preserved food factory, i.e. making Tins for canned food, actually a new technology at the time, so not a bad trade for a working class man, but an extreme step down in a single generation, from his Father and Grand Father’s positions in society, and all for the love of Maria.

However the move to the East end was a bad one for Robert William, living down by the docks there was always the threat of serious disease from the living conditions.  Working in crowded factories, with boat born disease from the scores of foreign sailors coming in from exotic climes.  Like the storyline from a Dickensian tragedy, Robert William contracted Typhoid in 1889 the same year that his youngest son Arthur was born, Robert was acutely ill for two weeks and died on Christmas Eve 1889, leaving Maria to fend on her own for her seven children from Christmas Day 1889.  Merry Christmas Maria.

Maria had had twelve happy years with Robert Baker, but now she would need to fight to keep body and soul together, working as a Housekeeper taking in lodgers, with the children recorded as working as shop boys and girls and errand boys from an early age.  Between 1891-1901 the family lived in exactly the same area of Poplar, in Claremont Terrace and Alpha Road.  This area was slowly improving through the 1890s especially around Alpha Road.  The Booth inspectors who chronicled the relative poverty of London at the time, described Alpha Road as being comfortable looking with neat gardens inhabited by Dock Foremen and permanent hands.  Alpha Road can be seen on the map of the Isle of Dogs below, it runs vertically on the left of centre in between West India and Millwall Docks.  So Maria had managed to keep her family’s heads above water in a respectable working class neighbourhood, without the aid of a man in her life, quite an achievement in 1889.

Blond Bombshell

In 1899 Carl Oscar Blom a Seaman from Vastervik on the Baltic East Coast of Sweden,  arrived in the Port of London, and made his way from Poplar Docks to the Scandinavian Seaman’s Temperance Hostel in Garford Street Poplar.  The Scandinavian Seamen’s Temperance home was a famous institution in the Docks, having been opened in 1888 by no less than Prince Oscar of Sweden and Norway.  The Swedish & Norwegian Royal Family were a great supporters of Britain, and of Scandinavian seamanship commerce and exploration, and had the distinction of being mainly of French descent, their Royal House of Bernadotte having been founded by the constitutional appointment of one of Napoleon’s Military Marshals when the Quisling Scandinavian politicians of the time were eager not to be at odds with the little dictator Napoleon, who had conquered and ruled most of Continental Europe until 1815.  The Marshal himself was descended from a peasant farmer, so he epitomised the ultimate rags to riches story.


Carl Oscar Of Sweden and Norway By Anders Zorn – From Emil Hildebrand, Sveriges historia intill tjugonde seklet (1910), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=52378

The Seaman’s home was therefore a magnet for the many Scandinavian Sailors and Officers from ships stopping over in the Docks, and as a consequence of this influx into Poplar of tall, blond, blue-eyed, cash flush sailors, it was also a Mecca for unattached young women, and although in the words of the song “All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor”  many of the not-so-nice girls liked them as well, and the Hostel did receive complaints from Church going locals about the “Ladies of the Night” who flocked around its clients, like bees around a honeypot.

The Mission was in Garford Street, which as can be seen from the map above, was only a short walk North along the River from Alpha Road.  Despite the suspect activity of young women around the Mission, the romance between Maria Baker, the widowed mid-forties mother of seven children, and Carl Oscar Blom, the middle aged Scandinavian Seaman, was likely to have been a much more mellow affair.

scandinavianMissionGiven that the Seaman’s home was a temperance establishment run under strict dour Scandinavian Protestant morality, Carl Oscar would no doubt have been pleased to have made the acquaintance of a woman of similar age, who could provide some affection, and the comforts of home to a sailor who was a long way from home.  For Maria it was a chance to have companionship with a strong man of the world, and to become what she had never been in the eyes of Robert’s family; a respectable married woman.

So Maria saw to it that the relationship with Carl Oscar was respectable or “proper” as the working class expressed it (pronounced “prop-pah” in Cockney, or “prarp-er” in Maria’s slight Wiltshire burr) and their courtship culminated in Banns being read three times in All Saints Church Poplar between 21st May 1899 and 4th June 1899 (while Carl was at Sea) and on his return he was married to Maria on 17th June 1899.  This of course was in contrast to her not marrying  Robert William Baker, despite the love they shared.  Maria had taken her chance to “make an honest woman of herself” in the speech of the day.  She had a ring, a husband, respectability, and a small business.  No one could turn their moralistic noses up at her or her children anymore.

Maria was also very conscious of her age, and reflected this on the wedding certificate where she gave her age as 32, when she was actually about ten years older than this, which says a little about her, in as much as she was probably  quite an attractive woman and could bluff a younger age.  Carl Oscar Blom, her merchant seaman betrothed, was 43.

Carl undoubtedly gave Maria some romance, and probably a little companionship, although not much, as he spent so much time away at sea.  A sailor’s life was a tough one, and within two years Carl had died while on his travels.  Where he died is not clear, although a Seaman off a Swedish Ship called Carl Oscar Blom died in Plymouth Workhouse Devon, of Spinal Meningitis in 1900, however his date of birth is given as 1871, abour 16 years younger than our Carl Oscar, so this may just have been a coincidence.

Robbed of a second husband after another ten years of wedded happiness, Maria never the less kept the family going, she had now lost two partners but still managed to do well by the standards of the time, so much so, that Maria was registered to vote in local elections from 1903, although it would be some time before she could vote in National Elections.  Maria had overcome a double loss to become a woman of means in the area around the docks.

Maria was a born survivor, never a victim, and by 1911 she had setup in a five roomed house at 54 Poplar High Street as a Housekeeper, effectively a landlady running a boarding house.  Arthur Baker, her youngest son, was still living at home, and was working as a Pawn Broker’s assistant, a healthy trade around Poplar Docks.  Her boarders included young Ernest King a Dock’s Customs Officer, Harry Wright a sailor from Surrey, and notably two Danes, Johan Nielson the 80 year old caretaker of the local Danish Church in Poplar, and Henry Julius Otadel who was wealthy enough to be living “on his own means”.


Poplar High Street


So the Scandinavian connection continued, and Maria’s presence as a character in Poplar would continue until August 1930, when she died of heart failure in her seventies, having outlived two partners, seen a daughter die in tragic circumstances (as we shall see below) run a business, and become a well known figure in the Cockney and Scandinavian Community of the London Docks.  In short she lived a long and successful life by the standards of the time.

Maria’s last address was in Toronto Buildings Poplar, these flats had been built by the London County Council (LCC) between 1899 and 1901 in Cotton Street, after land was purchased and houses demolished to make way for the Blackwell Tunnel under the Thames linking Poplar with North Greenwich, although not that attractive to look at, for their time the five story flats were spacious, self contained, better equipped, and sanitary, than what had gone before in the East End.  Next door to Maria lived her ever loyal youngest son Arthur Baker and his wife Beatrice, it was Beatrice who reported Maria’s death.

Interestingly her death certificate shows how family stories contain seeds of truth, but get changed over time; her daughter-in-law Beatrice, knew the basic facts about Maria, but conflated her two husbands, telling the officials that Maria was the widow of “Robert Blom” a Lamp Maker.

Cecilia, tragically following in Mother’s footsteps

Whilst researching Maria, I managed to untangle the tragic story of Cecilia, Maria’s eldest daughter.  She too had fallen out of the records, but I managed to discover that Cecilia had the same taste in men as her mother, at least as far as Scandinavians from the Docks were concerned.  In the early 1900s she took up with a Norwegian called Engle Bjornson, a shipwright. Most likely Engle caught the eye of Cecilia while he was a boarder in her Mother’s guest House, and in 1905 Cecilia and Engle married in All Saints Church Poplar, just like Cecilia’s mum Maria had to her Scandinavian Sailor Carl Oscar Blom.

Work called, and shipbuilding started to focus on the North of England around Tyneside rather than in Poplar, so Cecilia moved North with her husband to Wallsend, where they lived in two rooms in Carlyle Street on Willington Quay.  The couple had a tragically short lived daughter, poetically named Alida Lenea Bjornson, who died soon after birth in 1908.  The shock took its toll on Cecilia, affecting her mental health, which in turn put a strain on the marriage.  Around this time she started to change her name from Cecilia to Selina, with various spellings, as if she were trying to create a new start with a new name.

Things came to a head with “Selina’s” mental Health around the time of the First World War, so much so that in 1918 we find Selina back in Poplar with her Maternal family.  But her mental state became too much for her family to cope with, and having a very unstable young woman in a guest house, was just too much.  Reluctantly  the family agreed to put her into the infirmary in Tower Hamlets Workhouse.  When she was booked in, her second name “Ellen” is represented by an “H” in the admissions book, which may represent the Official’s interpretation of her Cockney accent, they mistakenly assumed that she was dropping an “H” from the front of “Helen” pronouncing it as “Ellen”.  This perhaps is an indication of Edwardian Authority’s attitude towards  the working classes, and her likely treatment, which saw her being sent to Colney Hatch Mental Asylum a few days later, where she died in the same year 1918.

For his part it seems that Engle lost no time in taking up with a local Northumberland girl named Minnie, taking up with her as soon as Cecilia was out of the way, but he himself died within the year in 1919, leaving £132 to Minnie (about £20,000 in today’s earnings).  Minnie was called his wife in his will, but there is no sign that they were ever legally married, so she was very fortunate to have pulled off the inheritance.  Within four months of Engle’s death Minnie with a small fortune in her pocket had married another local man,  she must have made quite a catch.  It seems that relationships in the docks of Wallsend could be taken up and set aside with little room for sentiment.

Shanghai Phoebe

Family history can sometimes throw up some strange and unexpected coincidences that look like echoes of the past, and one of my favourites is in the Baker Family.

Phoebe Jeanette Baker was Maria’s sister-in-law, Cecilia’s Aunt.  She was  the youngest of eight children born to Robert William Baker the Chemist (not the Lampmaker mentioned above, he was her elder brother).

It seems that there was a rebellious streak in the family, shown by the younger Robert William moving away from leafy Kensington to squalid Poplar and marrying Maria the Cow Keeper’s daughter from Salisbury, but this pales into insignificance compared to what Phoebe did.

Phoebe gravitated towards her brother Robert William and his wife Maria, she was not that much older than Robert’s eldest children, so was treated like an older child.  Visiting her older brother in the East End brought her into contact with the mystery of the Poplar Docks, sailors from all over the world, exotic sights and smells from the spices and other cargos coming into the port of London, and the sun tanned hard skinned men from the boats.

Then in 1889 the Docks exploded with the Great Dock Strike, when the Dockers came out en masse to get “The Dockers’ Tanner” – sixpence (2.5p in modern terms) a small reward per hour for the back breaking work they had to do, the strikes lead to violence and unrest in the Docks, and men’s families started to starve, the atmosphere was fragile and sometime chaotic, for Phoebe there were threats to stability nearer to home, as her Father’s health was being dragged down by Bronchitis.

Into this sea of unease besetting the 19 year old Phoebe breezed the 30 year old ship’s Captain Abel Wardlaw Best.  Five feet ten (tall for the time), tanned and well built, with thick brown hair and grey eyes, a strong man fresh from the China Seas, Abel must have turned young Phoebe’s head.

Abel’s Slave owning Family Past

Abel Wardlaw Best was indeed an exotic creature, born in Agra in India, the son and grandson of Barbadan Sugar Plantation Slave owners, and educated in Scotland. His family’s fortunes had initially taken a downturn during the Napoleonic wars in 1808 when Great Britain banned the Slave Trade (but not slave owning) and the Royal Navy intercepted and freed slaves from all vessels including foreign ones. this was followed by the Abolition of Slavery in the whole of the British Empire  in 1834.


Strangely Slavery was never abolished in Great Britain as Slavery had not been recognised as a legal state of existence since before the middle ages.  This was actually defined under English Law in a court ruling, that neither in written law or “Common Law” (the unwritten Law of common practice by the English people) that slavery was never a recognised state of being, and indeed was effectively in breach of an Englishman’s (“man” in it’s original English definition of “a person” not the post Norman definition of a male) right of Habeus Corpus as enshrined since the 13th century, i.e. the English right not to be held against their will without trial.

This had lead to some interesting situations, as legally any slave that set foot in Great Britain could be viewed as no more than a servant, effectively automatically free, and there are recorded instances of the Cockney “Mob” in cahoots with Black Londoners, attacking rich foreign and colonial slave owners in London and their slave catcher agents to spring black slaves from their servitude.  This was such an issue, that no less than Justice Sir John Fielding, the man who developed the first Police force in London, advised American and Caribbean Planters visiting London, not to bring their Slaves with them, as once in London, seeing and being approached and encouraged by the numbers of free black people living in the metropolis, they would not only demand wages, but were likely to run off to get baptised and married, and the Planters could find themselves in mortal danger from the working class populace, “The London Mob”, should they try to retrieve their slaves.

Intriguingly some of these freed London slaves went on to join the Royal Navy and faced the prospect of being part of the Navy’s anti-slavery Patrols, thereby actively freeing up other African slaves.  Even the plaque on the side of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar square in the heart of London shows a black sailor, holding a rifle on the left, on Nelson’s flagship fighting the French.


By Eluveitie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18848707

Once not only trading in slaves, but the owning of slaves was itself outlawed, the Best Family from Barbados received over £7,500 in compensation from the British Parliament  (the equivalent of around £10,700,000 in today’s economic terms) for the loss of their 1,323 slaves.

From Slave Owners to Diplomats

Like many British West Indian Plantation owners, the Bests used their money, and connections to maintain positions of power in the British Empire.  To hedge their bets, a number of plantation families seeded their sons into the British East India Company (EIC), and from there into the British Diplomatic and Judicial  Corps in India.  As well as their money and connections, the Planters’ families could boast a knowledge of trade in goods from the tropics to more temperate parts of the world, as well as a tolerance for tropical conditions generally, and an assumed superiority and willingness to exploit native workers.  The Bests jumped into this world with a certain gusto,  which is how Abel managed to get himself born in Agra.

The family seemed to court adventure, which they duly found in the city of Agra during the Indian Mutiny.  The EIC ran a Private, but British Government sanctioned, Colonial Army in India. The EIC Army was actually three separate Armies, those of Bengal, Bombay, and Madras, numbering at peak over 120,000 men, so one of the largest standing armies in the world.  It was used both to maintain order in India, and to fight wars around the area, including major actions against, Sindh, Persia, China, Afghanistan, Burma, Nepal, the Punjab, and against the Sikhs, as well as providing volunteer officers and men for the Crimean War against Russia (via the Anglo-Turkish Legion).  The largest number of men in the EIC Armies, were local Indians, armed, trained, and paid by the EIC and generally called Sepoys, alongside these there were European, mainly British and Irish Troops under EIC pay.  The entire Officer class were British.


In 1857 the EIC authorities in Agra received news of the mutiny of Sepoys in other Indian Cities.  In response they had the Bengal Fusiliers, the local EIC British Troops, disarm the local Sepoy Troops.  This was despite the fact that for two months the Sepoys had shown no sign of rising in revolt, despite the uprisings in other cities.  In May 1857 6,000 refugees; British Families from the surrounding area, poured into Agra, this was triggered by unrest and rumours amongst the Indian population on the back of the general uprising against the East India Company in Delhi.

Disgruntled at having been disarmed, and faced with a massive influx of panic stricken British refugees, the local Agra Sepoys attempted a brief uprising in June 1857, probably more for effect than in any organised military manner, and lacking the arms of the EIC British troops, they were driven off and the British holed up with their civilians in the Fort at the heart of Agra.  The Bengal Fusiliers sealed off and defended the Fort before any serious violence could occur, and the displaced Sepoys set up a half hearted siege, it seems almost pandering to a kind of wish fulfilment for the panicked British civilians.


The farce started to turn into a crisis due to the crowding of British and other European civilians in Agra, not because of shortages of food or water, but more because of fear and a lack of medical supplies.  But the fear was real for good reason; the Sepoys in other areas did have a reputation for shocking treatment of captured men, women, and children, so the British Bengal Fusiliers held the City doggedly, driven by fears for the women and children.  Many of the Sepoys lost interest and headed off for the siege of Delhi, which was a much more dangerous and exciting affair.

Delhi was eventually relieved by the British, who then sent a flying column of battle hardened British, Sikh, and Punjabi troops, to Agra.  Contrary to popular myth, many Indians and other local troops including the Sikhs, Punjabis, and Gurkhas, stayed loyal to the British, and were a major factor in putting down the uprising.  The relief column when it turned up at Agra, was initially treated with disdain, mainly because they had taken to wearing rough Khaki uniforms (the first time British Khaki was ever adopted by British soldiers) much more practical than the Redcoats that were generally worn.  The British civilians in Agra, seeing this mixture of deep tanned men of various racial backgrounds, covered in dust with worn and bloodstained clothing, initially thought they were an army of invading Afghans, and for their part, the Flying column was surprised to find the Bengal Fusiliers in Agra resplendent in unblemished red uniforms with immaculate white cross belts, as if on parade rather than under siege.


The British column was initially attacked in camp at Agra by Sepoy artillery followed by a cavalry charge, but the British, Sikhs, and Punjabis, were battle hardened regulars, they formed ranks held the Sepoy attack, counter attacked around the Sepoy flanks with Cavalry, drove the Sepoys off, then followed up, catching them at  aRiver crossing where they tore the Sepoy ranks apart with Artillery fire, and routed them with a final Cavalry charge.  The siege was over, order and British rule were restored, and the Best’s settled down as part of the ruling elite, with Abel Wardlaw Best being born there on 24th March 1859.

Abel Takes to the Sea

His parents decided to send Abel back to Scotland for schooling, bt by the age of 15 it was felt better to send him to a Naval training ship, HMS Conway, in Liverpool.  He graduated from here to the Royal Naval Reserve as a Mid-Shipman, but unable to find gainful employment, the restless young man at the age of 20 became a second mate in the Merchant Marine.


where he graduated to a Naval training ship, may have been a very wilful young man, ran off to London and worked on ships till he got his Master’s certificate.

After this Abel was off to sea, working his way up to a ship’s Captain in the South China Seas. His travels brought him back to the Port of London and it was here that he met Phoebe and swept her off her feet.

Phoebe Shanghaied

Robert William Baker had given in to love rather than follow the demands of his Middleclass Family when he married Maria Clerk, in so doing he swapped salubrious Kensington a perhaps life as a middleclass Chemist, for an albeit skilled working class existence as a Lamp maker to live by the docks in the East End.  Seeing love triumph amid the adventure of the Docks, Phoebe set her mind on finding her own romance the way her older brother had.

Being wilful and young, just 19, she was literally Shanghaied by Abel, who whisked her away from London and her Family to the other side of the world.  The effect on her Mother and Father can only be imagined.  Robert William and Anne must have been horrified, their youngest child taken away to the ends of the earth by a 30 year old hard bitten Ship’s Captain.  And of course, the shame of it.  Their eldest son having lived in sin and raised a family out of wedlock in the docks, and his influence had corrupted their youngest child, leaving her captive to the whims of an older man in a ship on the South China Seas!

On a more prosaic level we can believe that in Phoebe and Abel’s eyes, they simply had their honeymoon first, and their marriage after.  When they got to Shanghai in China Abel did the decent thing, and on  15th April 1889 they were married in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Shanghai.


Cathedral of the Holy Trinity Shanghai

That same year 1889 her beloved older brother Robert died of Typhus in Poplar, and by 1897 her father had also died.  By 1898 Phoebe and Abel were living in Hong Kong, where Abel was working for The Taikoo Sugar Company, once again sugar played a part in this story. Abel was a Wharfinger (Harbour Master) at Quarry Bay.  An important job, where Abel would be responsible for the goods and storage on the docks, as well as the docking of ships, and settling disputes between ships Captains and crews, in keeping with his position Abel was also a Juror in the Hong Kong judicial system.


Tai-Koo Docks Hong Kong 1903

Phoebe and Abel, had no children during their marriage, and despite having run off and lived with Abel in China for some years, life away from home living in the strange environment of ex-patriot Shanghai and Hong Kong, a staggering change for a girl from Kensington, would have lead to some homesickness, especially as Abel was often away at sea Captaining Merchant ships between Swatow, Singapore, Saigon and Bangkok.

After she heared of her Father’s death, Phoebe sailed back to England to spend some time with her Mother and sisters. So we find Phoebe living in Hammersmith with her maternal family in 1901, where her mother lived off a pension from her her dead husband’s estate, whilst her sisters worked. Undoubtedly Phoebe was much better off than her mother and sisters, Able had both family money and had built up a good business of his own, so she no doubt helped her mother for a while. She must have seemed like a strange exotic creature now to her family, having lived in places they could only dream of and would never visit.

Abel did his best, and decided to move to a country more conducive to Phoebe, where she would feel less alienated; the USA.  Abel arrived in New York in April 1905, Phoebe left Liverpool on 1st June 1906 and arrived in New York on 10th with £70 in her pocket.  This would be the beginning of Phoebe’s next big adventure.

Alexandra Baker in California


Echoes of Family History

Our story now takes an even more interesting turn.  When I put together a Family History, it’s not just a dry chart full of names.  I always work from the point of view that all those people that once lived, and without whom we wouldn’t be here, have the right to have their stories told, otherwise they are just remain non-existent; telling their stories brings them back to life and a Family History adds to a Family’s dignity and helps explain their place in the world.  The actions of our ancestors echo across the centuries in what we are and what we do.

So it is always nice when members of the families I produce these works for get in touch to discuss what I’ve found, perhaps do some research of their own, and, very, very, occasionally, become part of the story by unconsciously living a life of adventures that mirror those of their ancestors, showing that both Genes and Memes are passed through the generations.  This is what makes the Culture, the Folklore, and the Mythology of a Family.  For me, when this happens, it’s like finding a rare gem.

This was what I would find when I was contacted by Alexandra Baker, Danny Baker’s niece, who had some questions about The Baker Family Story.  Alexandra is a successful Music promoter in California, the CEO of High Rise Public Relations, who started out in Kent and South London, and made her way in the tough world of the Music Industry to her current success, with acts as diverse as Boy George and The Maccabees.  Just like Phoebe, Alexandra starting in the South of England, travelled to New York, and then to California forging success in a hard world.

Phoebe in the USA

So, Phoebe had followed Abel to New York and then to California.  This made sense, Abel’s experience was predominantly in the South China Seas, so a California base was what was needed for Able, and something useful to do was what was needed for Phoebe, and sure enough we find Abel and Phoebe living at 251 Winston Street Los Angeles from 1907 when Abel becomes a naturalised American citizen.  By 1910, perhaps having taken another lesson from her plucky sister-in-law Maria in Poplar, Phoebe started running a boarding house at the Winston Street address while Able was away.


Los Angeles early 1900s

Winston Street was full of boarding houses, providing clean decent lodging for the burgeoning workforce of Los Angeles.  As well as Phoebe and Able, there were lodging houses run by a Japanese Family with Japanese lodgers, an Austrian Family with Austrian lodgers, and American Families with American lodgers, plus a German and his American family living in their own rooms.  Phoebe and Able had two American lodgers, a salesman and a mariner.  All the neighbours except the Austrians and Japanese spoke English.  Years later in the 1930s the area would begin a slow decline as the richer owners moved out and slum landlords moved in.  It is now the skid row area of Los Angeles, and is becoming gentrified again.

A Rancher’s Wife

Phoebe and Abel move up in the world by 1917 when Abel is recorded as a Rancher.  Abel would have been 58 by then, so long stints at sea were probably less attractive, and there was a boom in demand for food driven by the Army’s requirements for suppliers for the millions of soldiers shipped over to Europe, and to fulfil demand from Great Britain for food now that so many men were in the trenches rather than in fields.  It was a lucrative business.

The timing was interesting as it coincides with a business consortium buying up large areas of relatively cheap Ranch Land, that had been subject to drought in previous decades, the day before the City of Los Angeles passed a bill to build and aqueduct to bring water to the area, and unsurprisingly a major member of the syndicate was also on the committee that passed the bill!  The ranch land after initial development for food, soon became prime building land and was sold off in “the sale of the century” to allow for urban development on the suburbs of Los Angeles. It would appear that Able was in the right place at the right time.

But the ranching and speculating life didn’t suit the marriage of Able and Phoebe, and the couple divorced sometime between 1917 and 1920.  Abel gave up ranching, and lived in the Harvard Military School in Los Angeles, possibly teaching seamanship, interestingly the ceremonial uniforms of the boys were confederate Grey.


Sometime after 1920 Abel went back to sea and headed once again for Hong Kong – he had cashed in his chips, and invested his small fortune in stocks and shares, there was nothing to keep him in California anymore.

Phoebe and an Irish Soldier

In the 1874 when Jeremiah Joseph Hannon travelled as a teenager from Ireland to the Town of Milford, Worcester County, Massachusetts with his parents and younger brother and elder sister, he had little idea of the adventure his life would turn into.  The civil war was over in the USA and there was plenty of work in the North for those willing to take it up, Jeremiah worked with his Father repairing Boots for the local Shoe shop.

Having crossed the Ocean, hammering nails into boots seemed like an anticlimax, and Jeremiah set out West in search of adventure.  He was 6 feet tall with blue eyes, black hair, and a rosy complexion, and by 1892, in his early thirties, Jeremiah had made it to California to work as a Fireman on the Railroad in Los Angeles. A Fireman’s lot on a steam Train was a hard one, shovelling coal into the train’s boiler to keep the steam up and the engine rolling, it built hard strong lean men, but it was endless toil, and once the excitement of travelling the country by train had worn off, Jeremiah craved more adventure.

A game of International Chess by US vested interests

In 1898 when when Jeremiah was around 40 a new opportunity for adventure presented itself.  With the blowing up of the American warship The Maine in Havana Harbour, the Spanish American War burst onto the scene.  Spain had been losing power on the world scene since the Peninsular War in the early 1800s when The Duke of Wellington assisted by the Portuguese, and by Spanish guerrillas, had thoroughly defeated Napoleon’s forces in Spain.  Years of civil strife followed, fuelled by the Anarchist movement in Europe.  Late in the 1800s Spain gained some stability, but the previous weakness at the centre of Spanish politics and the successful overthrow of Spanish rule in Mainland South and Central America had encouraged liberation movements in far flung colonies, notably Cuba, The Philippines, and Guam.  Most of these places had been under Spanish rule for around 400 years, and Cuba in particular was thought of as a Province of Spain by the Spanish rather than a colony (a parallel to the British attitude towards Ireland).

At the same time there was a movement to expand America’s interests on the World Stage by a number of powerful men in American public life, the US had already mounted an illegal invasion of Hawaii in 1893, this came about because of civil unrest carried out by a fifth column of US Sugar Planters and Missionaries living on the Island over a period of decades (sugar once again in this story).  The US invasion, unsanctioned by the US Congress, and therefore to all intents and purposes illegal, was hastened by the fact that the Hawaiians had always leaned towards Great Britain for protection in the past, to the point where the British Government had provided troops and ships in 1843 to protect the Islands from the French, honourably pulling out after a few months when the danger had past, in stark contrast to the US approach in the following decades.  The legacy of this Hawaiian-British relationship is defiantly proclaimed in the Union Jack flag still flying in the corner of the Hawaiian state flag!


After the invasion the Monarchy of Hawaii was replaced with a puppet Republic largely controlled by US Commercial (Sugar) interests, but this was too precarious for the expansionist forces in the USA, and in 1897, shortly before the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, an attempt to officially annexe the Hawaiian Islands was put before congress and defeated, the defeat in part driven by pressure from the signatures of 21,000 native Hawaiians protesting at the attempt to rob them of what little sovereignty they had left, but a year later, given the likelihood of war with Spain, the US desire for a naval base in the North Pacific was too tempting a prize to be left un-stolen, as the USA would badly need a stopover point for resupply en-route to the Spanish possessions in the Philippines if they were to in consider an invasion.  So all pretence of protecting the independence of Hawaii was dropped, and an annexation bill was passed, effectively robbing Hawaii of any chance of independence and self determination.

A confrontation with Spain was guaranteed when ships from the newly developed and highly powerful US fleet were dispatch to various Spanish areas of interest, culminating with the sinking of the Battleship Maine in Havana harbour killing over 260 of her crew.  At the time the blame was firmly placed on a Spanish mine by the US authorities, but later investigations point towards an explosion caused by the poor quality coal used on the ship which gave off a high flammable gas in in the area of the ship’s ammunition magazine.  Whatever the cause, the sinking of the Maine ensured that War would be the likely outcome with the Americans adopting the slogan “Remember The Maine, to Hell with Spain!”


Explosion Aboard the Battleship Maine, Havana Harbour

Not wanting to miss out on the adventure, Jeremiah enlisted on May 16 1898 at Little Rock Arkansas, into the 2nd Regiment of Arkansas Infantry, and after basic training, no doubt because of his age and Railway experience, Jeremiah was transferred to the 3rd US Volunteer Engineer Regiment and shipped to Cuba.  After a few weeks he returned to the US and was disbanded.  By this time Jeremiah had a taste for Army life and adventure, and re-enlisted within two months for a chance to fight in the Philippines in the 33rd US Volunteer Infantry.

The War in the Philippines against the Spanish took very little time and few casualties on the American side.  The main Spanish garrison in Manilla had little stomach for the fight after seeing their slightly antiquated fleet sent to the bottom of Manila Bay by the vastly superior US Fleet, and offered to put up a token resistance just to save face, as long as the US forces didn’t allow their Filipino insurgent allies take control of the town or molest the surrendering Spaniards. There was some confusion, and some units of US soldiers were involved in heavy fire, but overall the “attack” went as planned.


If anything it went too well, as, now in possession of the Capital the US Government decided that rather than handing the Philippines back to the Filipinos, they would replace the Spanish themselves and rule the country as a colony.  It was no surprise that the Filipinos didn’t take to this idea, and immediately opened a guerrilla war against American forces as they had for many years against the Spanish. The war was barbaric on both sides, fought in the jungles and villages of the Philippine Islands, and was a foretaste of conditions in Vietnam 60 years later.  However, the US forces were so well armed and provisioned that it was a forgone conclusion that they would eventually overrun Filipino resistance.  There was some outcry through allegations of looting, burning, and killing out side of battle by US soldiers, and to a great extent this was sanctioned by their higher command.

Jeremiah was in the thick of it, his Regiment the 33rd were known as “The Texas Regiment” because they were apocryphally believed to be cowboys, which was undoubtedly true of some but not all the volunteers, but it shows the general demeanour of the regiment who found themselves fighting through the Jungles of the North of the Island of Luzon, where they were instrumental in capturing and killing many important Filipino senior guerrilla leaders.


33rd USV Philippines

In 1900 Jeremiah was based in Bangued, and town named by the Spanish and meaning “Roadblock” in recognition of the obstacles the Filipinos had put in their way when Spain was conquering the country nearly 300 years before.  The US forces suffered comparatively few casualties to action in the Philippines, but many more due to disease, and Jeremiah was no exception to this. He left the regiment in December 1900, and in 1903 when back in the USA.

One thing that can be said for the US Government of the time, they did look after their injured veterans well.  Jeremiah was shipped to The National Home for volunteer disabled soldiers, Battle Mountain Sanitarium, Hot springs, Fall River, South Dakota.  He was suffering from acute Arthritis anterior sclerosis, an inflammation of the eye associated with arthritis, which was leading to atrophy in one of his eyes, plus rheumatism, a hernia, varicose veins, sciatica. Jeremiah was in a bad way.


Hot Springs Sanitarium

By 1909 Jeremiah had made some progress and is well enough to be discharged to the home of his elder sister Mrs Mary McCarthy in San Francisco, where he plans to be a farmer. Whatever the results of this, we next find him working as a cook in The National Military Home in Los Angeles in 1916. He remains a cook for some years there, with a brief spell in 1918 when he is readmitted to the Sanitarium for his health. Sometime between 1917 and 1922 Phoebe met and married Jeremiah after her separation from Abel. The two live in Kiowa Avenue Los Angeles in the Sawtelle Veteran’s accommodation, and we can only assume happily, as Jeremiah, was hardly a catch given the state of his health and his lowly status, so it was most likely a love match between him and Phoebe. The even voted the same way; Republican!

The Veterans home had a noble pedigree, and had even housed Wyatt Earp’s father in his later years.  Indeed Wyatt Earp lived with his family in Los Angeles, not that far from Phoebe during her time there.


Wyatt Earp Los Angeles Resident

Phoebe and Jeremiah would stay in Kiowa Avenue until Jeremiah eventually passed away in 1932, still an invalid, suffering from pneumonia, he had also contracted TB quite possibly in the Philippines (TB can take decades to kill after an initial infection), which lead to many complications including gangrene in his left foot. The care Phoebe must have provided for him can only be imagined, and with this care he at least managed to live to the relatively old age (for the time) of 75.  Their love must have run deep, Phoebe had given up a life of wealth to live with a wounded veteran, as they say, love conquers all.

Later Years

In the same year that Jeremiah died, Abel returned from Hong Kong to England, 19th August 1932. He had amassed a good deal of money during his time at Sea and invested $8,000 (somewhere close to $500,000 in today’s value) in Stocks and Shares, only to get hit by the Wall Street crash of 1929, after this he was quoted as saying “Chinese Pirates and dope smugglers are a picnic compared to the Bulls and Bears of Wall St.”. He was left. as he put it, “…finding that my share dividends would not buy me a cup of tea daily.” so returned to England to live quietly in retirement in The Royal Alfred Home for Aged Merchant Seamen in Belvedere Kent.

His last quote was concerning the political situation in Europe with the rise of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco; his verdict was;

“If I had my way, I’d treat some of these Continental fellers like we used to treat Chinese dope smugglers – hang ’em.”

Nine years after his return on 28th February 1941 Abel died. He left £101 in his will, about £16,000 in today’s money. He is buried in St Clement’s Church, Cambridge, UK.

Phoebe outlived both of her husbands, stayed on in the apartment in Kiowa avenue as the widow of a Volunteer Serviceman, and she died on 28th February 1944. Her grave shares the same plot as her beloved Jeremiah at South Sepulveda Boulevard Los Angeles, California.

Life Comes Full Circle

And so we come full circle.  Having spoken to Alexandra Baker, Phoebe’s  Great Great Niece and exchanged some information about Phoebe, I was delighted to see that Alexandra and her cousin took the time to find Phoebe’s memorial in California to pay her respects, from a pair of modern “Amazing Baker Girls” to the original one!




(If you would like your Family tree uncovered, it costs from £300 for a full surname line, and makes for a great present, you can contact me on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk )

David Bowie

David Bowie

The Family History of

David Robert Jones

aladdinsanebowieAladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)

Aladdin Sane was the title of an Album and single released by David Bowie at the height of his fame in the 1970s.  The title was said to have been inspired by both his regard for his brother who suffered from schizophrenia, and by the decadence and hedonism he saw amongst young people in the 1970s.  The dates in brackets represented the theme of the song, the eve of the two World Wars, when decadence was at its height, and the 197? date represented what Bowie saw as the coming World War in the 1970s (which most of us who can remember, believed was more likely than not against Russia and China at the time).

But his family had a more personal tie to these dates.  Many of us now in our 50s and 60s had vicarious experience of the Wars through our parents and grand parents, and Bowie was no exception.

A South London Beckenham/Brixton Boy whose History came from Yorkshire

Although born and breed a South Londoner, Bowie (Real name David Robert Jones) had his family roots much farther North.  The earliest verifiable records of his Jones family come from the village of Wykeham just inland from Scarborough in Yorkshire.  The Joneses were Agricultural Labourers, the most common, and poor, occupation of all British working class ancestors in the 19th century.  They were on the bottom of the social heap in Wykeham right through the 1700s and into the mid 1800s.

Some of the family managed to get themselves a little land and farm it, and this helped David’s line as it meant that his Great Great Grandfather, Charles Jones, could find employment on his brother’s farm, where, hopefully, he would be less exploited than with another farmer.  However, by the 1860s Charles was working on the roads, hard unforgiving work for hard strong men, and an odd choice in a county where there was generally plenty of agricultural work, so Charles probably took up road building for short term gain when the parishes and local landowners decided to upgrade and maintain the local road system and needed to compete on wages to find men to do the work.  Charles lived out his life in Wykeham apart from a short time in Hutton Buscel the village in walking distance where his wife Elizabeth Marriner came from.  Charles never rose above a Labourer’s level on the roads and fields around Wykeham.

Go West Young Man- LEEDS!

Joseph Jones 1851 – 1918 (David Bowie’s Great Grandfather)

Charles son Joseph  got a break in the early 1870s, he became apprenticed to a shoemaker, and shoemaking would be the making of the family lifting them out of their breadline precarious existence.  After serving his apprenticeship in Wykeham, Joseph moved to the industrial magnet of Yorkshire; Leeds.

Joseph married Ann Haywood, a Power Loom Overlooker’s daughter.  This was a step up in the world, Joseph Haywood was effectively the foreman in a weaving factory, and Joseph Jones must have shown some promise to have been able to marry the man’s daughter, and sure enough this is reflected in the fact that Joseph Jones is no longer a Boot maker, he is by 1881 a Boot maker’s cashier, the first of his line to have lifted himself above low wages and manual labour.  The indication is, that for all he was a labourer, Joseph Jones’s father Charles Jones, had made sure his son got an education, even before it became compulsory in 1871, he could read, write, and do arithmetic, very unusual for a labourer’s child born in a rural area in the 1850s.  That one fact would make all the difference to how the family would develop in all the coming generations.

Charles worked for decades in his Cashier’s job, he rose from cashier to a Management position in the company.  he was able to provide very well for his family, living in the same nine roomed detached house, Townend House in Bramley for or 35 years, with his Mother-in-law living alongside them after the death of her husband, and the family being able to afford a live in maid for all that time.  No doubt the Jones family were good to work for as one maid, Edith Watkin, stayed with the family for over a decade.  Joseph lived long enough to retire by the time he was 60 in 1911, none of his immediate ancestors had come that far.9townendhouse

His life seemed settled, successful, and fulfilled, but that was on the eve of The Great War.

Success and Tragedy

Robert Haywood Jones 1882 – 1916 (David Bowie’s Grandfather)

Robert was the third child of Joseph and Anne Jones, growing up in Townend House Bramley with his parents, three brothers and three sisters, and his maternal Grandmother in a strong and stable middleclass family environment.  His parents believed in education the way his Grandfather had, and Robert went to the Central School, and progressed further to the Central Higher Grade School, so he was destined for white collar work like his father.

Robert went into Boot dealership on the sales side rather than making boots the way his father had started, and worked for a number of years for the Mansfield & Sons Boot Dealers of Leeds, but he was ambitious and successful, and moved on to become proprietor of his own company The Jubilee Boot Company of Doncaster.

Robert married a local Doncaster girl, Zillah Hannah Blackburn, a millwright’s daughter, in 1909, she would be the love of his life, and he of hers. The following year they had a daughter called Roma, and in 1912 a son called Stenton Haywood Jones (David Bowie’s father).

Everything in the couple’s life was good, good prospects, two children, a boy and a girl, and close family on both sides.  Then a shot rang out in Sarajevo that rocked the world, The Great War had begun.


Up until 1916 there was no conscription in the British Army, but with the ever burdening loss of life brought about by modern weapons and poor leadership at the front, conscription was needed to stop the Allies being overwhelmed by the Germans.  Initially in January 1916, only single men were conscripted, but within a few months conscription was rolled out to married men as well.  Robert was therefore in a position where despite his settled life with a wife and two young children, he like thousands of others would either need to enlist and have some choice in the regiment they went to, or be conscripted and sent to any Regiment that was short of men.  So Robert enlisted on 5th July 1916 into the 2nd Battalion of The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI).

The KOYLI put Robert through two months of basic training, let him kiss Zillah and his babies goodbye, and shipped him to France on 27 September 1916 with the British Expeditionary Force.  less than two months after this, on 18th November 1916, Robert’s unit was thrown into the very last offensive of the Somme Campaign.

At 6.10 on that dark winter morning the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry stormed up a ridge to try to capture the German trenches code named “Munich and Frankfort”, about a mile north east of Beaumont Hamel.  Robert and his Yorkshire Pals attacked headfirst into a mire of shell holes and mud, through sleet and snow that turned to driving rain as the temperature of the day rose above freezing point.  They hit a reinforced German strong point in the Munich Trench, and were cut down and forced to halt their advance and open a fire fight with the defending German units.

So confused was the situation in some sectors that one party of British soldiers pushed past a German strongpoint without seeing it in the mist, only to find themselves attacked in the rear by the surprised German defenders, who surrounded them, and called for their surrender.  Although cut off and outnumbered the Tommies refused to surrender and fought to the death, their bodies were found after the battle in a small concentrated heap where they fell in their last stand.

About a hundred and twenty British troops, including two Privates and an officer from Robert’s Battalion of the KOYLI, did managed to reach and take part of the Frankfort trench, where, completely cut off and surrounded by counter attacking Germans, they held out on their own for an incredible eight days, fighting off determined German attacks, with scavenged weapons and ammunition and a couple of Lewis guns, resorting to hand to hand combat with bayonets and rifle butts towards the end.  On the seventh day of the siege, the Germans approached with a white flag, and offerred to take their surrender, the offer was refused, so the Germans shelled the position, and followed this with a massed assault from all sides and overran their position. The survivors only contained fifteen men who weren’t seriously wounded, and most of these were too weak to stand.

Robert was probably cut down by German machine gun fire during the initial attack up the ridge, where he was seen by his comrades wounded, but still alive . By nightfall on November 18th 1916, the survivors of the British attacking force largely fell back to their own original lines, leaving their dead and wounded behind.  Robert was left with the other wounded and dieing on the muddy slopes of the ridge.  Death came to these men in the mercifully quick form of bleeding to death if they were lucky, or in the more agonising form of thirst and cold over many days if they were unlucky.  The wounded would have tried to crawl back to their own lines, but the ground was appaling, one officer was quoted as saying that this was the only engagement he had seen during the whole of the war where men were literally dieing from exhaustion of trying to haul themselves out of the mud.  It was just under four months since Robert had been happy at home with his wife and children.

Despite the incredible bravery shown by British soldiers of all ranks in the assault, through mud, mist, sleet. snow, driving rain, and a hail of machine gun bullets, the operation ended in a costly failure.  The British had lost over 400,000 casualties in the Somme Campaign for the gain of a strip of land six miles deep and twenty wide.beaumonthame1

The news when it arrived back in Doncaster to Zillah with young four year old Haywood and six year old Roma was devastating.  The love of her life was dead on a muddy slope, due to a futile attack, on a bitter cold morning.  It was too much for Zillah, and she died three months just before Valentine’s Day in 1917, her heart broken. She was thirty years old.

Orphans with an inheritance

 Haywood Stenton Jones (David Bowie’s Father)

Because he was still listed as missing rather than dead, Robert’s effects weren’t finally disposed into administration until 1920, when he was declared officially dead by the War Office.

The children’s guardian was Frederick Blackburn, Zillah’s Father, he had received a small pension of just over £2 per from the War Office for looking after the children, and in 1920 £225 7s as the sum of Robert’s worldly goods, the equivalent of about £23,000 in today’s average earnings.

Once he reached 21 in 1933, Haywood received an inheritance of £3,000 from a trust fund that had been set up for him by his Father’s family.  £3,000 in 1933 was the equivalent in  average earnings of £500,000 in today’s value.

The 1930s were a period of old endings and new beginnings for Haywood, his guardian Fred Blackburn had died in 1923, passing on a small inheritance and much responsibility to Rowland Blackburn his son who worked in the Boot making business.  Joseph and Ann Jones their other Grand Parents on their father’s side of the family were gone, Joseph in 1918, and Ann in 1933.  So Haywood Stenton Jones, having been given an inheritance decided that there was little to keep him where he was, and instead decided to follow his hearts desire; Show Business!

The Smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd.

The money was burning a hole in Haywood’s pocket, and he fell in with an Irish Impresario, James Sullivan, with an attractive daughter Hilda Sullivan, who sang, danced and played the piano, a natural performer.  One thing led to another, and Haywood got himself a Theatre Troup, that went bust, followed by a marriage to Hilda, and the purchase of a West End Nightclub in Charlotte St, named the “Boop-a-Doop” club to show off Hilda’s talents.  This venture also failed, and the pair had to seek employment.  This put a strain on the relationship, Haywood turned to drink and had an affair producing a daughter called Annette, who, remarkably, Hilda agreed to raise as their own.  Finally the drink affected his health and Haywood was forced to consider the mess he was in.  The result, apparently inspired by a dream, was for Haywood to get a job working for Dr Barnardo’s Charity, caring for orphaned children,  Haywood would successfully remain in their service from the next 35 years.


But during his time with Hilda World War Two happened, Haywood, like his father Robert, left his Family and went to war, in his case in the Royal Fusiliers, serving in North Africa and Italy.  The difference this time was that Haywood would survive.

On his return, he lived with Hilda, but met a girl named Margaret (Peggy) Burns, with whom he started an affair.  Peggy had a colourful past, already having had two children through affairs, the eldest, her son by a French Jewish émigré, (David Bowie’s half brother Terry), was idolised by Bowie as he grew up.  The couple carried on their unconventional relationship, by actually living with Haywood’s wife for a while, before Hilda had enough of the situation, told them to leave and granted Haywood a divorce.  On the back of this Haywood and Peggy married in 1947, a few months after David Robert Jones (David Bowie) was born to the couple.

Aladdin Sane

Which brings us full circle. Knowing the intimate background of David Bowie’s family life through three generations, explains his fixation with in the Aladdin Sane Album of hedonistic young people being plunged into the hell of war, it had happened to his Grandfather and his Father, and he probably believed that the same would happen to him in the 1970s.  Thankfully it didn’t, and we were blessed with a further  40 years of his brilliance.


Published in: on January 31, 2016 at 5:44 pm  Comments (2)  
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Warren Mitchell and his Jewish Misell Ancestry


The great British actor Warren Mitchell passed in November, which was a great shame.  He was well known to the British public of a certain age for his portrayal of “Alf Garnet” an outspoken East London working class  character, who ridiculed bigotry by holding it up to the spotlight and showing it as laughable.  One of the long running jokes in the series was that his put upon wife would knock him back into place when he started on an anti-semitic rant by pointing out that he was Jewish, and that his Grandfather was called Solly Diamond, much to Alf’s anger, frustration, and denial.  This was a case of art immitating life, as Warren Mitchell was in fact Jewish himself, born as Warren Misell in 1926; of course the irony was deliberate.

Time Detectives couldn’t let Warren’s passing go unmentioned, so, what was the mystery of Warren Mitchell’s (and perhaps indirectly Alf Garnet’s) Jewish Misell roots?

Cromwell and Illegal Immigrants

The Misell’s were a long established Jewish family, with records going back to the early 1600s in England, indicating that they were part of the clandestine Jewish community that lived and traded in England, technically illegally, as the original Jewish community had been outlawed since the time of King John in the 1290s.  However, more records for the Misells start to appear after 1660 indicating that they could act more freely in the community  after Oliver Cromwell relaxed the the overtly anti-Jewish Laws in 1655 that had been in place before the English Civil War.  Cromwell did this after an approach from Menasseh Ben Israel, a Rabbi from Amsterdam.

Menasseh_ben_IsraelLike everything Cromwell did, it wasn’t done for religious tolerance and brotherly love, rather he did it for purely pragmatic reasons; the Jewish population of Amsterdam was very rich, and well able to act as agents for loans, and, being a regicide Cromwell was in desperate need of finance to help rebuild the country after the Civil War.  Although Cromwell couldn’t revoke the original laws banning Jews from England, due to massive opposition from various, mainly religious, opponents, he made it clear that the law would not be actively enforced, which then allowed the Jewish community that was already clandestinely in the country, practice their religion more openly, and they in turn were joined by many hundreds of Jewish Merchants and their families, predominantly from the Low Countries and Germany, as well as Spain and Portugal.

Georgian London and Ipswich

We catch up with Warren Mitchell’s Misell line in the Georgian period of the early 1800s, during the Napoleonic Wars, when Amelia Ansell (Warren Mitchell’s Great Great Great Grandmother) married into the Misell Family via an Isaac Misell in 1809, and bore a number of children in Ipswich, David , Moses, and Benjamin, between 1809 and 1818.  From the 1700s the Ansell family had been important in the Jewish community of Ipswich, having helped to get the first Synagogue and cemetery built in 1795/6.

During this period many working class jews in London put their religion to one side publicly, although most would still have practiced privately, in order to fit in with employment and social norms, in fact some jobs were not open to Jews as it was not possible at that time to be a Freeman in a trade guild in London and the rest of the UK and also be a non-Christian, so to be publically Jewish and carry on a trade, you were on your own, having to operate outside of the recognised Guild system.  This the Misells did, going into trades like Art dealing, that needed no Guild backing, just good connections, and a great understanding of net worth to buyer and seller.  being Jewish also meant that there was potentially a ready market to pick up works of art at knock down prices from Jewish refugees fleeing from the Revolutionary terror in France, and then the Napoleonic wars raging across the continent, in Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.

The Napoleonic Wars brought some respectability to Jews in Gentile London Society, especially as many Jewish volunteers flocked to the colours to help fight Napoleon, to the extent that the Royal Family visited Beavis Marks Synagogue to give thanks and to be entertained by the Chief Rabbi, who had given dispensation to the volunteers, in order to be able to fight in the army, to swear the Protestant oath of allegiance and on the Bible, but cleverly on the Book of Leviticus rather than the New Testament. Unfortunately some prejudice still existed, and the visit was lampooned by caricaturists.  synagogue

However, with the end of the Napoleonic Wars, and the rise of more industrialised Cities such as London, Manchester, and Liverpool, the axis of trade and wealth in England began to change, and much of the Jewish community followed it.  Amelia herself had been born in London (Middlesex) and the Misell family had returned there in about 1819, and it was here that the next three children, Woolf, Joshua, and Julia were born.

Social Rise in Salford

The elder brothers David, Moses, and Wolf made a move to the bright lights of Salford in Manchester, industrialisation had brought big opportunities to Manchester, and the brothers gravitated to wards it, hawking and selling initially on the streets, living in lodgings, and competing with the already well established old Jewish families of the area.  These old families controlled the local Jewish community and trade, which made it hard for newcomers to break in to society, and most failed, but the Misell brothers were smarter than the average, and managed to get a foothold, rising from hawkers and street traders to merchants in their own right, Woolf and Moses dealing in art, and David opening a Tobacconists with his wife Caroline.  This may have been because they had the advantage of dealing in more upmarket produce like Art which could be sold for higher gain to middle class buyers, rather than than the common cheap goods usually hawked in markets and on the street to working class customers.

The other thing the brothers had as an advantage was that they stuck together, even when dealing in different areas of the market, they could always guarantee to back each other up and at the very least provide support and a roof over the heads of each other’s families, this in the mid 1800s was a big advantage.  The brothers all married girls from Jewish Families, Jacobs, Solomons, and Isaacs.  The Brothers’ families became established in Manchester; David and Benjamin set up as Tobacconists, Woolf and Moses as Art dealers, they all did well, most having live in servants, mainly from the Irish Community.

In 1846 David went so far as to partner with a german Jewish immigrant, Julius Seelig, to get a copyright issued for their development of “London and Cumberland prepared black lead pencils” which they held in a warehouse and sold through a network of 17 agents, refusing to sell through smaller hawkers.

But all things must end, and in 1863 David died and left the Tobacconist shop in the capable hands of his wife Caroline, whilst Moses returned to Islington in London, to eventually retire.  In the meantime Woolf the youngest brother had moved to Liverpool setting up as a watchmaker, and his elder brother Benjamin came by whilst working as a travelling merchant, whilst keeping a foothold in Manchester with a Jeweller’s and Gentleman’s outfitters.  Whilst the brothers travelled for their trade and to broker deals they stayed with each other, their children’s families, and their wives families.

We now come to an interesting fact, Moses Misell’s eldest son Montague Misel married David Misell’s eldest daughter Rachael, his cousin, which means that the two brothers are both Warren Mitchell’s Great Great Grandfathers.  Not that uncommon an arrangement, and common in communities that wish to keep both religion, and importantly, inheritance within the close family.  It does pose some risk with genetic diseases, as two carriers of a recessive gene are more likely to pair up if closely related, and this is reflected in the number of such diseases that show up in both the Jewish and Pakistani Communities in Britain to this day, where first cousin marriages have been more common.

Montague Misell, Warren Mitchell’s Great Grandfather, Made a living from the Art  World dealing in Fine Art, he had been born and raised in Manchester, and had prospered in the middle class community, to the extent of joining the local Masonic Lodge in 1878, where he would have made many lucrative connections for a Dealer in Fine Art. These connections reached as far as New York USA where Montague had visited in his dealership in 1865, where he was described as a “Peddler 4th Class” and paid $2.50 in tax to the government for his activities over a 3 month period, before returning to the UK and marrying his cousin, so his son family prospered with him, he had ten children with his cousin Rachael, although Rachael would die prematurely in 1898.  Montague would bring three of his sons, Hayman, Alfred, and Joseph, into the Art Dealing Business, and his eldest son David would join a Manchester Masonic Lodge like his father, but would be apprenticed into the Chemical Industry as a Merchant.

Hayman (also called Hyman) would carry on life as a Fine Art Dealer, travelling around the Manchester area, staying in cheap boarding houses with Labourers and other Travelling Salesmen, and even spent a two week stretch in a Manchester Workhouse in 1910, possibly due to ill health whilst on the road.  He married out of the faith to a local Manchester girl.

Crime and Punishment

Montague’s third son Alfred had ups and downs of his own, being arrested in Manchester in September 1910 “Having on 17th June, 1910, by means of false pretences, unlawfully obtained from Margaret Gillibrand, a certain picture, with intent to defraud.” He was found not Guilty and Discharged.  No doubt the difference between a smart deal and a fraudulent one could be small, and sellers with less knowledge than buyers would often feel hard done buy in retrospect, a hazard of Dealing in Art. Alfred would go on to lie about his age (saying he was 6 years younger) and religion (claiming to be Church of England) and join the Rifle Brigade in London at the ripe old age of 40 in 1914 at the outbreak of War.  What his wife and seven young children thought of this is anyone’s guess, but his age caught up with him, and he is discharged as “Medically Unfit” during basic training.  Undeterred he re-enlists in 1915 initially with the Manchester Regiment, later transferred to the Lincolnshire Regiment, and is promptly sent to Calcutta in India as part of the Garrison there, mainly consisting of older and less able soldiers in reserve Battalions, who would have found life at the front too much to handle. Alfred spends three years in India, manages to get disciplined in 1916 for “washing plate & basin on upper veranda”, then goes on a bit of a binge in 1917 and is confined to barracks for 14 days for 1. Using obscene language to an NCO, and 2. being Drunk in his bungalow,  a month later Alfred is found guilty of being drunk in barrack room and creating a disturbance, for which he gets another 14 days.  Eventually Alfred comes home in 1919 with a dose of Malaria for which he receives a small army pension until 1921, suffering a 30% disability.

Montague’s youngest son, Samuel, was a Dealer, and was and all together different kettle of fish, he had numerous run ins with the law, starting in 1921 when he was in his thirties, when he was convicted at Bow Street London of stealing two cases of rings getting 6 months inside for that one, in 1925 he stole a ring and got 4 months in court in Manchester, the same year he was convicted of Gaming (gambling) at Strangeways and bound over to keep the peace, then in 1926 3 cases of larceny (theft) for which he received 3 months, 1927 12 months from a Salford court for Housebreaking and larceny, 1928 one month at Wrexham for “Frequenting” which could mean a number of things legally, but may have meant he was loitering to with intent, i.e. casing a place to rob, 6 months in Buxton for stealing a medal and a ring in 1928, and 9 months for shopbreaking in Manchester in 1930.  He sported a scar above his right eyebrow and across the right hand side of his neck, all in all, he was a piece of work.  The rest of his upstanding middleclass family must have been appalled by him.

The Family in Canada

Benjamin, one of the younger sons, seems to have fallen out with his Father and elder Brothers after his Mother’s death, he went from a fairly low level job as a Tailor’s cutter, to running away from home down to Gosport in Hampshire, about as far away from Manchester as you could get without leaving the country, where he enlisted in The King’s Royal Rifle Corps in January 1904, once he had reach the age of maturity.  This didn’t last, and the following year he was “Discharges for Misconduct” a dishonourable discharge, which would have meant no reference, and no chance of finding anything but the most menial of jobs.

Benjamin stayed in touch and held a strong friendship with his younger sister Rosie (Rosalind) but there was little else to keep him in England, and by the end of 1905 he had jumped a ship bound for Halifax Nova Scotia in Canada, with the aim of heading for Winnipeg Manitoba in the Canadian Mid-west, to work as a general labourer, a massive difference from his Fine Art Dealer Brothers and Father!  Manitoba as a destination seems random, until we see that his Great Uncle Wolf had gone there with his family some years before.

Whether Benjamin ever meets up with Wolf is unknown, and he next turns up volunteering for service in Canadian forces in WW1, after having spent a short time in Princess Patricia’s Militia.  He is 5ft 4ins, black haired, dark brown eyes, and with a dark complexion, he claims to be Church of England, and is covered in tatoos a “Young America” tatoo across his chest, a girl with a Union Jack flag and a Ship, “Ben & Rosie” on his left arm, and Princes Patricia’s Regimental Crest on his right arm, and lastly two clasped hands above a heart on his right arm.  He had also had an old injury of a burn scar in the centre of his back, 1915, he was working as a waiter.  After joining up in Canada further records cease for Benjamin.


In 1874 Woolf was operating in Montreal as a fine art importer and raised his family as a respected member of the local community.  One of his sons went into the Tobacco trade as a travelling salesman, and joined the travelling Salesman’s Lodge of Masons, so the family in Canada carried on the recipe for success that had worked for them in the UK, Travelling Sales, Tobacco, and the Masons, with a background Business in Art Dealing for Patriarch of the Family.


While Wolfe, his family and Benjamin were in Canada, David Misell, Montague Misell’s brother (Warren Mitchell’s Great Grand Uncle)  had headed for the USA around 1870, lived in New York, Boston for a while, then back to Brooklyn New York.  It is likely that he was able to do this off the back of the connections made by his brother Montague in his trip to New York 5 years previously.  David worked variously as a Lawyer, Lithographer, and Electrician, but his claim to fame is that he invented the Falshlight as we know it nowadays. He started inventing in the 1880s with a new design for an Electric Battery, followed by an Electrically Illuminated Clock and an Electric Cigar lighter in 1894, and electric light in 1895, an electric signalling light in 1896, a bicycle lamp in 1898, a lamp for a gas lighter, and the first functional Flashlight in 1899, see diagram below.  These were the first Flashlights used by the New York Police Department.1899_Eveready_flashlight

flaslightPatent_617,592His design was later improved upon after the sold the patent, and the the company he sold to went on to become Eveready, the huge multinational electrical company.

David himself lead a good life in new York, he married a Jewish girl from the West Indies, Zillah Stine, a few years after arriving in 1876, and lived through to 1920 when he died and was buried in Manhattan.

The other David Misell, Warren Mitchell’s Grandfather

Returning to Warren Mitchell’s direct line, we come back to Montague Misell, Warren’s Great Grandfather, the Fine Art Dealer, he had gone bankrupt in 1908, mainly due to heavy gambling losses on flat racing at the horses, especially in Ascot week.  He returned to London to live with his family and for a time sold off his paintings, and his wine seller to pay off creditors, before eventually returning to fine art dealing in later life.  Montague’s eldest son, David (Warren Mitchell’s Grandfather) the Chemical Merchant and Freemason, unlike his flighty brothers who got tattooed and travelled to Canada, or wound up in the courts, David carried on working as a travelling salesman and Chemical Merchant moving from Manchester down to London around 1899, where he made a reasonable middleclass living without all the excitement and drama of his brothers.  Unusually for the time, the family had an Indian Student named Jalal boarding with them.  He had married Rebecca Cohen, from a Jewish family in London, they had 7 children, 4 boys and 3 girls.

One of his sons, Solomon, would serve in the Royal Flying Corps in WW1, joining up as soon as he was old enough, which, fortunately for him, turned out to be 1918, so he served for six months as a Cadet Pilot, then a Pilot, and a Senior Pilot, before the war ended.

Montague Misell, Warren Mitchell’s Father

When he died in 1957 David left his disposable cash a £228 to his son Montague, Warren Mitchell’s Father, a Glass importer.  Montague lead a slightly more colourful life than his father.

Montague’s first wife, and Warren Mitchell’s mother, was Annie Luberoff, the Hackney born daughter of Woolf and Nancy Luberoff, Woolf having been born in Merlekoff, Kreson, Russia in about 1857, Woolf was originally a Cabinet maker, then a Fishmonger, after passing on his trade to his sons.  Woolf had brought his wife and children to England in the early 1890s, where the family prospered and grew.

During ww2 Montague worked as a Supply Officer for the Ministry of Aircraft Production.

Unfortunately Annie died in 1942 leaving Montague £591 in her will, and the following year Montague married Sigrid Corbet, Sigrid was a widow, originally called Sigrid Mann, the daughter of Saul Sigmund Mann and Bonna Mann.  Sigrid’s father Saul Mann was originally from Cracow in Poland, at the time a subject of the Austrian Empire, and he and his family were naturalised as British Citizens in 1911, the naturalisation Certificate being granted by none other than Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill.  They had come to the country in about 1905, and ran a boarding house down by the Docks in the West India Dock Road.  Obviously they had some means when they arrived, and were wary of sounding too Jewish, claiming to be Swedish and Danish in the 1911 census, and boarding many Scandinavian and German sailors in their lodgings. Interestingly Montague’s daughter Betty (Warren Mitchell’s sister) married a member of the Mann family at the same time as her Father in Edmonton, so the families may have been close for a while.

Warren Mitchell

Warren was brought up in an Orthodox Jewish Family, but never had much time for religion when he was young, and was an Atheist when he got older.  This is perhaps best illustrated when he bunked off from Synagogue to play football for his school team, and when they won 3:0 he asked “So where’s the thunderbolt?”.  he abhorred all forms of religious fundamentalism whether Jewish, Christian, or Islamic, and had no time for religious ceremonies, especially not Christmas.  However he was always culturally Jewish, despite changing his name early on in his career to sound more like a gentile.

He study at Oxford University, but left early to join the Royal Airforce, like his Uncle Solomon had in the First World war, and then took up an acting career, encouraged by his friend from the RAF, the actor, Richard Burton.

Although he played many serious roles in a long career, he will always be best remembered for Alf Garnet, where art imitated life.








Time Detectives solve “Mystery of 1920s books found in a Hereford school cupboard”

A recent news story from the BBC caught our eyes recently at Time Detectives, it concerned the fortuitous discovery of a set of school exercise books from 1927-1930 at Aylestone Business and Enterprise College, and contained the work  of a pupil named Mona Stonyer.  In itself the piece was interesting as it let the current pupils compare the precise neat, well written work of the 1920s, with their own endeavours.  On the face of it an interesting story, but for me it begged the question of “Who was Mona Stonyer, and what happened to her?”  Of course Time Detectives can’t resist a mystery, and will never let a sleeping dog lie,  so here’s Mona’s story.

Mona; Hard Work out of Adversity

The exercise books show that Mona was a diligent student, and she did come from a reasonably stonyercrashaffluent background, but her family had suffered a great deal of adversity in her young life, and she had had to overcome this.

The story comes from various local Newspapers in the area.  On the evening of Saturday 18th September 1926, a year before the date of the exercise books, Mona was involved in a serious motorcycle crash in St Owen street Hereford.

Mona’s Father William Jukes Stonyer was riding his Motorcycle and sidecar combination with Mona on the pillion seat behind him, and his wife and elder daughter Ruby in the sidecar.  He was riding behind the car of one of his employers a Mr Thyne from the local tile factory, when Mr Thyne indicated with his arm out of the car window for William to overtake him.  Unfortunately as William overtook his boss’s car, a lady on a bicycle rode up on the other side of the road, this made William swerve to the right, across the road, where he mounted the pavement and smashed into a Street light.  This was in the days before the compulsory wearing of crash helmets, and the result was that although the mother Ellen and sister Ruby were relatively unharmed in the sidecar, both Mona and her father received serious head injuries and Mona also badly injured her legs.

Bystanders took Mona and her Father to Hospital, but William died before he got there, and Mona was in a critical state.  one split second accident had caused him to lose his life in a Hereford street at 56 years of age, and almost cost him the life of his youngest daughter at 13 years of age.

It’s not known how long Mona remained in a critical state in Hospital, or  what effect the injuries had on her later life, but by 1927, the earliest date of the exercise books, she was back in school and would leave a legacy for future generations to find.

An Intelligent Family

Mona showed determination in the face of adversity, but she had a good start in terms of intelligence and also example from the family , both nature and nurture.

Georgian Millwrights, the Engineers of their daymillwright

The Stonyer family originated in the Kidderminster and Worcester areas of Worcestershire where Mona’s Great Great Grandfather John Stonyer married Susanna Evans in 1819.  They had two sons, William (Mona’s Great Grandfather) born in 1820 and John, born in 1821. John was a Millwright, a highly skilled job usually for a specialist carpenter, who also understood mechanics, could generally read and write and do arithmetic, in other words an educated and intelligent person, not a simple labourer.  Of necessity Millwrights were to some extent itinerant, in pre-industrial days before Manufacturing Mills became commonplace, John Stoner would have travelled around the County or farther afield working on the small individual Mills to work on or help build.

John would have had a good living as long as the work was available, and that would be his challenge, well paid when in work, but where was the work?  And it would seem that the place to find the work was London.  By 1830 the family had moved to Bermondsey, Lambeth, South London, or strictly speaking the Surrey shores of the Thames in what would become South London some years later.  It must be remembered that they did this a decade before Railways started to become commonplace, so would have either travelled by Stage Coach, or just possibly by barge down the widespread inland canal routes.

So why a Millwright in South London?  Well South London had been the birthplace of Mill Labour on an industrial scale with the Albion Flour Mill, as well as Mills for draining the local marshes, Lead Mills, Tanneries, and various mechanical works on the docks and building sites of this fast growing area.  Work for skilled Millwrights was plentiful, and we find John Stonyer described as a Millwright and Shipbuilder with a Deal Yard (Wood Yard) in Grange Road Bermondsey, which came close to burning down in 1836, but was saved by the timely intervention of the local volunteer fire service.

turnpike-00296-640Grange Road itself was described at the time as one of the Prettiest Roads in Bermondsey, despite being in the proximity of the notorious Jacob’s Island, where Dickens writing in 1837, exactly contemporary with the Stonyers living there, placed the lair of Bill Sikes where he would eventually meet his demise by falling from a rooftop into the mud below.Jacob's_Island_-_Folly_Ditch_at_Mill_Lane,_circa._1840

Victorian Millwrights and Engineers

Work was so plentiful that John Stonyer’s sons, William (Mona’s great Grandfather) and John followed him into the Millwright trade, but by the 1840s were tending to be referred to also as Engineers, implying they were involved in more than traditional Mills, and most likely dealing with Steam Engines as well as the traditional Wind and Watermills.  It was just as well that the brothers were quick learners and established in the trade by their late teens as their father John died in 1841, when they were 21 and 20 respectively.

Business went well for the brothers, and they stayed in the Deptford and Lambeth areas of South London during the 1840s where they both married and started to raise families, then in the 1850s the brothers moved to Clerkenwell North of the Thames in Central London, an area that was home to a number of Industrial Companies producing Stationary Steam Engines, which would have provided skilled engineers with steady work.

By the 1860s the elder Brother William (Mona’s Great Grandfather) decided to move with his wife and teenage children (daughter Ellen Louisa and son William Edward) back to his birth area of the Midlands, first to Worcester and then to Leominster, where he kept up work as a more modern Mechanical Engineer.

The younger brother John stayed in London and raised his own Family there.

Late Victorian Fitters and Pillars of the Community

William Edward Stonyer, Mona’s Grandfather, settled eventually in the Whittington area of Hereford, and spent forty years working in the local Encaustic Tile Works as an Engineer and Machinist on steam Engines in the works, the Engineer’s role requiring good design skills, and the machinist role needed a keen eye and steady hand, rather like the work that Mona would produce in her school work some years later.

William Edward married Elizabeth Jukes, and Elizabeth, not content to be a Victorian Housewife, ran a Grocer’s shop with her daughter Edith Elizabeth, so would have been known to everyone in the local area.  The Family were doing well, their sons Harry Edward Stonyer and William Jukes Stonyer (born in 1869 and 1870 respectively) were well educated and went into good middleclass jobs, Harry Edward was an Invoice Clerk eventually working for the Inland Rvenue, and his brother William Jukes (Mona’s Father) followed his Father and Grandfather becoming a Fitter and Mechanical Engineer, and like his father, at the local Tile Works.

Mona’s Family

So Mona was brought up in a stable middleclass environment, with a skilled professional Father in a good job, who was from a long line of logically minded skilled designers and craftsmen, her Father William was also a pillar of the community, he had been the secretary of the local Withington Football Club, and the local Flower Show, as well as organist in the Church for thirty years.  William Jukes worked at the internationally renowned H G Thynne Tile works, and this would indirectly cause his death, as it was the owner of the works, Mr Thynne, who had signalled him to overtake the car he was driving, which lead to William crashing his Motorcycle and sidecar combination.

On her Mother Ellen’s side an independent woman who ran the Family Grocery Store, and her aunt Edith would go on to run a Boarding House.

Mona inherited both her family’s intelligence and gift for producing clear precise design, along with the examples of success through many generations of the Family.

Modern Times

Mona never married.  She carried on living with her Mother Ellen at 4 Grove Lane Hereford, until her Mother died in 1959, her Mother leaving Mona her entire inheritance as Mona’s elder sister Ruby had died in 1949, again unmarried.  Mona was still living at 4 Grove Lane at least into the early 1980s.

As neither Mona nor her sister had children, and neither did their Aunt or Uncle, it seems that there are no close relatives left to admire the work she did, but at least her life is no longer a  mystery.

You can see the BBC news Story of Mona’s Books by clicking the link below:


If you’d like to have your Family History researched by Time detectives, feel free to drop me a line on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk

Tom Hardy; Taboo his Family Tree

 Hardly Tom Hardy, more Tom Egmore

Tom_Hardy_Cannes_2015To celebrate the launch of the new Tom Hardy series Taboo on Saturday nights, we’ve taken a look at Tom’s real wandering relatives, and it makes for quite an adventure.  Read On.


During the time that Taboo is set, a distant cousin of Tom Hardy who won free passage to Australia via a trial for theft in the 1800s.

William Sidney Egmore born in 1802, was a Postilion (an outrider on a large train of horses pulling a wagon or stage coach) and an Ostler (working in a Coaching Inn or Tavern).  In 1835 William was charged with stealing a Gelding worth £5 an apt crime for someone who looked after horses for a living.

William Egmore was convicted, and sentenced to transportation for life for a first offence.  He was sent to Kings Lynn Gaol for holding, then on to the Prison Hulk Ganymede moored just off the coast, finally he was boarded on to the good ship Moffatt which set sail for New South Wales in Australia.

From the prison records we know that William Egmore was 5ft 6ins tall, with brown hair turning grey, bald on top of his head, and brown eyes.  His complexion is described as dark, ruddy, and freckled.  He had had a hard time of it in gaol and on the prison hulk, this is reflected in his records as having a tooth knocked out, and a scar across his left knee, bizarrely his gaolers also noted that he had a particularly hairy chest!  William obviously behaved himself in Australia as by 1844 Whe had earned a ticket of leave (conditional freedom) only to die five years later.  However this Egmore was a distant cousin, not a direct ancestor of Tom Hardy.  They were another story.

Brickies and Coalmen

(Nicholas Egmore and Richard Eggmore the “Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather”, and “Great Great Great Great Grandfather” of Tom Hardy)

Tom Hardy, genetically according to his paternal line should actually be named Tom Egmore, as he is a direct male descendant of the Egmores in an unbroken Y chromosome line, which immediately gave us a mystery; why the Hardy surname?

The story starts in Norwich, Norfolk in the mid 1700s, where there was the Eggmore family, eventually to become the “Egmore” family as their name was re-written over the years.  Egmore is an extremely rare and distinctive Norfolk name, it comes from the Hamlet of Egmore, now called “Egmere”, lying in between Fakenham and the coast, a tiny quiet place, not that far from the aptly and wonderfully named “Little Snoring”.  Egmore had forty seven people living in it in 1832.

From the 1760s into the early 1800s Tom Hardy’s Egmore ancestors were Bricklayers and builders of some standing.   Nicholas Egmore started his apprenticeship in 1769, once qualified he trained up his son Richard in the trade.  Richard would surpass his father in his skill.  Some of Richard’s finest work, was carried out in 1817 at Snettisham Old Hall, where his fine work went into the entrance porch, hall, north staircase with cast iron balusters, tented plaster ceiling and cornice.  This work is associated in payment accounts as work by “Richard Egmore, builder”.

Despite his skill, Richard was declared Bankrupt in 1825 whilst carrying on businesses as a Builder and Inn Keeper at Snettisham, and he eventually turned his back on building to try his had at the trade of a Coal Merchant, where he was relatively successful for some time (and there are still Egmores selling Coal in Norwich to this day).

Richard had two daughters and a son born between 1807 and 1821.  The son was baptised Randal Egmore.  Richard was ambitious and moved into speculating as a middle man, a Commission Agent for the Sale of Coals, but overreached himself, let down by his customers, in 1843 he was forced  to apply for Bankruptcy, and ordered to travel to London to answer to the Commissioner Joshua Evans.  This put Richard in a bad place, and the strain showed, by 1847 his wife Raechel had died, and he followed her a year later.

Mad, but as a Hatter

(Randal Egmore, Tom Hardy’s Great Great Great Grandfather)

While Richard’s business as a Coal Merchant had been doing well, he had earned enough to let his son Randal get into a more genteel trade of a Hatter, which in some ways was good, given Richard’s eventual bankruptcy in the Coal business, but had a hidden downside not known at the time.  The phrase “Mad as a Hatter” was not coined without good reason, and the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland represented the worst case of industrial malady.  Hatters spent a lot of time in enclosed workshops, treating beaver skin hats with mercury to give them a beautiful sheen.  Unfortunately the fumes from mercury are poisonous, but they take their time to poison.  A Hatter would breathe in the Mercury fumes for many years slowly being poisoned by them, this would lead to bouts of madness and an early death.

Randal was a Methodist of the more politically active dissenting variety, and lobbied for the repeal of the Corn Lcornlawaws in 1845.  At that time there had been a failure of the potato crop (the same as in Ireland) and corn prices were being held artificially high to keep out cheap foreign imports of grain.  This combination of crop failure and high prices for bread  meant that whilst the poor were starving, the corn merchants were becoming rich.

Randal’s religious and political conscience, would not let him rest in the face of such injustice, and his witnessing of the rapid demise of his father and mother once they fell on hard times, lead him to take the major step of giving up his Hatting trade, and devote himself to Missionary work amongst the poor in Norwich.  Randal became the Superintendent of the Norwich City Mission for over a decade from the 1850s to the 1860s, a responsible and charitable job for a solid middle class man of principle.  The Mission did Missionary work within Norwich preaching the Gospel and bringing comfort to the sick and poor.

For all his good works The Lord showed little mercy, Randal’s  years as a Hatter eventually caught up with him and he died in 1862 aged only 48.

The Sons of a Preacherman

If Randal was the epitome of a genteel middle class Victorian Christian social conscience, his sons were something else.  Having lost their father whenthe eldest  son Edward Joseph was 13, and Arthur his younger brother  was 4, they lost their Methodist Lay Preacher Father who spent most of his time organising the care of the poor and needy, perhaps to the neglect of his own children, and his loss robbed the boys of a responsible male role model.  The boys lost no time in going off the respectable rails as they grew up in the 1860s.

Edward Joseph Egmore (Tom Hardy’s Great Great Grandfather)

Edward Joseph being the eldest boy, had a lot of responsibility put onto him to help keep the household finances above water, his Mother did her bit working as a School Teacher to bring some money in.  It appears that Edward Egmore was literate and wanted to make money for his family, and being personable, he became a commercial traveller selling stationary and other provisions.

Trying to do the right thing by his family opened up the door to a world of temptation he hadn’t known before as the son of a Methodist preacher.  He was now independent, self reliant, and persuasive, travelling to places where he wasn’t known, and where there was no one to judge him, a heady mix for a young man with some money in his pocket.  Edward thrived in the role, spending his twenties and early thirties travelling and selling unmarried and staying in a boarding houses in London, he had a fairly carefree life, his wife and sisters back in Norfolk, and his younger brother by now off in the Army.

Then came the summer of 1882 and a trip back to his family in Norwich when Edward hooked up with a young housemaid, Elizabeth Hardy, and sure enough this liaison lead to Elizabeth becoming pregnant.  This was not what Edward wanted in his life, and initially Elizabeth has the baby without Edward’s support, leaving the father’s name blank on the birth certificate.  Elizabeth is however smart and spirited, so she follows a convention adopted by many single mothers in the nineteenth century, when the Father’s name is known but he won’t take responsibility for the child, she gave the baby his father’s first name and surname as first name and middle name on the birth certificate, the boy born on 21st March 1883 and named “Edward Egmore Hardy” by Elizabeth.  Whatever pressure Elizabeth could bring to bear, it obviously worked as later in 1883 Elizabeth Hardy and Edward Joseph Egmore are married in Norwich.

The marriage was a difficult one, although it is obviously consummated as a daughter is born in the following year.  But Edward had a wanderlust born of many years of independence on the road selling, and a wife and children would be a burden to his independent spirit, so much so that in January 1884 Edward took off for Australia.  Yarra_Street_wharves,_Geelong_(c._1878)_by_Fred_KrugerHe landed in Victoria working again as a Traveling Salesman.

It’s possible that Edward intended to send for Elizabeth, but circumstances would suggest otherwise, as, spirited woman that she was, in September of 1884, she followed him out under her own steam with their daughter as a babe in arms .

This was a massive undertaking for a lone woman with a baby who had never left Norwich before.  It also  smacks of desperation, especially as she left her infant son Edward Egmore behind.  Young Edward Egmore Hardy was left with Elizabeth’s Brother Michael and his wife Annie.  Elizabeth couldn’t leave her youngest child as a baby, and to take both children would have cost much more and been hard for her to cope with, so the decision was taken to leave little Edward behind.

Elizabeth was determined to find her wayward husband, and on 17th September 1886, she manages to persuade the Victoria Police to put out a warrant for his arrest on the charge of desertion of his wife.  This works as Edward eventually returns to Elizabeth, and the warrant is dropped.  The warrant is interesting as it describes Edward as “having a slight build, fair complexion, brownish hair, a broken nose, with a moustache, and wearing a black coat, light trousers, and a boxer hat”. The couple live for a while Geelong, Victoria, where they had five more children between 1889 and 1894, including twins, a total of three girls and two boys, although sadly one of the twins died as a baby.

After the birth of their last child, Edward again takes to his heels, and this time leaves the state fleeing to New South Wales, around the Darlinghurst area.  Edward’s life goes downhill from there.  Without the steadying factor of his wife and children, he is arrested five times between 1894 and 1901, variously for being drunk, hawking without a license, and using obscene and insulting language, most likely to the arresting officer.

For a little bloke of 5ft 6ins (his wife thought he was a little taller at 5ft 8ins) with a slight build who had already had his nose broken, he had an awful mouth on him, and seemed always up for trouble.  He spent various spells of between a few days and a month in Jail, but is rollicking days were numbered.  By 1900 he had a scar on his chin and was nearly blind in one eye from his drunken the drunken fighting.  He lasted a little longer, but in 1907 he died in Liverpool NSW Australia, aged just 58.  Elizabeth and the children stayed in Australia, Elizabeth would live into her seventies and died in 1928.  The young Edward Egmore Hardy, left in England, never saw his parents again after his mother took off to find his father in Australia.

Arthur John Egmore (Tom Hardy’s Great Great Granduncle)

Edward’s brother had a slightly less raucious, but equally unpleasant story.   Arthur joined the army in 1878 and served through to 1881, when he was discharged  due to showing symptoms of syphilis, notably giving him a perforated palate.  According to the Army he’d contracted syphilis about 18 months before joining the army, so when he was about 18, so like his older brother, had already sampled the female delights of Norwich at a young age.  The boys’ Methodist Father would have been turning in his grave.

Syphilis ended Arthur’s promising career in the army.  A shame as Arthur had already  been promoted to Sergeant after a couple of years, and been posted to Cork in Ireland.  But the Syphilis was a ticket out, so he was “invalided out”, and sent back to Civvie Street.  Within two years of leaving the army he was married.  1883   turned out to be the same year that both brothers woulkd get hitched.  His wife was a local Norfolk girl, Julia Reavell. The couple started a family straightaway.

Nothing daunted, in 1884 Arthur followed the example of his brother Edward and moved abroad.  In Arthur’s case he took his wife and children with him and moved to the USA, initially to New Jersey, and then to Philadelphia.   Interestingly he gave a false name to the shipping company as “Andrew” rather than “Arthur” Egmore, perhaps a clerical error by the purser, or perhaps an attempt to disguise his identity, perhaps Arthur was running from some circumstances in England?  In any case Arthur worked as a salesman in Groceries (Dry Goods) when he first went to the USA, no doubt his English accent and military bearing set him apart.  He then found work as a Clerk for many years, and a manager in 1901, but there is an anomaly in as much as he listed himself as a solicitor in 1896, perhaps he was working as a Solicitor’s Clerk, or perhaps his Syphilis was affecting his brain, as was often the case in pre-antibiotic times, he may have been slightly delusional.

This possible mental tension is backed up by the fact that his wife took the children and steamed back to England in 1893 and 1899, and stayed in England for some months each time.  In 1910 Julia was admitted to a sanatorium, most likely as a result of Tuberculosis, but possibly she may have also Coming backcontracted syphilis from Arthur.  Arthur lived alone during this time, and claimed to be a widower.

Arthur’s health worsened, and in August 1910 he died of Pneumonia.  Julia his wife returned once more to England in 1913, but went back to America and worked as a Housekeeper.  A few years later her Tuberculosis flared up again and after three weeks in hospital she died.  Their children had made their own lives in the USA and stayed there.

The Boy they left behind

In The Navy

edwardegmorehardysailorWe now come back to Edward Egmore Hardy, Tom Hardy’s Great Grandfather.

While his father and mother, brothers and sisters were off on the other side of the world in Australia, young Edward Egmore Hardy, was left with his Aunt and Uncle rural Norfolk.  Perhaps this was meant to be temporary until Edward could be brought out to join his parents, but given his father’s way of life, that would have been wishful thinking.

So his Uncle and Aunt, Michael and Annie Hardy were left with their own two children as well as young Edward, a struggle, made worse when Michael Edward’s Uncle died in 1890, when Edward was just ten years old.  His own parents having abandoned him, Edward now lost the man who had brought him up as a father.

Edward did what he could to help with the dire state of the household budget, but work was hard to come by and at the age of fifteen he was working as an errand boy.  An errand boy’s was hardly helped to cover his own keep, so on 31st August 1898, the 5ft 1ins fifteen year old boy with brown hair and blue eyes, volunteered for the Navy. Three years later in 1891 he is onboard HMS Resolution anchored in the harbour at Gibraltar.

Edward only got to sea foreign shores in peacetime manoeuvres, he never had to fire a shot in anger, and steadily moved up through the naval gradings from boy 2nd class, to boy 1st class, to ordinary seaman and finally able seaman, his character was very good, and he made up for his diminutive stature by being bright.  His brains were recognised as an asset by the Navy, and got him posted to home waters on various tenders and training ships culminating in HMS Vernon, where he learned the new technologies of Mines, Torpedoes, and Ships’ electrical apparatus, all for a war that didn’t come

Call The Fire Brigade

On the 31st March 1905 after seven years before the mast, Edward Egmore Hardy left the Navy,  and went back into civvy street.  Edward had literally grown in stature by seven inches to 5ft 8ins during his time in the Royal Navy, reflecting on how poor his Aunt had been and how undernourished Edward had been.

Edward had also grown in professional stature given his extensive training, good character, and steady service, so it wasn’t hard for him to land a job within a month in the London Fire Service based out of Norwood in South East London as Royal Navy Tribe and the London Fire Service Tribe were closely tied, and the London Fire Brigade had originally been manned almost exclusively with ex-Royal Navy Sailors.  It was considered that ex-sailors were very able in the role due to their familiarity with climbing to heights, working with ropes, and taking orders.  A second major factor was that fires were common in the many of the warehouses and docks in London along the Thames shoreline, due to the storage of highly dangerous and inflammable merchandise there, but due to the narrowness and crowded nature of the dockside streets, the only way to attack the flames was often from boats on the River Thames.

edward hardy fireman

Edward Egmore Hardy seated far right front row


Edward spent his first month in Drill Training, then transferred between various Fire Stations in Central and South London, Holborn, Poplar, Battersea, Tooting, and West Norwood.

It was while living in South London in 1907 that Edward met and married an Irish girl from Tipperary, Catherine Theresa Sargent.  Two years later they had a son, Patrick.  Tragically Patrick died at the age of two, to be followed a year later by his mother Catherine.  Edward had lost his son and become a widower at the young age of 29.  He threw himself into his work in the Central London Fire Stations, and finally ended up at the London Fire Brigade Head Quarters to study the Steam Class of Engines that were supplanting horse drawn engines.  These machines replaced muscle power of animals and men to propel themselves, pump their own water, and even turn a dynamo to generate electricity for night time work with spotlights.  But the year was 1914, and the War that Edward had trained for in the Royal Navy, had finally happened.

Years of training finally rewarded

All the time Edward is in the fire service he was also a member of the Royal Fleet Reserve (RFR) so liable to call up in the event of war.  It is this call to arms in 1914 that must have given his life a new sense of purpose after his recent tragic family loss.  It is no surprise therefore to see that he couldn’t wait to get back into the Navy to do his bit. But before he does, he married his new sweetheart Maud Edith Samme at Portsmouth.

edwardegmorehardyandwifeBy August 1914 Edward had left Maud in Port and was serving on HMS Europa the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet, he spent seven months onboard her, but fortuitously was transferred off when she steamed out to the Dardanelles.  His experience was considered more valuable in a thinking role, and so instead of the heat of Turkey, Edward took his electro-mechanical knowhow to Portsmouth, spending time in research on Torpedoes and other weapon systems, serving there through till he was demobilised in 1917.

Given the poor start he’d had as a boy, his Naval career was a great reward, giving him comradeship, skills, and, it must be said, a chance to do his bit in the war without too much risk, and good luck to him!

Fire Brigade Again, and again

Edward was qualified in the specialist area of Steam Class appliances in the Fire Brigade, and his service for King and Country was appreciated when he returned from active duty in 1917, as he was welcomed straight back into the Fire Service working in the Docks of Wapping, Shadwell, and Rotherhithe.

He retired from the London Fire Brigade after nearly twenty eight years of service in 1932.  His retirement was briefly interrupted at the start of WW2 when he went back onto the London Fire Brigade listings for a month in 1939.  Edward would live a further ten years until 1949.

The quiet life

Edward and Maud had three children between 1916 and 1926, the middle child was a boy names Edward Thomas Hardy, born in 1918, he was Tom Hardy’s Grandfather.  Unlike his father, Grandfather, and others in his direct line of descent Edward Thomas Hardy lived a less adventurous life.  He worked as a Clerk in the Port of London Authority, the overseers of the Docks in London, living in Ealing West London from the 1940s through the 50s and 60s, before retiring to Devon.


So quite a story through the generations, and it explains why Tom is a Hardy rather than an Egmore, it leads to the intriguing conclusion, that if your surname is Egmore, you are most likely to be related to Tom Hardy, especially if your ancestors are from Norfolk, Australia, or the USA.  Perhaps his character in Mad Max, and his own history of hell raising is an echo of a meme that was passed along with the Egmore genes?

If you’ve enjoyed reading this article, and would like your own Family tree researched and written up, feel free to drop me a line on paulmcneil@timedetectives.co.uk or tweet me on @timedetectives.  Single surname family trees cost £300 and take 4-8 weeks to complete with factual report and certificates.

Submarine E15

Gallipoli, James Bond 1915 style, from Peckham to a Turkish Prison Camp

Chimney Sweeps and The Workhouse

On 12th March 1887 Henry William Trimmer was born to a family of Chimney Sweeps, he was my Grandmother’s brother.  He was the 4th Henry William in a direct line of henry Williams. His Father, Henry William the 3rd had been born in Leytonstone workhouse, one of the most notorious in England.  Official reports told stories of children so malnourished that they drank from soapy puddles in the laundry to try to get by.  His itinerant Chimney Sweep Father, Henry William 2nd had rescued him, his half Brothers and Mother, and the boys had gone to South London where they were apprenticed to the harsh world of boy chimney sweeps.  Henry William 2nd had enough of this and in the 1880s joined the Royal Marines at Chatham, it isn’t clear if he saw action, and his records seem to have gone missing, but he managed to get Eliza Sanders, the sister of one of his friends in the Royal Marines pregnant in 1883, her baby would be my Grandmother.  A year after she was born the couple married, and Henry William 2nd left the Marines, and set up home, itinerantly moving from lettings to lettings in Peckham, Camberwell and Lambeth.   They had eight children but it is their first son, and second child Henry William 4th whom we are concerned with here.

Hard Times, but The Royal Navy to the Rescue


Destitute Boys’ Royal Navy Training Ship Arethusa at Greenhithe

Times were hard, the family were constantly on the move from rented digs to rented digs, doing a “midnight flit” every time the rent money ran out, they possessed hardly anything, so loading up and moving on didn’t take long.  Henry William had been apprenticed to a Fishmonger at 14, but that had not come to anything, and he ended up destitute but had the good fortune to be taken on to the TS Arethusa (Royal Navy Training Ship Arethusa), moored at Greenhithe on the South Bank of the Thames, and known as refuge for homeless and destitute Boys.  It is most likely that his Father and Uncle’s service as Royal Marines had opened the way for him to be accepted.

Henry William’s time on Arethusa served him well, as in 1905 as a man, on his 18th birthday, he signed up for the Royal Navy at his Father’s old depot of Chatham, just further downriver fromGreenhithe, and worked his way up from Boy, to Ordinary Seaman, to Able Seaman, to Leading Seaman.  And what a career he had in 1905 aged 18 he sailed to China on HMS Hogue, and spent a year at sea, coming home with a tatoo of a Japanese “Lady” on his right bicep!

HMS Hogue

HMS Hogue Henry William Trimmer’s trip to China

On his return, after some retraining, he started his career as a submariner, first posted to HMS Thames, a Submarine support ship, then Vulcan and Hebe, similar ships.  With the birth of his first daughter, Irene Florence in 1911, Henry purchased his exit from the Navy moved back to South East London, but joined the Royal Fleet Reserves, ready for call up if required, and sure enough, come the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 Henry William was back in the Navy aboard Submarine E15.  His family followed him to the Royal Naval Dockyards at Sheerness on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, and his last daughter Dorothy was born there in 1914.


Henry William was bright and able and experienced.  He was posted directly to a brand new Submarine E15 looked after by the Dolphin depot ship.

The Commanding Officer of Submarine E15 was Lieutenant Commander Theodore Stuart Brodie whose twin brother Lieutenant Commander Charles G Brodie commanded another Submarine. The twins were nicknamed ‘Dummy Head’ and ‘War Head’ respectively by their men and fellow officers. Unfortunately for Henry he got Dummy Head as his Captain.  Despite his career commanding submarine’s  C36, C33, and D8, Dummy Head did not get his nickname without reason. Submarine E15 would have one of the shortest careers of the 56 E Class Submarines in action during WWI.

Initially Henry served aboard her with the North Sea Fleet based out of Harwich.  Dummy Head’s lack of luck lead to Able Seaman George Morris being lost overboard in November 1914, losing a man overboard from a submarine certainly takes some doing.  In 1915 E15 was sent with a flotilla of submarines to the Mediterranean, including AE2 an Australian Sub of the same class, they were serviced by HMS Adamant.  At the Island of Lemnos, they were joined by Lieutenant Clarence Edward Stanhope Palmer RNVR.  he had previously been with the diplomatic corps at Chanak in Turkey, and to all intents and purposes was a Government Special Agent, gathering knowledge of the entrance to the Dardanelles, the location of Turkish Sea Mines, and fluent in the Turkish language, he was an early James Bond type figure, brought in for what appears to be a secret mission on E15, it being remarked on how insistent he was with Dummy Head to make sure he got on board as “an extra hand”.  That night they sailed for the Dardanelles.

Stealthily E15 inched through the straits to get into Turkish waters in the Sea of Marmora, as the spearhead of an allied invasion force.  However despite having Clarence Palmer  on board to help with the approach to the channel, Dummy Head and the ship’s navigator, managed to have the E15 steered into a strong current which its silently operating electric engines were not strong enough to counter, at 07.00 on 17th April 1915 the Ship’s Telegraphist recorded :

“Everything going well until about 7am when we struck and, despite all that could be done, we were soon high and dry. The Turkish batteries then opened fire on us one large shell entering our conning tower and killing the captain as he was going on the bridge. Several shells came through the boat, one entering the engines and bursting several oil pipes, thick smoke began to come from aft, but we could not see what had happened there.

The men then began to go up the conning tower and through the shell hole and take to the water. The boat was about three-quarters of a mile from the shore and this distance we had to swim. Several men would not attempt it and I think it was because of this that so many were injured.”

E15 had run aground at Kephez Point, directly under the Guns of the Turkish Fort Dardanus, Electric Engines labouring vainly against the current.  The Turkish shelling took out the unlucky Dummy Head Brodie as he climbed the conning tower to assess the situation, and five more crew were killed and  seven injured by shelling and asphyxiation by smoke and chlorine gas released from the damaged electrical drive batteries onboard.


Henry was no slouch, he, with Clarence Palmer and most of the rest of the crew who were still in one piece, climbed up the conning tower and slipped out underwater through the shell hole before swimming the best part of a mile to shore, fortunately for them the same current that Dummy Head had lead them to, took pity on them, and helped them make it to shore, where the Turks quickly surrounded them and took them prisoner.  Their dead mates were buried on the beach.  The Telegraphist writes again:

“After their capture the survivors were marched to Chenak (Chanak) and were kept in a cowshed overnight. The following day they were placed in better conditions. On Wednesday 21st April the survivors were put on a Gunboat at Chenak and were taken to Constantinople arriving on 22nd April and being taken to the Stamboul Prison.

Four days later, on Monday 26th April, the crew were taken to Haidar Pasha by ferry and then on to Ess Kicheher by train – where they stayed overnight. On the 27th April the train journey continued on to Afion Kara Hissar in the Asia mainland of Turkey and, on Wednesday 28th April they were moved into the Bermin Mosque School Camp.”

Henry spent the rest of the war in Turkish Prison camps, and would be joined by the crew of an Australian submarine that had been part of their original flotilla.  Their treatment was generally OK by the Turkish soldiers, and they were regularly visited by the Red Cross, received food and provision parcels, some of which they traded with their Turkish guards to get information and News Papers to find out what was happening in the War.  The men were fortunate to have Clarence Palmer with them, the secret service agent, who, being fluent in Turkish could speak with the guards and read the Turkish papers.  Despite this, conditions were harsh, and one officer and seven men died during their captivity.  But Leading Seaman Trimmer was a man from Peckham who had grown up with deprivation and hardship, he would get through the whole thing and return relatively unscathed considering what he’d been through.

Although the Turks treated the men and officers equally, it seems that the British Authorities didn’t.  For at the end of the war our Secret Service Agent Clarence Palmer is decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross (DSC) for the part he played in the action, simply because he took on the mission knowing the dangers, which is funny really, as no such medals went to Henry Trimmer or his mates, it’s an indication of not only friends in high places, but perhaps a reward for a more covert mission?  One Catholic Officer, Geoffrey Joseph Frederick Fitzgerald, the E15’s navigator had an intervention from the Pope that got him released early, with further decorations and cushy jobs after the war.  Henry and his shipmates came home to no cushy jobs or outstanding decorations, they were just de-mobbed and set back on the streets.  Even Dummy Head, who had got them wrecked and captured with about a dozen dead, was eulogised like a hero despite his incompetence.  So the secret service agent who was onboard to give intelligence on the entrance to the Dardanelles, in terms of access and minefields, the Navigator who was meant to steer them through, and the Captain who was meant to use his judgement to keep them out of harm, i.e. the three men who effectively failed in their duties were eulogised while the men who suffered for their Officers’ joint failures got nothing. In the words of the music hall song that the men would have been aware of:

“It’s the same the whole world over,

It’s the poor what gets the blame,

It’s the rich what gets the pleasure,

Isn’t it a blooming shame!”


The picture below shows the crew after their capture.  From what I can make out, Henry William Trimmer, my Great Uncle is the man standing with a face like thunder in the centre of the photo third from the right, behind and just to the side of the seated officer.

Embed from Getty Images

While the men were being marched into captivity the British Navy set about destroying the evidence before the Turks and their German advisors could get too much intelligence about the E15.  They had already boarded the stranded E15 as can be seen from the picture below.


Wreck of Submarine E15 inspected by the Turks and a German Officer

The reason was given as being to stop the Turks salvaging, repairing, and re-commissioning the E15, which is definitely true, but the efforts the Navy went to were extreme, including shelling by warships, attacks with Torpedoes by other subs (including one with Dummy Head’s more competent brother “War Head” along for the ride), a bombing raid by aircraft, and finally a successful attack from small picket boats with torpedoes. A gigantic effort, and one where the submarine used to attack the wreck got stuck on the same bank that the E15 had, but managed to get itself free, so the risks were extreme.  It begs the question;  was this really just to keep E15 out of the Turk’s hands?  Or perhaps there were other secrets onboard, associated with the mission of the Secret Service Agent?  Perhaps Geoffrey Fitzgerald’s release at the request of the Pope was more than just compassion based for a fellow Catholic in hard times, perhaps he brought information with him from Clarence Palmer?


When Henry William Trimmer came home, his story took further twists.  He was obviously wily and resourceful, and managed to get himself made a Police Constable in Margate, no doubt using his Naval contacts as references.  In  1921 he manages to use his contacts to finagle his way into the local Free Mason’s Lodge, causing a minor scandal at the time, and a letter was written from the Provincial Grand Lodge to the Local Lodge complaining about the initiation of “Brother Trimmer”, as it was done despite permission having been previously refused by the Chief Constable.  This was put down to an “error” and Henry was allowed to retain his position, but was not allowed to be promoted to further positions without express permission from the Chief Constable.  Why the Chief Constable refused him permission to become a Free Mason in the first place is unclear, but as much as you can take the boy out of Peckham, you can’t take Peckham out of the boy, and with a total lack of regard for the middle class rules, Henry gets in any way, and not only that but keeps his position in both Police and Free Masons.  Well done Henry.  Did he still have contacts people in high and dark places like Clarence Palmer?

In 1924 Henry has had enough of England, and moves with his family to Australia, to join his Mother and siblings who had gone out there in 1908, and where his Father had died whilst Henry was a POW in Turkey.  Having spent time with the Australian prisoners in Turkey, perhaps Henry once again used his contacts help get out to the Antipodes? Henry would eventually die in Australia in 1969, having spent more than half of his life there.

There are obviously unanswered questions concerning the role of the E15, Clarence Palmer, and Henry’s relationship with him, perhaps one day Time Detectives will get to the bottom of it?

….oh, and just to top it off, one of the Stokers on E15 was called…..James Bond…what a happy coincidence!

Gallipoli; The British Servicemen

Quite rightly the ANZAC Troops are given much coverage in the remembrance of the anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that many thousands of British and Commonwealth Troops from other countries also took part in the campaign.  This is the story of one of them, from a South London Cockney Family Tree I traced a few years back.

Alfred Blakemore Joins the Royal Navy

The Blackmore’s had lived around the Elephant and Castle, a rough part of South London, they were working class Cockneys, so the idea of escaping to sea was a very attractive proposition for the boys of the family and the 18 year old Alfred Blakemore joined the Royal Navy on 27th June 1898 for a twelve year period, he was 5ft 6ins tall with brown hair, brown eyes, and a fresh complexion.

he is soon posted to HMS Rosario a Condor class Sloop built in 1898, she was a steam ship driven by twin screws but she was also equipped with barque rigged sails.  However, after the loss of her sister ship The Condor in a gale, it was decided that the ship had gone down partly due to the encumbrance of her masts, sails, and rigging, and so the admiralty removed all such from the Rosario at about the time that Alfred joined her, no more ships were constructed to such a mixed design.  She was armed with six 25lb and four 3lb guns, all quick firing breach loaders.

In reality she was out of date as a battleship in European waters, but still had a valuable role as a patrol ship against less advancedChina_Medal_Reverse enemies of the Empire.  Her opportunity came when she replaced an older ship HMS Rattler on the China station at the time of the Boxer Uprising (made famous in the film “55 Days in Peking”), Alfred was awarded The China Medal for his service against the Boxers in China.   He stayed on Rosario in Chinese waters for the next three years.

When he does return home he is laid off by the Navy because of defence cuts, but it becomes obvious that Alfred loves the Navy as on 4th March 1910 he re-enrols for a further five years service in the Royal Fleet Reserve.  His history at sea is reflected in his tattoos:

Right forearm – crossed flags, star, heart pierced by an arrow.

Left forearm – AB.I.L.F.C.KF.I.L.A.B.A. and an anchor.

The Star was a good luck symbol to ensure the sailor could always follow his star to get back to his home port, the heart was for a sweetheart, the anchor for an Atlantic crossing, and the letters to denote rank (Able Seaman) and various ports of call.

Then comes the Great War, and Alfred is straight back to a Royal_Naval_Division_recruiting_posterrecruiting office to join up.  Fortunately for a man in his mid thirties, the Admiralty authorised the formation of the Royal Naval Division to act in amphibious operations in any theatre of war and  its recruits were initially drawn from a large number of volunteer Stokers like Alfred from the Royal Fleet Reserve, as well as other Naval Reserve personnel, when the Navy withdrew some of the men to regular naval units, the Division was reinforced by soldiers from Yorkshire, Durham, and Northumberland. These men were formed into two Brigades officered by a mixture of Army, Navy, and Royal Marine Officers some of whom had been on active duty, others were formerly retired. Alfred was in the Hood Battalion (known as the “Steadies”) part of the 1st Brigade.HOODbadge

So consisting of older men like Alfred (35), some called back out of retirement, very few of whom had experience of combat before, the RND was a “Cinderalla” Division, lacking services, transport, and signals, not helped by the Navy continuing to pull out men to fill posts in ships thereby crippling training and unit cohesion.

During October 1914 the Division had a chance to see action when, they were sent to Antwerp to reinforce the Royal Belgian Army who had been mauled by the Germans and forced to retreat to the fortified city of Antwerp. This was the first time that the RND had been together in one place, and the first time that most of their personnel had been in combat. The plucky stokers were fed into a City on the verge of collapse.

The Belgians had bravely mounted attacks from Antwerp against the Germans’ exposed right flank as they marched towards the British and French lines in Flanders and Northern France, this had forced the Germans to detach a number of Divisions to guard their flank, as well as artillery to try to reduce Antwerp. Winston Churchill realised that if the channel ports fell into German hands then that would constitute a major threat to Britain, so he pushed for a body of men to be sent across the channel to reinforce the Belgians and make a show of strength around the ports. At the eleventh hour he got his way, and a small regular force was dispatched as well as Royal Marines, and the RND who were sent forward to Antwerp to reinforce the Belgian defence of the city, along with them went the Royal Naval Air Service with six aircraft, ten touring cars fitted with ad-hoc armour and machine guns (the first time Armoured Cars were used in Warfare) and ten lorries.   This force was too small to save Antwerp but did delay its fall and allowed the Belgians to withdraw down the coast to new defensive positions covered by the Britsh regulars. The RND withdrew with the Belgians, Alfred being lucky in as much as his Battalion withdrew directly towards allied lines and the safety of ships back to Britain, whereas 1,500 men of the RND including the Brigade Commander of the 1st Brigade, accidentally crossed the Dutch border during the retreat, and were captured and interned by the Dutch (The Netherlands being a Neutral State for the duration of the Great War).


What Churchill’s “Marine Promenade”, as the amphibious landing of the Marines and RND was disparagingly called, did achieve was to distract and unnerve the German High Command, forcing them to keep large numbers of troops in the Antwerp area to deal with the Belgian army and their expected reinforcements from Britain. This lead at least in part, to the subsequent German retreat at the Marne, which changed the whole shape of the war by stopping the German advance on Paris in its tracks, and thereby prevented them from winning a quick victory as they did in the Second World War, and changed the course of subsequent history. In turn the tieing up of German forces in the attack on Antwerp allowed the allies to hold the Germans in the desperate defensive battle of Ypres.

The reason for the effect of the “Marine Promenaders” being out of all proportion to actual numbers or achievements on the ground was that, as is common in war, the numbers of reinforcements landed were greatly exaggerated in German intelligence. The few thousand Marines and RND being thought to be as many as 40.000 men, and there is even an amusing legend of a cockney night porter at a London station, having heard Gaelic speaking soldiers travelling by train to the coast, spread a rumour that the Russian Army had arrived to reinforce the Belgians! This rumour grew and found its way to German Intelligence, grew some more, until it was reported that a Russian Expeditionary force of 80,000 men was heading for the Belgian Ports. General Sir Basil Liddell Hart when writing his seminal History of the First World War, with tongue firmly in cheek, called for the erection of a statue of “The Unknown Porter” in Whitehall!

So, although the RND’s exploits at Antwerp may be listed in some histories as a defeat, Alfred and his brawny Stoker mates (along perhaps, with a cockney night Porter) helped give the German High Command enough of a fright to change the course of the War, and thereby the whole course of history. Few men can make such a claim and you should be rightly proud of Alfred.

But the war was far from over for Alfred. He had now seen active service in China, and Belgium, but his biggest and most dangerous venture was about to unfold on another distant shore. On his return from the Marine Promenade in Belgium he spent some time undergoing further training with his unit at Blandford, and would have been under the command of officers such as the famous war poet Rupert Brooke and Arthur Asquith, the son of the prime Minister, so quite illustrious company. The training lasted a few months, and Alfred got into a spot of trouble late in February 1915, finding himself deprived of eight days pay and eight days leave, the day after he went back onto pay at seven fifteen on the evening of 27th February 1915 his battalion marched out of Blandford Camp dressed in tropical pith helmets in the pouring rain. They marched through the night and the rain, entertained by the mules in the supply train causing chaos for the transport officer, and eventually reached their transport at 3.30 in the morning. The train took them to Avonmouth and The Grantully Castle steamer that would sail them to the Middle East. The sailed that afternoon 28th February 1915, with the Battalion buglers playing a farewell to the officer’s relations and sightseers on the dockside.

They made their way to Egypt, a British protectorate at the time, for training and acclimatisation, and then set off for the Dardanelles. En-route the poet officer Rupert Brooke seems to have been bitten by a mosquito and died on 22nd April 1915. The battalion made a short detour to the Greek Island of Skyros, where, with full military honours he was buried in an Olive Grove. Touching as this scene was, it was the last interlude of civility before the horrors of the Dardanelles, and bore little relation to the fate awaiting the “other ranks” when they fell.

By May the RND were ready to be sent forward to take on the Turks in what would become known as the 3rd Battle of Krithia. The allies were attempting to clear the Gallipoli Peninsula at Krithia by overrunning the Achi Baba heights and clearing the Turkish guns that commanded the land and seaward approaches to Istanbul.

The previous two attempts had ended in failure as the Turks fought ferociously to defend their land, were well entrenched and had good artillery support, the allies by contrast were fairly poorly led and despite the big guns of their battleships off the coast, two of which had been torpedoed and sunk by the Turkish Navy, had tenuous artillery support. Unlike the first two attempts, the third Battle of Krithia was somewhat better planned; the objectives were more limited and planned in two steps:

  1. Capture the Turkish trench system.
  2. Gain another 500 yards passed this and re-entrench ready for the next Campaign phase.

There would be an initial bombardment of the Turkish lines followed by a feint attack by the British forces to draw the Turks forward into a second artillery barrage after which the Allied Infantry would launch their real attack, the RND for their part charging up the main Krithia Road and then along the Achi Baba Nullah (known as Bloody Valley) supported by the machine guns of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) armoured touring cars (who had been with them at Antwerp) on Krithia Spur. On their right attacking up Kereves Spur were the French, and their left was supported by the Indian and Regular British Divisions coming up Gully Ravine and Spur, and Fir Tree Spur.

Alfred and the RND drew up inside their sandbagged trenches on the morning of the 4th June 1915, according to men who took part tension was high, this was the first time that they had gone over the top into the face of enemy fire under a blazing sun, they fiddled with their rifles, sharpened already razor sharp bayonets to relieve the tension, some wrung their hands, some prayed, others watched the masses of maggots that crawled along the sandbags inches from their faces. The bombardment went well, the pause came and the ruse worked; Turks came out from rear lines and cover to face the expected attack of the Allies, only to be greeted with another bombardment which killed six thousand of them, Alfred and his pals would have watched this spectacle, some with sorrow for the men blown to bits, but most with relief knowing that each dead Turkish soldier was one less rifle to shoot back when they went over the top. All feelings of sympathy disappeared when the Turks answered back with their own bombardment of the British positions, men’s spines went numb with the shockwaves of shells, then it stopped.

The officers’ watches showed noon, and with the Sun at its zenith Alfred went over the top in grim determination with the Hood Battalion and the 2nd Naval Brigade walking out rifles at the ready walking tall like veterans, making a beeline for the shattered Turkish trenches. They ran up the Nullah at the steady double, shells exploding overhead, jumping over the bodies of the fallen, past the steady stream of wounded hobbling back for treatment. Bullets whizzed by, the Armoured cars rushed up the road towards the Turkish positions and emptied their magazines into the line of defenders dazed and crouching in their trenches, this gave Alfred and “The Steadies” the chance to make the trench line firing their Lee Enfields from hip and shoulder, bayonets gleaming through clouds of dust they jumped into the trenches and had at it with the Turks bayonet to bayonet, the defenders broke and ran and the trenches rang to the blood stained cheers of The Steadies.

Now they had a chance for a brief respite, Alfred and his mates had gained the first objective, now the Collingwood Battalion RND came up at the run and surged passed them to push the advance to the Achi Baba heights, the Steadies cheered them on and waved their pith helmets to give them encouragement. They watched in anticipation, but to their horror saw that the set up a flanking fire from Kereves Dir over on their right, the French advance had stalled, and the Turks had free range to cut down the Collingwoods, the cheering of the Steadies was silenced, they watched in horror as the Collingwoods were cut to pieces, the whole Battallion was annihilated. The Steadies were whistled up by their officers, and counter attacked with the rest of the RND to take the next line of Turkish trenches, but they were too late for the Collingwoods, the Battalion was never reformed. Charging in where the Collingwoods had failed the exhausted Steadies shot, stabbed and clubbed with rifle butts until the Turks were pushed back, jumping into a trench with bayonet fixed, Alfred roared and thrust out his steel blade, but the fire from the Turks on the higher ground whistled and zinged around his ears until a Turkish bullet tore through the front of his jaw and out throw his neck, knocking him clean off his feet. Barely conscious and bleeding his mates dragged him into the newly captured Turkish trench and dressed his wounds while they waited for reinforcements from the flanks.

The French Senegalese Troops had failed on the right, on the left the Gurkhas had advanced and taken some ground, but the rest of the Indian Brigade had been badly mauledand halted, including the Ferozepore Sikhs had been trapped in Gully Ravine and almost wiped out. The Hampshire Regiment advancing on the high ground next to the Sikhs had gained ground, but now like the RND, were cut off in a salient having to defend on three sides simultaneously. In the centre next to the RND the Manchester Regiment had taken their objective, routing the Turks and capturing over 200 of them. But everywhere else the lines where held by the Turks cut through with small enclaves of nearly surrounded allied soldiers.

The Generals then decided to commit their reserves, but rather than reinforcing and exploiting the success of the Manchester Regiment of the 42nd Divison in the centre next to the RND, which would have allowed them to cut off the Turkish Flanks, the Generals decided to commit the cardinal military sin of “reinforcing a failure”. They sent the reinforcements to their failed flanks, where the French refused to attack again, and the second attempts at advancing up Gully Spur with the Indian Divisions were again beaten back. The Manchesters were counter attacked by the Turks and almost completely cut off before being forced to retreat. The failure of the French to re-engage on the RNDs right, and the lack of reinforcements to the 42nd on their left, meant that any hope of the RND renewing their attack to overrun the Achi Baba heights would be impossible. Staying pinned down in the killing zone of their captured salient was not an option, so, two hours after charging from their trenches, the Steadies, with Alfred semi-conscious and carried by his mates, were forced to return to their starting positions before the battle. Men trudged back oblivious to the shot and shell that burst all around them, fatalistic in the belief that if it had your name on it you’d get it. When they reached their lines Alfred and the other casualties were passed down the long line to the medical tents on the beach, and The Steadies fell into their trenches dog tired, battered and bruised, and slept where they lay in the sand exhausted by their efforts, and oblivious to the chaos around them.

The chance to overrun Achi Baba and turn the course of the whole Dardanelles Campaign had been lost, the allies gain about 250 yards of ground for the loss of thousands of men. In some ways Alfred was one of the lucky ones, as his part in the ongoing bloody conflict of the Dardanelles campaign was over.

As a postscript, the Turks themselves had received enormous casualties in the fighting, and Turkish Generals believed that if the allies had renewed the attacks the following day, the Achi Baba heights would have fallen. Instead the Allies stood on the defensive, giving the Turks a chance to regroup and counter attack, two days later on the 6th of June they attacked the Hampshire Regiment, who had fought so well on the 4th, in “The Vineyard”, the Hampshire’s morale was so low that a rout was only prevented by Second Lieutenant G.R.D. Moor drawing his revolver and shooting four of his men dead to make the others stand and fight, he was given the VC for his action. Bad Generalship had broken the men’s morale. Lions were led by Donkeys.

Alfred was put aboard the hospital ship Ascania, but by the 11th June it was clear that he would not be fit for service anytime soon, so he was shipped out to the ex-Greek Hospital of Glymenopoulo in Alexandria reaching it on 29th June 1915, admitted as having a Gun Shot Wound (GSW) to the face and Bullet wound to Neck. Two weeks later, once it looks like he will survive, his next of kin are informed of his wound. He leaves hospital on 12th July 1915 to Mustapha Base in Egypt and by 1st August he is on board Transport ship HMT Sudmark for shipping back to his unit, but by the 18th August his wound flares up and he is given treatment by an ambulance unit, followed by a bout of dysentery on 28th September, which of all his suffering turns out to be the thing that gets him his ticket home aboard the HMS Nevasa First to Malta on 4th October, and then aboard the HS Regina D’Italia (Italy being allies during WW1).

His next of Kin are not informed of these movements, and he was in Haslar Hospital at Portsmouth for treatment before his wife and Parents were aware of his situation. From here he was transferred to a RN Reserve Battallion, and given leave to see his family which must have been an incredibly emotional time. Alfred would have walked home from the train station, a thin scarred man, gradually getting his fitness and health back, his wife and parents must have gone through a whole series of emotions from relief of his having survived such a horrendous time, to grief at the state of him and the wounds he bore. But time was short, and by the end of November he was back at the camp at Blandford, where he was given his Good Conduct Badge back (which he had lost after having been put on a charge immediately prior to shipping out to the Middle East), as well as a duplicate of his China Medal which he had not received previously.

In the New Year of 1916 he is transferred from Blandford to Chatham for Sea Service on 28th January 1916. From March to December 1916 he is aboard HMS Intrepid, a depot ship, but he was moved off of her before she was sent to the Russian White Sea in 1917, Alfred went ashore to Pembroke Barracks, until taking up his final posting aboard HMS Actaeon from January 1917 to January 1919. Actaeon was the shore based Torpedo Training School at Sheerness; it was a soft but honourable posting for a man of 40 who had done so much in the service of his country.

The Water Diviner in Reality, Australian Brothers in Arms, Gallipoli and a Father’s search

 I went to see the latest Russell Crowe film, The Water Diviner recently, and was impressed by the depth of feeling and unbiased treatment he gave to the subject matter of the Gallipoli Campaign.  It reminded me of a true life parallel story of a family who’s family tree I traced and the stories I turned up, so to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Campaign of The First World War, I though I’d share part of that story with my readers, as poignant as anything on film.

An Australian Soldier’s English Roots – The Goddings

The Godding Family From England to Australia

The research of the name Godding showed that it is derived from an Old English name “Goding” meaning Goda’s child.   The original “Goding” spelling of the name coincides with the early family distribution around the Gloucestershire/Somerset borders, deep in the rural English Countryside.

During the 18th century the age of enclosures came about.  In order to meet the higher demand for grain crops the big landowners would seek permissions from Parliament to carry out “Enclosures”, not just the taking of uncultivated waste land, but also land that was communally farmed by the agricultural population, each peasant farmer would have a cow or a pig, or raise vegetable crops on this communal land.   The enclosures meant that the Goddings who previously had rights to this land, lost those rights, and with them, the means to make an independent living from small holding, so, having robbed them of their livelihood, the Lord would take them on as paid labourers to work the land they previously had rights over, this, much more than the Industrial Revolution, turned the majority of the population into what they remain today; wage slaves working for another man’s profit.   The Lord would also decide what he would pay them.   If they didn’t like the wages, they could always decide not to work for the Lord, in which case they would loose their cottage, would have to leave the village to look for work elsewhere as they would not be entitled to poor relief from the Parish, or, of course they could choose to starve to death in a ditch.     The landowners had worked out how to control the Goddings and the rest of the local populations with wages and rents rather than through the sword and gibbet.   In the words of one MP who railed against the plight of the rural poor;

“The poor in these Parishes may say; Parliament may be tender of property; all I know is I had a cow, and an act of Parliament has taken it from me.”

So this is how William Godding came to be working for wages on local farms dependant on large tenant farmers and the Lord of the Manor, rather than owning a small holding of his own. However, quite suddenly in 1816 when William Godding was still a young man in his twenties, he takes the bold step of moving, not just from his home town of Thornbury, but out of the County of Gloucestershire to Keynsham in Somerset where he meets and marries a local girl named Isabella.   Such a move was a major decision for an unskilled Agricultural Labourer, so what could be the cause of it?

Trouble at Thornbury

The enclosure acts had caused resentment between the Lords who took the land and the Peasants who lost it.   But the lords had the law on their side and penalties could be harsh for Agricultural Labourers who weren’t prepared to bend the knee to the local Lord.

To take back some of their lost assets, and avoid malnutrition for their families, the local people would poach animals for the pot from the Lords’ lands, which was illegal and violently resented by the Gentry.   The penalties were drastic, one member of the Godding family being transported in a prison ship to Australia for such offences in 1810.

At Thornbury in 1815, a man called Thomas Till had been legally killed on the Estate of Lord Ducie by a Spring Gun, a firearm booby trap left in the woods by game keepers to maim and kill the local poachers.  Thomas Till had tripped one such weapon and been shot and killed by the device when out looking for a rabbit for the pot. This legally sanctioned killing heightened tensions between the common people and the Gentry in Thornbury which would eventually spill over into confrontation.

On a cold and frosty moonlit night on 18th January 1816 a group of young labourers gathered at a house in Thornbury.  They had  blacked their faces with soot to aid camouflage and avoid recognition, and deliberately set out on an act of civil disobedience to poach on the lands of Colonel Berkeley at Berkeley Castle.   Undoubtedly this was a political move, rather than a pure poaching for the pot exercise, as the leaders of the participants were from middleclass backgrounds, indeed one of the organisers was a lawyer, and guns had been provided, something no peasant would have owned.

However by the time they reached the Berkeley Estate word had leaked, and a party of ten heavily armed gamekeepers lay in ambush for them.   The poachers were challenged by the keepers, and realising that they had been betrayed, decided to make a fight of it.  A number of the poachers were soldiers recently returned from defeating Napoleon in France, and men family with cannon fire were not about to quail at the challenge from gamekeepers rifles and shot guns.  In military fashion hey formed up in a double line, advanced on the keepers and fired a volley; one keeper, William Ingram fell dead, and several other’s were wounded. After some confused hand to hand fighting and shooting in the darkness the poachers having made their point made good their escape.

Over the following weeks two of the group lost their nerve, gave themselves up and turned King’s Evidence in return for a dropping of charges, the less well off were apprehended over the following weeks, their fates were mixed; two were hanged for the murder of Ingram, nine were transported for life to Van Dieman’s Land (Tasmania) and another eight (who had the money and connections to facilitate it) fled to America, Ireland, and the Caribbean. No doubt there were many other men involved in the fight that night, but none important enough to warrant a prolonged pursuit. William Godding fled the county as a result the Thornbury Poacher’s Battle.

We find William and Isabella in Keynsham with six of their children, five sons and a daughter.  Times were changing, the age of the landed gentry was coming to an end, and the age of the Industrialist was on the rise.  This presents opportunities for the Goddings,  William gives up work on the land in his fifties to work as a Labourer on the newly arrived Railway, his daughter Elizabeth finds work as a domestic servant at the tender age of fourteen with a Railway Contractor.  Times were hard, the children left home and William continues to work as a labourer into his eighties after the death of his wife Isabella.

Vines Godding and the move to Australia

Vines was the son of William and Isabella Godding born in Keynsham Somerset.  Vines, was often misspelled as “Fines” due to his West Country accent, and the name would stick.   Like his father and brothers he was a Labourer at a time in England when life was very tough for the working man and his family.   He had married Sophia Palmer in 1854, and by 1861 they were living in a working class area of Bristol with three children under of five years and under.

With little hope of bettering themselves at home in England, Vines and Sophia were “assisted” in their move to Australia i.e. the costs were covered by a local emigration scheme, as Parishes were eager to rid themselves of the needy poor, and the Colonies were crying out for cheap labour, over and above what would be provided by convicts.    So in 1862 they board the good ship the Lady Milton.   With Vines and Sophia were their daughters Elizabeth five and Emily three, plus their one year old son Charles. They must have been desperate, because Sophia was also pregnant when they undertook the trip, and gave birth during the voyage to Louisa. After their arrival in Australia times were still terribly hard for the family, disease was rife in the colony among the poor, and both Bessy and Louisa died in 1868, with Elizabeth following in 1888.   The rest of the children survived to adulthood. As for the parents, Sophia lived till 1896, and Vines till 1901.

Charles James Godding

One way to survive through hard times was offered by the Army, and with Imperial Wars to fight, the Australians were clamouring to form their own armed forces to support the Empire a full 30 years before World War 1.  Vines’ eldest son Charles James, joined the Army as a Gunner in the Artillery on 26th January 1881, he was listed as a Baptist, the first confirmation we have of the Godding family’s religious beliefs. By 3rd March 1885 he was shipped out to the Sudan during the war with the Mahdi, and General Gordan’s siege at Khartoum. The force left Sydney amid much fanfare, generated in part by the holiday declared to allow the public to bid farewell to the troops; the send-off was described as the most festive occasion in the colony’s history.1885australianforces2

The NSW contingent arrived and anchored at Sudan’s Red Sea port Suakin on 29th March 1885, and were attached to a brigade composed of Scots, Grenadier, and Coldstream Guards. Shortly after their arrival they marched as part of a large “square” formation – on this occasion made up of 10,000 men – for Tamai, a village some 30 kilometres inland. Although the march was marked only by minor skirmishing, the men saw something of the reality of war as they halted among the dead from a battle which had taken place eleven days before. Further minor skirmishing took place on the next day’s march, but the Australians, now at the rear of the square, sustained only three casualties, none fatal. The infantry reached Tamai, burned whatever huts were standing and returned to Suakin.

After Tamai, the NSW contingent worked on the railway line which was being laid across the desert to the Nile.  Far from the excitement they had imagined, the Australians suffered mostly from the enforced idleness of guard duties. When a camel corps was raised, fifty men volunteered immediately. On 6 May they rode on a reconnaissance to Takdul, 28 kilometres from Suakin, again hoping for an encounter with the Sudanese, but the only action that day involved two newspaper correspondents who had accompanied the patrol before leaving the cameleers to file their stories in Suakin. They soon found themselves surrounded by enemy forces, and one was wounded as they fled. The camel corps made only one more sortie – on 15 May, to bury the bodies of men killed in fighting the previous March.

The artillery saw even less action than the infantry. They were posted to Handoub where, having no enemy close enough to engage, they drilled for a month. On 15 May they rejoined the camp at Suakin. Not having participated in any battles, Australian casualties were few: those who died fell to disease rather than enemy action.   By May 1885 the British government had decided to abandon the campaign and left only a garrison in Suakin. The Australian contingent sailed for home on 17 May 1885 arriving in Sydney on 19 June. They were expecting to land at Port Jackson and were surprised to disembark at the quarantine station on North Head near Manly as a precaution against disease. One man died of typhoid before the contingent was released.1885australianforces

Five days after their arrival in Sydney the contingent, dressed in their khaki uniforms, marched through the city to a reception at Victoria Barracks where they stood in pouring rain as a number of public figures, including the Governor, the Premier, and Colonel Richardson the commandant of the contingent, gave speeches. It was generally agreed at the time that, no matter how small the military significance of the Australian contribution to the adventure, it was actually this little adventure, rather than the First World War that marked the development of colonial self-confidence and was proof of the enduring link with Britain.

The Grandsons of Vines Godding

The family having seen action in the Sudan, settled down to civilian life, until the next generation were called upon to serve the Empire in The Great War.

Clarence Sydney Godding 1898 – 1917

Clarence was working as a Farm hand on a Dairy Farm, before joining the 19th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in 1916 as a Private, and had been living with his parents.   On his shipping papers his religion is stated as C of E, but his brother was a Baptist, perhaps he didn’t consider it an important detail. In any case he was shipped out probably initially to Egypt where the Battalion was reorganised and new recruits were trained, before being shipped to France. The first major action for the Battalion was Pozieres, where the German shelling was the most intense ever experienced by the AIF during the war and was accompanied by nearly continuous German counter attacks to recover their vital ground.   In this battle 19th Battalion created a record by holding its sector for a period of 12 days. The most notable action that Clarence would have taken part in was the capture and defence of the notorious ‘Maze’ defence system at Flers on 14th November 1916. Clarence and his mates captured and held a salient deep within the German Lines, but their support battalions failed to reach their objectives on the flanks of the 19th, and so the 18 year old Clarence and his unit were cut off deep inside the German lines.

For two days and nights Clarence held his position against counter attacks and intense shelling, almost running out of ammunition Charles and his mates picked up the rifles and ammo of the Germans they had killed and used them, so that their own ammunition could be saved for their Lewis machine guns to stop the German Infantry counter attacks. Of the 451 all ranks who went into the attack, 381 became casualties.

Clarence survived, and his next big battle was at Lagincourt in 1917 where his battalion was involved in the follow-up of German forces after their retreat to the Hindenburg Line.   The Germans counter attacked to try to halt their pursuit by the Australians, and Clarence was faced with an attack by a German force that outnumbered them five to one, they made their stand at Lagincourt and managed to defeat the German advance.

On the 3rd of May 1917 Clarence and his friends were thrown into “The Blood Tub” as the second battle of Bullecourt would be called by the Aussies.   General Gough had sent his troops to assault the fortress village of Bullecourt using the new wonder ‘tank’ and the Anzacs, it ended in disaster.   This was the first battle of Bullecourt, on the 3rd of May Gough launched a second attack on Bullecourt which dominated the British action on the Western Front for two weeks, and was the battle that Clarence fought in.     It was the excessive brutality and ferocity of the hand-to-hand fighting that earned Bullecourt the name ‘The Blood Tub’.

At a quarter to four in the morning of 3rd of May 1917 two Australian and one British Brigade went over the top to attack Bullecourt.   The Australians penetrated the German line but met determined opposition which stop the force surrounding and cutting off the Germans.   It was during this fighting on the first day of the battle in fierce hand to hand combat in the German trenches that Clarence, at the tender age of nineteen was killed.   By the end of the battle the village was held by the Allies; the locality turned out to be of little or no strategic importance, and cost the Australians 7,482 in dead and wounded.

Charles James Godding, Clarence’s Father, made an application to have his son’s name added to the memorial and list on the Roll of Honour.   It is a very sad document filled out by a proud but grieving father, the careful but inexpert nature of the writing in a time of grief, contrasts starkly with the bureaucratic and clinical nature of the form; it highlights the gulf in attitude between a statistic and a young man’s life.clarencegoddingrequestrollofhonour

Sadly Clarence’s body was never found, he did not return from the battle, and he was not taken prisoner, so it was beyond doubt that he was killed in action alongside hundreds of others from his Battalion, and by July 1918 his status was changed from missing to killed in action.   To the credit of the Australian authorities, they were still investigating right up till October 1919, when they checked to see if he was among Australian prisoners of war released in Germany at the end of the war, but there was no trace of him.   All of this was recorded in the archives that we researched.

Although it is not known what happened to his body, he is remembered on the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial in France.

Fines Henry Godding 1896 – 1918


Fines had worked as a labourer until on 26th February 1915, aged 19, Fines joined the Australian Imperial Force as a Private in the Infantry. He shipped out with the 17th Battalion on the troop ship Themistocles in May 1915. He trained in Egypt from June until mid-August 1915, and on 20 August landed at ANZAC Cove Gallipoli

At Gallipoli Fines fought in the last action of the August Offensive; the attack on Hill 60, it started badly, at the last minute the expected allied artillery bombardment was diverted from Hill 60 to supported the actions at Suvla Bay instead, so the attacking ANZAC and allied troops advanced straight into the ready and waiting Turkish gunfire.  Despite this a number of Turkish units abandoned their positions and retreated back to the rear trenches, allowing New Zealand contingents to overrun the forward Turkish positions.  This left the New Zealanders exposed ahead of other allied units until the Connaught Rangers, said to be “…mad with the lust for battle” stormed past the Turkish first line of trenches on the New Zealanders’ left flank sending the Turkish defenders running back to rear trenches, the Connaughts were eventually stopped by Turkish machine gun and artillery fire, this pushed them back to the Turkish trenches they had just cleared, where they were eventually relieved by the Gurkhas.  On the right flank the Australians and the Hampshire regiment were in support, but were hit with accurate artillery fire on the ground they had to cross, made worse by a shell setting the scrub on fire which burned many of the wounded to death.

The next day newly arrived Australian reinforcements, including Fines Godding, inexperienced but fresh and ready for the fight, attacked the Turkish positions with fixed bayonets, and lost over half their entire strength in one dawn attack. A dreadful introduction to modern warfare.

The allies never captured the entire hill, and all positions were constantly counter attacked by the Turks, who maintained their hold on the heights above Suvla Bay.  Both sides undermined each other’s positions and exploded mines under them, but it was a stalemate.

Fines Battalion was eventually withdrawn from Hill 60 to spent his time in defensive routine in the trenches. Then he found himself as part of the garrison of Quinn’s Post, one of the most contested positions along the entire ANZAC front.  It was named after Major Hugh Quinn, the 27-year old commander of C Company, 15th Battalion, Australian Imperial Force. Quinn was killed on 29 May whilst reconnoitring for an attack to recapture trenches seized by the Turks earlier in the day.  It was held by Fines’s unit until the evacuation of the Australians from Gallipoli. Fighting was intense, with heavy casualties on both sides, as it was a key position at the end of the Anzac line. It was overlooked by Turkish positions on three sides, and subjected to incessant sniper activity, and to grenade bombardment from Turkish positions only 15 metres away. The Turkish name for the position was Bomba Sirt (bomb ridge).  Wire nets were erected in front of the trenches to stop grenades. In his official history, the Australian historian, Charles Bean described the holding of the post as amongst the finest achievements of the Australian force.  Fines was eventually evacuated from Gallipoli in December 1915.


After further training in Egypt, Fines  was sent to France, landing on 22 March 1916.   He took part in his first major battle at Pozières between 25 July and 5 August.   After a spell in a quieter sector of the front in Belgium, he was sent back into France again in October, where he spent the freezing winter of 1916-17 rotating in and out of trenches in the Somme Valley but was spared from attacking across the quagmire the Somme.   It was during this winter that his battalion earned the nickname “the Whale Oil Guards” after their Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Oswald Croshaw, ordered the troops to polish their helmets with the whale oil that had been issued to them as a foot rub to prevent Trench Foot. Trench Foot is caused by prolonged exposure of the feet to damp and cold, it can occur with only twelve hours of exposure, the first signs are numbness in the feet followed by a change in color to red or blue. As the condition worsens, the feet swell, followed by blisters open sores which lead to fungal infections. If not treated it results in gangrene and requires amputation of the foot. Unfortunately for Fines, Croshaw considered a smart turn out on parade more important than his mens’ health.   They were Lions led by Donkeys.

In 1917 Fines took part in the pursuit of German forces after their retreat to the Hindenburg Line, and fought in the battle of Lagincourt where a counter stroke by a German force, almost four times as strong, was defeated. Fate then bequeathed that he would fight in the blood bowl at the second battle of Bullecourt (3-4 May), he would have known that Clarence his brother was fighting in the same battle, and no doubt would have had that on his mind during the action.   At the end of the Battle, he heard that his brother was missing, and tried desperately to find out what had happened to him sending letters to the authorities to try to find out as the excerpt below shows.

“…his name was in the list of missing last evening, and now it has upset me a great deal.   I don’t know how my parents at home will take it when they hear the news, it will be a great blow to them, but still we must of hope for the best.   I am giving you his address and if you hear anything different please communicate with me as soon as possible.”

This letter was written from Perham Down, Andover, which was a Convalescent Depot. These were half way houses for casualties returning to the front – men who no longer required hospitalisation but were not yet fit to rejoin their units. Fines had also been wounded at Bullecourt, seriously enough to have been shipped back to England for treatment. At the end of his treatment in July 1917 he wrote another letter to make sure the Department of Wounded and Missing Soldiers would know where to contact him should they get news, as he had been temporarily moved out of the front lines. On the 3rd of September he was still trying to find out the fate of his brother, writing again to the authorities on his return to his battalion. Not knowing his brother’s fate he was shipped back to Belgium, where he fought at the battles of the Menin Road 20th – 22nd September, and Poelcappelle 9th – 10th October. In October his father wrote to the authorities about his missing son Clarence, but also mentioned poignant words about Fines, pleading with the authorities to let his shell shocked son come home, we discovered these heart rending letters in the archives:finesletter

The father didn’t get his wish, instead, Fines was shipped out for another winter of trench duty. Fines then took part in the stopping of the German Spring Offensive of 1918. With this last desperate offensive defeated, the Allied armies turned to the offensive.  But Fines found himself back in hospital in England. This time he had Trench Fever, a disease spread by body lice in the unhygenic environment of the trenches. Fines was treated in the hospial for just over three weeks, then given two weeks furlough before being shipped back to the front line.

Once back in the lines, Fines received the official letter from the authorities concerning his brother, his worst fears were realised. We can only guess at the pain he carried in his heart as he fought in the battles that pushed the German Army ever closer to defeat: Amiens on 8 August, the legendary attack on Mont St Quentin on 31st August. Then came the last major battle fought by his Battalion which started on 29th September 1918. Two Australian Divisions in co-operation with American forces, attacked the formidable German defences along the St Quentin Canal, and on to the Hindenburg Line.

Unlike his brother Clarence, Fines fate was well documented by his comrades, and we were able to discover in our research many testimonials from them describing what they saw:   Private Quantrill went over the top with him at 06.10 on the morning of 30th September 1918 and saw him fall; Sergeant Callaghan saw him lying dead in a trench with machine gun wounds; Private Simmons wrapped his body for burial and noted that he had been hit in the neck and head by machine gun bullets;

simmonsletterPrivate Green carried his body back for burial after Simmons had wrapped it; and Sergeant Wilkinson oversaw Fines’s burial at Tincourt Cemetary. The actions of his friends who had cared for him and provided some dignity after death must have given some comfort to his grieving parents.  His friends refer to him by his nickname as Merry Godding because of his happy disposition. He was 21 years old Turkey and Flanders in some of the bloodiest battles of WW1, but despite all of this he still managed to lift the spirits of his comrades.   What greater praise could a man be given?

James Keith Godding 1905 – 1943

A sad postscript to this part of the Family’s story is for the youngest brother, James Keith Godding who survived the First World War because he was too young to join up.  But when World War Two broke out he followed the path of his elder brothers and father, and volunteered for the Australian Army, like his father joining the artillery, after a brief initial spell in the infantry.  Tragically he died of Tuberculosis whilst in the Artillery and still in Australia.

Let’s end on a Happier Note

Roy William Godding

Was born in Newton NSW Australia, the son of Thomas Sydney Godding, and the grandson of Vines Godding.  He was a sheep shearer by occupation, and was working in Queensland when he joined the Australian Imperial Force.  He was 5ft 8ins tall had dark hair a dark complexion, no doubt tanned from his work shearing in the tropics, and had grey eyes.  He had a 34 inch Chest and weighed just over 11 stone, so he was quite heavy for his height, but wasn’t particularly broad in the chest.

He was shipped out as a member of the 15th Infantry Battalion on HMAT Wandilla on 31st January 1916 from Brisbane, and he joined the regiment in Egypt where it had been sent after leaving Gallipoli, so Roy just missed engaging there. Roy proved to be a bit of a tearaway, finding himself in hospital on two separate occasions both for treatment for the results of some leisure activities in Cairo, and he subsequently turns up in Rollestone, Wiltshire, UK in September 1916, where he goes AWL (Absent Without Leave), and is given 16 days confinement to Camp, and lost 16 days pay.

Interestingly the following letter written by the Canon of his parents’ church enquires about Roy as being wounded.  His battalion had been in France and had fought in the battle of Pozières in August 1916, so he was wounded and shipped back to England.roygoddinletter


By November 1916 he is shipped back to France, and must have started showing his worth as by April 1917 he is promoted to Lance Corporal. This probably happened at the first Battle of Bullecourt, the prelude to the Battle which his cousins fought in. Roy’s battalion suffered heavy losses at Bullecourt when the brigade attacked strong German positions without the promised tank support. During July Roy spent another three weeks in hospital, probably through wounds, It spent much of the remainder of 1917 in Belgium, advancing to the Hindenburg Line, where again he no doubt proved himself being promoted to Corporal and then to Sergeant.

His greatest moment came in September 1917 in the battle of Polygon Wood, in the larger battle of Passchendale.  The attack on Polygon Wood was the 5th Division’s first major battle since it was savaged at the disastrous attack at Fromelles in July 1916 (although parts of the Division had been present at Bullecourt in April 1917). It would attack with the Australian 4th Division on its left and five British Divisions also taking part.

The troops advanced in the early hours of September 26, close behind a creeping artillery barrage. The barrage was, in the words of C. E. W. Bean, Australia’s Official War Historian, “the most perfect that ever protected Australian troops”. Under the protection of this barrage, the Australians advanced in several stages. The concrete pillboxes were manned by German machine gun teams who resisted fiercely and almost all had to be captured by acts of individual bravery. The Australians captured the pillboxes in what later became the classic style: a Lewis gun would fire on the pillbox, supported by fire from rifle grenades, while an assault team would manoeuvre around to the back of the pillbox, rather than attacking it head on. The technique worked effectively in most cases, but attacking pillboxes was never an easy task and casualties were seldom small.

It was during this engagement that Roy won The Military Medal.  The Military Medal was a military decoration awarded to personnel of the British and Commonwealth Armies, below Officer rank, for bravery in battle on land. It was the other rank’s equivalent to the Military Cross. Recipients of the Military Medal were entitled to use the letters “MM” after their name.mmroygodding1

He returned to Australia in 1918, and was demobilised in 1919.


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