Following further twittering, here’s some photos for Flis & Pamela. Their Grandad Ernest Hawksworth served with 17th Manchesters. He is thought to have been wounded in arm near Sanctuary Wood Ypres on 31st July 1917 and also suffered gas poisoning. Prior to hostilities, Ernest was employed by Brookfield Aichison & Co.
Ernest’s cousin 9148 Alfred Hawksworth was also a member of A Company, serving with Arthur Bell in III Platoon. Alfred was also a member of the 17th Battalion Bugle Band and probably trained / served as a stretcher bearer. More details can found in The Cost
Five Historic Archives
Four French Deaths;
Three Shot at Dawn;
Two Football Games
and a Horse left in the German Wire.
The poppies in the Tower of London, my family visit to the Warhorse show and BBC’s Our World War series have provided a resounding success in recognising the anniversary of the Great War. As a WWI researcher, it’s been easy to find fault in publications or programmes. In an effort to avoid being sniffy, I concluded that it was best to accept the spirit on these media and appreciate that the current generation of British people are engaging with the subject on numerous levels. This piece reflects on the direction of the media’s presentation.
The buffeting from crowds of people walking through the City of London on a Saturday afternoon in November confirmed our society’s continuing recognition of the War. I visited with one of my daughters to see Alfred Ridge’s Poppy in the sea of 888,246 and I imagine other people had their own agendas, or were solely spectators. As a football fan, I know the common spirit of a crowd – or indeed a mob – and found
the effervescent Poppy experience unforgettable.
Further unreserved Anniversary success was the digitisation of records and fresh publication on line. Archive material from numerous sources can now be accessed at relatively low cost. Highlights for 17th Manchesters research in 2014 have been Red Cross Prisoner of War ICRC Digitised Records War Office Medal Rolls; Soldiers Wills for some men; War Diaries at the National Archive; extended data available on the Commonwealth War Grave Commission CWGC site.
As we approach the second year of Centenary and anticipating the Anniversary of the Battle of the Somme in July 2016, some reservations are developing.
The first is the romanticisation or of war. The remarkable story of the 1914 Christmas truce have been lost to popularisation of the media’s obsession with football – particularly the controversial Sainsbury’s advert and factually incorrect dreams. No confirmed sources indicate there was any pretence of a match between German and British troops. There was a kick-about in at least two locations, but the shaking of hands, sharing food & drink and genuine shared experience of a temporary peace are the principle issues that should be remembered.
The second concern is the application of 2014 moral values on our ancestors. I watched the Private Peaceful play with my family and found the presentation of war horrors to be well balanced with the plot associated with a Shot at Dawn (SaD) case. The engagement of the audience was remarkable for itself, but particularly with the number of Primary School age children and teenagers who were engaged throughout.
Regrettably SaD cases seem to be highlighted in every other media opportunity e.g. The Village & Our World War. I accept this is an issue for moral interpretation and I have specific regret and sadness for the three men of the 18th Manchesters who were executed for cowardice. However I feel this 2014 moral question now eclipses the principal issues of hostilities. My grandfather was wounded leaving the same trenches, on the day one of the 18th Battalion SaD men absented himself from duty at Flers. Rather than judging the SaD morality, I always feel the slaughter of hundreds of men on that day may have been a little more significant at the time. Let’s also remember 8135 Harry Evans who was killed that day, along with Grandfather’s School friend 8132 Leonard Edmondson; his neighbour 8241 Alec Mitchell and 8474 Hubert Craig who had served in III Platoon with Grandad since 1914 Anniversary 12th October 1916. I realise the personal connection with these casualties relates to a specific private interest. However, I see no media reflection on the scale of casualties.
Thankfully the troops returning from Afghanistan are contributing to a clear media presentation of the true factors of warfare and the recent casualties in our immediate consciousness. Kajaki is shocking, heart-warming but painful to watch, and should be compulsory viewing for GCSE students – particularly those considering a career in politics.
There seems to be no equivalent presentation of WWI. There may be a inadvertent conspiracy to focus on palatable issues or politically correct questions at cost of avoiding the enormity and horror of trench warfare. I have seen some incredibly vivid photographs of dead soldiers in the Western Front. My choice to avoid publishing may be missing some very moving material out of respect for the men concerned. However I reflect on the prospect that I’m also making the unpalatable nature of warfare more accessible.
Not wishing to be getting ahead of the media, here’s thoughts on four deaths on the Somme recounted by Scout Sergeant Bert Payne in his interviews with Lyn E Smith. Payne James Albert IWM interview In an effort to portray a more comprehensive picture, these events are now added to the static content on the site.
Bert served in the 16th Manchesters in Maricourt and was wounded in the First Day of the Somme at Montauban. These places and events are almost the same as the experiences of the 17th Battalion.
Bert first describes the uncomfortable delay in recovering the body of Corporal Pickering after he had been blown out of an Observation Point onto the wire near Maricourt. He then reported the losses in the advance Montauban. “I had a boy with me…out of school for six weeks…He said ‘…I’ve arrived today’ I said ‘Hang on to me.’…He was killed. Shot down next to me”
Bert Payne was wounded in the last dash up into the village. He was hit in the face by enfilade machine gun fire “There was a big shell hole full of dead and dying and blinded. It seemed to me to be a tall man got it through the jaw. A shorter man got it through the eyes.” After recovering consciousness Bert made a temporary dressing for his wound and made his way to the rear with Corporal Bill Brock, who had been shot through the foot.
On the way back over the hard fought battlefield, Bert and Bill came across a British Soldier with terrible wounds. “ A shell had come over and hit this man. Knocked off his left arm. Knocked off his left leg. His left eye was hanging on his cheek and he was calling out for Annie… So I shot him… But it hurt me. …He was just anybody’s boy. He was calling out for Annie…His eye was hanging out pulsing. I had to shoot him… Nobody could have done anything for him. He would have died in any case. I had the courage to do it.”
Later in the interview Bert mentions his repeated thoughts about his part in the death of the young man. It clearly made a deep impression on him and probably contributed to his response to a captured German Medical Officer he came across soon after. I asked this Doctor to bind the Corporal’s foot up and he wouldn’t. I told to do it or I’d shoot him…he said ‘Blame your own government.’ He refused to bind his foot so I shot him.”
These four deaths are not comfortable to address and any interpretation relate to the complete picture and context of hostilities. Following the confused assessment of a kick about at Christmas it may be best to leave the matter for personal interpretation and not the media. However, at the end of this Anniversary year, we will must not forget unpalatable aspects of death and maiming. The generation of men that returned mainly chose not to speak about their experiences. Thanks to Bert Payne and Arthur Bell we do have some first-hand experience that we can hear. Let’s hope the media don’t fail to listen.
6330 James Albert Payne went on to live a full life being interviewed in his 94 year. After a long period of recovery he worked then worked in a Military Hospital and was discharged with a Silver War Badge in March 1918, aged 24. Bert has been one of the first to enlist in the Pals in August 1914.
Two brothers Horace and Reginald Pickering had enlisted in August 1914 and served together. Lance Corporal Horace Pickering was killed in May 1916. One can imagine the anguish of his friends and brother when Horace’s body remained above their trench, but unavailable until nightfall. Horace was buried alongside Lance Corporal Charles Johnston-who had been killed in the same bombardment- in Maricourt Military Cemetery. Their remains were relocated to Cerisey-Gailly in 1920. Brother Reg had been a singer and entertained the troops with his tenor voice. He was later wounded and returned Home, where he looked for work in music.
William Priestley Brock later transferred to the Labour Corps where he was transferred fit to reserve in March 1919.
How lucky am I that Grandad survived his service in WWI? This is a fundamental question that remains in the background as I learn more and report hostilities.
As a sample of Manchester Pals, I’ve used the III Platoon Roll as published in the Book of Honour. We don’t know who’s who on the majority of the Platoon photo. We do have some information on each of the individuals in the list.
Analysis of CWGC & SDGW records shows 19 of the 64 Men in III Platoon Roll died during hostilities. A little under 30% of the sample were killed or died.
In view of my wider knowledge of The Cost the proportion of fatalities was surprisingly low. Further analysis of the Roll shows a group of men that did not leave for France on 8th November 1915, who may be dismissed from a true sample of fifty five men who left England with the Pals. Part of the excluded Group includes NCOs who’d been transferred to other Battalions or Corps and another man arrived in France during 1916. However, the majority of the excluded group were not combatants. These 6 men were either dismissed as unfit or unsuitable for service, or they served as Garrison troops away from Theaters of War.
Following the revised sample, it can be seen that 19 of 55 men died who arrived in France with the Pals. The chance of survival was 65% - a little over 2/3rds survived.
Private Herbert Pain was servant to 2nd Lieutenant Paul Cranfield Smyth until 31st July 1916, when the subaltern was wounded at Ypres. The postcard shows a youthful young man from south London who survived the drama of the Western Front, but lost his life away from the front six months before the Armistice.
CWGC shows Private H J Pain 41788 is buried at MONT HUON MILITARY CEMETERY, LE TREPORT having died on 27th May 1918. Le Treport was a main hospital centre for the Western Front and it could be a sensible assumption Herbert had died being treated for wounds received that spring.
Part of CWGC records suggest Herbert was part of 18th Bttn, although this may be because the 19th was disbanded that February and absorbed into 16th or 17th Bttns. The 18th Bttn. was possibly confused, or an error.
SDGW indicates Wimbledon born Herbert John Pain had ‘Died’ in France or Flanders on 27th May. He had lived in Raynes Park and enlisted in Merton. The contrast from the anticipated ‘Died of Wounds’ raises a question of the circumstances of Hebert’s demise.
1911 Census records show Herbert living with his parents, Walters Charles & Margaret Emma Pain [Nee Spong] at 76 Dindonald Road Wimbledon. Herbert was 14 year old school pupil and hes father was a bricklayer.
Baptism records provide 29 December 1897 as Herbert’s date of birth. He was christened at Holy Trinity Church, Wimbledon.
During World War II the Luftwaffe bombed London and most WWI Service Records were burned during the Blitz in the National Archives at Kew. We are fortunate the Records for Herbert Pain were left intact and enable us to provide a wider picture of the man, his Army service and his death.
Herbert’s Attestation sheet is clearly written in the same handwriting on the card given to Lieutenant Smyth. It also introduces the young man who enlisted in the 11th East Surrey Regiment, under Lord Derby’s Scheme for Voluntary conscription. Hebert was employed as a Chauffeur and living at 86 Vernon Avenue, Rayners Park, Merton, South West London. Presumably his employment rendered Herbert suitable for the role of Servant when he arrived at the front.
Herbert was still 17 when he attested at Merton Town Hall on 8/12/1917. He was then held in Reserve; holding an armlet to show his Service until 10/5/1916 when he was called up to Service with the E Surreys at Kingston-on-Thames.
Further Enlistment details confirm Walter Charles Pain of 86 Vernon Ave as Herbert’s father and next of kin. The Military History solely shows arrival at the British Expeditionary Force in France on 2/2/1917; a short time after Herbert’s 19th birthday. This confirms his entitlement to the Victory and British War Medals. These are attributed to the 19th Manchester Regiment in the Medal Rolls, most likely having transferred on 20/2/1917. Herbert served 268 days at Home and 1 year, 115 days in France.
The uncommon record ‘Died’ is fully explained as ‘Accidentally Drowned’ on 27/5/1918. A Court of Inquiry was held by 30th Division on 6th June 1918 and chaired by Major K D Holt of the Liverpool Regiment. Herbert’s Battalion allocation was interchanged between 17th & 19th Battalions suggesting he had been posted to 17th Battalion in February 1918, when 19th was disbanded.
The Inquiry received Witness Statements from a series of French civilians and British Soldiers. Herbert was seen undressing at Mers and swimming out to a sand bar. He then got into difficulty and was seen to have disappeared. The civilians all noted treacherous undercurrents during the ebb tide when Herbert was in the sea and the morning tide bringing in his body the next day. The Inquiry unanimously determined Herbert’s accidentally death by drowning.
Hebert’s effects were sent to his mother, who was still resident at Vernon Avenue, Rayners Park. Margaret Pain later acknowledged receipt of Herbert’s medals on 21/8/1921.
CWGC – Commonwealth War Graves Commission
SDGW – Soldiers Died in Great War
Postcard courtesy of Barbara Pearce http://www.finchleygallery.com/the-artist.htm
Newly released data on the net provides the Roll of 17th Battalion men who arrived in France on 8th November 1915. Of the sample of 12 men on the Roll with Arthur Bell:-
5 Died, including Private Arthur Edward Bennett 1st July 1916 – III Platoon Men
3 Discharged (Presumed sickness or wounds) including Arthur Bell
4 Demobilised fit (May have been wounded prior or former PoW)
We shall remember them.