John William Womersley

Originally posted on St Chrysostom's Church Blog:

On 4th June 1915, one hundred years ago today, John William Womersley, a member of St Chrysostom’s Church, wass killed in the Battle of Krithia, on the Gallipoli peninsula. He was 31 years old.

John Womersley was born on February 3rd 1884, the eldest son of Frederick and Emily Womersley of The Olives, Anson Road, Victoria Park. (Very near St Chrysostom’s Church). He was educated at Mill Hill School in north London. As a young man he became a partner in his father’s accountancy firm, Womersley and Sons of King Street, Manchester. He took an active interest in the local community and was a member of St Chrysostom’s congregation, later a sidesman at the church.

Womersley Group WW1 Officers of the 8th Battalion the Manchester Regiment. John Womersley is 8th from the left on the back row.

John enrolled in the 8th (Ardwick) Batallion of the Manchester Regiment before the war broke out…

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Private Louis Francois Hillebrand – 17th Manchester’s Dutchman Died 22/5/1918

Having contributed to the Flickr account of the Manchester Regiment Group’s Photostream, new opportunities continue to be found to build the photographic collection of graves and commemorations for men who served in the Manchester Regiment.

These trips correspond with social or family obligations, but I recently took a 17 year old on a driving lesson to a cemetery in north west London and passed by the former home of the man concerned. The memory of every man who lost his life in WWI is important, but Louis Hillebrand is certainly different.

Louis Hillebrand was born in Amsterdam in 1878. His father Johannas is noted as a locksmith and his mother was Dorothea Hulna D’Enville.  At some stage Louis moved to Britain, resident at  52 Market Place, Hyde Park when he was naturalised a British Citizen and noted as a hairdresser.  On 29th July that year he married Selina Young in St Michael and All Angels Church, Paddington.  Selina was a school teacher and two years older than Louis.  Limited records suggest the couple had two boys in 1912, Felix Francois and Stephen Louis.  The family 12 Conniningham Road, Golders Green, NW11were living at 12 Conningham Road, Golders Green in 1918.

At the outbreak of the Great War, Louis would not have been an average recruit.  His employment as a hairdresser in his mid 30s with two children explains why he was not in the first groups of men to enlist.  The date he joined the Army is not known, but records show Louis enlisted in Cricklewood.  He may have been held in reserve for some time and probably arrived in France in 1917.  At this stage he will have been attached to the Manchester Regiment and transferred to 19th Battalion, receiving the number 51183.*1

The 19th Battalion took part in numerous actions during hostilities, many corresponding with their 17th Battalion comrades.  Louis’ Roll for his British War Medal and Victory Medals indicates  service in both of these Battalions.  This probably relates to the 19th Battalion being absorbed in the 16th or 17th Battalions in February 1918.  This transfer renders it difficult to seek to identify an enlistment date, but analysis of the Regimental Numbers suggests men with this sequence probably first saw action at Ypres on 31st July 1917.*2

51183 Louis Francois Hillebrand 17th Bttn Paddington Old Cemetery, KilburnAs some stage Louis was wounded and evacuated Home.  He was being treated in Brook War Hospital, Shooters Hill in south London when he died of wounds on 22nd May 1918.  He is buried in Paddington Old Cemetery, Kilburn – a few miles south of the family home in Golders Green.  It’s possible he suffered wounds earlier, but most likely this was during the withdrawal from St Quentin during the German spring offensive of March 1918 or the Spoil Bank at Ypres in the next month.

*1 The Manchesters did not recruit in London and it’s likely Louis arrived at Etaples Infantry Brigade Depot to find himself promptly moved to the 19th Manchesters who will have been in need of replacement drafts of men who regularly joined them through 1916-1918.  He may have originally enlisted for General Service, Middlesex Regiment or other London based Regiment.

*2 There is one casualty in the number sequence who was killed 31/3/1917.

Lance Corporal Tom Sharples 9048. Killed in Action in Montauban 1-2/7/1916

Annette Roberts is one of a number of site visitors who have left a comment – in Annette’s case, concerning her great uncle.  Here’s some bits for her research.

Annette has mentioned that Tom worked in the contracts dept of Manchester City Council.  Here's the Roll of Honour for the Town Clerk's Section.  My Grandad worked in the Rates Department after the war.

Annette has mentioned that Tom worked in the contracts dept of Manchester City Council. Here’s the Roll of Honour for the Town Clerk’s Section. My Grandad worked in the Rates Department after the war.

XIV Pln D Coy - Book of Honour

I Platoon Roll in April 1915, showing Tom as Lance Corporal

I Pln A Coy 17th Bttn Photo

Tom is somewhere in this I Platoon photo with 1 stripe on his arm.

From Annette – My Great Uncle Tom Sharples was one of the Manchester Pals, 17th Battalion 2nd Platoon killed on 1st July 1916 at Montauban, he was the third son of William Alexander and Mary Ann Sharples and brother to George, Alexander, Richard and Mary Ann Abbott (Polly) Sharples.
He worked in the Contracts Dept., Manchester Town Hall and was well known in his tennis club and Secretary to the Mens Association, St Johns Church, Cheetham.     From the Anniversary Edition of the Manchester Evening News 1/7/1917:-

SHARPLES – In ever loving memory of our dear brother,
“Lance-Corporal TOM SHARPLES, 2nd Pals, who fell in
action at Montauban, July 1, 1916.
One of the best.
Sadly missed by all at home, GEORGE and ALICE.

Annette tells me “The ‘Maud’ referred to is my late grandmother. George and Alec were his brothers along with Richard (Maud’s husband) my late grandfather.” Annette also reports Tom was killed close to midnight on 1st / 2nd July 1916.  At this point a large part of A Company were on the northern outskirts of the village of Montauban near the road to Quarry Cemetery and suffered ongoing problems with the German artillery.  This is likely to be scene for his death.  There was the A Company outpost at Triangle Point in front of the main Company positions, but these men reported little problems until the main German counter-attack at 3-4am.  I’d be interested to see the source of the estimated time of Tom’s death to cross-check.

Tom Sharples was born in the Parish of St John’s in Cheetham Hill and was employed as a clerk before hostilities.  He enlisted in Manchester on 11/9/1914, aged 24 years 6 months.  He was promoted unpaid Lance Corporal on 9/1/1915 and paid by 1/6/1915.  He arrived in France with the majority of the Battalion on 8/11/1915.  Tom’s disciplinary record shows he was Ration Corporal in Maricourt / Suzanne when reprimanded twice for neglect of these duties and there is a third reprimand for damaging Government property.  Service Records show the dual date of death of 1/2 July. His father William received Tom’s effects in 1916.  Tom’s £8 War Gratuity and 1914/15 Star was later provided to his brother Alexander (Alec).  His mother Mary Ann received his British War Medal and Victory Medals.  She lived at Northlea, 48 Woodlands Road, Cheetham Hill with youngest son Richard (Annette’s Grandfather) and Mary Ann.  Tom’s Service Record includes part a letter from Fanny Bithell, who seemed to be seeking information about him and may have been a girlfriend.  She lived at 39 Falcon Street, Oldham and had been referred to in Form A2033 on 22/3/1916.

Belton Park, Grantham – 17th Manchesters arrive 24th April 1915



The Manchester Brigade left there home training areas on 24th April 1915 and formed part of the 30th Division in their new barracks in Lincolnshire.

See Belton Park and Larkhill | 17th Battalion Manchester Regiment on the Somme.

20th Manchesters Belton Park

20th Manchesters Belton Park

43365 Robert Ramsey DoW 18.4.1917 Norwich

43365 Robert Ramsey Died of Wounds 18/4/1917. 17th Manchesters transferred from Royal Fusiliers

The Manchester Regiment Group’s albums on Flickr project for collating grave photographs continues to produce fresh information and background on the men who fought in the 17th Manchesters. Robert Ramsey helps illustrate the men who joined in the Battalion during mid July 1916 as drafts to replace extensive losses from Montauban and Trones Wood.  The date on the Grave inscription is inaccurate as confirmed by this research:-
Robert attested 10379 in the Royal Fusiliers on 5/12/1914, as part of Lord Kitchener’s recruitment drive. He had been a Labourer, resident at 119 Marks Road, Romford with his wife Daisy and daughters Dorothy & Florrie. His Mother, Elizabeth and Father, William lived at 50 Willow Street, Romford. The couple had seven other children.
Following basic training with 7th Battalion at Hounslow, Robert went on to serve in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He arrived (probably Galipoli) with 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers on 10/5/1915. He returned Home wounded on 5/12/1915; and following treatment in the York Military Hospital, Robert spent Christmas at home with his family on furlough from 21 to 30/12/1915. On 9/2/1916, Robert returned to hostilities with 8th Battalion in France. He received a Gun Shot Wound in the arm on 11/4/1916 and returned Home on Hospital Ship St David, arriving 4/5/1916 and received treatment in Huddersfield War Hospital. There was a Court Martial – sleeping on duty – at this stage and Robert’s sentence was commuted and he was required to return France with 5th Battalion, where he arrived posted to 32nd Battalion on 28/6/ 1916. Having arrived at Infantry Brigade Depot, Etaples the next day, he was then attached to the 17th Manchesters as part of a draft of 438 troops who arrived on 12/7/1916. In common with many of the July draft, he was then transferred to the Battalion – 43365 – on 1/9/1916.
Evidence of other men who were attached to the 17th Manchesters*1 indicates Robert will have taken part in the assaults at Guillemont (30/7/1916) and Flers where he will have joined the assault on 12/10/1916 and was wounded again on 14/10/1916.

After recovery in France, Robert was then wounded, serving with D Company at Neuville-Vitasse, as the Germans withdrew to the Hindenburg Line. The Medical Records suggest Robert was wounded at Neuville Vitesse on 5/4/1917, but the War Diary reports the Battalion at Blairville on this date. Robert was hospitilised in Wimereux before evacuation to Britain on Hospital Ship Princess Elizabeth, arriving 12/4/1917 when he was admitted to the Norwich & Norfolk Military Hospital with Gun Shot Wounded and internal haemorrhage.

After treatment for 5 days, Robert succumbed to his wounds during an operation on 18th April 1917.  He is buried in Romford Cemetery.
After Robert’s death, Daisy remarried and she went to live with her daughters at 14 McAlpine Street, Anderston, Glasgow.
Many men from Royal Berkshire Regiment were attached to the 17th Manchesters in mid July 1916 and went on to fight at Guillemont on 30/7/1916. This research has led to the identification of CHRISTIAN GRAYSMITH who died in the assault posted as 32nd Royal Fusiliers, but recorded by CWGC as attached to 17th Battalion. 19 year old tea packet from Blackfriars, Christian was originally buried on the battlefield close the railway line leading east from Trones Wood, before his remains were relocated to Serre Road in the 1920s.  His Medal Roll confirms arrival in France on 28/6/1916 in the same group of reinforcements as Robert Ramsey.  The Roll also confirms attachment to Manchesters.
DoB 26/2/1988. Marriage to Daisy Catherine Box 5/6/1910. Daughters Dorothy Violet (DoB 12/7/1911) & Florence Esther (DoB 24/7/1913)
Evidence used:-
1. Service Record
3. Medal Roll
5. 17th Battalion War Diary.