A satisfying search for non-existent Headstones
By strange coincidence two Great War soldiers of the Manchester Regiment are buried in the same cemetery at Wellingborough in Northamptonshire. Both men are awaiting adjudication to see if they will be granted War Grave status. Records indicate both Frederick Lilleyman and Arthur Cole were transferred to the Manchesters after training with the Northamptonshire Yeomanry and Regiment.
Private 55044 Arthur Cole had enlisted in the Northamptonshire Yeomanry on 16 November 1914. He had previously worked as a Labourer in a timber yard. Disembarking in France on 12 November 1917, Arthur was transferred to 21st Battalion Manchester Regiment four days later and moved to Italy soon after. Appointed Lance Corporal, Arthur was posted to 22nd Battalion in September 1918. He was wounded in October 1918 and returned Home in February 1919. Arthur was discharged on 28 February 1919.
Arthur died from Tuberculosis (TB) & Meningitis on 19 January 1920, aged 24. The TB was attributed Arthur’s Army service. Arthur passed away at his Uncle James home at 18 Regent Street, Wellingborough. His parents Priscilla & John Ambrose Cole lived at 30 Winstanley Street, Wellingborough. Their younger son Frank had been killed in 1918 serving with 5th Northamptonshire Regiment. Arthur is buried in unmarked plot E.224 in Wellingborough (Doddington Road) Cemetery.
Private 42331 Frederick Jasper Lilleyman served overseas with 2/7th Battalion. He had previously been employed as a Shoe Clicker enlisted on 8 December 1915. There is evidence Frederick had enlisted in the Northamptonshire Regiment under the Derby Scheme and called up to train with their 3rd Battalion. Frederick was transferred to the Manchesters having disembarked in France in February 1917. He was discharged on 22 January 1918.
Frederick Lilleyman died from TB on 6 May 1921, aged 39. He is also buried at Doddington Road Cemetery, Plot E.65 with no headstone. Frederick’s widow was Kerenhappuch Lilleyman of 79 Great Park Street, Wellingborough. A pension was refused as they had married after discharge. Frederick was the son of Frederick and Mary Ann Lilleyman.
Not Forgotten approx 100 years after their deaths.
As part of the research for the non-commemorations I had hoped to visit the known burials to record the current headstones and consider any changes that may be undertaken by Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Due to the limitations on travel, my first inspection was at Wellingborough.
We arrived at Doddington Road with the hope of photographing the headstones, without fully reviewing my earlier notes and I also forgot my Poppy Crosses to pay respects. The position of plot numbers was broadly identifiable and it became clear that neither burial has a headstone. Nevertheless, this was not a fruitless journey.
The Council cemeteries are managed by Wellingborough Norse and their staff have been incredibly helpful. Jayne Draper had previously emailed the plot numbers for Arthur and Frederick. I checked the emails and found that both men had unpurchased graves and Jayne had advised this probably meant they had no Headstones.
During my somewhat pointless wanderings – looking for Headstones that aren’t there – one of the Cemetery staff drove by in his digger and waved. I acknowledged and was pleased to see him park up and walk back to me. After explaining my quest he kindly called up Jayne, who drove over to assist.
Jayne opened up the Cemetery Office and showed me the plans, clearly identifying the plots in the Sixth Row of Block E. Frederick’s grave is number 8 and Arthur’s at 24.
The two local staff at Doddington Road also viewed the plans and we walked over to the adjoining Block E and we specifically identified the plots for our Manchester Regiment soldiers; confirming Jayne’s advice that there are no Headstones or current markers.
In instances where burial plots cannot be clearly identified for new commemorations, CWGC seek consent from living family members to erect a new War Grave Headstone.
If family members are not found, a Special Memorial will be erected (There is no commemorative Screen Wall in Wellingborough) with a similar Headstone, with superscript “BURIED ELSEWHERE IN THIS CEMETERY”. Arthur Cole and Frederick Lilleyman have waited a 99-100 years for commemoration and I have a new quest to find living relatives to consent to a Headstone on their respective plots. If this is unsuccesful, I am sure Jayne and her team will find a suitable place (possibly near the office) for the Special Memorials.
This Post is written in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis. The welcome, interest and assistance from the Wellingborough Norse staff is fully ackowledged. The team are doing a wonderful job with numerous funerals and grieving families. I am indebted to them and feel they are a huge credit to their town. The burials of the two Manchester Regiment men are in safe hands.
Thank you Wellingborough Norse.
My father is a dedicated steam railway enthusiast. Our family spent many happy days chasing trains that had just departed and seeking lines that confounded him. My 18 year old daughter assisted in the grave search at Wellingborough and would probably prefer steam railways.