Military Monday

Military Monday – Ernest Aldersley (1899 – 1918)

Ernest Aldersley is my 3rd cousin 1x removed.  Our common ancestors are my 3x great grandparents John Dinsdale and Esther Mason.

Ernest was born in Bradford in 1899 and is the only child of Jeremiah Aldersley and Rose Jowett.

As far as I have been able to establish Ernest enlisted in Keighley, West Yorkshire.  He was a private in the Machine Gun Corps and his service number was 154978.  Here is a link to some history of the units of The Machine Gun Corps of 1914-1918.  Ernest was killed in action on 2 September 1918 – although some pages on the Internet suggest that it might have been 3 September 1918.  His death was reported in the Craven Herald newspaper on 20 September 1918 as follows.

GARGRAVE – KILLED ON HIS 19th BIRTHDAY

The sad news has reached Mr. and Mrs. J. Aldersley, West Street, that their only son, Ernest, was killed by a shell while in action on the 3rd inst. Authentic news through the War Office is not yet to hand, but his pal, Private Charles Goddard, sends the information to his parents in a very sympathetic communication. It appears they were fast friends, having been companions for some time. It was young Aldersley’s first baptism of fire, and on his nineteenth birthday. A well-built strapping young fellow, he was, prior to enlisting, a Canal Office clerk and clerk at Delaney’s Gargrave quarries. The deep sympathy of the whole parish goes out to his bereaved relatives. At the Parish Church the Dead March was played in his honour on Sunday night after very feeling references to the event by the Vicar at the close of his sermon.

Ernest is commemorated on the Gargrave War Memorial and his grave is at the Vaulx Hill Cemetery in the Pas de Calais, France.

Gargrave War Memorial

Vaulx-Vraucourt village was taken in the spring of 1917, lost (after severe fighting) in March 1918, and retaken in the following September. Vaulx Hill Cemetery started with just 17 graves of September 1918 (in Plot I, Rows A and B). The rest of the cemetery was formed after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields in the immediate neighbourhood and the following smaller cemeteries:-

• Chafours Wood Cemetery, Morchies, which contained 17 Australian and five United     Kingdom graves of 1917.

• Lagnicourt Australian Cemetery, which contained seven Australian graves of 1917 and 27 United Kingdom of September 1918.

• New Zealand Cemetery No.17, Favreuil, where 22 of the 2nd New Zealand Rifles Brigade were buried in August 1918.

• Sunken Road Cemetery, Beaumetz-Les-Cambrai, which contained 23 Australian and five United Kingdom graves of May 1917.

• Vraucourt Churchyard Extension, which was across the road from the Church and contained 185 United Kingdom and seven Australian graves of 1917 and 1918 (a German Extension was also removed).

The cemetery now contains 856 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 258 of the burials are unidentified but special memorials commemorate 29 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and four others buried in other cemeteries whose graves were destroyed by shell fire.

Vaulx Hill Cemetery - Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Military Monday – Prince Dawson (1893-1915)

 Prince Dawson is my 1st cousin 2x removed – in other words he is my granddad’s cousin.  He was born sometime in the third quarter of 1893 in Keighley, West Yorkshire, to parents John Dawson and Elizabeth Bradley.

I have found Prince, his parents and siblings on the 1901 census and in 1911 when he is working as an iron plainer.

Fortunately for me Ancestry.co.uk has a copy of Prince’s WW1 service records and they are in pretty good condition so I can work out quite a lot of information about him.

I know that he enlisted for four years in Keighley on 28th September 1914 about eight weeks after Britain declared war on Germany on 4th August.

According to the medical report Prince was not a very tall chap – in fact he was only 5 feet 4 inches.  He had normal vision and good physical development.

His first posting was to the 2/6th Battalion of The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment) – part of the Territorial Force.  His regimental number was 2757.  The 2/6th was formed at Skipton in September 1914 as a home service (“second line”) unit.

On Christmas Day 1914 he was transferred to the 1/6th Battalion The Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding Regiment).

Prince remained billeted in Doncaster until April 1915.  I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for Prince and all the other troops waiting to be shipped to France.

Anyway the day eventually came and he embarked from Southampton on 13th April 1915 and landed at Le Havre on 14th April 1915.  The 1/6th then became the 147th Brigade of the 49th (West Riding) Division.

By the 19th April the Division had concentrated in the area of Estaires – Merville – Neuf Berquin.  They remained in France and Flanders and took part in The Battle of Aubers Ridge (9th May 1915) and the defence against the first Phosgene attack (19th December 1915).

I can see from Prince’s medical record that he was admitted to the field hospital on 25th June 1915 with diarrhea.  He rejoined his unit the following day.

The next available information shows that Prince was wounded in action with gas poisoning on 19th December 1915 – the first day of the Phosgene attack mentioned above.  He was admitted to hospital at Paris-Plage but died at 5.50pm on 21st December 1915.

The following extract is from the book “Craven’s Part in The Great War” by John T Clayton (editor of the Craven Herald, Skipton).

On the 22nd December 1915 a telegraph was received at the Territorial Force Records Office in York notifying them of Prince’s death with instructions to “inform relatives”.  I don’t know when the knock on the door came or when the family telegraph arrived but you can bet it was a lousy Christmas in the Dawson house that year.

Just over two month’s later on the 1st March 1916 the War Office at St. James’s Park, London wrote to the Territorial Force Records Office asking them to despatch any of Prince’s personal property in their possession to Mr John Dawson at 42 High Street, Steeton, Keighley.

The next document is dated 7th March 1916 and is a signed acknowledgement from John for Prince’s effects which included a badge, belt, cig case, knife (pocket), letters, 2 pencils, photos and wallet.

I felt really sad when I came across that document and was left wondering how John and Elizabeth must have felt.

Prince served for 1 year and 85 days and didn’t come home.  This same story can be told for many, many thousands of military casualties from the UK and around the World.

Prince is buried at Le Touqet-Paris Plage Communal Cemetery in Plot II. A. 35.

The Duchess of Westminister’s Hospital (No.1 B.R.C.S) was at Le Touquet from October 1914, to July 1918, and the British graves in the Communal Cemetery were made from that hospital.  The Communal Cemetery contains a number of French and Italian military graves, and two British Plots in the corner.  A wooden obelisk in memory of the British dead was erected in the cemetery by the Lifeboat men of the commune.  There are now 142 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war here.  All of whom died in the period November 1914, to April 1916.

I very much doubt that John and Elizabeth had the opportunity to visit Prince’s grave.  So I make a promise now that I will go and pay my respects for them.

Military Monday – George Hurtley (1891-1918)

I have spent the whole of the Bank Holiday weekend on the computer trying to add information to my Dawson and Hurtley lines in my family tree.  I feel like I have done really well and pleased with the progress I have made.

During the last hour I discovered another First World War hero in the family.

George Hurtley is my 1st cousin 2x removed.  He was born in Bradford, West Yorkshire about 1891 to parents Thomas Hurtley and Jane Willis.  I already had George in my tree but until today I hadn’t done any other work on his parents or his siblings.

As far as I can tell George was the youngest of at least four children.  His siblings were

• Mary Elizabeth – born c.1877

• Ann – born c.1879

• Jessie – born c.1889

George’s father worked as gardener for over 30 years until he died in 1907.  This afternoon I found George on the 1911 census living with his widowed mother and his sister  Jessie.  He had followed in his father’s footsteps and was working as a gardener.

Just over two years later George married Lucy Sibley Clark in Bradford.

Sometime after the outbreak of war George joined the army.  He first served in the Yorkshire Dragoons before being assigned to Northamptonshire Regiment 7th Battalion.

The 7th Battalion was formed at Northampton in September 1914 and attached to 73rd Brigade in the 24th Division. They moved to the South Downs and into billets in Southwick between November 1914 and April 1915.  They were moved on to Woking in June 1915.

And on 2 September 1915 they landed at Boulogne.

George was killed in action in France on 22 March 1918.  He is commemorated at the Pozieres Memorial in the Somme, France.

Medal Card

The Pozieres Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918.  The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918.  The Corps and Regiments most largely represented are The Rifle Brigade with over 600 names, The Durham Light Infantry with approximately 600 names, the Machine Gun Corps with over 500, The Manchester Regiment with approximately 500 and The Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery with over 400 names.

Pozieres Memoriale entrance - from CWGC Website

The memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetry, Plot II of which contains original burials of 1916, 1917 and 1918, carried out by fighting units and field ambulances.

The remaining plots were made after the Armistice when graves were brought in from the battlefields immediately surrounding the cemetery, the majority of them of soldiers who died in the Autumn of 1916 during the latter stages of the Battle of the Somme, but a few represent the fighting in August 1918.  There are now 2,758 Commonwealth servicemen buried or commemorated in this cemetery. Of these 1,380 are unidentified but there are special memorials to 23 casualties known or believed to be buried among them.  There is also 1 German soldier buried here.

The cemetery and memorial were designed by W.H. Cowlishaw, with sculpture by Laurence A. Turner.  The memorial was unveiled by Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien on 4 August 1930.

I am incredibly proud to have found George and to be able to write about him.

Frederick Ellis Spink DFC (1921-1944)

Frederick Ellis Spink is my 2nd cousin 2x removed.  I only discovered him recently on a visit to the graveyard at St. Mary’s church at Conistone in Craven, Yorkshire.

Frederick was born around 1921 to parents Thomas Frederick Spink and Elizabeth Ann Fawcett.  He was the second of three sons..

The family lived in the small village of Conistone in Craven.

From what I have been able to find out Freddie (as he was known to his pals) joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Force as a Flying Officer and his service number was 151832.  He was assigned to No. 489 Squadron RNZAF (Royal New Zealand Air Force).  This was formed as a torpedo-bomber squadron.

Early sorties were anti-submarine patrols and it was not until August 1942 that the squadron turned to its role of search and attack of enemy shipping. Operating along the Norwegian coast and in the North Sea, it then achieved notable success; crews also flew air-sea rescue searches and anti-submarine patrols and escorted naval vessels and merchant convoys.

In October 1943 No. 489 was withdrawn from operations and in April 1944 it joined forces with No. 455 Australian Squadron to form the Anzac Strike Wing which operated with great success during the last year of the war.

On the 8th April 1944 Freddie was on a mission along the Norwegian coast when he was killed in action.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) and his citation was published in the London Gazette on 25th July 1944.


Even though I have only just discovered Freddie I feel incredibly proud of him.

Frederick Ellis Spink is commemorated on the RAF Memorial at Runnymede in Surrey.  The memorial lists the names of over 20,000 airmen who were lost in the Second World War during operations from bases in the United Kingdom and North and Western Europe.

The following poem was written by Paul H Scott and is engraved on the gallery window at the Runnymede Memorial.

The first rays of the dawning sun
Shall touch its pillars,
And as the day advances
And the light grows stronger,
You shall read the names
Engraved on the stone of those who sailed on the angry sky
And saw harbour no more.
No gravestone in yew-dark churchyard
Shall mark their resting place;
Their bones lie in the forgotten corners of earth and sea.
But, that we may not lose their memory
With fading years, their monuments stand here,
Here, where the trees troop down to Runnymede.
Meadow of Magna Carta, field of freedom,
Never saw you so fitting a memorial,
Proof that the principals established here
Are still dear to the hearts of men.
Here now they stand, contrasted and alike,
The field of freedom’s birth, and the memorial
To freedom’s winning.

And, as evening comes,
And mists, like quiet ghosts, rise from the river bed,
And climb the hill to wander through the cloisters,
We shall not forget them. Above the mist
We shall see the memorial still, and over it
The crown and single star. And we shall pray
As the mists rise up and the air grows dark
That we may wear
As brave a heart as they

Military Monday – Frederick Espley (1881-1916)

Frederick Espley was born c1881 in Biddulph, Staffordshire (England). His parents were Frederick Espley and Frances Espley (nee Owen) – my wife’s great grandparents.

Frederick served in the 2nd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. His service number was 9965 and he achieved the rank of Sergeant Major.

He was killed in action on 28 November 1916 serving in India.

Frederick is commemorated on the Madras 1914-1918 War Memorial at Chennai, India.  He is also commemorated on the war memorial in Tadcaster (Yorkshire, England). I believe that Frederick had moved to the Tadcaster area sometime after he married.

Chennai War Memorial

The memorial is in the Madras War Cemetery. It bears the names of more than 1000 servicemen who died during the First World War and lie in many civil and cantonment cemeteries in various parts of India where it is not possible to maintain their graves in perpetuity.

The Madras War Cemetery was created to receive Second World War graves from many civil and cantonment cemeteries in the south and east of India where their permanent maintenance could not be assured. The cemetery contains 856 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War. (Information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website)

Military Monday – Thomas Musgrove

Thomas Musgrove was born c1894 in Horton in Ribblesdale, Yorkshire (England). He was the second son of my great grandparents Joseph Musgrove and Elizabeth Ann Musgrove (nee Turner). That makes Thomas my grand uncle.

Thomas served as a private in the 9th battalion of The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. His service number was 29629.

He was killed in action on 7 April 1918 in Belgium.

Thomas is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium.

Ploegsteert Memorial

The Ploegsteet Memorial commemorates more than 11,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and have no known grave. Those commemorated by the memorial did not die in major offensives, such as those which took place around Ypres or Loos. Most were killed in the course of day-to-day trench warfare, or in small scale set engagements, usually carried out in support of the major attacks taking place elsewhere. (information from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website)