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Saturday, 19 July 2014

W A Coom

William Alfred Coom
Baptised 29 January 1888, St Austell  Died of Wounds 21 April 1917
Private 1170 17 Battalion D Company Australian Imperial Force
Enlisted 2 February 1915 at Liverpool, New South Wales, Australia
Buried at Grevillers British Cemetery, France


William was the son of Alfred Coom, a gardener, and his wife Emily Luke. Emily was the daughter of William Luke, a tinker from Dulverton in Somerset, who had settled in the West Hill area of St Austell.  The couple married in St Austell on 30 October 1885 and lived in St Austell, Roche and, by 1911, were living at Windsor Cottages off Berry Road in Newquay.  

 In the 1911 Census return Mrs Coom states that she had 10 children, 5 of whom were still living.  I've not found all of their names, but as best I can tell, here are 7 of them:

Lillian Maud born 1886
William Alfred 
Edith Gladys born 1889
Maud Mary  born 1891
Thomas Henry 1892 - 1972
Gladys Mary born 1893
Reginald born 1894 (died as an infant)
Reginald born 1898 

I can't find an emigration date for William, but he evidently left for Australia and found work as a station hand.  He enlisted in early 1915 and was soon aboard SS Themistocles bound for Gallipoli.  He soon ran foul of the army; he was caught sleeping at his post on 12 September  and sentenced to Field Punishment No. 2.  for a period of 28 days.  Before the 28 days were up, he was in hospital suffering the effects of dysentery.  A bout of enteric fever (typhoid) followed and William was sent to Graylingwell War Hospital, Chichester by the end of the October.  He was back at a base in London for a couple of months, where he was docked pay for a deficiency of kit.  In August 1916 he was in France.

17th Battalion waiting for troop trains in Italy 1915
By photographer not identified [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons



William had several more hospital visits, for scabies, trench foot and boils.  His final visit came after he was wounded in action on 19 April 1917.  He had gunshot wounds in his foot and abdomen.  He died on 21 April 1917.  William was killed during the Battle of Arras, which lasted from 9 April to 16 May 1917.  The Unit's War Diary does not make any mention of casualties on 19 April, though there are many reported a few days earlier on 15 April.  What is certain, is that the Australians were heavily outnumbered but managed to inflict more casualties than they sustained.

Back in England, Alfred never knew his son's fate; he died a month before war was declared.  Emily seems to have lived through another war, dying in 1947.  William's brother Thomas found a job with the Post Office and worked in Newquay.  



On a personal note, one of my great-uncles, Ernest, was also with the 17th Battlion (A company) and travelled out to Gallipoli on the same troop ship as William.  Ernest and  one of his brothers, Reginald, had moved to Australia to live with my great-grandmother's brother, who was the foreman of the goods yard at Sydney Railway Station.  So, William may possibly have bumped into my great-uncle on board the ship, or my great-great uncle through his work as a station hand.  



Sunday, 13 July 2014

Louisa Tearle

Today's post is a little different, in that the subject is not listed on the Newquay War Memorial.  You can, however, find her war grave in the town's cemetery on Crantock Street.

Louisa Tearle (Nee Lees)
Born 1878 Lambeth, London  Killed by Enemy Action 28 March 1915 Bristol Channel
Stewardess/Purser SS Falaba



Louisa was the daughter of Arthur and Emma Lees (nee Farnham).  She had a brother, George Farnham Lees, who may have emigrated to Canada sometime after 1911.

In 1902 Louisa married Henry James Tearle, who worked for the Elder shipping line.  The couple had five or possibly six children:

Arthur James 1902 - 1979
Ernest Henry b 1905
Gertrude Louisa 1906 - 1987
Frank George b 1909
Donald Stanley 1910 - 1984

There is also reference on some sites to a brother named Ivor who died at the age of 16, although I have not been able to find any records for him.

Henry Tearle was killed in Lagos, Nigeria in 1914, in unknown circumstances.  Louisa, who may already have worked for the Elder Line, went to sea as a purser according to some accounts, although she is listed as a stewardess.  

The SS Falaba set off from Liverpool for Sierra Leone with 95 crew and 147 passengers. After leaving Merseyside on Saturday, 27 March, she met U-28, captained by Baron Siegfried Von Forstner in the Bristol Channel.  The U boat gave the Falaba 10 minutes to dismantle her wireless equipment and abandon ship.  According to the Germans, the crew of the Falaba used this time to try to contact the Royal Navy with the position of the U boat.  They then allowed a further 10 minutes for the lifeboats to be launched before firing.  The British claimed that they were given only 10 minutes and were then fired upon, the Germans laughing at survivors as they struggled to get aboard lifeboats.  The Germans refuted this, claiming that they were in fact moved to tears to see lifeboats being overturned in the rough sea.

The ship went down rapidly and although the lifeboats were launched, 104 people perished (57 passengers and 47 crew).  One of those who lost his life was an American, Leon Chester Thrasher.  His death almost sparked the entry of the US into the war, but assurances that the captain of the Falaba had been given adequate time to launch the lifeboats and a suggestion that she carried contraband explosives allowed the US to back off from war - until the sinking of the Lusitania.

Louisa's body must have been recovered by a Newquay boat, although I've not found when she was brought ashore.  Her children were now orphans.  Gertrude, who was partially sighted, became a successful teacher working in both the UK and Australia.  Her youngest brother Donald was adopted by an aunt who emigrated to Australia in 1925. He became a miner and enlisted with the Australian Army  in 1939.  He was taken as a Prisoner of War in 1941 and interned until the end of the war.  He was later granted the Military Medal for bravery.

On Donald's records he listed his next of kin as his brother, A J Tearle, HMS Rosemary, Portsmouth.  I can find no other information on Louisa's other children, particularly "Ivor" who is mentioned as being an inspiration to Gertrude and who was apparently, like her, partially sighted.

There is a copy of the British inquiry into the sinking of the SS Falaba here.




Saturday, 12 July 2014

C E Ditton

Charles Edward Ditton
Born in March 1888, Truro, Cornwall   Killed in Action 16 October 1918 near Heule, Belgium
Lance Corporal  43387 Royal Irish Fusiliers  9th (North Irish Horse) Battaliohn
Formerly with 1/9 London Regiment


Charles was born in Truro in March 1888. He was baptised at St Paul's, Truro, on 24 April 1888.  He was the second son of Frederick Ditton and Edith Jewell.  The couple had 14 children in all:

Ethel 1884 - 1915?
Lillian 1885 - 1952
Frederick James 1887
Charles Edward
Sidney Jewell 1889 - 1959
Clara Gwendoline 1891 - 1990
Edith Mary 1893 - 1977
Florence Gertrude Helena 1895 - 1984
Harry Jewell 1897 - 1984
Dorothy May 1898 - 1984
Frances Anna 1900 - 1960
Marion Grace 1902 - 1998
Kathleen Marjorie 1905- 1954
Phyllis Monica 1908 - 2005
 (Approximate dates)


Frederick, a native of Brixton, London, was a grocer, as was his Cornish mother, Eliza Lukes.  Edith was the daughter of farmer James Jewell and his wife Ann.  She was born at St Erme.  The couple married on 27 May 1883 at St Paul's, Truro.  

Curiously, Frederick's widowed mother, Eliza Lukes Ditton, married Frederick's widowed future father-in-law, James Jewell, in 1881.  Even more curiously, James had been married to Anna Lukes, Eliza's sister.  She was therefore Edith's aunt by blood and became her step-mother, as well as her mother-in-law!

Frederick died in 1909, leaving Edith to bring up the younger children on her own.  

By 1911, Charles and his brother Frederick had moved to London to work for Cook, Son & Co., at that time the country's largest wholesale clothing company.  Both men were living at the company's hostel for their commercial travellers.  They would have travelled the country by rail with samples of their employer's merchandise.  

Charles joined the London Regiment as a rifleman in 1915.  In  November 1916 he was discharged so that he could join the Royal Irish Fusiliers.  This was also the year in which he married Nora Lucinda Pemberton Stevens, a school teacher from Penzance.  The couple had no children.

In May 1917, Charles fell "dangerously ill" - a telegram to this effect was sent to his wife, and a further letter advised her that permission to visit her husband  (suffering lumbar pneumonia) at the hospital in Boulognecould not be granted.  The Lance Corporal rallied and was well enough to have a furlough from 29 August to 7 September 1917 which he spent with his wife at "Delafosse", Tower Road, Newquay.

According to the unit's war diary, The Royal Irish Fusiliers were at Dadizeele at the beginning of October 1918.  On 4 October they relieved the 9th Royal Inniskilling Rifles at Hill 41.  They had 13 officers and 390 other ranks.  By the 7 October, it was noted that the enemy were cutting wire at night in preparation for an attack.  A raid was carried out by the Royal Irish on 11 October and 14 prisoners were captured and 10 enemy soldiers killed, losing 6 men themselves when the enemy counter-attacked.  They then went into reserve.  Back in the line by 14 October, the 9 Battalion joined the Battle of Courtrai.  

The Battalion's principle objective was to attack, capture and hold the crossing over the River Lys.  The advance started at 5.35am.  The Royal Engineers knocked out the bridges and by 6pm the last of the Battalion withdrew.  One man of the Battalion was killed that day:  Charles Ditton.

Nora stayed in Newquay after the war, along with her mother Lucy and two of her sisters. Her War Widow Pension was sent at first to 50 Tower Road; she was awarded 13 shillings 9d a week.  Later she lived at Arlington House on Berry Road.  Nora did not remarry and died on 9 May 1945, leaving her sisters £4,170 in her will.





Sunday, 15 June 2014

C A Colmer

Arthur Cecil Colmer
Born in 1893 in London.  Killed in Action 1 July 1916 in France
2nd Lieutenant Royal Field Artillery "A" Battery, 96th Brigade
Buried at Dartmoor Cemetery Becordel-Becourt


Arthur was the son of Arthur May Colmer and Anna Letitia Pateson.  Arthur and Anna married on 9 January 1892 in Great Queen Street Chapel.  Arthur's father was recorded as Oliver Colmer, a draper, whilst Anna's father, Reuben, was a toy importer.  The bridegroom, a native of Liskeard, listed his profession as "warehouseman", though he would go on to be a draper like his father.

The Colmers moved back to Liskeard sometime around 1895 and Arthur Snr set up shop as a tailor and outfitter on Pike Street.  By 1911, at the age of 43, Arthur had retired and was living in Looe. 18 year old Cecil (it's possible that the family called him Cecil rather than Arthur, so that's how I'm referring to him here) had followed his father into the drapery trade and was a tailor cutter working on his own account.  The family was completed by 16 year old Dorothy and Anna's sister Elizabeth who, like their father, was a toy importer.

Between 1911 and 1914 Cecil moved to Newquay and lived at "Hannafore" on Headland Road.

Cecil joined up fairly quickly on the outbreak of war.  He was posted to the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry and his medal card notes that he entered the theatre of war on 14 November 1914 (thus earning him a 1914 Star).  From the Cornwalls he moved to the Royal Engineers as a corporal, then went to the Royal Horse Artillery & Field Artillery as a Second Lieutenant on 10 September 1915.

Cecil was killed on the first day of the Battle of Albert, which formed part of the Battle of the Somme.  His battery would have been part of the bombardment of enemy lines on the days leading up to 1 July, the hope being that the shelling would leave the way clear for the infantry to advance unchallenged.  In the event this didn't happen.  The Germans were in their bunkers and emerged with their machine guns to pick off the British as they advanced.  More than 57,000 men fell, either wounded or killed, on that first day, 23 year old Cecil among them.

Cecil's sister, Dorothy, was the executrix of his will, in which he left £258 9s 3d.  Arthur and Anna retired to Bournemouth. Dorothy married, had four children and passed away just short of her 100th birthday in 1993.




Friday, 26 July 2013

Joseph James Sweet

Joseph James Sweet
Born 1894 in St Columb, Cornwall.  Died 29 October 1918 51st Stationery Hospital, Italy
Driver T/3/028659 Army Service Corps, No. 2 Aux. Pack Train


Joseph was born towards the end of 1894.  His parents were Samuel Sweet and Mary Grace Morris. The couple had married in 1891.  Samuel was the son of St Allen Parish Clerk, Henry Sweet.  

Samuel and Mary had three children:

William Henry (1892 - 1961?)
Joseph James (1894 - 1918)
Dorothy (1899 - ? )

Mary Sweet died in 1900, aged about 28.  Samuel had help in bringing up his children from his sisters Bessie and Clara.

In 1904 Samuel married Mary Annie Williams.  The couple had a daughter, Hilda Esther, around 1905.

Samuel died on 13 April 1907 leaving his widow with £190 17s 6d.  After their father's death, William and Dorothy seem to have moved to live with their aunt Bessie at Carn Brea.  William worked with her husband in the tin mines.  Joseph stayed with his step-mother and step-sister on the farm; his uncle William Sweet was also living there.  Like his father, Joseph became a horse trainer.

On 26 October 1914, 20 year old Joseph (who may well have been known as James) married 18 year old Millicent Benson Trethewey from Fern Pit, East Pentire in Newquay.  The couple set up in lodgings with a Mrs Leary on St John's Road in Newquay. They didn't have long to enjoy married life; Joseph joined up on 13 November 1914.  The couple had apparently been courting for a while; their daughter Dorothy was born on 23 March 1915.

Joseph was sent to the Army Service Corps, not surprisingly as a driver.  His skill as a horse trainer would have been invaluable in driving a team of horses.  Joseph's medical records show that he was a small man, just short of 5'6", weighing 126 lbs.  His health was described as good.

On 3 August 1915 Joseph left Southampton, arriving at Le Havre the following day.  He was appointed an acting Lance Corporal on 3 October 1915.  He had a week's leave in March 1916 and received a Good Conduct badge later in the same year.  In July 1917 Joseph received some cuts to his arms and face whilst attending to his horses which his commanding officer recorded was not Joseph's fault.  

Joseph was taken to the 39 Casualty Clearing Station on 19 October 1918 complaining of a headache and pain.  It was noted that he his tongue looked "dirty".  He was transferred to the 51st Stationery Hospital on 21 October.  He had chest pain, a cough and looked debilitated.  The doctor noted that he was "very ill".  On 24 October he had a temperature of over 100, which dropped back slightly the next day.  However, it remained high for several days, his pulse becoming rapid and feeble.  He was given four hourly doses of brandy and also oxygen.  It was in vain; Joseph died at 5.30am on 29 October 1918, a victim of influenza.

Millicent seems to have married again a year after Joseph's death, and again in 1946 after her second husband's death in 1944.  Her second marriage produced three sons.  She died in 1985.  Her daughter with Joseph, Dorothy, doesn't seem to have married and died in the same year as her mother.





R G Rawle

Reginald Garland Rawle
Born 1896 in Newquay, Cornwall, Killed in Action 23 November 1917 at Cambrai
Lance Corporal 202010 7th Battalion DCLI
Commemorated at Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France


Reginald was the eldest son of Lewis Garland Rawle and Mary Brenton Trembath.  The couple had married on 23 December 1893.  Lewis was a carpenter living in Newquay, Mary was a spinster living at Shop.  Both were 23 years old.  

By 1901 the Rawles were living at 8 Belmont Place.  A few doors away lived John Jacka, another carpenter, whose son Sydney was the same age as Reginald.  Both boys would lose their lives during the Great War.

The couple had seven children:

Reginald Garland
Florence Mabel  (17 Jan 1897 - 1979)
Gwendoline Violet  (1899 - 1935)
Robert Garland  (1901 - 1953)
Lewis Edgar  (7 Feb1902 - 1971)
Edna Mary  (15 Sept 1907 - 1972)
Dorothy May  (5 Dec 1908 - 1985)

In 1911, the Census recorded that Reginald was working as a Golf Caddy.  His sister Florence was a shop girl.

I can't find when Reginald joined the Cornwalls.  However, by 1917 he was with them in the front line at Cambrai.  The Battle of Cambrai was a British offensive, designed to surprise the enemy.  The 7th Cornwalls  relieved the 13th Green Howards in the front line trenches on 4 October 1917.  They were relieved on 16 October and then moved back to Bray a week or so later, possibly for training with the tanks which were to be used in the upcoming offensive.  On 18 November, the Battalion was again in the front line and endured a few days of heavy rain awaiting the onset of the Battle of Cambrai.

The Battle of Cambrai was a British offensive, which began at dawn on 20 November.  The Cornwalls would have left the trenches behind the wire-cutting tanks and alongside the fighting tanks.  A and B companies were successful in capturing their objectives, but C and D companies were hindered by problems with the tanks.  Despite this, the Cornwalls managed to capture around 150 Germans and kill another 50.  Their own losses were 61 wounded, 10 killed and 8 missing.  Following the first day of battle, the Cornwalls were dispersed in support.

By the 23 November, the weather was fine.  There was shell-fire from the Germans, but apparently no one was hit.  However, a barn in which some of the men were occupying was hit by three shells causing an evacuation.  There is no mention of anyone being killed, but perhaps this was where Reginald died.




Sunday, 6 January 2013

R C Rowett

Richard Cardell Rowett
Born 1900 in Portugal  Killed in Action 23 August 1918
Pte 85297 1/4 Battalion Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) (Previous DCLI)
Buried Bucquoy Road Cemetery, Ficheux



Richard was the son of Charles Rowett and Florence Annie Pengilly.  Charles and Florence married at Redruth in 1893.  Charles was a mine engineer whose work took him abroad to Portugal and South America.  Several of the couple's children, including Richard, were born in Portugal.  Florence must have made friends in Portugal as she continued to travel back to the country after her husband's death.  The Rowetts had seven children, five of whom survived infancy:

Florence Kathleen (1895 - 1964)  Florence was left in Cornwall with her maternal grandparents in 1901 while the rest of the family were in Portugal.  Her grandfather Charles Pengilly was an arsenic manufacturer and preacher. 
Charles Edward (1899 - ?)
Richard Cardell
John Ernest (1901- 1972)
James Stanley (1903 - ?)

The three youngest boys were all born in Portugal.  In 1911 Florence and the five children were living in Scorrier.  Charles shows up on immigration records as arriving back in the UK from South America in late 1914.  He died soon after, aged 44, on 1 March 1915 . His probate records give his address as 1, Colchester Villas, Newquay and his occupation as mine engineer.  Florence was left £200.  She later moved to 43 St John's Road.

Richard joined the DCLI at Truro.  He was posted to the 1/4th (City of London) Battalion (Royal Fusiliers). The 1/4th were part of 56th (London) Division and Richard would have joined them at the Third Battle of Albert between 21 and 23 August 1918 (a phase of the Second Battles of the Somme).  The 1st DCLI were also at the Battle and the Regiment history notes that Friday, 23 August was an exceedingly hot day.  It was also exactly four years since the British first met the Germans at the Battle of Mons. 

The British offensives in the summer of 1918 marked the beginning of the end for the Germans.  Sadly, there were still many casualties, including Richard, in the final months of the war.  Richard is buried at the Bucquoy Road Cemetery.





Monument to the Royal Fusiliers in WW1 at Holborn in London
Wikimedia - Public Domain