Jul 222016

This is one of a series of blog posts about servicemen from our places who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.


Arthur William Bowles, courtesy of M Jordan

Private Arthur William Bowles was born in Fairford, Gloucestershire in 1892, the son of gardener Albert Bowles and his wife Elizabeth Ireland. He came to the parish of Bratton Clovelly, Devon to take on a fine job as a young man, gamekeeper on the 1100-acre Domesday manor farm at Eversfield, and he settled well into the community in the three years that he worked at the farm. The lord of the manor Major Gill, also Recruiting Officer for Exeter, ensured that his workers were well-supported in answering the call.

Like most of the other soldiers of the parish, Arthur joined the Devonshire Regiment or ‘Bloody Eleventh’. He was part of the 9th Battalion, twinned with the 8th Battalion throughout World War I. From the time these battalions deployed to the Western front in 1915, they were engaged in fierce battles beginning with the Battle of Loos. There, they suffered over 1000 casualties and Arthur must have been one of the new recruits needed to replenish the force when he arrived in April of 1916 only two months before the ‘Big Push’.

Arthur lost his life on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, 1 July 1916. That morning, the 9th Devons led the attack at Mansel Copse near Mametz, France. Although the German line had been heavily bombarded preceding the attack, the Battalion’s war diaries tell the story of the harrowing conditions under which the men left the trenches. Only six men from the first company made it to the German line. After the 9th had been cut down, two more companies of the 8th were sent to the same fate. Finally, the Commander of the last company of the 8th, Eric Savill, realised what was happening and found another route for his men, enabling them to occupy the German trench. With French artillery support, the remaining 8th Devons were able to capture Mametz, one of the few British units to achieve their objective that day. The cost was the loss of 160 men from the two battalions, including Arthur, along with hundreds more wounded.

Picture1The men were buried in their old front line trench and remain there today, in the place named the ‘Devonshire Cemetery’. On the 4th of July 1916, the Padre of the 8th Devons, Captain Crosse, led the burial ceremony and erected a wooden cross which simply said:

‘The  Devonshires held this trench. The Devonshires hold it still.’

Although this cross disappeared after the War, it was replaced by a stone plaque in 1986 and the cemetery remains one of the most visited cemeteries on the Somme.

Remarkably, in a recent visit to Mary Palmer Jordan, a resident of the parish whose family had run the Post Office since the mid-1800s, she found an autograph book of Edith May Palmer who had been a teenager at the outbreak of the War. This small book captured the story of the home front where, on the inside of the back cover, there was a sketch of a young man placing a ring on the finger of his girlfriend. The sketch was signed ‘A Bowles’. There had also been a photograph of Arthur inserted in the book, the reverse side reading:

  1. Pte A. W. Bowles, 9 Batt, Devon Regiment. Killed in Action on July 1st 1916 & was buried at Mansell Copse. The Officiating Clergyman being the Rev E. C. Crosse, Chaplain of the Battalion.

Gone from amongst us, oh how we miss him,

Loving him dearly his memory we’ll keep,

Never till death ends shall we forget him,

Dear to our hearts is the grave where he sleeps.

Oh why was he taken so young & so fair,

When earth held so many it could better spare,

Hard, Hard was the blow, that compelled us to part,

With one so near and dear, to our hearts.

Edith also lost her brother, Private Nicholas Palmer, buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery in 1917. She never married.

Kim Baldacchino   Bratton Clovelly One-place Study

Jul 152016

Gravestone of Samuel Smith and his parents in Wing Buckinghamshire. Note the peace dove carved at the head.

Gravestone of Samuel Smith and his parents in Wing Buckinghamshire. Note the peace dove carved at the head.

On the first day of the Somme Offensive Samuel Smith from Wing Buckinghamshire was killed. He's included on Wing's War Memorial as a WW1 casualty, and we know he died on the Somme as the gravestone for his parents at All Saints Church records "Samuel, son of the above, who was killed on the Somme July 1st 1916 aged 34 years." I'm very grateful for that gravestone as without it I wouldn't know exactly who he was, and it's not proving easy to find any other information about him or his life in Wing.

It's also proving difficult to find information about his service as there were three Samuel Smiths and three S Smiths who died that exact same day according to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. That not even a name and date of death is enough to distinguish one man from the more than 30,000 men who died that very first day breaks my heart just a little.

Alex Coles

Jul 142016

This year’s Shared Endeavour is all about Visualisation. This month’s Hangout (on Friday 15 July at 8pm BST) is ‘with a difference’…. I personally feel that visualising your place involves picturing who resides within your community at a given point in time. And this year, for those of us with studies in England and Wales, we have an amazing additional resource to help with our research.

On the eve of World War II, a Register was taken of every resident, their date of birth, marital status and their occupation. You can search by person or by address/place and hence, I searched for Tetcott and Luffincott…. totally fruitless! No results. So, my first battle was to find a way of transporting myself into my places in a slightly different (convoluted) way.

Check out those parish registers…. Locate a person who was having children in the 1920s/1930s and hope that they resided in the parish in 1939. Bingo! Thank you Ernest Gliddon for providing the portal to the 1939 Register for Tetcott. Now to Luffincott….

Why not join me this Friday to talk about the 1939 Register and my place…. (also relevant for anyone interested in family and local history in England and Wales!)


Kirsty Gray

Jul 082016

This is one of a series of blog posts about servicemen from our places who lost their lives during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

Private, 28981, 2 Bn East Lancashire Regiment, d 15/03/1917 aged 28 (Cemserch has his age as 37).  Commemorated Pier and Face 6C, Thiepval.
He left 'all of my property and effects to my mother'.
He was awarded the British and Victory medals so presumably didn’t serve overseas in 1915, although his battalion did.
In 1911 he is enumerated at Meadow Head Farm, Stone Mason, single, 4 sisters and 3 brothers at home. The CWGC records his being the 'son of James and Margaret Driver of Cross Farm, Cloughfold’. These two farms are virtually at opposite ends of the same field so the family may have moved down the hill. As a stone mason he may have worked in the stone dressing works on the hill above Cloughfold.
2 Btn East Lancashire was a regular battalion. They were in South Africa at the outbreak of WW1 but were stationed for pretty much the duration of the war on the Western Front. They returned from South Africa to Flanders in Nov 1914 and overwintered in the trenches. Initially part of the 8th Division they transferred to 23rd Division on 18 Oct 1915 and returned to 8th Division 15 Jul 1916. They left the theatre in 1918, James Driver was dead by that time, presumably injured in the events surrounding Ancre in early 1917.
Outline timeline of 2 Bn East Lancs activity (not comprehensive!)
Neuve Chapelle 10-13 March 1915.
Aubers Bridge 9 May 1915. An assault which ‘failed bloodily’.
Bois Grenier Oct 1915. Held the front as part of the 23rd Division ‘for a considerable time’ until relieved early in 1916.
Carency 3 March 1916 to hold the Boyau de l’Ersatz and Souchez River fronts.
Vimy Ridge, 21 May 1916 supporting the 47th Division. Relieved 11 June.
Contalmaison 7 July 1916
Guedecourt 23 October 1916
Ancre/German retreat to Hindenburg March/April 1917
Westhoek Ridge July 1917
Bethen court 23 March 1918 (also Rosieres 26 March and Thiennes 31 March)
Villers-Bretonneux 24 April 1918
River Aisne 27 May 1918. They had been allocated to a ‘quiet area’ for a ‘rest’
Gavrelle 8 Oct 1918. By the Armistice they were 9 miles outside Mons
The Lancashire Infantry Museum website summaries the involvement of the Lancashire regiments in WW1.
The famous ‘Accrington Pals’ was the 11th Btn of the East Lancs. They saw 235 killed and 350 wounded in about half an hour on 1 July 1916.
Jul 052016

The Society’s June Hangout On Air was all about ‘getting online’ but not in the most obvious way. It wasn’t about how to do your research online but about how you might consider putting your one-place discoveries on the Internet and making it available to others.

We all sit in our own homes, doing our research into our place/s. Why do we do it? What do we do with it? What will happen to it when we are no longer here? The latter is a question often posed by members of family history/history/local history societies of all kinds across the globe. So, you know a lot about your place? Why not share it?

Ros Haywood mentioned in her introduction to the Hangout that she (sometimes) has a rather scattergun approach to her one-place study research (many of us will, I am sure, concur) and that making her study findings available online has helped to focus.

The term ‘Cousin Bait’ has been banded around in the genealogical and historical communities over the past few years. It is certainly true to say that, putting your study online in any way (blog or website, a Facebook group or page, or a Twitter account) will provide marketing/publicity and a platform for promoting your work… Ros highlighted so many ways to ‘be online’, it was mind-boggling! FamilySearch, WikiTree, Blogger, a website and so much more…. It was interesting to hear the varied views of the members attending the Hangout, as some preferred to post new static pages on their one-place study websites whereas other people found that blog posts and Facebook updates were a much better way to develop content in relation to their place studies and engage with fellow researchers.

In my personal opinion and experience, the number of people interested in your place closely correlates with the scale of the number of inhabitants. So, for someone with a small study of less than 100 inhabitants at any given census point, it is going to be challenging to engage with multiple interested parties! However, that is not to say that the place is any less exciting/fascinating to research….

Ros commented that she isn’t desperate for contact from her website/blog and I would say that I am the same but it would be lovely if someone ‘happened upon it’, bookmarked it and came back once in a while (Note: my one-place study website is in its infancy and has no blog right now! Action: Get cracking on that!).

Kirsty Gray