Thomas William Pickering

Thomas William Pickering was my first cousin three times removed.  The youngest of 10 children, he joined the Territorial Forces of the British army at 18 years old. This may be the 52 Davids record for shortest post, as I could find no definitive further record of where he was assigned effective October of 1914, nor any voters list data or date of death.  Part of the confusion is due to his having two of the most common given names of the early 20th century, and one of the most common last names in Yorkshire.

If anything, this speaks to the way that records have shaped this project.  Without them, I am truly flying blind.

Ernest James Perring

Ernest James Perring was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from James Perring and Emma Law who were his grandparents, and my 4th great grandparents.  James Perring was an agricultural labourer who lives the entirety of his life in Essex.  He and his wife Emma had twelve children of whom I could find record: one daughter and eleven sons.  Of these sons, one was my third great grandfather, Walter Perring; one was Joseph Perring who lied about his age to enlist in the war and whose sons, Edmund and Alfred, have also been part of this project; and another was James Perring, Ernest’s father.

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Abbreviated family tree of James Perring and Emma Law

 

At some point between 1841 and 1851, James and Emma Perring and their family were committed to the Saffron Walden Union Workhouse.  In the 1851 census, the couple and four of their children are listed as “inmates” at the facility, including three year old James. Fortunately, this wasn’t a permanent situation for them, and by 1861, the family’s fortunes had improved enough that they were no longer in the workhouse.

By the 1871 census, James had married his first wife, Mary Ann Wilkinson, and was working as an agricultural labourer.  At some point in the following several years, his first wife died, and in 1878, he married Mary Ann Palmer with whom he raised his two children from his first marriage as well as the five that they had together.  By the 1881 census, the family had relocated to Edmonton, Middlesex (London area), and James was working as a “platelayer” which was a railway employee whose job was to inspect and maintain a section of track.

Ernest was born in Edmonton in December of 1883.  By the age of 18 he was working as a clerk, and in 1909, at the age of 25, he married Ada Isabel Cresswell.   Four children soon followed, as did a change of career, as by 1917, he is recorded as being a “steam bus driver.”  Steam busses were common in London and elsewhere as a form of transportation.  This experience served him well, as in 1917, he enlisted in the Royal Navy as an Air Mechanic.  Upon the formation of the Royal Air Force on April 1, 1918, he was transferred into their service, also as an air mechanic where he served for the duration of the war and through to 1920.

Ernest and Ada lived the duration of their lives in and around London, and Ernest passed away in 1963 at the age of 79.

 

Thomas Albert Clements

Thomas Albert Clements was the younger brother of Frederick Charles Clements. Born in 1885 in Kent, he did not follow in the family tradition of working in the brickfields, but rather became a whitesmith (a tinsmith). His service records are not available, so I am not sure exactly when he joined the war effort, but it would have been before January of 1917.  He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps, and was eventually sent to the Mesopotamian theatre in modern day Iraq.

All armies and navies relied heavily on oil, so it was not a surprise that given Germany’s ties to the Ottoman empire, Britain moved swiftly to control oil pipelines and oilfields in and around Basra.  Amara was occupied in June 1915, and it immediately became a hospital centre. By April 1917, seven general hospitals and some smaller units were stationed there.  Corporal Thomas Alberta Clements was stationed at the 1st Base General Hospital when he was killed on April 27, 1917. He was one of over eleven thousand British personnel killed in the Mesopotamian theatre.  He was 32 years old.

He was buried at the Amara War Cemetery, but due to the decades long instability in the region, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has not been able to access the site to maintain the cemetery or photograph the memorials.  In lieu, they have established books of remembrance at the CWGC head office where the public can pay their respects. I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin here.

Frederick Charles Clements

Frederick Charles Clements was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from Michael Ing and Mary Ann Macey who were his maternal grandparents, and my fourth great grandparents. Michael Ing was born in 1826 in Boughton-Under-Blean, Kent.  His trade was a brick maker.  In 1850, he married Mary Ann Macey, the daughter of another brick maker, a very common trade in Kent during the 19th century. Michael and Mary Ann were 25 and 20 respectively when they married.  Together they had eight children:  I am descended from their oldest child, Eliza Frances.  Eliza’s younger sister, Sarah Ann, worked as a domestic servant on a large farm in as a very young woman, but in 1876, at the age of 22, she married Arthur Clements, an omnibus driver from Herne, Kent.  Arthur and Sarah started their family soon after starting with their daughter Elizabeth Jane, born in 1878; Frederick Charles, born in 1880; and Thomas     Albert, born in 1885.  Later, Arthur and Sarah also adopted a young girl, Phoebe Ing, who must have been a relation of Sarah’s.

By the time he was 20, Frederick was working in the brickfields with his father. In 1911, all the Clements siblings, Elizabeth, age 33, Frederick, age of 31, and Thomas, age 26, were all still living with their parents and their adopted sister. In 1914, the war would disrupt this family unit with Frederick attesting to the South Staffordshire Regiment on September 4, 1914, mere weeks after Britain formally declared war.  Frederick’s records are quite difficult to read, but it seems he was initially with the 1/5 battalion, then transferred to the 3/5 battalion.  It seems likely that it was with the 1/5 battalion in the 46th Division that he spent his recorded time on the Western Front throughout 1915. This would have included time in the final stages of the Battle of Loos in October of 1915.  In the beginning of December of 1915 it appears that the battalion was sent to Egypt, but Frederick was not among those who went as he was then transferred to a reserve battalion stationed in England.

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British Troops at the Battle of Loos, Autumn 1915.

Frederick’s brother, Thomas, was sent to the eastern theatre, and as we will learn next week, this was a sad turn of events for the Clements family.

Many years after the war, in 1933, Frederick married Esther Annie Rosina Larkman who was over 30 years his junior.  The two lived out their lives in Kent, and Frederick lived well past his 80th year.

 

Sara Gladys Langton and Richard Sackville Cresswell

Sara Gladys Muriel Langton was my first cousin 3 times removed.  We are both descended from Francis Langton and Sarah Bishop who were her Grandparents, and my 3rd Great Grandparents.  She is second cousin to Martha Richmire (who I posted about in February), and first cousin to Emma Maud Law (who I posted about in December) and to my Great Grandfather Joseph James Foster who I will write about toward the end of the project.

Sarah Langton

Abbreviated family tree of Sara Gladys Muriel Langton

The youngest child of Francis Langton and Sarah Bishop was Albert Edward Langton.  His father was 51 and mother was 45 when he was born in 1866, older parents even by today’s standards.  His oldest sibling was 18 when he was born. Albert left Peterborough and his family at the age of 16.  Although we can’t know the specific reason from the records available, it is very possible that with 9 surviving older siblings, 4 of which being brothers, there may not have been much in the way of prospects connected to any family business or agricultural endeavour for him to take on once he was of age.  He moved to North Dakota where he worked as a railroad labourer.  It was here that in 1889 he married Louise Millwood whose family was also originally from Canada. It appears that over the first 15 to 20 years of their marriage they moved frequently between North Dakota and southern Manitoba, their children being born almost alternately between the two regions.  Sara, or Gladys, as she was more commonly known, their third child, was born in 1893 in Gretna, Manitoba, a border town between Canada and the United States. By 1906 it seems the family had permanently settled in Canada near Morris, Manitoba, 50 kilometres south of Winnipeg.

Richard Sackville Cresswell was born in Elham, Kent, and moved to Canada with his family in 1904 when he was 13 years old. He eventually began working for the railroad, as did Gladys’ father, as a brakeman. In early March 1915, at the age of 23, Ritchie enlisted in the 44th Overseas Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary force. This was a short-lived situation as by April 27 of the same year, he was discharged as medically unfit.  There are no clues as to what the nature of the medical reason for the discharge may have been.

Ritchie and Gladys were married in November 1915, and settled continued to live in Manitoba. They had one daughter in 1916.  Ritchie worked his entire career on the railway.  He passed away in 1970, and Gladys passed away in 1984.

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One has to wonder what the war years were like for Ritchie and Gladys.  Although he had been deemed medically unfit, he was clearly not unable to work, and with only a month spent in Winnipeg training, it would not have been evident to those who knew him casually that he had, in fact, volunteered.  As a man in his mid-20s, he would have been considered the ideal candidate for a recruit.  The pressure being exuded through government propaganda as well as through the popular media of the time (mostly newspapers and novels) framed unwillingness to join as a character flaw, or a sign of cowardice.  There was little public consideration given to a person’s or a family’s individual situation beyond how many boys they had “in khaki.” Much like it can be today though modern media, hyperbole was used to incite action for a specific cause, and this could create very deep divisions in and between communities.  Perhaps this was not an issue for Gladys and Ritchie, but the fact that it could have been, is certainly worth some thought.

John Russell Miller

John Russell Miller was my Great Grandfather. He was born on October 30, 1884 in Belfast, Northern Ireland to Walter Miller and Agnes Fee.  I know nothing about his parents other than their names.  The Allan Line steamship, Tunisian, arrived in Montreal on May 28, 1904 with my Great Grandfather as one of its passengers, and thus began the Canadian story of this branch of my family.

He settled in Toronto, and was listed in the census data of 1911 and later as a “presser.” Family stories tell of his work at the Timothy Eaton company working on lovely high end clothing. He married Elizabeth Brady in Toronto in 1910. Elizabeth was also born in Northern Ireland, and had also arrived in Canada in 1904 although later in the year than John.  When they married, John was 25, and Elizabeth was 20.  They had two children soon after their marriage, Samuel, born in 1911, and Dorothy, born in 1914.

I have a small glass cup that was purchased at the Canadian National Exhibit in 1912 and given to Elizabeth.  I’ve had it in my possession for over 15 years–my grandmother gave it to me when I was living in Ontario, and she told me that it had been her mother’s.  I’m just now realizing that since Elizabeth would have only had one child when this was purchased in 1912, and he would have been an infant at the time, it must have been John who bought it for his wife.  This is the only tangible artifact I have in my possession of any of the Davids. I’ve always found this a very special family heirloom, but it is even more beautiful to me today.

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The small cup that was given to Elizabeth Miller by her husband in 1912.

John enlisted in the war effort on November 11, 1915. He joined the Canadian Army Service Corps which provided supply services to the troops in France, and in England was responsible for feeding the troops. After training in Toronto, he sailed for England, arriving on Christmas Eve, 1915.

John worked as a cook with the corps, and it appears that he was in England for the entirety of his service.  I have no information about why he was not in a combat role, as there is nothing in his medical report from enlistment that would indicate that he was anything other than a healthy 31 year-old. That said, early in his time in England ,he was hospitalized for “rheumatism” and “myalgia” with pain in his ankles, chest, and back, and he was diagnosed with chronic bronchitis in 1917, so it is possible that this could have been indicative of a broader condition that would have made combat service untenable.

He spent the war moving to various places in England and filling in as acting corporal and acting sergeant at times.  He was specially trained, and was sent for a period of two weeks at one point to a school of cookery, and it appears that he was given special assignments cooking for senior ranks.  It was after the official conclusion of the war that he was actually wounded in his role.  On February 13, 1919, he was severely scalded as he attempted to pull a pot of boiling water off of a stove.

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Description of John’s injury.

He was in hospital for over seven weeks as the second degree burns on his left foot were treated. By mid-April 1919, he was sent to Kinmel Park in northern Wales to await repatriation to Canada.  Interestingly, he narrowly missed being present for the “mutiny” of Canadian soldiers at Kinmel Park, protesting the length of time it was taking to be repatriated, and the conditions that they were living in as they waited. John was only at Kinmel for a few weeks, sailing on May 3 for Halifax aboard the RMS Mauretania (sister ship to the famous RMS Lusitania that had sank in 1915 after being hit by UBoat torpedoes).  He was back in Toronto and discharged by May 14, 1919.  He had been overseas and away from his wife and children for nearly three and a half years. His son Samuel may have remembered him, having been 4 years old when his father went overseas, but his daughter Dorothy who had only been a year old when he left, certainly would not have.  I’m sure it was a tremendous adjustment for everyone. My grandmother was born less than two years later.

Many years later, John’s son Samuel also participated in a war, as a pilot in the Royal Air Force,  Sadly, Samuel did not survive his war, as he was shot down in 1941.  John passed away eight years later on April 9, 1949 at the relatively young age of 64.

My grandmother remembered her father very fondly.  I dedicate this post to her: Florence Elizabeth (Miller) Foster, 1921-2010.

 

Albert George Mungham

Albert George Mungham was my 2nd Great Uncle, older brother to my Great Grandfather, James Charles Mungham. He was seven years old when his family arrived in Canada and eventually settled in Newdale, Manitoba to farm in 1908.

Albert volunteered in early 1916, and was sent to Winnipeg with the 190th Overseas Battalion in anticipation of sailing overseas.  Like many, he was not entirely honest about his age on his attestation papers.  He aged himself by three years, saying he was 18 years and 10 months old, when really, he was 15 years and 10 months old.  He was tall and strong, working as a farmer, so it is likely that he was not questioned.

His service record is very thin, with a mention of a brief hospitalization for a sore throat and then a transfer to a depot battalion, and then there are discharge papers signed in March 1917 in Winnipeg in which he discharged due to being medically unfit.  Whether this had anything to do with the fact that he still would have been not quite 17 at the time is hard to say.

Although Albert never left Manitoba, he still gave over a year of his life to military service, at least part of it thinking that he could go overseas and face very real dangers–dangers that would have been very clear to him based on his brother Henry’s service which we will explore further later in the year.  This is still a commitment I think is worth remembering.

He later married and had two children.  He lived in various places in Manitoba and British Columbia, and passed away in New Westminster, BC in 1983 at the age of 83.