Sydney Smith Bester

Life took over this past two+ weeks, and unfortunately, this project took a back seat to some other important events for my family. We lost someone dear to us, and she will be on my mind as I work through the final weeks of this project. In a good and sweet way.

Sydney Smith Bester was the younger brother of Frank Harold Bester by just over a year:  the tenth of eleven children born to Charles Bester Jr. and Fanny Adams. In the 1911 census, he is listed as living with his parents and older brother Frank, and working as a baker’s assistant in a bakehouse in South Tottenham, London.

In February of 1916, just three months after his brother’s enlistment, Sydney enlisted in the 9th battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment, Royal Field Artillery. Of the 3 years and 91 days between his enlistment and demobilization, Sydney spent 2 years and 279 days in the Mesopotamian theatre of war.  His daughter would have been just over a year old when he enlisted, and his wife would have been pregnant with his son when he was deployed.  By the time he returned to England, his daughter would be 4, and his son, who he likely had never met, would have been nearly 3.

After the war, he returned to London and his family.  His wife passed away in 1943, and Sydney lived alone for the first time in his life for five years until remarrying in 1948.  Sydney passed away in 1957 at the age of 64.

Frank Harold Bester

Frank Harold Bester was my first cousin four times removed.  His Grandparents, Charles Bester and Sarah Gill, were my fourth Great Grandparents. I first wrote about this branch of my family in January with the profile of Walter Francis Bester who was Frank’s nephew.

Frank was born to Charles Bester Jr. and Fanny Adams in 1892.  The ninth of eleven children, his oldest siblings were already out of the family home and starting their own families when he was still a child.  By 1911, when Frank was 18, it has only he and two of his brothers living with his parents in Winchmore Hill (now a suburban area of North London).  His occupation at this time is listed in the census as a draper’s assistant.

Frank attested to the Royal Fusiliers in November of 1915 at the age of 23. He was later transferred to the Royal Scots, then the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment. He was sent to India upon joining this last battalion in March of 1917, then to Mesopotamia in December of the same year where he served the duration of the war, arriving back in Britain in March of 1919.

Frank lived out his days in Wood Green with his wife Lilian whom he married in 1923.  He passed away in 1954 at the age of 61.

Alfred William Mungham

Alfred Mungham was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from Thomas Mungham and Elizabeth Wood who were his Grandparents, and my 4th Great Grandparents.  I first wrote about this branch of my family back in March when I posted about Herbert George Hewlett who was Alfred’s nephew.

Alfred was the oldest child of William Mungham and Sarah Johnson.  Born in Kent, the family later moved to London where Alfred took up the trade of carpenter and worked for the railway.  He was married with children when he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) on August 7, 1914, 3 days after Germany invaded Belgium and Britain declared war on Germany.  This all sounds relatively similar to other profiles in this series except for one thing: his date of birth.  While most I have profiled had a birth year of the late 1880s to mid 1890s, Alfred was born in 1859.

Alfred married Jane Elizabeth Sutherland in 1881, and they had their first child the following year.  Two more followed between in 1883 and 1885, but sadly, both these children passed away in 1885. Six years passed before Alfred and Jane had another child,  then another in 1895, followed by their youngest in 1900 when Alfred was 41, and Jane was 39. Alfred was 55 years old, and did not lie about his age at attestation.  He was considered fit for serving in the RAMC in a military hospital.  He trained in nursing, and served in Britain for the entire duration of the war, being discharged on the 24th of March, 1919.  This was 4 years and 230 days of service.

Alfred passed away in March of 1935 at the age of 76.

Harry Addison McIntyre

Harry Addison McIntyre was my second cousin, three times removed.  We are both descended from William Langton and Margaret Risdale who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Harry’s Great Grandparents.  He was part of the same branch of my family as Thomas Ross Milne, in whose post I have already recounted some of the earlist days of my paternal line’s family history.

McIntyre

Abbreviated family tree of Harry Addison McIntyre

Harry’s father, John, was the sixth child of Mary Ann Langton and Malcolm McIntyre. Eventually settling in Grand Valley, Ontario, slightly north-west of Toronto, John is listed throughout the census years as a Grain Buyer and a merchant.  On the 28th of January 1873 at the age of 23, he married 17-year old Mary Georgiana Rudd, also from southern Ontario. Between 1874 and 1900, they had 12 children, though sadly four of them did not survive past infancy, and one passed away at the age of 14. Their first child, a daughter born in 1874 who only lived for one day was not named, and the four other children are memorialized on the back of the grave marker of John and Mary.  In 1911, they also lost their first son William at the age of 36 to drowning.

Annie M. McIntyre

Reverse side of the grave marker of John, Mary, and William McIntyre

It was five years after this last loss, that this family’s youngest surviving child, Harry Addison, volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force at the age of 17 years and 9 months.

Grandpa

Harry Addison McIntyre, 1916

Harry trained in Toronto with the 164th Battalion, and sailed for England from Halifax on April 11, 1917.  He was in England for nearly a year before being transferred to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), and sent to France in April of 1918.  The PPCLI was a significant part of Canada’s last 100 days of the war.  100 years ago right now, they were pushing the German lines back toward Mons where the British army first engaged the German army in 1914.

The following is verbatim from a letter written by Harry’s son, John, as he recalls what his father told him about a particular incident in the trenches during this 100 days:

He was suddenly awakened to realize that in the coming darkness three German soldiers had crept upon them and were standing on the parapet of their trench. One was a German Captain who held a Luger […] trained on them. Beside him was a German Corporal with a rifle, and a German Sargent with a machine gun, all guns pointed at the four Canadians.

[…] No prisoners were being taken after the brutal four years of war. My dad happened to be lying on his side with his left arm hidden under him in the gathering darkness. Dad was fully aware that he had a grenade clipped on his belt, and knew that this was their only hope. He very slowly moved his hand and worked the grenade loose from his belt. These grenades had a four second timer which was activated by pulling out a pin. Dad slipped his thumb into the ring which holds the pin in place, he pulled the pin, counted three seconds, then lobbed the grenade over the parapet between the Captain who was pointing his Luger at Dad standing over him, and the Sargent with the machine gun. He threw it just clear of the parapet hoping none of the shrapnel would blow down into the trench.

All three Germans died instantly and fell into the trench with the Captain right on top of Dad. All three died before they could use their gun. Dad said the first thing he did was to feel himself all over to see where the Captain shot him. He was all covered with sticky blood. It took him a while to realize that the blood was not his, and the three helped each other to push the dead soldiers of them and stood up.

The story goes on to tell how Harry found the Captain’s Luger the following morning, and decided to keep it and the shell that had been in the chamber of the gun.  Harry’s grand daughter recalls being fascinated by this gun and the shell.

The PPCLI returned to Canada in March of 1919 to great fanfare.  Harry returned to southern Ontario and studied to become a dentist. In 1923, he married Edith Pearl Jenkins in Toronto, Ontario, and eventually the two settled in Clinton, Ontario, about 20 minutes east of the south-east shore of Lake Huron. In his 40s, Harry again served his country in the second world war as a Captain in the Canadian Dental Corps.

Harry passed away in 1955 at 56 years of age in Clinton, Ontario.  I would like to extend my thanks to Harry’s granddaughter for her permission to share the photo of her Grandfather above as well as the excerpt from her father’s letter.

 

Lilian “Liby” Tee and Herbert Gardner

Lilian “Liby” Tee was my first cousin three times removed.  We are both descended from Jeremiah Pickering and Anne Filburn who were my third Great Grandparents, and Liby’s Grandparents.  I am descended from their son James Pickering, while Liby is descended from their daughter, Hannah Pickering.  Hannah was the second youngest of eleven children, and she married young, at the age of 17, to Edwin Tee.  Edwin Tee was a gardener’s labourer in Pontefract, Yorkshire. It was here that Edwin and Hannah lived after their marriage, and where they started their family.  They had five children, Liby being the 4th of the five, before Hannah’s untimely death in 1892 at the young age of 31.  Liby was only 6 at the time of her mother’s death.

By 1901, Liby, age 15, was working as a domestic servant on a cattle farm in Naburn, Yorkshire. In 1910, at the age of 24, she married Herbert Gardner, a chauffeur and motor mechanic. They had three children between their marriage and the outset of the war.  Herbert.  On August 12, 1914, only 8 days after the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, Herbert enlisted in the Army Service Corps.  Included in his file is a letter of reference from his employer that stated that “We are pleased to recommend Herbert Gardner as a driver suitable for the charge of motor cars and vans. We have known him for some years and can state that he is capable of all roadside repairs etc.”

Herbert Gardner letter.png

Letter of reference for Herbert Gardner

Herbert served through the entire war in England and France with the occasional leave home.  For most of the war, Liby and her children would have been on their own. Herbert was discharged in early 1919, and he returned to Yorkshire.  He and Liby had one more child in 1919, and they lived the rest of their lives in Yorkshire.  Herbert passed away in in 1962 at the age of 85.

 

 

 

Aaron Gill

Aaron Gill was my first cousin five times removed.

A painter and decorator by trade,  Aaron was born in 1876, making him 40 years old when he reported for duty under the terms of the Military Service Act in  July of 1916.  He was passed by the medical inspectors at the time of his enlistment, but a month later, his superior officers had submitted paperwork declaring that he should be discharged as he was “unlikely to become an efficient soldier.”  The reason cited was a large hernia. The discharge was approved.

I wonder at the mixed feelings that this must of created for him. On one hand, the there was the consistent message that everyone must “do one’s bit.”  Even among my modest count of 52 soldiers, Aaron had three nephews ( David, Ezekiel, and William Gill) and several cousins in uniform, and the societal and familiar pressure may have been intense.  On the other hand, he must have had a sense through the experiences of his personal connections, the consistent casualty lists published in the papers, and families being left without fathers and husbands, that this was not something to take lightly.  He had a wife and eight children that he would have been leaving behind had he been sent to the front.  It is easy to imagine that being discharged would have been, at least in part, a relief.

George Arthur Saggers

George Arthur Saggers was my first cousin three times removed.  We are both descended from Henry John Mungham and Eliza Francis Ing who were my third great grandparents and George’s Grandparents.  Henry and Eliza were both born in Kent to families making their living in brick making. They married in 1871 when Henry was 24 and Eliza was 18. They lived at least the first 12 years of their married life in Kent where Henry also worked as a brick maker, and where they were living when their first five children were born, including my 2nd Great Grandfather, Harry, and George’s mother, Rosetta.

Sometime between 1883 and 1886, the family relocated to Essex, where Henry (as well as my 2nd great grandfather Harry) continued his trade in brick making.  Henry and Eliza went on to have 5 more children in Essex.

Born in 1877, Rosetta Mungham was the third child of Henry and Eliza.  She is not listed as living with her family at the time of the 1891 census, at which time she would have been 14, so it is possible that she had taken work as a servant in her youth.  In 1899 at the age of 22, she married Alfred George Saggers a general labourer from Essex, and their first child, George Arthur, was born the following year.

Being born in 1900, George was too young to join the war effort at its outset, but in the summer of 1917, 17 year old George enlisted in the Royal Navy for the duration of the war.  Hi occupation at the time was listed as an engine cleaner, and his rank was a stoker.  He trained at a shore establishment in Devonport (Plymouth), and on December 6, 1917, he was assigned to HMS Aurora, a fairly new Arethusa Class light cruiser.

HMS Aurora

HMS Aurora

Aurora had already see her fair share of significant action in the war, taking part in major battles and the sinking of some significant targets. In 1918, soon after George would have been assigned to her, she was reassigned to the 7th Light Cruiser Squadron of the Grand Fleet.  HMS Aurora was one of the ships present at the surrender of the German High Seas Fleet, in November 1918.

The role of a stoker was one of the most difficult and thankless of the Navy.  As is outlined in a 2013 PhD thesis for the University of Exeter, stokers were regarded as the lowest class of men, yet without them, the great ships of the fleet would never have left port.

George served aboard Aurora until March of 1919, and there is little record of his life after the war.  He passed away in Essex in 1966 at the age of 65.

 

Joseph Jean Baptiste Thivierge

I have been thinking about this post for a long time.  This, along with the post from earlier in this series on Wilfrid Lacasse, is one of only two posts from my maternal Grandfather’s side of my family, which, interestingly, I have the most genealogical background on both from my research through Ancestry as well as through work that has been done on family history by a number of different distant relatives throughout the years. This part of my Canadian pedigree can be traced back to my 8th Great Grandmother, Marie Helene Desportes, who was according to some reports the first child of European descent born in  New France (now the Province of Quebec). Born in 1620, she married twice and had fifteen children, one of whom, Marie Morin, married Gilles Rageot, a recent arrival from France, in 1673. From here, the Rageot (later Rajotte) family spread in French Canada, then eventually also into western Canada.  My Grandfather, Albert Rajotte, was fascinated by this family history, as are many descendants of the Rajotte lines.  That said, it is the branch of my family history with the least evidence of direct participation in the Great War.  There may be many reasons for this, but, as I wrote in the entry on Wilfrid Lacasse, I suspect that at least in part, this is due to the fact that the war was not part of the French Canadian consciousness in the same way that it was in English Canada.  This was related to the fractious relationship with British Imperialism in French Canada as well as to the sense that, as this fantastic article from the Canadian War Museum states: “neither France nor Britain was “a mother country” retaining the allegiance of French Canadians. The “patriotic” call to arms rang hollow.”  Attempts were made through a variety of means to appeal in different ways to French Canada’s interests, including the poster below blatantly appealing to the connection between French culture and Catholicism, but enlistment would never reach the pace it did in English Canada.

French Canadian recruitment

Recruitment poster directed at French Canadians: loosely translated: “Are we waiting until it’s ours that burn? Let’s join up, and right away.”

The Canadian government’s 1917 reversal of a previous promise to never conscript men into military service also hurt the relationship with French Canada. Demonstrations at the Military Service office in Quebec City turned to a deadly riot in March of 1918, with English troops opening fire on French protesters.  These wounds between what Hugh MacLennan later famously called the two solitudes would not easily heal, and in some very real ways, still haven’t.

Joseph Jean Baptiste Thivierge, my 2nd cousin 2x removed, was one of these French Canadian conscripts.  He was not connected to the Rajotte line, but rather to the Monette line, my Grandfather’s paternal grandmother’s line.

Thivierge

Abbreviated family tree of descendants of Elmire D’Amour and Auguste Monette

Joseph was born in 1895 in Hull, Quebec, to Jean Baptiste Thivierge and Adelia D’Amour.  By the time Joseph was called up under the Military Service Act to join the 2nd Depot Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment, it was May of 1918.  He was 22 years old, and an accountant, still living in Hull.  His mother, Adelia, was listed as his next of kin.  He trained throughout the summer, and was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion in September of 1918. On October 4th, 1918, he sailed from Halifax for England, arriving on October 18th.  On November 11, hostilities ended, and Jospeh, never having left England, re-embarked for Canada eleven days later, arriving on November 29.  He was discharged from the service on New Year’s Eve 1918.

While in retrospect, it is clear that Joseph would never see the western front, and his voyage to England and back is almost comically short, he had no way of knowing that he wasn’t going to find himself inside a tank in France. For nearly six months, he was training for, and even shipped overseas in preparation for, a war he did not sign up to fight. I can’t imagine how frightening and frustrating this may have been.

Joseph married Alice Sauve in 1919, and they went on to have two children.  Joseph passed away in Hull at the age of 64 in 1960.

 

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.

Ernest James Perring 2

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.