The Half Way Point

It’s hard for me to believe, but this weekend marks the halfway point in this journey.  Later today I will post the 26th of 52 profiles. On one hand, in the life of a busy person with two kids and a full-time job and other commitments, I haven’t always been excited about sitting down and spending the time each weekend to make this happen.  On the other hand, my busy life with its daily highs and lows is a very beautiful one, and part of that is that is underscored by the hope that the era of the citizen soldier, at least in my country, is past. This is a hope that is deeply rooted in privilege, and I mean that in all its connotations–it is my privilege and honour to live in Canada and be a Canadian, and I am also aware my experience of this pride and patriotism is intertwined with the lens of socio-economic and cultural privilege extant in being a white, middle-class woman.  Taking the time each weekend to remember families whose lives and their own versions of the daily highs and lows were completely up-ended due to the war has given me some insight into parts of this privilege in a way I hadn’t considered before.

First, many of these families were not comfortable from an economic standpoint.  Obviously, due to actually having fixed addresses at which they could be enumerated for a census, they had homes, but some of them were in precarious positions when one or more of their family members with top earning potential went to war.  On the other hand, these men were paid for their service, and separation allowances were paid to their families.  For some families, it is very possible that the financial driver of a steady wage for a period of time was far more of an incentive than patriotism, or indignation over the invasion of Belgium, or the pressure of the propaganda or their peers.  For some, this was an opportunity for a job.  I had always been aware of the military as a career choice (my mother comes from a military family), and I remember watching American tv as a kid and seeing recruitment commercials during Saturday morning cartoons saying “be all that you can be” in the army.  But to think that during a time of total war, the chance to procure a wage would entice a person to join even as one in ten who did so died as a result is astounding to me. I didn’t realize that I still had a bit of a veil of romance over my eyes about this, but I did.

Second, the voice that comes through the records I have found is overwhelmingly, homogeneously white.  From a genealogy perspective, this isn’t surprising.  Genetically, (yes, I did a test) my origins are over 40% from the British Isles, and the balance from other parts of Western Europe.  I knew that in deciding to profile ancestors, I was not going to have a lot of cultural or ethnic diversity in my posts. That said, I now consider myself a pretty adept researcher of WW1 history and events in popular media, and it is rare to come across resources that approach the British or Canadian experience of the war from a perspective other than that of people of British descent. This is not to say that there hasn’t been a lot of scholarly work done on this, because of course there has been, but since a lot of my scholarly work was on the popular consciousness of the war, that is where my mind still goes.  In 1914-1918 very specific rhetoric was grown and maintained in the popular consciousness about the experience of war.  A century later, this has grown and changed, but it is far from being inclusive.

Finally, one of the things that has always made me uncomfortable about acts of remembrance is the rhetoric around “they died to protect us,” as though somehow without the farmer from Kent or telegraph operator from Ontario going to France, civilization would not have gone on.  This is part of why the Timothy Findley quote about this not being a battle of David and Goliath but rather of “one little David against another” has always resonated with me.  But now, through the act of looking more closely at these individual stories, I’m realizing that the scale of the losses from WW1, WW2, and Vietnam for the US has done something to protect us.  Not in the sense that my little corner of land in Canada is somehow more secure or safe because of these soldiers, but in their role as cautionary tales.  We have examples to point to as nations as to what it looks like to immerse ourselves in total war.  Should we come to this kind of crossroads again, and right now things do feel pretty volatile on the world stage so this doesn’t feel entirely hypothetical, we can and should look to these stories to think deeply about whether the benefit of engaging the citizenry in military action will outweigh the profound losses to communities. If this is kept in mind, then yes, they died to protect us.  From ourselves.  From making decisions without the context of what they may mean.  It is our responsibility not to ignore this context.

I’m hoping that this little blog contributes to keeping that context alive.  Thank you for coming along on the journey with me up until now.

Joseph Webber Raglan Cornelius

Joseph Webber Raglan Cornelius was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from Michael Ing and Mary Ann Macey who were his Grandparents, and my 4th Great Grandparents. Mary Ann and Michael were both born in Kent, and Michael was a brickfield labourer.  They were married in 1850, and went on to have eight children.  I am descended from their eldest daughter, Eliza Francis, while Joseph is descended from their youngest daughter, Clara Alice.  Clara was born in Faversham, Kent in 1873.  In her teenage years, she was a domestic servant, including being resident in London at the time of the 1891 census.  She married Joseph Webber Raglan Cornelius Sr. in July of 1892 when she was 19, and her husband was 21.  Joseph Sr. was a brick maker like Clara’s father.  Together Joseph and Clara had eleven children, many of whom followed in their family’s footsteps and also worked in brick making.  Joseph Jr., however, took his own path.  By the 1911 census, 18-year old Joseph was no longer living in Kent. He had joined the Royal Field Artillery and was living in the Woolwich Barracks in London.  At some point in his time in London, he met Elizabeth Fryers, daughter of a journeyman carpenter at a chemical works in London.  Joseph and Elizabeth married in July of 1914.

Cornelius tree

Abbreviated family tree of Joseph Webber Raglan Cornelius Jr.

Less than two months after his marriage, Joseph was in France.  The 37th battery of the RFA was put under the command of the 27th Battalion in the 5th Division. On December 25th, 1914, the Christmas day that so many men had said they were sure they would be home for, Joseph and Elizabeth’s daughter, Elizabeth Doris, was born.  I do not have Joseph’s service record, so I cannot know for sure, but I dearly hope that at some point during his service, he was able to have leave to return to Britain to meet her.

In April 1917, the 37th Battery was one of the artillery units supporting the creeping barrage at the Arras offensive, the overall series of battles that included the famous operations and Vimy Ridge early in the month.  Later on in April, though Vimy had been a success for the allies, the offensive had bogged down.  In the war diary for the battalion, there is a description of a direct hit on the night of April 25-26.

War diary exerpt

Excerpt from war diary of 27th Battalion.

I believe that when that gun of the 37th battery was hit, Gunner Joseph Webber Raglan Cornelius was fatally wounded.  He died at the 22 Casualty Clearing Station in Bruay on April 27, 1917: One hundred and one years ago yesterday.  He is buried at the Bruay Communal Cemetery Extension in Pas-de-Calais, France.  I am honoured to share a the commemorative certificate from the CWGC for my cousin here.

Richard John Perring

Richard John Perring, my 3rd Great Uncle, was born 122 years ago today. His parents, Annie Bester and Walter Perring, were my 3rd Great Grandparents.  Another way to look at this was that he was my Great-Grandfather’s uncle.  In fact, it is likely that my Great-Grandfather, James Charles Mungham, and his uncle knew each other, as there was only an 8 year age difference between them.  My Great-Grandfather emigrated from Britain to Canada with his family, including his parents Harry Mungham and Ellen Perring in 1908, arriving when he was three and a half years old. Ellen Perring was the eldest child of Annie Bester and Walter Perring, and though I can’t be sure, it is very possible that her and her family’s decision to move to northern Ontario was in part due to her parents’ decision to do the same thing the previous year. So when My 2nd Great Grandparents and their children arrived in Orillia, Ontario in 1908, Ellen’s parents, and her younger siblings, including Richard, who would have then been 11 years old, were there to greet her.

Three years later, in the 1911 census, Richard was listed as working as a labourer at a “wheel works.” Sometime between then and late 1914, he had moved south to Winchester, Ontario, slightly south-east of Ottawa, and began to pursue a career as a baker. It was also in Winchester that he married Mary Elizabeth Lambert in December of 1914 when they were both 19 years old.  Almost exactly a year later, in December of 1915, Richard attested to the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

His unit sailed for Britain on the 23rd of April, 1916, one day after his 20th birthday. He spent the rest of the spring and the early part of the summer in training, and then on August 10, 1916, the unit sailed for France. By the fall of 1916, the 87th was fully involved on the 1916 Somme offensive. At some point during the more than month-long battle of the Ancre Heights, Richard went missing.  It was later declared that he had been killed on or before October 22, 1916, exactly 6 months after his birthday.  His remains were never found.

Back in Orillia, Ontario, my 2nd Great Grandmother had lost a brother.  She also had 2 sons of her own “in khaki” at the same time.

My birthday is April 22. I have now had 21 more birthdays that Richard ever experienced. Had he not been killed in France, there is even a possibility that he would have lived to celebrate his 81st birthday on the day I was born. The what-if’s of so many young lives resonate a lot more somehow when one can connect these kinds of clear timelines to them.

Richard is memorialized at the Vimy memorial in France.  I am honoured to post the Commonwealth War Graves Commission commemorative certificate for my uncle here.

 

 

Percy Wilfred Dash

Percy Wilfred Dash is the third Dash brother I am writing about in this series.  His older brothers Herbert and John have already been covered earlier this year.  Yesterday marked 123 years since he was born in Orwell, Cambridgeshire on April 14, 1895.

Dash

Abbreviated family tree of the Dash brothers.

Like his brother Herbert, he was also in the Royal Navy.  Where his brother joined as a 15-year old boy, Percy joined the Navy after the outset of the war when he was 20 years old, offering his services as a blacksmith. Most of this time was aboard HMS Cyclops which was a repair ship for the Grand Fleet.  She spent the majority of the war stationed at Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, and was also used during the Second World War as a submarine repair ship.

HMS Cyclops

Percy was with the Royal Navy until July of 1919.  He married Ellen Imogen Hooten in 1921.  He lived to the age of 62, passing away in 1957 in Bury St. Edmonds in Suffolk.

Ernest Stephen Moody

Ernest Moody, like his younger brother Bertram, was my 2nd cousin 4 times removed.  He was born in 1890 in Edmonton, UK.  He was married to Elizabeth Fitzer in 1909, at the age of 19.

Like his brother, his service record is not available, so I am left to piece together his service between his medal records as well as through some information from his granddaughter.  He served with the Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire Regiments, and his granddaughter was told that he had been injured by gas and had been sent back to England to recuperate in hospital.

James Moody

Ernest Stephen Moody is in the back row on the left.  

Both the Hertfordshire and Lincolnshire regiments had been overseas as early as November 1914, so as the above picture is from approximately 1917, it is possible that by the time this was taken, Stephen had already been to France, had been injured, and had recuperated. He and Elizabeth had 4 children together.  Ernest passed away in 1976 in Hertfordshire, at the age of 85.

 

 

Bertram George Moody

Bertram George Moody was my 2nd cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from John Gill and Elizabeth Munns, my 5th Great Grandparents and his Great Grandparents.  While I am descended from John and Elizabeth’s daughter Sarah, Bertram is descended from her sister Alice.  Bertram and his brother Ernest were 2 of four grandchildren of Alice Gill  who served in the war. Stanley and Herbert Gill, who I have already profiled, were sons of Alice’s son William Gill who was born before she was married, and the Moody brothers were the children of her daughter with her husband Stephen Farrington, Harriet Amelia Farrington.

Harriet was born in 1870 in Edmonton, and married James John Moody, house decorator, when she was 19. Together, they had six children.  In the 1911 census, fifteen-year old Bertram was recorded as being in training to be a house decorator like his father and his brother Ernest who was a paper hanger.

James Moody

James Moody and Family circa 1917.  
Enfield, Middlesex, England
back row -L/R Ernest Stephen Moody snr., James Moody, Bertram Moody. seated – Elizabeth Mary Moody (nee Fitzer), Harriet Amelia Moody (nee Farrington), Elsie Alice Moody. seated front – Ernest Stephen Moody jnr, Gladys Jessie Moody. Lillian Evelyn Moody

I do not have his service record, but I know from the national roll of honour as well as from correspondence with his great-niece that he served in the 4th Leicester Battalion  as a signaller. According to the National Roll of Honour, he served at battles of Lens in 1917 and Bethune in 1918.

Honor Roll

Excerpt from National Roll of Honour on Bertram’s service.

I would like to thank Bertram’s great niece for giving me permission to use the amazing photo of her family, above.

Joseph Perring

Joseph Perring was my fourth great-uncle and the father of Edmund Alfred Perring and Alfred Charles Perring. One hundred and three years ago today, he attested to the British Expeditionary force in the Army Service Corps.

Attestation Papers

Excerpt from attestation papers of Joseph Perring.

By the time he attested, his son Alfred had already been overseas with the 1st Welch Regiment for over two months.  He claimed on his attestation papers to be 45 years of age.

Age claim

Excerpt from attestation papers of Joseph Perring.

This, it would become clear before too long, was a lie.  Joseph was born in Rickling, Essex in 1862, the second youngest child of  James Perring and Emma Law, who were also my 4th Great Grandparents.  By the time he was 21, he had moved to Edmonton (London), and he married Sarah Elizabeth Oliphant, a domestic servant. Together, they would go onto have thirteen children, Edmund and Alfred being the 5th and 6th respectively.  What possessed him to volunteer is difficult to say.  He was under no obligation.  Even once conscription arrived in Britain, it only applied to men under 41 years old.

Regardless, join he did, as part of the Army Service Corps which provided provisions and supplies to the troops at the front. It is unclear what part of the corps he served in, but he was in France from April to October of 1915 which included the timeframe when his son, Alfred, was wounded and eventually died of his wounds.

In October of 1915, Joseph’s lie about his age began to unravel.  He ended up in hospital in France that month due to “muscular rheumatism,” and was invalided back to England.  For the following several weeks he was able to perform occasional light duty, but by January of 1916, his medical status was being evaluated by the medical board.  He then revealed that his true age was in fact 55, and that he had suffered from rheumatic symptoms off and on since 1902.  He was discharged in February of 1916 as being no longer physically fit for war service.

He went on to live a long life, even living through the entirety of yet another world war, before passing away in Edmonton, UK in late 1949 at the age of 87.