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.

Alfred Charles Perring

Alfred Charles Perring was born in Edmonton, UK in early 1894. Like his brother, Edmund Alfred, he was my first cousin, 4 times removed on my maternal grandmother’s side. Where his brother’s service began with conscription and was drawn out over several years, Alfred was an early recruit and his service was brief: he died in June 1915 of wounds.  I am beginning this post with his death rather than the story of his service because his personnel file is “burnt.” It is one of the 60% of WW1 personnel files that were destroyed in the 1940 bombings on London.

From the medal rolls, listings of war dead, and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) records, we know the date of his death, the unit with which he served, and where he was buried. We are left to piece together and fill in the rest from regimental diaries and general histories of the war.  Unless there are personal family records existing that I do not have, there is very little in the way of record left for this very young man who died at the age of 21.

CWGC cemetary listing

UK Commonwealth War Graves Listing detailing grave location in the Etaples Military Cemetery in France.

Assuming he enlisted in late 1914, as a member of the 1st Battalion of the Welch Regiment which was (part of the 28th Division), he would have sailed for France in January 1915 and made his way with the regiment to Belgium. This Division took part in the Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915, a month-long, deadly battle during which the German forces used poison gas for the first time.

Whether he was wounded as part of this battle and later died of wounds or was wounded in one of the myriad of other ways that a person could be fatally hurt in the month that followed second Ypres is unclear.  But thanks to the meticulous records of the CWGC, we do know that he was buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.

I am honoured to share the CWGC commemorative certificate for my cousin here.