Edwin George Mungham

Edwin George Mungham (or Mungeham) was the older brother of Frederick Thomas Mungham who I wrote about late last month. Four years older than his brother, Edwin bucked the trend of many of his family with a much more white collar job than those who were in the brickfields in Kent, and worked as a government porter in London. He was married in 1910 to Sarah Dunn, and at the time of the 1911 census, they were living in Lewisham.

His records, like his brother’s, were burnt, so I do not know precisely when he joined the war effort, but, regardless of his enlistment date, from the earliest points of the war, he would have been impacted due to his brother’s death in Belgium in the fall of 1915. His father, Edwin Sr., passed away in June 1918, adding another sorrow to his lot.

By the fall of 1918, the 15th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment was part of the final offensive of the war.  In Belgium, a series of liberating battles were being fought as the German forces were pushed further and further east by the creeping barrage style fighting of the allied forces.  The morning of October 14, 1918 saw the beginning of the Battle of Courtrai, and the British forces advancing at a pace of 100 yards per minute.  The war diary for the battalion said that:

…too much credit cannot be given to the men who though tired out and suffering of exposure, rose to the occasion, and put up the best show ever given by the Battalion.

Between the 14th and the 19th, landmark after landmark was gained by the British, and this major part of the offensive was a significant part of the 100 days push at the end of the war.  Edwin, as part of “the best show ever given by the Battalion,” was killed in action on October 14, 1918.  100 years ago today.

Edwin, and many others from the Cheshire Regiment, are memorialized at Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium.

Mungeham Tyne Cot (1)

I am honoured to share the commemorative certificate from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for my cousin here.

Frederick Thomas Mungham

Frederick Thomas Mungham was my first cousin four times removed.  We are both descended from Thomas Mungham and Elizabeth Sarah Wood who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Frederick’s Grandparents.  I am descended from Thomas and Elizabeth’s 3rd child, Henry, and Frederick is descended from their 9th (and second youngest) child, Edwin.

Edwin Mungham was, as many other of my relations from Kent were, a brick maker.  He was married in 1880 at the age of 21 to 17 year old Sarah Ann Bassant.  The couple had four children between 1882 and 1890. Frederick was the second of these children, born in 1886. By the 1911 census, when Frederick was 25, he was newly married to 17 year old Emily Maud Seager, and the couple was living in Lewisham, London, where Frederick was working as a furniture upholsterer.  They welcomed their first child, Ruby, in 1912. This family also, at some point, started using an alternate spelling of their last name: Mungeham.

Frederick’s records are burnt, therefore I am not entirely sure when he enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery, but it must have been early in the war as he was in Belgium by the fall of 1915.  Records related to soldiers who died in the war list Frederick Thomas Mungeham as having been killed in action on October 18, 1915.  Emily, his wife, was pregnant at the time with their second daughter, Freda, who was born in the Spring of 1916.

Frederick is buried at Vermelles British Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France, but he is also memorialized in Ladywell cemetery in London.  His second daughter, Freda, died at the young age of 7, and his wife, Emily, memorialized both on this beautiful monument.

Below the inscription to her daughter and husband is also etched “in loving memory of Emily Maud, wife of Frederick, Died 23 February, 1971, aged 87,” marking Emily’s resting place as well.

I am honoured to share the commemorative certificate from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for my cousin here.

 

 

Henry Walter Mungham

Henry Walter Mungham was my 2nd Great Uncle, older brother to my Great-Grandfather, James Charles Mungham, and Albert Mungham who I profiled in the early summer.

Born in England and immigrating to Canada with his family when he was 11, Henry was the oldest of Harry Mungham and Ellen Perring’s eight children.  Harry enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on September 17, 1915, just over a year after Britain and consequently Canada declared war on Germany. He was 18 years old.

Portrait of Henry Walter Mungham in Uniform

Henry Walter Mungham

Henry joined the 45th (Manitoba) Battalion, sailing for England in March of 1916.  The 45th was used as a reserve battalion to reinforce other groups, and in May of 1916, Henry was reassigned to the 31st  (Alberta) Battalion, and sent to join them in France.  The 31st was part of the 6th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division.

The summer into the fall of 1916 was the famous Somme offensive, a time where the remaining trappings of 19th century warfare gave way to the full-on industrialization of battlefields. The 2nd Canadian Division, including the 31st battalion, became most directly involved in this part of the conflict in September 1916 with the Battle of Fleurs-Courcelette. On the morning of September 15, 1916, the men were ordered to go “over the top” of the trench after a series of artillery fire was meant to clear the way. Zero hour was 6:20am.

In the immediate aftermath of this battle, Henry was listed as “wounded and missing.”  His family was informed, and this remained his status until June of 1917 when he was “declared, for official purposes, to have died on or since September 15, 1916.”  This status was changed yet again in February of 1918, when he was deemed to have been “Killed in Action on September 15, 1916.” Henry was 19 years old.

Henry’s remains were never found, and he is memorialized at the Canadian monument at Vimy.  I remember seeing pictures of my Grandmother, Henry’s niece whom he would have never met, standing beside his name at the memorial when she had the opportunity to visit it. She would sometimes say that her uncle died at Vimy, Canada’s most famous battle, but of course this was not the case.  As mentioned above, Henry’s brother Albert also enlisted, though never went overseas, a blessing for a family that had already lost a son.

I am honoured to share the commemorative certificate from the Commonwealth Ware Graves Commission for my uncle here.  I dedicate this post to my Grandmother and Henry’s niece, Mary Ellen Rajotte (nee Mungham), who passed away earlier this month.

Herbert Dash

Herbert Dash, my first cousin four times removed on my mother’s side, was descended from Sarah Gill and Charles Bester, his grandparents, and my 4th great grandparents. As illustrated below, he is one of three brothers who served during the war.  His brothers, as well as two of his first cousins, will be the subjects of future posts.

Dash

Abbreviated tree of Herbert Dash.

Charles Bester, son of John Bester and Mary Constable, was born in Little Eversden, Cambridgeshire, in 1833, and Sarah Gill, second daughter of John Gill and Elizabeth Munns (of whom you can read more here), was born in 1837 in Orwell, Cambridgeshire.  They had ten children, including Annie Bester, my 3rd Great Grandmother, and Elizabeth Bester, born in 1863, Herbert’s mother.

Elizabeth Bester was the 5th of the Bester children. By the age of 18, she was a servant in the home of the Roads family in Orwell, Cambridgeshire. In 1885, at the age of 22, she married 19-year old farm labourer Walter Dash, also of Cambridgeshire.  They had seven children between 1885 and 1895, Herbert being the second youngest, born in 1894.

In 1909, 15-year old Herbert joined the Royal Navy as Boy, 2nd Class, beginning his service at HMS Ganges. Between 1910 and 1914 he served aboard several ships including HMS Berwick in the West Indes, HMS Hampshire (the famous ship that sank after hitting a mine in 1916, killing most on board including Lord Kitchener), and HMS Zealandia.

When the war began in the summer of 1914, 20-year old Herbert was aboard HMS Black Prince, which was stationed in the Mediterranean. The first part of the war was spent patrolling for German merchant ships, and by December 1914, she was transferred to the Grand Fleet.  Eighteen months later, she was one of 250 ships that engaged in the deadly Battle of Jutland. The German High Seas Fleet had hoped to surprise the British Fleets, but codebreakers alerted the British to the approaching ships.  The clash began on the afternoon of May 31, 1916 off the coast of Denmark.  Black Prince, approaching the battle with the rest of the Grand Fleet from the north, was somehow separated from the rest of the fleet.  At the time, what happened to the ship was a mystery to the British forces, but German records have since revealed that she approached the German ships in the darkness, potentially thinking the outlines of the ships were British, just before midnight.    This mistake proved deadly.  Once spotted, Black Prince was fired on by six German battleships.

Devon Heritage (devonheritage.org) cites an eyewitness account of the aftermath from a crew member who had been on board HMS Spitfire:

“We were just recovering from our ramming match with the German cruiser, and most of the ship’s company were collected aft, when suddenly there was a cry from nearly a dozen people at once: “Look out!”

I looked up, and saw a few hundred yards away on our starboard quarter, what appeared to be a battle cruiser on fire, steering straight for our stern. To our intense relief, she missed our stern but just by a few feet; so close was she to us that we were actually under her guns, which were trained out on her starboard beam, She tore past us with a roar, rather like a motor roaring up a hill in low gear, and the very crackling and heat of the flames could be heard and felt. She was a mass of fire from fore-mast to main-mast, on deck and between decks. Flames were issuing out of her from every corner.

At first sight she appeared to be a battle cruiser, as her funnels were so far apart but afterwards it transpired that she was the unfortunate Black Prince with her two centre funnels gone. Soon afterwards, soon after  midnight, there came an explosion from the direction in which she had disappeared.”

All 857 officers and crew were lost.  Combined, the German and British forces lost 25 ships and over 8,500 men that day.

Herbert Dash, along with many others who lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland, is commemorated at the Portsmouth Naval Memorial.  I am honoured to post a memorial certificate to my cousin here.