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 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.
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.