Tag Archives: ww1

Remembering Ernest Arthur TROWER (1895-1917)

11 Nov

Sunday July 24 [1927] Today was unveiled the Menin Memorial Gate at Ypres. ‘To those whose graves are unknown’ Unknown or rather graveless, those blown to fragments during these ghastly years as you my brother was. How well I remember your last words to me when I saw you for the last time. And how did you die? how can I ever know. Were you mercifully killed or were you wounded & died slowly. Died slowly in a strange country amongst strange people & knowing all the time that you would never see your loved ones again. Oh my poor brother what an ending to your life, hard for you, hard for us what hardship of mind & body must you not have endured in France & no doubt you often thought of the time when these years of anguish would end & that you could return to us again.

I recall again in memory all the days of our childhood, when we were boys & companions together. The only real companion I have had in my lonely life we had no secrets from each other. How straightforward & courageous you were too my dear Ern.

But never, never again can you & I meet. In memory only can I see you. Our days of boy-hood are long past now and you, my boy-hoods companion are dust in Flanders whilst I have gone much further in my journey & these days seem long, long ago now, but whilst life is in my body I can never forget you, even if I may have found someone who may be a dearer companion than ever you were.

These worlds were written by my 2x great-uncle Percy Ebenezer TROWER about his older brother Ernest Arthur TROWER who lost his life during the First World War. Whilst I have no memories of Ernest, only facts and pictures, I feel privileged to be able to honour the life and sacrifice of Ernest this Remembrance Day.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Highlights of the UK Railway Employment Records

10 Aug

You will no doubt have already heard about the latest release from Ancestry.co.uk, the UK, Railway Employment Records, 1833-1963. I was delighted to see that this release included a collection of records originating from the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR).

The LBSCR were responsible for my local railway, the Horsham to Shoreham Railway (also known as the Steyning Line). The line was closed in 1966 (before I was born) after Dr. Beeching decided it was surplus to requirements. The LBSCR had long since gone by then, it had been merged with other railway companies to form the Southern Railway in 1923, which in turn became part of British Railways in 1948 following nationalisation. If you want to find out more then the Wikipedia article on the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway is pretty comprehensive.

I have spent several hours over the last few days exploring the collection trying to get a feel for what is included and found myself getting totally sucked in. I had intended to create a list all the different pieces in the collection for future reference but that fell completely by the wayside as I turned the pages of the various volumes.

I wasn’t really looking for people to add to my family tree, instead I was just exploring the lists of names, and not so much the names themselves but the positions they held and where they worked. I was taking my own virtual tour of the LBSCR railway network, seeing what made it work, from engine drivers to accountants, from a large London terminus to a small country station.

There are couple pieces in this collection that are really special, the first is described by Ancestry as the “1862-1863 Operating Staff Black Book” (TNA RAIL 414/759) which contains details of fines (and sometimes suspension or dismissal) for various misdemeanours, such as the unfortunate Mr Trapp an Office Porter at London Bridge who was fined two shillings and six pence “For carrying Passengers luggage down the platform to the train it being against orders & having been cautioned on previous occasions not to do it but to attend to the Booking office”.

For me the most interesting piece in the collection is described as “1914-1920 Staff on Active Service” (TNA RAIL 414/791). This is an extremely valuable record of LBSCR employees who served during the First World War, and as such will be of interest to not only family historians, but also military historians. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the amount of information recorded, we all know that many WW1 service records have been destroyed and this volume may well represent one the few surviving records of many men who served.

Each entry not only covers what the men did whilst employed by the railway, it also includes details of their regiment, rank and number and the date they left the railway. The entries also include details of the men’s dependants such as a wife and the number of children they had. Often this will also include the date of their marriage and age and sex of the children.

The most poignant detail however is the bold red underlining of certain names which highlights those who died whilst serving. Many larger railway stations have a memorial to those railway employees that died and this volume may well have been the source of those names. Ancestry probably ought to include this in their military collection if they haven’t done so already.

I look forward to spending many more hours looking through these records and maybe even get around to searching for some of my relations. I know there are several railway connections, but most of those connections relate to those building the railway, rather than operating it, and most of these labourers were employed by contractors and not the railway company themselves.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Remembrance 2010: Walter BOXALL (1897-1917)

14 Nov

This year I am remembering the six members of the BOXALL family recorded on the war memorial in the parish church at West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex.

I have previously written about Walter BOXALL (actually Walter Henry BOXALL), most recently when I was looking at the story that James and Caroline BOXALL had 27 children. I am happy that he wasn’t one of their children, but he appears to have been treated as if he was one.

I have a copy of his birth certificate which shows that his mother was Alice Ruth BOXALL although his father’s identity is not known. He was born on the 27th May 1897 at 10 Arthur Street, Caerleon, Monmouthshire, Wales. I have no idea why his mother was in Wales at the time of his birth.

He was back in West Dean in the for the 1901 census, when he was living with his grandparents, but in 1911 he his still living with his grandparents but is described as their son. He attended school at West Dean between the 14th October 1901 and the 26th May 1911 and left school to work on a farm.

With regard to his military service I know very little, really only what is included in Soldiers Died in the Great War and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. Walter apparantly enlisted at Chichester, Sussex (which is not surprising) and served with the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (regimental number: G/11744).

Interestingly this was the same battalion as Sidney Charles BOXALL (his 1st cousin once removed), but this is probably just a coincidence. He was killed in action on the 10th July 1917, but that is about the limit of my knowledge.

As well as the West Dean war memorial, Walter Henry BOXALL is remembered on the Nieuport Memorial, Belgium.

Remembrance 2010: Sidney BOXALL (1896-1918)

13 Nov

This year I am remembering the six members of the BOXALL family recorded on the war memorial in the parish church at West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex.

Sidney BOXALL’s full name was Sidney Charles BOXALL (although some records have him as Sydney Charles BOXALL) and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website provides us with the valuable information that Sidney was the “Son of Arthur and Charlotte Boxall, of 84, The Warren, West Dean, Chichester” and he died aged 22 on the 18th April 1918.

Sidney Charles was baptised on the 5th April 1896 at St. Andrew’s Church, West Dean and was the second youngest of Arthur and Charlotte’s five children. His younger brother was Frederick Henry BOXALL who I wrote about on Wednesday. Sidney, in common with most of the BOXALLs in West Dean, worked as a farm labourer.

Although Sidney’s service record has survived it is very brief, only six pages in total, and two of those relate to the return of his personal effects to his father, so unfortunately it doesn’t give a lot of detail on his military service.

He appears to have enlisted on the 20th January 1916 at Chichester, Sussex with the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment (regimental number: G/8597), although his medical examination took place a couple of months earlier on the 18th November 1915.

His service record provides no further details on his military service other than his entitlement to the British War Medal and Victory Medal, and the fact that he was killed in action in France on the 18th April 1918. If time permitted I could probably have checked the battalions war diary to find out exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time.

As well as West Dean war memorial Sidney Charles is also remembered at Woburn Abbey Cemetery, Cuinchy, France.

Remembrance 2010: Leonard BOXALL (1884-1916)

12 Nov

This year I am remembering the six members of the BOXALL family recorded on the war memorial in the parish church at West Dean (near Chichester), Sussex.

Leonard BOXALL is probably the best documented of all the BOXALLs on the West Dean war memorial. Not only are there entries on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website and in Soldiers Died in the Great War but his service record has also survived (albeit in burnt condition) and is available on Ancestry.co.uk along with his medal index card.

Leonard, or rather Leonard Arthur BOXALL, is also the closest relation of the six BOXALLs on the war memorial. He was my 2x great-uncle, the son of my 2x great-grandparents James and Caroline Emily BOXALL (the parents of 27 children) and brother of my great-grandmother Lilian Mary BOXALL.

He was born in 1884 in West Dean, Sussex and baptised at St. Andrew’s Church in West Dean on the 7th September 1884. He appears to have had various jobs on the farm, and when he enlisted at Croydon, Surrey on the 8th September 1914 he gave his occupation as a farm labourer.

Leonard was only 5 foot 4 inches tall and weighed 119 lbs, had blue eyes, brown hair and a fresh complexion when he passed his medical examination. He served as a Private in the 8th (Service) Battalion The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), although he may have served briefly with the Royal Sussex Regiment. According to his medal index card he arrived in France on the 31st August 1915, which meant he was entitled to the 1914-15 Star as well as the British War Medal and Victory Medal.

I haven’t followed his battalion through their war diaries, so I don’t know the details of where they fought, but Leonard’s story comes to an end on the 28th March 1916 at No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station when he died of gun shot wounds to his chest and right leg, which he had received on the 19th March.

Within Leonard’s service record is a poignant letter written by his mother, after she had received Leonard’s personal effects:

Colworth Cottages
Nr Chichester

Dear Sir,
I have received the things that you
[have] sent of my Darling Boy L. A Boxall
[and] I return you many thanks he was
[the] best Boy a mother [ever] had he has gone
to a Higher Service I hope and may my
other dear Boys be brought back safely to me
yours respectfully
C. E. Boxall

As well as West Dean war memorial Leonard Arthur BOXALL is remembered at Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium.


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