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Military Monday - Percival Richardson. Royal Engineers Part I

I've recently added my 2x Great Uncle Percival Richardson to Lives of the First World War . I've already posted a few posts abo...

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Tuesday, 26 January 2016



I realised recently that although I have been adding new information to my tree, I had completely forgotten to keep the spreadsheet I had spent hours on a couple of years ago updated - arrggh!





The spreadsheet exercise has proved very useful in the past so I'm fairly annoyed with myself at not keeping it up. I'll need to sit down with it at some point soon and go back through it to check everything, but in the meantime it reminded me that I am still missing a handful of BMD certificates for some of my direct ancestors. So I've treated myself to three, the first being the birth certificate for my Great-Grandfather George Wallis. He was born in Appleby in 1879 to James and Sarah (nee Mortimer).




The only new information it gave me was his actual birthdate, I had already found his baptism at St. Michael's church, Appleby, in Leicestershire Archives. It did remind me though, that I haven't got any further back with the Wallis line than James, George's father. The census entries I've found for James in 1861 and 1871 reveal him living with his grandparents, George and Mary, who had six or seven children, so he could be the illegitmate offspring of any of those. James doesn't give a father's name on his marriage certificate - something else to add to the "to-do" list!

So, Tuesday's tip; if you're going to make an effort organising your research - keep it updated! Otherwise you could be making yourself a few hours of extra work. :-(






Thursday, 21 January 2016


I'm very thankful for a large parcel that arrived one day last week. 

I've posted before about my Great Aunt Joy who emigrated to Australia - she gave me a Nottingham lace bedspread some years ago, which was designed by her Grandfather William Bucknall.

 
Sadly Auntie Joy passed away in July last year at the grand age of 90. She and her husband, Don, my grandmother's brother, had enjoyed a fantastic life in Australia, making many new friends along the way. 


It was one of these friends that was kind enough to send me today's parcel which contains Joy & Don's photo albums. 


I'm over the moon to receive them, especially as they all seem to be dated and labelled with both names and places.
 
I'm intending to scan the most relevant ones and share them with the rest of the family (whether they like it or not!) via Dropbox.


Monday, 4 January 2016


My genealogy 'to-dos' are numerous & I never seem to make much progess, probably because I'm too easily distracted by those pesky shaking leaves* on Ancestry!

So I've decided to list the top ten things I could really do with getting to the bottom of and hope that a list will keep me focussed!




  1. Finish searching the French online records for my Oldham family in Calais. The Census and Birth/Marriage/Death records are all freely available online. I've found the family in 1866, but also need to look further back to see if the previous generation spent time there and also if any of them went to Australia.
  2. Transcribe sections of Joseph Woolley's diary and finish reading/copying the remainder at the Nottingham Archives. Continuing with the Oldham family, but this time in Clifton, Nottinghamshire. Joseph Woolley was a framework knitter from Clifton, as well as his own business his diary documents he commented on his neighbours and local events. I need to transcribe the pages I've already photographed and finish reading the remaining sections in the Archives.
  3. Finish checking the Methodist records at the Nottinghamshire Archives. I'm mostly looking for Oldhams in these records, but other family names have cropped up too.
  4. Make use of the Nottinghamshire Family History Society's research room. To find more Oldham information, specifically Thomas Oldknow Oldham's birth/baptism around 1834. Also check their online databases.
  5. Finish reading Percy Richardson's war diary and finish the blog posts.
  6. Tidy and reorganise documents, certificate and books. Before ordering any more!
  7. Check out parish records on Find My Past. Look for my May family in Frant, Sussex from 1600 working backwards.
  8. Visit some local churchyards to look for gravestones. Sawley, Moira, Donisthorpe, Church Wilne, Draycott, Basford, Ashby-de-la-Zouch & others aren't too far away to visit and record any memorial inscriptions.
  9. Look for tithe maps and census information for Pilsley. To find out who lived in and/or owned my late father-in-law's farmhouse.
  10. Start scanning photos. I received a Doxie Flip as a Christmas present so I'm intending to scan and share many of my photos.
So - lots to do!



*if you have your family tree uploaded to Ancestry, they kindly add a little 'shaking leaf' to any family member they may have records available for, which is usually enough to distract me from doing what I'd orginally logged on to do in the first place!



Wednesday, 9 December 2015


I've recently been searching for my Oldham family in Calais, France.

My 3xgreatgrandparents Thomas Oldham and Harriet (nee Winfield) and their sons William and Thomas are missing from the 1861 UK census, but reappear on the 1871 census with five more children, all born in Calais between 1861 and 1870.

The Archives of Pas-de-Calais had already sent me copies of the birth registrations, which reveal the dates and times of their births, both parent's ages, the mother's maiden name and the family's current address - so very useful.

The Calais Archives have digitised many of their records and they are freely available online, unlike the UK's records. The French took a census every five years from 1836; the 1866 one falls nicely in the middle of the period I'm looking for.

None of the records are indexed, so they aren't searchable by name, which means finding the correct district and working through it page by page. It's very time consuming, but well worth it - I found Thomas and his family living on the rue du Jardin des Plantes:




Thomas and his eldest son, William, were working as 'tullistes'. This is a term specific to the Calais area and means a mechanical technician highly specialised in the manufacture of tulle and lace. Thomas and Henriette (Harriet) had six children, William (12) and Thomas (10) who were born in Nottingham and John (7), Eliza (5), Enoch (2) and Anne (2 months) who were born in Calais.


From Google Maps


On the same census, just around the corner, I found Gervase Oldham, Thomas' brother, and his family. They were living on the rue du Temple.



Gervase, or Jervis, also worked as a tulliste and was living with his wife Mary (nee Taylor) and three children, James (3) and Jervas and Eliza (both aged 2 months). The family were back in Nottingham by the 1871 census, but without their daughter Eliza. By this time Gervase and Mary had had another daughter, Eliza Jane born in Calais in 1869, so it's more than likely that the first Eliza died at a young age.  More trawling through the French records should reveal if that was the case.

Also living with the family was Emma Taylor, an unmarried woman aged 21 who was working as a lace operator. She is likely to be Mary's younger sister.

So now I've filled in the gap in the 1860s for the Oldham family, I need to go back to the French records to see if I can find the births and death in Gervase and Mary's family.

I'll also be looking through the French census records to see if Thomas' and Gervase's parents, William and Eliza, were living in France without their children around 1851. They are missing from the English census of that year, but their children are in Long Eaton with their grandparents.






Monday, 2 November 2015


Part I
Part II

January 1918 saw Uncle Percy raised to the skilled rate of E.P., or Engineers Pay, which would have meant a little extra in his pay packet.

The next entry in his service record is on the 10th March 1918 when he was given four days confined to camp for being absent from 8.20pm to 8.45pm.

Two days later, on the 12th March at Les Attaques, Calais, Percy failed to attend the 6.15pm defaulter's parade and was absent from the 8.20pm roll call to 9.30pm. For this he was awarded nine days Field Punishment No.1, which involved being shackled in irons and secured to a fixed object, such as a gun wheel.

Field Punishment No.1





Percy would only have been fixed for up to two hours in every twenty four, and not for more than three days in every four. Field Punishment No.1 came to be known as 'crucifixion' and due to its humiliating nature was considered by Tommies as unfair.








In March and April 1918, there are only two entries in Percy's service record, both noting that he joined the Royal Engineers' base depot. But during this period the 21st Division were in action. The Battle of St. Quentin on the 21st -23rd March saw the German army advance forty miles and many Tommies taken prisoner. This was followed immediately on the 24th-25th by the first Battle of Bapaume in which the German army recaputured Baupaume.



On the 10th-11th April 1918 the 21st Division were at the Battle of Messines, where the British army withdrew four miles as the Germans captured Messines. This prompted General Haig's famous 'backs to the wall' message to the troops.

'Every position must be held to the last man: there must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end.'
The next entry in Uncle Percy's record reveals that he was wounded on the 22nd April 1918 and transfered to No. 13 General Hospital, based in the Casino in Boulogne with a mild gunshot wound to his face and arms on the 24th April.

From the 17th May to the 2nd of October 1918, Percy was in Britain, beginning with a stay at the Springburn Woodside Central Hospital in Glasgow for thirty-five days, suffering from pneumonia.

Following his period of convalesence Percy was expected to return to a Royal Engineers base but he overstayed his sick furlough from the 2nd  to the 11th July and was confined to barracks for ten days, forfeiting ten days pay.

The 2nd of October found Percy back in France.  Following which the 21st Division were involved in the successful Battle of the Selle from the 7th to the 26th October.


Percy found himself in trouble yet again on the 9th of November, when on active service he was absent for fifteen minutes and was caught drinking in the cafe Le Clas Fleuri during prohibited hours. For this he was deprived of two days pay and was also confined to barracks for seven days.

The Armistice on the 11th of November, found the 21st Division around Berlaimont and they moved via Beaufort to to Amiens by the end of December. Following demobilisation the 21st Division had ceased to exist but Percy's time with the Royal Engineers was to continue for a little longer.








Picture Credit: http://www.historytoday.com/clive-emsley/crucifying-tommy-punishment-first-world-war
Picture Credit: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205331665
Picture Credit: http://nzetc.victoria.ac.nz/tm/scholarly/tei-WH1-Fran-t1-body1-d15.html
Monday, 19 October 2015


Part 1 Here

The end of March 1917 found Percy and the 97th Field Company Royal Engineers stationed on the Hindenburg Line.

The German army was staging a strategic withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line. As they withdrew they destroyed bridges, railways, buildings and roads to hinder the Anglo-French advance.

So there was an urgent need for the Royal Engineers to restore transport and communication links.



Royal Engineers building a pontoon bridge across the Somme River at Peronne, 22 March 1917

Sir Douglas Haig mentioned the contribution of the Royal Engineers in his third Despatch in May 1917.

The systematic destruction of roads, railways and bridges in the evacuated area made unprecedented demands upon the Royal Engineers, already heavily burdened by the work entailed by the preparations for our spring offensive.
Our steady progress, in the face of the great difficulties confronting us, is the best testimony to the energy and thoroughness with which those demands were met.
The bridging of the Somme at Brie, to which reference has already been made, is an example of the nature of the obstacles with which our troops were met and of the rapidity with which those obstacles were overcome.  In this instance six gaps had to be bridged across the canal and river, some of them of considerable width and over a swift-flowing stream.
The work was commenced on the morning of the 18th March, and was carried out night and day in three stages.  By 10.00 p.m. on the same day foot-bridges for infantry had been completed, as already stated.  Medium type bridges for horse transport and cavalry were completed by 5.00 a.m. on the 20th March, and by 2.00 p.m. on the 28th March, or four and a half days after they had been begun, heavy bridges capable of taking all forms of traffic had taken the place of the lighter type.

During the Anglo-French advance, Percy was involved in both the first and second Battles of the Scarpe near Arras. He was to remain in the area around the Hindenburg Line until June 1917.

Whilst based in Les Attaques, Calais, Percy had two more misdemeanors noted on his service record. On the 26th June, when on active service, he was absent from his duty as cook's mate for two hours and received seven days confined to camp and deprivation of three days pay. Two days later, on the 28th June he was awarded fourteen days confined to camp and deprived of seven days pay for being both drunk and absent from duty for eleven hours.

Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, 20 September 1917


Percy's stay in Calais ended in September 1917 when the 21st Divison became heavily involved in the Third Battle of Ypres, more commonly known as Passchendaele. Percy's involvement began with the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge from the 20th September to the 25th. This was immediately followed on the 26th by the Battle of Polygon Wood which ended on the 3rd of October and continued on the 4th of October by the Battle of Broodseinde.





There was a small respite until the Battle of Poelcapelle on the 9th of October and finally the Second Battle of Passchendaele from the 26th of October to the 10th of November 1917.

Despite being in the thick of battle for three weeks, the Royal Engineers then found themselves at the Battle of Cambrai from the 20th of November to the 3rd of December 1917. This is noteable as the first time tanks were used en masse. 


The British front line before the Battle of Cambrai, 10 Dec. 1917.

Despite the innovative use of tanks, Cambrai was not a success and the war continued into 1918.




Picture Credit: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205237910
picture Credit; http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205079730
Picture Credit; http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205239645
Monday, 14 September 2015


I've recently added my 2xGreat Uncle Percival Richardson to Lives of the First World War.

I've already posted a few posts about Percy, but hadn't got round to adding his details to the site. Luckily Percy's service records are extant unlike many others so I have been able to find out much more about his time as a sapper with the Royal Engineers.

Percy enlisted in Nottingham on the 9th January 1915 and was assigned to the Royal Engineers. During his initial training at Hallfield Camp in Chatham, Kent he was AWOL twice, once for three days and then for five days. He was fined and confined to barracks for both offences.

On the 11th September 1915 he landed in France with 97 Field Company, which made up part of the 21st Division. There isn't anything else noted on his record until the 6th February 1916, but it is possible to follow his route.






Once the Division had gathered, they endured lengthy forced marches to Loos, for 'The Big Push' where they saw action on the 26th September, losing around 3,800 men. Further reading about the battle can be found here.







The next entry in Percy's service record finds him in a military hospital back home in Newark, suffering from an inguinal hernia and septic sore throat. He remained in Newark from the 21st of February to the 26th of June 1916. During this time he overstayed his leave three times, again resulting in fines and confinement to barracks. On the 24th of June 'when on active service disobeying in such manner as to show a wilful defiance of authority, a lawful command given personally by his superior officer in the execution of his office.'  That found him confined to barracks for fourteen days.

In July 1916 Percy rejoined his Unit where, fortunately for him, he had missed the Battle of Albert (part of the Somme offensive) and the Battle of Bazentine Ridge.

Between July 1916 and the next entry in Percy's records in June 1917 he would have been involved in various battles in the Somme area. Firstly the Battle of Flers-Courcelette which saw the first use of tanks on the battlefield, Morval 25th to 28th September, and Le Transloy 1st to the 18th October 1916.


Battle of Flers-Courcelette. 21st September 1916.


Link to Part II

Picture Credit: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205078825