Category Archives: Personal stories

Remembered in Arras

Travelled last week to Arras in Northern France, a very attractive little town which had to be largely rebuilt after the First World War. The following local men that I am aware of are listed on the Arras Memorial:-

ANDREWS Arthur James Pte 7th Buffs died 3/5/17 aged 20. Mother at 12 Montefiore Cottages
BADDERLY Arthur Leslie Pte 5th Dragoon Guards died 10/4/17 aged 22 Liived at 1 Guildford Lawn
BEER Wilfrid Reuben Pte 1st Buffs died 21/3/18 aged 25. St George’s plaque
(worked at Ramsgate Sands Station)
BISHOP Archibald Thomas Rifleman 1st/8th London Regt (PO Rifles) died 21/5/16 aged 22
BROCK John Paddon Pte 12th Middlesex Regt died 03/05/17. Chatham House
COX Elgar Aylesbury Corp 6th Buffs died 11/4/17 aged 21. Parents 28 Vale Rd
DOLMAN Philip Walter W Pte 1st/5th Sherwood Foresters died 01/07/17 aged 40
FAGG Arthur Henry Pte 1st Essex Regt died 24/04/17 aged 39
GRIGGS Charles William Pte 8th East Surrey Regt died 03/05/17
HARRIS Stephen Henry Pte RAMC 42nd Field Ambulance died 04/05/17 aged 30
HODGES John Pte 6th Buffs died 11/07/17 aged 46
LAMBERT Christopher Rifleman 1st/9th London Regt died 14/04/17 aged 30
NUNNELEY John Cyril Lnc Corp 2nd Highland Light Infantry died 28/04/17
ORDERS Archibald Lnc Corp 22nd Royal Fusiliers died 29/04/17
POWNEY Alfred Frederick Pte 23rd Royal Fusiliers(London Regt) died 25/03/18
SADLER Frank Pte A Coy 7th Buffs died 03/05/17 aged 29
SIMPSON Stanley Pte 6th Buffs died 09/04/17 aged 27
WARMAN Ernest Petley Lnc Corp W Coy 2nd Royal Fusiliers died 24/04/17 aged 29

Many of these local men died in the Second Battle of Arras, which was a major British offensive from 9th April to 16th May 1917. After the Chantilly Conference of 16 November 1916, where the military leaders decided Allied strategy for the following year, General Nivelle, newly promoted to the post of commander-in-chief of the French Army, and his British counterpart, General Haig, drew up plans for a combined action to breach the German line.
The town of Arras was picked as the theatre of a diversionary offensive. This operation, combined with a large-scale attack in the French sector, was to draw in German reserve troops several days before the start of the French assault, to facilitate the hoped for breakthrough at the Chemin des Dames Ridge. Anxious to avoid a repeat of the slaughter inflicted on Allied troops in the battles of Verdun and the Somme the previous year, the British general staff instructed New Zealand engineers to create a vast underground network of tunnels through which the troops could pass to come up directly in front of the German front line.
By the end of March the tunnelling works were complete and the caves under the town contained more than 24,000 soldiers. The soldiers had to spend prolonged periods in the tunnels so they were equipped with kitchens, water supplies from the mains or wells, and electric lighting throughout.. The Wellington Quarry in Arras is now open to the public and well worth a visit.
The Commonwealth section of the FAUBOURG D’AMIENS CEMETERY near the citadel in Arras was begun in March 1916, behind the French military cemetery established earlier. It continued to be used by field ambulances and fighting units until November 1918. The cemetery was enlarged after the Armistice and contains over 2,650 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 10 of which are unidentified. There are also a few Indian and even some German graves. The adjacent ARRAS MEMORIAL, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, commemorates almost 35,000 servicemen from the United Kingdom, South Africa and New Zealand who died in the Arras sector between the spring of 1916 and 7 August 1918, and have no known grave.

The ARRAS FLYING SERVICES MEMORIAL commemorates about 1,000 airmen of the Royal Naval Air Service, the Royal Flying Corps, and the Royal Air Force who were killed on the whole Western Front and who have no known grave. They include Major Edward (Mick) Mannock, one of the most successful war air aces of World War I, who was shot down over France behind enemy lines in July 1918 but received a posthumous VC. He spent a large part of his childhood in Canterbury and there is a memorial plaque to him on the south wall of the cathedral nave.

Just one local man that I am aware of is listed on the Flying Services memorial. He is also mentioned on St George’s Roll of Honour board.

PENTECOST Charles Gordon 2nd Lt RFC 25th Squadron who died 27/03/18

HM Auxiliary Ship Princess Irene

In May 1915 the loss through an explosion of HM Auxiliary Ship Princess Irene in Sheerness Harbour on Thursday brought grief, sudden and overwhelming, into many Ramsgate homes. Several shipwrights from the port who had left Ramsgate recently to undertake Government work were on board the vessel, which was undergoing re-fitting.
Telegrams received at their homes on Thursday prepared the families for the terrible news, advising them to travel to Sheerness at once, and the list of dead posted outside the dockyard gates at night confirmed the tragic facts. Continue reading HM Auxiliary Ship Princess Irene

Thanet’s women doing their bit

In September 1915 Mothercraft clubs to promote the health and welfare of babies were being started all over the country. Two opened up in Margate and Ramsgate opened theirs in September 1915 followed by Broadstairs and St Peter’s in November 1915. The welfare of infants was a question of great national importance and every encouragement was given to organisations which sought to help and educate the mother to bring up healthy children. Continue reading Thanet’s women doing their bit

Ramsgate’s WW1 heritage

Why not join us on one of this years guided tours of the WW1 graves in Ramsgate Cemetery? Ramsgate Cemetery was opened in March 1871 on a pleasant hillside overlooking the town. An extension was added later.  During the First World War most of the men and women who died were buried overseas but nevertheless there are about a hundred WW1 graves in Ramsgate Cemetery. Most of them are marked by CWGC gravestones but there are others which are not.

Continue reading Ramsgate’s WW1 heritage

Old Lawrentians

Cyril and Norman Siddeley

Three Old Lawrentians who survived the war were Cyril, Ernest and Norman Siddeley, sons of the motor car manufacturer John Siddeley, whose company Siddeley-Deasy produced ambulances and aircraft engines during WW1. Their parents paid for the choir stalls in the memorial chapel. The dedication reads:-

These stalls are presented by Mr and Mrs J D Siddeley as a thanksoffering for the preservation in the Great War (1914-1918) of their sons Cyril, Ernest and Norman, old boys of the Junior School and College.”

Cyril Davenport Siddeley, born in 1894, became 2nd Baron Kenilworth following his father’s death in 1953. He joined the Royal Warwickshire Regiment in 1914 later becoming a captain in the Army Service Corps. Continue reading Old Lawrentians

The Taylor Family

The Taylor family lived in St David’s Road in Ramsgate. Three brothers Frank, Percy and Charles all saw active service during WW1. Frank was born in 1895 and died in 1980. At the age of nineteen he had been working as an apprentice butcher in the London Central Meat Company in Broadstairs High Street when he joined the Royal Artillery in 1914.

Frank saw active service during the Gallipoli campaign (also known as the Dardanelles campaign) against the Ottoman Empire in 1915 and in Mesopotamia. He recalled incidents of the Ghurka soldiers sneaking up during the night to cut the ligaments of the Turks’ horses to hamper their progress.

All three brothers thankfully returned home after the war. Frank raised three children and became manager of the butcher’s shop where he had worked before the war. He was later able to open his own shop in St. Peter’s in 1934.

His wife Irene worked as a dressmaker in Margate, and aged fifteen, remembered Zeppelins coming in over the town.

Their son Ken Taylor still lives in St Peter’s today.

Richard Shirburne WELD-BLUNDELL

A requiem mass was held at St Augustine’s Abbey for Richard Shirburne Weld-Blundell, a 2nd Lieutenant in the 7th Battalion, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment who died on 1st January 1916 at 19 Albion Street, Ramsgate. According to his death certificate the cause was “Injuries to the brain caused by a fall – accidental death”.

A former pupil of St Placid’s school in Mildred Road, Ramsgate, Richard had emigrated with his brother to British Columbia but had returned to fight when war broke out. He left a widow and a newborn infant daughter. Continue reading Richard Shirburne WELD-BLUNDELL

Ramsgate soldier’s tale of life as a PoW

Private A H Atkins, 2nd Battalion, Royal Munster Fusiliers was interviewed by the Thanet Advertiser and Echo in January 1919, having returned home after four years in captivity.
The German Prisoner of War camps or Kriegsgefangenenlager during World War I were run by the 25 Army Corps Districts into which Germany was divided. There were four different types of camp as follows:-
• Mannschaftslager for private soldiers and NCOs, such as Sennelager
• Offizierslager for commissioned officers.
• Internierungslager for civilians of enemy states, such as Ruhleben
• Lazarett, military hospital for POWs.

Continue reading Ramsgate soldier’s tale of life as a PoW

Ramsgate sailor drowns in Southern Ocean

William Bligh had grown up in Ramsgate and had attended St Luke’s School as he lived in Upper Dumpton Park Road. He started work as a fisherman then joined the Merchant Navy. He emigrated to Australia and was working as a labourer when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force or AIF. William embarked for France in October 1915 sailing out of Brisbane on Australian troopship HMAT Seang Bee A48. Continue reading Ramsgate sailor drowns in Southern Ocean

Norman Carlyle Craig KC MP for Thanet 1910 – 1919

Norman Craig entered Parliament on 15th January 1910. He lived at Fairfield House, St Peter’s and also at 10 Kings Bench Walk, Temple in London. He was chairman of the UK branch of Automobiles Darracq, a French motor vehicle manufacturing company founded in 1896. In April 1912 he had a lucky escape. Having booked and paid for his passage on the RMS Titanic for a holiday in New York he was advised to remain at home during the vital Home Rule debate in the House of Commons. He cancelled his passage hoping he could sail on the Titanic on another occasion. Continue reading Norman Carlyle Craig KC MP for Thanet 1910 – 1919