Friending Private Jarvis

We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and—in spite of True Romance magazines—we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely—at least, not all the time—but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.

Hunter S. Thompson, The Proud Highway: Saga of a Desperate Southern Gentleman, 1955-1967

William Isaac David JARVIS is not alone in St Oswald’s churchyard. He is one of eight servicemen in two short rows. They are all ”strangers” to the town and it seems appropriate that they are neighbours to nine of the crew of the Italian barque Unico, wrecked on Filey Brigg in January 1871. You can see their small obelisk beyond William’s stone in the photo below.

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In the summer of 1940, the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshires formed part of the British Expeditionary Force’s 6th Brigade in the Battle for France. Dan Eaton on Angel Fire confirmed a hunch that William must have experienced the horrors of Dunkirk.

The only casualty to die whilst recuperating in Filey, William died on Thursday 24th October 1940 at the Ackworth Hotel on Filey Promenade.  The coroner recorded that the cause of his death was due to a rifle bullet wound to the head, but not a recently self-inflicted one.  It is most likely that these wounds were received shortly before or around the time of the Dunkirk evacuations, as these were only three months earlier.

William’s CWGC page is the first I’ve seen that makes no reference to his birth family and/or spouse. No date of birth is indicated but, if he was in his twenties, surely there must have been kin somewhere not too far away. (It seems a little strange that he was brought all the way from the south coast to Filey if he wasn’t known to anyone here.)

Research this afternoon did find maternal grandparents, parents, two sisters and a brother in law but the records didn’t quite hang together. More work needs to be done. If I am on the right track, though, William’s birth was registered in September 1911 in Pancras, London. His parents, Walter Charles JARVIS and Lucy LOVELL married in the last quarter of 1898. Their first child, Maria Florence died in 1902 in her second year, There was a gap of nine years before William’s arrival. In 1913 his sister Lily Blanche was born and she married Arthur R MOONEY just before war was declared. The Census taken three weeks or so after hostilities began showed that Walter and Lucy were living in Bristol with a son (probably), born in 1918. Walter worked as a stoker in a hospital and Maurice was a furniture salesman.

If these folk were not his family, if he didn’t have any nearest and dearest, I hope William had at least one unexpected visit from an old friend. Respect, Mama – and Jan.

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