Dunkirk

Two days after William BIGGINS was killed at Gravelines, another Filey man, Joseph ROBINSON, died in the retreat to Dunkirk. He was 20 years old, a Lance Corporal in the 5th Bn. The Green Howards.

It seems likely that Joseph was killed on the afternoon of 26 May, during the first hours of the Battle of the Ypres-Comines Canal. Most of those killed were buried where they fell but their bodies were exhumed in 1941 and laid finally to rest in Bus House Cemetery.

The Green Howards Museum website gives an account of the progress of four battalions to the coast between May 16 to June 2. The 4th and 5th were among the last units to be taken off the beaches.

Though Joseph was born in Filey, his parents were both incomers and the family representation on Filey Genealogy & Connections is minimal. (No pedigree on FamilySearch Tree yet.)

There is a family grave in the churchyard. I will update this post with a photograph of the headstone in a day or two.

G161 Granite

In loving memory of a dear husband and father, JOSEPH WALTER ROBINSON, who died 24th June 1951, aged 72.

And his beloved wife, MARGARET FRANCES, who died 21st April 1955 aged 70.

Also of JOSEPH, son of the above, killed in action in Flanders 26th May 1940, aged 20.

‘In God’s keeping’

Today’s Image: A snap of the ultramarathon runners setting off for Helmsley.

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Gravelines

German forces kicked off The Battle of France on 10 May 1940. They muscled their way through the Netherlands and Belgium and on the 20th their forward Panzer units could see the River Somme flowing into the English Channel. Eight days later they had pushed the remnants of the British Expeditionary Force to a small strip of land at Dunkirk.

William BIGGINS, born in Filey in the summer of 1913, was a Lance Corporal with 6th Bn The Green Howards, part of the 23rd Northumbrian Infantry Division under Major General W. N. HERBERT. In the Order of Battle (1940) the Division is listed as a formation “undergoing training and performing labour duties” but, with France falling about their ears, nowhere was safe. William was killed on the 24th.

A kerb inscription in St Oswald’s, recorded by the Crimlisks, revealed that he was killed in action at Gravelines. While Kleist’s 10th Panzers half-circled nearby Calais, Gerd von Rundstedt’s armour attacked Gravelines. I don’t know how many other Allied soldiers lost their lives in this encounter but, towards midnight on the 24th, von Rundstedt asked Kleist to pause the Panzer advance. Hitler gave a “Halt Order” that has long puzzled historians – but it allowed the refuge at Dunkirk to be defended until the armada of small boats arrived.

Without the old kerb source, I may not have discovered William’s whereabouts on his last day. It has been replaced by a new headstone.

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William is buried at Longueness (St Omer) Souvenir Cemetery, about 20 miles south of Gravelines.

His pedigree on FamilySearch Tree isn’t extensive but Filey Genealogy & Connections takes his mother’s line back to the 17th century in Fenland, to Christopher SCOTTOW and Lucretia FISH.

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.