A Boy Soldier

William Stewart IRONSIDE took his father’s name and followed him into the military.  William senior, born in Aberdeen, moved about the country at the government’s behest with his wife Hannah ROBERTS. Their first child, Robert Stewart was baptized in 1883 at the church by Hillsborough Barracks in Sheffield. William Stewart arrived in Christchurch, Hampshire in 1886, and then, two years later and half a world away in the East Indies, Maria was born. By 1890 the family was back in the home country and Ada was welcomed into their midst in Trowbridge, Wiltshire.

The father’s death was registered in Tynemouth in 1898 and two years later his widow married William COON there. The following year they were living at the coastguard station in Berwick on Tweed, with William’s four children by his first marriage. Hannah’s step-daughter Maud was the same age as her boy soldier, but young William was enumerated that year as a patient at the Royal Artillery Hospital in Woolwich.

Whatever ailed him failed to halt his rise through the ranks and by the time he was killed in 1918, nine days before the Armistice, he was an acting Major and expected to be gazetted to Colonel in 24 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1915, the Bar to the MC in February 1918, and the Distinguished Service Order the following September, a couple of weeks before he was killed.

Brigadier General DELAFORGE wrote kindly to William’s wife, Ellen Ironside, née RAWSON. He could not give her details of “the event” in which her husband had lost his life but wrote –

I know that just before his death a report had come to the effect that all objectives had been gained in the attack which he was covering with his guns and so he will have died happily.

The Battle of Valenciennes took place on the first two days of November and William’s unit may have been providing artillery support for the infantrymen of the Canadian Expeditionary Force that secured the victory against the retreating German army.

At the beginning of the war, William’s brother Robert Stewart had been killed on the Western Front. On the 11th November 1914, two days after his death, the War Office published a notification that His Majesty the King had approved the granting of Medals for Distinguished Conduct in the Field. Robert’s citation ran –

120th Battery, Royal Field Artillery: Although wounded at St. Ghislain, on 23rd August, he continued to act as No. 1 of his sub-section under heavy gun and rifle fire, and for subsequent valuable work.

Robert’s War Grave details alerted me to his mother’s re-marriage but William’s Index entry doesn’t record any family relationships, which seems odd for someone of high rank.

William was 31 years old and the father of three children, though as he breathed his last he would have thought only of two. Robert Edmund Stewart IRONSIDE was baptized at St Oswald’s, Filey, on 11 May 1919.

I wrote a Looking at Filey post about William and Ellen five years ago, illustrated with photographs of the couple and anecdotal information generously provided by one of the family. Ellen married again in 1924 and I speculated about her second husband – and got things quite wrong. I’m not beating myself up about this – Jesse BROOKSBANK is hardly a common name and neither is Florence WEALTHALL, who I took to be his first wife. In an attempt to make amends I have put both Jesses on FamilySearch Tree.

If you read my old post on Ellen & William you will see that their third child, Robert Edmund, took their grandchildren by daughter Rene/Irene to America “and nothing more was heard of them”. FamilySearch offered a hint that seemed an unlikely match but it proved to be an immigration record for Robert Edmund, aka ‘Pax Pavane Robert Eadmund Fenga Stewart Ironside de Bragança’. (There is just a chance he is approaching one hundred not out  in Brazil so you cannot access his details on the World Tree.)


Ellen & William: photographers unknown, no dates, courtesy June Gill

Jesse BROOKSBANK born 1881 Barnsley [LY4J-XL6]

Jesse Fenwick Ellis BROOKSBANK born Bramley 1889  [LY4V-RPT]

William Stewart IRONSIDE has a page on the Looking at Filey Wiki. Find him on FamilySearch Tree here.

Suffer Little Children

I wrote about the accident that ended the life of Henry Herbert CAMBRIDGE on Looking at Filey. There is currently a security issue at the UK Web Archive so I’ll copy the 2012 post here rather than give the link to the Wayback Machine.

A Fatal Hesitation

Three days after celebrating his 37th birthday Jonathan Bulmer CAMBRIDGE saw a motor lorry knock down his son in Station Avenue. Herbert Henry, thighs broken and skull fractured, died about an hour later, at 11.45 am. He was two years and five months old.

The Scarborough Mercury of Friday 30th October 1914 carried the story: –

Manoeuvres of the troops at Filey on Monday [26th] were attended by a regrettable fatality, a child being run over by a motor lorry. A full report of the inquest will be found in another part of this paper. Men of the Hunts Cyclists Battalion were called out to proceed to Driffield. Many people in Filey thought they were leaving the town for good, but this was not so, they returned in the evening. Thinking, however, that they were leaving permanently a large number of people gathered, and the motor approached the quarters of the men at the same time. The child ran across the road and was returning when there was shouting, the child hesitated and was knocked down with fatal results. The boy was the only male child of Mr. and Mrs. J. B. Cambridge. The incident was exceedingly distressing, but at the inquest no blame was attached to the driver, who seemed to feel the incident very much.

The driver was Lance Corporal Robert WALTON of Coanwood, Northumberland. After crossing the railway line, heading into town, he was slowing as he approached his destination, traveling at five or six miles an hour. He saw Herbert cross the road in front of him but the child’s  sudden doubling back took him by surprise. Even so, he expected Henry to regain the pavement before he passed by. The shouting of a person or persons in the crowd had, however, confused Henry and caused him to hesitate in the middle of the road. The lorry’s mudguard caught him a glancing blow to the head and he fell under the wheels.


Station Avenue,  2012


It appears from witness statements at the inquest that Henry was with his mother at one side of Station Avenue but, seeing his father on the other side, dashed over to be with him. Approaching the opposite pavement, though, he could no longer spot his father’s face in the crowd and so turned back. Perhaps one or two people saw the lorry approaching, sensed the child was in danger and shouted a warning that triggered his fatal hesitation. Herbert Henry CAMBRIDGE may have been killed by kindness.

Blameless Lance Corporal WALTON may not have survived the war. A soldier of the same name and rank serving in the Northumberland Fusiliers was killed on 1st July 1916 and is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. Herbert rests in St Oswald’s churchyard.  (Added note:  This Robert was almost certainly killed at La Boisselle on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.)

Herbert rests in St Oswald’s churchyard.


In loving memory of HERBERT HENRY, the beloved son of JOHN & ELIZABETH CAMBRIDGE, died Oct 26th 1914 aged two years & 5 months.

Suffer little children to come unto me.

Also ALICE MAY, aged 3 weeks.

(The burial register gives Alice’s age as 14 days.)

Young Herbert has a fairly substantial pedigree on Filey Genealogy & Connections, going back as far as John CAMMISH born 1660. He has fewer forebears on the FamilySearch Tree but I’ve added some today.



A Sherwood Forester

Henry PERRYMAN was born in Filey in 1883 to William John, of Irish and Alice GIBSON, a Folkton girl. The couple brought 19 other children into the world but when William John filled out the 1911 Census form, as a 65-year-old widower, he indicated that only eight were still living. Four years later there would be seven..

At age 17 Henry was working as a house painter for his father but in 1911, still single, he was a “Police Fireman”, boarding at 1 Guild Hall Cottages in the city of Nottingham. A few days after the Census he married Mary Ellen PATTISON, 25, whose roots were in Swaledale, North Yorkshire. The couple had two children before the Great War started, Sydney in 1912 and Barbara the following year.

Henry had enlisted with the Territorials in Filey in 1908 so it is not surprising that he volunteered for the army within a month of the war beginning. He joined the 7th Sherwood Foresters and in February 1915 landed with his battalion in France. The following month an article in The Nottingham Evening Post, with the title Robin Hoods Under Fire – Will Make a Name for Themselves, prompted him to write a letter to the Editor.

Just a few lines to let the Nottingham people know how the Robin Hoods fared in their first experience of being in the trenches under fire. We left Bocking, Essex, on February 25th, and arrived France on the 28th. At some places we were only 80 yards from the German lines. It was quite exciting, the English, French, and German guns going all day and night long. It reminds one of a fireworks display, especially when the rockets go up every now and then to find out the different positions at night time; only you have to be very careful. I have heard it said the Germans can’t shoot, but you must not expose yourself in the daytime. We only lost one poor fellow by accident and two wounded by the enemy so didn’t do amiss. We are enjoying ourselves as well as we can, and our officers do everything in their power to make us as comfortable as possible. We don’t stay long in one place, always on I the move, not much time for letter writing. You can take it from a good source that the Robin Hoods will make a name for themselves before they come back to England.”

Source: http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/rollofhonour/People/Details/21806

In early October 1915, Henry and his fellow Robin Hoods were part of the 18th Brigade in the trenches at Potijze, near Ieper.

The battalion advance post known as Oder Houses was rushed by the enemy about 6.30 in the morning’ (on 5 October). The Germans at first opened a heavy artillery and trench motor fire on Oder Houses, and on the main fire-trenches occupied by ‘A’ and ‘B’ Companies in rear of the post. The front trench and two cottages in the rear were flattened out by the enemy’s artillery, and what remained of the garrison withdrew down the communication trenches towards the main line. Captain Robert, commanding ‘B’ Company, from which the garrison of the post was drawn, arranged for a counter-attack up the two communication trenches leading to the post, while the so-called ‘Toby’ Motors were laid on the front of the post. A patrol was first sent forward to ascertain the exact position of the enemy, but these, on seeing the advance of the patrol, at once retreated and the post was reoccupied. The casualties were rather severe, ‘B’ Company having 11 killed, 19 wounded -mostly by shell fire- 1 man missing, believed killed, and 1 wounded and missing, believed captured.

Source: The Sherwood Foresters in the Great War compiled by Colonel. H. C. Wylly, C.B. pages 114 & 115. Gale & Polden Aldershot 1924, extract found here.

This source shows that Henry was one of eighteen Foresters who died of their wounds on this day. He is buried at Vermelles British Cemetery in the Pas de Calais.

If you followed the link to Henry’s letter you will have seen that he is remembered on the Nottingham Holy Trinity Church and Police Force War Memorials as well as on the CWGC website. In Filey, his name is on the Murray Street Memorial and in St Oswald’s Church (where he has been given a promotion to Corporal).

As I write this, he is not on FamilySearch Tree and his pedigree on Filey Genealogy and Connections appears limited at first glance. His older sister Carrie’s marriage connects him to the wider “Filey family”. I hope to link him on FST to those forebears already there (scattered) and perhaps add some more,  found while researching this post. I have created a LaF Wiki page for him.

His grandparents, Henry GIBSON and Alice née BAKER, though “incomers”, are buried in St Oswald’s churchyard. I photographed their headstone this morning – and William John’s former lodging house on The Crescent.


Polygon Wood


Before the Great War began the wood may have had this exact shape – but probably a different mix of tree species. It was fought over in October 1914 by, amongst other regiments, the 2nd Worcesters. When they returned in September 1917 –

…the aspect of the scene at dawn was very different from what it had been three years before. The open fields had been beaten into a desolate expanse of boggy shell-holes. Such trees as still stood had been stripped and broken. On the skyline to the left, a mere stubble of bare tree trunks marked the site of Polygon Wood.

The Battle for the Wood “raged” throughout the day of the 26th and in the hours of dark the area was subject to an intense bombardment.

…as dawn broke at 5am the artillery of both sides suddenly ceased their fire. For some minutes all remained under cover, then, as the guns did not recommence, men
ventured cautiously from their defenses and gazed around in wonder. The intense bombardment of two days and nights had beaten the whole area into a different
appearance. Such landmarks as had existed beforehand had disappeared. The surface of the ground from Stirling Castle to Gheluvelt had been churned up afresh, the whole
landscape was even more desolate and repulsive than before.


The battle for Polygon Wood was effectively over. “Intermittent sniping alone
continued throughout the day of Thursday the 27th of September.”

Perhaps it was a sniper’s bullet that ended the life of Private Harold CRIMLISK of Filey, fighting with the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment.

Harold is buried at Cement House Cemetery, about 12 kilometers distant from where he fell. There is a small cemetery at Polygon Wood and this source offers a gallery of 14 photographs showing the difference a hundred years make.

Harold and some of his forebears may be found in Filey Genealogy & Connections and on the FamilySearch Tree.  He also has a page on the Looking at Filey Wiki.

John Robert Bell

John was born in Scarborough in 1893 and was living with his family at 12 St John’s Avenue in 1901. Ten years later the family home was Highfield Cottage, Lebberston Cliff (where the Blue Dolphin Holiday Park is now) but John, 17, seems to have moved away from the parish.

In the summer of 1918, he was with the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment in the Somme region of France, in Rawlinson’s  Fourth Army. I don’t know for sure how he came to be wounded but think he may have been with Braithwaite’s IX Corps fighting for the village of Épehy on the 18th September. This was one of a number of Battles for the Hindenburg Line – as allied forces pushed the German Army back into their own country. The village was taken that day but the fighting was fierce. John Robert “died of wounds” on the 25th.


This inscription is on a headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard, Filey. His grave is in the Brie British Cemetery.

There are no “honoured memories” of John Robert in Filey Church or on the War Memorial in Murray Street. I haven’t found him on the Scarborough Memorial on Oliver’s Mount and he isn’t represented on the Gristhorpe (Filey Parish) Memorial either.

Initially, I found only a grandmother and two great grandparents on FamilySearch Tree but I have added his parents and siblings. His older brother, Albert Edgar, died aged 20 in 1905 but seven children of Richard BELL and Sarah Ann MOORE may have married and had children. Perhaps “family” will add some Memories to FST sometime.

Thruppence Ha’penny a Letter

Three Hull Pals from the 10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment (The Commercials) were killed 101 years ago today and are buried in the St. Vaast Military Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais.

I haven’t been able to pinpoint the action in which they lost their lives. The Battle of the Somme was ongoing and the 22nd September was the last day of the associated Battle of Flers-Courcelette – but that was about 80 kilometers away from St Vaast.

About three months earlier the Pals were a similar distance south west of Flers, heading for the trenches at Doullens. It is heartbreaking now to see the smiles on their faces. What were they thinking? Perhaps William Richard, Corporal Eric Claude DUNN and Private WOFFINDEN are among the cheerful captured by the camera.

Photographer: Lieutenant Ernest Brook, IWN Non-Commercial Licence © IWM (Q 743)

A rough count puts 28 soldiers in the picture. Whatever their labours on that day the cost to the British Empire in wages would have been 28 shillings (at 1914 rates and assuming all the men were “Infantry of the Line”). This princely sum, if their parents could find it, would pay for 96 letters to be carved on a son’s war grave headstone, should their boy make the ultimate sacrifice.

Private William Richard Skelton’s father, also William Richard, stumped up 16 bob, to have the following words inscribed:

Father in Thy Gracious


We Now Leave Our Loved One


The clerk was punctilious with the letter count and rounding down to the nearest penny.


(I have “Photoshopped” the document so that you can read the column heads. You can find an image of the original at young William’s CWGC page.)

At age 16 William Jnr was working as a Laundry Errand Boy but later took up his father’s “trade” as a Gardener. Then he volunteered to join the Hull Pals, went to war and didn’t come home.

His parents must have spent a deal more than 16 shillings to have their thoughts carved on the family headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard.

He sleeps not in our native land

But neath a foreign sky

Far from those who loved him dear

In a hero’s grave he lies

Fold him in thy arms O Lord

And ever let him be

A messenger of love between

Our aching hearts and Thee.


I think only a small percentage of bereft families could afford an inscription and of those that put their feelings in the public domain nearly all accepted their loss gracefully. On a First World War forum, one “Old Sweat” has offered an example that runs counter but goes to the heart of the matter.

I am here

As a result

Of uncivilized nations.


William Richard Skelton, father and son, are on FamilySearch Tree.

Update 23 September

Thanks to the loan of David Bilton’s book Hull Pals: 10th, 11th, 12th & 13th Battalions East Yorkshire Regiment I know what the jovial soldiers pictured above were thinking. In the immediate aftermath of the first day of the Battle of the Somme the 10th received orders to move and after leaving camp a CO asked the men to smile for a cameraman who was further along the road. When he was spotted the soldiers not only laughed but hurled remarks “that would have given the true Somme atmosphere”. Seventeen of the soldiers pictured have been identified but none are the three buried at St Vaast.

I mentioned the Battle of Flers-Courcelle, 15-22 September 1916, and an appendix in Hull Pals lists a fatality on the 16th, two on the 18th, one on the 19th and an additional two on the 22nd. Unfortunately, the casualty records for the period have been lost and there is a vague indication that the battalion was in a quiet area where the only action was occasional shelling and random raids on German trenches.

The two soldiers who were killed on the same day as William Richard Skelton were Privates Walter DENNISON and George Albert WARD. They rest in Merville Communal Cemetery about 15 kilometers away from St Vaast.

On the First Day

The Battle of the Menin Road Ridge (Third Ypres) began a hundred years ago today. The Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial lists the names of over a thousand men who lost their lives during those 24 hours. Amongst those whose bodies were not recovered was John James TOMBLIN, a Huntingdonshire man who came with that county’s Cyclists to Filey – and found a wife. He married Elizabeth CAMMISH on the 19th April 1916, taking a respectable place in several of the other Old Filey families – Cappleman, Cowling, Haxby, Jenkinson, and Skelton. A son, Jack Crane TOMBLIN, was born on 29th April 1917 and made fatherless five months later.

There is a short but powerful video on YouTube that gives some context to the loss of life from all corners of Empire – there were many Australian and South African casualties – and the last letter written by Captain Reginald Henry GILL of the 28th Battalion AIF is a poignant reminder, if one is needed,  that cannon fodder had loved ones back home.

Many more died in this battle, on this day, but they rest elsewhere in Flanders. G/17480 Private JENNINGS, Wilfred Walter but recorded as Fred, is about five kilometers away at Hooge Crater Cemetery and his story can be found here. A similar distance further east at Tyne Cot there are 2,000 more men remembered for whom this was their last day.

With the help of Kath’s Filey Genealogy and Connections database and some further research, I have added a little to the TOMBLIN pedigree on FamilySearch Tree. If you haven’t done so already, check out John James and Elizabeth’s wedding photo on the Hunts Cyclists website.

TOMBLINjjJ J is remembered on the Filey War Memorial but not on the ‘Honours Board’ in St Oswald’s Church. Peterborough brought him home.