Remembering Dixon Overfield

A few days ago I found a photograph, an escapee from the family shoe box. My paternal grandfather did not fight in the First World War. My mother’s father did go to war and I have a studio portrait of him in uniform, seated, with my Grandma LOCKETT standing by his side.

Not one of these twenty faces looks at all like William Lockett. The cap badges indicate that these boys who came to the cookhouse door were in the Royal Field Artillery. The print is on standard postcard stock but it does not bear a stamp, a message, or an address in Blighty. I have no idea when or where the picture was taken or how many of these ravaged fellows were dead men walking?

Dixon OVERFIELD was thirty-three years old when, at Filey (or maybe Beverley), he enlisted into the Royal Field Artillery. A few years earlier the Reverend STANWELL’s camera had caught him in a group outside a church or chapel.

Dixon was a Trustee of Muston Chapel, a local preacher, and a Sunday School superintendent. He is second from the left.

The exact date of Dixon’s transfer from the R.F.A. isn’t known but in June 1917 he is in Belgium with the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, preparing to fight the Third Battle of Ypres. This terrible encounter is also known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

On the 9th October, the 6th Yorkshires approached Poelcappelle, a village about five kilometres from Passchendaele. Dixon’s great grandson, Simon Wheeler, in an unpublished memoir, writes –

At 5.20 am Dixon and his fellow soldiers would have left the trenches and moved forward towards their objective of Poelcappelle village, where little opposition was met until the fork in the roads opposite the brewery…

Once the battalion reached the area opposite the brewery they not only met stiff opposition and heavy machine gun fire from the area of Meunier and String houses (no more than rubble at this stage of the war) but also captured 150-200 prisoners and several of the concrete block houses north west of the brewery itself. But owing to the heavy machine gun fire these could not be held.

With the heavy opposition met from the Germans the Battalion had no choice but to dig in at 8am, whilst attempting to dig the Battalion suffered many casualties from machine gun fire and heavy rifle fire at close range from both flanks. Sadly, due to heavy German bombardment, the light trench mortars that were attached to the Battalion were knocked out by this time and the supporting tanks were unable to come into action and take the brewery as originally planned due to the appalling condition of the ground due to the weather conditions.

At 11.05 am “W” company of 8th Duke of Wellington Regiment was moved forward to the left of the village to support the Battalion. Also at this time bombs (grenades) were sent forward by the 34th Brigade (most probably in the hope of breaking the stalemate in the centre of the village). By 11.30am aeroplanes had spotted the Germans moving troops forward by bus for a counter attack which was believed to be planned for evening time between 4 and 5pm, thankfully this attack never materialised.

There is no further mention of heavy shelling during the rest of the day, so it is most probable that Dixon was killed by the early shelling during the initial attack.

From the perspective of the 9th Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment there is this account –

“Zero” hour on 9th October was 5.20 a.m. when the British Artillery barrage came down promptly on the enemy’s front line and his emplacements. But the ground was sodden, inches deep in mud and in an altogether appalling condition, so that many “H.E.” shells did not burst. The heavy rain of the previous day and night had turned No Mans Land into a veritable quagmire, and the Battalion Diary records that “the ground was churned up so as to be one endless mass of shell-holes; mud and water was everywhere, and almost impassable.”

The barrage was moving at a rate of 100 yards in four minutes as the West Yorkshiremen advanced, floundering through mud and filth, skirting the shell-holes where possible, though mostly having to “take” whatever came in the way in order to keep formation. Seven minutes after the British barrage opened, the German barrage fell, but generally it was not heavy. The British guns, however, literally plastered the enemy’s trenches and emplacements with shell of all calibre, and the ordeal through which the Germans were passing must have been terrible; indeed, the records speak of it as” terrific”. Yet, through all that hell of bursting shell and storm of shrapnel the hostile “pill boxes” (or emplacements) stood practically unharmed and, as the British troops went forward, murderous machine-gun fire met their advance, for the machine-guns, safely ensconced in these “pill boxes” could not be silenced. Hostile cross-fire and traversing machine-gun fire swept the whole of the Divisional front, and the ranks of the attacking troops thinned very quickly. The enemy had made good use of the ruins of Poelcappelle, concealing in them his riflemen and machine-gunners, who were able to fire in enfilade.”

Battalion War Diary:-

“On our left flank the attack was held up at the Brewery and after heavy casualties the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment found themselves with both flanks “in the air”. Very few officers were left in either the Yorkshire Regiment or our own battalion, and the lack of command began to have effect. On the left, the 6th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment was completely hung up and the remnants of the battalion fell back in the hope of reorganising. When our men saw this, news quickly spread that the 6th Yorkshires were retiring, and as the enemy had by this time parties almost in line with us on this front, some took up a position further back so as to preserve the general line and remain in touch with our flanks. Meanwhile, the attack progressed with less resistance on the right and further headway would doubtless have been possible but for the stoppage in the centre and on the left. The only course open in view of heavy casualties, the serious resistance, and the prospect of a counter-attack in a few hours was to consolidate as far as possible and prepare to hold the line approximately to our assembly line. Every effort was made with this object in view, and to guard against any serious attempt to dislodge us from the position the 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment was brought into position between Pheasant Farm and Retour Cross-roads”.

But for the moment the battalion was safe from counter-attack, for from statements made by prisoners taken it was evident that the enemies losses had been very heavy, for a new division had taken over his front line on the previous night and the stoutness of his resistance had resulted in a heavy role of casualties.

After the attack had come to a standstill and the assaulting battalions had consolidated their positions, numerous parties went out from both sides in order to collect the wounded and dead. For the time being both British and Germans refrained from firing on one another during this mournful task, and in one place the opposing troops were but 30 yards apart. As long as daylight lasted the work continued and when darkness fell the role was called. Heavy, indeed, had been the losses of the 9th West Yorkshires, 12 officers and 203 other ranks being killed, wounded and missing.

Great War Forum

The body of Private Dixon Overfield 41782 was not found. He is remembered at Tyne Cot Cemetery and on memorials in Filey and Muston. You can find him with his family on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. There are two memorial photographs of Dixon at Find a Grave.

Sea 32 · Galatea

Maintaining Bell Buoy

A Family Resemblance?

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Even though their placement is out of step with St Oswald’s east windows, I have always liked these stones. Fondness at first sight.

Foster, Harland and Spink don’t shout “kinship” but surely all those who lie beneath are related somehow. Three people are named on each stone and they are not all connected yet on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. I’ll attempt to link them up tomorrow. (If you are British, or more particularly Northern Irish, you may immediately associate Harland with Wolff. Start here…)

Snagged on Some Brambles

There are seventy or more BRAMBLES in Kath’s Filey Genealogy & Connections database but only two have a stone in St Oswald’s churchyard – Richard Herbert and his wife Maria, born COULTAS.D162_BRAMBLESmaria_20181031_fst

In loving memory of my dear wife MARIA BRAMBLES, died September 10th 1969, aged 71 years.

Also her dear husband RICHARD HERBERT, died April 22nd 1971, aged 75 years.

‘Re-united’

I went back to Richard’s grandfather John for a starting point on the FamilySearch Shared Tree. A first task was to give him a wife. There was a choice of three Hannahs, each linked to a christening source for the three sons. A point to Kath, who gives Hannah’s family name – McCLARON. (I have chosen to go with the spelling in the marriage register but other sources give McCLAREN or McLAREN.) This brought their three sons into the picture with existing IDs, and the middle one, John William, already had his spouse “on the system”. I just had to create IDs for their five children. (Maria brought a four-year-old daughter to the marriage from an earlier relationship.)

I expected then to be able to add the headstone photo as a Memory. But there’s a snag. For both Richard Herbert and Maria I get a Person UNKNOWN response with the message

Person Not Found. This person does not exist, has been removed or is restricted in FamilySearch.

Find the non-existent, not removed or restricted couple here.

Richard had a granduncle, Gibson BRAMBLES who died in “Trabzon, Turkey” in 1872, aged 56, according to FG&C. What was a Muston farmer doing there? Perhaps someone reading this knows the story.

Thomas the Nut Warmer

This newspaper story made me smile.

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I wanted to find this chap.

The coarse mesh of the census netted only one BURNETT in Filey town between 1841 and 1891 – widow Mary Jane, born MUNRO in Valparaiso, Chile, about 1857. She was living with her mother in 1891 but would marry Richard GRICE later that year.

Filey Genealogy & Connections offers only one likely lad, born 1841 in nearby Muston. I couldn’t find a birth registration for him and, aged 10 in 1851, he is described in the census as the grandson of William and Hannah Burnett. When Thomas married Ann CARR in 1863, he gave his age as 23 and owned that his father was the aforementioned William. If this is the correct relationship, it would indicate his mother Hannah was 46 years old when she gave birth to him.

Thomas and Ann had a daughter in Filey in 1865, Hannah, and then moved up to Durham to live. Two children were born to them in Stockton on Tees in 1868 and 1871. The only indication I could find that this Thomas returned to Filey is the account of drunkenness and unwise words in court.

Is rover Thomas the miscreant? I can’t find him, or wife Ann, in the 1881 census, nor death registrations that fit them comfortably. However, in 1881 their son Christopher was under the roof of George and Mary BRAMBLES in Muston. He is described as the couple’s grandson and with him is William Burnett, who we met earlier. Now an 86-year-old widower, William is still working as a bricklayer. Unhelpfully, his relationship to the head of the household is given as “Boarder”.

I then became entangled in a thicket of Brambles. Jonathan BURNETT, the son of William and Hannah and possibly an older brother of our Thomas, had married Martha, the daughter of George and Mary Brambles. Christopher Burnett is clearly not related by blood to the Brambles but may have been thought of as their grandson. It is more likely that “grandson” in the census refers to Christopher’s relationship to William.

Some help is at hand on FamilySearch Tree. Old father William has a Y-line pedigree going back to the early 17th century. This link doesn’t acknowledge paternity to either Jonathan or our Thomas of interest and I’m reluctant to add either chap, partly because there seem to be two Martha BRAMBLES born 1838 in Muston. One appears to have been illegitimate – there is no Mother’s maiden surname in the GRO Birth Register Index. She married Robert Joseph STABLER in 1857 and the couple migrated to North America. Curiously, FG&C has more detail about her mother, also Martha, than FST, giving her death in Ontario, Canada in 1880 (though no source is offered). It seems very likely that Martha the Elder was the abovementioned George’s sister, but neither FST nor FG&C joins all available dots.

On this morning’s walk, I noticed a familiar name in Hope Street, only temporarily prominent and another smile generator.

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England’s Turn

21°C

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

When Henry Robert Field CANHAM filled out the 1911 Census form in The Vicarage, Muston, he noted his marriage of 33 years and the production of 11 children with Emma Maria née JAMES, three of whom had died. Three unmarried daughters were resident at the Vicarage, Mary Lilian, 27, Maybell Beatrice Constance, 21, and Ellen Mary, 15.

Ten years earlier, Reverend Henry was away from home, enjoying a busman’s holiday at Hackthorn Vicarage in Lincolnshire, 45 miles from his responsibilities in Bourne, where 9 of his eleven children came into the world. Emma Maria headed the household in the Villa Brunne, in the company of son Ernest G, and daughters Lilian M, Mary B and Ellen M.

Mary B is clearly enumerated as a CANHAM but I can’t find a birth registration for her. She would be the twelfth child if born to the Vicar and his wife. As a result of her appearance in this Census, she has a place in the family on the FamilySearch Tree.

“Lilian Mary” is 7 at the 1891 Census but was registered at birth as Mary Lilian. She is Lilian Mary in the GRO Death Index and Mary Lilian on her headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard. It would appear that she lived most of her life with her dear sister, Ellen Mary – witness the touching “reunited” on the stone.

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The pedigree of “Mary B” remains a mystery. My guess is that she may have been a “waif and stray” taken into the Canham family, formally adopted perhaps and her birth surname changed.

At the time of his induction as Rector of Hatch Beauchamp in Somerset, Ernest Grey CANHAM, older brother of contrary Mary Lilian, told the gathering he could trace his family tree back to the time of Edward III. Contributors to FamilySearch haven’t managed to take the direct male line quite that far, but other branches lead to Welsh Lords and Ladies, and to 5th century Kings of the Franks and Burgundy.

I have found just one mark of the existence of the true Marys in Muston and Filey. From October 1917 to March 1919, Ellen worked 1,940 hours for a shilling a day in the kitchens of the British Red Cross VAD Hospital in Filey.

I think the hospital was located in Osborne House on The Crescent but have been unable to confirm this. Find more information about Voluntary Aid Detachment Hospitals here.

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Osborne House (left), The Crescent, Filey

Sudden Death

On Thursday morning, as Mr. William Pashby, fishmonger, of Filey, was in the act of dressing himself after getting out of bed, he felt rather unwell, sat down in his chair, and died almost immediately. Deceased was 85 years of age.

The Scarborough Mercury, Saturday, 12 November 1859

As a Folkton man, William’s ancestors are few on Filey Genealogy & Connections. His male line goes a little further back on the FamilySearch tree but in an unconvincing fashion. It is a different story with his direct descendants. Five of nine children raised families – giving him over 30 grandchildren. I lost count figuring the succeeding generation’s output. Nineteenth-century marriages bring several Filey dynasties into play and some of their forebears go back to the 1500s.

One has to journey way further into the mists to reach the common ancestor of wise apes and the representative of the Phocidae family cast up on Herring Hill this morning. Between 80 and 100 million years to be inexact.

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The seal was silent, and looked uncomfortable rather than distressed. It did not seem to be upset by the handful of people gathered nearby. Someone had already phoned for help but the RSPCA would be at least an hour in coming. Attempts to contact Sea Life in Scarborough hadn’t yet been successful.

The creature had a nasty wound to the throat; not so deep as to appear immediately life-threatening. The bleeding had stopped. First thoughts of observers were that it had become entangled in nets but the suggestion that its throat had been cut by a fisherman was not ruled out. Grey and common seals are protected by law on this coast all year round – from being killed, injured or taken, but that would not stay the hand of some men. A couple of years ago, while walking on the Brigg, a very unwise ape pointed to the bobbing head of a seal some yards from shore and said, “He’s taking our fish.”

Let’s see where the Sixth Extinction takes us.

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Great Grandmother Ross

Five years ago I wrote a brief post about a John RICHARDSON, charged with being drunk while in charge of a horse. I mentioned that there were three men with this name of similar age in the 1881 Filey Census but that “Furious John” was easily identified by occupation. The others were a fisherman and a “seaman”.

Seaman John, born 1831, doesn’t have a record in Filey Genealogy & Connections. In 1881 he was enumerated aboard the George Peabody in Great Grimsby, his four crewmates also  Filey men. They should really have been described as fishermen.

Rather surprisingly, the other two Johns do not have children noted in their FG&C records so I thought I’d take a closer look.

G69_HESSELWOOD_20170501_fstThe imbiber’s pedigree took me back to a name found on a stone slab in Filey churchyard that  triggers thoughts of my own family – HESSELWOOD. (I have a cousin who spent some of his childhood in Hesslewood Orphanage). The inscription is difficult to read (impossible in the photograph) but eight people are remembered, including “two daughters of John and Mary RICHARDSON”. This Mary, nee ROSS, is our John’s Grandmother (1754-1822) who had at least ten children, one of them John’s father, William (1787-1868).

I’m not sure why this straightforward bit of genealogy should arouse curiosity but I cast my net wider to haul in four more John RICHARDSONs in FG&C born between 1809 and 1827 and checked their relationship to Mary HESSELWOOD, mother of Mary ROSS. Only one, born 1815 and the son of Richard and Dinah nee CAMMISH, was not related to her by blood. The other five were her great grandsons. One was a younger brother of the carriage driver who died aged about three but given that Mary had only one child and died aged 27 this bunch of relationships is quite astonishing to me.

Mary’s father was  a Customs Officer, William HASLEWOOD, “who died November the 21st 1778 aged 81 years” (Entry 137, Filey, St Oswald’s Monumental Inscriptions Part One, G69 in Crimlisk/Siddle). Father and daughter are on FamilySearch Tree as HASELWOOD, IDs  MGCT-5WP  and MGCT-54V.

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Here is my RootsMagic update of the FG&C pedigree of George Lightfoot RICHARDSON.

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If you read the old LaF post you should discount Ann PROCTOR as being Jehu John’s wife. It appears that Betsy Ann, the little girl he accepted as his own daughter (and who took his name), was the illegitimate child of Ann NICHOLSON born 1850. The following year mother and child were enumerated in Rillington about 16 miles away from the mother’s home parish of Muston; Ann’s status “unmarried”, Betsey Ann’s birthplace given as Rillington (PRO ref HO107 2369 f73 p18). Ann and John married in the June Quarter of 1853 and in 1855 there is a GRO Birth record for a George Lightfoot Richardson, mother’s maiden name Nicholson. This is the only record I have found to indicate that John had children of his own. Sadly, the boy survived no more than six months.  After Ann died aged 59 in 1886 John married again the following year. Mary BARKER was eighteen years his junior and brought a 17 year old illegitimate son to the marriage. Aged 20 in 1891 Richard BARKER was working as a Carriage Driver for his Carriage Proprietor step-father (PRO Ref RG12 3962 f22 p37). The two Johns born a year apart (1826/27) died in 1903 and 1907. I can’t be certain but I think the Jehu was second to depart, aged 81. Mary died in 1828.

Tags: family history Hesselwood, Haslewood, Richardson, Nicholson, Baker, Ross, John Richardson, Jehu.

20160706MallardDuckling3_2mTwenty-four hours before Today’s Image was taken Mother Mallard was keeping an eye on her brood. I don’t know what killed the ducklings but the surface of the Glen Gardens boating lake was liberally sprinkled with specks of plastic or polystyrene (the measure of man). A breeding pair of Mallard brought five or six ducklings into the world at the same location this year. I saw the little ’uns one day and they had totally disappeared the next. A council gardener said that gulls had taken them. The bereft adults flew away a couple of days later.