Company Serjeant Major Wilson Forrest (29 March 1918)

Company Serjeant Major Wilson Forrest, Durham, St Oswald’s, Durham & Newcastle. Died 29/03/1918 age 34. Durham Light Infantry “C” Coy. 18th Bn. Service No.18/492. Commemorated at Bienvillers Military Cemetery, France, Grave XV B 5.

Forrest

Wilson Forrest’s entry on the Central Council Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral

The son of Wilson Forrest and Frances Forrest of Middlesbrough, Wilson was born on 9 January 1884 and baptised on 30 January 1884 at St Paul’s, Middlesbrough. He was one of nine children; five surviving at the 1911 census. He married Sarah Wills from High Wood View, Durham, in 1910. The had a son, Wilson Bateson Forrest.

At the time of the 1911 census, Wilson was working as a certificated assistant teacher.

A full biography of Wilson can be found here.

Ringing has been arranged to remember Company Serjeant Major Forrest.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

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Pioneer William Wrightson (21 March 1918)

Pioneer William Wrightson, Wylam on Tyne, Durham & Newcastle. Died 21/03/1918 age 20. Royal Engineers “E” Special Coy. Service No.214409. Commemorated at Pozieres Memorial, France, Panel 10 to 13.

williams

William Wrightson’s entry on the Central Council Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral

The research below is kindly provided by Helena Bates. Many thanks to the Wylam History Society for their detailed research which offers such a rich insight into William’s life.

William was born in 1898 the first child of Robert William Wrightson of Sunderland who worked as a railway company clerk and his wife Isabella Brown Waugh, a local girl from Wylam Wood cottages. The couple had married the previous year and moved into 5 Burgoyne Terrace, Wylam to share the house tenanted by her grandfather, Michael Varty who was still an active miner at 70, but who had recently become a widower.

By the 1911 census the family were still living at Burgoyne Terrace, but had increased to eight now with three sons William 13, John 11, and Robert 4 and two daughters Lilian 9 and Jane 7, together with grandfather Michael 80 and the parents.

The 1911 census does not record any occupation for William at 13 and the details of his army records and employment when he enlisted have not been traced. However, we know he became a Pioneer in a special company within the Royal Engineers. By chance a brief item in the Hexham Courant 1st December 1917 mentions ‘Pioneer William Wrightson of Burgoyne Terrace is home for a few days leave. We also know that William was a bell-ringer at St. Oswin’s Church, Wylam. He fought at Vimy Ridge and now at Arras. He sees to the gas tanks and one hopes his mixture is more deadly than Keatings. Having celebrated his 20th birthday in the trenches we hope he may celebrate his 21st in the dear homeland.’

Sadly William Wrightson never achieved his 21st birthday; he was killed in action on 21st March 1918. The Hexham Courant reported it on 25th May 1918 under ‘Wounded & Missing’ Pioneer William Wrightson son of Mr. & Mrs. Wrightson, Burgoyne Terrace, Wylam.

The Special Companies Royal Engineers
The Special Companies at the start of the war
No Special Companies existed in 1914. They were a war time invention. The Great War was the first in which chemical weapons were deployed. There was great moral shock and outrage at the first use of Chlorine, released by the Germans against defenceless French troops in the Ypres Salient. The Special Companies of the Royal Engineers were formed to develop the British response. By 1918, gas was used both offensively and defensively, delivered by a range of sophisticated techniques.

The first Special Companies are formed
As early as 3 May 1915 the British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, authorised the preparation of measures to retaliate against the German use of poison gas. Experimental research work was carried out at Porton, and a laboratory established at Helfaut, near St Omer in France. The Kestner-Kellner Alkali Company, being the only firm in Britain capable of manufacturing Chlorine gases in quantity, supervised trials with the final large-scale one taking place at Runcorn on 4 June. The method – as used by the Germans – was to form a continous cloud by discharging compressed gas from cylinders to the atmosphere, and allowing the wind to move it over the enemy positions.

Special Companies of technically skilled men, under Major C.H. Foulkes of the Royal Engineers, were formed with a Depot at Helfaut, to deal with the new weapon. Nos 186 and 187 Special Companies were formed first, in July 1915, followed by 188 and 189 Companies in August. All of the men were given the rank of Chemist Corporal. On 4 September 1915 the first two Companies, totalling 34 Sections of 28 men, were assigned to First Army for forthcoming operations.

The Special Brigade is formed
Despite the limited results achieved by the cloud gas discharge at Loos, it was believed sufficiently successful to warrant further development. One of the first acts of Sir Douglas Haig on his appointment as Commander-in-Chief was to request that the War Office expand the four Special Companies of the RE into a more substantial force, viz.
• Four Special Battalions, each of four Companies, to handle gas discharge from cylinders and smoke from candles;
• Four Special Companies to handle gas shells fired from 4-inch Stokes mortars. Each Company to have 48 such weapons;
• Four Special Sections to handle flame projectors (throwers);
• plus a Headquarters and Depot, making all all an establishment of 208 officers and 5306 men.
This request was approved and the Brigade built up by adding volunteers from units already in France to the four original Companies. Later, drafts from England would join. The force was designated the Special Brigade. It was placed under the command of Col. C.Foulkes, RE, who was appointed Assistant Director of Gas Services; he reported to Brigadier-General H.Thuillier, RE, Director of Gas Services. Lt-Col. S.Cummins, RAMC acted as Director of Anti-Gas Measures.

By the end of May 1916, No 1 Special Battalion and No 2 (less a Company) were allocated to Fourth Army; No 3 (less a Company) to Second Army; No 4 (also less a Company) to Third Army. No 4A Battalion was provisionally formed from the three detached Companies, and was attached to First Army. No 5 Battalion was the Stokes mortar unit, and had 3 Companies attached to Fourth Army and 1 to Third Army. The Flame Projector Sections arrived in France 26 June 1916. Special units continued to be developed through the rest of the war.

Ringing took place to remember William Wrightson:

Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Association
Wylam on Tyne, Northumberland
St Oswin
Wednesday, 21 March 2018 in 0:46 (22–0–20 in E)
1260 Plain Bob Doubles
Composed by Trad.
1 Graham Wright
2 Joel A Cairns*
3 Barbara Sutton
4 Kevin Webster
5 Andrew J Cairns (C)
6 David L Henderson
Rung half-muffled in memory of Pioneer William Wrightson, “E” Special Company, Royal Engineers, who died this day a century ago and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial in the Somme.
He was a St. Oswin’s ringer and this quarter was rung by a Wylam band.
William Wrightson, we have remembered you.
*Age 12.

Wylam

The Wylam band, front left to back right.

Newcastle Cathedral
Wednesday, 21 March 2018 in 44mins
1280 Plain Bob Major
1 Barbara Wheeler
2 Elizabeth Thompson
3 Julie Bell
4 Sonia Thompson
5 Richard M Grainger
6 J Michael Procter
7 Stephen B Bell
8 Howard E J Smith (C)
The bells of this Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from Wylam on Tyne was killed. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made.
Pioneer William Wrightson.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

*

Sources: UK soldiers died in Great War 1914-1919 Commonwealth War Graves Commission; 1901/1911 Census; www The Long Long Trail; Hexham Courant 01/12/1917 & 25/05/1918

Private George Hindmarsh Johnson (30 December 1917)

Private George Hindmarsh Johnson, Allendale, Durham & Newcastle. Died 30/12/1917 age 19. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders 1st/5th Bn. Service No.S/20419. Commemorated at Chatby Memorial, Egypt.

Johnson

Private Johnson’s entry on the Central Council Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral

George was the son of Jane Ann Johnson of Glen View House, Allendale, Northumberland, and the late George Johnson. George was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. Jane returned to England following the death of her husband, bringing her two sons back with her.

At the time of the 1911 census George was working as a grocer’s assistant.

Private George Hindmarsh Johnson and Airman 1st Class Harold Edward Ladd (a ringer from Cowden, Kent) were aboard HMT Aragon, which, in early December 1917, left Marseille to sail for Egypt.

She took about 2,200 troops to reinforce the Egyptian Expeditionary Force in the Palestine Campaign against the Ottoman Empire, plus about 150 military officers, 160 VADs (Voluntary Aid Detachment) and about 2,500 bags of Christmas mail. She and another transport, the Nile, sailed in convoy with an escort of destroyers. On 23 December 1917, they reached Windy Bay, Malta, where the two transports stayed at anchor for four or five days. There they celebrated Christmas, and according to one VAD, those aboard Aragon had a “top hole” time. Aragon and Nile then continued to Egypt with a fresh escort: the Acheron-class destroyer, HMS Attack, plus two Imperial Japanese Navy destroyers. The convoy weathered a gale, and off the Egyptian coast at daybreak on Sunday 30 December 1917 it divided. The two Japanese destroyers escorted Nile to Port Said, while Attack escorted Aragon to Alexandria. On approach to the port, Attack zig-zagged ahead to search the channel for mines, while Aragon waited in Alexandria Roads.

The armed trawler, HMT Points Castle, approached Aragon flying the international flag signal “Follow me”. The troop ship did so, until Attack returned and signalled “You have no right to take orders from a trawler”. The destroyer intercepted Points Castle and then ordered Aragon to return to sea. The troop ship obeyed and turned back to sea. The most senior of Aragon’s officers to survive what followed tried to make sense of the confusion: “The only explanation that the writer can put forward is that the commander of the Attack had a warning of mines in the channel, causing him to order Aragon to disregard Points Castle’s “Follow me”. Evidently the enemy laid mines at the appropriate time in the knowledge that the ship would be kept out and thus present a target for torpedo attack.”

Aragon and Attack were in Alexandria Roads about 8 to 10 miles outside the port, awaiting permission to enter, when, at about 1100 hours, the German Type UC II submarine, SM UC-34, torpedoed Aragon, hitting her port side aft and causing extensive damage in her almost empty number 4 hold. Aragon’s deck officer of the watch, Lieut. J.F.A. Thompson, stated that she then listed to starboard. The destroyer, HMS Attack, dashed to her rescue as she sank quickly, as well as every available ship within reach. Many of the men rescued and taken onto the HMS Attack had just stripped their oil drenched clothes from their bodies and laid on the deck, when she too was torpedoed by the same submarine, almost blowing her in two. 610 of the passengers on board the HMS Aragon were lost at sea, including Private Johnson and Airman 1st Class Ladd.

Airman 1st Class Harold Edward Ladd, Cowden, Kent. Died 30/12/1917 age 27. Royal Flying Corps. Service No.22942. Commemorated at Chatby Memorial, Egypt. Baptised 27/04/1890 at Wye, Kent. One of five children, including his well-known ringing brother, Ernest (Ernie) James Ladd. Son of Walter James Ladd and Ann Ladd of 56 West Street, East Grinstead, Sussex. At the time of the 1911 census he was working as a carpenter.

Ringing took place to remember Private Johnson:

Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Association
Allendale, Northumberland
St Cuthbert
Saturday, 30 December 2017 in 46 minutes (10–0–9 in G)
1260 Bob Doubles
Bob Doubles with 7,6,8 covering
1 Elizabeth Beardsley
2 Joan Lumley
3 Cecilia Harris
4 Rosalind Cowsill
5 Roger Cowsill (C)
6 Shirley Brown
7 Milton Armstrong
8 Jim Brown
To commemorate the life of Private George Hindmarsh Johnson (1898 – 1917) 1st/5th Bn. Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, ringer at this tower, who was drowned at sea on H T ‘Aragon’ on 30th December 1917. Rung as part of Ringing to Remember, the D & N Association First World War Ringing Commemoration.

Newcastle Cathedral
Saturday, 30 December 2017
1264 Plain Bob Major
Composed by A.M.Barber
1 Barbara Davies
2 David Hamby
3 Alan M Barber (C)
4 Christine Richardson
5 Philip N Green
6 Stephen E Hamby
7 Stephen B Bell
8 Howard E J Smith
The bells of this Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from the Church of St. Cuthbert at Allendale was killed. We ring to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made.
Private George Hindmarsh Johnson.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

*

Many thanks to Alan Regin for his research on George Johnson and Harold Ladd.

Rifleman John Tom Hogg (30 November 1917)

Rifleman John Tom Hogg, North Shields, Durham & Newcastle. Died 30/11/1917 age 33. London Regiment (Queen’s Westminster Rifles) 1st/16th Bn. Service No.555172. Commemorated at Cambrai Memorial, Louverval, France, Panel 12.

Hogg

The Hogg brothers’ entry on the Central Council Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral

John was the son of Robert and Elizabeth Ann Hogg (née Coulson). He was born in the fourth quarter of 1884 in North Shields.

John, who worked as a shop assistant, married Ethel Muriel Crosby of 93 Mowbray Road, South Shields on 10 August 1914 at Christ Church, North Shields. Together they had a Son, John C. Hogg, born in 1917.

JT Hogg

Whilst living at 17, Widdrington Terrace, John joined the 1st. / 16th. Bn. Queens Westminster Rifles, service No. 555172.

He was killed in action on 30 November 1917 aged 33. He is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial, Louveral, France, panel 12 and on the memorial in Newcastle Cathedral.

John’s brother, Second Lieutenant Robert Morrison Hogg, Durham Light Infantry, also a bellringer, died on 1 April 1918, while a prisoner of war, and is buried in Cologne Southern Cemetery, Germany.

Ringing took place to remember John Hogg:

Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Association
North Shields, Tyne and Wear
Christ Church
Thursday, 30 November 2017 in 0h 45 (7)
1272 Plain Bob Minor
1 Alan Barber (C)
2 Karen Dickinson
3 James Scott
4 Darren Gardner
5 Michael Scott
6 Michael Hewitt
On the centenary of the death of Rifleman John Tom Hogg who is commemorated on the Cambrai Memorial, Louveval. He was a ringer at this tower.

Mike Hewitt wrote this excellent piece in the local news.

Newcastle Cathedral
Thursday, 30 November 2017 in 50 mins
1440 Plain Bob Minor
Composed by comp. 44 singles
1 J Michael Procter
2 Barbara Davies
3 Barbara Wheeler
4 Howard E J Smith (C)
5 Richard Grainger
6 Stephen B Bell
The bells of this Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from Christ Church at North Shields was killed. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made.
Rifleman John Tom Hogg.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

 

Corporal Reginald Samuel Eaton (15 November 1917)

Corporal Reginald Samuel Eaton, Jesmond, Durham & Newcastle. Died 15/11/1917 age 22. East Yorkshire Regiment 4th Bn. Service No.31003. Commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium, Panel 47 to 48 and 163A.

Eaton

Corporal Eaton’s entry on the Central Council Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral

Reginald Eaton was born in 1895 in Heaton. He was the son of Elizabeth Mercy Eaton of 41, Forsyth Road, West Jesmond and the late Samuel Eaton.

Reginald was employed as a shipping clerk. After enlisting in Newcastle upon Tyne he embarked for France on 7 September 1917 with the East Yorkshire Regiment, 4th Bn., service No. 31003. He died on 15 November 1917 aged 22.

Reginald is commemorated at the Tyne Cot memorial in Belgium on panel 47 – 48 & 163A, on the bellringers Roll of Honour at St Paul’s Cathedral in London, in Jesmond at the Church of St. George where he rang and on the bellringers memorial plaque in Newcastle Cathedral.

Ringing took place to remember Corporal Eaton:

Newcastle Cathedral
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 in 51mins (17–0–16)
1344 Plain Bob Major
1 Monica Menis
2 Gordon Rothwell
3 David Hamby
4 Christine Richardson
5 J Michael Procter
6 Richard Grainger
7 Stephen B Bell (C)
8 Howard E J Smith
The bells of this Cathedral were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers – First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from Jesmond was killed. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made.
Corporal Reginald Samuel Eaton.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

 

Private Herbert Guthrie (26 October 1917)

Private Herbert Guthrie, Benwell, Durham & Newcastle. Died 26/10/1917 age 33. Royal Marine Light Infantry 1st R.M. Bn. R.N. Div. Service No.CH/2062(S). Commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium, Panel 1 and 162A.

Guthrie

Private Guthrie’s entry on the Central Council Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral

Herbert Guthrie was born on 3 October 1884, one of seven children born to David Sinclair Marwick and Margaret Ann (née Hodge). Five survived at the 1911 census.

Herbert married Ada (née Binns of 40 Hampstead Road, Benwell) in 1911. Their son was David John Binns Guthrie (1913 –1995).

They lived at 260 Clara Street Benwell. Herbert was employed as a clerk.

He enlisted in the Royal Marine Light Infantry 1st R.M. Bn. R.N. Div. Service No.CH/2062(S). He died aged 33, on 26 October 1917.

Herbert is commemorated at the Tyne Cot memorial in Belgium on panel 1 – 162A, on the memorial board inside Benwell Church and on the bellringers memorial plaque in Newcastle Cathedral.

Ringing took place to remember Private Guthrie:

Benwell, St James
Thursday, 26 October 2017 in 50 mins (16)
1320 Doubles
480 Stedman, 480 Grandsire, 360 Southrepps.
1 Barbara Davies
2 Karen Dickinson
3 Alan M Barber
4 Howard E J Smith (C)
5 Stephen B Bell
6 Daniel Smith
The bells of this Church were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers – First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from Benwell was killed. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made along with all the other men of Benwell commemorated on the boards inside the base of the tower.
Private Herbert Guthrie.

Newcastle Cathedral
Thursday, 26 October 2017 in 45 mins (8–0–02)
1260 Minor
720 Cambridge S., 540 Plain Bob
1 Howard E J Smith
2 David Hamby
3 J Michael Procter
4 Karen Dickinson
5 Richard Grainger
6 Stephen B Bell (C)
The bells of this Cathedral were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers – First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from Benwell was killed. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made.
Private Herbert Guthrie.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Private Stanley Willis Wilkinson (24 October 1917)

Private Stanley Willis Wilkinson, Barnard Castle, Barnard Castle Parish Ringers. Died 24/10/1917 age 19. Sherwood Foresters (Notts and Derby Regiment) 16th Bn. Service No.72226. Commemorated at Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium, Panel 102.

Stanley, born in Barnard Castle in 1899, was the son of Thomas and Sarah Wilkinson of Portland Square, King Street, Barnard Castle. He was one of seven children, three surviving at the 1911 census. Stanley had worked for a short time in Mr T W Bainbridge’s office prior to enlisting at the age of 18. He had been a bellringer at St Mary’s Parish Church but, as far as is known, he was not a D and N member. Stanley also taught one of the Sunday School classes. He served with 16th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment; his service number was 72226.

Stanley died after having been hit by shrapnel and had only been serving with the army for 7 months. He is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium on panel 102.

The CWGC holds records for Stanley.

Ringing took place to remember Private Wilkinson:

Durham & Newcastle Diocesan Association
Barnard Castle, Durham
St Mary
Tuesday, 24 October 2017 in 45 min (17–0–0 in F)
1250 Yorkshire Surprise Major
1 Caroline Piercy
2 Helen L Scott
3 Barbara Busby
4 Kate Millar
5 Susan E Welch
6 Jack Hanlon
7 John R Welch
8 Darren R Moore (C)
The bells of St Mary’s Church, Barnard Castle were rung this afternoon as part of “Ringing to Remember “-the Durham and Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from this tower was killed in action. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice he made.
Private Stanley Willis Wilkinson.

Barnard castle
Darren Moore,Caroline Piercy, Helen Scott, John Welch, Barbara Busby, Susan Welch, Jack Hanlon, Kate Millar

Newcastle Cathedral
Tuesday, 24 October 2017 in 53 mins (17–0–16)
1264 Plain Bob Major
1 J Michael Procter
2 David Hamby
3 Julie Bell
4 Stephen B Bell
5 Richard Grainger
6 William Davidson
7 Edmund P Crowdy
8 Howard E J Smith (C)
The bells of this Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas were rung today as part of “Ringing to Remember” – the Durham & Newcastle Association of Church Bellringers First World War ringing commemoration. On this day one hundred years ago a bellringer from the Church of St. Mary at Barnard Castle was killed. We rang to celebrate his life and the ultimate sacrifice that he made.
Private Stanley Willis Wilkinson.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.