12 November 2017


On this Remembrance Sunday let me introduce you to my third cousin once removed George Hills.  He was born in Chatteris, Cambs, in 1886, the second of ten children of George and Naomi (nee Wadlow).  In 1891 the family was across the county border in the Huntingdonshire town of Ramsey but by 1901 they were back in Cambs, living in Doddington.

George was clearly a regular soldier as he was serving as a private with 2nd Beds in 1911, stationed in Bermuda/Jamaica, a much better billet than his final one.  As his second cousin Benjamin Langford also served with 2Beds, we know that they arrived in Belgium in October 1914.  The Regiment's War Diaries (http://bedfordregiment.org.uk/index.html) fill in the details. 

George died on 12 November 1917 and is buried in Bailleul  Communal Cemetery Extension, Nord.

George's younger brothers Charles and Horace also lost their lives in the Great War.

We will remember them.

12 October 2017

GREAT WAR CENTENARY: James Eastwell & Albert Free

Two of my distant relatives lost their lives on this day one hundred years ago.....

JAMES HENRY EASTWELL was born on 7 March 1880 in Swan Creek, Queensland, fifth child of Edward & Mary Ann (nee Carter).  His grandfather John Eastwell was born in Great Gransden, Hunts, and took the family to Australia in the 1850s.

I know very little about James, except that he was most likely single at the time of his death, on the basis that his CWGC citation gives his parents as next of kin.  However, I do know that he enlisted in the Otago Regiment, part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, and I found his name on a number of NZ Rolls of Honour in their newspapers (courtesy of www.paperspast.natlib.gov.nz).  They all gave the name of Miss E Faulkner as (possible) next of kin.

The "Dominion" newspaper, dated 2 November 1917, sums up the scale of NZ losses:- "....The casualty list issued yesterday was one the longest lists, if the the longest, that has been issued in New Zealand.  The total casualties reported were 1240 and in that number there were 384 deaths."  "....nearly all of the causalties occured about October 12."

James is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.

ALBERT ERNEST FREE was born in Corack, Victoria, in 1894.  Another of my ANZAC relatives, he was the third and youngest child of Samuel and Fanny (nee Shepherd), and his elder brother was also to lose his life to the Great War.

Albert enlisted on 24 July 1916, having been working as a farm hand.  He was reported "Missing in Action" on this day and a Court of Enquiry in May 1918 decided that he was killed in action today one hundred years ago.  He is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

We will remember them.

25 September 2017

GREAT WAR CENTENARY: William Ablewhite

William Henry Ablewhite was born in 1897 in Grantham and christened on 15 September that year at St John, Spittlegate, Lincs.  Third of seven children of Thomas and Mary Elizabeth (nee Culpin), he was a 13-year-old errand boy at the time of the 1911 census and may, or may not, be my sixth cousin twice removed - we may share a common ancester who was born circa 1685.

William was serving with the 1st Battalion, the Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) at the time of his death one hundred years ago.  He is buried in Tyne Cot cemetery, one of the largest CWG cemeteries.

We  will remember them.

20 September 2017


Albert Langford Mitchell was my third cousin once removed and was born in Brixton, London, in 1886, the third & youngest child of Neville & Sarah Elizabeth (nee Langford).  Still a schoolboy in 1911 Tooting, he enlisted as a rifleman in the 2nd/8th Battalion, the London Regiment and was killed on 20th September 1917 when he was just 19 years old.

Alas I know no more than this, except that he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres.

We will remember them.

24 August 2017


Horace Langford Wesley, to given him his full name, was born in Stretham, Cambs, in 1889 and was my second cousin twice removed.  Tenth of the eleven children of George Westley Langford (who changed his surname to Wesley when he married) and Jane (nee Rowell), Horace was christened in St James, Stretham on 18 December in the same year.

Horace grew up in Stretham and was boarding at 'The White House' in the village at the time of the 1911 census and was working as a farm labourer.

When he first enlisted, Horace joined the Suffolk regiment along with many other lads from Stretham, but clearly transferred to the King's Shropshire Light Infantry as he was serving with them at the time of his death one hundred years ago today.  He is buried in the Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.

We will remember them.

20 July 2017


Cecil Harold Blaydon was my fourth cousin three times removed and he was born in Mildenhall, Suffolk, in 1895, fourth of the five children of Sydney & Mary (nee Vale).  By 1901 the family was had moved to Fordham in Cambridgeshire where Cecil, at five years old, had presumably started school.  A further move took the family to the Luton area in Bedfordshire and 1911 showed Cecil, aged 15, a picker hand.

Enlisting in 1914 in Luton, Cecil joined the 5th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment and, by 1917 was serving in the Egyptian Theatre; he died on 20 July in Palestine.  The Luton News & Bedfordshire Times produced the following on 16 August:-

"Pte. C Blaydon
The war has taken heavy toll of the household of Mr and Mrs Blaydon, The Knapps, Toddington-road, Leagrave,  Official intimation has been received that their second son, Pte. C Blaydon, was killed in action on July 20th.  Since the outbreak of war he had been serving with the Bedfordshire Regiment, including the Dardanelles campaign.  He was a stretcher-bearer, and had seen considerable active service.  The youngest son, Pte. A Blaydon, was killed at Suvla Bay on August 15th, 1915, with the 1/5ths.  The eldest son, Percy, is serving in France with the RGA, and was recently in hospital suffering from shell-shock. but he has now returned to his battery.

A letter was received by his parents on Tuesday morning from his pal:- "I thought it my duty to write to tell you that your son Pte. Cecil Blaydon, is dead.  He was killed instantly while we were raiding the enemy's position.  He was like by everyone in his company, officers and men, and I was myself a great pal of his.  He was buried behind our line in a cemetery this morning. "

The eldest son, Bomb. P S Blaydon is back in hospital again with shell-shock. "

Cecil Blaydon was buried in the Gaza War Cemetery.

We will remember them.

28 June 2017


Bertie John Mendham, to give him his full Sunday name, was born on 22 May 1884 in East Wretham, Norfolk, seventh of the nine children of Thomas & Mary (nee Freeman).  He was the older brother of Ernest Tom Mendham, who I remembered three weeks ago.

Christened on 5 July 1884 in East Wretham, Bertie was my third cousin four times removed. and he moved with the family to Streatham, London, by 1901.  By the age of 16 he was a porter and the 1911 census shows him working as a printer and living in Upper Tooting.  Towards the end of that year he married Daisy and they begat two children - Daisy, and Albert who was to die in the next war.

He enlisted in the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment and died on 28 June 1917.  With no known grave he is commemorated, along with his brother, on the Menin Gate memorial.

We will remember them.