31 October 2014

Great War Centenary: Ben Langford

Ben Langford was my great-uncle, born on 4 June 1891 in Stretham, Cambs, the youngest of the eight children of Isaac & Emma (nee Quince) and christened on 25 July 1894 at St James’ church in the village.  In 1896 he and two older siblings, Kate & Freeman, went to live with their aunt Rose Ann Vaughan (nee Bigley) in Newnham Road, Ely.  By July 1897 all three were enrolled at the Market Street School and, in the 1891 census, the Vaughan family plus the three Langfords were living in Nutholt Lane, in the house next to the Vicarage.

In 1911, Ben was a 19-year-old bricklayer’s labourer still living with his aunt, and he completed the census form – which at least proves he could read and write, so that education wasn’t wasted!  And then came the Great War…….

Ben was living in Stretham but enlisted in Bedford, joining the 2nd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.  On 4th October 1914 the 2nd Battalion embarked at Southampton, arriving Zeebrugge on the 7th.  After a lot of marching, they arrived at Ypres on 14th October and joined the 21st Infantry Brigade on the front line.  There followed ten days of heavy artillery and the brigade was ordered to “hold on”.

On 26th October the Brigade was relieved and moved back to rest….for one day, after which they moved forward again.  Much more shell fire and the Bedfordshires were ordered to cover the withdrawal of the 20th Brigade from the Ypres salient.  On 31st October there was more heavy shelling and the Bedfordshires withdrew to a new line at dusk.  The fighting was very fierce and there were many casualties, with the Battalion “losing their CO and many officers”.

And 23-year-old Lance Corporal 9921 Ben Langford.  The story is that he was in the trench and lifted his head to get a cigarette out of the breast pocket of his tunic.  He was shot by a sniper.

Ben has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres and the Stretham war memorials.

We will remember them.

26 October 2014

That's entertainment??

Found in the Chelmsford Chronicle, 15 December 1922:

The Chingford Fire Brigade had just sat down to the annual brigade dinner when the fire alarm sounded. Hurriedly leaving the table, the firemen discovered that the outbreak was at Low Hall Farm, of which the owner was Mr J Soper, one of the guests at the dinner. It was a haystack fire, and the brigade were kept busy until after midnight. Portions of the dinner and liquid refreshments were sent to them at the farm, while their guests, after waiting vainly for the brigade to return, proceeded with the function at the hotel.

Charged with setting fire to a stack, the property of Mr Soper, and doing damage to the extent of 300 pounds, James Webb, of Stewardstone, was committed for trial at the Essex Assize.

I suspect that Mr Soper would've preferred a string quartet as entertainment, but I like the idea of sending some of their dinner to the firemen!

More soon.

19 October 2014

Speechless, for once.....

Last weekend was one of those rare genealogical moments when I was struck dumb by the events unfolding in front of me.

I was idly researching a Culpin branch:  Sarah Jane Culpin married William Thomas Pridmore in Thornhaugh, Northants, in 1877 and they moved to Sheffield.  Over the next twenty years or so they begat eleven children (including nine sons), raising all but one to adulthood.  And then came the Great War.

To sidetrack slightly, when I find sons of military age I first look to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, but I couldn't be sure what I'd found.  So Ancestry helpfully gave me De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour of the Great War and I found a young Pridmore in there......

Topped and tailed in the index by three of his brothers.  And, as if it could get any worse, two of them died within four days of each other.  Speechless is one of the words you could have used to describe me.

John Thomas Pridmore, third son, was born in 1881 and enlisted in the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (KOYLI) in 1899, serving in the Boer War and then with the Expeditionary Force in France in 1914.  Married to Harriet, with whom he had two children, he died on 14 October 1914.

Arthur Edward Pridmore, fourth son, was born in 1883 and followed his brother into the KOYLI, also serving in South Africa and France. He died on 18 October 1914.    Neither brother has a grave, but both are commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

Albert Pridmore, second son, was born in 1879.  He was married to Margaret and they had four children.  He enlisted in the Yorks & Lancs  Regiment in 1915 and died in Bradford hospital on 22 June1917 from wounds received in May that year.

George Harry Pridmore, presumably named after his brother George who died in infancy, was the eighth son. Born in 1896 he too joined the KOYLI before the war, enlisting in January 1914.  He served in France in 1916 and then returned to Blighty to train as an officer.  Gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the West Yorks Regt, and by now married to May (nee Foster), he was sent back to France in January 1918.    He died on 31 August 1918.

No more words....

16 October 2014

Tower of London

Having been alerted to the fact that the installation starts to be dismantled soon after Armistice Day I thought I'd better get a move on if I wanted to see the poppies at the Tower of London.  So I went on Monday, despite the pouring rain (I always think of what the soldiers had to endure in the Great War, and mentally declare myself a wuss on these occasions).

It was a moving and magnificent sight, made all the more so because of the sheer number of people looking.....

More soon.