12 November 2018


So many young lives wasted. 

Finally it was over.  And the leaders started to prepare for a peace treaty which would sow the seeds of discontent, leading ultimately to another war twenty years hence.  In the meantime families were counting the cost…..                                                                                                                                                                                         
In the last four years I have commemorated all the men within my extended family who died and I felt it would now be good to think about the numbers.  At the local war memorial on Sunday the minister told the story of a family of six brothers: after five had died, the local vicar wrote to the Queen and the sixth son was found and returned to his family.  

I cannot claim six brothers serving at once but I did write about the four Pridmore brothers who died, and the three Hills boys who died in consecutive years. 

Then there were the two Blaydon brothers and their cousin.  Two pairs of Culpin brothers, the Free brothers from Australia and the Glew brothers.   And the Steward boys who died within three months of each other, and the Mendhams within three weeks of one another.  Not to mention the Stadens, uncle & nephew, from Bury St Edmunds.  

In all I recorded sixty-eight deaths; the oldest being 40 years old and the youngest aged just 17 years.  Five died on the first day of the Somme; nine in all commemorated on the Thiepval memorial.  Eight on the Menin Gate.  Thirty in total have no known grave.  Young George Culpin, the 17-year-old, drowned at Jutland.

 It was called "The war to end all wars".  History proves otherwise.  Lions led by donkeys?  I struggle to see past the lives thrown away because their leaders wanted them to march in an orderly fashion, line abreast, into barbed wire and machine guns. 

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.


Richard Benjamin Culpin was born in Cambridge in 1898, seventh of the eight children of John & Elizabeth (nee Harrison) and their only son to live past his first birthday.  He grew up in the city, enlisted in the Royal Sussex regiment and went to war.  He died of his wounds in Cambridge on 16 December 1918.

The Cambridge Daily News of 23 December 1918 fills in the details:

"MILITARY FUNERAL: Pte. R. B. Culpin. The funeral of the late Pte.  Richard Benjamin Culpin, of the 12th Royal Sussex Regt., took place at the Mill-road Cemetery on Saturday last, the curate of St. Philip's officiating.  The deceased was wounded at the battle of the Somme on November 14th, 1917, and had his leg amputated at the 53rd General Hospital, Wimeru.  He was also wounded in the back and side by shrapnel. He was removed from France to St. George's Hospital; from these to the Atkinson Morley Convalescent Hospital, Wimbledon, and then home to the residence of his father, Mr. John Culpin, 7, Malta-road. Complications arising from the result of shrapnel wounds caused his removal to the 1st Eastern General Hospital for operation, under which he died.  The principal mourners were the father, mother, and five sisters, Miss Priest, and Ptes. Bendall, Newberry, Woollard, Thurman and Warner.  The coffin was elm, with brass furniture, the plate bearing the following inscription: "Richard Benjamin Culpin, died December 16th, 1918, aged 20 years." The coffin, draped with the Union Jack and covered with some beautiful floral tributes, was conveyed to the cemetery on the military wagon, escorted by a detachment of R.A.M.C. "The Last Post" was sounded at the close of the commitment service.  Mr. W. G. Mason carried out the funeral arrangements."

We will remember them.

11 November 2018


On this centenary of the Armistice, I will introduce you to a further six members of the extended family who lost their lives.  I discovered these gentlemen too late to remember them on the day of their death but I will make amends now.

George Frank Stanley Coulson, born 1893 in Waterbeach, Cambs, was second of the eight children of Thomas & Janet (nee Drever).  By 1911 the family was living in Bottisham, and George was working as a farm labourer.  Enlisting in Ely, he joined the 11th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment and, with hundreds of his comrades, died on the first day on the Somme - 1 July 1916.  He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Arthur Edward Read was born in Swindon in 1894, second of four children, and only son, of Edward & Annie (nee Cripps).  A boilermaker in 1911, he enlisted in the Duke of Edinburgh's (Wiltshire) Regiment and died on 5 July 1916 on the Somme.  He too is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Thomas Samuel Rickwood was the son of Harry & Elizabeth and was born in Cambridge in 1884 and married Maud Gravestock in Cambridge in 1908.  He enlisted in he 7th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment and was killed on 7 July 1916, also on the Somme.  He is also commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.

Thomas Errington Sayer was a science master at Earl's Colne grammar school in Essex, who married Hilda Steward in 1916,  Just three months later, on 25 September 1916, as a Captain in the King's Yorkshire Light Infantry, he died on the Somme.  The Thiepval Memorial also bears his name.

John Ralph Spreckley was born in Islington, London, in 1895, only child of John & Caroline, nee Culpin.  He joined up on 5 September 1914 and went with his battalion, the 6th Bedfordshires, to Gallipoli, taking part in the Suvla Bay landings in August 1915.  Invalided home with dysentery, he was sent to France in November 1916 and was reported missing on 28 April 1917.  It was eventually confirmed that he lost his life on this day and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

Sydney William Large was born in Cambridge in 1888 and married Annie Culpin on 4 April 1911.  He joined the Royal Garrison Artillery and died on 16 September 1918.  He is buried in Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension.

We will remember them.

9 November 2018


Horace Hills was born in Doddington, Cambs, in 1898, ninth of the ten children of George & Naomi (nee Wadelow), and the third of their sons to die in the Great War.

After his father's death in 1904, Naomi remarried at the family moved to Chatteris where, in 1911, Horace was already a farm labourer at the age of just 12.

On 9 September 1914 Horace enlisted in the 9th Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment and was sent out to the Western Front in 1915.  Wounded in the arm, he returned to the front in February 1916  and was wounded again at the Battle of the Somme, and reported missing on 3 July 1916.  Two months later he was listed as a prisoner of war at the Munster camp.

In January 1918 he was medically repatriated and went to the Military Hospital at Basingthorpe.  In April he was discharged from the Army and returned to Chatteris.  He died in the town on 9 November 1918 and was buried in the Chatteris cemetery.

We will remember them.

6 November 2018


Ernest William Claridge was born in 1887 in Chatteris, Cambs, the elder of the two children of Samuel & Kate (nee Burrows).  By 1891 the family had moved to St Ives, across the county border in Huntingdonshire and the 1901 census showed the fourteen-year-old Ernest as a baker, living at the White Lion public house.

In 1907 Ernest married Grace King in St Ives and they begat five children in the town over the next ten years.    Enlisted into the Middlesex regiment, 29th Battalion, he was transferred to the Labour Corps.  He died on 6 November 1918 in the Military Hospital in Epsom, and was buried in St Ives Church Cemetery.

We will remember them.

5 November 2018


Edward Culpin was born in 1897 in Titchmarsh, Northants, eighth of the thirteen children of William & Lizzie (nee Quince), and younger brother of Willie Culpin who died in March 1916.  

Brought up in Titchmarsh, Edward was a fourteen-year-old farm labourer in the 1911 census but a few years later he enlisted in the 7th Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment, having signed-on in Rushden.

One hundred years ago today, Edward died of wounds and was buried at Awoingt British cemetery.

We will remember them.

4 November 2018


Francis Henry Steward was born in the village of Sutton, in Cambridgeshire, youngest of the eleven children of Robert & Lucy (nee Whiting), and brother of James Wilson Steward who died in August 1918.  The family moved to Parsley Beans farm, near Halstead, Essex, by 1911 and then again to Sheepen Farm, Colchester.

Francis was a corporal in the 2nd Battalion, the King's Royal Rifle Corps, when he was killed on 4 November 1918.  He was buried in Le Rejet-de-Bealieu Communal Cemetery.

We will remember them.