Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Lack of Support for Blue Badge Applications

This is the letter I sent to my MP Stephanie Peacock, the Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis, and the Cudworth councillors Steve Houghton, Joe Hayward and Charlie Wraith today.

Dear Sirs and Ms Peacock,

I have a Blue Badge. It is due for renewal in July. Several years ago, when I was first awarded PIP I was able to get an appointment at Cudworth Library with a helpful lady who photocopied my PIP letters, my proof of Address & ID and my photo. She filled in the form for me and sent it into the proper department.

Yesterday I was in the queue in Cudworth Library. The gentleman in front of me, who was enquiring on behalf of a relative, asked about getting help to renew a Blue Badge. The librarian apologised but said applications had to be done online now. The man explained that he had no computer skills, even if he came into Cudworth to use a library machine he would need help. Then he stormed out saying he would (swear word) pay for parking in future.

I was next, and as this had reminded me that I needed to renew my badge I asked for more information. I was told that their support service had been (or was about to be) taken away from the library. However it might be possible to find someone to help a customer use a computer in the library. I imagine this would have to be an appointment as they have very few staff.

I have computer skills, as you can see. I came home and looked at the online site. https://www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge
The site did not tell you all the documents you needed before you started the process or explain that they needed to be scanned or digital images.

The process could be stopped and saved to continue later.

The Barnsley Council website https://www.barnsley.gov.uk/services/roads-travel-and-parking/blue-badges/  gives no other option but to engage with the .gov.uk site.

Please take note that I am concerned for other Blue Badge holders and potential Blue Badge holders in Cudworth and area as well as myself. I have computer skills but I know that most people my age (57) and older do not.

It took me nearly three quarters of an hour to complete the online process. I had to stop the process to find and photograph my driving licence, I had to stop the process to photograph my PIP letter, I had to get my husband to take a photo of me with his phone and then get it to my computer so I could attach that. I had to use the PIP letter as proof of address as all our utility bills are in my husband's name and anyway they are paperless these days.

This is a long and complicated process for someone with computer skills. Someone who can't even operate a mobile phone has no hope.

It seems the administration will take six to eight weeks ... I am on the limit of that now as my current badge runs out on 19 July. There was no warning about this on either site and I have not received a reminder letter, which was alluded to at the start of the online form.

The Council site says you have to pay £10 in advance and put a number in a box on the form. There is no such box on the online form, so I can only assume this refers to the old paper form.

I tweeted about my concerns last night and got an answer this morning. I was told to ring "the Blue Badge team on 01226 773555, who can provide guidance. For example, they could make an appointment at one of our libraries for assistance with IT."

I rang the number. I was on hold for 31 minutes being #9 in the queue initially. Finally a lady spoke to me. She confirmed that Cudworth Library could no longer give support with Blue Badge Applications and suggested I go to Central Library, Wombwell, Goldthorpe, Mapplewell or Hoyland. I explained that I am disabled, I no longer travel alone, can't manage bus rides by myself, am not allowed to drive, it would mean a long taxi ride with my elderly mum-in-law for support, there and back. She eventually offered to send out a paper form. When pressed she confessed that their paper forms were in limited supply and that when they ran out there would be no more. So if I get one I will post it back for someone else to use! There was no mention of an appointment with someone in Cudworth Library who might be able to help with the IT side of things.

I would like to appeal to you, Stephanie, Dan, Steve, Joe and Charlie, to reinstate support at Cudworth Library for Blue Badge applicants. Facilities to help with scanning documents to digital and taking photos of customers are essential. Help for the elderly and less able with engaging with the complex online form is essential. Prior notice and clear information needs to be given to applicants about what documents they need to apply so they don't need to make multiple trips to the Library. Imagine if I had gone to the Central Library in town, for an appointment, but not know I needed proof of ID and address as well as my PIP letter and photo.

Please take some action on this matter.

Yours
Linda

Linda Hutton
[email address redacted for this post ... contact me via Comments below or via Twitter]
@HuttonCroft
http://barnsleyhistorian.blogspot.co.uk
  
  

Monday, 21 May 2018

WW1 Soldiers' Stories - the Cox Brothers of Barnsley and Sheffield

I was recently asked via Twitter whether I knew of the whereabouts of the war memorial for St Peter's church on Doncaster Road in Barnsley. Well, follow the link and you'll be as wise as me!  Sadly the person who was enquiring did not find their relative listed, however his query led me first to one of the few men named Cox on the Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP) master spreadsheet (who is not remembered on any memorial in the Barnsley Borough) and onwards to one brother and then another. Be warned, this is a sad story!

Firstly, though, let me explain the Barnsley War Memorials Project. Set up in early 2014 following an initial meeting at Barnsley Town Hall in late 2013, the project aimed to create a Barnsley Borough WW1 Roll of Honour, and you will be pleased to know that this will be launched in November 2018 - not long to wait now!  It was to be compiled by recording and researching the names on the borough war memorials. We thought this would be a fairly straightforward task for a team of experienced family historians, as was the initial group at that time.  To be included on the Roll of Honour a man or woman killed/died due to the First World War had to have been born within the borough boundaries or lived in the borough at the time of their entry into the forces or remembered on any war memorial in the borough. It had been decided to include civilian deaths too, such as casualties of attacks or deaths whilst engaged on war related work.

In 2013 we were aware of around 70 war memorials within the borough boundaries which were listed on the Imperial War Museum's War Memorial Register. Note that the project uses the modern boundaries, not the historic ones. This is to avoid 'treading on the toes' of neighbouring towns' history groups who may be carrying out their own WW1 projects.  Surprisingly, there are many more war memorials in Barnsley than we had first thought.  In fact at the last count there were 717 different war memorials commemorating conflicts from the Boer War to Afghanistan. It also soon became apparent that Barnsley men appear on many war memorials scattered across Britain and beyond, due to family movements both whilst the soldier was alive and after his death. This meant we had become family history detectives on an international scale to discover if 'our' men were recorded anywhere in the world.

This brings us to the Cox family.  

The head of the Cox family, William, was born in Chesterfield in Q4 1858 (mmn Pendleton). He married Bertha Sterland, who was also from Chesterfield, in Sheffield St Peter's (now the Cathedral) on 17 August 1884. Bertha was in reality two and a bit years younger than William (her birth was registered in Q2 1861 mmn Scott), but for some reason on their marriage register entry both declared themselves to be 23 years old. William had knocked two years off his age! 

In the 1891 census, when the family are living in Barnsley at 46 Rock Street (which runs off Sackville Street near the modern Gateway Plaza complex) William, working as a Driller, gives his age as 32 (fairly accurate) and Bertha says she is 27 (now she's knocking a few years off!) They have three children living with them on the census return, Alice b.Q4 1884 in Chesterfield (hmm, that's rather soon after the marriage ... is that why they married in Sheffield, away from the Chesterfield gossips?), Walter b.Q4 1887 in Basford, Nottinghamshire and Lottie b.Q1 1889 also in Basford. A search of the GRO online indexes also gives us an Edith b.Q3 1886 in Basford, but she appears to die shortly after her birth.

Here is the full list of the Cox children (mmn Sterland or Stirland) that I have found on the GRO site:

Alice Cox b.Q4 1884 Chesterfield
Edith Cox b.Q3 1886 Basford died young in Basford
Walter Cox b.Q4 1887 Basford 
Lottie Cox b.Q1 1889 Basford
Frank Cox b.Q4 1891 Barnsley
Minnie Cox b.Q4 1892 Barnsley died aged 4 in Barnsley
Alfred Cox b.Q1 1894 Barnsley
John Ernest Cox b.Q4 1896 Barnsley died aged 1 in Sheffield
Elsie Cox b.Q2 1899 Sheffield
Leonard Cox b.Q2 1902 Sheffield

Bertha has a child at roughly two year intervals for at least eighteen years. Poor woman!

As you can see from the birthplaces of the Cox children the family moves from Basford after the birth of Lottie in early 1889 and we know they are in Barnsley in April 1891. They move from Barnsley after the birth of John Ernest in late 1896 and are listed in the 1901 census in March of that year living at 12 Crown Alley, in the Park district of Sheffield. William is working as a general labourer underground. John Ernest Cox is missing from the 1901 census, suggesting he was William and Bertha's third child to die young, however I did not find a death for him under that name.

This tallies with the 1911 census return where Bertha reports having been married for 27 years and having given birth to 10 live children, three of whom had died before the census return was made. She and six surviving children (her eldest daughter is also not at home - maybe she had married?) are living at 22 court, 1 house, South Street still in the Park district in April 1911. William is not included on this return however Bertha still gives her status as wife and married, so we can only assume he just away from home not dead. 

There is a married William Cox, right age, right birthplace, occupation Window Cleaner, living at Rowton House, Lordsmill Street, Chesterfield with no sign of a wife. It seems to be some kind of lodging house as there are 39 unrelated people living there.

My next step was to look at parish records to try to fill out the gaps. 

The only Cox baptism I could find on Ancestry (children named Cox with parents names William and Bertha) was Alfred on 11 February 1894 at St John's church in the Barebones area of Barnsley. Oddly that is not the parish for Rock Street, which lay in St Mary's parish, although their Rock Street address is given. 

On Find My Past I found two baptisms which fitted, George Ernest Cox on 25 October 1897 and Leonard Cox 1902 both at St John's Sheffield Park. With this clue I was able to find the death of George Ernest Cox on the GRO index - in Sheffield Q1 1898 aged 1 year.  Oddly George's birthdate is given in the baptism register as 7 October 1894 ... this does not fit any other information I have, but from his age at death I am assuming this child was the John Ernest Cox born in Barnsley in late 1896 and that maybe the clergyman at St John's Park had incorrectly recorded his birth date in the baptism register.  The family's address in 1897 was 2 court, 2 house, Bernard Street and in 1902 they were at 12 Crown Alley which we already know was their address on the 1901 census return.

So, we have now established the family within the census, birth, marriage and death records and parish records. How does this relate to the First World War?

The site Sheffield Soldiers of the First World War lists hundreds of memorials in the Sheffield area. There is a war memorial outside St John's church at Sheffield Park, but it bears no names. The panel with the names is inside the church. I have seen this arrangement before - the panels or plaques were usually erected in the churches or chapels first, but then to give better access for all denominations an outside memorial was often added a few years later.  There are three men named Cox listed on the panel. The names are sorted by regiment, which is helpful, but only initials are given, not full forenames. Sadly A, F and W Cox have proven to be three of Bertha and William's boys. More fortunately, Leonard, unless he tried to enlist underage, was far too young to serve in the war.

According to the name index on the above website: 
A Cox served in the Alexandra Princess of Wales Own (Yorkshire) Regiment
F Cox served in the York and Lancaster Regiment
W Cox served in the York and Lancaster Regiment too.

With this information it was possible to look for the men on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website. 


Only one A Cox served in the Yorkshire Regiment - Private A Cox fell on 9 August 1917 and is buried at Guemappe British Cemetery, Wancourt, plot I.A.17. His service number was 15888. No family information or citation is mentioned on the CWGC site.

There are four possible F Cox soldiers on the CWGC in the York and Lancaster Regiment, but three are Fred or Frederick, leaving Private F Cox who fell on 29 April 1915 and is buried at Y Farm Military Cemetery, Bois-Grenier, plot H.22. His service number is 2353. Again there is no family information connected to this record.

Finally W Cox in the York and Lancaster Regiment gives us two results. Disregarding W R Cox we are left with Private W Cox who fell on 1 June 1918 and is buried at Mailly Wood Cemetery, Mailly-Maillet, plot I.N.3. His service number is 13107 and this time we have an age, 31 and some family details. "Son of Mrs Bertha Cox, of 209, Duke St., Park, Sheffield". Well, this definitely seems to be one of the family we have been looking at.  I also looked at his ''Soldiers Died in the Great War' record which states that he was born in Beeston, Nottingham and enlisted at Sheffield. Beeston is the place of birth given for Walter on the 1911 census when the family are living in Sheffield.

At this point I could only assume A and F Cox were also Bertha's boys. But there are still lots of other sources to check if you know what you are doing.

One of my favourite sites is Lives of the First World War (LFWW). Sadly this site will be 'frozen' in early 1919 as its funding comes to an end, but the data entered will be preserved by the Imperial War Museum and made available in a static form as soon as possible thereafter.  In the meantime the way that it is organised is a great help to a research project like this and for only £6 a month you get access to all of Find My Past's military records.

Alfred Cox was already listed on LFWW as a Barnsley man. This is because his SDGW record notes that he was born in Barnsley. It tells us that he had been killed in action on 9 August 1917 - so this all fits with the CWGC information I have listed above. He was, of course, also listed on the BWMP master spreadsheet and will be in the Roll of Honour when it is prepared for presentation to Barnsley Council in November this year, 2018, the centenary of the Armistice.  I have 'Remembered' thousands of men on LFWW over the past four years and it not surprising that I had forgotten adding some records to Alfred's Life Story page already. One of these was his record in the 'Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects' from the Ancestry website. Names, rank, regiment, service number and date and place of death are listed. But these records are particularly useful because they give the name or names of the soldier's next of kin. In Alfred's case the name given is his mother Bertha. So the family connection has been confirmed and we can assume that by 1919 when the sum of £13 War Gratuity was dispatched Alfred's father William was no longer around, whether that be by death or separation I fear we may never know. There is a handy little tool available online which estimates the enlistment date of a soldier from the War Gratuity paid.  For Alfred this works out at November 1914, so he was one of the earlier volunteers.

Here are links to Frank Cox and Walter Cox on Lives of the First World War. Their pages are much less populated as I was not aware they had a Barnsley connection until a few days ago.

Using the basic information we had from the war memorial at St John's I was able to look up Frank Cox in the York and Lancaster Regiment in the 'Effects' records. Frank was the first of the brothers to be lost, and his war gratuity was only £3. His next of kin was his 'sole legatee', his mother Bertha, so now we have linked Frank to Alfred and Walter by their mother's name. Using the War Gratuity calculator again this suggests he had been enlisted for less than 12 months. Not surprising given that he was killed in April 1915. Frank's SDGW record does not give his birth place, which I had discovered from the GRO records was Barnsley, so I got in touch with my contacts at BWMP and he has been added to their master spreadsheet and will hopefully make it into the Roll of Honour, which was still at the draft stage last I heard.

Finally I looked at Walter Cox's 'Effects' record which surprisingly gives his mother's name as Martha!  But we know from the CWGC record that his mum is definitely Bertha ... it might be a transcription error, Martha / Bertha, similar I suppose ... it just goes to show that you should not depend on a single source, always try to corroborate your evidence by finding different sources to cross check. I double checked the service number and date of death just to be sure - but he was the only Walter Cox in the Y&L regiment who fell and all the other information on the 'Effects' record matches the CWGC record.  The amount of War Gratuity in Walter's case was £17 10s (10s is 50p), and this calculates to an enlistment in around October 1914.  It does appear as if all three of Bertha's boys volunteered very early on in the war.

I wondered if any of the young men (calling them boys is actually rather trite as Walter would have been 27 in 1914, Frank 23 and Alfred 20 years old) had been Territorial soldiers before the war. If so they might have already had some part-time military training with weekend parades and a summer camp every year.

The Long, Long Trail website is a fantastic resource compiled by military historian Chris Baker over many years. One of its most useful features is a list, by regiment, of when and where each battalion was formed, and which Brigade and Division it was in. Frank Cox was in the 1st/4th battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment. A double number like this immediately tells you that it was a battalion of the Territorial Force. The 1st/4th Y&L were known as the Hallamshire Battalion and they were mobilised in Sheffield in August 1914. So this fits as we already know that the Cox family were living in Sheffield in 1911. Frank's Army Service Records have survived, which is quite lucky as as much of 60% of this record set was destroyed during the Blitz of the Second World War. From these I can see that he did not join up until 7 September 1914, so he was not a part time soldier before the war.  He only just scraped in as he is recorded as being just 5' 3" tall which was the absolute lowest limit at the time.

The 1st/4th landed at Boulogne on 14th April 1915 and poor Frank was killed on 29 April 1915. I was lucky enough to find some newspaper cuttings about his death in the Sheffield newspapers on Find My Past (which are the same data set as the British Newspaper Archive).  According to the Sheffield Independent and the Sheffield Daily Telegraph Frank was 23 years old and worked at Davy and Son's, provision merchants, Paternoster Row. His occupation on the 1911 census, when he was 19 years old, was Pork Trade Assistant and helpfully for us whoever filled in the form had incorrectly put the name of his employer rather than the type of trade and this is still visible below the census enumerator's crossings out.  It confirms A. Davy and sons, General Food Providers.  I also found two 'In Memoriam' notices inserted in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph on 28 April 1916, a year after Frank's death. One was from his mother, sister and brother and the other from 'Elsie'. A sweetheart maybe? 

Alfred Cox was in the 7th battalion the Yorkshire Regiment, also known as the 'Green Howards'. According to the Long, Long Trail this was a Service battalion (ie created during the war) formed at Richmond in September 1914 as part of Kitchener's New Army. It landed at Boulogne on 14 July 1915 and was attached to the 50th Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division. So by the time he arrived in France Alfred would have been aware of his brother Frank's death. Alfred was killed after he had been overseas for over two years. I have checked his battalion war diary on Ancestry and no deaths are reported for 9 August 1917. The battalion were working as carrying parties during the day and on wiring at night. There is only one other man from the Yorkshire Regiment buried in the same cemetery as Alfred, and he was in a different battalion and was killed two days later. This suggests that Alfred was not killed during an attack or raid which would have involved other men of his battalion, rather his was an isolated death, maybe from a sniper bullet or a stray shell. I have not found any newspaper cuttings referring to Alfred's death.

Walter Cox, service number 13107, was in the 7th (Service) battalion of the York and Lancaster Regiment according to the CWGC, the SDGW and his 'Effects' record. His Service Records have also survived and are on both Ancestry and Find My Past. The first few pages do complicate the mystery of the name Martha from the 'Effect's record. His mother is named as Margarett, but the writing makes 'mother' look like Martha. To make matters worse these are not the records of a man from Nottinghamshire, this Walter Cox gives his place of birth as Hoyland, which is in Barnsley. Even more oddly Bertha's address on South Street, Park, Sheffield has been entered against Martha's name after an address on Rotherham Road, Dinnington was crossed out. This Walter is five years older and married a lady called Harriett Bettney in Rotherham in 1905. Drat!

Mysteriouser and mysteriouser, a few pages into Walter's Service Records a second Attestation form appears which is marked Duplicate. Except it is not. This is for a man born in Beeston who is 26 years (nearly 27) of age and an Electro Plater from Sheffield!  Yes, this is the right Walter Cox. His age is correct. He even has a very nice 'Next of Kin' form completed in September 1919 by Bertha and witnessed the clergyman from the Sale Memorial Church on South Street. It confirms that his father is not around, that he only has one brother (as this form is being completed in 1919 and poor Bertha only has 17 year old Leonard left) and three sisters, including the married Alice whose surname looks like Mason. I now know he joined up on 3 September 1914, possibly the first of the brothers to enlist if the calculation of Alfred's gratuity payment is accurate. He appears to have been wounded several times, including a wound in his arm and shoulder that necessitated him being sent back to England to recover. This did at least mean that he got some leave in the October and November of 1917 - there is a tattered form stating this in his file. He returned to France in March 1918 and was killed in action in June. I even found a very faint image of a Soldier's Will leaving all his "property and effects to my mother Mrs B Cox 209 Duke Street, Park, Sheffield".

I wonder who the other Walter was? 
Ah, b.1882 in Hoyland, son of Henry Cox (b.Barnsley) and Martha (nee Jones, b.Monmouthshire) with brother William and sister Eliza all living in Rotherham in 1891. So no relation. He survived the war and living in Rotherham with wife Harriet in 1939 (information from the 1939 register which can be found on both Ancestry and Find My Past). Even his birthdate matches that scribbled on the side of his Attestation form. A bit worrying for his descendants if they ever see this form in his Service Records crossed through with a big pencil label, 'Killed in Action'.

The final item I found referring to the three brothers was another 'In Memoriam' notice, this time from 2 June 1919 in the Sheffield Evening Telegraph.
COX - In loving memory of the late Privates Walter, Frank and Alf Cox, Y. and L. Regiment, late of South Street, Park. Killed in action.
Some may think that we forget them, When they sometimes see us smile, But they little know the sorrow, That the smile hides all the while. - From their loving Mother; Sisters, Brother, Brother-in-law, and Walter's Sweetheart, Amelia.
I was able to find Alice, the eldest sister's, marriage on FreeBMD. She marries John Mannion (I suppose it has some letters in common with Mason) in Q2 1910 in Sheffield. I think I have also found the couple in the 1939 Register living at 26a Harborough Avenue in Sheffield, although the husband's name is given as Thomas Mannion and he is five years younger than Alice's declared age - if it is Alice Cox she has knocked a year off her age. Family custom it seems!  I cannot find any children to this marriage on FreeBMD.

I have tried my usual websites and can't find out what happened to Bertha, Lottie, Minnie, Elsie and Leonard Cox. Research online after 1911 is not as easy as during the census years, but I would have expected to find a marriage or a death for some of them in Sheffield.

As I appear to have ground to a halt with this story I will close it now ... My next plan is to contact the webmaster of the Sheffield Soldier site and let them know what I have found out about the Cox brothers. 

Thanks for reading - If I find out any more about this family I will link it here.