Thursday, 31 August 2017

Battle of Poelcapelle, 9 October 1917

For the last month I have been attempting to Tweet links to the Imperial War Museum's website, the Lives of the First World War along with appropriate photos of the men or of memorials where they are Remembered, for each of the 221 Barnsley men who lost their lives in the Battles of Third Ypres. I am hoping to Tweet most of the names on the 100th anniversary of the day the individual man fell. Although the whole campaign is now often called Passchendaele that name actually specifically refers to two battles towards the end of the period covered. For more information I suggest you go to the Long, Long Trail website's very comprehensive page on the Battles.
Community Page on Lives of The First World War

I have created a Community on Lives to gather together all these men's stories. As a past volunteer for the Barnsley War Memorials Project I have access to their constantly updated master spreadsheet, which will be the basis for the forthcoming WW1 Roll of Honour. This provided me with the names, regiments and service numbers of the 221 men who fell or were assumed to have fallen between 31 July 1917 and 10 November 1917. 

The Barnsley War Memorials Project are also very fortunate to have been given privileged access to the Barnsley Chronicle from August 1914 to the end of 1918 as part of their mini-project to index all mentions of soldiers in the newspapers. This project has now been completed thanks to the efforts of over a dozen volunteers from all over South Yorkshire. The resulting index is available at Barnsley Archives, in both paper format and as a series of searchable spreadsheets. Permission was also given for photos of the men from the Barnsley Chronicle and the other local newspapers with Barnsley coverage to be used in the Roll of Honour project and on Lives of the First World War. Transcripts of some obituaries and death notices can also be found on Lives, but if you want the images of those for your ancestors you will need to visit Barnsley Archives yourself (please do, they need our support to keep operating the hours they are currently open) and search the index for the reference before printing out your own image from the digital copies of the Barnsley Chronicle. Only 55p an A4 sheet last time I visited, a bargain!  

The Barnsley Independent and South Yorkshire Times are also available, on microfilm and un-indexed I'm afraid, but if you know the date of death of your WW1 ancestor it is relatively easy to go to the right part of the newspapers to do a search. If you check the Chronicle index first you may get an idea of when news of your ancestor's death reached Barnsley. It could sometimes takes months for the families to be informed that a man was now officially presumed dead, rather than missing. Copies of articles from these newspapers can also be printed out.

Map of the Battle of Poelcapelle (from the FFFAIF blog)
The Battle of Poelcapelle

I has shocked to find that out of the 221 Barnsley connected men who fell during the Battles of Third Ypres 46 of them were lost on one day, 9 October 1917.  This was the Battle of Poelcapelle. You can find a detailed description on Wikipedia. It was the classic attack through heavy mud, with too little artillery support to create an effective creeping barrage which in any case soon became too fast for the advancing soldiers to keep up with.

The majority of Barnsley's soldiers in this Battle were from the 1st/4th, 1st/5th and 6th Battalions of the York and Lancaster Regiment, who were in the 49th (West Riding) Division, II Anzac Corps and the 11th (Northern) Division, XVIII Corps. In the map above you can see these two Corps are in the centre of the advance. Ten of the fallen were in the 1st/5th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment who were also in the 49th (West Riding) Division.
Tyne Cot Memorial from the CWGC

All but three of the 46 of the Barnsley men lost on 9 October 1917 are remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. This means that they have no known grave. Two of the exceptions, who were each buried in cemeteries behind the British lines, are noted as having died of wounds, suggesting they had been injured prior to the 9th and did not take part in this particular battle. The remains of the third man, John Costello, were found after the war, identified by his disc, and reburied in Cement House Cemetery near Langemarck along with a number of unidentified men found nearby.

The OH and I visited Tyne Cot in 2009. The long memorial wall sweeps around the top of the site and commemorates nearly 35,000 men who fell in the Ypres salient after 17 August 1917. Men who fell prior to this date are remembered on the Menin Gate.

I hope I will at least be able to add some family detail, plus photos and transcriptions from the Barnsley Chronicle where available, to each of these 46 men before the centenary of their deaths in October. However it is unlikely that I will be able to Tweet them all individually on the day as I would have wished, there are just too many. But I will share my list and with the information on that anyone can look up their stories on Lives of the First World War and their commemorative information on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website.
The IWM website - Lives of the First World War
Did your WW1 ancestor serve in any of the Battalions I have mentioned? Why not look them up on Lives of the First World War and add your family stories and photos to the site. It is absolutely free to use to add this kind of thing, the paywall only comes into play if you want to search the records they have made available, and if you have a subscription to Ancestry or Find My Past you probably have access to these already or you could access them for free in Barnsley (Ancestry) and Sheffield (Find My Past) libraries. It is not just men who were killed who are Remembered on Lives, anyone who was affected by the war may already be included. If your soldier, sailor, airman, nurse, munitions worker or civilian casualty or other WW1 ancestor is not yet named on the site you can ask for them to be added by submitting a request to the Support Forum.

Lest We Forget.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

When your Name is Not your Name?

This morning  I read, with interest, a Guardian item on the difficulties one lady was having with her bank over her use of both maiden and married names.
The Guardian 28 August 2017
My case is slightly different, however my names have caused me some difficulties over the years, and more particularly in the last few weeks.

I am commonly known by my middle name, and have been all my life. Why my parents chose to register my name (and have me baptised) as A. L. and then called me L. is a mystery, my 79 year old mum cannot remember any particular reason for their decision. The only places where I am accustomed to being addressed as A. are hospitals and the Student Loans Company (with whom I have an even more complex name problem at the moment). Even my GP calls me L. by the simple expedient of underlining that name on my notes or more recently by entering my preferred name in a field for that purpose on their computer system.

A few years ago I started to give talks to small church and community groups on local and family history. I used L. (surname) on my leaflets and my blog advertising my talks. I was frequently paid by cheque, and often these cheques had been made out in advance because of difficulties within the group in getting multiple signatories together. This meant that it was difficult to ask for a cheque to be rewritten if it was directed to me as L. (surname) rather than A. (surname). Sadly, due to my progressively worsening health, I can no longer give the talks as I cannot guarantee being well enough on a particular day to fulfill my commitments. I do miss the social interaction and the stimulus of having to prepare new material.

Santander refused to accept cheques written to me as L. (surname) a few years ago, despite my joint bank account with my husband being in my full name and my driving licence, with photo id also displaying my full name. I now pay cheques in my middle name into my individual Post Office account, set up (after some struggle) when I left work due to my ill health and needed an accessible bank near our home. Because the Post Office staff in the little suburb where we live recognise me and accept my explanation for the occasional cheque directed to L. (surname) I have had no problems with these cheques being returned.

I now ask my mum to write cheques to us in my husband's name rather than mine (she has an old fashioned conviction that a man should always appear to pay in restaurants even though it is her intention to remburse us as soon as she gets home) in order to avoid difficulties with Santander. She always calls me L. and writing a cheque to me as A. seems a bit odd and unnecessary to her. I even request that any Christmas gift cheques are addressed to him to avoid the possibility of them being returned. It does make me feel very much like an adjunct to my husband. Which is ironic considering the situation with my surname.

My difficulties with the Student Loans Company revolve around my surname rather than my forenames. I confess that I just let them call me A. It is easier.

In 1985 I married for the first time, in 1992 I divorced and changed my name to my mother's maiden name, carefully chosen to have meaning to me, but to be different to both my maiden and married names. In 2004 I remarried but kept my own name with my second husband's full agreement. One of my reasons for this was that my professional qualification was in my chosen name, and my subsequent Open University study and qualifications were all in that name.

I did have a passport for a period while I was working and could afford to go on holidays abroad, which was obtained in 2002 in my chosen name. I do not remember having any difficulty getting that. I had old passports in my maiden and married names which presumably served to confirm my identity. Unfortunately for me this passport has long expired. Apparently the reason I was able to get Student Finance for my PGCE in 2011 without any difficulty (I was trying to retrain as an IT teacher to the elderly, a job that might have allowed me to continue working part-time) was because my passport was then still in date,

This year's application for Student Finance to do a Distance Learning MA in the History of Britain and the First World War with the University of Wolverhampton, has been rejected because I no longer have a valid passport. I have provided my birth certificate and my statutory declaration (my name change document from 1992), but now they want my marriage certificate from 1985 as well. They do not care a fig that I am married to an entirely different man now as I did not take his name. A suitably qualified friend has filled out the necessary form to confirm I am who my birth certificate says I am, but this is apparently not enough.

I was told, during a long phone call (whilst being addressed as A.), that they need me to prove the link between my birth name and my first married name. This, despite me having the same account with them as I had when I first applied for Student Finance during my Radiography training (1990-1993) under my first married name, and having shown both my birth certificate and marriage certificate to the admin staff at the then North Trent School of Radiography (which, ironically changed its name twice whilst I was there, firstly to the Sheffield City Polytechnic and then to the Sheffield Hallam University!) From the dates I give you can deduce that I divorced and chose my current name whilst undertaking that study, and having informed all the necessary authorities my final certificate was issued in my chosen name. The same one I now have and retained on my second marriage to avoid difficulties!

The Student Finance people can apparently see that I had a passport in 2011, that I was called by a different name when I first registered with them in 1990, and that I have now produced my birth certificate to them on at least three separate occasions. I have also supported both my children's applications to them for their respective university study, using the same account reference. This will have involved providing them with financial information and details of my employment.

I have sent away for a copy of my 1985 marriage certificate, which has cost me £9.25. It will not arrive in the post for another week. Then I have to send it to the Student Finance people and wait goodness knows how long for them to cogitate on it.

Names. Do we own them? Even if we choose them ourselves in order to demonstrate a break with the past they still come with all the baggage of our previous history. Why is a passport so superior a document for proving who you are? I have had my photo id driving licence for many years and that is accepted as final by most institutions. But not the Student Finance people of course.

I don't write blog posts very often these days, but this situation has me very annoyed. This post will serve as a record of the situation that I can look back on in years to come and laugh. Well, I can always hope.

Thank you for reading, I welcome comments, but I do moderate them to avoid spam so they might take a day or so to appear.