Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Heroes and heroines of Salford

Every family has its villains and heroes. In my last post I looked at one of the apparent villains. Now seems an appropriate time to look at some of the more heroic members of the family, those who served in the 1914-18 war.

I've written previously about members of my father's side of the family who fought in the 'War to end all wars', including my grandfather Thomas H Ward, his brother-in-law William J Beales and the Whybrew brothers. Here are a few stories from my mother's side.

Ernest Reed Bentley (1878-1940)

Ernest was my grandmother's uncle, the youngest son of Alfred Pearson Bentley and Annie Reed. He was born in January 1878, shortly before Alfred disappeared to Boston. In 1902 he left his job as a labourer and joined the Royal Navy as a second class stoker.

His early years in the navy were not exactly glorious. In 1903 he deserted his first ship, the Duke of Wellington II, and after being 'recovered' he was given hard labour. His record shows numerous stints spent in the cells for disobedience, and his character was described as 'fair' or 'indifferent'. However by about 1910 he seems to have settled and was described as being of "very good character".

He remained in the navy when war broke out in 1914, serving on the Victory II, and his subsequent story is told in the National Roll of the Great War:
"(A)t the outbreak of war in August 1914 (he) was sent to Belgium with the Royal Naval Division, and was taken prisoner at Antwerp. During his captivity he suffered many hardships. After a short time in Doeberitz Camp he was forced to repair trenches on the German front in Russia, where he was often under heavy fire, worked at the docks at Libau on the Baltic Coast, and also down the coal mines in Saxony. He was repatriated and discharged in March 1919, and holds the 1914 Star, and the General Service and Victory Medals."
After the war he joined the RFR (Royal Fleet Reserve). He was discharged in 1921 to 34, Brunt Street, Rusholme, Manchester, the address of his sister, Margaret Bentley.

(For some reason his date of birth is recorded on his service papers as 1882, although his stated age of 22 when he joined makes a clerical error seem likely.)

John Henry Bentley (1892-1915)

John, my grandmother's cousin, was the grandson of Alfred Pearson Bentley and Margaret Bentley's only child. Born in 1892, he was 22 and still single when he enlisted in 1914 as a driver in the Royal Engineers Corp. 

Sadly his career in the army was brief. In 1915 he became unwell with TB and was allowed to go home. In February 1915 he died.

It seems the army wanted some evidence that he hadn't simply deserted. In a letter to his army officers, his grieving mother Margaret wrote:
Dear Sirs
In reply to your request, my son 52301 Driver, J. H. Bentley was buried in consecrated part Southern Cemetery, grave number 666 Q section, Manchester. He was buried on 23 February 1915.
I remain yours,
Mrs M. A Bentley.
34 Brunt St, Rusholme.
George Orton (1898-1916)

HMS Powerful
George, my grandfather's cousin, was the son of John Sidney and Julia (Annie) Orton. He joined the navy in 1914, when he was barely 16, in the rank of Boy Ist Class and served initially on HMS Powerful and then on the Defiance. On  31 May 1916 he was killed in action during the battle of Jutland. His body was never recovered.

Sidney Thomas Orton (1890-1916)

The main street of Longueval in 1916
Sidney was George Orton's older brother, born 1 Nov 1890. He married Edith Hulwe in 1912 and they had a child. In 1914 he joined the Rifle Brigade and then became a private in the Machine Gun Corp and was sent to France. On 18 August 1916, just a few months after his brother George's death, he too was killed in action. He was buried at Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval in France.

James Thomas Hough (1890 - 1937 ) and John Hough (1892 - )
The battle at Vimy Ridge

These brothers, my grandmother's maternal uncles, both enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers. My grandmother had a rosary, made of ivory or bone, which I believe one of them had brought back from their time in France. In the centre of the cross was a small lens, through which could be seen, as if by magic, scenes from some of the battles. 

Their military careers are described in the following entries in the National Roll of The Great War:

"HOUGH, J. T.. Private, Lancashire Fusiliers.
He joined in February 1916, and was shortly afterwards drafted to France, where fought at Vimy Ridge, the Somme, Arras, Ypres and Cambrai, He also took part the Retreat and Advance of 1918, and after the Armistice proceeded to Germany with the Army of Occupation, with which he served until invalided home owing to illness. He was eventually discharged in July 1919, holding the General Service and Victory Medals.
18, Shuttleworth Street, Pendleton."
(James and John's sisters Lily and Alice Hough both lived at 18 Shuttleworth Street, Pendleton when they married in the early 1920's.)
"HOUGH, J., Corpl., 8th Lancashire Fusiliers.
Volunteering in August 1914, in the following month he was sent to Egypt, and served there until drafted to the Dardanelles, where he took part in numerous engagements until the evacuation, and was wounded. He then returned to Egypt, and in March 1917 proceeded to France, where he fought on the Ancre at Ypres, and in the Retreat.

After the Armistice he was sent to Ireland and Served there until, owing to ill-health, he was invalided home and discharged in November 1920, holding the 1914-15 Star, and the General Service and Victory Medals.
18, Shuttleworth Street, Pendleton."
What is interesting is that directly above these two entries is this one:
"HOUGH, C. J. (Mrs.), Worker, Q.M.A.A.C. (Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps)
Having joined in March 1918, she was sent to France, where she did excellent work as waitress in the Officers' mess at Abbeville, and was wounded during an air raid on that place. She remained in this area until June 1919, when she returned home and was demobilised, holding the General Service and Victory Medals.
18, Shuttleworth Street, Pendleton."
Members of the QMAAC in Rouen, France, 1918
The address is the same, but I haven't been able to trace any woman with the initials C. J. in our family. James' wife's name was Elizabeth, so perhaps C J  was John's wife. Or perhaps she was the wife of a C. J. Hough, but again there is no-one known in the family with those initials. 

These are just a few of the family members who served in World War 1. If you would  like to see others included, or have more information about those I've described, please email me, or leave a comment.