"Deeside Advertiser 22nd December 1922"

“An Imperishable Record” is the title of a feature which appeared in The Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser of 22nd December 1922, describing the dedication of the Grange Hill War Memorial in West Kirby, Wirral, England.

The title picture is of the soldier on the War Memorial. It was taken on the gloomy morning of 11th November 2012 just before the annual Service of Remembrance. A similar image lies permanently lodged in my memory and helps to form my perceptions of history and politics, war and peace. My Dad showed me the soldier one dreary mid-winter’s afternoon when we were spending the day with his mother, my Grandma. Mrs Gladys Roberts of Greenbank Road, West Kirby. I remember the sense of timeless melancholy as the wind sighed around the sculptures and we contemplated the soldier’s improbably titanic physique, the accompanying lists of names and the pious epitaphs. I felt a little overwhelmed as my otherwise laconic Dad expressed anger at the loss of all those precious local lives and enunciated the commonly held belief that these poor men and women had died for nothing.

Grange Hill Memorial Easter 2010
Grange Hill Memorial Easter 2010

A year or two later I was taken up Grange Hill by my maternal grandmother, Mrs Annie Hadwin of Broughton Avenue, West Kirby. It was a typical late August day for those years – warm, humid and dowsed by intermittent thunderstorms. The paths leading up to the memorial had become occasional rivulets, bordered by tiny lateral moraines of fallen gorse needles. My Gran seemed more jolly and carefree than my Dad had been, even while she pointed out the name of her beloved husband who died in 1944. Perhaps she was holding her grief at bay, determined not to spoil a precious day with her grandson. She pointed at a cluster of Great War names and told me that they were my uncles. I did not really understand how they could have been and failed to take them in.

Within the last few years, partly motivated by a desire to discover who those “uncles” were, I have returned to the Memorial many times and begun to research the life-stories of all the people recorded thereon who died during the Great War. The three men my Gran was pointing at were George, Thomas and William Holmes, close relations of her mother, Louisa Holmes (1886-1960) of Hoylake:

Louisa Holmes 1886-1960
Louisa Holmes 1886-1960
Holmes Soldiers Grange Hill War Memorial
Holmes Soldiers Grange Hill War Memorial

In fact, only Thomas was an uncle of mine. He was Louisa’s elder brother who died aged 38 in Belgium in 1915. In 2010 I visited his grave in Wulvergem Churchyard near Ypres:

Me at the Grave of my Great Great Uncle Thomas Holmes
Me at the Grave of my Great Great Uncle Thomas Holmes

The other two Holmes men were Louisa’s cousins. George died during the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 and William on the Somme in 1916. Further researches have revealed my connections to many more men recorded on the memorial. But this is not about me. It is about the people who are recorded on the memorial and everybody from the surrounding area who died but whose names were not inscribed upon it.

“An Imperishable Record” is a grandiloquent phrase, typical of the time – an attempt to soften the unbearable and incomprehensible loss of nearly 400 local men and women during the Great War of 1914-1918. Presumably the monument itself was thought to be imperishable. Sadly, we know better: even concrete and granite are mutable and impermanent and inscriptions vulnerable to frost, wind and rain. Indeed, in the brief time since the monument’s dedication, most of the people whose names it bears have been forgotten by its neighbours, even though, as a body, they are faithfully honoured every Remembrance Sunday and by casual visitors on a daily basis.

Grange Hill 11th November 2012
Grange Hill 11th November 2012

With your help, I now aim to make the original wish for an “Imperishable Record” to come true. In reality, nothing is imperishable, especially not the internet, but it is at least a means of publishing the biographies of our fallen ancestors and of enabling all interested parties – whether they be descendants, family members or fellow researchers – to assist in the project of turning the names on the panels into real people once again.

Please contribute information, ask questions and make observations at the end of each post and page on this site. By that means, we will be creating a dialogue and thereby getting as near as we possibly can to bringing our fallen ancestors to life. We will not be stopping there, because we will also be re-creating the world in which they lived. None of the casualties were islands – they were all parts of families, neighbourhoods, churches, chapels, clubs, societies and communities. Arguably, In many ways, the people they left at home suffered as much as if not more than did the deceased. This site will start to explore the experiences  of as many people as possible, both civilian and military, in order to achieve a more rounded understanding of the effects of the Great War on local society.

As I write (on 18th November 2013), I have written biographies for about 80 of our local Great War dead. I will post each of these separately as quickly as I can. There is a Page called Names. This contains the names of all the people recorded on the Grange Hill Memorial as well as those who were not inscribed thereon but were recorded in The Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser of 22nd December 1922 and in other sources which are explained on that page. As biographies are written, they will be added to the site as Posts and hyperlinked to the lists on the Names Page. So, if a name is highlighted on the Names page, you can click it and you will be taken straight to his or her biographical Post.

Guard of Honour at the Memorial Dedication
Guard of Honour at the Memorial Dedication

19 thoughts on “About

  1. Personally, from being a small child on hearing about my Uncle Ernest who joined up aged just 16 years old and remained at the forefront of battle at Ypres for three years; by then a Sergeant at just 19 years old. He was wounded in action at later died there in Belgium of his wounds. His death has resounded and will continue to resound with bitter sorrow in our family; as unlike natural death I do not believe anyone ever truly acquiesces loss of life to War. The young men of the Great War gave up their lives in the innocent believe it was the War that would stop all Wars… how mislead those dear souls were.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. That is partly why I am anxious to write all the biographies of our local victims so that we remember them as real people. Is your Uncle Ernest on the War Memorial?

    1. Thanks Jack. Sorry for the late reply. I’ve been having email problems. Can you tell us a bit more about him?

  2. All three of the Holmes men listed are relatives of mine. George & Thomas were 1st cousins 2x removed, While William was my grand uncle. I noted that the Deeside Advertiser reported that two other brothers were apparently suffered in a gas attack. I would like to try and track down the Advertiser to see if I can glean any further information regarding the gas attack on 2 other Holmes family members

    1. I’ll have a look as well: I have photographed most of the “Deeside Advertiser” and “Birkenhead News” for the war years. What relation are we to each other? Louisa Holmes was my great grandmother.

  3. You maybe right. I have a William Ernest Roberts DOB 1910, married Kathleen Wynona Holmes (DOB 1915) my Aunt. Wiiliam’s parents were Joseph and Hannah Roberts.

    Kind regards

  4. Hi
    I was directed to your site as I have been researching my grandfather and his family who lived in Hoylake when war was declared in 1914. Three of the brothers, Walter John RIGBY, Alfred George RIGBY and Cecil Arthur RIGBY, (my grandfather) all joined the forces Walter the Royal Navy and Alfred and Cecil the Army, ( both joined the Kings Liverpool Regiment on or around the 14th of August 1914). Walter and Alfred both died but Cecil survived and I see that Alfred and Walter are named on the memorial and as I have recently finished researching their military history for my mother I wonder whether you would be interested in this information?
    If I can help let me know and I can forward the info to you.
    Kind regards

    Mike Selcon

  5. Thank you for an excellent resource, I particularly enjoyed the biography of my great uncle Ernest Shone. Truly superb work.

  6. Thank you for creating such an impressive website, the amount of research and time the contributors have put in to this project is amazing. We at Calday Grammar are indebted to your research in to our students.

    I am a History Teacher at Calday Grange Grammar School and me and my team of year 8 helpers are creating an activity to commemorate the Calday students who lost their lives during the Great War. I am writing to seek your permission to use some of your research in our activity, especially the photographs, as you can imagine we have a number of photographs of the ‘boys’ in their school days but very little when they are older.

    1. Hello Lowri. How nice to hear from you. I am a (semi-retired) history teacher too, so I am very interested in your project, the like of which I have done in my previous school in Kendal. It is a wonderful thing to do. Of course you may use material on this site and anything else we might have which has not yet been published. Send me an email at northwesthistory58@gmail.com and we can have a chat about how I might help you further because I have a lot of artefacts and uniforms which might be of interest to your boys. Cheers, Stephen

  7. Hello Stephen, very nice to hear from you again. I’d like to see you again soon.

  8. I am building up profiles of those whose lives are remembered on the Grange Memorial and on the memorial in St. John’s Churchyard, Frankby. Any help, information or direction would be appreciated.

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