Jack Aitken gets very brief mentions in the Deeside Advertiser and Liverpool Echo. He does not appear on the Grange Hill Memorial, but is on the Deeside Advertiser’s 1922 list and on West Kirby’s parish memorial. He was born in Scotland, the son of John Aitken (a shepherd born in about 1841 in Monimall, Fifeshire) and Martha Black (also born in about 1841 in Temple, Edinburgh), who had married in Borthwick on 1st July 1864. Jack was the fourth child; he had three brothers – Andrew, James and Archibald and one sister – Mary, who were all born in Humbie.
Jack’s association with West Kirby appears to have come via his wife – Margaret Larkin who was born in Bromborough in about 1877, the daughter of a farming couple – John and Anne Larkin, from Edenderry in County Offaly, Ireland, who had lived in Rock Ferry, Bromborough and Eastham. Jack and Margaret married in the March quarter of 1899 in Wirral and by 1901 were both employed at Hooton Park Club in Hooton Hall as domestic servants. By 1911, Margaret’s mother, Mary was widowed and living at Manor Farm in West Kirby Old Village with three of her children. Jack and Margaret do not appear on the 1911 census. Perhaps they were in Canada by this stage.
Jack joined the Canadian Army in Calgary on 30th December 1914. His attestation papers record his birth date as 16th October 1880. He was lying about his age, probably in order to ensure that he got in, claiming to be 34, instead of 38. Interestingly, he reported that his next of kin was Mrs Aitken who was living in West Kirby. Perhaps, upon the declaration of war in August 1914, Jack had begun arranging Margaret’s return to Manor Farm to be with her mother and this is the reason why his enlistment occurred over four months later. However, The Deeside Advertiser implies that Jack had been working on his mother-in-law’s farm not long before the war. An alternative story, therefore, is that Jack had only recently emigrated to Canada, leaving his wife in West Kirby until he got settled and was able to pay for her passage. Just to complicate things even further, Jack told his attesting officer that he was not in the militia, but had done two months’ drilling with the Army Service Corps. It is not clear when this had occurred. He is described as being 5’ 7” tall and possessing a 39” chest with a 3” expansion. He had a fair and ruddy complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair.
Sadly, we currently know nothing about his four year service in the army, because he is never again mentioned until his death in the Arras area only two months before the end of the war. The Liverpool Echo of 20th September 1918 carries the notice of his death, finishing with the words “Deeply mourned by all.”
Birth: c.16th October 1876 in Upper Neith in the parish of Humbie, Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland
Death: 3rd September 1918, killed in action aged 42
Addresses: Upper Neith Cottage (81-91), Hooton Hall (01), Calgary, Alberta, Canada (?), Manor Farm, 11 Village Road, West Kirby (?)
Occupation: Stableman (01), Locomotive Engineer (14) and Farm Worker (?)
Unit: 10th Canadian Infantry
Number and Rank: 434171 Private
Commemorated and Buried: WK, France: Beaurains Road Cemetery, Beaurains B.33
Sources: BR, CWGC, DA, LE, GB, SR, Census: 01
HEW GRAHAM ANDERSON
Hew is first recorded in the 1891 and 1901 censuses as living at 69 Shrewsbury Road, Oxton. He was the fifth of the six children of George Rae (born in Lorton, Cumberland c.1849) and Lizzie F. Anderson (born in Scotland c. 1856). George was an Iron and Steel Merchant and the family were clearly well off as they employed a nurse, a housemaid and a cook. Hew later went to Birkenhead and Shrewsbury – two well known public schools. He became head of his house at Shrewsbury and was “a noted athlete” who held the Challenge Cup for two consecutive years.
Upon leaving school, he went to Sandhurst Military Academy to train to be an officer. He served for three years with the Shropshire Light Infantry and then left to begin “a commercial career” with Messrs. Balfour Williamson and Co. (a shipping firm based in Liverpool, founded in 1851 by two Scotsmen). Later, he joined their offices in Seattle, USA and Vancouver, Canada.
When war was declared, Hew immediately joined the 7th British Columbian Infantry Regiment as an officer. He was severely wounded at Ypres in April 1915, but made a full recovery and re-joined his unit.
He married the 22 year-old Vera Florence Edwards at St. Saviour’s Church in Paddington, London on 22nd November 1917. At that time he was living at the Lauderdale Club in Lauderdale Mansions, Paddington. Eleven months later, on 19th October 1918, he was again seriously wounded whilst serving in France and died three days later. By that time, his parents were living at Westho on Barton Road in Hoylake, which is why he is commemorated locally.
Birth: 14th July 1887 in Oxton, Wirral
Death: 22nd October 1918, died of wounds aged 31
Address: Vancouver, Canada, The Lauderdale Club in Paddington, London and Westho, Barton Road, Hoylake.
Occupation: Army Officer and Merchant in a shipping company
Unit: 7th Canadian Infantry (British Columbia Regiment)
Number: and Rank Lieutenant
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, France: Le Treport, Mont Huon Military Cemetery 8.J.10
Sources BR, CWGC, SR, DA, Marriage, GB, Census: 91, 01
Sources: BR, CWGC, SR, DA, Marriage, GB, Census: 91, 01
WILLIAM JAMES ANDREWS
William was baptised on 16th January 1876 in St. Peter’s Church, Liverpool. His parents were James Bannister (a blacksmith and coach smith who lived 1842-1900) and Jane (born c.1851) Andrews. In 1891, they were living at 1 Boycott Street in Everton. William was employed as an office boy. In 1901 he was still living in Everton on St Domingo Grove and was surprisingly described as “living off his own means”; by 1911, he was living at 2 Murray Grove in West Kirby – a typical two up and two down terraced house of the period, with his wife Alice Margaret Beatrice (née Meyer, born 1876 in Great Meols), his widowed mother and his four children. The family had clearly once lived in Nottingham because two of the children were born there in 1905 and 1907. William and Alice had been married for nine years. At that time, William was employed as a cook in a café. By the time of his death, the family were living at 16 Alexandra Road in West Kirby and William was employed by Messrs. Thompson Bros. of West Kirby as a carter and he had six children.
He is a fine example of a local working class patriot – he was one of the first to enlist and joined up at the relatively advanced age of 38. The Birkenhead News enthused about the example he had set: “His patriotic ardour, which induced him to offer to serve in spite of the fact that he had a wife and fairly large family of young children at home, did much to arouse younger men than he to a sense of their responsibility. The wave of enthusiasm which resulted in so many West Kirby men joining up was in a large degree started by Mr Andrews. He had seen much heavy service since enlisting, and sincere regret is sure to be felt when it is made known that he has now passed away.” The Deeside Advertiser said that he was “highly respected in the district.” William had been working in a labour battalion and, as a result of having water on the knee, was being carried back to base when a shell exploded nearby, severely wounding his leg and slightly injuring his body. Sadly, he developed blood poisoning and died in hospital shortly afterwards. His widow later lived at 39 Birkett Road, West Kirby. She died in 1960.
William’s children Alice and William James along with his wife Alice and mother Jane are all buried in St. Bridget’s Churchyard in West Kirby in plot number 1353.
Birth: 14th January 1876 in Everton, Liverpool
Death: 26th September 1918, died of wounds, aged 42
Addresses: 37 Celt Street, West Derby (81) 1 Boycott Street, Everton (91) St Domingo Grove, Everton (01) 2, Murray Grove, (11) and 16 Alexandra Road , West Kirby (18),
Occupations: Office Boy (91), Cook in a Cafe (11), Carter (14)
Unit: 9th Bn. Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 12500 Private
Medals: Victory, British and 1915 Star
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, France: Wimille near Boulogne: Terlincthun British Cemetery V.B.22
Sources: BR, CWGC, DA, MC, Bpt., FT, GB, Census: 91,11
ARTHUR TRYWERYN APSIMON
Arthur’s distinctly Welsh middle and last names came from his father, Thomas, who was born in about 1844 in Bala. In 1891 the family were living in Lower Willow House near Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire. Before that, they had lived in Liverpool and Southport. Arthur was the third of four sons. His mother, Hannah Elizabeth, was a British subject, who was born in the USA in about 1854. By 1901 the family was living at 5 Dunraven Road, West Kirby. All but one of the Apsimon boys (the 15 year-old Estyn, who was still at school) were employed by their father, who was a Commissioning Agent for a Manchester warehouse firm. Thomas Tryweryn was two years older than Arthur and, during the War, served as a captain with the Royal Army Medical Corps in Egypt.
Arthur originally enlisted into the London Irish Rifles but was later commissioned into the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He went to France in 1915 and distinguished himself as a brave and competent officer. He was severely wounded by an exploding shell on 2nd August 1917, whilst serving with the Welsh Division and having held some newly captured German trenches at Pilkelm Ridge near Ypres with a party of signallers and runners. He died two days later in a dressing station. A moving letter from a brother officer, Major Wynn P. Wheldon was quoted in the Birkenhead News of 18th August 1917: “He was the most lovable man who never spoke or thought unkindly of others, and of whom no one could speak or think without affection … His serene and quiet courage gave his men confidence. I will miss him more than any officer I have known. His quiet humour, gentle nature, and the sturdiness of his views were of much comfort to me.” In January 1918, The Deeside Advertiser reported that Arthur had been mentioned on a list issued by Sir Douglas Haig, who had praised him for his “distinguished and meritorious conduct and devotion to duty.” By the time of Arthur’s death, his parents were living in Wallasey, but he is not listed on Wallasey’s War Memorial.
Birth: June 1883 in Toxteth Park, Liverpool
Death: 4th August 1917, died of wounds aged 34
Addresses: 5 Dunraven Road, West Kirby (01), Derwen, Mostyn Avenue, West Kirby (11), Parkside House, 107 Liscard Road, Wallasey (17)
Occupations: Apprentice to father as a Commissioning Agent for a Manchester Warehouse firm (01)
Unit: 14th Bn. Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, Belgium: Ypres, Bard Cottage Cemetery IV. A. 10
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, BN, DN, GB, Census: 91, 01
GEORGE WILLIAM ASHBY
George was one of the many professional, middle class young men who was not born in, but closely associated with late Victorian Wirral. He was not, however, like so many others, taken there by parents heading for the commercial wonders of Liverpool, but as one of three children of a young widow in need of support from her brother. She was Ellen Zilpah (née Sanders, born c.1848) and he the Rev. Francis Sanders (born c.1847), who was vicar of Hoylake between 1891 and 1912. Ellen was the second wife of William Ashby (1829-1895), a Leicestershire farmer. She was also mother to Oliff Margery (born c.1885) and John Francis (born c.1886). The young George did well – no doubt inspired by his learned uncle and nurtured by the peace and, probably book-lined, comfort of Hoylake’s fifteen-roomed vicarage. He became head boy at Calday Grange Grammar School and won a place at Liverpool College aged 16. He was a good footballer and cricketer and passed the Oxford and Cambridge Higher Board Examinations with distinction. By 1911 he was living with his mother and sister in Surbiton and employed as a clerk in the Estate Duty Office.
George joined the Territorial Army in August 1910 as a second lieutenant in the 6th London Regiment. He became a lieutenant on 1st February 1913.Following the declaration of war, he volunteered for oversees service and went to France in March 1915. He was promoted to captain on 17th May 1915. George fought at Loos and was finally killed during the Battle of Festubert. He had been leading his company along a gap in the German barbed wire when he came up against a further entanglement near the enemy trench. He began cutting it, but was riddled with bullets from a machine gun. His company went on to capture the trench but suffered severe casualties. George’s effects were valued at £103 11s 6d and passed to his sister Olliff in March 1916. Unlike his brother, George is not commemorated at Grange Hill, but his death was reported by the “Deeside Advertiser” on 18th October 1915. His name appears on Calday Grammar School’s war memorial.
Birth: 15th September 1887 in Ratby, Leicestershire
Death: 25th September 1915, killed in action aged 28
Addresses: Sea View Hoylake (01), 21 King Charles Road, Surbiton (11), 9 Shalston Villas, Surbiton, Surrey (15)
Occupations: Officer in the Territorial Army and Civil Servant – Clerk in the Estate Duty Office (11) and War Office (14)
Units: 6th (City of London) Bn. (Rifles) The London Regiment
Commemorated and Buried: CG, Surbiton War Memorial, France: Grenay, Maroc British Cemetery, Special Memorial 89
Sources: DA, CWGC, SDGW, DR, Prob., Census: 91,01 and 11
JOHN FRANCIS ASHBY
Grainy though John Ashby’s photograph is, we see a dignified, erect, but perhaps not completely confident and apparently very serious and sensitive young man. He was brother to George and went with him to live with his uncle, Francis Sanders the vicar of Hoylake, sometime after the death of their father in 1895. In 1911 John was living with his uncle in the Vicarage, while George was living in Surbiton with their mother and sister. John must have been as intelligent and accomplished as George because he had become a solicitor in 1909 and was employed by Ashby and Clothier of Liverpool.
The following items are being posted on 14th December 2013 and give us further details about John Ashby. They speak for themselves:
John joined the 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment on 15th August 1914 as a second lieutenant. He became a lieutenant on 7th April 1915 and was attached to the 1st Battalion. He was wounded at Hill 60 near Ypres and was invalided home. On 25th August 1916,Tthe Deeside Advertiser reported that John had been discharged from the army due to ill-health and was “residing in the district”. Council minute books reveal that he was living at 8 Prussia Road, Hoylake and was an active local councillor. In 1918, he was a member of the Electricity Supply, Finance, Parks and Gardens and Works Improvement Committees. He was also employed as a secretary to the Forging and Casting Committee of the Ministry of Munitions between August 1916 and June 1918. Clearly, despite his injuries and ill-health, John was determined to play an active part in society and to help his country’s war effort. According to the Book of Remembrance, John died of “neurasthenia caused by shellshock”, but his death certificate states that he died from encephalitis. The fact that this occurred nearly two years after the end of the war, but that he is commemorated on three war memorials shows that his war service was the root cause of the his premature death. John’s longer residence in Hoylake and his service on the local council ensured that he was commemorated locally, unlike his brother George, who, probably due to his leaving the district before 1911, was only commemorated in Surbiton. John’s estate was worth £1,837 2s 10d and passed to his sister Oliff on 8th July 1920.
Birth: c.1886 in Ratby, Leicestershire
Death: 16th May 1920, died in Camberwell House, Peckham, Surrey, aged 34
Addresses: The Vicarage 11 Church Road, Hoylake (11), 8 Prussia Road, Hoylake (15), 9 Shalston Villas, Surbiton, Surrey (20)
Units: 1st and 3rd Bns. The Cheshire Regiment
Rank: Lieutenant (HUDC minutes called him “Captain” in 1918)
Commemorated and Buried: GH, H, CG, Surbiton War Memorial
Sources: BR, HUDC, DA, Prob. FT, Record of Service of Solicitors and Articled Clerks (Spottiswoode and Ballantyne, London, 1920), GB, Census: 91,01,11
FRANCIS WRIGHT ATHERTON
The remarkably intense life of Frank Atherton both began and ended in the Middle East. He was one of those vigorous young men who, due to the Great War and by the time of his premature death, had known no career but armed service. His is a an example of a life story which must have helped to generate the myth of the “lost generation”, as his family and friends must have broken-heartedly speculated upon what he might have later become and achieved if he had been able to enjoy an average life-span.
His parents were Francis Christopher Atherton (born 1868 in West Derby) and Annie Wright (born 1868), who married in West Derby on 9th August 1893. Francis Christopher was a cotton merchant. Both his and his wife’s fathers were described as gentlemen. Frank attended Kingsmead School in Hoylake.
Frank Wright Atherton joined the Liverpool Pals on 4th September 1914 in Liverpool, supposedly at the age of 19 years and 206 days. Service records reveal that he was 5’ 6¼” tall and that he had a brown complexion, brown hair and grey eyes; he weighed 130 pounds and had a 32” chest with a 4” expansion. He claimed to be a student, but it is clear that Frank was bending the truth: he was in fact a pupil at Sedbergh School, aged 17 – officially too young to serve. However, he had spent two and a quarter years in the Officer Training Corps. The latter fact, coupled with his natural abilities, helped him to rise rapidly through the ranks: he became a corporal on 19th September 1914 and was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery on 18th February 1915. On 6th November 1915 he went to France and served with “A” Battery, 148th Brigade, RFA.
At the end of September 1916, the London Gazette, Birkenhead News and West Kirby News reported his award of the Military Cross for “Conspicuous Gallantry” which involved “observing fire” solidly for 30 hours whilst under enemy shell-fire and “at intervals … moving to and fro repairing telephone cables. It was largely due to his pluck that communications were maintained.” He was described as being the “heart and soul of his battery”. Indeed according to the West Kirby News, one of his soldiers described him thus – “a champion and simply adored by his men. But mind you, he’s mighty keen, in love with his work and he likes us to be the same.”
Not long after this, Frank was wounded and invalided home. Following his recovery, he returned to France and served for a further eight months with the RFA. At his own request, he later transferred to the RAF. After three months of service he was shot down while fighting three enemy ‘planes in Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). He is commemorated in Basra. On 20 January 1919, Francis’s mother wrote to the War Office requesting her son’s 1914-15 Star. At that time she was residing at 14 Shrewsbury Road and later at Trentham Holme, 8 Westbourne Grove, West Kirby. On 3rd October 1919, Frank’s estate, worth £290 8s passed to his mother.
Birth: c.1897 in Alexandria, Egypt
Death: 15th May 1918, killed in action aged 21
Address: 13 Park Road, West Kirby (14)
Occupation: Student (14)
Units: 18th (Service) Bn. The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, Royal Field and Horse Artillery, RAF
Number and Rank: 17780 Private, Corporal, Lieutenant
Medals: 15 Star, British War, Victory and Military Cross
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK Iraq: Basra Memorial Panel 43 and 64
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, LG, SR, MC, Prob., DA, BN
GEORGE WALTER ATKINSON
We have even less information about Walter than we do his brother. Sadly, in common with Harold, he was reported missing presumed killed and his body was never identified. He is, therefore recorded along with nearly 35,000 other soldiers who suffered a similar fate, on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing near Passchendaele in the Ypres Salient.
Birth: 5th November 1895 in Upton
Death: 13th April 1918, killed in action aged 23
Address: Sea View, Greasby Road, Greasby (11)
Unit: 11th Bn. Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 24508 Private
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War Medals
Commemorated and Buried: GH, F, U, Belgium: Tyne Cot Panel 61 to 63.
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, FT, http://www.greasby.btck.co.uk Census: 01, 11
WILLIAM HAROLD ATKINSON
The two Atkinsons on the Grange Hill memorial were brothers. Both of them are given their middle names thereon, but in most of the official records their first names take precedence. They were sons of George (born c.1867 in either Greasby or New Ferry) and Edith (née Goodwin, born c.1871 in Greasby, who married in Tranmere in 1891). The Atkinsons had originated in Whitehaven, Cumberland and come to Greasby via Liverpool, Tranmere and Upton. George was a self-employed “plasterer”. We would probably call him a “general builder”. The seven-roomed house in which the family was residing in 1911 was called Sea View and is currently number 274 Greasby Road – not a location which now enjoys maritime vistas. It reminds us of the enormous amount of urban development which occurred in 20th century north Wirral and of how it transformed Greasby from being a distinct rural village to a sprawling Merseyside suburb.
Sadly, we know very little about Harold, but he must have emigrated to Canada between 1911 and 1914. On 19th September 1914 he joined the Western Ontario Regiment. His records reveal that he was 5’8” tall, of fair complexion with grey eyes and light brown hair; he had a 36½” chest with a 2½” expansion. He sported a scar on the left side of his jaw and a mole on his left shoulder. He reported that he had done two years’ service as a territorial soldier, but it is not clear whether this was in Canada or in England. Harold served in the Arras area and was reported missing presumed killed. His body was never recovered or identified, hence his name appearing as one of the 11,169 soldiers recorded on the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge.
Birth: 14th October 1892 in Upton
Death: 15th June 1915, reported missing presumed killed, aged 23
Address: Sea View, Greasby Road, Greasby (11)
Unit: 1st Bn. (Western Ontario Regiment) Canadian Infantry
Number and Rank: 6292 Private
Commemorated and Buried: GH, F, U, France: Vimy Memorial
Sources: BR, CWGC, SR, http://www.greasby.btck.co.uk Census: 01, 11