Ernest Hill, George Sydney Thomas, Walter Hall and Arthur Michael O’Neill

The following biographies are the work of Victoria Doran.

Ernest Hill

Ernest Hill

Ernest, born in 1897, was the eldest child and only son of the 3 children of Edmund Hill by his 3rd wife Kate Garner Booth. His father was born in Belfast moving to Liverpool as an small child, becoming a boilermaker like his father and subsequently becoming a fishmonger, owning 2 fishmonger shops in West Kirby. Edmund is an impressive example of how it was possible for a poor Irish immigrant to Liverpool in the 19th century to improve his lot.

Edmund Hill (1854 – 1932) first married Jane O’Neill (1856 – 1881) in Liverpool in 1875. Jane was the daughter of Felix O’Neill (1817 – 1864) born in Dundalk, Ireland and Bridget Smith (1819 – 1895) from Liverpool. She was one of a large, very poor Roman Catholic family. Her father Felix was tragically killed in a warehouse accident in 1864. Two years after his death, her mother Bridget married Michael Finnin (a shopkeeper) who died a few years later. After his death Bridget successfully carried on his poultry and fish business, which some years later was taken on by Edmund Hill. The establishment date of the business in 1862 in the following advertisement from 1892 must have been for the business of Michael Finnin.

1892 Advertisement

Ernest was brought up with half siblings Edmund and Jane from his father’s first marriage as members of the household.

To complicate matters, Edmund Hill’s second wife Bridget Emma Chambers (1845 – 1894) was a widow whose first husband, John O’Neill, was brother to Jane O’Neill. Edmund’s step daughter (and niece by marriage) Emmie B O’Neill, a daughter of that marriage, was also a member of the household during Ernest’s childhood. Edmund and Bridget Emma married in 1887 in Liverpool but had no children.

Kate Garner Booth (1859 – 1931) was also a widow when she married Edmund Hill at St Bridget, West Kirby in 1896. She brought to the household her two surviving children (Henry Alfred Thomas and George Sydney Thomas), her first husband having been John Thomas. Kate was born in West Kirby, her parents being Henry Booth (1830 – 1904) of West Kirby, a shoemaker who later ran the White Horse on Grange Hill, and Ann Garner (1836 – 1901) of Irby.

It is not known what religious affiliation Edmund Hill had originally, but his marriages to Jane O’Neill and Bridget Emma Chambers were Roman Catholic, whilst his marriage to Kate Garner Booth was Church of England. Ernest was baptised into the Church of England at St Bridget, West Kirby on 30 September 1897.

Ernest was also first cousin to Walter Hall, who was the son of his father’s sister Agnes Hill.

Although Ernest can have been no more than just 17 years old at the outbreak of war, he claimed to be 19 when he enlisted as a Private in the Cheshire Regiment on 2nd September 1914. As he was 5 ft 7 in with a 35 in chest, no doubt he could be taken for 19. After training at Seaford and Eastbourne, he was sent abroad in September 1915, arriving in Salonika in October. He was fortunate to be serving in the same battalion as his cousin Walter Hall. He probably spent most of his time in Macedonia facing the Bulgarian Army. His military record shows recurrent malaria attacks from its onset in Salonika in September 1916. He spent 4 months in and out of hospital on Malta, before returning to Salonika in February 1917, falling ill again a month later, leading to his death on 21st Mar 1917 in a field hospital in Salonika. He was then serving as a Private with the 12th Battalion Cheshire Regiment.

Notes:
Birth: Sep 1897 in West Kirby
Death: 21st Mar 1917 in Salonika
Address: 152 Banks Road, West Kirby (00), 4 North Road, West Kirby (01-14) Occupation: Apprentice Fishmonger in his father’s business
Unit: 12th Bn. The Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 13334, Private
Medals: 1915 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Greece: Sarigol Military Cemetery, Kriston
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, SR, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR, FT, GB, family records

George Sydney Thomas

George (born in 1892 at 43 Abram Street, Liverpool) was the younger son of Kate Garner Booth and John Thomas (1853 – 1892). John Thomas was born in Liverpool and had a varied career starting as a cotton porter, going to sea as a cook and ending up as a gardener. Nothing is known about him before he married Kate in 1881 at St Bridget, West Kirby. Kate lost both her husband and her only daughter (Annie) about the same time in late 1892.

For information about Kate Garner Booth, see the entry for Ernest Hill, George’s half brother.

Very little is known about George. At the age of 9 he was living at 152 Banks Road, West Kirby with his mother and stepfather Edmund Hill. It is not known where he was at the time of the 1911 census, nor what his occupation was. 

From this photo with his half-brother Ernest Hill it appears that he was quite tall as Ernest was 5 ft 7 in. 

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George Sydney Thomas and Ernest Hill

These photos are the only evidence that George started in the 10th (Scottish) Battalion when he joined the King’s Liverpool Regiment, as his service records have not survived.

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At some stage he transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, and was serving as a Sergeant in the 135th Company (part of the 21st Brigade) when he was killed in action in Mesopotamia. The 135th was formed in Mesopotamia in November 1916.

Cap Badge of the Machinegun Corps

Cap Badge of the Machinegun Corps

Notes:
Birth: Jun 1892 in Liverpool
Death: 17 Feb 1917 in Mesopotamia
Address: Banks Road, West Kirby (00)
Occupation: not known
Unit(s): 10th Bn. King’s Liverpool Regiment; 135th Company, Machine Gun Corps Number and Rank: 4092, Private; 34034 Sergeant
Medals: 1915 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Iraq: Amara War Cemetery XVI F13
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, Census: 01, PR, BR, FT, family records

Walter Hall

Walter Hall was the second son of Joseph Hall (1855 – 1920) and Agnes Hill (1858 – 1941), and also had a younger sister. He was born on 5th November 1894 at 29 Henley Street in Seaforth by Liverpool.His father was born in Manchester but moved to Liverpool as a child, and became a stationary engine driver.

The family moved from Seaforth to 42 Grange Road, West Kirby by the time of the 1911 Census. Possibly they only moved to West Kirby shortly before the 1911 census as there is no-one at all listed at 42 Grange Road in the 1911 Green Book directory, and no Halls at all in West Kirby then. Joseph worked at one of West Kirby’s many laundries, the family moving to 68 Grange Road by the time of Walter’s death..

Agnes Hill was the only sister and youngest of Ernest Hill’s father Edmund’s three siblings. Their parents were Edmund Hill, a boiler maker born in Ireland, and Tamar Parke from Ulverston, Lancashire who married in Liverpool in 1844, but clearly moved around as Edmund was born in Belfast and Agnes in Preston, whilst their brothers were born in Liverpool.

In 1911 Walter’s first job was as a grocer’s errand boy, but by the time he enlisted on 31st August 1914 he was a fishmonger – presumably working for his uncle Edmund Hill alongside cousin Ernest Hill.

Amongst the earliest to enlist, Walter joined the 12th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment as a Private, training at Seaford and Eastbourne. He was sent abroad in September 1915, arriving in Salonika in October. He was promoted to acting unpaid Lance Corporal in May 1917, and to paid Lance Corporal in March 1918. He was in hospital for most of the 4 months from early August to late November in 1916 with unspecified sickness. In Jun 1917 he was again in hospital, this time with malaria. He died of pneumonia on 30 September 1918 in the 18th General Hospital, Salonika after two days there.

Telegram Reorting Walter Hall's Death

Telegram Reorting Walter Hall’s Death

Until Ernest Hill’s death in March 1917, Walter served alongside him.

The following notice appeared in the Deeside Advertiser of 18th Oct 1918:

Deeside Advertiser 18th October 1918

Deeside Advertiser 18th October 1918

Notes:
Birth: 5 Nov 1894 at Seaforth
Death: 30 Sep 1918 in Salonika
Address: 29 Henley Street, Seaforth (birth); 4 Vine Street, Seaforth (01);  42 Grange Road, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: Fishmonger
Unit(s): 12th Bn. The Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 12770 Lance Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Greece: Mikra British Cemetery, Kalamaria; 382
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, SR, DA, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR, FT, family records

Arthur Michael O’Neil

Singularly little is known of Arthur Michael O’Neil, apart from that documenting his death on 13 September 1916 in Salonika, Greece.

He is recorded on the various Wirral Memorials and the Roll of Honour as Arthur M O’Neil, but the CWGC has him as just Michael O’Neil, so presumably he preferred to be called Michael.

According to the information held about UK Soldiers who died in the war, he was born in Bootle. From the age held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission this would have been in 1889. There is a Roman Catholic baptism on 29 Mar 1889 at St Nicholas in Liverpool of an Arthur O’Neil, son of Maria (or Mary as the entry is in Latin) with no father’s name. However this birth does not seem to have ever been registered. There is no trace of Arthur or his mother in any subsequent census.

Again according to the same military records his residence was West Kirby. The best guess is that he was somehow related to Edmund Hill’s first wife Jane O’Neill (that family spelled their surname with either one or two letter l s at random) and had joined his relatives in West Kirby. However extensive searching has not disclosed a Mary or Maria in the right age bracket amongst Jane’s extended family. See Ernest Hill.

He enlisted at Liverpool, and was serving as a Private in the 14th Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment by Lake Dojran, Greece when he was killed in action. He is commemorated on the Dioran Memorial, so presumably his body was not recovered.

King's Liverpool Regiment Cap Badge in Use 1898-1927

King’s Liverpool Regiment Cap Badge in Use 1898-1927

He was not awarded the 15 Star medal, so he can only have been sent overseas in 1916, though the 14th Battalion reached Greece on 5 November 1915. Presumably he arrived there later as a replacement.

The action around Lake Dojran in present day Macedonia in 1916 started with an Allied offensive against the Bulgarian Army positions on 9th August. There were further attacks on the 10th, 15th, 16th and 18th before the Allies were forced to retreat. Michael must have been killed during the course of the first further attack along with many others as heavy casualties were suffered..

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Doiran Cemetery, Greece

Notes:
Birth: 25 Mar 1889 at Bootle
Death: 13 Sep 1916 in Salonika
Address:  West Kirby
Occupation: 
Unit(s): 14th Bn. The King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 25630 Private
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: Greece: Doiran Memorial
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, BR, Bpt.

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