John Albert Smith and Hugh Harold Ruffe Taylor

John Albert Smith 

Due mainly to him being associated with Liverpool, John Albert Smith does not appear on the Grange Hill War Memorial, but is on the list printed in the Deeside Advertiser of 22nd December 1922 and on West Kirby’s Parish Memorial in St. Bridget’s Church.

Little is known of John’s background due mainly to his name being probably the most common in the United Kingdom. He was born in Liverpool and baptised on 29th October 1882 at St Matthew, Liverpool, being the oldest child of George (born 1851) and Sarah Smith (born 1860). A marriage has not yet been found for George and Sarah, and so further progress backwards on this tree has not been possible.

John’s siblings were, George Arthur (born 1884); Edward (born 1887); Harry (Henry) (born 1891); William (born 1894); Louisa Florence Eliza (born 1895); Elsie Victoria (1897-1898); Minnie Gertrude (born 1899); Jessie Sarah Ann (born 1901); Sarah Elizabeth (born 1904); and Ada (born 1905).

In 1891 the family were living at 54 Latham Street, Kirkdale where George (senior) was employed as a carter. He was 40 years old and born in Oxford. Sarah (senior) was 31 years old and born in Manchester. Their three children at the time who were all born in Liverpool. They were John who was eight years old; George who was six and Edward who was four.

Smith Family 1891 Census

The Smith Family in Kirkdale on Census Night 1891

By 1901 they had moved to 9 Lamb Street, Kirkdale. For some reason George’s place of birth was then shown as Surrey, London. He was still employed as a carter. Sarah was now age 40 and born in Manchester. The family had grown, George was not at home but the rest were. John was age 18 and employed as a railway porter, as was Edward who was age 14. Harry was age 9, William was 7, Louisa 5, and Minnie was 2.

In 1902 in the parish of West Kirby, banns were read on 13th, 20th and 27th July for John Albert Smith a bachelor, and Margaret Ellen Bennett a spinster, both of this parish. However, they did not marry until two years later in 1904 at St Athanasius, Kirkdale. Margaret was born in Birkenhead in 1881, the daughter of Andrew (1852-1914) and Mary Ann Bennett (née Smith 1853-1916). Mary Ann was born in Kildare, Ireland and Andrew Bennett was born in Saughall Massie, the son of Thomas Bennett born 1816 in Capenhurst, who died 1888 in Saughall Massie; and Ellen Hancock, born 1819 Whitby, Cheshire, died 1888 Saughall Massie. Andrew, Mary Ann Bennett and their family moved to Lower Caldy at some time between 1891 and 1901.

1902 West Kirby Parish Marriage Banns

1902 West Kirby Parish Marriage Banns

In 1911 John and Margaret were living at 5 Morley Street, Kirkdale where John is described as being aged 29, a butcher born in Liverpool, and Margaret was aged 28 born in Birkenhead. They had been married for seven years and had one child who was still living. Sadly the child was not with them and so it is not known who the child is. John’s parents had moved again by 1911 and were living at 18 Aspinall Street, Kirkdale. This time, George was shown as being born in Banbury, Oxford. He was now employed as a dock labourer. Sarah still shows as being born in Manchester. John and George have been struck out as they were no longer living with their parents, but still at home were Louisa Florence, aged 15; Minnie aged 12, Jessie aged 9, and Ada aged 6. George and Sarah had been married for 30 years, had produced 11 children, 9 of whom were still living and 2 had died. Elsie Victoria only lived for a year and it is most likely that the other was Sarah Elizabeth whose baptism has been found but she does not appear on a census.

When John was killed, the Deeside Advertiser stated that he left three children, one was born before 1911 as shown on the census, and so the other two were born after 1911, but again it is not known who they were. The article also states that for a while before the war, John worked in Hoylake for Mr Guest, cab proprietor. This would have been John Smith Guest of Alderley Road.

John’s service records did not survive, but he joined the colours at the outbreak of war. This was likely to be with the 4th battalion, Cheshire Regiment. He became attached to the 12th battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, and was drafted to France in May 1916.

King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Cap Badge

King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Cap Badge

John’s battalion was formed on 5th September 1914 in Leeds and was composed mainly of coal miners. Its nickname was “T’owd Twelfth”. It went to Salisbury Palin in October 1915 and to Egypt in December of that year, before ending up in France, ready to participate in the Somme Offensive. By June 1916, it was part of 31st (Pals) Division, commaned by Major General R Wanless O’Gowan and consisting of 92, 93 and 94 Brigades, which was placed at the northern edge or extreme left of the allied lines, facing the German fortified village of Serre. Other units in 31st Division included the Accrington Pals, The Leeds Pals, Hull Commercials and Durham Pals. T’owd Twelfth, being composed mainly of miners, was a a pioneer battalion. In other words, it was required to carry out engineering work to support the attacking infantry.

By the morning of 1st July 1916, the pioneers had dug five saps (trenches leading out at right angles from the main front line towards the German lines). They were equipped in exactly the same way as the other battalions, but instead of carrying 220 rounds of ammunition, they carried 170 and a a pick and shovel each. Once the normal infantry battalions had captured the German positions, the pioneers were expected rapidly to dig new communication trenches leading up to the new lines. Unfortunately, this was never achieved. The 31st Division’s attack at Serre was a complete failure. No ground was captured and most of the battalions taking part in the attack were almost completely destroyed. The experience has become lodged in the popular imagination as emblematic of the battle of the Somme – a completely futile wasting of the lives of thousands of young working class lads who had joined Pals Battalions in 1914 for absolutely no military gain whatsoever. Indeed, at least three quarters of John’s Battalion became casualties. It is likely that his body was not recovered until after the war and placed in a concentration cemetery some way away from the ground upon which he fell. More information can be obtained here.

View from the Former British Lines of 1st July 1916 towards the German Fortified Village of Serre. Taken by the author on 16th July 2014.

View from the Former British Lines of 1st July 1916 towards the German Fortified Village of Serre. Taken by the author on 16th July 2014.

Birth: 26th June 1882 in Liverpool
Death:  1st July 1916 killed in action age 34
Address:  54 Latham Street, Kirkdale (91); 9 Lamb Street, Kirkdale (01); 5 Morley Street, Kirkdale (11)
Occupation:  Railway Porter, Butcher, Cab Driver?
Unit:  12th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Number and Rank: Private 12/1083
Medals:  British War, Victory, 1915 Star
Commemorated and Buried:  WK, France: Euston Road Cemetery, Colincamps 1 D 17
Sources:  CWGC, SDGW, MC, DA, PR, Census: 91, 01, 11

Hugh Harold Ruffe Taylor 

Harold Hugh Ruffe Taylor as he appeared in the "Liverpool Echo" of 15th February 1915

Hugh Harold Ruffe Taylor as he appeared in the “Liverpool Echo” of 15th February 1915

Hugh was the only son and eldest of three children born to Harold (born circa 1867) and Frances Jane Taylor (née Williams born circa 1868). His siblings were Margaret Annie Taylor (1902-?) and Florence Nesta Kathleen Taylor (1905-1995).

Hugh’s father, Harold, was an affluent ship owner and ship broker, born in Liverpool. Harold’s parents were the Venerable William Francis Taylor D.D., LL.D (1821-1906) and Annie Taylor (née Evans born 1827). William Francis Taylor was born in Dublin, Ireland and was curate of St John’s Church, Liverpool 1851-1861; curate of St Silas, Liverpool 1861-1870; and the Vicar of St Chrysostom, Everton 1870-1871. He was Canon of Liverpool in 1880, and was also Archdeacon of Liverpool.

William Francis Taylor

William Francis Taylor, Hugh’s Father

Frances Jane Williams, Hugh’s mother, was born in Wavertree, the daughter of Owen Hugh (1835-1913) and Ann Williams (née Birch 1842-?). Owen was a wealthy cotton broker and a JP, who was born in Liverpool.

In 1901 Harold, Frances and Hugh were living at 34 Marmion Road, Toxteth Park. Hugh was three years old. The family employed two servants, Mary Ellen Martin age 27 was their cook who was born in Liverpool, and Jane Hosker was a Nurse age 28 born in Hough Green.

By 1911, the family had moved to Wirral where the census shows that Hugh was age 13 and was a pupil at the Lees School, Hoylake. Hugh’s family lived at “Belgrano”, Graham Road, West Kirby and the Census shows that Harold was age 44 and was a ship owner and ship broker, Frances was 37, and she and Harold had been married for 14 years and had 3 children, all of whom were still living. Hugh’s sisters were both at home, Margaret was 9 and still in school and Florence was 5. The family now had four servants, 28 year old Emily Smith was the nursery governess born in Rock Ferry, 28 year old Margaret Florence Davies was a sick nurse born in Towyn, Merionethshire, 32 year old Mary Catherine Williams was the cook born in Cefn Mawr, Flintshire, and 19 year old Gertrude Lloyd was a general servant born in Liverpool.

Hugh was a cadet in the Officers’ Training Corps and attached to the 16th battalion, Kings (Liverpool Regiment) based at West Kirby. Due to the very young age when he died, it is unlikely that any service records or medal card ever existed. He was killed in a motor cycle accident in West Kirby, and the Liverpool Echo of 15th February 1915 details the results of the Coroner’s Inquest.

Liverpool Echo 15th february 1915: report of the inquest into Hugh's Death.

Liverpool Echo 15th february 1915: report of the inquest into Hugh’s Death.

The Liverpool Echo dated 17th February 1915 reveals that Hugh received a military funeral on 17th February 1915 and was to be interred at West Kirby.

Birth: 25th May 1897 Toxteth Park
Death:  13th February 1915 age 17
Address:  34 Marmion Road, Toxteth Park (01), The Lees School, Hoylake (11), “Belgrano”, Graham Road, West Kirby (11 *Parents), The White House, Meols Drive, Hoylake (15) Occupation:  None
Unit:  attached to 16th Bn Kings (Liverpool Regiment)
Number and Rank: Cadet
Commemorated and Buried:  H, WK
Sources:  BR, PR, LE, Census: 01, 11


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