Richard Edward and Ernest Houghton

The Following Biographies were written by Victoria Doran:

Introduction to the Houghton Family

Richard Edward  (1891–1914) and Ernest Houghton (1893 –1918) were brothers from a large and poor family.  

Their father Richard Houghton (1857 – 1934) was born at Bescar, a few miles inland of Southport in Lancashire, and was brought up there by his grandmother, his own parentage being uncertain. By the age of 13 in 1871 he was a ‘live in’ farm servant nearby. He had moved to Birkenhead by 1881 and worked mostly as a carter from then on. In 1882 he married Susanna Pyke Griffiths (1862–1938) who was born in Irby but brought up in Birkenhead. Her father died young and her mother had to support herself by taking in laundry. Susanna worked as a domestic servant for an oil merchant in Oxton before her marriage. In 1901, like her mother, she was taking in laundry to help support her family. 

The couple had 13 children according to the 1911 census (though I have only been able to find 12 of them). Out of these 12 children, five died aged just a few months old, four of them after Richard Edward and Ernest were born. Another younger brother, Arthur (1898 – 1917) was a sickly child, being a patient in West Kirby Convalescent Home in 1911, and dying during the war in Wirral. Only one child sister Violet Annie, who was  born after Ernest, lived to be an adult. 

Throughout their childhoods the boys’ parents would have been very distressed by the loss of one baby after another and by Arthur’s poor health. All the family’s spare cash (if any) would have gone on medical bills. By the time Richard Edward was born the family had moved to Frankby, and by 1898 they had moved again to Grange. 

Older brother William Albert Houghton served in the Royal Garrison Artillery, was injured but returned to the ranks and survived the war. Older sister Margaret Ann Houghton married George Mutch of West Kirby and the couple emigrated to America in 1907. Older brother James Hatton Houghton disappears after the 1901 census, but he must have been alive in 1911, so he too probably emigrated. After the War their parents were left with only two children alive in England out of 13 births. 


Richard Edward is recorded as Edward at the 1901 census, but as Richard at 1911, so it is not clear what he actually called himself. He was born in Frankby and baptised at St John’s Church, Frankby on 13 September 1891.

In April 1911 at the census he had been working as a cowman and living with an elderly farmer Thomas Strong of Oldfields, Frankby for about a year. However, the next month he lost his job as he ‘could not get up for milking’ and did not accord his employer the respect he felt he was due. He must have found getting another permanent job difficult after this, as 6 months later he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion, Cheshire Regiment for a term of 6 years. 

Cheshire Regiment Badge

Cheshire Regiment Badge

His attestation papers record him as 5ft 3 in tall, with grey eyes and dark brown hair.  For the first few months he clearly found it difficult to adapt to the discipline of army life. His record shows 5 relatively minor offences, such as overstaying leave, being absent for a parade and having untidy and deficient kit at an inspection. Once he was merely admonished, but on the other occasions he was confined to barracks for up to 7 days. After this he settled down to a soldier’s life, generally in barracks at Chester, with apparently 4 weeks per year annual training, as the 3rd Battalion was a reserve battalion.

A page from Richard's Service Records

A page from Richard’s Service Records

War was declared before his six year term was completed; so he was amongst the first to go on active service. He was mobilised on 8th August and transferred to the 1st Battalion on 31st August following the losses of the 1st Battalion at the Battles of Mons (23rd August) and Le Cateau (26th August). It is not clear exactly when he joined his new Battalion as part of the 15th Brigade of the 5th Division of the British Expeditionary Force, but he possibly took part in the First Battle of the Marne and the First Battle of the Aisne in September.  He certainly fought through most of the First Battle of Ypres from 19th October, being ‘ missing in action’ on 18th November a few days before the battle ended.

Richard Houghton's Casualty Form from his Service Records

Richard Houghton’s Casualty Form from his Service Records

As one of the earliest of the local soldiers to die, it is surprising that no newspaper report of his death has been discovered. Although he was then fighting in France his name is not amongst those listed in the Deeside Advertiser of 6th November 1914 as being ‘with the colours’  As his body was never found, he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial, as well as Grange Hill War Memorial and the plaques in St Bridget & St Andrew churches in West Kirby.

Birth: July 1891 at Frankby
Death: 18 Nov 1914 at Ypres, Belgium; missing in action
Addresses: Holly Tree Cottage, Grange, West Kirby (01); Oldfields, Frankby (11)
Occupations: cowman; soldier
Units: 3rd & 1st Battalions, Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 9119; Private
Medals: 14 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, Belgium : Menin Gate, Ypres
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, SR, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR 


Ernest Houghton

Ernest Houghton

Ernest was born in Frankby and baptised at St. Johns’ church on 23rd July 1893. In 1911 he was living at Monument Cottage in West Kirby, which was on the side of the hill between Village Road and the Beacon. He was assisting in the business of Thomas Creer, dairyman, and living with his employer and family.

According to the Deeside Advertiser of 13 July 1915, he enlisted early, but, like brother Richard Edward, his name is not to be found in the list in the Deeside Advertiser of 6th November 1914. Although his military record has not survived, it is known that he served in the Royal Field Artillery as a Driver. 

Royal Artillery Cap Badge

Royal Artillery Cap Badge

According to his medal card he actually arrived in France on the day the Deeside Advertiser reported him there. It is not known what Brigade he initially served with, but he must have been reposted as the 223rd Brigade that he was in when he died was only formed in July 1916. 

Ernest Houghton's Medal Card

Ernest Houghton’s Medal Card

He died instantaneously on 6th March 1918 whilst taking rations up to the guns, when a shell burst under the horse he was driving. At that time he was a member of ‘D’ Company, 223rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, based on the Somme, France. The Deeside Advertiser reported that ‘He was a good, hardworking, and cheerful soldier, always willing to do his duty under the most trying circumstances’ 

The Miss Hatton mentioned in the article has not been identified, but possibly he was courting her. 

He is buried at Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt, Somme, France, and commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial and the plaques at St Bridget and St Andrew churches in West Kirby. 

Birth: April 1893 at Frankby
Death: 6 Mar 1918 in Marne, France; killed by shell bursting under his cart
Addresses: Grange, West Kirby (01); Monument Cottage, Village Road, West Kirby (11); Tansley Terrace, Newton (15)
Occupation: Assistant in milk business
Unit: 51st Division, Royal Field Artillery
Number and Rank: 4479; Driver
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, France : Rocquigny-Equancourt Road British Cemetery, Manancourt
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, DA, Census: 01, 11, PR, BR


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