JAMES REGINALD LANCASTER
This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
James Reginald Lancaster only lived in West Kirby for a very short time, as he was really a Liverpool lad.
James Reginald (Reggie) Lancaster had a short period as a resident of West Kirby. He only moved there after 1911, having lived in Aigburth, Liverpool all his life. He was one of the earliest to join up at the end of August 1914, and among the first to die in April 1915. According to newspaper reports he was known as ‘Reggie’.
Reggie Lancaster was born at 36 Aigburth Road, Aigburth in the autumn of 1891 and baptised at St Anne, Aigburth on 6 December that year. His parents were James Lancaster (1867-???) and Jane Edwards (1869-???) and he was the eldest of their 7 children, having 2 brothers and 4 sisters.
His paternal grandparents, John Lancaster (1831-???) and Ethel Dixon (1833-???) were married at Hawkshead, Lancashire in 1858 and lived in the Ambleside, Westmorland area thereafter, where John was a post boy for many years, before ending up as a general labourer. Their son James was born in Grasmere, Westmorland and in 1881 he was living with his parents in Ambleside as an apprentice to an unspecified trade. When he married Jane Edwards at St Saviour, Everton, Liverpool on 15 January 1890 he was a coachman living at 34 Aigburth Road, Aigburth. In fact 34 Aigburth Road was called Oaklands and was the residence of Alfred Lewis Jones (later Sir Alfred Lewis Jones KCMG) a ship owner who eventually controlled the Elder Dempster shipping line.
Sir Alfred Lewis Jones KCMG
By the 1891 census, James and his family were living in Oaklands Lodge, 36 Aigburth Road, Aigburth where they lived until after Sir Alfred’s death in 1910. At the 1911 census, most of the family is still living in Oaklands Lodge, but Reggie and his father are visitors at Oaklands itself.
A watercolour of Oaklands in 1904
In 1911 this was the residence of Mary Isabel Pinnock and her younger spinster daughter Blanche Elizabeth Pinnock. Mary was a sister of Sir Alfred and widowed very early on in her marriage leaving her with 2 young daughters. From at least 1881 on Mary and her daughters lived with Sir Alfred (who never married), so would have known the Lancaster family from the time James Lancaster became the family coachman. Clearly James Lancaster and his son were completely trusted by their employers.
Sir Alfred presumably arranged for both Reggie and his younger brother Harold Gordon Lancaster (1896-1974) to be employed in the offices of the Elder Dempster Line. In 1911 Reggie was a clerk and Harold an office boy there.
Mary Isabel Pinnock died at Oaklands on 7 January 1914. Even before her mother’s death Miss Blanche Elizabeth Pinnock moved to Oakdene, Caldy, as she is recorded there in the 1914 Kelly’s Directory. At some time after the 1911 census the Lancaster family moved to 45 South Road, West Kirby, with James Lancaster now becoming her chauffeur.
Oakdene is the house in the left foreground of this 1913 photo
On 28 August 1914 Reggie enlisted in the 1/5th Territorial Battalion of the King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private (Rifleman) 2337. He was 5ft 7 in tall with a 36 in chest.
Kings Liverpool Regiment cap badge
He was not the perfect recruit as on 3 occasions during training he was punished for being absent from the 7 am parade.
After training, he arrived in France with his Battalion on 21 February 1915.
By the end of March 1915, the King’s had eight battalions on the Western Front. The 1st and 1/5th participated in a “holding” attack at Givenchy designed to support the Allied offensive at Neuve Chapelle.
On 24 April the Germans began the offensive of the 2nd Battle of Ypres. On 30 April Reggie was on outpost duty in a sap which was heavily bombarded by hand grenades and he was badly injured in the right leg. His Captain reported that a medical student managed to stop the bleeding quickly, and he was conscious and showed great courage when taken away from the trenches, so his companions expected him to survive. His military record shows that he died in the field, and at No.4 Field Ambulance, but in fact he survived long enough to reach a ‘proper’ hospital. He actually died in the Town & Military Hospital at Bethune at 1.00 am on the 1 May having had his leg amputated in an attempt to save his life.
Report of French doctor from Reggie’s service record
The French doctor’s report makes it clear he died at 1.00 am on 1 May.
He was 23 years old.
Both the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Book of Remembrance incorrectly record his death as on 30 April.
He is buried at Bethune Town Cemetery in grave IV B 66.
Bethune Town Cemetery
Once old enough, his brother Harold Gordon Lancaster joined the 8th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment, rising to Lance Corporal by the time of his discharge. His youngest brother Stanley Hector Lancaster (1901-1983) was too young to serve in the First World War.
Birth: Oct 1891 at Aigburth, Liverpool, Lancashire
Death: 1 May 1915 in hospital at Bethune, France; died of wounds
Addresses: Oaklands Lodge, 36 Aigburth Road, Aigburth (91) (01); Oaklands, Aigburth Road, Aigburth (11); 45 South Road, West Kirby (14)
Occupation: commercial clerk – Elder Dempster Line
Unit: 1/5th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 2337; Private
Medals: 15 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated: Bethune Town Cemetery, Bethune, France; St Bridget & St Andrew, West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, SR, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, PR, Probate, DA, BN