This biography was written by Victoria Doran.
Percy Lancaster was a middle class, public school educated officer who was a sporting all rounder, locally known as ‘The Hurricane hitter of Birkenhead Park Cricket Club’.
Percy Lancaster was born on 24 February 1892 at 3 Airlie Road, Hoylake. He was the 3rd and youngest son (with 4 sisters) of Charles Holland Lancaster (1852-1924) and Ada Mary Lea (1857-1894).
Many of his ancestors worked in some form of alcohol retailing and were generally reasonably well off.
Charles Holland Lancaster came from Liverpool and was an architect and surveyor for the Wirral Union. His father James Holland Lancaster (1814-1886) had been a master mariner, who subsequently became an innkeeper and then a wine & spirit merchant. James’ wife Elizabeth Dod (1816-1885) was the daughter of a Liverpool inn keeper, but both her parents were born in Wirral. Her father Thomas Dod (1774-1834) came from Neston and her mother Bethia Smith (1779-1853) from Wallasey.
Ada Mary Lea was the daughter of John Lea (1826-1884) and Mary Jane Lyon (1838-1858). Mary Jane’s father was a publican, and John Lea became one after originally working for an ironmonger.
Charles Holland Lancaster did not remarry after Ada’s death when Percy was just 2 years old. However he was always able to employ servants to look after his young family.
In 1901 the family was living at 22 King’s Gap, Hoylake. Percy attended the Leas School, Meols Drive as he is recorded on their Roll of Honour.
Leas School Roll of Honour, now at St Hildeburgh’s Church, Hoylake
He would have been at the Leas at the same time as Edward Dermot Ledlie Gonner (although over a year older than him) and Eric Francis Sellars would also have been a near contemporary.
After he left the Leas, Percy was educated at Rossall School at Fleetwood, Lancashire. At the time he was there, Rossall was considered to be one of the top 30 public schools in the country.
Rossall School from wikipedia
He is one of 297 former pupils commemorated on the First World War Roll of Honour in the School Chapel.
After leaving school, Percy was apprenticed to a cotton broker at Liverpool’s Cotton Exchange working for the important firm of D F Pennefather & Co. at 1 Tithebarn Street. He was still in their employ when war broke out.
In 1911 the family were living at 15 Lingdale Road, West Kirby.
Percy excelled at many sports. He was a member of the Royal Liverpool Golf Club; again along with Eric Francis Sellars.
From St Hildeburgh’s Church
At cricket he played for Birkenhead Park where he was known as ‘the hurricane hitter’ and on several occasions topped their batting averages. He represented Cheshire at cricket. He also played for the Northern Nomads.
At football he played for and was on the committee of Liverpool Ramblers AFC, and gained a county cap for Lancashire.
On 9 August 1914 Percy married Eva Adelaide Russell (1892-1914). Eva’s father Thomas Henry Russell was a very prosperous purser for the White Star Line, and her family lived at Cross House, Hightown.
Very sadly, Eva died on 5 November 1914 at her parents’ home and was buried at St Helen’s, Sefton.
Percy enlisted in the King’s Liverpool Regiment in September 1914, joining the 17th battalion, the Liverpool Pals as Corporal 15222.
Liverpool Pals cap badge
Rossall School had more than a hundred former pupils who fought in the Boer War, and they laid heavy emphasis on the school Officer Training Corps, so Percy would have been a very useful recruit. He served for a considerable time as ‘Bombing Officer’ in the Liverpool Pals, training new recruits.
He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant in the King’s Regiment on 7th September 1915, having been a temporary Lieutenant since the 6th July.
At some stage he transferred to the Machine Gun Section of the King’s Liverpool. This will have been amalgamated with other regiments’ machine gun sections to form the Machine Gun Corps in October 1915.
Machine Gun Corps cap badge
He arrived in France on 17 May 1916. Because Machine Gun Corps records were ‘lost’ it is not known exactly where he served his 7 months spent in France.
On 15 September 1916 he was with 122nd Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps at on the first day of the week long Franco-British Somme Offensive at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette.
“The Battle of Flers–Courcelette was a battle within the Franco-British Somme Offensive which took place in the summer and autumn of 1916. Launched on 15 September 1916 the battle went on for one week. Flers–Courcelette began with the objective of cutting a hole in the German line by using massed artillery and infantry attacks. This hole would then be exploited with the use of cavalry. It was the third and final general offensive mounted by the British Army during the Battle of the Somme.”
The offensive failed to make a strategic breakthrough, but considerable ground was gained. It was notable for the first use of tanks in warfare.
Percy died aged 24 and his body was not recovered. He is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
It was recorded in the Liverpool Echo that the flag on the Liverpool Cotton Exchange flew at half mast in his honour.
His brother Harold Lancaster (1890-1964) also served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the King’s Liverpool Regiment, being in France in the trenches when Percy was killed.
There is no evidence that their elder brother Sydney James Lancaster (1880-1935) served in the war.
Birth: 24 Feb 1892 at 3 Airlie Road, Hoylake
Death: 15 Sep 1916; killed in action at Flers, Somme, France
Addresses: 22 King’s Gap, Hoylake (01), 15 Lingdale Road, West Kirby (11)
Occupation: cotton broker’s clerk
Units: 17th (Liverpool Pals) Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment; 122nd Battalion Machine Gun Corps
Ranks: Corporal; 2nd Lieutenant
Medals: Victory and British War
Commemorated: Thiepval Memorial, France, Rossall School, Leas School Roll of Honour, Hoylake, Royal Liverpool Golf Club Roll of Honour, Hoylake, Grange Hill War Memorial, St Bridget & St Andrew churches, West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, BR, CWGC, MC, Census: 01, 11, Rossall School website, PR, Probate, LE, LG, RL, LS, Heather Chapman’s collection