This biography was written by Victoria Doran
Teddy Railton was a man from a very rural area near the Solway Firth in Cumberland who moved to north west Wirral as a very young adult and made his living by gardening. He was thoroughly involved in local life before he enlisted at the start of the War.
Teddy Railton was born in the summer of 1881 in the township of Newton Arlosh in an area of Cumberland known as Holme East Waver in the parish of Holm Cultram. The area is a few miles north west of Wigton near the Solway Firth. He was the youngest of the 6 children of Thomas Railton (1842-1924) and Maria Jackson (1846-1921).
Despite always being recorded at censuses as some form of labourer – agricultural, dock or general – Thomas Railton managed to leave the 2016 equivalent of more than £80,000 when he died. Several other members of the extended family also apparently acquired some assets from nowhere obvious. There are various family rumours that might explain this, but none proven at present. It seems likely that Teddy was brought up in slightly less difficult circumstances than pertained in the families of many agricultural labourers at that period.
Thomas Railton was the son of Isaac Railton (1795-1873) and Sarah Towns (1806-1895) and lived in Holme East Waver all his life apart from a brief period in Silloth (also in the parish of Holm Cultram) just after his marriage in 1830. Isaac was also an agricultural labourer, but later on had a side line as a grocer and baker. Other members of the extended family subsequently made good livings pursuing the grocery business in various locations, including Liverpool. Isaac and Sarah both came from within less than 10 miles of Wigton.
Teddy’s mother, Maria, came from Drumburgh near Bowness on Solway, still within a day’s walk of Newton Arlosh. Before her marriage she was a domestic servant in the household of the Drumburgh schoolmaster. Her parents were both from Westmorland. Thomas Jackson (1811-???) and Jane (1815-???) married and had their first 3 children in Westmorland before moving to Drumburgh circa 1836. Thomas was another agricultural labourer, though he later worked as a railway labourer. He moved to live with Maria’s eldest brother John Jackson (1834-???), a provision dealer in Liverpool, after Jane’s death in the 1860s.
The fact that several relatives lived in Liverpool possibly guided Teddy’s decision to move to northwest Wirral in search of work. By 1901, aged 20 he was living in Grange Road, West Kirby, boarding with Benjamin Collins and family, and working as a domestic gardener. His sister Maria Anne Railton (1876-1951) was also working in West Kirby as a domestic servant to the Douglas family at Lang House, on the side of Grange Hill. Maria Anne married Thomas Stanley (1872-1965) from a well known local family from Meols in September 1902. By 1911 Teddy was living with Maria Anne, Thomas and their daughter and son in York Avenue, West Kirby.
Transcribed from a West Kirby News of 1919. From the collection of Heather Chapman.
Teddy was well known as a bowler and also a member of West Kirby Working Mens Club, together with George Edward Sherratt, David Hartness, ‘Bob’ Quilliam and T Cotgreave who also died during the war. All of them were men in their 30s by the time war was declared and all quickly volunteered to serve.
In August 1914, Teddy enlisted as Private 11909 in the 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. He served alongside his friend David Hartness until David’s death at Gallipoli. In January 1915 they were joined in the 8th Battalion by another older West Kirby man, Harry Davies.
Cheshire Regiment cap badge
After training at Chiseldon, Wiltshire and then Pirbright, Surrey the battalion embarked for the eastern Mediterranean. It was part of the 40th Brigade of the 13th Division. On 26 Jun 1915 Teddy landed with the 8th Battalion at Alexandria, Egypt. By 4 July they were at Mudros on the Greek Island of Lemnos in the Aegean Sea. During the next fortnight the whole division landed at Cape Helles on the Gallipoli Peninsula to relieve the 29th Division. They did not remain long as they were back at Mudros by the end of July, before returning to land at ANZAC Cove between the 3rd and 5th of August. They took part in the following battles during August 1915.
The Battle of Sari Bair, 6-10 August 1915
The Battle of Russell’s Top, 7 August
The Battle of Hill 60, ANZAC, 27-28 August
At some point during these battles Teddy was wounded as on 11 September 1915 the Birkenhead News reported that he was lying wounded in hospital. This was probably in Egypt, where many of the wounded from Gallipoli were taken.
Whatever his wounds were he recovered from them, for he went on to serve in Mesopotamia (now Iraq). The 8th Battalion moved there from Egypt in February or March 1916, but it is not known when Teddy rejoined them. The 10,000 strong British garrison at Kut-al-Amara (about 100 miles south of Baghdad) had surrendered to the Turks in late April 1916, in what some have considered the greatest humiliation ever to befall the British Army. Up to then the war in Mesopotamia had been the province of the Indian Administration. From now on the War Office in London took command and retaking Kut was a priority. About 13 December 1916 an attack was launched on both banks of the river Tigris. It took 2 months to clear the west bank of the river due to heavy rain, and instructions to minimise casualties. It was on 29 January 1917 during the capture of the fortified Khadairi Bend that Teddy was killed, aged 35. He was by then a Lance Corporal, but it is not known when he was promoted to that rank.
He is commemorated on the Basra Memorial alongside 2 other local men, Francis Wright Atherton and Harry Davies. Due to the current situation in Iraq, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is unable to maintain that memorial at present, so they also commemorate him and over 40,000 others in a 2 volume Roll of Honour which is kept at the CWGC Headquarters in Maidenhead, Berkshire.
Teddy is also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial and the Rolls of Honour in St Andrew and St Bridget churches, all in West Kirby. He is also commemorated on Newton Arlosh War Memorial in Cumbria.
Newton Arlosh War Memorial from here
After his death Teddy’s mother wrote the following poem in his memory.
Birth: Jul 1881 at Newton Arlosh, Cumberland
Death: 29 Jan 1917 killed in action near Kut al Amara, Mesopotamia
Addresses: Raby Coats, Saltcoats, Cumberland (91); Grange Road, West Kirby (01); 17 York Avenue, West Kirby (11)
Unit: 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 11909; Lance Corporal
Medals: 15 Star, Victory & British War
Commemorated: Basra Memorial, Iraq & CWGC HQ, Maidenhead, Berkshire; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; St Bridget & St Andrew churches, West Kirby; Newton Arlosh War Memorial, Cumbria
Sources: CWGC, MC, BN, DA, Census: 91, 01, 11, BR, PR, RSE, family