REGINALD & SYDNEY HEAL
This post was written by Victoria Doran, but incorporates material originally posted for Reginald by Stephen Roberts. It benefits from information gleaned from ‘The House that Percy Built’ a book written by Reginald and Sydney’s nephew, Syd Heal.
Reginald and Sydney were brothers who both served as Privates in the Cheshire Regiment, Reginald in the 15th (Bantam) Battalion and Sydney in the 12th Battalion.
Cheshire Regiment cap badge
Reginald and Sydney were the 2nd and 3rd children of William Alfred Heal (1867-1936) and his wife Helen aka Ellen (1870-1939). They had an older sister Winifred Heal (1893-???) and a younger brother Percy Harry Heal (1900-???). Their ancestors came from many and various places, as is true for much of the Merseyside population of their generation.
The Heal family came originally from Creech St Michael, Somerset. Creech St Michael is a village about 3 miles east of Taunton, which had good transport links being on the Bridgwater & Taunton canal and from 1842 having a railway station. The surname is spelled variously in the records, Heal, Heale, Hale etc, but settles as Heal by the mid 19th century. William’s grandfather, Isaac Heal (1800-???) was a carpenter. By 1851 he had moved about 8 miles north to Bridgwater. Bridgwater was an important port and market town.
William’s father, John Callow Heal (1840-1903) was born at Creech St Michael, but will have spent most of his childhood in Bridgwater. He went to sea as a ship’s boy at the age of 13 in 1853. He progressed via 2nd Mate to first Mate, moving to Liverpool by the time of his marriage on 29 September 1866 at St Andrew, Toxteth to Sophia Matilda Foster (1842-1915). He gained his master’s certificate on 24 June 1867 and was subsequently known as a reliable ship’s master on the long distance foreign trades. Both Reginald and Sydney could have heard many tales of seafaring from him as young boys.
Sophia Matilda was born in Liverpool, from a family typical of the Liverpool population at the time. Her father was a naval optical instrument maker from Workington, Cumberland and her mother, born in London, was the daughter of a screw maker.
William, who was educated at Liverpool Institute, had 2 younger sisters, Florence Edith Heal (1869-???) and Clara Louisa Heal (1871-1959). At some stage he included his mother’s maiden name in his own and became William Alfred Foster Heal.
On 10 Mar 1892 William married Helen at West Derby Registry Office. She gave her name as Ellen Jeanette Shore Behrman, but the family used various names.
Her Jewish parents, Joshua (1833-1898) and Fanny (1835-1909) brought their large family to Liverpool in the early 1870s. They are recorded in censuses as from either Russia or Germany, but probably originated in the Ukraine and were fleeing the pogroms. The older sons (who would have been young adults when the reached England) always used the surname Berman. Her parents are always shown in records with the surname Shure. A younger brother (who would have been a toddler on arrival in England) used the surname Shore. In 1881 her father is recorded as Berman Shure, but from 1891 onwards he is Joshua Shure. Possibly his original name was the Yiddish version of Joshua with Berman as the second name. Joshua was a journeyman glazier and his eldest sons followed in the same occupation.
Helen would have been a small child when she arrived in Liverpool. Before her marriage she worked as a tailoress, as did some of her sisters.
All William and Helen’s 4 children were born in Liverpool or Seaforth. The family moved to 7 Eaton Road, West Kirby in the early 1900s. William worked as a commercial traveller, as a coal merchant on his own account, and as an insurance agent. Unfortunately William had a chronic addiction to gambling, and by 1905 he was declared bankrupt. In 1911 the family was living at 52 Eaton Road, and William was working as a furniture porter. Apparently Helen took command of the family, encouraging her children to get out and find jobs as soon as possible. William’s gambling also explains why his sisters were his father’s executors but he was not.
Reginald was born on 6 February 1894 at 15 Lee Street, Toxteth. He was baptised on 15 April at St Clement, Toxteth.
Reginald began his working life as a tailor’s apprentice, but went on to become an expert window dresser for Batchelor’s of London Road in Liverpool.
He joined up on 18th November 1915 in Liverpool. He was noted as being 5’ tall, as weighing 107 lbs, as having a chest measuring 34” with a 3” expansion and as being of “fair” physical development. He was not thought to be suitable for front line duties and so was assigned to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. He was mobilised on 27th January 1916 and transferred to the 17th Battalion on 6th April. He sailed for France on board the SS Golden Eagle from Folkestone on 16th June and arrived at the base at Étaples the next day. On 6th July he was posted to the 10th Cheshires and, on 18th August, to the 15th Battalion. It had been formed in November 1914 in Birkenhead for men who fell short of the required minimum height of 5’3” and was part of 105th Brigade, 35th Division, which was a “Bantam” division.
Deeside Advertiser 25 August 1916
The Deeside Advertiser of 25th August 1916 said that he had been engaged in “important operations” for about three months. As we can see from the above service record, this is not true, as he only arrived in France just over two months before he died on 21 August 1916 at the age of 22. He had only been in the field for about six weeks and was in the 15th Battalion for only three days before he died from wounds caused by shrapnel. His officer and his employer wrote letters of condolence to his parents. His officer added, “We made a nice little cross for him, giving full particulars.”
He now lies in Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Somme, France alongside Arthur Clifford Cook. He is also commemorated on Grange Hill War Memorial and the Rolls of Honour at St Bridget and St Andrew churches, all in West Kirby
Flatiron Copse Cemetery, Somme, France
Birth: 6th February 1894 in Liverpool; christened 15th April 1894 at St. Clement’s Church, Toxteth
Death: 21st August 1916, died of wounds aged 22
Addresses: 15 Lee Street, Liverpool (94), 43 Beaumont Street, Liverpool (95), 15 Hawarden Grove, Seaforth (01), 52 Eaton Road, West Kirby (11), 18 Eaton Road, West Kirby (15), 6 South Road, West Kirby (16)
Occupations: Tailor’s Apprentice (11) Expert Window Dresser (15)
Units: 3rd, 17th and 15th Bns. Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 33220 Private
Medals: British War and Victory
Commemorated and Buried: GH, WK, France: Somme, Flatiron Copse, Mametz III. B. 15.
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, SR, DA, GB, Census: 01,11, “The House that Percy Built” by Syd Heal
Sydney was born on 19 January 1895 at 43 Beaumont Street, Toxteth and baptised on 17 April at St Clement, Toxteth.
After attending school at what is now known as West Kirby Primary School, Orrysdale Road until he the day he enlisted in the army, Sydney worked as a printer for Gould’s in West Kirby. According to the family he got an apprenticeship there as Mr Gould also published the West Kirby News and had written a defamatory article about his brother Percy, who had had an accident whilst jumping from a moving train (for the best of reasons) between Meols and Moreton in 1910. William complained to Mr Gould, who then found a job for Sydney as he left school at the age of 14.
Sydney enlisted in the 12th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment as Private 13459 very early on in the war. Another very early recruit to the 12th Cheshire’s was Walter Hall. By October he was in training at Seaford; he seems to have enjoyed this part of the war.
West Kirby News 29 October 1914
This article also tells us that he was a member of the Church Lads Brigade which supplied many of its members to the local Rolls of Honour. After training the battalion landed in France on 6 September 1915. They were not in France very long as in November 1915 they moved to the Salonika Front. This was the border between Greece and Bulgaria & Turkey. They went originally to assist the Serbian Army, but it had already been defeated by the time they arrived. They spent most of the next year digging, constructing a fortified advance line, to stop the Bulgarians ‘pushing them in to the sea’. In 1917 they saw some action near Lake Doiran in the spring, but was mostly quiet and then remained so until September 1918.
This was a bit of a forgotten outpost of the war, with difficult conditions. Many of the men, including Walter Hall succumbed to disease. Part of Sydney’s service was spent attached to the HQ of the 66th Brigade, part of the 22nd Division.
Sydney was killed on 18 September 1918 during the battle of Monastir-Doiran. This was a battle near Doiran Lake against the Bulgarian First Army. For a long time he was just reported as ‘missing in action’, but in 1933 a fellow soldier told the family that he had been alongside Sydney when they charged across the battlefield. There was a shell burst and Sydney just ‘vanished’ vapourised. He was 24 years old. An armistice was signed with Bulgaria 12 days later.
He is commemorated on the Doiran Memorial as well as Grange Hill War Memorial and the Rolls of Honour in St Bridget and St Andrew churches, in West Kirby
Doiran Memorial, Greece
Birth: 19 Jan 1895 at 43 Beaumont Street, Toxteth; christened 17 April 1895 at St. Clement’s Church, Toxteth
Death: 18 Sep 1918, missing in action aged 24
Addresses: 43 Beaumont Street, Liverpool (95), 15 Hawarden Grove, Seaforth (01), 52 Eaton Road, West Kirby (11), 18 Eaton Road, West Kirby (15), 6 South Road, West Kirby (16)
Unit: 12th Battalion Cheshire Regiment
Number and Rank: 13459 Private
Medals: 15 Star, British War and Victory
Commemorated: GH, WK, Doiran Memorial, Greece
Sources: BR, CWGC, MC, GB, PR, Census: 01,11, “The House that Percy Built” by Syd Heal