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Andrew Smith Birrell
Andrew was the only son of the Lilliesleaf (Roxburgh) schoolmaster and local registrar and had a strong interest and skill in music in his early years, though he eventually studied weaving and designing and worked in the wool industry for J&J Wilson. In 1910 he married Katherine Hutton Young Wright in Edinburgh. He enlisted with the Derby recruits in March 1916 and then joined the Edinburgh University Officer Training Corps, obtaining a commission in October. He served with the 6th King's Own Scottish Borderers in France and Flanders from Jan 1917 and was killed in action north-east of the River Scarpe during the battle of Arras, on 9 April 1917.
Absolom was born, lived, and worked in Wirksworth, Derbyshire, though his parents were Gypsies. He worked as a nursery man and a quarry man before joining up in May 1915 with the 16th Sherword Foresters (the 'Chatsworth Rifles') - but he was discharged after just 36 days. He enlisted again in Oct 1915 (by now his brother Matthew had been killed in action), this time with the Leicester Regiment. He had a bit of trouble, being tried and imprsioned for a period of desertion, but eventually went to France where he saw action, dying from wounds received in action on 5 May 1918. As well as his brother, a cousin, Thomas Sherrif (below), was also killed.
Matthew was born into a Gypsy family and worked as a nursery man, a little later for the James Smith Nursery in Matlock Green, Derbyshire. He had already been in the 3rd Notts & Derby Militia (1905-1908) and at the time of his enlistment in Jun 1913 he was a quarryman, and joined the 1st/6th Battalion Notts & Derbyshire Regiment, the Sherwood Foresters. He went to France in Feb 1915, as part of the 46th Division, and was wounded in action on 25 August that year, dying the following day. His younger brother Absolom (above) was killed in May 1918, and he had a cousin, Thomas Sherriff (below), also killed in the war.
Daniel Ewan Cameron
Catherine Souter Ewan
Daniel was the youngest son of Peter and Kate Cameron and worked as an apprentice joiner for Kerr B. Sturrock in Dundee before he enlisted. In May 1944 he was posted as missing while on operations in Burma, and in December 1945 his status was confirmed as presumed killed. Two of his brothers also served in WWII - Peter, who was injured in Italy with the Scots Guards, and another with the RAF. Daniel was the nephew of Robert Cameron, below.
Mark William Cameron
Mark was born at Parkhurst Barracks on the Isle of Wight just one week after his parents' marriage, an only child. His father was a sergeant with the 72nd Seaforth Highlanders, having recently served in the Second Anglo-Afghan War and in Egypt at Tel-el-Kebir. Mark moved with his father back to his native Scotland, living for a while with his aunt in Dundee while his father lodged nearby, though his mother seems to have stayed in England. By the time he was 15 he was serving on ships as a Boy, 1st Class. He married his cousin, Margaret Cameron (daughter of Alexander's Seaforth Highlander brother, Donald, an army piper), in Glasgow in 1910, and they had three children. Training aboard the HMS Excellent Gunnery School would see him promoted to gunner, eventually serving as an officer on HMS Invincible during WWI. He saw action at Heligoland Bight and the Falkland Islands in 1914, but lost his life when the Invincible was sunk by a salvo from the SMS Derfflinger on 31 May 1916. In 1920 his wife remarried, having a further three children.
Peter was the son of Donald Cameron, who had been a Colour Sergeant and a Piper in the 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders (72nd Foot) in the Afghan War of 1878-80, and also served in Egypt in 1882. Peter worked as a railway stoker before enlisting at Glasgow in 1914. He was killed in action while his battalion was at Hulluch in June 1916. Peter was cousin and brother-in-law to Mark William Cameron above, and cousin to Robert Cameron below.
Robert (cousin to Mark and Peter Cameron and uncle to Daniel Cameron, above) was born at Fairmuir Mains, Forfarshire, where his father worked as a dairyman. His mother was a native of Newtyle, though her mother was English. The family moved to Perthshire and later to Dundee, with Robert working for his father, first as a farm hand and then as a coal merchant in the city. Robert enlisted with the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards in December 1915, and a year later found himself at Bouleaux Wood on the Somme front. December 1916 was characterised by awful weather and frequent artillery barrages, including one on Christmas Day which saw the Guards lose two men. Whether Robert was fatally wounded in this exchange, or a previous one, is not known, but he died the next day, 26 December 1916. Robert was the youngest of his eight siblings, his mother would die in August 1918, three months before the war's end.
John William Crowther
Margaret Ann Kinsman
John was the only child of Tom, a Burnley cotton weaver who died in 1900, and Margaret, who remarried two years later to Stephen Daniel Pomroy and who helped to raise the boy. John apprenticed as a plumber, and then became a driller for Butterworth & Dickinson's. He attempted to enlist for the war several times but was rejected due to defective eyesight. Eventually, in Aug 1916, he was accepted into the East Lancashire Rgt, and after training at Plymouth he was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps, being sent to France in Feb 1917. In July he was badly gassed and spent eight months in recovery before returning to France in April 1918 as part of the MGC 50th Division. He received a gunshot wound in the back, and died at the 55th Casualty Clearing Station on 2 Sep 1918. His mother placed a memorial notice in the local paper every year until her death in 1941.
aka Charles Hodgkins
Charles was born at Uttoxeter where his father was working as a labourer in a brickyard, and would later work as a pedlar and a hawker, bringing to light the Gypsy connections of his extended family. Hodgkins was the name of Charles' paternal grandfather, but the family mainly used Duffield, his grandmother's maiden name. By the turn of the century he made a living as an iron worker, and ten years later as a labourer at a brewery. He enlisted with the 11th Staffordshires after undergoing an operation enabling him to qualify for active service, then transferred to the 1st Battalion. Charles died at Wulverghem in Belgium. He was the youngest of his 7 siblings.
Robert Henry Ecclestone
Robert, sometimes known as Henry, was born to a Staffordshire father, a railway platelayer, and a Welsh mother at Chebsey in Staffordshire. In his late teens he worked as a farm hand at Halfhead Farm at Shallowford. He enlisted with the 3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards at Crewe for the war, and in October 1915 found himself in the trenches at Hohenzollern during the Battle of Loos. He was killed in action on a day of very heavy fighting with the Germans, though the final push, 5 days later, would see over 3,500 British casualties, and a failure to achieve victory.
Alexander was born at Dysart in Fife where his father worked as a boilermaker. By 1911 the family, including his two brothers and two sisters, had moved to Cowdenbeath and Alexander was working as a mine pony driver. The war saw him enlist with the 14th Fife & Yeomanry Battalion, becoming the 14th Battalion Black Watch in December 1916 in Egypt. Late 1917 saw the battalion marching into Palestine and engaging the Turks, but it wasn' the Turks that got him, it was dysentery. Alexander's mother was not to know his fate, as she died from bronchitis just over a month before him.
Alexander Nicolson Ewing
James, born at Burntisland in Fife, came from a family that had its fill of tragedy. His grandfather had fallen over a cliff in heavy fog the year before he was born, and his father, a grocer, took his own life when James was 8 years old. He had three sisters (no brothers), though one died a decade before he was born, at just 8 months old. In the years leading up to the war James worked as a hammerman at a freestone quarry in Burntisland, and, as a Territorial, he enlisted early, in November 1914, into the 7th Royal Highlanders. He was discharged in March 1916, which was just a month before his mother died, but was soon back in service, this time with the 3rd Battalion Seaforth Highlanders. In the field James suffered from recurrent shell-shock, and died from the resulting meningitis. He was buried in his home town. Three weeks later his elder sister, Betsy (a mother of five), died from heart failure, leaving just one sister, Isabella, from the whole family to see out the war (she died in 1954, having never married).
James Parker Gilmour
James Parker Gilmour
Mary Henderson Borthwick
James was born into a family of slaters at Anstruther in Fife, though he himself would become an apprentice watchmaker. He enlisted with the 1st Battalion Black Watch in September 1913 and was killed at the Battle of Aisne in September 1914, barely two months into the conflict - though almost a year later his family still only knew that he was missing in action. As well as seeing the first trenches of the war being dug, James had the sad distinction of becoming the first local casualty (Anstruther).
William Stephen Hammond
William was in Java as a representative of Miln, Haswell and Co. at one of the Batavian merchant houses when an army of reportedly 10,000 insurgent Javanese, under the Prince of Sherang, attacked at Demak. The Dutch organised a defence force of about 300, including William as part of a twenty-strong European cavalry unit, of which ten were English. The attack did not go well and the cavalry were thrown into battle too early and the horses frighted by the enemey muskets. Only three Englishmen of the volunteer cavalry unit survived.
Henry's parents were Gypsies, his mother coming from the well-known Midlands Boswell family, while his father helped to start the Holland Fair which still operates today at Gresley Common. When Henry was born, at Anslow in Staffordshire, his father made his money as a tinker and cutler. At the age of 14 Henry worked as a coal mine horse driver below ground, and he later joined the local Territorials as a drummer. In 1909 he married Sarah Ann Elliott and they had four children together (the only girl, the youngest, died at just eight months old in January 1914). When war broke out Henry enlisted with the Notts & Derby Territorials with whom he was sent to France and reportedly wounded on no less than eight occasions. He was transferred to the 5th Leicestershire Regiment where he was severely wounded in the back and abdomen in May 1915 during operations around Ypres. He was sent home and hospitalised, being fully discharged in June 1916. But the hospital visits continued, and he eventually died from his wounds in August 1918. His wife died nine months later from tuberculosis, but his three remaining sons all lived into the 1990s.
David was born in Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire. His father, a coal miner, died when he was 20, and from then on he helped his mother in the hawking business, a return to the roots that revealed her Gypsy heritage. The war saw David join the Manchester Regiment, landing in France in July 1915. A year later, with the fight for the Somme in full blaze, a hasty assault was ordered on a nearby support trench which failed under a barrage of artillery and machine gun fire. David perished along with almost 600 of his regimental fellows.
Charles John Lees
Eliza Jane Reeder
Charles was born in Derby where his father, from Weston, worked as a coachman. His mother was a native of Norfolk. He worked as a storekeeper, at first for an iron foundry and then for the railway, before joining up for the war, becoming a Lance Corporal in the 16th Battalion Sherwood Foresters (the 'Chatsworth Rifles'). The Chatsworths saw much action, including the Somme, Thiepval Ridge, Ancre, Langemarck and the Second Battle of Passchendaele. He was killed in action on 19 Nov 1917, his wife Lucy's birthday.
Stewart John McHardy
Although born in Dundee, Stewart's parents had emigrated to Argentina where his father, George, at one time a professional tennis player, operated his own athletic outfitters business. George died in 1915 after falling off an express train en-route to Rosario. In Oct 1916 Stewart returned to England aboard the Highland Rover and joined the 28th London Regiment ('Artists Rifles') as a Private. Later he was in the 7th Battalion ('The Shiny Seventh') having earned a commission as a Second Lieutenant. He was killed in action in April 1918 in Egypt. His cousin Alexander Maxwell Smith was also killed in action (below).
Harold Denis Meakin
Harold was born in Silverdale, Staffordshire, the son of an ironworks forgeman, (specifically, a forge 'puddler'). On the eve of war he married Alice Howell before being sent to France with the 2nd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. In May 1940 he found himself in the Hainaut area of Belgium as the British were evacuating to Dunkirk. The 2nd North Staffords were part of a counter attack against the harrowing German army at the Ypres-Comines Canal, where Harold was one of many to lose his life, though the action greatly aided the evacuation of fellow troops from Belgium.
John Dundas Meffan
Elizabeth Mollison Colville (1864-1914)
Arthur was born in Lilybank Street in Friockheim, Kirkden, where his father, John, was a stone mason. Enlisting at Glasgow, Arthur joined the 18th Battalion Highland Light Infantry. They were attached to the 106th Brigade of the 35th Division and landed in France on 1st Feb 1916. In the middle of July, during the Somme offensive, the HLI found themselves in a tear-gas soaked wood near Montauban. The day had been relatively quiet until, in the evening, a German observation balloon went up and two minutes later the battalion were pelted with a dozen shells resulting in four men killed and three wounded, including Arthur. He was sent back to Boulogne where he died of his wounds 11 days later. His brother, John, received the Military Medal for bravery in Jan 1917.
George Elder Owler
George was born in King Street in Broughty Ferry where his father worked as a carter. George the junior was in the employment of the Broughty Ferry Corporation and was sent to the Western Front with 274 Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery somewhere around Feb 1917. He was wounded and died in the field hospital at Nieppe on 16 Aug 1917, leaving a widow and three children.
Alexander, second cousin of William Phillip, below, was born at Monifieth. His father was a tailor and Alexander became an apprentice tailor in his teens. Alexander and his one-year older brother, William (who survived the war but suffered from gas poisoning), both joined the Royal Engineers at Dundee in 1915, serving with the 205th 'Dundee' Field Company, part of the 35th Division.
Alexander Rough Phillip
Alexander, also known as Wee 'Eck, was the above Alexander Phillip's uncle, and, like him, was born at Monifieth in Forfarshire. His father was a quarrier and mason, though he later became a market gardener in Dundee, building the cottage on Blackness Avenue (his mother had died in 1899). Alexander followed his father into the stone profession, and by the time the war came he enlisted with the Dundee City Royal Engineers, later being attached to the 446th (Northumbrian) Field Company. He was killed by a shell in a front-line trench near Arras, along with another Sapper, Henry Cawley.
William Sturrock Phillip
William was born in Monifieth, Forfarshire, one of a family of eleven children. His father was a stone quarrier and four of his sons, John, James, William and David, served in the Great War. William began his service with the 5th Black Watch but was wounded in March 1915. He transferred to the 8th Black Watch and was killed in July 1918 during the attack on Meteren in Nord, France.
Thomas Sherriff was first cousin to Henry Holland, and Matthew and Absolom Booth, above. He was born in Ripley, Derbyshire, his family being Romany Gypsies of the Midlands Boswells. For a while he worked as a miner, and had also joined the 3rd Battalion Derby Regiment in 1899. Thomas had a few run-ins with the law, but the most serious came in 1903 when he was accussed, along with two of his brothers, of the murder of a policeman. All three were found guilty of manslaughter and sent to 15 years in prison. There was some family suspicion that Thomas was the one who dealt the actual fatal blow. He was released from prison and joined the 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers for the war. He was killed on the first day of the Somme offensive, during the action at Beaumont Hamel.
Alexander Maxwell Smith
John Robb Smith
Alexander was born in Dundee to John, a baker's van man and crofter, and Ann - who was also John's cousin. He was serving with the 9th Battalion Black Watch when he was killed in action during the Battle of Arras, in the attack on Cavalry Farm near Guemappe. His father was killed after being struck by a train at Rosemount in 1927. Alexander was the cousin of Stewart John McHardy and Alexander Phillip, above.
William Henry Stevenson
Isaiah was the son of a coal miner and worked as a coal hewer himself, at Sneyd Colliery between Burslem and Smallthorne in the Potteries. He'd been in the 3rd Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment, and was a reservist when war broke out in 1914. He rejoined the 3rd Battalion but was soon transferred to the 7th and went with them to the Dardanelles. In January 1916 the North Staffords reinforced the 7th Gloucestershires. On the 7th their trenches were heavily bombarded and in the afternoon the enemy attacked, causing many British casualties - including Isaiah. That night the British began their final evacuation of the peninsula.
Andrew Phillip Stewart
Betsy Meffan Phillip
The younger brother of Henry Stewart below, Andrew was born in Glasgow and later worked in the city as a clerk. He joined the 5th Scottish Rifles Territorial Force in 1913 and served in France, gaining a commission and gazetted to Second Lieutenant, before being attached to the 9th Kings Own Scottish Borderers in Nov 1915. He was promoted Lieutenant in Jul 1917 and was wounded at Combles on 24 Mar 1918. He was invalided home and on recovery went to stay in Ireland where, in June, he accidentally drowned in Loch Corrib, Co. Mayo. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross for 'conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in a difficult rearguard action [at Combles], when his tactical handling of men caused the enemy to suffer heavy casualties and enabled his men to withdraw with a minimum of loss. He was wounded just as the last remnant of his command had reached safety".
Henry Walter Betsworth Stewart
Betsy Meffan Phillip
Henry, known as Harry, was born in Glasgow where his father was a gymnastics teacher at the Morgan Academy. Henry was a first cousin of the younger Alexander Phillip, nephew of the elder, and brother of Andrew Stewart, all above. He worked for a time as a shirt maker, and then for ship-owning firm J&D Roxburgh, and joined the 5th Highland Light Infantry at the outbreak of war in 1914. In May 1915 he was sent to the Dardanelles, and was killed in action two months later.