Sunday, 20 April 2014

World War One Soldier's Story - William Huddlestone, his medals and his Police Career

The week before last the OH surprised me with photos of a completely new War Memorial, yes, I know most men bring their wives flowers or chocolate, but photos are cheaper, don't wilt or shed and don't make you fat - so there is something to be said for them.  Plus, given my current obsession with War Memorials it was a very nice present indeed.
A colour photo of the inside of a church - to the right of the pulpit and organ is a five sectioned wooden panelled structure on the wall.
The Wesleyan Methodist Church on Hunningley Lane, Stairfoot, Barnsley.
The Roll of Honour is on the right beyond the pulpit and organ.

This picture shows the inside of the Church at Stairfoot - I went with the OH the following day to take more photos as the pictures he had taken although tantilising were not clear enough to make out the names of the men on the memorial.  As I got up really close to the Roll of Honour I saw that each panel had around 50 names, each with rank, regiment and if applicable cause of death and medals awarded.  Click here to go to a page where you can download a full list.
Just six of the names on the Roll of Honour - Huddleston, Hughes x4 (that must be another story) and Hodson.
William Huddleston(e)'s Entry on the Roll of Honour

This entry caught my eye as you don't often read about someone being awarded a Silver Medal from the King of Montenegro.  To be honest I didn't even know where Montenegro was at that point.    William Huddleston, of the 16th King's Royal Rifles, Lieutenant and Quartermaster, Military Cross and that Silver Medal.  I couldn't wait to look him up when I got home!
Montenegro, sandwiched between Bosnia & Herzegovina and Albania
on the coast of the Adriatic Sea (from Google Maps)
So, Montenegro is in the Balkans ... I know all about them from my OU studies ... or at least I thought I did.  Look, there's Sarajevo where the Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated in June 1914 and Serbia who were thought responsible.  I wonder what William Huddleston(e) was doing there?  Incidently it seems there should be an e on Huddlestone - but it is missing on the Stairfoot Roll of Honour.

I soon found William Huddlestone in the 1911 census on Ancestry.  Aged 28 he was a boarder with a family in Stairfoot, his occupation was Police Constable and he was born in Rosedale, Yorkshire.  Backtracking I found him in 1891 aged 8 at home in Pickering, North Yorkshire with his widowed mother Sarah, a brother Thomas and a sister Lily.  I could not find him in 1901 and had my suspicions that he may have served in the Army before the First World War - many policemen were ex-Army at that time.

On Find My Past, in the British Army Service records I found the very man - William Huddlestone, born in Rosedale enlisting in the Yorkshire Regiment on 1 December 1899 in Pickering.  He was 18 years old and had been a Farm Labourer.  He was 5' 8.75" tall, weight 141 llbs, chest size 33.5", with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair.  He had tattoo marks on his left fore arm. 
Pinkish paper headed Military History Sheet - it lists William's service in various countries, see text below.
Part of William's Military History sheet (from Find My Past)
William's service record shows him in South Africa from June 1900 to March 1902 - that's why I couldn't find him in the census!  Military Campaign Medal Rolls on Ancestry confirm that he was awarded the King's South Africa Medal with clasps for 1901 and 1902 and the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps for the Cape Colony and the Orange Free State.  He then served in India for a year and half, Somaliland for just under a year - he gets another medal for this - then a quick trip home in 1904 for just three months.  Off to India again for another year and a half and back to South Africa in February 1906 for nearly two years then he is transferred into the Reserve in December 1907. 
Similar medals to the ones William was awarded (back and front)
King's and Queen's South Africa Medals (from NorthEast Medals)
In a newspaper cutting from 1935 found on Find My Past reporting on William's police career I see that he was in the Cape Town Police for a while before returning to England in 1908.  I am not sure how this fits with his stated military service - does it mean he was in the Police whilst he was in the Army?  Anyway, he had lots of experience so on his return he joined the North Riding Police and then transferred to the West Riding Force, to be stationed at Stairfoot.  Which brings us nicely back to the 1911 census we have already seen.

His presence on a Wesleyan Reform Methodist Roll of Honour suggests he followed that persuasion of religion, so it is not surprising that I can't find his marriage in the West Yorkshire Parish records on Ancestry.  However a William Huddlestone marries an Ethel Ambler in the first quarter of 1914 in Barnsley (found on FreeBMD) ... this might be our man.  If so there are four daughters born to the couple, Ethel in 1915, Hilda in 1917, Margaret in 1920 and Dorothy in 1921, all but Margaret (Doncaster) registered in Barnsley.  This information fits with the newspaper cutting again ... "on rejoining the police after the war he was sergeant at Harrogate for 15 months, from there he went to Goldthorpe in the Doncaster division and later to Royston (which is in Barnsley) as Inspector". 

So what did he do in the First World War ... the same newspaper cutting, it's from the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 30 December 1935 by the way, states that, "during the Great War he served with the King's Royal Rifles", well that tallies with the entry on the Roll of Honour, "and the Tank Corps, rising to the rank of Captain."  His service records, even if they had survived the blitz, would no longer have been filed with the ones on Ancestry as they would have been moved when he became an officer.  This leaves me scratting around looking for little clues to put together to try to find out what he did in the war.
William Huddlestone's Medal Card (from Ancestry)
William's Medal Card, above, shows that he was a Warrant Officer First Class in the King's Royal Rifle Corps and then was commissioned on 20 August 1917.  The Roll of Honour says he won the Military Cross - this is a medal for officers so he must have won that after he was commissioned. On the reverse of the medal card is an address - 9 Burngreave Road, Sheffield.  Back to that invaluable newspaper cutting ... "He was for three years Inspector at Sheffield".  Ah, ha! So at the time they were distributing the British War Medal and Victory Medals, in around 1919 to 1921 judging by other records I have seen, William Huddlestone was already living in Sheffield.  

Not having Service records for such an interesting character is very frustrating so I tried a search on the new London Gazette website - I don't know what is going on a the moment but Find My Past's site is coming in for a lot of criticism for being dreadful since its revamp and I found the new London Gazette search much harder than the old one.  It seems that new technology is NOT the answer to everything!

10 April 1918 "W Huddlestone, from temp Qr-Mr and Hon Lt, a Serv Bn., K.R.Rif. C., to be temp Lt. 8 Jan 1918."  Translated I think this means he was still in the King's Royal Rifle Corps in early 1918 and his honorary rank of Lieutenant was being made into a temporary one.  Qr-Mr must be Quartermaster, as mentioned on the Roll of Honour.

10 Oct 1918 "Temp. Lt. W Huddlestone to be Bn. Equip. Offr., and to be actg. Capt. while so empld.  23 Aug 1918."  Unfortunately the regimental heading is missing, there's a bit torn out of the page, but the officers below are Tank Engineers so maybe William has moved to the Tank Corps now. 

7 February 1919 " Tank Corps (Equipment Branch). The undermentioned temp Lts (actg. Capts.) to be temp. Capts.: - 19 October 1918 W Huddlestone, H.N. Fearnley."  William is definitely in the Tank Corps now - but it doesn't sound like role at the front - more in stores and admin.

I can't find any mention of his Military Cross which the newspaper says he won for capturing a German gun and gun team ... but ...
Citation from the London Gazette 9 March 1917 pp.2448-9

Here's the citation for his Montenego Medal!  Won whilst he was the Company Serjeant Major of the King's Royal Rifle Corps.  Interestingly I was told recently that the 16th KRRC was raised from the Church Lads Brigade.  Maybe his connections with the church at Stairfoot influenced his choice of regiment.
The Montenegrin Silver Medal for Bravery (from LiveAuctioneers)
That's pretty!  I don't actually think it means he was in Montenegro though.  I'm getting the impression that the King of Montenegro was one of our allies and presented medals as recommended ... more research needed.

William Huddlestone was promoted to Superintendent in 1927 and in 1935 was in charge of the Doncaster Division of the West Riding Police Force.  In December 1935 he was appointed Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Force at Wakefield.

He was awarded an MBE in the Coronation Honours List in 1937 while he was the Chief Superintendent of the West Riding Constabulary.  Yorkshire Evening Post 11 May 1937.

His claim to fame on retirement in February 1939 is that Conan Doyle, author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, mentioned him in a book.  "We were on the same ship out East, and apparently he had occasion to remember a Yorkshireman 'telling off' some natives in very plain language, and he explained how and why in one of his books".  The cutting where this is mentioned is from the Evening Telegraph of 1 February 1939.

This is not the end of William's story though - war broke out again in September 1939 and you wouldn't have expected him to fail to volunteer.  He would have been in his late 50's by now but he was appointed to the Local Defence Volunteers.  This time we get a photo.

Yorkshire Evening Post 21 May 1940 (from Find My Past Newspapers)
Of course we know the Local Defence Volunteers better as Dad's Army!  The write up notes that William Huddlestone had 10 police and military medals ... I think I'd need a bigger blog post to get them all in if I could find mention of them all. 

Well done him!  Not bad for a farm labourer from Pickering!

William dies on 3 March 1963 at Pinderfields Hospital and his widow Ethel survives him.  He leaves a will and his Probate record on Ancestry records his home address and the amount he left.  I wonder who got the medals? 

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Beta Testing "Lives of the First World War" from the Imperial War Museum

As you will have probably noticed I've become very interested in the First World War in the last couple of years.  With the OH's family coming predominantly from Barnsley I have found connections to soldiers in the Barnsley Pals along with many others.  As I have access to local resources in Barnsley Archives (newspapers, books, archives from churches and other local research) and an ever growing personal experience researching soldiers my lists of 'favourite' soldiers are getting longer and longer, but most of them are Yorkshire based.  My own family comes from the North East of England and so far I haven't done very well finding out about my own WW1 ancestors.
IWM Lives of the First World War logo

Hopefully this new project, "Lives of the First World War", from the Imperial War Museum will help with that - as a national project they aim to link together the personal stories of everyone who was involved in the First World War; soldiers, sailors, nurses and civilians too!

I subscribed to their email link some months ago and on Thursday last week I received an email asking me to log in to the beta site and give it a try out.  The aim is to collect lots of feedback to iron out bugs before the project goes fully live.

The project has been pre-loaded with information from the WW1 Medal Cards so includes only men who served abroad at the moment - there are plans to add the men who served at home and the other categories as the project progresses.  You search for a man by name, unit or service number and then 'remember' them to add them to your own personal 'dashboard'.  This creates a list of men that you can refer back to easily.

I began by 'remembering' a couple of my favourite Barnsley soldiers, Alonzo Wilson Swallow, Reginald Leslie Duncan and Frank Armitage. Last year I created a World War One Soldiers' Stories tab on my blog and started a list of the stories I had researched in depth and written up with links so that it was easy to find them again.  This was very useful for looking up the work I had already done on these men.  
Medal Card for Alonzo W Swallow (from Ancestry)

Finding Alonzo wasn't actually that easy - the seed information is only as good as the transcriptions of course, that's why they are relying on crowd-sourcing to correct these errors.  On his medal card I must admit Alonzo's name is very hard to read unless you know what you are looking for.   It took some cross referencing with his service number to work out that the entry for George N Swallow was my man ... does the name above look like George to you?  Hmm, struggling ... Cross checking on The National Archives medal card pages I see that this is where the mistake originated.  He is correctly indexed on Ancestry - I wonder if I submitted a correction to that at some point in the past?  It is fairly easy to amend the information on the Lives of the First World War site ... well, once you've worked out that the way to do it is to "improve" an entry. 
Screen shot of Lives of the First World War - record for Alonzo W Swallow - a blank silhouette, and then his date of birth, date of death and Regiment.  See text below.
Alonzo Swallow's page header on Lives of the First World War (beta)

Now he's got the right name and you can see some of the other information I've been adding.  This could be a long job as each source has to be added and verified (by saying what reason you have for connecting it to the soldier).  Then you can click on a source and start picking out bits of information to record, so from Alonzo's WW1 Service Records (as an external link by putting in the Ancestry website address) I have been picking out the dates when he changed regiment from the 2nd/5th York and Lancaster to the West Riding Cyclist Company and then the Army Cyclist Corps.  When I finally managed to get all the dates in the right order the header, shown above, did show his last regiment and service number, the ones indicated on his medal card - the Army Cyclist Corps and no.20486.

It looks as if, when it goes live, people will be able to link to all kinds of data from the DC Thompson stable of websites - I can currently pick census returns and BMD index entries to link directly - of course DC Thompson also own Find My Past and the British Newspaper Archive.  This part of the process will need you to be a subscriber (charges not yet specified) but anyone will be able to add personal information, pictures and stories for free.  During the beta testing there are no charges to the testers (which is good!).  There is a tantalising note that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission information is to be linked directly "allowing you to add this key moment to a Life Story".

I guess as I work my way around the system a few times I will learn the ropes and stop having to double back to amend things or add them differently.  That's the whole idea of beta testing I suppose. 

What with all the other stuff I am working I might not be able to give this much time - but it is fun trying out something new and I look forward to the day someone else 'remembers' one of my Barnsley men or I find a link to one of my North Eastern ancestors with lots of information already entered by someone else.