Sunday, 5 May 2013

World War One Soldier's Story - Joseph Nutley from Howden le Wear

I realised yesterday that all my soldiers' stories so far have been about Barnsley lads and relatives of the OH - so for a change here is one of my relatives - Joseph Nutley, my great great uncle.

Joseph was born in 1887 in Howden le Wear, Durham, the fifth son of James Nutley and his wife Eleanor (maiden name Jolly).  I wrote about this family and the Howden le Wear area in three blogs earlier this year, you can find them here, here and here and there's a photo of James Nutley on a page about him.  James and Eleanor had thirteen children - only one little girl died young and I have found marriages and children for ten of the others.  A huge tribe then, based in this area - yet oddly I can only find one man in the family for certain who went to war in 1914-18 and one other who served in 1939-45.  It was a rural area and most of the men would have been employed down the pit or on local farms, maybe the volunteering fever that was seen in towns like Barnsley didn't reach the smaller villages, or maybe the married status, age and occupation of his older brothers deterred them from volunteering and saved them from conscription.  I have found a medal card which may be for Joseph's younger brother Harold who would have been just old enough to join up as the war ended.
Studio portrait of two men, one standing in military uniform, the other, older sitting.
Joseph Nutley (b.1887) and his brother Thomas Nutley (b.1872)

The above picture is of Joseph and his eldest brother Thomas Nutley, there was a fifteen year age difference between them.  Joseph is in uniform, a strangely pale coloured uniform with a lack of any distinguishing badges - maybe he had just joined up and this was his first, temporary outfit.

World War One Medal Card for Joseph Nutley
Joseph Nutley's Medal Card (from the National Archives)
I could find no service records for Joseph, however his medal card shows that he joined the Northumberland Fusiliers and the qualifying date of 16 January 1915 would be the date he commenced service overseas.  The card above also notes that he was presumed dead, so he was one of the many men who just went missing and were later assumed to have died as no further sign could be found of them. 

Joseph Nutley's entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Website
Joseph Nutley's entry on the Commonwealth  War Graves Commission website
Joseph's entry on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website is more helpful -  I think I will have mentioned before that sadly it is easier to find information on men who died than those who served and survived.  Joseph Nutley served in 'B' company of the 2nd Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers and died on or around the 21 February 1915.  He was twenty-seven years old when he died and the website even confirms that his parents were James and Ellen Nutley from Hargil Road, Howden le Wear.

I find the Long, Long Trail website very useful for writing up these soldiers' stories - looking the 2nd Battalion up on their Northumberland Fusiliers page a reason for Joseph's pale uniform becomes clear.  This battalion had been serving in India in August 1914 and returned to England on 22 December of that year.  Light coloured uniforms were commonly issued for use in hotter countries such as India.  Had Joseph been a soldier in the regular army?  He was old enough to have joined up well before the start of the war - this might explain the speed at which he arrived in France, as men who first joined in 1914 were initially sent for a fairly long period of training.  So the photo above may even predate the First World War and be of Joseph when he initially joined up.

The 2nd Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers joined the 84th Brigade, 28th Division, which, according to the Long, Long Trail again was "rushed as a much-needed reinforcement to France. The units of the Division embarked at Southampton and landed at Le Havre on 16-19 January 1915 and then moved to concentrate in the area between Bailleul and Hazebrouck."  This information tallies exactly with the date on Joseph's Medal Card of 16 January 1915.  The first named battle that the Division took part in was the 2nd Battle of Ypres from April to May of 1915 but Joseph had already been lost by then.

On the 19 March 1915 a long list of the Northumberland Fusiliers' casualties notified by 1 March that year was printed in the Newcastle Journal newspaper (which I found on Find My Past). At the end of the list of over a hundred wounded men, twenty-five are listed as missing, amongst them Private J. Nutley.   

Joseph Nutley is remembered on the Menin Gate in Ypres.  When the OH and I visited there in 2009 we were able to find and photograph the panel where his name appears.  It is an addenda panel suggesting there was still doubt about his status at the end of the war or he would have been listed under his regiment elsewhere on the memorial.

A photo of part of the list of names on panel 58 of the Menin Gate in Ypres including Joseph Nutley
Part of Panel 58 on the Menin Gate, Ypres
I found out recently, after contacting the Howden le Wear Local History Society, that Joseph was also remembered until recently in the local church, St Mary the Virgin, Fir Tree.  His brother George donated an inscribed cross.

In loving memory of Joseph Nutley, 2nd NF
who fell in the Great War at Ypres on February 21st 1915.
This cross is given by his brother George Nutley.

That information led me to the North East War Memorials site where I found further information on Joseph Nutley under Howden le Wear, there is even a decent picture of the processional cross in situ in the church before its closure in 2008.  My contact at the Local History Society thought that it may have been taken to Hunwick church, but the War Memorials site notes that it was returned to the family. 

The North East War Memorials site also provides a list of the men commemorated on the war memorial in the village and some pictures of it; Joseph's name appears along with over other thirty men who fell in the 1914-18 war and nine from the 1939-45 war.  For a small village that's a lot of men.

This is all the information I have on Joseph Nutley so far, but bearing in mind that I only found the newspaper cutting today and the information from Howden le Wear in March you never know, more might come to light one day.  I've told the OH we have to detour to Howden on our forthcoming holiday in the North East to take some pictures, stoically he said, "It's do-able", no doubt mentally adding that destination to the long list I've been suggesting since the destination for our break was planned.  I'm also intending to send a link to this blog to the War Memorials people, if they add it to their page on Joseph's cross and maybe I'll catch a few cousins with stories about him that way!


Simon O'Corra said...

Hi there
I am a fellow family historian but my comment is about your joseph and thomas nutley photo. I am writing a book about ordinary life in WW1 and am seeking images which are non combabant

Could I use your image in my book?

Simon O'Corra

Simon O'Corra said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BarnsleyHistorian said...

Hi Simon

Thank you for reading my blog - unfortunately the picture was not originally mine and although I do have permission from its owner (a distant relative of course) to use on my blog I can't extend that to you without consulting him.


mike said...

Interesting reading.I come from Victoria Howden-Le-Wear was born there 1951.Also both my father and mothers familys lived there Fairgrieve and Stephensons.
Regards,Michael fairgrieve, now living in Northern Ireland

BarnsleyHistorian said...

Thanks for reading Mike. I am glad you enjoyed my post.