|Part of the 1918 Absent Voters' List for Barnsley (thanks to Barnsley Archives)|
I have been examining the men who were indicated in the AVL handwritten notes as Discharged, Missing or Prisoners of War - occasionally a man is listed as Dead or Killed, but there were none like that in this section. My theory is that a man who was discharged might have been wounded and may have subsequently died of his wounds before the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) cut off date of 31 August 1921 in which case he should be included in our Roll of Honour of Barnsley's WW1 Fallen. A man who was noted as missing at the point the handwritten notes were added in the run up to the December 1918 election could very well have remained missing and thus was also a casualty. The Barnsley War Memorials Project's criteria for including a man on the Roll of Honour is that he should be either born in Barnsley, be living in Barnsley at the time of his enlistment or be remembered on a memorial in the Barnsley MBC area.
|The header of my Barnsley Prisoners of War Community on LFWW|
The first man I looked at was Bernard Hirst of 9 Blenheim Avenue, he was noted as Discharged. I found him with no difficulty in LFWW using the information given in the AVL and a search on FreeBMD showed that a man of this name and of an age to have served in WW1 (born 1892) died in Barnsley in 1970. I double checked the CWGC, but he was not listed. So not one for our Roll of Honour.
The next man was John William Raven of 31, Blenheim Avenue who was marked as Missing. A nice unusual name, so I thought he would be equally easy to find. No! Nothing on either his name or the service number, 34065, given in the AVL. The abbreviation LNL was not one I'd come across before so I didn't know what to enter for regiment in the search on LFWW. If I can't find a man easily on Lives I turn to CWGC next.
|One of thr 8 hits for Raven, J, First World War, on the CWGC|
|Panel 5 St Mary's Barnsley War Memorial|
With the correct service number I was soon able to find John Fleming Raven on LFWW and add him to my Barnsley War Memorials Project (BWMP) and Absent Voters' List Communities. I hadn't heard his name before, and despite his home being in St Edward's parish he does not appear on St Edward's War Memorial, so I did a search on the BWMP site to see if we had recorded his name elsewhere. He is remembered on panel 5 of the large gothic pink memorial in St Mary's church in the centre of Barnsley. I have added him to that Community on LFWW as well.
I don't know why he is listed in the AVL as John William Raven instead of John Fleming Raven, the service number mistake is probably just a typo, but you would have thought his family would have given his name correctly to the Electorial Register people?
The next man whose handwritten note suggested I should do more investigation was Harold Thornton of 4, Blenheim Road. He was noted as being a Prisoner of War. As I had a web page for the BWMP open I did a search for his name first. The only hit I found was on the Memorial Panels in St Helen's Church in Hemsworth, which I thought unlikely given that he or his family were living in the centre of Barnsley in 1917/18 when the names for the AVL were collected. Of course if he returned safely from his time as a prisoner he would not be on any memorial ... so I re-started my research process in the correct order by looking for him on LFWW and the CWGC.
|Harold Thornton's Life Story on LFWW|
So next I looked for a Harold Thornton, born 1888 in Dewsbury, living in Barnsley in 1911. The only hit for that name, age and birth place was in Hemsworth! What a coincidence, given that I'd found a called Harold Thornton on the Hemsworth war memorial. The young man I had found was 23 years old, a boarder with an older couple called Twiley, and a Boot Manager, whatever that was. Could this be the right man?
|Marriage in Darton All Saints on 20 October 1915 (from Ancestry)|
You might have spotted that Harold says he's a widower at his marriage to Ethel. So between the census of 1911 where he is a single man and his marriage in 1915 he has married and lost another wife. A few searches on FreeBMD and Ancestry later I worked out that he'd married Elizabeth A Knox in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1911, the banns being read in St Helen's, Hemsworth beforehand. They had one child, Olive E, born in Q2 1914 in the Hemsworth Registration District and Elizabeth A Thornton aged 27 died in Hemsworth in the same quarter.
|Burial of Elizabeth Ann Thornton, aged 27, at Hemsworth (Wakefield Council)|
The burial records for Hemsworth are available to browse (they are not indexed by name) on Wakefield Council's website. Elizabeth Thornton's address at her death on 2 May 1914 was 71 Kirkby Road, Hemsworth, which very nearly matches the address given by Harold at his marriage to Ethel the following year.
So Harold was left with a small daughter to care for after the death of his wife, that would give him a reason to marry again fairly quickly. Harold and Ethel themselves had a son, John J E V Thornton, born in Hemsworth in 1916 by which time I expect Harold had joined the army as conscription, even for married men, came in in 1916. Unfortunately a John E V Thornton dies in Barnsley aged 0 in 1917. John Edgar Vincent Thornton aged 6 months is buried in Barnsley Cemetery in a plot shared with two Illsley children. This is more evidence for Ethel's move to Barnsley during Harold's service. This search on Thornton deaths also highlighted an Olive Thornton who died in Barnsley in 1929 aged 14. This is probably Harold's daughter by Elizabeth, such a shame that neither of Harold's children lived to adulthood.
|FreeBMD entry for the marriage of Ethel Thornton in Barnsley|
And his widow? In the 1930 Electoral Roll the occupants of 4 Blenheim Road are a John William and Ethel Elliott, so I looked for the marriage of Thornton to Elliott in FreeBMD, which you can see that I found in Q3 of 1919. They have a child named Iris in 1920 whom I found on FreeBMD by searching for births to Elliott, mother's maiden name Illsley, confirming that this is the remarriage of Harold's widow.
So Ethel knew that Harold wasn't coming home by the middle of 1919 and that she was free to marry again. His CWGC record shows his burial details at Valenciennes Communal Cemetery in France after his death in April 1918, so why didn't the family or the Electorial Register people know that he was dead at the time the handwritten notes were added to the AVL?
|List of burials in the German Extension at Valenciennes (from the CWGC)|
Having sorted out that Harold Thornton does NOT qualify for inclusion on the Barnsley Roll of Honour after all that - he was born in Dewsbury, probably lived in Hemsworth when he enlisted at Pontefract and is remembered on a memorial outside the Barnsley MBC boundary - I moved onto the next man on my list.
Harold Horbury, of 6 Blenheim Road, was marked up as, "Prisoner of War, E Camp" in the AVL handwritten notes. His details were Service number 236222 of the 13th Yorks regiment, and I could not find him on LFWW. Oh, dear, here we go again!
|Barnsley Chronicle 24 August 1918 |
(thanks to Barnsley Archives)
Happily I found him in my transcription of the list of POWs from the Barnsley Chronicle in August 1918.
Horbury H 23622 13th Yorkshire Regt Harahoe 28, K4, Matr, 37522, Camp de Friedrichsfeld, Pres Wesel 6 Blenheim Road, Barnsley
Incidently Harold Thornton is not on this list, maybe because his home address was actually Hemsworth or maybe because he did not appear on the list the Chronicle was working to, as he was already dead.
The AVL appears to have got Harold Horbury's service number wrong, they have been a bit overenthusiastic with the 2s! However searching for Horbury and 23622 on LFWW still didn't bring back anyone, so I tried just the number and found a Harold Horburn who looked like the right man. Maybe a transcription error from his Medal Card had changed him from Horbury to Horburn?
|Harold Horbury's Attestation (from Ancestry)|
So, as you see, what started off as a fairly straightforward tick list activity got quite complicated when the data in the AVL did not tally with that on other sources I have been using. I did identify one man, John Fleming Raven, who was listed as Missing on the AVL as a man who is already on one of Barnsley's war memorials, but the others I looked at either did not die during or from the effects of the war, or in the case of Harold Thornton, were from outside our area so cannot be included in our Roll of Honour.
Hours of fun!