Monday 11 November 2013

Remembering Cudworth Soldiers who Served in the First World War

I've been working on a talk for the Cudworth Local History and Heritage Group (CLHG) to be given on Wednesday 5th February 2014 at the Cudworth Community Fire Station.  There's a nice meeting room there and we will be having refreshments at 10am to warm up all our visitors who will be able to browse displays of the Group's photographs and examine some special World War One displays before the talk begins.
A colour photo of a church and war memorial.  The memorial is a sloping block topped with a calvary cross.  On each side of the block are granite tablets with the names of the men of Cudworth inscribed.  Poppy wreaths surround the bottom of the memorial.
Cudworth War Memorial with Poppy Wreaths after Remembrance Sunday 2013
I plan to talk for about an hour and a half on three or four families in Cudworth who were affected by the war.  The problem is narrowing down all the alternatives to just those three or four - I hadn't realised until I started this research just how many men from Cudworth joined up in the First World War.  The Royston book I bought a couple of weeks ago notes that even by December 1914 over 7% of the eligible men in the whole of Barnsley had enlisted, and amongst the outlying coal mining communities the figures were much higher, 10% in Royston and 23% in Cudworth.  These figures will have risen as recruitment gathered pace in early 1915 and after conscription in 1916.

I began by compiling a spreadsheet from sources such as the war memorial (189 WW1 names) and the medal winners listed in the book Lest Cudworth Forgets (LCF) - produced by the CLHG in 2005 to accompany the war memorial refurbishment project.  To this I added the names of men whose Service or Pension records appear on the Ancestry website with Cudworth mentioned in their address - there will be others whom a simple search did not find.  A search of the London Gazette online produced some names that had not appeared in LCF, and a search of the parish baptism registers, helpfully transcribed by my colleague BS, produced another 50 names that had to be integrated into the previous lists.  There are also memorials in the local working men's clubs and in the church and chapels to be taken into consideration.  Another project that I have been working on, Barnsley Prisoners of War, contributed another list, which I cross checked with the recorded POWs in LCF.
British Prisoners of War (from the WW1 Resource Centre)

And this highlights the difficulty of producing a definitive list of this kind nearly 100 years after the event - we no longer have the local knowledge of the men to be able to say for certain who actually lived in Cudworth, or who was associated with the area by family or work or worship.  Where a similar name appears on several lists are these the same man or two separate men, maybe father and son or cousins?  Another complication is that there is a second Cudworth, in Somerset, and it is therefore possible that men from this Cudworth may have been added to my list by mistake - only further checks will eliminate these names.

So far my combined roll of honour for Cudworth in the First World War contains over 570 names.  The population of Cudworth Urban District in 1911 was 6,824 and of these 1,951 were males between the ages of 15 and 44 years of age.  Men older than this in 1911 would have been too old to have been conscripted during the war, however they may have volunteered, I have found at least one man who lied about his age so that he could join up.  We are all familiar with the stories of youngsters who took an extra turn around the block to add a few years to their age, the youngest I have found in Cudworth so far was 17 in 1915 so he would have been 13 in 1911.  However, for a rough calculation I have 570 men from a population of 1,951 which is 29% of the total eligible men in Cudworth discovered so far to be serving at some point, which tallies with the figure quoted in the Royston book for the beginning of the war.   If you have trouble imagining percentages, that's almost one in three of the men between 19 and 49 years of age in 1915.  
Black and white photo, WW1, a young man having his chest measured and another his height taken.  There are two men seated taking notes.  A recruiting poster is visible on the wall behind
Medical Examination (from Epsom and Elwell History Explorer)

Bear in mind that many men would not have met the exacting medical requirements, they had to be over 5' 3" tall with a chest measurement of 33" and a weight of 115lbs (that's only 8stone 3lbs).  In Britain 50% of the men coming from impoverished urban areas who attempted to enlist failed to reach these requirements (Silbey, 2004) and 20% more were failed for poor teeth, eyesight or heart conditions.  This may account for why the overall figure for Barnsley recruitment is so much lower than that for the rates from the outlying areas - the men from the Barebones and Wilson's Piece areas of Barnsley may not have been as fit as the first and second generation incomers to the coal mining areas, who were still living on the edge of the countryside in Royston and Cudworth.

I have whittled my list down to four men that I think will make an interesting talk, Albert Gallear a serial soldier, he had served in the Boer War and re-enlisted for the First World War, Jabez Clare is a lad who joined up at only 17, Walter Parkes who was taken prisoner after the Battle of the Somme, and if I have time Bernard Joyner who is remembered personally in Cudworth church.

All are welcome to our talk - it is free to attend - I hope the weather is kind to us next February and I look forward so seeing some new faces there.

Further Reading
Silbey, D. (2004) 'Bodies and Cultures Collide: Enlistment, the Medical Exam, and the British Working Class, 1914-1916', Social History of Medicine, Vol 17, No 1, [online] Available at: (Accessed 29 October 2013) 

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