Leeds born Gwendolen Mary Piercy spent the war in Birmingham and Doncaster working as a V.A.D. nurse.

The eldest daughter of 3, Gwendolen first joined the Red Cross in March 1917. She worked as a nurse at 1st Southern General Hospital in Birmingham. It was one of the many large military hospitals developed to treat casualties from the front. She stayed there for a month.

In September 1917 she started working at Hooton Pagnell Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster. She was working as a nurse responsible for ‘general nursing’ according to her Red Cross record. She worked full time there and was still working there in 1919.

After the war ended it is not clear what Gwendolen did; records cannot fill in the gaps between her Red Cross career and her death in 1976. She did not marry; neither did her two younger sisters, Beryl and Marguerite.

Rallied Round the Flag

Like many other families during the First World War, the Gaisford family rallied together to do their part.

The head of the family Richard Boileau Gaisford was a military man with a distinguished career before the outbreak of the First World War. Early records have him as a Gentlemen Cadet in line to succeed as Second Lieutenant of the Indian Staff Corp in 1878. He was at Haileybury College between 1867 and 1873, and then went on to get a BA from St John’s College, Oxford, and more importantly he played rugby against Cambridge!

His wife, Ellen Elsy Lindsay was no less extraordinary. It is likely that she was a trained nurse as she was a member of the Committee of Barrow & North Lonsdale V.A.Ds and made Commandant of 34 West Lancs in 1914 as recorded in her Red Cross record.

In August 1914, after the outbreak of war, she helped to equip the Fairview Auxiliary Hospital in Ulveston, Lancashire. She took no part in hospital administration and it is not clear if she provided financial aid to the hospital or whether she worked there as a nurse. She resigned in February 1916.

She was not the only Gaisford involved in Fariview; her daughter Margaret Elspeth also worked there in 1915. Margaret joined the Red Cross in November 1915 as a Voluntary Aid Detachment. She left in October 1916 having worked 558 hours nursing. She worked in several different hospitals, she started at Fairview Auxiliary Hospital in Ulveston, and then spent 2 months at Hooton Pagnell Hall Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster, a year and a half at The Welsh Hospital Netley doing X-Ray work, and then her last 6 weeks were spent at Bethnal Green Military Hospital.

Though too young to enlist during the First World War, Richard and Ellen’s son Richard Lindsay Stephen Gaisford joined the Royal Navy and saw combat during the Second World War.

From Wales to the World

Though Mary was born Machynlleth, the family moved all around Wales; from Machynlleth to Scubory Coed to Llwynon before finally settling in Glandyfi by 1917.

Her father, Charles Richard Kenyon, was originally from Doncaster, born in Hooton Pagnell in 1848. By 1881 aged 33, he and a good chunk of his family had relocated to Wales and become a farmer of 175 acres of land and employing 4 men and a boy.

It wasn’t until he was 44 that he married. In 1892 he married Kent born Lillian Ann Beresford who was 33. In 1894 they had their only son, Charles Henry Beresford, and in 1896 they had their only daughter, Mary Patricia Grace.

In 1915 Mary joined the Red Cross and worked at Gledhow Hall V.A.D. Hospital in Leeds for 3 weeks and then a further 3 weeks in 1916. In September 1917 she started work at Hooton Pagnell Hall in Doncaster where her particular duties were surgery, wards, night duty and pantry work. She remained there until December 1918 having worked 909 hours in total.

After her service for the Red Cross ended she returned to her parent’s home Ranger Lodge in Glandyfi.

In 1923 she married George Gregory Hills. He had also been born in Machynlleth and it is possible that they knew each other as children. He moved into her family home of Ranger Lodge where they lived until his death in 1955. It appears that George made his living as a trader and that involved travelling internationally, travelling to and from Africa. Sometimes he did this alone and sometimes Mary joined him.

After his death Mary remarried in 1956 to William Hubert Mappin. William was a plant nursery owner who spent a lot of time travelling. After they were married Grace went with him and together they went to places such as Québec in Canada, Las Palmas in Spain, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

William died in 1966 leaving everything to his widow. She stayed in Wales and died in 1978 aged 82.

To The Manor Born

In 1893 Charles Howard Taylor and his wife Gertrude Mary had their first and only daughter – Phyllis Thelma Howard Taylor. Phyllis was the middle child sandwiched between her older brother Eric and her two younger brothers Ronald and Harold.

Her father was Lord of the Manor of New Hall in Darfield which was where Phyllis was born. He was also the Justice of Peace for the West Riding and a well-known polo pony breeder!

The family lived between two estates during Phyllis life; New Hall and Middlewood Hall, both in Darfield. It is not clear whether the family purchased or built New Hall, or at what date. Middlewood Hall was bought by Phyllis’ Grandfather, Thomas Taylor in 1845 and kept in the family until 1970 when it was sold to a Mr and Mrs Wainwright who were professional photographers.

The boys were sent away to boarding school at a young age whereas Phyllis was kept at home. Not much is known about her childhood and where it was spent. At the 1911 census taking the family were living at Hampole Priory in Doncaster, a former nunnery.

Sometime after the start of the war Middlewood Hall was turned into an auxiliary hospital for wounded troops. When she was 23 she joined the British Red Cross and worked at her converted home from April 1916 until 1919. In November 1916 she worked for 4 hours a day at Hooton Pagnell Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster until February 1917 working as a nurse.

Shortly after joining the Red Cross Phyllis’ elder brother Eric was killed in action at the Somme. He would not be the only brother she outlived. In 1959 her younger brother Ronald died and left his estate to be shared between her and their brother, Harold.

In 1960 she inherited Middlewood Hall. She stayed there until her death in 1967. She was buried in All Saint’s Church cemetery in Darfield along with the rest of her family except for Eric who had been lost at the Somme.

Not Always About the Boys

Born into a career military family, perhaps it was no surprise that Joan continued on that tradition by first joining the British Red Cross during the First World Ward and then the Women’s Royal Naval Service during the Second World War.

She was the youngest child of Archibald John Arnott Wright and Emily Morton Young. Scottish born Archibald served all over the world during his military career and was awarded medals for his actions during the Second Boer War. He even served during the First World War aged 64 years old; between 1915 and 1917 he was promoted from Colonel to Brigadier General.

Emily and her mother Eliza were both born and raised in India. Even after she was married Emily lived with her mother and had her two eldest daughters, Madeline and Olive, in India. It appears that the family relocated to England sometime in the 1880s, and that included Eliza who lived with the family presumably until her death.

Madeline and Olive continued the tradition of marrying military men. In 1909 Olive married William Henry Traill who was a Captain in the East Lancaster Regiment. In 1910 Madeline married Arthur Horace Walker a Commander in the Royal Navy who, after retiring, re-enlisted during World War Two and became a Rear Admiral. Joan approached things a little bit differently.

In November 1918 Joan joined the Red Cross as a V.A.D. Ward Maid. She worked full time at the Hooton Pagnell Auxiliary Hospital in Doncaster, and was still working there in 1919. Prior to this she had worked as an ambulance driver for the York 31st Territorial Ambulance Detachment.

In 1917 the Women’s Royal Naval Service was formed for the First World War. It was shortly disbanded in 1919, and then revived in 1939 at the beginning of the Second World War. It appears she enlisted sometime in 1944 as she was recorded as being an Acting Third Officer. She stayed in the Women’s Royal Naval Service at least until 1948.

She died in 2001 aged 101 in West Surrey after living a remarkable life.

‘Hard as Nails’ at the Somme

Eric was 25 when he was killed at the Somme.

Born on 1st January 1891, he was the eldest child and heir of Charles Howard Taylor and his wife Gertrude. Charles was Lord of the Manor of New Hall in Darfield and a Justice of Peace for the West Riding.

Eric and his 3 younger siblings, Phyllis, Ronald, and Harold, spent their time between the families two estates in Darfield: New Hall and Middlewood Hall. It is not clear whether the family purchased or built New Hall, or at what date. Middlewood Hall was bought by Phyllis’ Grandfather, Thomas Taylor in 1845 and kept in the family until 1970 when it was sold to a Mr and Mrs Wainwright who were professional photographers.

Eric and his 2 brothers were sent away to boarding school when they were of school age. At 10 years old he was a student at Oatlands Boys’ Preparatory School in Harrogate. From there he went to Jesus College, Cambridge to read agriculture in 1909. It is thought that he left between completed his course sometime between 1909 and 1910 though he does pop up in a photograph of the Jesus College 2nd Hockey team in 1912.

At the outbreak of war Eric enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers 23rd Battalion (Sportsmen’s) as a 2nd lieutenant. The 23rd Battalion, The Royal Fusiliers was raised at the Hotel Cecil in the Strand, London 25 September 1914 by Mrs Cunliffe-Owen. They were initially known as the “Hard as Nails Battalion”.

In June 1915 they went to Clipstone Camp near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. It was one of the largest training camps in England. In August they moved to Salisbury Plain for final training and firing practice. In November they received orders to prepare to proceed to France. Later that month they arrived in Boulogne.

They took part in the Winter Operations 1914-15. Then in 1915 they saw action at the Battle of Festubert and the Battle of Loos.

In 1916 they fought in the Battles of the Somme.

Eric died 27 July 1916. His cause of death has just been recorded as ‘killed in action’. He was 25 years old.

In his obituary in the Jesus College Society Cambridge Annual Report 1917 there is a message from Lieutenant Colonel H.A. Vernon, that Eric “was an extremely good officer and very popular with the men.  He showed great courage and coolness in the attack”.

In 1917 his father erected a War Shrine in his memory and for all the soldiers and sailors from Darfield who had died in the war. It is situated A635 Doncaster Road, Darfield and can still be seen today.

Six Degrees of Separation

Edith spent most of her life in Oldham, Lancaster. She was born there, she grew up there, she worked there, but she did not die there.

In 1874 Edith’s father Alexander died leaving behind a widow, Betty and 7 children. A cotton spinner and the son of a grocer, the family lived comfortably employing at least one general servant for the house. Even after his death the family continued to live comfortably in Oldham.

By 1901 Betty was living in Ashton under Lyne, Lancashire and owned and ran a drapers shop. Edith, who was in her early 30s at the time, was living with her mother and working in her shop as an associate draper.

Sometime after this Betty and Edith relocated to Llysfor Penmaenmawr in North Wales. Betty who is well into her 70s is shown living with her 2 spinster daughters: Edith and Maria, who are both in their 40s. They all seem to be living off of ‘private means’.

In July 1916 Edith joined the British Red Cross working in the V.A.D. She worked as the Quartermaster of the Carnarvon Red Cross Detachment No. 34. She later worked at Hooton Pagnell Hall Hospital in Doncaster, this was her first nursing position as part of the Red Cross and her duties included nursing, massage, and helping the Quartermaster.

She was still serving in 1919 aged 50.

It is unclear what happened to her after the end of the First World War. Her mother had died in 1916 leaving everything to Thomas Taylor, her eldest child. Perhaps she and her sister, Maria continued to live together. Perhaps they lived apart. It is clear that Edith never married.

She did return to Wales as that is where she died in October 1965. Upon her death she left £3947 to National Provincial Bank Limited and John Alexander Chisholm Taylor, retired brigadier from the army.

It is unlikely that the two were related. The two families lived in Oldham around the same time and John’s sister, Dorothy worked at Hooton Pagnell Hall Hospital at the same time as Edith. It is likely that they all reconnected during the war.

Married the Wrong Sister – Then There was War

Richard Hadfield was married at 19, a father at 22, a soldier at 28 and dead at 32.

This was not uncommon in the years surrounding the First World War. What is different about this story is that for the longest time his son and his grandchildren believed he had married a different sister.

In 1907 Richard married Lizzie Bowers, a labourer’s daughter from Sheffield. She moved to Doncaster to live with Richard and his parents. Richard was working for his father’s ice cream vending business at this time.

In 1911 Lizzie’s father died and her younger sister, Minnie, came to live with them. She was just 17.

It is difficult to know whether the marriage between Richard and Lizzie was a happy one or not but between 1911 and 1915 the couple had 4 children, 3 of whom died in infancy. That would take a toll on any marriage.

Whatever the circumstances in 1916 when he enlisted, Richard listed his wife’s address as ‘separate’.

In 1914 the couple had moved to 142 Cleveland Street, close to the Hadfield family homes at 3 & 6 Anderson’s Yard, Grove Street. When they decided to separate Richard moved back into his parent’s house, along with his surviving son, Robert Henry, and his sister-in-law, Minnie. Lizze stayed at the Cleveland Street house.

Richard enlisted in 1916. By this time he had stopped working for his father’s ice cream business and was working as a miner.

On 18th May 1916 he joined the Leicestershire Regiment 4th Battalion as an army reserve and spent the next 6 months serving at home. In February 1917 he was transferred to the Machine Gunner Corp.

In May 1917 he was sent to join the 108th Machine Gun Company attached to the 36th Division along the Western Front. In April 1918 he was moved to the 55th Machine Gun Company which was the machine gun section of the 55th (West Lancashire) Infantry Division serving on the front line at Givenchy and Festubert.

Between August and October 1918 Richard quickly rose through the ranks to become a Corporal. He stayed with the 55th until he was discharged in January 1919 and it is likely that he was part of the Battle of the Lys.

In 1919 he was transferred to the class Z reserves; men to be called back into active service if the Germans did not accept the terms of the peace treaty.

In March 1920 there was a request to discharge him from the reserves. No reason is given, but it was probably due to ill health as he died a few weeks later.

On 17th March 1920 he died at home from bronchitis and heart failure, possibly as a consequence of mustard gas.

He left everything to Minnie in his will and she was given his British War Medal and the Victory Medal to keep safe until Robert was old enough to value them. He was 5 when his father died and Minnie raised him even though Lizzie was alive and living in Sheffield.

In later years whenever Robert spoke of his Mum and whenever his children spoke of their Grandmother it was always in reference to Minnie. For a long time they thought it was Minnie Richard had married in 1907.

Richard Hadfield Grave

Title: Richard Hadfield Grave
Description: Photo courtesy of Nick Hatton by-nc