Hospital Heroes in France – Mary and John Evans

Story submitted by Judith Barton.

My grandparents Mary Evans (nee Shearman) and John Davey Evans both served in France in WW1.

My grandmother was born, raised and lived in Doncaster all her life. She was a member of the Shearman family who were valuers and auctioneers. She married my grandfather in 1920 and had one son John Brian Davey Evans.

In 1915 my grandmother volunteered her services as a nursing orderly with the Scottish Womens Hospital. The British authorities would not accept her as she was under 25 years of age. A newspaper clipping stated that she had volunteered as a nursing orderly in Doncaster hospital prior to joining the SWH.

She was sent to France to the Abbaye de Royaumont, near Asnieres sur Oise, where a hospital was set up by women doctors. They provided medical care to French soldiers injured at the Front. Conditions were very tough but the soldiers received excellent care. I remember my grandmother mentioning the extreme cold in winter and keeping the milk churns in the pulpit!

A ward at Abbaye de Royaumont

Title: A ward at Abbaye de Royaumont
Description: Submitted by Judith Barton by-nc

The hospital was staffed and run entirely by women, with two exceptions: a chef who stayed on at the hospital after being nursed there; and a mechanic who serviced the ambulances that the women drove to collect their patients.

My grandmother served from May to August 1915. It is believed, although no longer possible to confirm, that she was invalided out as she later received a war injuries pension and my father remembered her spending considerable time in bed with respiratory difficulties.

She received a medal from the French government and the Victory Medal from the British government.

My grandfather served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France as a doctor. Unfortunately the family has no information as to exactly where he was stationed or for how many years.

Presentation case of Mary and John's medals

Title: Presentation case of Mary and John's medals
Description: Submitted by Judith Barton by-nc

When he was demobbed he came to Doncaster (he was born in Wales) and formed a medical partnership with a colleague. This was dissolved when the NHS started. He set up practice in what is now known as the St Vincent’s Medical Practice. He was joined by my father after he finished his National Service in 1949.

The family do not know how my grandparents met, or why my grandfather came to Doncaster, but they married in 1920.

Neither of them ever really talked about their war service as was common at the time.

My grandmother could not settle to a life of leisure and gave her time to the Women’s Voluntary Service, later known as the WRVS and now the RVS. I believe she was responsible also for setting up the Hospital Comforts League. She received an MBE for her voluntary work and was recognised as Citizen of the Year 1971 by The Doncaster Free Press. She was also affectionately known as ‘Lord Nelson’ due to the black eye patch she wore, having had an eye removed due to an eye condition.

Conisbrough Miner Fred Valentine Wood

Fred Valentine Wood was already married with two small children when he joined the K.O.Y.L.I. 5th Battalion in 1914, Private 240235.

He had married Lily Halifax on the 4th December 1910 in Conisbrough, Lily was the daughter to William Halifax a Miner and residing in Hooton Roberts, although she was born in Wickersley in 1877, Lily was a Domestic Servant at the time of her marriage. Fred’s sister Ethel witnessed the marriage.

Their children were, Harold born 10th May 1911, Henry born 6th December, 1913, George W. born 7th October, 1920 and Mary born 27th July 1922 (she later married Irving Ellis in 1949).

Fred was born 14th February 1890 (according to the 1939 Register) and baptised 4th June the same year. He was the son of George Wood a Glass Blower who later became a Miner who was born in Conisbrough and Mary Ann who was born in Stainton.

In 1901 Fred was living at home with his parents and siblings at Wellgate, Conisbrough and was a Miner at this time, by the next census in 1911 he was married and was a Sickle Grinder living at 7 Brookes Square Conisbrough.

Fred left the K.O.Y.L.I. in 1920, he had been promoted to a Sergeant (No. 2252) have fought in France and was awarded the Victory, British and Star medals

At the time of the 1939 register, Fred was working as a Colliery Wagon Loader and living at 31 Denaby Avenue, Conanby.

Fred died on 24th June 1955.

Fred’s story was submitted to us by his grandson, Fred Victor Wood, who was named after him. His middle name is Victor instead of Valentine, as he was born near VE day 1946.

“He met his death as fearlessly as any man in France”

Submitted by Pete Bonsall:

Corporal. Sam Wallwork was an uncle of my sister-in-law. He served with The Loyal North Lancashire’s 1st/12 Bn and he was killed in action on 23 November 1916.

Shortly after his death, his mother received the attached letter from Captain Horace Wilkinson. It reads:

Dear Mrs Wallwork,
Before you get this letter the terrible news about your boy will I expect have reached you. Last night I am sorry and yet proud to say he met his death as fearlessly as any man in France. He did not suffer in any way being killed instantly by a fragment of shell. I just want to tell you that I was speaking to your boy’s platoon Commander yesterday afternoon and his own words were “Cpl Wallwork is the most reliable N. C. O. in my platoon I can trust him with any job that wants doing” This was 7 hours before Your laddie gave up his life. May God Comfort you.
Yours sincerely,
Horace Wilkinson Capt.

Bert Rogers’ Peace Postcard found at Doncaster Market

Reverse of the postcard

Title: Reverse of the postcard
Description: Submitted by Carol Rollin by-nc

Carol Rollin found this postcard at Doncaster Market and bought it because although she collects a lot of postcards she’d never seen one like this before.

It commemorates peace and was sent by Bert Rogers to his wife Mrs. A P Rogers on January 12th 1919. He says “To my dear wife with fondest love & wishes, ever your loving hubby Bert”. It has a Doncaster postmark so they were probably a local family.

Carol would love to find out more about Bert and his wife if anyone out there knows anything about them.

Please leave a message at the end of this story if you have any information.

German prisoner’s bone carvings

Submitted by Elizabeth McDonagh

Before the First World War, my husband’s aunt, Miss Violet Murrell of Selby, was being courted by a young German called Walter. When the war started, all ‘enemy aliens’ were incarcerated and Walter lost his liberty. While imprisoned, he carved these objects using bones from the prison kitchen. Were they meant to be spill-holders? He sent them to Violet’s parents, the ‘Mr and Mrs Murrell’ named on one of them, as a gift.

Detailed decorative carving

Title: Detailed decorative carving
Description: Submitted by Elizabeth McDonagh by-nc

Front and reverse of bone carvings

Title: Front and reverse of bone carvings
Description: Submitted by Elizabeth McDonagh by-nc

Private Walter Bacon’s service certificate

Walter Bacon served as a Private, service no. 46442 with the 1st Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He then transferred to the Notts and Derby Regiment under the service no. 108728. It was under this service number and with the Notts and Derby Regiment that his British War Medal and Victory Medal were awarded, so he would have finished his war service with this regiment. He was not awarded a 1914 or 1914-15 Star, which suggests he did not reach the front until after the end of 1915.

Unfortunately, Walter’s full service record doesn’t appear to have survived, but his descendent, Andy Robertson, is in possession of his service certificate, pictured here.

South Elmsall survivor Bill Crawley

“Bill” Frank William Crawley was born in 1900 and was registered as living at an address in South Elmsall, Doncaster when he enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps towards the end of the First World War around 1917. Luckily Bill returned home to his family alive and unscathed when the war ended and went on to marry and have a son named Eric who still lives in the borough today.

Story kindly submitted by Jen Garner.

There and Back Again

These are the recollections of Albert’s family – Kenneth & Sheila, Andrew & Hil, Julie & Jason, Jane & David Hull.

Our Grandad Albert Victor Hull (named after the Queen and Prince) was a coal miner born in 1892. He was an unassuming guy, some 5ft 9in tall with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and light brown hair. He came from a family of coal miners and was born and raised at 6 Milton Terrace in the village of Fitzwilliam near Pontefract. He was one of four brothers. Before and between the wars he was an amateur wireless hack, who built his own valve radio which many of the village came round to listen to. He was married to our Granny, Lizzie Oxley at Wakefield Cathedral. They had two children, Kenneth (our Dad) and Bettie.

When the First World War broke out Albert volunteered and was enlisted as a private into the 12th Battalion of the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry Regiment (KOYLI) on 14 Sept 1914, where he rose through the rank’s to eventually become Warranty Officer 2nd Class, almost unheard of in those days. Whilst his war was very traumatic for him (no doubt like many others), he was clearly a good soldier as he fought in many campaigns and was highly decorated. British War Medal, Victory Medal and his highest award being the Croix de Guerre, awarded for bravery, we believe at Vimy Ridge at the battle of the Somme, by the Belgium Government, which my father had framed for him.

Albert's letter from Winston Churchill

Title: Albert's letter from Winston Churchill
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

Although Grandad Albert never spoke to us of this, Dad told us this was for leaving the trench and, under heavy German fire and bombardment, he recovered several wounded colleagues and his commanding officer, who had laid wounded in no mans land. He was also mentioned in dispatches, we believe for bravery above and beyond the call of duty at Passchendaele. As proof he has a framed letter dated 1 July 1919 from Churchill, the then Secretary of State for War.

Grandad Albert outlived many of his contemporaries and many ‘newly-minted’ officers came and went whilst he served. He told Dad of one incident where his commanding officer died from a ricochet bullet, bouncing off his rifle (this amongst many other random acts of war made him a fatalist, if it’s got your number on it, he used to say). He told us of a time when he was branded a coward (a do-Gooder mistook him for a conscientious objector when he was home on leave from the war, by giving him a white feather!). This was very upsetting for this decorated war hero.

Army records indicate that Albert spent some time between 1914-18 fighting in Egypt.

Letter written to Albert

Title: Letter written to Albert
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

His last officer Captain Mellor kept in touch with Albert and wrote him a lovely letter dated 1 March 1919. In the letter he says the ‘battalion is now down to less than 80 men’ and expresses his ‘high appreciation’ for Albert’s work. Also he refers to Albert ‘not being rewarded as he ought to have been’. What an understatement. The letter also speaks of Albert’s tortuous journey back from the front, which was apparently horrendous. According to his Certificate of Discharge he was discharged (or to be more accurate placed on Reserve) on 31 March 1920.

Albert never recovered from the war, unsurprisingly as his reward for years in the trenches, witnessing all that horrific death and destruction, was to go straight back down the pit! It is simply unthinkable.

Grandad had the good sense not to want his son, our Dad, to go down the pit, so he relocated to Leeds, 22 Blenheim Terrace, Leeds 7. Before leaving the village, the locals clubbed together and awarded him a gold watch inscribed ‘Presented to CSM A.Hull, Croix de Guerre, by the public of Hemsworth, June 1919’.

He worked firstly as a school attendant officer (there is a written reference dated 22 August 1933 from his former employer, South Kirby, Featherstone and Hemsworth Collieries Limited who wrote to the Clerk of Education at the Wakefield Education Committee saying of him ‘Hull’s period of service extended over 23 years, during which time his conduct and service have been exemplary…’). It is quite simply derisory that after 23 years his employer can’t use Grandad Albert’s Christian name. We know he then worked in a newsagents shop. Thanks to Albert, our Dad Kenneth secured an engineering apprenticeship and was never out of work, and his sister our Auntie Betty, went to art college.

Albert's lifetime membership of the K.O.Y.L.I.

Title: Albert's lifetime membership of the K.O.Y.L.I.
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

According to his membership card, Albert was a life member of the KOYLI Regimental Association, for which he paid the princely sum of 20 shillings in 1933.

Incredibly, as if one World War wasn’t enough, Albert served in World War Two at the rank of lieutenant. Sadly we don’t have much detail on this period of service.

Unfortunately for Grandad Albert the horror was never over. He constantly re-lived the war, with many un-natural episodes, which were then called shellshock, he said, but now I guess would be called PTSS. Somewhat freakishly he slept with him eyes open, which he attributed to always keeping a watchful eye out for the enemy.

When he retired from his civilian job, Albert and Lizzie were looking forward to a long, happy and ‘peaceful’ retirement, but for them horror was never far away. He witnessed his wife, our Granny Lizzie die horrifically in a chip pan accident. It beggars belief how a man, who had done so much for King, Country and family could be dealt such a ‘bum hand’, as Dad called it.

December 2016

Albert's medal set

Title: Albert's medal set
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

Albert's Croix de Guerre

Title: Albert's Croix de Guerre
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

The gold watch presented to Albert by the village locals

Title: The gold watch presented to Albert by the village locals
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

'Presented to CSM A.Hull, Croix de Guerre, by the public of Hemsworth, June 1919'

Title: 'Presented to CSM A.Hull, Croix de Guerre, by the public of Hemsworth, June 1919'
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

Albert's letter of recommendation

Title: Albert's letter of recommendation
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

Albert's record of discharge

Title: Albert's record of discharge
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

Albert's wife, Lizzie

Title: Albert's wife, Lizzie
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

Albert's certificate for his Croix de Guerre

Title: Albert's certificate for his Croix de Guerre
Description: Submitted by David Hull by-nc

John Reginald Shaw

John Reginald Shaw was born in 1869. John, who resided in Pontefract, followed his father into colliery business. John had a long military history and had served in the Boer War with the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, later becoming the Colonel commanding the 3rd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (K.O.Y.L.I.) John also served as the Mayor of Pontefract for six years and later as the Honorary Colonel of the 5th battalion of the K.O.Y.L.I.  During the First World War, Colonel Shaw was involved with recruitment for the K.O.Y.L.I. and raised many battalions through his connections with colliery organisations and his local communities.  He retired due to ill health and died in November 1916.

Dorothy Chisholm Taylor

Dorothy Chisholm Taylor was born in Lancashire in 1888. The daughter of an architect, Dorothy and her family lived a comfortable life in Oldham. Dorothy joined the Red Cross in 1912 and began nursing at Hooton Pagnell in November 1914. Dorothy remained at the Hall throughout the entirety of the war and nursed there until its closure in 1919. She won a Royal Red Cross Second Class in 1918 in recognition of her service at the hospital and was decorated at Buckingham Palace along with Julia Warde-Aldam. She died unmarried in 1973 in North Wales.