Until the Shadows Flee Away: The Himsworth Family and the Coming of War

Welcome to the first in a new series of (not so) mini-profiles inspired by my sepulchral travels! In these pieces, I will situate the stone centre-stage in reconstructing the life and lives of the departed, making use of archival facilities and newspaper repositories. In this way, I hope to let the monuments speak for themselves, building up a picture of those forgotten, adhering to the ethos of this occasional blog in ‘unearthing the lives of the dead.’ 

Amidst the tree-lined copse of Sheffield City Cemetery, a grave marker lingers, standing tall amidst the neighbouring stones that peer forward at a perilous angle, as if looking down into the very earth itself. The grass around the burial site lies parched, scorched under the burning gaze of unexpected summer rays, bursting out of the azure sky prematurely,  glaring at a crisp and stark April day. Emblazoned across the stone and crowned by the curvature of a Gothic ogee is a testament to the Himsworth family, residents of the wooded suburb of Heeley. Like many such monuments, the epitaph bears witness to the trauma of conflict, forming part of a complex mosaic in which the impact of the First World War on the relationships underlying a family, a community, and a city is enshrined. Indeed, the pain of the loss of the Himsworth’s ‘beloved and youngest son’ in the dust of battle is etched into the very stone itself, compounded by the deaths of father and offspring a mere year apart, the breaking of the ties that bind, tragedy in a quiet corner of this sun-washed burial ground.

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The Himsworth gravestone at City Road Cemetery, Sheffield. ©A Grave Announcement

William Himsworth was born on the 21st of July in 1852 into a family typifying the contemporary Sheffield industrial foundation, his father William employed as a ‘razor grinder,’ a common occupation within the ‘City of Steel.’ The latter had married Hannah Taylor in 1850, the daughter of a farmer who had grown up in semi-rural Hurlfield – now a suburb of the city. A twenty-five year age gap separated the spouses. Their son was baptised at St. Peter and St. Paul’s, a parish church in the centre of Sheffield, a building promoted to cathedral status when the diocese was formed in 1914. Life leapt along nicely, as life often does, tempered waters obscuring the whirling eddies beneath. The blow when it came, then, was all the more painful for such vengeful dissimulation. In 1856, when William was only four years of age, his father passed away at the age of 54, worn out from the exhausting labour of his profession, likely stricken with the effects of a weakened respiratory system. In doing so, the family’s main source of income was withdrawn. Fate had played its cruel hand, abandoning the Himsworths to the vagaries of the century, exposed to the erratic whims of time.

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The 1850 marriage certificate attesting to Hannah and William’s union. ©Findmypast

Flailing not only from grief, but also from the gnawing worry of the need to provide for her children, Hannah quickly remarried, taking as husband one Thomas Thickett, a Derbyshire widower considerably older than herself who possessed a similar agricultural background, working as a farmer. The couple lived on Cambridge Road in  the township of Nether Hallam with Thomas’ daughter from his previous marriage, Elizabeth, whose assistance around the house earned her the rather diminutive title ‘housemaid’ on the census, his infant son with his new wife, also called Thomas, and his two new step-sons, William Himsworth and his brother John, both school-pupils. Another child, a daughter named Ellen, followed in 1864. At some point between the record of this household and the census of 1871, Thomas ceased his agricultural endeavours, setting up shop as a grocer and coal dealer. It is clear then that Hannah’s second husband did not shy away from his money-making duties, even embarking upon a new venture in order to turn a profit for the household.

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The 1861 census entry listing the members of Hannah and Thomas Thickett’s household, including William Himsworth. ©Findmypast

Five years later, Hannah was dead at the age of 50. William’s relationship with both his parents had proved to be somewhat short-lived. Despite these absences, he had chosen to follow his father’s example in training in the same Sheffield industry as a cutler. A year after his  mother’s passing, William himself married. His new wife, Hannah Maria Booth, bearing the same name as his own parent, was the daughter of a miner from Heeley. Looking at the pair’s signatures on the document formalising their union is an intimate experience for the genealogical researcher, opening up a window into a long forgotten world, reviving the memories of those hitherto consigned to oblivion. We are reminded that history is a living and breathing beast, a writhing creature that we can only ever strive to capture, a figure ever-receding into the distance.

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The 1876 certificate solemnising the marriage between William Himsworth and Hannah Maria Booth. ©Findmypast

Children followed quickly for the newly-married couple, bringing a son William E. Himsworth in 1877, the third male of the family line to bear that name, a physical testament to the relentless roll of the generations. A daughter, Jessie, arrived four years later and is listed as a newborn infant on the census of that year, a record attesting to the presence of two further members of the household: widowed aunt and ‘laundress,’ Ann Beswick, and William’s (senior) twelve-year old sister-in-law, Alice Mary Booth. Regular labour as a cutler manufacturing spring knives saw William take on the role of provider, a common enough gendered configuration at the time, with Hannah remaining at home to tend to the children and regulate the household at 133 Gleadless Road. Like many families of their social strata in this period, everybody pitched in, working hard to contribute to the coffers, but only ever just keeping heads above water.

The passage of a decade brought little change to the Himsworth’s way of life. Two more children joined the family – John Herbert and Clara Alice – as their father continued in his employment in the Sheffield knife industry. The house they called home was now a mile away on Cambridge Road, a street teeming with red brick terraces and shop windows proudly announcing their wares. This was an area known already to William, who had  taken up occupancy of a house on this very thoroughfare with his mother and step-father. Money must have been tight for the household – their oldest son had left school and was engaged as an errand boy, perhaps even serving a nearby business, at the age of fourteen. Although pay was low, every last penny made a difference.

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Cambridge Road, Heeley, Sheffield.©Picture Sheffield

With four children to be kept on William’s salary, there was no time for leisure nor room for complacency. The family worked hard, keeping their heads down in quiet regularity, ensuring that order prevailed in the household. In 1898, William the younger returned to education, attending classes at Gleadless Road Evening School, seeking to improve his prospects in undertaking an apprenticeship in metalwork. As the 19th century transformed into the 20th and the age of Victoria came to an end, such was the repetitious constancy underlining their lives that, by 1901, the two sons, William and John, were now both employed as cutlers working with spring knives, presumably in the same factory as  their parent, having completed their apprenticeships. Like grandfather, like father, like sons, the familiarity of the Himsworth’s customary trade suited the uniform pulse of family life. Joining them were another daughter, Hannah Maria Edna, named after her mother, and Edwin Joseph, born 1894 and 1896 respectively.

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Typical Sheffield cutlery factory in the 19th century, the Washington Works owned by Messrs. G. Wostenholm and Son.©Museums Sheffield

The following year, William and Hannah’s second son John, aged twenty, married eighteen year old Jessie Corteen, whose late father, also William, had been employed as a coach builder. The ceremony took place at St. Silas’ Church in Broomhall, Sheffield, an imposing edifice in Gothic revival style. The couple would go on to have three children: Frank, Irene and Leslie. Following this happy event, the wedding bells continued to toll. The same year saw daughter Jessie wed Frank Lee, the twenty-four year old son of a successful surgical instrument manufacturer, for whose business he himself laboured as a filer. In 1904, the younger William Himsworth married one Elizabeth Wilkes, the twenty-two year old daughter of deceased hammer forger Edwin Wilkes and widowed Emma Parkes  at St. Paul’s Church in Norton Lees, a building constructed between 1875-7. The new bride had herself been engaged as a cigar maker prior to meeting her husband, a tiring and ceaselessly repetitious role with relatively low pay. The Himsworth children, then, were growing up and establishing themselves both personally and professionally, expanding the family throughout the area.

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The parish wedding certificate attesting to the union of John Himsworth and Jessie Corteen.©Findmypast

A year before William’s wedding to Elizabeth, his sister Clara had entered upon a novel and innovative training scheme, joining Sheffield Pupil Training College under an apprenticeship which lasted for five years. This pupil-teacher system, introduced in the mid-nineteenth century to address the problem of poor pedagogical recruitment, admitted those at least thirteen years of age to be instructed in the delivery of education. The moral character of applicants was deemed equally as important as their academic skill. Potential candidates were required to read and write with fluency, demonstrate their knowledge of basic geography, mathematics and grammar, and teach a class to the satisfaction of the inspectors. Initially earning ten pounds per year (a sum which increased incrementally to twenty), Clara had secured a position with more than adequate remuneration. It was a far cry from the dirty industry and poorly paid occupations to which the family had hitherto clung.

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The admission register for the Sheffield Pupil Training College recording Clara’s acceptance onto the programme.©Findmypast

By 1911, the Himsworths were on the move again, returning whence they came, relocating to their old haunt on Gleadless Road, taking on number 255 (see image below). William was now an older man and, at 59, was coming to the end of his working life as one involved in hard, physical labour. Of their six children, only three remained. The others, having reached adulthood, sought lives of their own and an independent existence elsewhere.

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The former Himsworth home at 255 Cambridge Road, Heeley, Sheffield in 2019.

Clara, aged 22, still lived with her parents whilst she worked as a local schoolteacher for Sheffield Council. Hannah, at 17, is rather charmingly referred to on the census as ‘mother’s help.’ Edwin, a young teenager, has been removed from regular education in favour of life as a hairdresser’s assistant. Most moving of all is the halting and trembling hand of he who completed the census return – our William Himsworth, his hesitant penmanship perhaps proof of his ailing years and, certainly, a sign of a nervous scribe, more experienced in holding tools than a writing implement.

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William Himsworth’s signature on the 1911 census.©Findmypast

The coming of war shattered the still quietude of the lives of many like the Himsworths. Matrimonial merriment and the joyous births of newborn infants were overshadowed by the dark fever of a nation in conflict. Britain’s young men eagerly stormed the recruitment offices, seeking to quell their patriotic fervour in the hunting down and decimation of the enemy abroad. Armies of young women, too, gladly offered their services in non-combatant roles without alarm or hesitation. It was felt that the country had come together in pursuit of a common goal, and the notion of personal sacrifice on behalf of the homeland took precedence over the bloodinesses and brutalities of the true horrors of combat. Such collective activity in the face of the enemy encouraged potential recruits to join their chums and not be left behind, covered in shame and dishonour, at home. A lively recruitment campaign capitalised on such sentiments.

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Front page of the Daily Mirror announcing the declaration of war. (08/05/1914).©British Newspaper Archive

Gung-ho for combat, then, one of the Himsworth boys – Edwin – enlisted into the army. His brothers, William and John, likely found themselves in demand with the munitions industry as skilled workers in Sheffield, possibly seeing out the war employed in the city’s factories. Their younger sibling, however, was enrolled as a private in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, a group formally founded in 1881, his army number 30277. At some point, Edwin transferred into the King’s Regiment (Liverpool), a move which may have been enacted in hopes of seeing active service, but whose motivation is  not, at this stage, definitively known. This unit was originally formed in 1685 by Lord Ferrars of Chartly. Termed ‘Princess Anne of Denmark’s Regiment of Foot’ and named after the daughter of James II, the force was established during the Monmouth Rebellion to put down the militia of James Scott – the 1st Duke of Monmouth – who was attempting to overthrow the king. Edwin became part of this long history in joining the 8th battalion, under soldier number 325057. Originally a territorial force, the unit accepted more enlistees when war broke out in 1914, increasing numbers to the strength required for deployment abroad.

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Headdress badge given to volunteers for the City Pals battalions of the Liverpool King’s Regiment prior to the 16th of October, 1914. ©Imperial War Museum

Whilst a number of the King’s battalions were mobilised immediately upon the declaration of war, Edwin’s group, the 8th, did not arrive in France until May 1915, landing at Boulogne. At first, they and the rest of their division were used to bolster forces under heavy assault at the Second Battle of Ypres, before being reassigned to assist in the Battle of Festubert and the Second Action of Givenchy. The group’s first taste of real and prolonged combat came in July 1916 during that fatal Battle of the Somme. In the meantime, those left behind in the United Kingdom read eagerly of progress on the continent, scouring the newspapers for information as to troop deployments, hoping that their loved ones were safe amidst the bombardments. Away from home and with access to only infrequent and erratic modes of communication, Edwin’s absence must have been the source of ineradicable anxiety for the Himsworths, separated by so many miles from their youngest boy, unaccustomed to residing far from any member of the family as people local to their district of Sheffield.

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Telegram communicating the death of a soldier in 1917. ©National Army Museum

As the months flew past and the in memoriam section of the newspaper began to scream ‘killed in action’ every other word, Edwin’s parents and siblings must have been permanently apprehensive, unsure of their relative’s fate, waiting for that doomed telegram from the British War Office: deeply regret to inform you. Living amidst the news that the husbands, sons, fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins and friends of their neighbours had perished, the Himsworths must have almost expected the worst, interpreting every extended period of silence as an admission of Edwin’s demise – their son, the former hairdresser’s assistant. Worse still for the family, in the very same month that Edwin was caught up in combat in France, his father William died very suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 64. It must have been devastating for his son to hear the news, away from his loved ones, likely long after the dreadful event, powerless to assist his grieving mother, deployed instead in the valley of the Somme. 

As is well-known, this offensive was one of the bloodiest campaigns in the lives of man. Field Marshal Douglas Haig termed the contest ‘the greatest battle in the history of the world.’ The Liverpool King’s, including Edwin’s, spent time on the front line, relieving other troops near the village of Guillemont.

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Photograph showing the devastating damage done to the former High Street of Guillemont.

Towards the end of the year, the 8th, crossing the northern border, made their way into Flanders, again occupying the front line between Wieltje and Railway Woods. The men were involved in a number of offensives in the area, participating first in the Battle of Pilckem Ridge, the opening assault of the Third Battle of Ypres. A couple of months later, this was succeeded by another surge at the Menin Road Ridge, an infantry advance characterised by the ‘bite and hold’ method. This strategy denoted the achievement and consolidation of small objectives, rather than pushing forward and pressing on before full command of the area had been obtained. As the troops prepared for this major push, the mood was one of increasing optimism. The dry weather, having improved considerably from the rains and muds of previous action, enabled the readier transportation of supplies and the movement of soldiers. Visibility was enhanced on the battlefield. On the 20th of September, very early in the morning, the attack commenced and was quickly successful. German counter-attacks were easily repelled. The British and ANZAC forces gained land with relative ease.

Yet this favourable outcome was not without its own fair share of adversity and disaster. On this very day, the first of the assault, Edwin was killed in action. The details of his end are unavailable, lost to the passage of time. What we do know, however, is that the majority of the King’s territorials, assigned to the northern end of the line, had begun the offensive from their position dug in at Wieltje, capturing a number of machine gun posts and even pressing on towards the second German position. Edwin, however, died following the main attack, as the 8th battalion left the trenches behind their counterparts at 8:30am in order to mop up surviving pockets of enemies. Progress was slow across the pitted and pockmarked battleground, assailed by heavy shells from the German Artillery and under constant attack by snipers. Losses were substantial. Many fell alongside Edwin. He was 21 years old. 

All told, in the course of the action at Menin Road Ridge, the Allies suffered over 20,000 casualties, men who were wounded, killed or missing. It was an anxious time for those back in the United Kingdom, waiting to hear news of their loved ones, waiting for that telegram to be handed over to the next of kin. In Edwin’s case, it was likely his parents who first received the news, plunged into immediate grief just as so many others during that unyielding and pitiless war. Their son was buried in Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest such burial site for Commonwealth forces in the world, located near Zonnebeke in Belgium. He was listed first as an unknown soldier before subsequently being named on the graves registration form.

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Tyne Cot Cemetery in Belgium. The final resting place of Edwin Himsworth.

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The CWGC Graves Registration Report Form featuring Edwin Himsworth.©CWGC

From Sheffield to Belgium, the Himsworth name had travelled a long way. In the loss of their beloved son, the quiet rhythm of their lives was broken, never to be renewed, an unspeakable absence. His remaining relatives remembered Edwin on their family stone at City Road Cemetery, choosing an epitaphic quote from the Song of Solomon, a phrase  whose context reflects painful separation, a wish that their boy would return: ‘until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.’ A month after his death, a notice was taken out in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph conveying their ongoing anguish. Both father and son were lost during those years of the war, a family decimated by events beyond their control, events governing the fate of nations. The brutal outcome of those actions were felt in every town, village and city throughout the land. Those places would never be the same again. 

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In memorial message in the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (20th October 1917). ©British Newspaper Archive 

Edwin lies now far from home, resting where the uniform white stones stand like sentinels on the rise, watching over this land where the blood of men was shed in perpetuity, brothers in arms, a generation lost, in death together once again.

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Commemorative Certificate for Edwin Joseph Himsworth. ©CWGC

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This Gallant Brigade: Gallipoli, Marple and Lieutenant Edmund Turner Young

I often visit the town of Marple in Stockport, Greater Manchester, once the bastion of the cotton industry and a beautifully quaint location for a languid afternoon stroll. The settlement is also the site of an impressive canal network, including the sixteen section Marple Lock Flight and the eighteenth-century civil engineer Benjamin Outram’s stone aqueduct. My usual routine is to seek out a takeaway coffee and wander these watery byways or, indeed, venture downwards into the Stygian depths of the Roman lakes where masses of prowling geese seethe and the waters flap and ripple.

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‘Roman Lakes Leisure Park’ by Stephen Burton is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On this occasion, I deviated from the norm, striking out along the towpath circling the town centre, passing the mooring basin festooned with the myriad colours of the gathered painted narrowboats and the imposing Top Lock residence, once home to the boat-building Jinks family. Crossing Junction Side Bridge, I stumbled down its cobbled way to join the Macclesfield Canal, bordered by the now-crumbling warehouses and offices of Marple Wharf. I left the route at the point where the shadow of Goyt Mill, constructed in 1905 for the Goyt Spinning Company Limited (now subdivided and rented to an array of local businesses), casts its imposing fingers over the water. Bearing left, I continued on through Hawk Green in the direction of High Lane, cutting up onto the serpentine curves of Church Lane.

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“Marple_canal” by David Stowell is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As I progressed back towards the centre, I saw and admired from the heady heights of this particular area of Marple, All Saints Church, a masterful stone edifice with ruddy tiled roof and a striking rose window. This place of worship is especially notable for the tower of a previous church demolished in 1964, still standing in the churchyard, a space now dedicated to memorials. Inside, there is a ring of eight bells, six of which were originally cast by Abraham Rudhall of Gloucester in 1731, and which still toll on a Sunday morning, ringing out, doleful, their unhurried echo unfolding over the hillside.

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“All Saints Church, Marple, Greater Manchester” by Zzztriple2000 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I have passed this sacred place on hundreds of occasions, but, this time, something made me enter the graveyard through the Lychgate. Perhaps it was the mournful silence of the prematurely crisp autumnal day, perhaps it was the lazy hour of a drawn-out Saturday afternoon, but more likely it was the impressive First World War Hopton Wood stone memorial cross guarding the entrance to the church itself, a permanent monument to collaborative effort and dutiful loss. Revealed and dedicated by the Bishop of Warrington on the 15th of June 1920, the memorial cost around £600 (approximately £17,000 in today’s money), of which £55 was allocated for architect’s fees and £555 12s 5d for the structure proper. Messrs Earp, Hobbs and Miller, the highly successful architectural sculptors of Manchester, furnished the stonework, while Messrs Bainbridge and Reynolds of London produced the plaques.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

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Image by A Grave Announcement

As I walked towards the graveyard proper, a man was tending a chest tomb to my right, removing the weeds and gently cleaning the stone. At a time when so many cemeteries suffer from neglect, it is always an encouraging sight to witness plots benefitting from regular upkeep. The churchyard itself is beautifully organic and verdant, its lines of stones interspersed with fronded trees. Although it was something of a wet afternoon, intermittently spattered with showers, I was protected beneath this arboreal canopy with nothing but the muted thudding of captured droplets as my companions. Gravestones perching at various degrees and heights, their inscriptions in places eroded and, in others, vibrantly clear, powerfully attested to the history of the place. At times, dampened sunlight made its presence felt, seeming to almost push the rain aside in a bout of meteorological one-upmanship, spasmodically declaring itself the victor.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

Following a meandering path constructed from damaged and misplaced grave slabs, I circumnavigated the churchyard, lingering at a number of memorials.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

En route, I was struck by the distinctive rear gate, perfectly mirroring the lychgate through which I had entered. It contained a stone stile over which one can tarry a while on the moorlands, looking across at the village of Mellor, the rough and tumble of the undulating hills seeming to carry on endlessly in the distance.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

Tearing myself away from this astonishing vista, I continued my exploration, halting in front of an obelisk memorial startlingly similar to that commemorative monument erected adjacent to the church’s front entrance. It appeared to be a family testament, its area blanketed by the golden hues and reddish tints of the bountiful autumnal leaves found throughout the churchyard.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

The design was that of a stone Celtic cross surmounting a base column whose absolute apex was obscured by a pendulous branch. My attention was immediately seized by the white lettering, discoloured and disfigured, adorning one face of the foundational plinth:

IN LOVING MEMORY

EDMUND TURNER YOUNG

LIEUTENANT 1/6 BATT. MANCHESTER REGT.

ELDEST SON OF

THOMAS PILKINGTON & MARGARET ANN YOUNG

STAND HALL, WHITEFIELD.

KILLED IN ACTION IN GALLIPOLI

JUNE 5TH 1915, AGED 33 YEARS.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

Despite not serving as a Commonwealth War Grave proper (All Saints churchyard maintains thirteen of these throughout, nine casualties from the First World War and four from the Second), this monument nevertheless bears witness to the great courage of a man gunned down during the Third Battle of Krithia on the Gallipoli peninsula in 1915, a man whose body was never recovered.

Edmund Turner Young

Edmund Turner Young – Image taken from the British Army Bond of Sacrifice (Vol. 2)

Edmund Turner Young was born on the 26th of August 1884, the eldest son of Colonel Thomas Pilkington Young and Margaret Ann Young, and was baptised on the 25th of October in that same year. His family lived in Marple, at The Mount, before moving to Stand Hall in Whitefield, Manchester, a grand abode constructed around 1405 and which underwent several iterations prior to its demolition in the 1960s.

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Image credited to Paul Lange and taken from ‘The Early History of the Lancashire Family of Pilkington, and its Branches, from 1066 to 1600.

The Pilkingtons are an ancient family of impressive lineage – their genealogical roots can be firmly traced back to an Alexander de Pilkington (c. 1110 – 1180), recorded as possessing land in Pilkington, Lancashire in the Liber Feodorum (Book of Fees). They are widely believed, however, to have settled in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1003-1066), prior to the Norman Conquest. The first recorded reference to the family is a notation regarding Alexander’s possession of land in Pilkington in Lancashure in the Testa de Nevill, the volume comprising the Liber Feodorum or Book of Fees. Whilst their geographical origins were in the now defunct township and parish of Pilkington, the various branches of their family spread throughout the county, from Rivington to St. Helens. The motto ‘now thus, now thus’ of the family crest which depicts a mower with a scythe wearing pale argent and sable is said to express the motion of that working instrument, or to represent an onomatopoeic medieval scything song. As the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer of the 2nd October 1912 asserts, this dictum is one ‘raising suggestions of a mind fixed whatever fate may bring,’ and strongly associates the family with the land even in heraldic terms.

As a boy, Edmund was first sent from Stand Hall to board at Bilton Grange Prepatory School, before being admitted to Rugby School in 1899. In the 1911 census, he is listed as a sixteen-year old schoolboy residing in a school boarding-house, under his housemaster the Reverend William Henry Payne-Smith (elected to this position in 1894), in a residence whose address is listed as 10 Hillmorton Road, Rugby.  In 1902, he went up to Christ’s College, Cambridge to read Science. Upon his return, he took employment with T. P. Young, Cotton Weavers Manchester, the firm of his father. This clearly was, or had been, a sizeable enterprise as the latter is recorded on the 1881 census as a ‘Manufacturer of Fancy Cotton Goods employing 402 hands.’

In 1906-7, Edmund enrolled on a weaving course in the Department of Textiles at the Manchester Municipal College of Technology, where his death is commemorated on a memorial in the Sackville building, now part of the University of Manchester. Whilst studying in that institution, he also became a member of the Officer Training Corps. Indeed, Edmund’s interests were varied and diverse – he was an active supporter of the Boy Scout movement, serving as Assistant Commissioner of the latter from 1912 in Radcliffe, Whitefield and Prestwich. He spent a lengthy period as a member of the Peak Forest Beagles Hunt. In addition, he was an important member of the Manchester Football Club, the forerunner of Manchester City and he enjoyed racket sports as a member of the Manchester Tennis & Racquets Club, established in 1880.

In 1911, according to the biographical register of Christ’s College 1505-1905, he was employed by the firm of John Young, Ltd. in Radcliffe as ‘Director and Manager.’ Edmund’s father had had a younger brother, John Arnold Young, and  it seems likely that this new firm was an offering of the latter. In that same year, his father passed away in Bournemouth on the 27th March, leaving this superintendent position in the company to his son, a role likely taken up by the Colonel after his own corporation T. P. Young, Cotton Weavers, was either shut down or bought out. Edmund remained living at Stand Hall in Whitefield with his fifty-four year old widowed mother and two younger brothers. This event also saw the family inherit a small fortune as the Colonel left an estate worth £50,000 (equivalent to around four million pounds). The Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser of the 13th June 1911 relays the details of the will:

COLONEL YOUNG’S FORTUNE

ESTATE OF £50,000

Colonel Thomas Pilkington Young, V.D., of Stand Hall, Whitefield, and of Manchester, formerly of Marple, Hon. Colonel 1stV.B. Lancashire Fusilliers, J.P. for Lancashire and Cheshire, managing director of John Young (of Radcliffe) Ltd., gingham manufacturers, who died at Bournemouth on the 27thof March last, aged 66 years, left an estate of the gross value of £50,196, of which the net personalty has been sworn at £39,101. The testator left 2,000 ordinary shares and 30 £100 Debentures of John Young (of Radcliffe) LTD., to each of his sons, Edmund Turner Young and Roger Pilkington Young, and a like bequest to his son Malcolm Henry Young, on attaining his majority. He left £4,000 on trust for his niece, Mary Kingsford Young, for life , with remainder to her issue, £200 and his household personal effects to his wife, Mrs. Margaret Anne Young, and the residue of his property to his wife during widowhood, with remainder to his children in equal shares.

Colonel Young was buried on the 1st April 1911 as an out-of-area non-resident in the churchyard of All Saints, Marple. The name of his eldest son would join that of his on the memorial no less than five years later.

When war broke out on the 4th August 1914, Edmund was not slow to enlist, attaching himself to the Manchester Regiment over which Colonel Heywood presided in August. He received commission as a Second Lieutenant in the 6th Battalion, rapidly progressing to the temporary rank of Lieutenant on the 26th of that same month. He was required to undertake ‘Imperial Service obligations’ – namely, the mandatory signing of a declaration  permitting members of the territorial forces to serve abroad, marked by the wearing of an Imperial Service Badge. Edmund was then swiftly dispatched to Egypt with his battalion for the winter, leaving for Alexandria in September 1914. The group landed on the Gallipoli peninsula in May 1915.

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Stanton, St Michael’s Church: Stained Glass Window: The Manchester Regiment by Michael Garlick is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This was to be a particularly bloody time for the allied forces. During the month of April, all hopes of a swift victory against the Turkish forces had been dashed as the latter held strong during the First Battle of Krithia and the allies were forced to halt their advance – demoralised, exhausted, and overwhelmed by the sheer brawn and resilience of the Ottoman troops, they lost 3000 men and it was readily apparent that holding the Gallipoli peninsula would be more arduous than initially anticipated. In May 1915, the 42nd East Lancashire Division, of which Edmund’s battalion formed a part, arrived from Egypt, little aware that their attempts to gain ground in this region would lead to enormous loss of life. The ensuing Second Battle of Krithia had a similar objective to its previous counterpart – pushing on from Cape Helles, the southernwestmost point of the peninsula, the allies would capture the village of Krithia, occupy the hill of Achi Baba, and press on towards the forts whose position overlooked and controlled movement through the straits of the Dardanelles. The result of this, however, was two days of widespread death and destruction for the price of the capture of a small amount of land.

And so we come to the Third Battle of Krithia, the assault in which Edmund was to lose his life. The aim of this revised attack was to fulfil the original objectives of the second, with especial emphasis on the seizure of the dominating peak of Achi Baba. Like the previous two attempts, this ended in devastating failure. The mood was one of abject demoralisation. As is noted in the history of The 42nd East Lancashire Division 1914-1918, authored by Frederick P. Gibbon:

‘After five weeks of toil and struggle, valour and self-sacrifice, unsurpassed in history, no more had been achieved than the securing of a mere foothold on the peninsula.’

It was the 4th of June. Battle orders had been issued on the previous day. Following a morning of artillery bombardment by heavy guns and howitzers, the attack began at noon. The 42nd were dug in, their position held in the trenches which they had been occupying since the 15th of May. In line with planned battle strategy, the guns paused and a feinted attack took place, luring the Ottomans back into their front trenches. The bombardment was then redoubled, subjecting the Turkish troops to considerable losses. At noon, the infantry began their assault. As the Second Gallipoli Despatch of Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, dated the 20th of September 1915, notes:

On the stroke of noon the artillery increased their range and along the whole line the infantry fixed bayonets and advanced.

Edmund was in the thick of this offensive, serving as an officer of A Company who were ordered to progress in the first line. The dust and stench of battle must have clouded his vision and burned his nostrils as he scrambled over the side of the trench and exposed himself to the Turkish guns. The howls of the dying and the harrowing groans of the wounded must have resounded, everywhere and all about, as, hunched and bent forwards, he rushed on, rifle poised. As John Hartley states in 6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment in the Great War:’

‘The 6thManchester Battalion was over the parapet in one rush, three companies charging the Turkish trenches, the nearest being some 200 yards away. In 20 minutes the men were in possession of the three Turkish trenches.

The striking image below shows the first line of the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment moving forwards across No-Mans Land at noon of the 4th of June 1915. Edmund may well be in this photograph:

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Image reproduced from 6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment in the Great War by John Hartley

According to the account in the war diary of Lieutenant Colonel Claude S. Worthington DSO, commander of the 6th Battalion the Manchester Regiment, it was in this first onslaught that Edmund was killed, having taken the trenches alongside A, B and D Company. The relating of these events in the personal voice of the officer in charge, terse and matter of fact, expresses powerfully in its omissions the true toll of war on the living and the dead:

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Text reproduced from Great Gable to Gallipoli edited by Robert Bonner

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Confusion has long reigned over the dating of Edmund’s death, however. The British Army Bond of Sacrifice (Vol. 2), a record of officers who perished in the First World War between 1914-1916, has the following, situating the man’s fall on the 5th:

‘Lieutenant Young took part in the big advance on 4th June, 1915, and was killed in the early hours of the next morning while attending to a machine gun in a trench which had been taken from the Turks.’

John Hartley’s work, 6th Battalion, The Manchester Regiment in the Great War, as discussed above, accords with this dating:

‘In the new British front line, the situation was comparatively quiet throughout the morning of the 5th. Of course, shelling and sniping continued with deadly effect. Lieutenant Young was shot in the head and died instantly.’

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Compounding such equivocation is the official death notice which appeared in The Manchester Guardian of the 15th June, 1916, assigning Edmund’s demise to the 10th of that month (and also mistakenly noting his age as 31):

LIEUT. E. T. YOUNG (killed).

Lieutenant Edmund Turner Young, also of the 6th Battalion Manchester Regiment, killed in action of June 10, was the eldest son of the late Colonel T. P. Young and Mrs. Young of Stand Hall, Whitefield, Lancashire, and of Marple, Cheshire. Mr Young, who was 31 years of age, joined Colonel Heywood’s battalion in August last. Up to that time he had been a great supporter of the Boy Scout movement, and was assistant commissioner of that organisation for the Radcliffe, Whitefield, and Prestwich area. Lieutenant Young’s father was an officer in the Volunteer Force.

Ultimately, this uncertainty as to the date of death more than likely arises from the sheer chaos of reporting in the midst of battle, where the pursuit of consummate accuracy was often futile, not to mention the time taken for messages to travel between Turkey and the United Kingdom. A further complicating factor was the loss of Edmund’s body, perhaps buried by the Turkish troops who later regained the trenches or even destroyed amidst the assault and bombardment. As a consequence of this, Edmund is without an individual Commonwealth War Grave, and is commemorated instead on the Helles memorial, located on the Gallipoli peninsula, a tapering obelisk surveying the Dardanelles:

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Commemorative Certificate reproduced from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Unfortunately, Edmund is commemorated on this monument under an incorrect name, recorded as Edmund Taylor Young. His grieving family later added him to their own family memorial in the graveyard of All Saints in Marple alongside his father – the two reunited at last in a Cheshire churchyard. In 1919, he was remembered for a second time in this location, his name engraved onto the church’s war memorial. Upon death, he had left the sum of £14985 7s. 6d. (amounting to around £884,000) to his mother and a solicitor, John Ledlie Marriot, operating on Norfolk Street in Manchester. According to the Rugby Advertiser of the 26th June 1915, he was included in a memorial service held at his former school, Rugby, listed amongst a great number of losses, a generation of young men whose schooldays were hardly over and whose lives had barely begun. Indeed, Edmund’s own younger brother, Malcolm Henry Young, died in France on the 29th of June 1916, on service as Lieutenant with the 5th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. Both Edmund and Malcolm both later appeared on the carved cenotaph in Marple Memorial Park dedicated in 1922. Edmund’s name is also present on the Manchester Tennis & Racquets Club War Memorial in Salford, Manchester and on the Christ’s College War Memorial in Cambridge.

His service was marked by two decorations – he received the Victory Medal and the British War Medal on the 19th of October 1922. The former was awarded to those who had served in the armed forces between the 5th of August 1914 and the 11th of  November 1918, whilst the latter was given for similar time spent on active duty.

In a Marple churchyard then, a chance encounter with a commemorative stone manifests the real face of sacrifice, revealing that beyond all the numbers and death tolls and military statistics lies a young man, destined to be young forever, whose patriotic duty and familial honour culminated in a bullet in the head in the muds of Gallipoli.

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Image by A Grave Announcement

The initial military success in the Dardanelles Campaign for the Manchester Regiment swiftly dissipated. Beset by a Turkish counter-attack bolstered by reinforcements, holding the line soon became untenable. The men were ordered to withdraw, a command which was obeyed with great reluctance by those Manchester battalions who had fought with such courage and tenacity to acquire new ground (they had advanced 1000 yards, but were forced to fall back to the main Turkish trench at the 400 yard mark). As Hamilton’s Second Gallipoli Despatch avers:

‘…for now the enfilade fire of the Turks began to fall upon the Manchester Brigade of the 42nd Division, which was firmly consolidating the furthest distant line of trenches it had so brilliantly won. After 1.30 p.m. it became increasingly difficult for this gallant Brigade to hold its ground. Heavy casualties occurred; the Brigadier and many other officers were wounded or killed; yet it continued to hold out with the greatest tenacity and grit. Every effort was made to sustain the Brigade in its position.’

The number of casualties had been significant, with particularly high losses endured by Edmund’s 6th Battalion, as is detailed here in The 42nd East Lancashire Division 1914-1918, authored by Frederick P. Gibbon:

‘The cost had indeed been great. Of the 770 men of the 6th Manchesters only 160 answered to roll-call that night.’

Indeed, the four weeks of assaults and skirmishes since the 42nd had landed on the shores of Gallipoli, had severely depleted the numbers of officers and men:

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Image reproduced from The 42nd East Lancashire Division 1914-1918 by Frederick P. Gibbon

Hamilton’s Second Gallipoli Despatch notes that the remainder of June was dominated by ‘incessant attacks and counter-attacks’ which ‘grievously swelled our lists of casualties,’ as the Turkish troops attempted to regain lost ground. The Manchester Brigade, however, held on until the 9th when they were relieved of their position and went into reserve, leaving behind not only the stretch of earth that they had won, but also the lives of their comrades and friends.

 

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Image by A Grave Announcement

With especial thanks to Susan Essex, Local Studies and Archives Librarian, for additional military research.