Restoring the memory of Private George Wallace Jackson, Sherwood Foresters

Whilst touring north Nottinghamshire in February 2016 I was shocked and saddened to come across this memorial headstone in the churchyard of St John the Evangelist, Carlton-in-Lindrick.

George Jackson

 One of the most poignant sights I have seen in years of research. The memorial to Private George Jackson, Sherwood Foresters.

Of the many hundreds of memorials I have come across, this was the first example of a statue on the grave of an individual, rather than for a community monument.

The inscription read:

“To the glorious memory of Pte George Wallace Jackson, 2/5 Sherwood Foresters, who fell in action in France, March 21st 1918, aged 22 years.

‘Greater Love Hath No Man Than This: That A Man Lay Down His Life For His Friends.’

This memorial was erected by his sorrowing mother.”

A further inscription marked the death of that mother, Charlotte Padley (formerly Jackson) in 1926.

I wondered if how the monument came to be that, hoping it was nature rather than vandalism. George Jackson’s mother had sought to come to terms with her loss through the use of the quotation from John 15:13, seen on so many memorials.

I decided that I could not leave this situation as it was and that further research was in order.

A search of the newspaper archives revealed this moving report from the Worksop Guardian of 1st August 1919:

After many months of suspense, the news has reached Mrs Charlotte W. Padley, Carlton that her son, Pte George Wallace Jackson, 2nd / 5th Bn. Sherwood Foresters, reported missing since March 21st 1918, was killed on that date. Pte Jackson, who was 22 years of age, was a well-conducted youth and respected by all who knew him.

Before enlisting, he was employed by the Worksop Co-operative society, where he went as soon a he left school, his brother and sister also being employed by the same society.

Pte Jackson was a son any mother might be proud of, and he leaves behind a memory which will long be cherished.

The Army Council forward a message of sympathy from the King and Queen, and his mother has also the sympathy of all who knew her gallant son in her bereavement.

George’s body was never recovered and he is one of nearly 35,000 names on the Arrass Memorial.

His mother, Charlotte, would have received the £24 12s 6d owing to George in back pay and war gratuity. I wonder if this money, a sum of around £1200 at 2016 values, was used to pay for the memorial?

George Jackson effects

The page from the Army’s Register of Soldiers’ Personal Effects relating to George Jackson (c) ancestry.co.uk

So we have managed to find some further details about George Jackson, but what of the distressing state of his memorial? I emailed the vicar of the church who passed my contact on to Maurice Stokes, a parishioner who is investigating the possibility of restoration. To date (27th February 2016) a request has been made for an authentic copy of the complete uniform of the Sherwood Foresters. In addition an appeal is to be launched to trace any living relatives of George Jackson.

Mr Stokes has also gathered an estimate for the cost of the repair of the memorial, valued at £1000 to £1500.

Therefore, using the reach of social media, I am putting out an appeal to trace any relatives of George Jackson.

George had four surviving siblings plus a half brother.

His siblings were:

Evelyn Georgina Jackson (1888-1945)
Bazell Jackson (1891-1914)
Mildred Jackson (1895-?)
George Jackson (1896-1918)

Evelyn married George Betts in 1909 a they had five surviving children. These people were the nieces and nephews of Private George Jackson.

Joseph Norman Betts (1913-1995)
John Charles Betts (1915-1991)
Irene Betts (1917-1998)
Charlotte Betts (1920-2013)

They all seemed to have retained a connection to North Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire.

So the appeal at the moment is threefold:-

  1. To find further information on Private George Jackson, and to see if family members can provide a photograph and any knowledge as to where his campaign medals and `death penny’ might be.
  2. To find any further examples of gravestone / memorials like this one to get as an authentic reproduction as possible.
  3. To raise the funds for a proper restoration so that the memory of Private Jackson can be restored and full respect given to the sacrifice he gave, emblematic of that of hundreds of thousands of other young shop assistants, factory workers, clerks, postmen, teachers and people from all walks of life across the land.

 

Therefore if anyone can help with any of these three objectives, please contact me at johnbroom@aol.com.

Donations towards the restoration can be made by clicking here

Update March 2016 –

ON 1ST JULY 2016, AT 7.30am, I SHALL BE SETTING OFF TO ATTEMPT TO RUN 60,000 YARDS (APPROXIMATELY 35 MILES) IN 6 HOURS, ONE FOR EVERY BRITISH SOLDIER KILLED OR INJURED ON THAT DAY IN 1916, THE FIRST DAY OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME. THIS IS PART OF THE BATTLE OF THE SOMME CENTENARY CHALLENGE RUN

I SHALL BE DONATING THE MONEY RAISED THROUGH THIS CHALLENGE TO THE RESTORATION OF PTE. JACKSON’S MEMORIAL.

 

TO SPONSOR ME IN THIS CHALLENGE, CLICK HERE

Many thanks

Update May 2016

I have received communication from members of George Jackson’s family who were able to provide the following information:

George Wallace Jackson’s father, George Jackson, had been killed in a mining accident in 1898 whilst working at Wath Main Colliery in South Yorkshire. He was 30 years old and was run over by a wagon on an inclined plane.

It has been possible to find a picture of Charlotte, the widow of George Jackson sr and the mother of Private George Wallace Jackson. It was Charlotte who paid to have the vandalised memorial erected.

Charlotte Jackson Padley.jpg

In addition, a photograph is in existence of a young man in the uniform of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment (Sherwood Foresters) to which both George Wallace Jackson and his half-brother, Cyril Padley, belonged. At this stage it is not known which of these it is. Cyril died in 1976, aged 77, in Retford, Nottinghamshire. Therefore the next stage is to contact the regional press to see if the photograph can be identified.

In addition I was given details of other family members which I shall be following up to see if they can shed any further light on the mystery.

Charlotte Jackson's son (2).jpg

 

The search continues…

Update August 2016

Due to enquiries made by family members with whom I have been in contact, a photograph of George Wallace Jackson himself has come to light. It looks as if it was taken in his mid-teens, probably at the time he started work with the Worksop Co-operative Society. My impression on seeing it was of the innocence and hope of youth, and a further example of the promise that was destroyed during the war. I now feel the pieces of the jigsaw are coming together.

George Wallace Jackson

 

John Broom is the author of Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the First World War, published by Pen and Sword.

http://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Fight-the-Good-Fight-Hardback/p/11370

Fight the Good Fight

 

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Political Wings: William Wedgwood Benn, First Viscount Stansgate by Alun Wyburn-Powell

The names Benn and Stansgate are perhaps today best known for the constitutional impasse caused between 1961 and 1963 when Anthony (Tony) Wedgwood Benn was required to inherit his father’s hereditary title of Viscount Stansgate, and thus lose his seat in the House of Commons. Benn successfully fought a court case to have this ruling reversed, enabling his to sit in the Commons for a further four decades.

Political Wings

However the man whose death occasioned this crisis, William Wedgwood Benn, the first Viscount Stansgate, has been overlooked hitherto in the historiography of twentieth century political history. That lacuna has now been addressed by Alun Wyburn-Powell’s superbly researched and engagingly written biography, published by Pen and Sword this year.

William Wedgwood-Benn was himself the son of an MP, John Benn, and came from nonconformist stock on both sides of the family, his paternal grandparents being Congregationalists from Manchester. William’s wife, Margaret Benn, later became the President of the Congregational Federation and campaigned for the ordination of women in the Church of England. Their eldest son, Michael, who was tragically killed in a flying accident in 1944, was a devoted Christian and their second son, Tony, based much of his philosophy on his understanding of the battle between right and wrong, as seen in the Bible.

William himself had a remarkable career, or careers. He was elected as Liberal MP for Tower Hamlets in 1906, holding that seat until 1918. Like many MPs, he volunteered for service during the First World War and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant in the Middlesex Yeomanry (Duke of Cambridge’s Hussars). In 1916 he was transferred to the Royal Flying Corps and won the Distinguished Service Order in 1917 and the Distinguished Flying Cross in 1918.

In 1927 Benn resigned from the Liberal Party and became Labour MP for Aberdeen North, serving in the cabinet as Secretary of State for India. However he resigned from the government when Ramsay MacDonald entered the National Government with the Conservatives in 1931, and subsequently lost his seat.

He was retuned as MP for Gorton, Manchester in 1937, and on the outbreak of the Second World War, he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve.  He was elevated to the peerage in 1942, in order for the House of Lords to better reflect the composition of the wartime coalition government, choosing the title Stansgate, from the wooden home which was, and still is, the family retreat in the Essex marshes. William worked within the Air Ministry during the war, and after the Labour landslide of 1945, he re-entered the cabinet as Secretary of State for Air.

Beyond his political and military life, William was a meticulous amasser of information and compiler of files, a trait he handed down to his sons. Alun Wybun-Powell has worked through the Stansgate Papers in the Parliamentary Archives, national and local collections, as well as being granted access to private papers still in the possession of the Benn family, held at Stansgate House in Essex. The result is a book which raises the profile of an important but overlooked figure.  This work will appeal to those with an interest in the development of air warfare, in British radical politics of the twentieth century, in the story of a remarkable political dynasty, and in the biography of a fascinating character who played many diverse roles between 1900 and 1960.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which I read in conjunction with other books from the Benn family, as part of my own research into the Christian faith of William’s son Michael, whose story will be featured in my second book Fight the Good Fight: Voices of Faith from the Second World War, to be published in April 2016.

East Yorkshire Exploration #1. North Ferriby and Elloughton

Today we returned to Hull, the city in which I was brought up in to take part in the parkrun in the Eastern part of the city.  After a pleasant run through the snow, we headed west, our first stop being All Saints Church, North Ferriby.

Here there were two points of particular interest in this well-cared for nineteeth century church:

The first was a wooden cross donated to the parish by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1932 commemorating an unknown soldier. I have seen a number of crosses for individuals that were erected on the battlefields during the First World War then subsequently returned to the parish church for display, but none to the general unknown soldier.  A lovely touch, I thought.

Ferriby 2

 

The second was a marble plaque commemorating Lieutenant Norman Lea Sissons.  According to the book, Hull Pals by David Bilton, Norman had enlisted in the East Riding Yeomanry on the day following the declaration of war.  His commission had been reported in the Hull Daily Mail of 23 November 1914.  He was killed in action at Bethune on September 9th 1916 during the Battle of the Somme.  He had been educated at Rugby School and worked briefly in his father’s firm before the war.  His plaque carried the quote from John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son. Whoever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.North Ferriby All Saints

Norman Sisson

The Hull Daily Mail of 16 September 1916 recorded his death thus:

Much sympathy will be felt for Mr and Mrs Harold Sissons, North Ferriby, in the news of the death of their son, Lieutenant Norman Lea Sissons, East Yorkshires, who was killed in action in France on Saturday last. Lieutenant Sissons was educated at Rugby and subsequently spent six months in Messers Sissons Bros. of which firm his father is a director.  He would have won distinction in a commercial career, but at the call to arms he promptly offered his services, joining the East Riding Imperial Yeomanry the day after the declaration of war.  Three months later he received his commission and was attached to the East Yorkshire Regiment.  He went out to Egypt with his battalion and subsequently proceeded to France, where he was killed in action last Saturday.  He was 21 years of age.

At the YMCA religious service on Tuesday night at North Ferriby, the vicar referred in sympthetic terms to the loss sustained by Mr Sissons.

 

The next stop was Elloughton, where the delightfully picturesque church was again open.  I was intrigued by a plaque commemorating an airship disaster involving men from the US Navy in 1921.  What was a US Navy airship doing in East Yorkshire in 1921 and how did the men come to be commemorated in Elloughton, a quiet countryside village?

 

Elloughton war memorial

 

Elloughton US Navy

The airship was R38 (USN designation ZR-2) which crashed on 23 August 1921 and the senior officers’ names listed on the memorial are:

Cmdr L H Maxfield (US Navy)
Lt Cmdr E W Coil (US Navy)
Lt Cmdr V N Bieg (US Navy)
Lt C G Little (US Navy)

The R38/ZR-2 was on an evaluation flight from RNAS Howden to RNAS Pulham, Norfolk. Bad weather caused the airship to return. It was seen low over the River Humber and eye-witnesses noted the skin crumple. A large explosion followed as the airship broke up. The crash killed 44 of the 49 on board, including 16 US Navy personnel. Structural failure was found to be the cause and no-one was to blame. At the time, the R38 was one of the largest airships ever built and the disaster claimed more lives than the famous Hindenburg tragedy.

R38 ZR2 airship

The R38/ZR-2 on its maiden flight on 23 June 1921

At the end of the First World War, the US Navy had hoped to add two airships to its arsenal in the form or reparations from the defeated Germans.  However Germany had sabotaged much of its equipment towards the end of the war to stop it falling into allied hands.

Britain had been developing a new class of airship but had cancelled the order when the war ended.  The US Navy took on the contract at the reduced cost of £300,000. Although the original criteria had stated that 100 hours of test flights had to be undertaken, this was reduced to 50 hours by the Air Ministry to speed up the delivery of the contract.

Three test flights were carried out flying from RNAS Howden in June and July of 1921, revealing a range of technical problems. Doubts were expressed by the commander at Howden, Air Commodore E.M. Maitland, as to the efficacy of R38/ZR-2

Following a spell of bad weather, the airship was finally walked out on 23 August and in the early morning took off for her fourth flight, which had an intended destination of RNAS Pulham in Norfolk.  The next day, after a brief speed trial during which a speed of 71.9 mph  was reached, a series of turning trials was started at a speed of 62.7 mph  at an altitude of 2,500 ft  At 17:37, while close offshore near Hull and watched by thousands of spectators, the structure failed amidshps. Eyewitnesses reported seeing creases down the envelope and then both ends drooped. This was followed by a fire in the front section followed by an explosion which broke windows over a large area. The remains fell into the shallow waters of the River Humber. Sixteen of the 17 Americans and 28 of the 32 Britons in the crew were killed. The only American to survive was Rigger Norman C. Walker. 

 

 R-38-rescue
Three enquiries were held into the disaster.  The first, an RAF enquiry chaired by Air Vice-Marshall Sir John Salmond, criticised the fact that a single authority was responsible for its construction and inspection.  The second, by the Admiralty, absolved themselves from any blame in the initial design of the airship before it had been taken over by the RAF.

 

A technical Committee of Enquiry, chaired by Mervyn O’Gorman, concluded that no allowance had been made for aerodynamic stresses in design, and that while no loads had been placed on the structure during testing that would not have been met in normal use, the effects of the manoeuvres made had weakened the hull. No blame was attached to anyone, as this was not part of the committee’s remit.

As well as the small memorial in Elloughton Church a larger monument commemorating all those who died was erected in Hull’s Western Cemetery to remember those killed the day an airship spectacularly imploded over the River Humber west of Hull.

R38 memorial

Once again, a random visit to two country churches had revealed two stories of people and events which deserve to be remembered through to this day and beyond.

Onwards to Howden for part two of the day’s discoveries…

Further reading

Tom Jamison, Icarus Over the Humber: The Last Flight of Airship R.38/ZR-2 (University of Hull Press & Lampada Press, 1994)

History is now and England

Midwinter spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic.
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on pond and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat…

T.S. Eliot, Quartet No. 4: Little Gidding

Our day shone with frost and fire, as we soaked up some of the joys to be had in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire.

Today’s road trip saw us begin in Harpole, and after a swift visit to Northampton to discover ice on the parkrun course, we hotfooted it over to Daventry for a lovely trail loop run.

We had stayed at Harpole the previous evening, and the website of the local church extended a warm welcome.  This was confirmed when we arrived there to find the Churchwarden, Alan, making preparations for the Sunday Service and explaining how it was important to him to have the church open to visitors.  One delightful feature of this church was a War Shrine.  I cannot recall coming across one like this before, and we talked about the origins of First World War memorials as roadside shrines to the fallen.  Movingly he also described the annual commemoration service, in which local children each have a card with the details of a local man who fell and process through the church before hanging the card on a display.  Passing on the memory of the past to the future.  Beautiful.

Harpole

Harpole War Shrine

Next stop was Brixworth, said to be the largest Saxon church north of the Alps.  Personally I found the exterior more awe-inspiring than the rather insipidly whitewashed interior.

One of those delightful `let’s see what’s down this lane’ moments then led us to Creaton Here we found a stunning memorial statue set into the wall.

Creeton

The inscription on the red shield on the top right is from Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier, `If I Should Die, Think Only This of Me, There is some Corner of a Foreign Field that is Forever England.’  Little did I realise the remarkable story behind the memorial to Bob Wroughton, of which more on a future post.

Next stop was Earls Barton, mainly to see the awesome Saxon tower much beloved from the Ladybird book of Church and Cathedrals.  This church had a much warmer feel than Brixworth, and my attention was particularly drawn to the beautiful war memorial window, with the insignia of the Royal Navy, the Northamptonshire Regiment and King George V at the bottom.

Earls Barton Memorial window 2

Earls Barton memorial window

We then called in at Rushden, particularly to see the birthplace of Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Vann V.C., again to be the subject of a forthcoming blog post. We also briefly drove into the grounds of Wellingborough School, where he was chaplain in 1914.  Very different from the schools we work in in Yorkshire is all I can say.

Bernard Vann birthplace

Then I had a stroke of inspiration.  Something in my memory bank told me that Little Gidding was somewhere in the general area.  I had read about T.S. Eliot’s poem when researching my PhD, in relation to the memories that British soldiers had of their country’s physical landscape whilst on long overseas service.  Often this would be conceptions of parish churches and the faithful attending services at significant times of year.  Google maps showed it was only about half an hour’s drive away, so off we went.

In fact we found three `Giddings’.  The first stop was Great Gidding, where, apart from me managing to slip over on a banking coming from the church down to the main road, I saw reference to a US Airforce plan crash on 10 June 1944. It was 817C Flying Fortress called Bam Bam and had been flying from Moleswoth en route to Nantes. Six men had been killed, but the details of the event had been kept an official secret until 2014.  This appears due to the fact that the crew had raised concerns before taking off about a suspicious smell of fuel but had been ordered to fly anyway.  A recent search of the Alconbury Brook had discovered some of the missing parts of the aircraft.

Great Gidding 8

 

Steeple Gidding is a little gem, maintained by the Churches Conservation Trust.  The field opposite is full of earthworks, and a display in the church shows the layout of the deserted village.

Little Gidding was more than worth the to-ing and fro-ing.  Parking at the end of a remote lane, we found a small chapel-looking building.  It had been made famous by T.S. Eliot, who found an essence of Englishness and timelessness here.  I can see why.  The church itself represents the integration of Catholic and Protestant styles by its builder, Nicholas Ferrar, and there is a neighbouring retreat, Ferrar House, where people of faith can still meet.  The interior is narrow and compact but rich.  The windows refer to the Ferrar family, and to the retreat King Charles I found there whilst in hiding in 1646 during the English Civil War.  This struck me in two ways; firstly the attempt by Ferrar to look beyond denominational differences in a period as divisive as the middle seventeeth century reminded me of the way that all forms of British religiosity were harnessed from 1914 onwards in a unified national endeavours in the great world wars; the second was the fact that wars, like Christiantiy, have been a perpetual fact in British history and that the study of one cannot be complete without an appreciation of the other.

Little Gidding 1

Little Gidding 3

Little Gidding 2Little Gidding 4Little Gidding 5LIttle Gidding 6

Little Gidding 7

This was indeed a spot which inspired contemplation and wonder.  Our own winter’s afternoon had been well spent. A true sense of history being now, in the commemorations at Harpole, of history being then in the centuries of inspiration that have preceded us, and of the history yet to come in the desire of previous, current and future generations to leave words, buildings, spaces and thoughts to connect us all through time.  To feel part of a continuous thread of humanity across the English landscape.

A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter’s afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.

T.S. Eliot, Quartet No.4, Little Gidding