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Dave

The last week of WW1

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We've almost entered the last week of the centenary of WW1. In the last month, up until and after the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the losses of St Helens people had continued. 

Look at that last month - the last four noted as being 'Killed in Action' being John Harrison, Willie Arthur Johnson, John Lowcock and Henry Warren on the 8th of November, but people were dying every day from wounds received and from the flu pandemic, amongst other diseases. It was a hell of a miserable month. 

And as our calendar shows, if you click through the following months, it was far from over, continuing into the 1920s - and beyond (e.g. my grandfather died in 1943, during WW2, as a result of mustard gas and of TB and the malaria he'd contracted in service in WW1).

People sometimes ask how many St Helens people died, but we can only give a rough estimate that is based on the number of entries on the site - during those war years and a few years later. It was many more than are listed on the cenotaph. That rough estimate is 3,537.

We will remember them.

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It is astonishing to think that in terms of the actual casualties in WW1 (On all sides) 1918 was the most appalling year of all. This is astounding when you think of what had happened on the Somme in 1916 and then at Passchendaele in 1917......but its True.

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True, everyone focuses on those "famous" battles and tend to forget or never knew about the massive battles in March, April and May were the Germans threw every thing they had in a final attempt to win the war and Haig's famous "to the last man" order which our 55th West Lancashire division followed to the letter at Givenchy, infantry, engineers, orderlies, cooks, in fact anyone that could carry a rifle did!. Then the "last hundred days" were the allies ( now including America) threw everything they had at the Germans to finally break their resolve. It took everything, even though Germany was on it's knees, their troops did not give ground without a massive fight. An oft forgotten about period but hugely important, it goes without saying. 

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Here are the arrangements for this years Ceremony of Remembrance:-

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in the year 1918, the nation of Germany signed an armistice agreement, prepared by Britain and France, which declared the end of the First World War.After four years' fighting, and the deaths of millions, St Helens will come together 100 years on to the day, to commemorate the fallen at Remembrance Sunday ceremonies across the borough.

The events will, of course, also be an opportunity to honour those who died during all conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries.As in previous years, residents are invited to congregate at Victoria Square on Sunday 11 November at 10.25am, where a parade - led by Armed Forces veterans and young representatives from the Cadets, Scouts and Guides - will make its way from Birchley Street to the war memorial in front of St Helens Town Hall.The ceremony will open with a welcome and prayers from local parish reverends before the square observes a two-minute silence at 11:00am.After the two-minute silence, the ceremony will continue with words of commemoration; a rendition of ‘Amazing Grace’ by a lone piper; and a performance by the Haydock Male Voice Choir. The ceremony will close with the National Anthem, led by the Valley Brass Band and Haydock Male Voice Choir, before the laying of wreathes.Following the service, the town hall will be open for tea and coffee where there will also be the opportunity to view a local World War One photo exhibition, courtesy of the St Helens Community Archive.

In Earlestown and Newton-le-Willows the focal point will be the war memorial at Earlestown Town Hall, with the event due to get underway at 10:45am. St Helens North MP Conor McGinn and Deputy Mayor of St Helens, Janet Johnson, are among those due to attend.

The A57 Warrington Road, from View Road to St James Road, will be closed for Rainhill’s procession from St Ann’s Church for a wreath laying ceremony at 12:00pm.Remembrance services will also take in churches and at war memorials in several of the borough’s other wards, including Rainford and Billinge.

Meanwhile, as part of the St Helens 150 events programme, St Helens will participate in a national tribute event that evening.The ‘Beacons of Light’ tribute will see a gas fuelled beacon lit at Taylor Park to symbolise the ‘light of hope’ that emerged from the darkness of war.The ceremony will get underway at 6:45pm, with those interested in attending asked to meet at the Boathouse Café at 6:30pm. The beacon will be lit at approximately 7:00pm.

In St Helens Town Hall the evening before (Saturday 10 November), the Haydock Male Voice Choir will perform a special 'Bless 'Em All' concert to mark the centenary of the armistice.The lovely and talented Ellie Hull will sing Vera Lynn numbers and there will be a chance for audience participation.The Royal British Legion and army and navy cadets will join in for a 'Last Night of the Proms' type grand finale.St Helens Council’s Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Lynn Clarke said: “Remembrance Sunday is a fitting opportunity for us to honour our servicemen and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country – and this year we are proud to be playing a part in the historic international event, ‘The Beacons of Light’ to recognise the contribution and sacrifice made by the men and women from our own community.“Each year, it’s moving to see such incredible turn outs at Remembrance Sunday events, with young and old coming together to pay their respects which is a heart-warming reminder that St Helens will always remember.”

 

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There's also a beacon being lit on Billinge Hill 7pm i was told.

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Doing genealogy you usually find a few relatives who were killed or died in WW1. A second cousin on my dad's side contacted me a few weeks ago mentioning that the kids were doing a project at her grandson's school and she wanted to know if I'd found any in that part of the family who had died in WW1. I hadn't yet found any. I mean a few went and came home (grandfather mentioned above), so not much luck on the school project, but yesterday I found two distant cousins on that side, brothers, one of them being at the Somme.

It was the local relatives on my maternal grandmother's side who bore the brunt of it and I can link to them on our other site. 

Four of her first cousins - Arthur PyeFred PyeHenry Pye and John William Fillingham.

Other more distant cousins were Moses TinsleyThomas Beesley, William WroeJohn Tebb and Ernest Edward Morgan

So that's nine (and still counting) local relatives who died for some insane political fisticuffs. 

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The Great War touched every family in someway such was its impact. If a direct family member was not killed then so many had been wounded or suffered from the trauma. It may be a neighbour or a work colleague but everyone knew someone.

Locally, the most I know of is someone from the Family History Society who had 36 people on their tree who had served!!. 

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I haven't tried to count all those who had served - possibly similar or more than 36.

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My dad's dad was in the St Helens Pals, my other grandad was too young but I only found out recently his father was in the Royal Garrison Artillery, found him in the absent voters list. he must have signed up with his next door neighbour who had been his best man and was a lifelong friend as they had consecutive regimental numbers. The odd bit is they were 36 and 37 when they joined up. Records are a bit difficult to find though, found them through the regimental numbers on FMP  and Ancestry but all I can fine is medal cards.

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A lot of the records were destroyed by a bomb in WW2. My great grandfather (paternal nan's dad) signed up when he was 39 and was with the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, Pte. O/41668 - mostly supply and repair (according to wiki). The only record that I found of his was in an absent voter's list.

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I just find it odd it was never talked about, no medals etc, he died in 1944 and when my gt gran became ill she lived with my grandparents so I inherited all the bits and pieces.

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