Frank Jarvis and Mary Joyce Rayner

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DX-896/11 Envelope

DX-896/11 Envelope

Amongst our collection of military papers and correspondence relating to the Skidmore family, there is also a letter from a Lt. Frank Jarvis (service number 8458) of the 2nd Border Regiment, to a Miss J. Rayner of 114 St James Terrace, Warwick Crescent, Paddington, in London. This letter is dated 23 October 1915, and was sent when Jarvis was a Prisoner of War in Göttingen, Germany.

DX-896/11 First page

DX-896/11 First page

Mary Joyce Rayner was born in Paddington in 1897. In 1921, she married Frederick Oswald Skidmore, which is why this letter appears amongst this collection. Mary died in 1941, apparently (according to the General Register Office index) aged 63. However, I think this is an error on the part of the index, as there is no likely earlier birth for her, and she had a child in 1931, so I believe it is more likely that she was 43 at the time of her death. Why she chose to keep the letter, when she had married another man, is unknown.

DX-896/11 Second page

DX-896/11 Second page

Very little is known about her correspondent, as we don’t even know where he came from, so pinning down details of his birth are virtually impossible without further information. The letter in full is as follows:

Dear Miss Rayner

Many thanks for your welcome letter which I received today also many thanks for parcel which I received safely and enjoyed the contents I am glad to say that I am keeping in the best of health and hope you are keeping the same Once again thanking you for the parcel and the great kindness that you have shown towards me

I Remain

Yours Sincerely

Frank Jarvis

If anyone can assist in unraveling further information, we would be glad to receive it!

Further updates

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More updates on people featured on this blog previously:

  • The forenames of the twins, Garnet and Gordon Aston, and the year of their birth, suggest that they were named after heroes of Empire, Sir Garnet Wolseley and General Gordon.
  • James Dyke is remembered on the war memorial outside Christ Church, Coseley.
  • Harold Edwards is mentioned in the minutes of the General Purposes Committee of Bilston Urban District Council, on 17 May 1917. The Committee decided to arrange for a public presentation of the Distinguished Conduct Medal to Edwards at Hickman Park, Bilston, on 27 May 1917. At a meeting of the full Council on 24 May, this date was amended to 10 June, as the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment were due to be present that day on a route march.
  • We have been contacted by another relative: “Annie Fletcher was my grandfathers first wife, who up until a couple of years ago when I started tracing my family history we had no knowledge of. Therefore imagine our surprise when this article appeared. James went on to marry again and my mother was the youngest daughter of that marriage. I only wish my Mum was still alive to share all this information with.”
  • Howard Inscoe was born 22 Oct 1892. He had two service numbers: 942 and 810201. For his services in the Great War he was the recipient of the 1914-15 Star, War Medal, Victory Medal. He also was issued the Silver War Badge numbered 389247 for wounds.
  • The Royal Air Force Museum have published their Casualty Cards which are freely available to search online. This enabled me to find out more detail about Alan Ernest Sweeting: He joined the RAF as a Private on 7 December 1917, being paid 1 s. 8 p. By April 1918 he had been promoted to Lieutenant. On 30 March 1918, machine gun fire from the ground caused him to be “Wounded, not serious”. On 2 August 1919, the card states that his “Machine crashed to the ground” in England, and he was killed, although the cause of the crash is “Not yet known”. The other occupant of the aeroplane, Sergeant H. Pressley, was injured.
  • Regarding Alfred Tonks, the Army Order 209 of July 1916 (A.O. 209/1916) provided that any warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or man whose terms of engagement had expired would, should they continue to serve, be paid a bounty. Those with service of 22 years or more were offered £25.0s 0d; those with service of between 12 and 20 years £20.0s.0d; and those with less than 12 years service £15.0s.0d. The bounty was not paid in one lump sum: those soldiers who agreed to extend their service were paid one-third immediately, the balance being paid on his discharge or death. We have also been contacted by the great niece of Elsie Ricketts (the cousin of Godfrey Ricketts), and she has provided the following photographs of Alfred Tonks.

Bilston Urban District Council minutes 1914 – 1915

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Unlike most of their neighbouring Councils, Bilston Urban District Council appears to have arranged for a Special Meeting of the Council on 12 August 1914, following the declaration of war. This dealt specifically with the following matters:

  • Appointed representatives on the War Distress Committee
  • Issued an appeal on behalf of the Prince of Wales National Relief Fund
  • Investigated the appointment of Special Constables
  • Arranged to guard Bratch Waterworks and Goldthorn Hill reservoir
  • Explored prospective relief works
  • Agreed that Council employees who volunteered for service would have their positions kept open for them, “and that their families be assured that the Council will see that they are no worse off than at present.”

By 17 September 1914, the General Purposes Committee reported that 11 employees had signed up, and their dependents were now receiving allowances. A report on 25 February 1915 revealed that the Bilston Volunteer Training Corps was now 85 strong. 32 Council employees were also offered up to work in armament factories, “at the special request of Lord Kitchener” on 14 April 1915.

A portion of Hickman Park House was offered to the Estates Committee on 22 October 1914, to accommodate 10 convalescent soldiers for the British Red Cross Society. By 19 November, however, an inspection by the Medical Officer of Health revealed that the premises would not be suitable.

The Council also dealt with other war-related matters, including the loan of chairs for a concert the the Drill Hall on 1 October 1914, in aid of the Belgian Refugees’ Fund. On 29 October 1914, the Council welcomed Mons. F. Letist, a member of the Council of Tierlmont, Belgium, along with other fellow refugees. They were staying at Apsley House, Wellington Road, Bilston. Through an interpreter, he read out the following statement:

Dear Mr Chairman

I am very proud of being the one of the Belgian refugees who is deputed to express to you the thanks of us all for the kindness which has been shown to us, and the splendid reception which we received from you. We shall never forget what you and your Fellow Citizens have done for us.

The suffering we have endured and the atrocities we have witnessed, made life a burden to us, and there seemed to be nothing left but to die.

But it is thanks to your goodness, and to that of your Fellow Townspeople, that we feel we owe our lives, and that we trust we may succeed in forgetting the horrors of the War.

He continued by expressing their thanks, and “to tell them that we shall never forget our good friends at Bilston.”

Men’s Voluntary Aid Detachment

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The Men Also, Express & Star 20 Aug 1914

The Men Also, Express & Star 20 Aug 1914

It was announced in the Express & Star on 20 August 1914 that the men of Wolverhampton had decided to form a voluntary aid detachment in connection with the British Red Cross Society, similtar to that set up by the women. The group planned to use members of the St John’s Ambulance, and train up other men to transport the sick and wounded to military hospitals.

The chairman of the meeting, Dr Deanesly, explained that “These detachments are not designed to render aid on the field of battle…that may dampen the more ardent of you, but it may be a little encouraging to those of you who do not wish to be in the firing line.”

Members had to have first aid certificates, and the group were offering classes in order to qualify men for this. The article stated that “caring for the wounded in war was, after all, a man’s job, and the men’s department was going to be twice as good as the women’s, because they were more useful in transporting the wounded.”

I have so far not found any further detail on this group or their work.

Drop Your Change into the Box

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Advert in the Express & Star, 19 Aug 1914

Advert in the Express & Star, 19 Aug 1914

Along with many other regional newspapers, the Express & Star was a supporter of the Prince of Wales’ National Relief Fund during the war. This fund was administered in order to deal with distress which arose in consequence of war, such as unemployment, loss of earnings, injury or loss of life. Their campaign was announced in an advert on 19 August 1914.

The newspaper planned to place donation boxes on the counters of local shops, so that shoppers could place any change in these collection boxes. The reason behind this system was that “At present there are plenty of opportunities for the rich to subscribe; but there is no organised means by which the general public can offer their mites.”

Photograph in the Express & Star, 21 Aug 1914

Photograph in the Express & Star, 21 Aug 1914

The boxes were supplied by W. Gibbons Ltd of Princess Street, and they were distributed and collected y the local Boy Scouts. This was confirmed by a photograph which appeared in the newspaper two days later, of Boy Scouts with handcards prior to leaving the newspaper offices. By this date, over 500 boxes had already been distributed, and the newspaper had even received requests for boxes from tradesmen outside the borough of Wolverhampton, and they were considering those requests.

Further details on this campaign will be featured in future blog posts.

Edwin Lewis

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The son of local J.P. Rowland Lewis, Edwin Lewis was born in 1882 in Penn, and was a director of Edwin Lewis and Sons Ltd, of the Britannia Tube Works, in Ettingshall.

Lewis served with the 1/6th South Staffordshire Regiment in France, being promoted to Major. On 19 October 1915, an article appeared in one of the local newspapers, stating that he had been wounded in the shoulder, but the reassuring phrase was that “So far as can be ascertained he is going on as well as can be expected.” He was wounded again in 1917, later returning to the unit.

On 29 September 1918, he was in command of “B” Company of the 1/6th South Staffords and led his men across the St Quentin Canal, but was mortally wounded. He was taken to an Advanced Dressing Station but died the following day. Roy Evans’s book on the regiment has the following to say on this incident:

Major Edwin Lewis died of wounds received in this attack. The only son of Mr Rowland Lewis J.P. of Penn, Wolverhampton, after being educated at Repton he had joined the Territorial battalion some ten years earlier. He embarked upon active service with them when they first went to France in 1915, subsequently being promoted to the rank of Major. In civilian life Edwin Lewis had been running his family firm of Edwin Lewis and Sons Ltd., of Ettingshall. Having previously been severely wounded whilst acting second in command in 1917, Major Lewis died aged 36 on the 30th September 1918 and is buried in Brie British Cemetery, France.

He is commemorated on the Wolverhampton Roll of Remembrance, as well as on the war memorial in St Bartholomew’s church in Penn, and on the plaque in the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s Church.

Charles Hugh Pearson

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Charles Pearson

Charles Pearson

Charles Hugh Pearson was born in East Retford, Nottinghamshire, in 1882, the son of Charles William and Mary Pearson. His father was the Vicar of Ocker Hill, and he was educated at Denstone College, Staffordshire. By 1891, the family had moved to Staffordshire, settling in Wolverhampton by 1911. By this date, Charles was a Clerk, living at 134 Waterloo Road, together with his widowed mother, brothers Francis and Bernard, and sisters Winifred, Margaret and Enid.

Charles worked briefly in the Civil Service in South Africa, before coming back to Wolverhampton in September 1908 and working as a cashier at Mander Brothers in Wolverhampton.

Having fought in the Boer War, Charles joined the 1/6th Battalion of the South Staffordshire Regiment as a private, and was promoted to second Lieutenant while in the field. On 25 July 1915, he was severely wounded, being shot through the right lung. However, after four months’ recuperation at home, he returned to the firing line. He was killed on 18 March 1916, aged 34, and is commemorated at the Ecoivres Military Cemetery in Mont-St. Eloi, France. He is also commemorated on the Roll of Honour in the Lady Chapel of St Peter’s Church, as well as the Mander Brothers Ltd memorial.

An article in the Express & Star on 22 March 1916 described Pearson as “one of the best-known cricketers in Wolverhampton”, having been a prominent member of Wolverhampton Cricket Club.

Alan Ernest Sweeting

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Alan Ernest Sweeting was born in 1898. In the 1901 census, he is living at 100 Cannock Road, Heath Town, together with his parents Harry and Catherine Annie Sweeting. By the 1911 census, he is at Whittier Place, Prestwood Road, Wednesfield, still with his parents.

Alan Sweeting served with the Artists Rifles (number 765323) and as a Lieutenant with the Royal Air Force (number 230366). He enlisted with the Royal Air Force on 1 December 1917. Alan died on 2 August 1919, in Sevenoaks in Kent. He is listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, as well as on the Wednesfield Village War Memorial. His entry on the former site details his work as “Wireless Experimental Establishment (Biggin Hill)”, and the Grave Register confirms that he was “Killed while flying (crashed)”. He is buried at Wednesfield St Thomas’s Church.

Leonard Aston

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Leonard Aston

Leonard Aston

Leonard Aston was born in 1889 in Bilston. In 1891, he can be found at Hartshorn Street, Bilston, with his parents Samuel and Elizabeth, brothers Edward, Samuel, Walter and Frederick, and sisters Maud, Florence and Mary. By 1901 they have moved to 11 Wellington Road, Bilston, and the family has gained two more children, Elizabeth and Charles. In 1911 they are now at 96 Wellington Road, and Leonard has become a Clerk.

During the War, Leonard served as a Sergeant with the Royal Engineers (service number 53214) and as a Second Lieutenant with the Suffolk Regiment. In 1919, he married a Gertrude A. Turley, and they had a daughter, Margaret, in 1922. Leonard went to work at Stewarts & Lloyds Ltd in Bilston. Stewarts and Lloyds were a large steel tube- manufacturing firm with numerous other national and international works (including Coombs Wood Tube Works at nearby Halesowen). They acquired the Bilston Steelworks in 1920 from Alfred Hickman Ltd. However, they retained the name ‘Alfred Hickman Branch’ for some years after this. They produced high-quality carbon and low alloy steels for the production of seamless tubes.

Joseph Bateman

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These details have been contributed by Councillor Philip Bateman, telling the story of his grandfather.
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On the Anniversary of 100 years since the First World War was started I thought that I would pay homage to my own Grandfather who took part in both the Boer War and then the First World War and survived, to emigrate to Canada in 1923.

My Grandfather Joseph Bateman joined the British Imperial Army and was shipped out to fight in what was thought would be a quick little war with a bunch of farmers, in South Africa. How wrong they were. The Boers were a determined bunch, and were intent on winning. The war started in 1899 and continued through until 1902, It is now recognised as one of the longest and costliest wars –in financial terms-and in terms of casualties, between the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War.


The background to this war is found in the fighting that took place between the British Colonial territories in Southern Africa, and the Boer Republics. The Boers were the descendants of Dutch colonists who had done much to open up Southern Africa. The word Boer means farmer, Trekboers in the Dutch colony were people who were farmers looking for farms. The great trek came about as the Boers upped sticks and moved out of the Cape in which they had settled and moved into the interior in search of their own unified Boer Nation. I picked up much of my family history from a declaration made to the Quebec Superior Court in Canada when Joe was chasing his pension entitlement!
Solemn Declaration made before the Quebec Superior Court

“ I am the son of Thomas Bateman and his marriage to Ruth Roberts, and that I was born on the second day of November in the year of Our Lord eighteen hundred and seventy eight, in the Town of Wolverhampton, County of Staffordshire, England.

That desiring to enlist in the British Imperial Army, I did so enlist on the fifth day of July, eighteen hundred and ninety eight in the regiment of the Northampton Fusilier’s [this is not factually true as he enlisted in the Northumberland Fusilier’s]
That being under age at the time of my enlistment, I was legally Joseph Bateman. That on the seventh day of August in the year of Our Lord. Nineteen hundred and fourteen, I re-enlisted under my regimental name and my army record surname of Lawrence, in the Royal Army Service Corps, and served in the British Expeditionary Force for four years and nine months.

That on February sixteenth, nineteen hundred and seven, I married Mary Ellen Blower, in the Parish Church of the Parish of All Saints, Wolverhampton, Staffordshire, England, and that I am still living with the said Mary Ellen Blower, and that my marriage with the said Mary Ellen Blower, nine children have been born, all of whom are living. Seven being resident in my present domicile at 1053 Shearer Street City and District of Montreal.

And I make solemn declaration, conscientiously believing it to be true and knowing it is the same force and effect as if made under oath and by virtue of the Canada Evidence Act.
Signed Joseph Bateman.


Joe’s Military Record
Joe’s military record is a fascinating one. As you can see he used the ‘Lawrence surname not once but twice. First to fight the Boers in South Africa, then second to fight the Germans in Europe. He was first recruited in to the 3rd Northumberland Fusiliers. He then spent that time with the regiment until he was shipped back from Africa and transferred from the Northumberland Fusiliers into the Army Reserve on the South Coast of England at Gosport on the 4th July 1906..

He was then discharged completely from Army service on the 4th July 1910 in consequence of the termination of the first period of engagement. He is recorded on Army form D 426, 4th July 1910 at York as having “his service towards completion limited engagement Army 8 years, and the reserve of four years”.

This gave Joe a total of 12 years in the Army on his first term. Of those 12 years he saw service abroad for 6 years and 124 days. The record office at number 5 District York recorded him as being a “trained mounted infantryman, passed in Regimental Transport duties. Qualified as a Shoeing Smith. He is also recorded as being a “farrier in the mounted infantry, 8 months”.

He had no instances on his record of misconduct, and being in possession of 2nd class Certificate of Education”. He finished the term with the rank of Corporal in South Africa.

Joe’s campaign record reads, South Africa 1899,1900,1901,1902, Medals and Decorations: Queens South African medal with Clasps: Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Kings South African medal with clasp, South Africa medal 1901, South Africa1902.


He then was discharged into the Reserve…then on the out break of the First World War he enlisted again.

This very brave man then went onto enlist and serve another term fighting in the First World war in the RASC(MT) 1st Omnibus Corp finishing as a Sergeant, he was employed in this regiment as a Blacksmith, serving from 5th July 1915 through to 18th March 1919.

My Grandfather was a small man in stature, but he certainly give his all for ‘King & Country’ and with this in mind, and as we approach the First World War anniversary dates here in Wolverhampton, and whilst attending the Civic Services in our great City, I will remember Grandad Joe, and his comrades.
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