With all the emphasis that tends to be placed on men being killed in action, it is easy to forget that some died during training before they even got to the front. Two men from 11th DLI suffered that fate before the battalion went overseas in July 1915.
Private 18866 Frederick Newman from Birtley died of double pneumonia on 6 December 1914. His widow was subjected to some bureaucratic procedures after the war. She had to fill out a form dated 28 April 1920 to state that Newman had not died ‘from disease medically certified as commencing or contracted on active service’. This seems strange given that (a) she had been granted a pension of 15 shillings previously, (b) she had re-married (she was now Mrs Blacklock)and (c) Newman had died while in training at Pirbright Camp. His body was not returned to Birtley and he was buried at Brookwood, where his widow attended the funeral. The medical papers show he had suffered high temperatures, ‘dullness right base’, his breathing had been very difficult and he was given oxygen, but did not survive. Quite what the authorities sought to achieve by this late inquisition leaves one wondering – and comparing it with similar welfare bureaucracy today.
Private 16024 Thomas Kane died 13 January 1915 aged 30 and was buried in his home parish at St Mary’s Heworth. He was previously a miner and his wife Ellen Kane was 10 years older. They had married in 1910 and had no children by the time of the 1911 Census. His service records have not survived so it is not clear if they had any children subsequently (possibly at least one son in 1911) or whether Ellen received any sort of pension. Nor do we know the precise cause of death.
It would be good to know more about these two unfortunate men. Anybody out there with any knowledge?