Private 70906 Norman Meek, from Seaham, was killed in action aged 21 on 24 March 1918, and is buried in Hangard Communal Cemetery Extension. Originally called up to Royal Army Medical Corps at Blackpool 12 May 1917.
Meek was aged 18 yrs and 11 months when he enlisted in Sunderland on 27 November 1915. He was a labourer living at 7 Whitehaven Crescent at the time. 5ft 6 in, 124 lbs, 35½in chest, professing C of E. His father was Thomas Meek of 45 Hendon Road, Sunderland.
He was not called up until 12 May 1917, when he attended at Blackpool and was initially posted to something called the RAM, P Company. He was transferred to 3 DLI on 28 June 1917 to continue training and was finally despatched overseas on 12 December 1917. First he was placed with 10 DLI, then from 15 December with 14 DLI. The latter unit was disbanded and he was transferred to 11 DLI on 6 February 1918. He was reported missing on 24 March during the retreat and struck off 17 July, presumed dead.
Final confirmation to the family came in a letter dated 8 January 1919 from the War Office to say that a report from the German authorities placed his name on a list of dead attached to a German Field Hospital on or about 24 March 1918. His disc or pay book had been discovered.
During his service his mother, Mrs Elizabeth Meek received 3s 6d separation allowance towards the family income. He had four brothers and four sisters surviving at the end of the war.
Private 16579 Thomas Mesham, aged 29, from Wingate, died of wounds, 29 August 1916, and is buried at Abbeville Communal Cemetery.
Mesham was aged 25 years and 232 days when he enlisted at West Hartlepool on 30 August 1914. Born in Hesleden, he was a miner, married, and had previously served with 5 DLI (T) between 1908 and 1912, but was time expired. He was 5ft 3in, 140lbs, 34 in chest, fresh complexion, blue eyes, brown hair and C of E.
He was posted to 11 DLI from the start. His conduct in training was average, with a single case of being absent off pass at Lark Hill from 30 May 1915 to noon the following day. He was given 7 days CB and lost 1 days pay.
He went overseas with the battalion. On 27 Feb 1916 lost 7 days pay (reason not stated). On 14 March he reported to 60 FA with influenza and was back on duty on 26 March, indicating a degree of seriousness. He reported again on 30 March PUO. On or before 29 August 1916 he was badly wounded, dying of multiple gun shot wounds at Abbeville Stationary Hospital. Abbeville is on the coast, close to the Somme Estuary and the English Channel.
At the end of August 1916, 11 DLI were working in the former German front line trenches, described in the battalion war diary as ‘dugouts knocked about a lot in 1st July’. They were nor far from Guillemont. The battalion worked overnight for several days until rain stopped their work on 29 August. During this work period four men were killed and fourteen wounded as a result of the constant harassment by German artillery. Mesham will have been hit during this time, probably from shrapnel.
All correspondence in the records is addressed to his widow Mrs Sarah Mesham at 42 Acklam Street, Station Town, Wingate. There were originally 2 children, Isaac and John, while a death certificate was issued 2 January 1915 for a 19 month old infant, Maud, from vulvar abscess and exhaustion. There was correspondence in January 1917 to establish paternity of Isaac James and Eva James, who must have been born before the couple were married, but accepted and cared for by Thomas Mesham. Sarah gave a sworn statement, supported by a report from Sergeant Turley of the local police. She was awarded a pension of 20s 6d for herself and three children dating from 5 March 1917.
Private 23298 James Middlemass first went overseas on 2 September 1915 to join 11 DLI, probably from 16 or 17 DLI. He had enlisted on 20 January 1915. He later served as Private 66904 in the Royal Defence Corps (150 P. Company) before being discharged no longer fit for war service on 18 May 1918. The name is not uncommon in the NE of England, so he cannot be positively identified in the 1911 Census without further information.
Miller, William Henry
Private 14880 William Henry Miller died of wounds on 24 October 1915, and is buried at Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery.
Miller was 24 yrs 3 months when he enlisted at Newcastle on 1 September 1914. He was a miner, born in North Shields and had previously been rejected by the armed forces ‘on account of falsehood’. He was 5ft 8¼in, 144lbs, 38½ chest fair complexion, brown eyes and hair, Presbyterian. He was not married but made out a will as follows: ‘In the event of my death I give to my Fiance Miss J Thorburn the ten pound due to me from the druids club scotswood lodge Newcastle on Tyne. To my stepmother I leave the moneys due to me from the Army at my death’. Nevertheless no separation allowance was made to the step mother, Mrs Dorothy Miller.
He was posted straight to 11 DLI and by 2 October 1914 had been made up to Lance Corporal. He reverted to Private on 4 December 1914. During training he had a clean conduct sheet, but there were some health problems with his knee.
Frensham Hill 9 March 1915 to 26 March 1915 ‘loose body in knee joint’, rested
Tidworth 6-13 April 1915 – loose cartilage in knee, further rest, some improvement
Netley Hospital 15 April to 4 June 1915, loose cartilage in left knee, operated on 12 May, cartilage removed, wound healed and back to duty. He signed a form to state that the injury pre-dated military service and that he had suffered from it for 3½ years.
He was admitted to 62 Field Ambulance on 23 October 1915 with a bullet wound to the abdomen, transferred to 26 Field Ambulance, but died on 24 October 1915.
His belongings were sent to Mr William Miller, 9 Back Cannon Street, Elswick, Newcastle on 24 March 1916. By the end of the war his father had died and the medals, scroll, and plaque were sent to Mrs Dorothy Miller. There was one surviving brother, Robert, aged 10.
The CWGC website notes that two brothers also fell: these were James and Joseph A Miller. In 1911 the family lived at 776 Scotswood Road, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, when the father was 41, the mother 40, William Henry was 20, a miner, James 16, a bottle hand, and Joseph 12 and still at school.
Private 25277 John Milligan, from Gateshead, was killed in action on 5 September 1916 during the capture of Guillemont, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. His service records have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he went out to France with the battalion on 20 July 1915. Not conclusively identified in 1911 census,
Private 15220 Robert Mohun, from Cramlington, Northumberland, was killed in action on 4 September 1916 during the capture of Guillemont and is buried at Carnoy Military Cemetery. His service records have not survived. His medal index card shows that he went out to France on 4 August 1915 and that for a while he served as Lance Corporal but reverted to Private. May be the Robert Mohun aged 23, coal miner, husband of Sarah Elizabeth 23 and father of Katrine Ledia Mohun 1, of 84 Blandford Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but this is not conclusive.
Monger, Llewellyn William
Sergeant 8884 Llewellyn William Monger, aged 27, from Bradford-on-Avon, was reported missing in action, 23 March 1918, and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial. He was the son of Mrs A Monger and the late Sgt Major Monger, and former husband of Margaret Garland (formerly Monger) of 69 Sycamore Avenue, Cleadon, South Shields. His service records have not survived and his medal index card indicates that he was a regular soldier at the outbreak of war, arriving in France at the rank of Bandsman on 2 September 1914, so was promoted Sergeant and later transferred to 11 DLI.
Private 39917 Robert Morrill, aged 21 was reported missing in action from 23 March 1918, and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial. Conscripted 23 March 1917, originally 14th DLI but joined 11th DLI 6 February 1918.
Morrill was 18 yrs 5 months when he enlisted at West Hartlepool on 23 May 1916 (conscript). He was 5ft 5¼in, 103lbs, 32½ chest, of poor development, C of E. He was a rivet heater at Grays Ship Yard. He was called up at Newcastle on 23 March 1917 and originally assigned to 14 DLI, transferring to 11 DLI on 6 February 1918, when 14 DLI was disbanded His father was Thomas Morrill of 16 Briar Street, West Hartlepool. An allowance was provided to his mother of 7s 4d. He was reported missing on 26 March 1918 from a previous day.
The surviving service papers are extremely confused, being mixed up with those for J Melville of 6 DLI and the same regimental number, as well as papers for a J Laverack of 22 DLI.
Mudd, Charles Henry
Private 30335 Charles Henry Mudd, aged 21, from Staindrop, died of wounds aged 21 on 1 September 1916, and is buried Abbeville Communal Cemetery. He was probably injured during the preparations for the attack on Guillemont on 3 September 1916. His service records have not survived and his medal index card indicates that he did not serve overseas before 1916.
He was the son of Henry and Jane Mudd. In 1911 the family lived at West End, Staindrop. The parents were both aged 60. The father was a forester and Charles Henry was then aged 17, the youngest of three sons and worked as a mason.
Private 16027 Walter Munro, aged 25, from Gateshead, was killed in action on 11 November 1917, buried Fins New British Cemetery, Sorel-le-Grand. This will have been during the preparations before the battle of Cambrai. His service records have not survived, but his medal index card indicates that he went out to France with the battalion on 20 July 1915. In the 1911 Census he lived at 38 Tennyson Street, Gateshead, aged 18 and worked as a colliery labourer. He was the son of Robert Anthony (a stone carver from Edinburgh) and Margaret Ellenor Munro, from Carlisle. He had two younger brothers. His parents lived after the war at 47 North Tyne Street, Gateshead.
Private 36604 James Murphy was born in Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire, 11 September 1879, but moved to Sunderland as a child. He married Annie Maria Worth on 20 January 1903 in Sunderland and had three children, Annie (1903), Sarah (1910) and Hilda (1913). They lived at 14 Roselea Terrace, Sunderland. He enlisted on 22 November 1915, as part of the Derby Scheme to encourage married men into the forces, and was called up on 26 June 1916 at South Shields. He was aged 37 years and 2 months at the time attestation (born circa 1878), was 5 ft 3 inches tall, weighed 130 lbs and had a 36 inch chest. He worked as a fireman.
He was trained with the DLI around Fulwell and Borden, where he was occasionally visited by his family. On 31 October 1916, he was sent to France, where he was assigned to 11 DLI. He remained with them until 27 December 1917, when he was transferred to the regular battalion, 2 DLI.
Probably because of his experience with a Pioneer battalion, in March 1918 he found himself working alongside 12 Field Company, Royal Engineers. On 21 March 1918 they came under attack at the northern end of the German Spring Offensive just south of Bullecourt, as the following report indicates:
“Our report s show that in the great German Offensive of March 21 1918, which caused our troops to retreat all along the line, the 12 RE were driven back on the front between Arras and Cambrai, in this Sector. After the surprise attack, the Germans made comparatively little progress, and this fact helped to defeat their main object, the capture of Amiens. The 12 RE appear to have been caught by the enemy onrush just S of Bullecourt. One man says, ‘On March 21 we were near Morchies, behind Cambrai on the Cambrai-Bapaume Road. We had casualties from gas, and one of our Dressing Stations was captured.’ Another account confirms this: ‘We were in the Aid Line at Morchies under shell-fire. We retired, leaving the dead. Some of the Company were wounded on the left of Cambrai, somewhere near Lagnicourt and Morchies. It was in the afternoon and the Germans were coming on fast, and were about 500 yards away.’”
Murphy’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, along with many others in this sector reported missing presumed dead in the German Spring Offensive.
Having not heard from him since 18 March 1918, Annie wrote to the army in early April and again on 20 April, indicating he was with 2 DLI attached 12 Field Company, Royal Engineers. There was still no news in November 1918, on the off chance that he had been a Prisoner of War unreported.
The widow was awarded a pension of 29s 7d from December 1918 for self and three children, previously having had a separation allowance of 26s 6d.
One of his great-grandchildren reports:
“We have several postcards he sent home, letters from the army and, most poignantly, the last letter he wrote. Dated 17 March 1918, it is written in pencil and never fails to make me sad. He says he has enclosed a money order (for what he hopes will be fifteen shillings) to buy Hilda, his youngest daughter, a pair of boots for her birthday. He wishes her many happy returns and asks his wife to tell her he has not forgotten her. He says they have been having grand weather and that he gets plenty to eat. He signs it ‘from your loving husband Jim xx’ and then writes each of his children’s names with three kisses each.”
Although James Murphy was not serving with 11 DLI when he died, he was one of their number for more than a year, throughout the late phases of the Somme Offensive, Third Ypres and the Battle of Cambrai. Had he remained with 11 DLI, it is unlikely that his eventual fate would have been any different. His letter home is so much like the letters of Robert Bennett that feature in the book, bringing home the real human tragedies that lie behind the memorials.
1881 – Living at No 11 James Street, Cleator in Cumberland aged 1 the son of James Murphy, 22 iron ore labourer born Ackworth, Yorkshire, and Hannah Murphy, 26, also born in Ackworth. There was a baby son, Charles.
1891 – Living at No 3 Hendon Valley Road West, Bishopwearmouth, aged 11 with his widowed mother Hannah, aged 30, who was working as a charwoman to support her family. As well as James, there were Charles, 10, Albert 6 and Sarah aged 8 months. James was born Sutton Bridge, Charles in Cumberland and the other two in Sunderland.
1901 – Living at 37 Norman Street, Bishopwearmouth age given as 21, born Sutton Bridge. This was an average-sized property, but housed 22 people in four separate households. James lived with Robert Mitchinson and his wife Dinah, their three children and James’s younger brother, Albert. James and Albert are described as ‘stepson’, James working as a labourer and Albert as a bricklayer, like his stepfather. Hannah Murphy had married Robert Mitchinson in the spring of 1892, but had died later in the year aged 37. Robert had re-married but continued to look after the Murphy boys.
1911 – James Murphy aged 30 at 2 Zion St, Sunderland working as a labourer in a paper factory. Hi wife, Annie, daughters Annie (7) and Sarah (1) and a lodger, Arthur Worth, aged 61 and a tailor were also at the address. The lodger is probably Annie’s father. James’s age is wrong and his place of birth was given as Sunderland.
Private 53589 John Murphy, aged 47, from Haggerstone, London, died of wounds on 28 May 1917, and is buried Grevillers British Cemetery. He will have been wounded during the pursuit of the Germans as they retreated from the Somme battlefields towards the Hindenburg Line. His medal index card indicates that he did not serve overseas until 1916. His service records have not survived. He originally served as Rifleman 30774, King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was the son of the late J. Murphy of North Road, Poplar, London, and was husband of the late Rose Murphy of 121 Phillip Street, Kingsland Road, Hackney.
Private 25228 Thomas Murray, from West Cornforth, died of wounds, 10 November 1915, and is buried at Sailly-sur-la-Lys Canadian Cemetery. His service records have not survived but his medal index card indicates that he went out to France with the battalion on 20 July 1915. In 1911 he lived at Cornforth Lane, West Cornforth, aged 26, with his wife Elizabeth Ann, 26, and two young children, Arthur George and Joseph William. He was described as a ‘basic works labourer’.
Myers, John Henry
Private 22316 John Henry Myers, laged 22, was killed in action 19 December 1916, and is buried in the AIF Burial Ground, Flers.
Myers was 19 yrs 11 months when he enlisted at Consett on 28 November 1914. He was a labourer, 5ft 6½in, 35½ chest, 126 lbs and was posted to the DLI Depot at Newcastle. Born Cornsay, Co Durham, he lived at Church View, Lanchester. On 6 December 1914 he was transferred to 17 DLI for further training. On 17 August 1915 he was sent out to join 11 DLI in France with A Company. He was killed in action on 19 December 1916.
The effects returned to his family on 23 May 1917 comprised a private letter, photos, wallet, cards, wrist watch, strap, portector, comb in case. Mrs Esther Myers, his mother, wrote back on the receipt form 25 May 1917:
‘Sir, Excuse me cutting this form as I thought it ought to be then I found I had done wrong. Thanking you for the things which I received this morning. It is nice to have some small articles belonging to our Dear One. Esther Myers’
At the end of the war he left parents, a brother Edward and a sister Eliza Jane. A letter was sent to his father explaining that his remains were exhumed and reburied at the AIF Burial Ground, Grass Lane, 3m SSW of Bapaume.
Myers, John James
TNA Reference WO 339/63689
Second Lieutenant John James Myers was killed in action on 22 October 1917, and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. 2nd Lt Myers did serve briefly with 11 DLI, but at the time of his death he was attached to 15 DLI.
Born 1895 in Bishop Auckland, John James Myers was a bank clerk before the war. He had been a cadet at school in Barnard Castle and originally enlisted 14 November 1914 in 21 Royal Fusiliers. He was formally attested at Epsom in Surrey 16 November aged 19 years 5 months, though his home address was Cockton Hill, Bishop Auckland. He gave his next of kin as his uncle, W Alderson of Hartford House, Bishop Auckland. Nevertheless the estate was passed to his father Charles Myers at 16 Leighton Lane, Leeds, valued at £191.1s.10d. Myers was posted to Officer Cadet Battalion to train for his commission on 19 May 1916, being commissioned on 25 September 1916.
Myers, Thomas Herbert
Private 53337 Thomas Herbert Myers was a latecomer to the battalion, joining them some time in 1916 or later, having enlisted on 26 June 1916, probably as a conscript. He appears in the 11th DLI Battalion war diary on 13 April 1917 at a Field General Court Martial accused of a self-inflicted wound. Any suspicion of such things, often simply accidents, were viewed seriously. Myers was acquitted. It is likely that his injury led to him returning to the UK where he transferred to the Labour Corps, regimental number 449548. He was discharged on 18 February 1919 and issued with a Silver War Badge on 2 May 1919. Not positively identified in 1911 census as there are two likely candidates, one a miner in the Leeds area and the other a steel works labourer at Consett.