Thursday, 19 November 2015

Sepia Saturday - Short Trousers for Boys

Sepia Saturday gives bloggers an opportunity to share their family history through photographs.

It is the females of the family who usually get featured for their costume, but it is the turn of boys. 

Toward the end of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, children no longer dressed like tiny adults, but had their own  style of clothes.  But boys were often still dressed in skirts  for their early years -   as in this early photograph from my cousin Stuart. 

                                Stuart's father Arthur Smith, born in 1908

In the first half of the 20th century, for boys the main characteristic was short trousers, worn whatever the weather,  with knee length socks.  Boys did not go into long trousers until the age of around 13-14 - something of a rite of passage

  The note on the back of this photograph says "Arthur in his first pair  of trousers", c.1910
Harry Rawcliffe Danson, (my Uncle Harry), born 1912
Harry's middle name came from  his grandmother Maria Danson, nee Rawcliffe.  This is a section of a larger family photograph taken in 1916 when his father  William Danson went off to war in Flanders.  24 years later Harry survived the Battle of Dunkirk.  He retained his good dark looks all his life.


In the early 20th century, large hats for boys seemed to be the style for formal photographs  - wherever you might be across England  -  north east, north west  or the midlands -a s illustrated in these family photographs. 

 My husband's uncle Matthew Iley White, born 1915.
Photograph taken by T. W. H. Liddle, Photographer, South Shields.  

Frederick Henry Weston (my Uncle Fred), born 1905. in Wolverhampton, Staffordshire

This photograph came to me via a connection of my cousin and is one of the very few early photographs I have of my father's Weston family. The story was that photographs were thrown out  following a death.  What a crime!   

In the 1911 census the Weston family were living in Lunt Lane, Lunt Gardens, Bilston, Wolverhampton in the industrial English Midlands. A photograph in Wolverhampton Archives indicated that Lunt Lane was the location of the Bilston Sewers - so not exactly garden country. 

Surely Fred must have been dressed up for a special occasion in this fancy coat and white socks and big hat?  Unfortunately there is no longer anyone alive  from the immediate  family to ask. 


Below are two photographs from the large collection left by my Great Aunt Jennie (Danson), who grew up in Poulton-le-Fylde, near Blackpool,  Lancashire. She had written names on the back, but otherwise little is known about them.   I suspect they  are the children of friends,  and taken around 1918. I was unable to make much  headway in searching for the surnames  in the 1911 census. 

Jesse and Bernard Pennington in a studio beach photograph, complete with spade
Taken by W. J. Gregson, 82 Talbot Road, Blackpool 

A sailor suit is a uniform traditionally worn by enlisted seamen in the navy, characterized by its distinctive collarIt gained popularity and  developed into a popular clothing style  as worn by the children  of Queen Victoria.

 Arthur Smith again in his sailor suit - and what a wonderful mop of curls

Jackie Threlfall, wearing the popular sailor suit.
Taken by ? Watson, 13 Wellington Terrace, Blackpool


Moving onto the 1940's 

My husband and  his older brother.

My brother in law - with furry friend

My husband in his winter coat - rather similar to the coat worn by the boy
on the left in the  prompt photograph.   

 My husband - look at those baggy shorts 
worn with a sports jacket and V neck pullover!

My cousin Stuart with his sister and how angelic they look, with their blond locks obviously inherited form their father Arthur (see above) 
I remember my brother wearing similar short trousers held up by straps.

My brother at play! 
This was taken  on holiday in Bournemouth where paddling stream ran through the park,  My mother \always knew to take a change of clothes with us for my brother who inevitably managed to fall in the water at some point.  Seeing he is wearing a jumper, it cannot have been a warm summer. 

Find out what other bloggers and boys are getting up to this week - click HERE

Friday, 13 November 2015

Military Monday - Families Bereft by War

Few families could have escaped the tragedies of the First World War.- and mine was no exception.

In this week of Remembrance, I have  been paying tribute to  the men in my extended family who died serving their country.    

Part 1 remembered great uncles John & GeorgeDanson,  
Part 2 remembered great uncles Arthur William Matthews & Frederick Donaldson.   

Here I profile the relations of my cousin Stuart  - James Heywood Knowles, John Alexander Langdon and brothers Percy Douglas Coombs & William Ernest Coombs.

JAMES HEYWOOD KNOWLES was Stuart's 1st cousin twice removed i.e. their Grandfathers  were cousins. James was born in December  1895 in Oldfham, Lancashire, son of James and Lucy  Knowles, and brother to John, Ada, Ernest, Bertha, Harold and Lucy.  

In the 1911 census, the young 15 year old James was a "piecer mule",  which involved leaning over  the spinning mule to repair any broken threads - an at times dangerous job  often undertaken by children.   Other  family members were likewise employed in the cotton mills.  James middle name came from  his granmdmother Mary Heywood.

James served in the 2nd Battalion of the Shropshire Light Infantry, and was  killed  on 25th May 1915 aged just  19 and unmarried.   He has no known grave and his name is on (Panel 49).of the Menim Gate Memorial at Ypres.   

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields.  Unveiled on 24 July 1927, it bears the names of more than 54,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. 

Each night at 8 pm the traffic is stopped at the Menin Gate whilst the Last Post is sounded. in a moving ceremony which draws people from across the world.  

Menin Gate at Ypres

JOHN ALEXANDER LANGDON  was the youngest child of son of William Edward Langdon and Janet MacKay (a great, great aunt),  born 19th May 1885 in Glasgow and brother to Cecilia, Matilda,William, Annie  Caroline and Edward.   In the 1901  census, John was working as a clerk and  living with his widowed father, a retired stevedore and two sisters Caroline and Cecily. 

In 1909 at the age of 24  he married Margaret Wallace,and had a son John Wallace Langdon.  

John senior served in the the Highland Light Infantry and  was killed on the Somme on the 26th March 1918 at the age of 32, leaving  his young son fatherless at only 7 years old.   

John  has no known grave   and his name is on the memorial at Pozieres Cemetery, which was unveiled in 1930.  It lists the names of 14,657 British and South African soldiers who were killed between 21 March 1918 and 7 August 1918, during the German advance known as the Spring Offensive  and the period of allied consolidation that followed

PERCY DOUGLAS COOMBS &  WILLIAM ERNEST COOMBS   were great  uncles of Stuart's wife.  They came from  a large family of 10,  children  of  Edward Henry Coombs, a grocer,  and Ann Elizabeth Shaw - Edward, Frederick, William, Anne, Clara, Walter,  Lillian, Joseph, Percy and  Hilda. 

the 1901 census revealed a large household of 16  living at Plaistow, West Ham, Essex -   parents Edward and Ann, their 10 children ranging in age from 2 to 20,   two servants and two visitors. 17 year odl William was a clerk. 

10 years on in the 1911 census Percy also was described as a clerk, as were Clara, Walter and Joseph. whilst William's occupation was listed as "traveller".  

Percy, the youngest son,  was born in 1895.  He served as  2nd Lieutenant with the 7th Battalion of the Essex Regiment, and died 14 April 1917 aged 21.   He has no known grave and is his name is shown on the memorial of the Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery at Arras (Bay 7) - below.

Casualty Record Detail

William Ernest Coombs was born 11th July 1883, the third eldest of the 10 children. He was a private serving with the machine gun corps, when he was killed  27th May 1918  at the age of 34, unmarried.  He too has no known grave and is remembered on the memorial at Soissons Dept. de L’Aisne,  Picardie France. 

1917-18  must have been  tragic years for the family, for they marked the deaths not only of Percy and William, but also of their  mother Ann and sister Lilian - a family left bereft by war. 


With thanks to Stuart for contributing so many of the photographs 

 taken this year on  a journey to the First World War battlefields  

Military Monday is one of many daily blog prompts from

to encourage writers to record their family  history.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Military Monday: Great Uncles Killed in Action

Few families could have escaped the tragedies of the First World War. - and mine was no exception.

In this month of Remembrance, here is the second  of three articles on the men in my extended family who died serving their country. 
Part 1 paid tribute to my mother's uncles John and George Danson.  

Today I give a profile of my husband's great uncle Frederick Donaldson and  my father's uncle Arthur William Matthews
Frederick Donaldson (1894-1916)  was the  youngest of four sons born to John  Robert Donaldson and Jane Elizabeth Rushton of South Shields, County Durham.     

At 22 years old and single,Frederick was quick to enlist on 11th September 1914  – just five weeks after the outbreak of war.   He joined the 15th battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, Regimental No. 14803,  as a signaller.
In his service record Frederick was described as 5’ 6¾” tall and 123lbs (8 stone, 11 pounds) in weight.  His chest measurement was 37 inches, his complexion fresh, eyes blue and hair brown.  He had three vaccination marks and a “slight defect (pleurisies), but not sufficient to cause rejection”.  His occupation was given as miner.  His next of kin was Jane Donaldson, mother of 32 Dale Street, South Shields.  

Frederick was killed  16th September 1916 - the same day as my  own great uncle George Danson - and at the same young age of 22.  

Among the bureaucratic paperwork of his service record was a “detailed statement of all the relatives of the above named deceased soldier”.  It was difficult to make out the names of his brothers, aged 40 and 30, but these are presumed to be John and Henry.    Father and grandparents were noted as deceased.
A very formal, but poignant letter from the authorities to his mother dated 26th January 1917 notes “I forward the effects of the late Lance Corporal F. Donaldson…….the only articles of personal property that have so far been recovered”.

Frederick was listed (in the second column)  among the 116 names on the war memorial plaque in St. Aidan’s Church,  South Shields.    Sadly the church has been demolished and the whereabouts of the plaque, made of marble,  framed in oak, is now unknown. 

Frederick is also remembered on the Thiepval Memorial, the largest British battle memorial in the world.  On Portland stone piers are engraved the names of over 72,000 men who who have no known grave and  who were lost in the Somme battles between July 1916 and March 1918Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens,  the memorial was unveiled by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1932. 

Thiepval Memorial to the missing.jpg
Photograph - Wikipedia

Still in the family possession is the "Next of Kin Memorial Plaque", awarded after the war to the family of service men and women killed in the conflict.    The plaque depicted the figure of Britannia standing beside a lion.  Individual names were inscribed on the plaque with the phrase  "He Died for Freedom and Honour"
The bronze plaques were often cynically referred to as the "Death Penny",  because of the similarity in appearance to the smaller penny coin

Arthur William Matthews (1880-1915) was eldest son of John and Matilda Matthews of Lanesfield, Wolverhampton, and brother to Mary (my grandmo0ther), Fanny, Anne, Samuel, Harry and James.  In the 1911 census, Arthur was a sheet mill furnace man, married and living at Connor's Quay, Flintshire with his wife Emily,  and children Alice Matilda, aged 5 and Sidney Gordon 1.  A baby girl Florence May had died in 1909.

Arthur was serving in the Gallipoli Campaign with the  Royal Welsh Fusiliers when he was killed  on 1th August 1915 at the age of 34, remembered on the Helles Memorial in Turkey.    

The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by Commonwealth and French forces in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.  However, the difficult terrain and stiff Turkish resistance soon led to the stalemate of trench warfar. By the end of the year, allied forces had withdrawn  from Gallipoli.

The Helles Memorial serves the dual function of being a  battle memorial for the whole Gallipoli Campaign   and a place of commemoration for 20,885 Commonwealth servicemen who died there and have no known grave. The 30 metre high memorial takes the form of an obelisk that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardabnell


Military Monday is one of many daily blog prompts from
to encourage writers to record their family  history.