Introduction to the essays

Part of the original concept of this Book of Honour was to follow the section containing the biographies of the Men on the Memorials by a series of complementary essays giving personal accounts, and if possible a local flavour. In the event the response has been marvellous; the content of each is informative, stimulating and always moving. These essays are also printed separately, and this book is the result..

We start with a short personal view of “Remembrance“, and what it means to the writer. This is followed by a tribute to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission; their massive information base, easy retrieval and permission for use has made compiling the Book’s of Honour possible. The Royal British Legion – God Bless them – then tell us about the tremendous range of work they carry out every day of the year, not just Poppy Day. Peter Donnelly has given us an authoritative piece to assist those who wish to carry out research into people involved in the various conflicts, concentrating mainly on the two World Wars. The solution of a very interesting problem, which utilises the advice given in the previous essay, facing the researcher of the Warton Book is shown in “The Mystery of J M Wilson“.

Some very moving stories from relatives and friends follow and tell about the search for information on those named on local war memorials. We start with “A Slogging Match” from John Stephenson who has a very extensive family archive about his Father – commemorated at Warton. Keith Jenkinson tells a moving story about his father; he explores a variety of issues, but his obvious love and pride shine through. Ruth Harmsworth sent us a very nice letter about the impact of these Books of Honour – thank you Ruth. Brenda and Lynne Whitehouse with “The Roar of the Lions” give a wonderfully detailed account of their journey into the past looking for their relatives Arthur and Robert – to whom they now feel very close. A lovely little anecdote “Endurance Test“, was sent by 85 year old Mrs Hopps of Heysham. She told the story of her Brother Cyril Whittle, A Coldsteam Guardsman killed in Italy in 1943, which is included in the Morecambe Book of Honour.

We are really pleased to be able to include an essay about the Korean War. June Brightman, the sister of Denis Raine, commemorated on the Morecambe Memorial, provided much information about Denis in “Trained to Heal“. Why should someone who died as a member of the South African Forces be listed on a local memorial; Jean McLeod tells us about William Birkett Blacow. Two essays follow from families whose men folk returned safely from combat. Both give an insight into how whole families responded in a time of danger for the country. Some friends ( anonymous) wanted to remember their friend John Jennings, and Margaret Newsham told us what a lovely feeling it was to read and write about lost soldiers.

Norman Gardner in “Three before Breakfast” identifies the first local casualties reported in the Great War when two local sailors were killed by one German submarine sinking three British Ships. “Trawling for Mines” is a tribute to the part played by local fishermen in the First War beautifully scripted by Dick White. The third naval story , “The Last one Down” is written by Sheila Nolan Fox and is a tribute to her uncle who was killed in the last British submarine to be sunk in the Second World War. Sheila now lives in Doncaster but Trever (not a spelling mistake) Coupe is commemorated on the Lancaster Memorial; our little project has stretched far afield! Norman Gardner has produced a lovely piece tracing his relatives in “Red Roses grow in Flanders Field“. Jim Carton then gives us a heartfelt account of the devotion of the Merchant Navy to our country through all conflicts.

Peter Dew follows with an article about our local regiment, The King’s Own, describing the learning curve in the early part of the Great War through to when seasoned troops ended it. He ends with a startling set of numbers – if you were asked to guess how many men of this noble regiment were killed in that war you would never get near it! The next essay is a very suitable follow on – the moving story of one these numbers – Stephen Cook of Caton, a member of the 1/5th Battalion of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. I have read this essay several times; I feel that I know Stephen and I am always left with sadness in my heart

Brian Jefferson ends the service section with a fine informative piece about “War in the air” and the formation and contribution of the Royal Air Force – along with many local references.

We have not forgotten the role of Women in War and show a facsimile of a beautiful scroll awarded to the ladies of the St John VAD Hospital Preston for service during the Great War, and a photograph of the memorial window in the United Reformed Church Lancaster, to Dorlinda Bessie Hyland, a “Lady Nurse” the Boer war. The story of Clementina Addison, the first name on the Caton memorial brings tears to the eyes of the most hardened soul.

Some authoritative and interesting articles (particularly for the historian) follow. Nick Saunders has kindly condensed his excellent book on “Trench Art” into four pages! He was stimulated into this scholarly research by finding a piece of “Trench Art” passed down in the family by one of his grandfathers who served in The King’s Own. Alastair Cameron shows that collecting militaria is not just hoarding artefacts; his account is more about the men behind the medals than collecting and is entirely in line with the theme of our project; he follows this with “The tale of a Torrisholme Headstone“. Norman Gardner has produced a scholarly piece about The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment 1/5th (Territorial) Battalion; a must for readers interested in the King’s Own. An engaging compilation of “The Poetry of Conflict” by Brian Jefferson is followed by a really warm family essay “One day in August 1914” by Elizabeth Anne Knight, it is the story of the Holding Brothers killed in the First World War. The Essays end with the remarkable story of the burial of submariner Donald Cameron: “Full Military Honours“, a fitting end to this set of essays with a post script which defines the spirit of this Project: Books of Honour.

The Lancaster Military Heritage Group are certainly lucky to have had such a response, and are deeply grateful to all the contributors for their fine and moving stories.