Monday, 24 November 2014

A Greater Game

Remembering is just the beginning...

The Remembrance Weekend just passed carried extra poignancy due to 2014 being the centenary of the start of the Great War.
For as long as I can remember, and certainly for all the time I've been involved with Easington United, the club has marked Remembrance Weekend by observing two minutes' silence prior to the start of that Saturday's fixture. 
It is a custom that I feel passionate about and I'm glad to say, so do many fellow committee members, management and players. For 2014 we decided to go one step further by attaching special commemorative poppies to our shirts. These came courtesy of the Poppies4Kits scheme and with the permission of the relevant league competitions and the East Riding County FA. 
The poppies proved a massive hit, not only because they looked good but because they have helped raise over £18,000 towards the Royal British Legion's Poppy Appeal.
The scheme was well supported throughout Holderness. Hedon Rangers equipped all their teams at both open-age and junior level, some 270 poppies in total. Withernsea, Olympic SSC and Roos all followed suit and there were probably many others, allowing grassroots players to emulate their professional counterparts and show their gratitude to those who had made the ultimate sacrifice.
In addition to the special shirts (worn by our First Team at home to Harworth and the Stiffs in their cup-tie at Flamborough) and the traditional pre-match silence, there was a third part to our commemoration this year. 
This came via the match programme and it was here that I began a task that I fear may start to become something of an obsession over the next two years. For therein I decided to list those members of the village who had made the ultimate sacrifice in the two world wars. But having listed them I decided to find out more about them. You can possibly see now where this is going...
This "roll call" of local heroes included the twelve names listed on the village war memorial and two who are not but are interned in the local cemetery.
Just listing names in the programme didn't seem to do these individuals justice so I decided to add as many details as I could find on the various sites I have access to (Commonwealth War Graves Commission, Forces War Records etc). 
It was now that a growing list of questions started to form in my head...
Why is that man not considered worthy of inclusion on the memorial?
Why is that man on there when I can find no reference to Easington in any information relating to him?
How did that man from Easington find himself in a regiment recruited almost exclusively from another part of the country?
How did that man die?
What strand of the (insert surname) "clan" is that man from?
Where did that man live, who were his parents, what was his background?
There is only one way to find out.
2016 will mark the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the first day of which is generally regarded as the blackest day in the history of the British Army. I had already planned on visiting the battlefield in two years time, partly to mark this special occasion, partly as a 50th birthday "thing" and partly because I and the lads I'm planning on going with never got round to doing such a trip this year as originally suggested!
As part of the trip I've already decided I would like to visit: 
1) Contalmaison Cairn (the monument erected in 2003 in honour of McCrae's Battalion, the famous "Sporting Battalion" which included members of several prominent (and not so prominent) Scottish football teams including the full first team of Heart of Midlothian FC) - Hearts are my Scottish team
2) The East Yorkshire Regiment Memorial at Oppy
3) The Arras Memorial on which Sapper Austin Lusmore (Welsh branch of the family) is remembered
4) Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery where Douglas Morgan, the only serving Hull City player to be killed in action during the Great War is buried
To these four I now added a fifth target: the graves and memorials of all the Easington lads listed on the roll of honour. To me it suddenly appeared important that their final resting places are visited and marked by someone from the "home" they never got to return to. 
Of the fourteen names listed, ten died in the First World War. Of these, Lieutenant Francis W. Jennings is the one not remembered on the village memorial. I can guess why. He wasn't a local lad, hailing (it would appear) from the Isle of Wight. He was serving in the 3rd Battalion, The Leicestershire Regiment, a training unit that from May 1915 formed part of the Humber Garrison. He was killed on the 26th March 1916 - I've been told in a training accident on Easington beach - thus becoming the first of these ten remembered men to die. He is buried in Easington village cemetery.
In chronological order, the others fell as follows:
19287, Private John Richardson Longhorn (8th Bn., East Yorkshire Regiment), died 26th April 1916, aged 26
13/904, Private Arthur Carrick ('A' Coy., 13th Bn., East Yorkshire Regiment), died 13th November 1916, aged 22
201393, Private George W. Tennison (1st/4th Bn., East Yorkshire Regiment), died 23rd April 1917, aged 22
204764, Gunner Lewis Abraham Clubley (B/102nd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery), died 10th August 1917
64054, Gunner John Alfred Webster ('B' Battery, 174th Bde., Royal Field Artillery) died 11th September 1917, aged 24
202914, Private Louis Carrick (1st/4th Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers), died 26th October 1917, aged 34
11027, Private Clarence Edwin Sculpher (10th Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales's Own)), died 18th November 1917, aged 21
203070, Private G. W. Marritt (12th/13th Bn., Northumberland Fusiliers), died 29th September 1918, aged 39
756176, Gunner Thomas William Coupland Docherty (251st Northumberland Bde., Royal Field Artillery), died 11th November 1918, aged 27.

The last of the list is the most poignant, Thomas Docherty ("son of Thomas W. C. and Mary J. Docherty of Easington") having died of his wounds on the day the war ended.
Along with our small efforts on the Saturday, Remembrance Sunday saw villagers come together for the traditional service at the war memorial. This year's was attended by the largest gathering I can yet recall and the playing of the 'Last Post' by a lone saxophonist made things even more moving. The service was concluded by the planting of wooden crosses by villagers of all ages: "We will remember them".
It was this last part that gave me the final idea for my trip in two years' time. I have now pledged myself to ensuring that when I and my companions make the trip to the "Green Fields of France" (and Flanders) in 2016, I shall plant a cross at the graves or memorials of each of the men listed above. If the people of the village of Arlesey can manage to perform such a task for the 87 fallen listed on its war memorial then I'd be disappointed not to manage our small number (especially so given that two of which are in the village).
Once done, I'll then turn my attention to those names on the Second World War memorial.
So, that's the task. I'll keep you posted as to how things are proceeding courtesy of this blog, Facebook and Twitter (hashtag #EzRemembersYou). And obviously any information that any of you out there may have that could prove of any assistance, I'd be only too willing to receive. Here's to #Operation2016. Lest We Forget.

* Many thanks to Mike Welton for the ongoing help with my research and to Peter Martin for the additional photographs

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