Information submitted by Liz Thompson, a resident of Richmond.
Michael Joseph Kavanagh (Liz’s Great-Uncle) was born in Walsall, Staffordshire on 20 February 1879. He joined the South Staffordshire Regiment, serving in the Boer War in the Cape Colony, the Transvaal and at Wittegbergin. At the outbreak of the First World War he reenlisted into the same regiment as a Private and advanced to the rank of Colour Sergeant. He was Commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in January 1915 and promoted to Lieutenant in September of the same year.
He was wounded twice during the Battle of the Somme and was awarded the Military Cross. The citation published in the London Gazette stated “For conspicuous gallantry during operations. Though knocked over and wounded by a shell, he took over command of a machine gun company two days later, and, suffering from shock and considerable pain, stuck to his command and did good work”. He was promoted to Acting Captain on 8 March 1918. On his retirement in November 1919, Michael Joseph Kavanagh was granted the full rank of Captain.
In later life Captain Kavanagh moved into local politics, being elected to the position of Mayor of Walsall in 1945. During the Second World War he served as Platoon Commander of No. 21 Platoon of the 27th Staffordshire Home Guard.
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Teresa Maxwell came into the museum to tell us about her grandfather, Percival Charles du Sautoy Leather. Captain Leather was born at Cramond near Edinburgh on 28th March 1867. He graduated from New College, Oxford in 1886. He worked as a Tea Planter and Stock Broker. Captain Leather original saw service as a Captain with the 3rd Battalion, the Northumberland Fusiliers but was transferred to the 4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment on 5th September 1914 and he joined his new Battalion in France on 8th May 1915. It was not long before he was in action and he suffered the effects of a gas attack on 23rd May 1915 and was wounded again at Sanctuary Wood in June 1916. His wounds ended his military service and he relinquished his Commission on account of ill health stemming from his wounds and was granted the honorary rank of Captain from 15th November 1918. After the war Percival lived at Maison Dieu in Richmond where he died on 4th October 1944.
Submitted by Glennis Robson. John Albert Lancaster was my uncle, he was my mother’s elder brother (13 years older). My mother spoke of much loved brother who was a source of goodness and “spoilt” his baby sister. On receiving the news of his death my grandmother picked my mother up from school. They made their way home down the back lanes to hide their tears from passers by. “Jack”,as he was known, was killed on the 16th of October 1917 at hill 60 in Flanders aged 19 after only a few months at the front. He enlisted in the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) regiment on the 6th of December 1916 in Newcastle. His father William, a farrier, also joined up declaring that if his son was prepared to fight so was he. Unlike his son he survived the war. Having no known grave his name is on the Menin Gate. In 1988 my husband Keith and I visited the Western Front to see his name and the battlefield where he died. Since then “our Jack” has been in the consciousness of the wider family. Every November we place a poppy cross by my mother’s grave-stone in St Mary’s churchyard.
Major Harold Carey Matthews was born in 1879, son of F W W Matthews, he went on to join the 4th Battalion Green Howards where he acted as subaltern during the Second Boer War. After retiring from the military he worked for Barclays Bank at Leyburn, where his father also worked. When World War One broke out he re-enlisted with the Green Howards and was promoted to Major, on 29th August 1914. He was killed in action on the 25th April 1915 near Ypres and is buried at Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, Belgium.