Midshipman Herbert Lawson Riley
Ann Luxmoore came to one of our drop-in sessions at The Station to tell us about her Uncle, Herbert Lawson Riley. At the age of 15 years and 7 months, Herbert is not only probably the youngest serviceman from Richmond to die during the First World War, but he was also the first.
Herbert was the grandson of Sir John Lawson of Brough Hall. He initially attended the Royal Naval College at Osborne on the Isle of Wight before becoming a Cadet at Dartmouth Naval College. On the outbreak of war in August 1914 Herbert was appointed to the patrol cruiser HMS Aboukir, becoming a Midshipman shortly afterwards. HMS Aboukir, along with sister-ships HMS Hogue and HMS Cressy were sent to the Hook of Holland to patrol the North Sea coast. At 6.25am on 22nd September 1914 the Aboukir was hit by a German torpedo – while the cruiser was listing badly Herbert jumped into the sea and managed to make it to one of the lifeboats. Finding apparent safety on board the Cressy, Herbert and his surviving shipmates began to recover in the ship’s sickroom. Disaster struck a second time. HMS Cressy was hit twice by the same German submarine that had sunk the Aboukir. Herbert Lawson Riley was last seen clinging on to wooden wreckage along side one of his closest friends.
All three patrolling cruisers were sunk with the loss of more than 1400 lives.
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Peter Seaden-Jones visited us at a drop-in session at Richmond Station. From a photograph of his grandfather, we have managed to piece together the key details of Ernest John Pilcher’s war story. Ernest John Pilcher was born in Pietermaritzberg, Natal, South Africa in around 1881. According to the 1891 census, he appears to live in Chester as the 9 year old son of Frederick and Lucy Pilcher. He has a sister Edith and two brothers Archie and Arthur. His siblings are born in the U.K. but his father’s occupation as an Army Warrant Officer may explain Ernest’s birth in South Africa. On the 26th of December 1907 at the age of 26 he married Florence Alltimes at the Balham Hill Ascension church in Streatham. Florence was 23 years old at the time of their wedding. His occupation is recorded as a grocer. In the 1911 census Ernest and Florence were recorded as living at 23, Sussex street in Pimlico. He is listed as “Manager in the business of grocery stores”. Marjorie Edith their daughter was just 2 years old. At the age of 34 years and 6 months he enlisted in the army on the 22nd of November 1915. By this time his attestation record shows that he and Florence have a second daughter Peggy Dorothy born on the 6th of July 1913. Their address is now 20, Bellenden Road, Camberwell and his occupation is recorded as a “Traveller”. Although originally assigned to the Royal Field Artillery he transferred to…
Fred was the youngest son of Joseph Shields, a Castle Bolton plumber and tinsmith. He was born around 1897. The 1911 census shows the family as having 3 children, Alice, 28, Joseph, 26, and Fred, 14, with his wife Elizabeth. They lived in a section of Bolton Castle, acting as caretakers, with Elizabeth providing refreshments for visitors. They also had a tinsmith’s shop in a building across from the castle making kettles and pans etc. which today is a storeroom. Fred enlisted at Northallerton on the 7th December 1915 and joined the 8th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment. Early in July 1917 Fred arrived with a detachment of men at Steenvoorde in northern France adjacent the Belgium border in the area west of Ypres. It was during the 3rd Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele, that Private Fred Kilding Shields was killed. A shell burst in the trench where Fred and 3 others died, He was just 21 years old. Fred is buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery.
Submitted by Paul Elliott. George was a Great Uncle, the younger brother of my paternal Grandmother. I had no knowledge of his existence until recently. He lived in Church Street, Rothwell, Leeds, was married in December 1914 to Jane Ann Ambler and worked as a miner. He joined the Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (regimental number 25522) in September 1915 at Pontefract. He was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (35672) in December 1915 and went to France in May 1916 with the 40th Company. He is one of the people whose Full Service Record survives. It shows that he had two sons, Alan born in 1915, and George born in March 1917. He died of wounds in April 1918 having served in France and Belgium. He is not commemorated on the Rothwell War Memorial. He was buried at Outtersteene Communal Cemetery Extension, Bailleul. His wife received a pension of 25 shillings and 3 pence a week and inherited £1- 6s with a gratuity of £11-10s. He appeared on the Yorkshire Evening Post Roll of Honour on 4th May 1918, described as a driver and having died of wounds.