Kenneth Henderson was born on the 29th May 1895 at Sutton in Surrey, the third and youngest child of Robert and Janie Henderson. His father was a bank manager. The family were quite reasonably well off as the 1911 census shows the family having 3 servants. By this time Kenneth was at Charterhouse School. His early life is undocumented.
On the outbreak of WW1 Kenneth enlisted in the 28th Battalion, The London Regiment (Artists’ Rifles). This was a popular unit for volunteers and a number would be selected to be officers in other Regiments, as Kenneth would be. On the 26th October he landed in France with the Artists’ Rifles and on the 15th March 1915 was made temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. During 1915 he saw action with the 2nd Battalion at Fromelles, Festuber and Givenchy. On the 7th July 1916 during the Somme offensive he received his fourth wound of the war.
After the war he was with the newly reconstituted 6th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, for service in the Russian Archangel campaign. It was here that he received the Military Cross. The London Gazette of the 21st January 1919 read: ‘He has carried out the duties of a Company Commander of a mixed force at Bolshe-Ozerki and has worked in a very efficient way. He has had continuous service on this front since November 1918 and in four engagements in which his company has taken part he has proved to be a fearless and good leader of men’. When the campaign was over the 6th were disbanded and Kenneth would return to the 2nd Battalion.
In July 1919 the 2nd Battalion were deployed to Ireland. This was in the wake of the violent ‘troubles’ that had beset the country regarding the establishment of an Irish Republic. July 1921 saw a truce followed in December by the Anglo-Irish Treaty (something unacceptable to the extreme militant Republicans). This treaty enabled the larger part of the British Garrison to depart leaving just a small number of troops, including Kenneth, for naval base guard duties. On the 26th April 1922 four British soldiers, including Kenneth, were arrested by the IRA at a hotel in Macroom, near Cork. They were charged with being spies. On the 29th of April they were taken to Kilgobnet, a few miles from Macroom, and shot. The Newfoundland dog they had with them suffered the same fate. Their bodies had been buried in boggy ground and were not discovered until December 1923. They were recovered on the 12th and repatriated to England.
Kenneth’s funeral and burial took place at Aldershot on the 14th December 1923 (pictured above).
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Lieutenant Thomas Ginger. Signals Officer. 4th Battalion. Thomas Ginger was awarded the Military Cross as a result of his bravery during the German ‘Spring Offensive’ of March 1918. In the citation for his award it describes how ‘On the first day his senior Officers were killed and in numerous rear-guard actions he found himself in command of considerable bodies of men’. One such example is during the retreat across the River Somme near Brie, when Ginger was ordered to take his men and cover the retreat of the remains of the 50th Division. He took his tired men to the far bank and took up positions to hold the advancing Germans back. At the same Lt George Begg, 239/Field Company was wiring the bridge that the retreating men were crossing. As German troops started to appear on the horizon and the last of the Durham Light Infantry crossed the bridge, Begg primed the detonator and pressed the plunger home. Nothing happened. This was repreated three times. When the bridge did blow, Begg looked across the river to see Ginger and his men still focusing fire on their foe. Eventually Ginger managed to construct a rudimentary footbridge, allowing his men to cross to safety.
Submitted by Pam Reed – William was her first cousin once removed. William Billam was born Robert William Beckwith Earsdon in Jarrow on 17 September 1893. By 1906 his mother and stepfather Elizabeth and George Billam had moved to Hinderwell, 8 miles north of Whitby. In 1911 William was living with them and had taken his stepfather’s surname of Billam. In 1913 William married Ada Simpson and continued to live in the same village. On the outbreak of the First World War he enlisted on 15 August 1914 at Whitby as 12122 Private Billam in the 11th Reserve Cavalry Regiment. However on 1 November 1914 he was discharged as ‘being unlikely to make an efficient soldier’. Having failed to make the grade in the cavalry, he promptly volunteered for the infantry . At the end of 1914 he enlisted again at Whitby as 18687 Private Billam in the 2nd Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment. William was killed on 1st July 1916, first day of the Battle of the Somme. He was buried in the Dantzig Alley British Cemetary in Mametz along with 2052 other British soldiers. His name is on the Hinderwell War Memorial. He left a widow and 2 year old daughter. Extract from the Whitby Gazette Friday 18 August 1916 as follows:- Killed in action on July 1st. Private William Billam, aged 22 years. He was the first to enlist from Hinderwell on August 15th 1914. “His country called and he answered”
John was born in October 1876, the eldest son of Warrin and Ellen Mitton of Hawes. His father Warrin was both a joiner and a farmer. John married a girl from the Leyburn area, Mary Teresa, in July 1905 and had two daughters. Before joining the Army he spent four years as a postman in Raydaleside and previous to that, for about 14 years, a rural postman at Finghall near Leyburn. It was while he was there he got married. On leaving Finghall the people on his round presented him with a marble clock, pipe and a pouch containing some money. Needless to say he was a very well liked postman! He played for Hawes football team for many years, and for two years the club secretary. He was a fine billiards player and a member of Hawes Church choir. John was described as a cheery likeable chap. John enlisted at Leyburn joining the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and embarked for France at the end of July 1916. On April 7th 1917 the Battalion readied itself for the Arras Offensive which was due to start on the 9th. Private John Mitton was killed on that opening day. He was 40 years old. John is buried in the Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetary, SE of Arras.