My Head Hurts – Trying to track down a large family

Families these days tend to consist of two or three children. I know there are exceptions but I had two children and I have just one sibling. My parents were from slightly larger families. My mother had three brothers and my father, three brothers and two sisters. Go back through the generations and families were much larger. Without the luxury of birth control our female forebears seemed to be constantly pregnant.

Having retired from work a year ago I have started looking in more depth at the siblings of my ancestors. I had been concentrating on the direct line when I had the chance but with more free time I am finding my family tree rapidly expanding. I have just finished looking at the children of my 2nd great grandfather Henry Davis and my goodness what a task it has been. It appears he fathered 19 children and I’m not a 100% certain that I may not have missed the odd one or two.

Henry was born in 1808 and baptized at St.Michael’s Church in Coventry on the 16 November. Henry was married twice. His first marriage took place at St.Michael’s on 18 May 1833 to Ann Aden. Ann died in 1844 and on the 14 October 1861, again at St.Michael’s, Henry married my 2x Great grandmother Sarah Radford. Ann was to give Henry 5 children although 2 didn’t survive infancy. Sarah and Henry had 14 children again some of these did not live to adulthood. It appears that both of Henry’s wives gave birth every two years and in some cases even less. Henry was 26 years old when his first child was born and 63 when the last came into the world.

Henry Davis & Sarah Radford marriage
Henry’s marriage certificate to Sarah Radford

Tracking down all these births proved a bit of a headache. Firstly I had to deal with the fact that Henry and his wives were illiterate. On signing the copy of entry of their marriages Henry, Ann and Sarah made the mark “x”, not being able to sign their names. This made hard work of the census returns. Census forms would be delivered to each household and the enumerator would go round the day after the census to collect the completed forms. Unfortunately, what happened in a lot of cases, the enumerator would end up having to fill in the form for our illiterate ancestors. This would have happened in the case of Henry and his wives. Of course the enumerator could mishear or not understand someone’s accent which would lead to spelling mistakes or even the completely wrong name being recorded. Some of these mistakes are only minor, Harriot on the 1841 census becomes Harriet on the 1851. In this case the ages of  4 and then 13 ten years later, I am confident that this is the same person. Sarah Ann my great grandmother did not appear to be on the 1871 census. All the other siblings that would have been present in the household at that time I could account for. However there was a Susannah that did not fit. No birth or baptism record for this alleged girl. No marriage or death. No appearance on future censuses, so could this be Sarah Ann? The age certainly fit. Edward aged 6 on the 1861 census seems to have become Endin aged 15 in 1871. I also have a big query that he might also have been known as Edwin.

Problem two with tracking Henry and Sarah’s children was that 8 of them were born to the couple before their marriage took place. These births were registered in their mother’s maiden name of Radford. However their baptisms revealed a whole host of variations. Parents names ranged from Henry and Sarah Davis to Henry Davis and Sarah Radford to illegitimate daughter of Sarah Radford. I only know in the last case that Henry was the father as the child name is recorded as Sarah with the surname Davis.

One thing that did actually help in my search is that Henry never strayed from Much Park Street in Coventry. During both his marriage to Ann and Sarah the family is found on censuses, in parish registers and on Birth, Marriage and Death certificates in Much Park Street and with Henry’s occupation of Weaver confirmed by these pieces of paper, I started making some headway with tracing the family.

So here is the results of my labour. All Baptisms I found took place at St. Michael, Coventry and in each case the father’s occupation is given as Weaver of Much Park Street.

Henry’s children by his first marriage to Ann Aden.

Henry  1834-1834    Baptised 10 Feb 1834. Burial (St. Michael’s) 24 Feb 1834, aged 2 weeks

Thomas  1835-?       Baptised 30 Mar 1835.  Have not found marriage, death or burial record

Harriet  1837-1870  Baptised 25 Jan 1837. Marriage to Henry Rollings 1861. Death registered 1870 in Coventry aged 33

Hannah  1839-1841  Baptised 15 Jul 1839. Burial (St.Michael,s) 16 May 1841, aged 2 years

Emma  1843-?           Baptised 22 May 1843. Have not found marriage, death or burial record  

Ann Davis nee Aden died in 1844 and was buried at St.Michael’s on 11 Aug

Henry’s children by his second marriage to Sarah Radford

Matilda  Abt.1848-1903  Have not found birth or baptism but on 1851 census aged 3 listed as Henry’s daughter. Marriage as Matilda Radford to Henry Onions 1868. Death registered 1903 in Birmingham aged 56

Elizabeth  1851-1906  Birth registered as Radford 1851. Baptised 21 Oct 1861 aged 11. Parents Henry Davis and Sarah Radford. Marriage to Thomas Kelley Lack 1883. Death registered 1906 in Coventry aged 54

Elizabeth Radford-Davis baptism
Elizabeth Radford/Davis baptism record. Bottom right hand page. Showing parents as Henry Davis and Sarah Radford

Henry  1852-1922  Birth registered as Radford 1852. Baptised 25 Dec 1852. Parents Henry and Sarah Davis. Marriage to Mary Ann Hewitt 1872 at St.Michael’s. Exact date                     unknown as register damaged. 2nd marriage to Emma Maria Yardley 1890. Death registered 1922 in Leicester aged 68

Henry Radford-Davis baptism
Henry Radford/Davis baptism record. One up from bottom left hand page. Showing parents as Henry and Sarah Davis although they were not married at this time.

Sarah  1853-1858  Baptised 30 Oct 1853 as Sarah Davis but no fathers name given and described as the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Radford. Death registered 1858 in Coventry

Sarah Radford-Davis baptism
Baptism record showing Sarah as the illegitimate daughter of Sarah Radford. One up from bottom left hand page. Note child’s name is given as Sarah Davis possibly to acknowledge who the father was.

James  1854-?         Birth registered as Radford 1854. Have not found baptism, marriage or death

Edward  Abt. 1855-?  On the 1861 census and possibly as Endin on the 1871 (age fits) but cannot find any records of birth or baptism

Mary Ann  1857-1928  Birth registered as Radford 1857. Baptised 18 Feb 1858. Marriage to Frederick Workman Smith 1877. Death registered 1928 in Coventry

Sarah Ann  1860-1902  Great Grandmother read her story here.

Ann Selina  1862-1933  Birth registered 1862. Baptised 01 Jun 1862. Marriage to John Woodhall 1884. Death registered 1933 in Coventry aged 70

John William  1864-1873  Birth registered 1864. Baptised 23 May 1864. Date of birth given as 13 Apr 1864. Death registered 1873 in Coventry aged 9.

Laura Phoebe  1866-?  Birth registered 1866. Baptised 04 Feb 1866. Date of birth given as 09 Jan 1866. Married at Holy Trinity, Coventry on 01 Feb 1886 to Alfred Fell. Have not found death or burial record

Charlotte Ellen (twin)  1869-?  Birth registered 1869. Baptised 02 May 1869. Date of birth given as 19 Feb 1869. Have not found marriage, death or burial record

Peter Oliver (twin)  1869-1888  Birth registered 1869. Baptised 02 May 1869. Date of birth given as 19 Feb 1869. Death registered 1888 in Coventry aged 20

Arthur George  1871-?  Birth registered 1871. Baptised 06 Aug 1871. Date of birth given as 06 July 1871. Have not found marriage, death or burial record

Still lots of work to do on this family which should keep me busy. It’s the largest I have found so far in my family tree but with loads more sibling research to undertake I may just top it one day. Better stock up on the headache pills.

Henry’s youngest child Arthur was just 10 years old when his father died on 14 December 1881. His cause of death was disease of the kidney and bladder. His death certificate also reveals he had been suffering with this for 3 years. As he died at home in Much Park Street I like to think that he was surrounded by several of his numerous children. I know at least his son Henry was present as this is stated on the death certificate.

Henry Davis death
Henry Davis death certificate



William and Jane Barnacle – Married or Living Over The Brush

“Living over the brush” most people, these days, recognise as a saying relating to a couple living together as man and wife who have not gone through a legal marriage ceremony. There are several suggestions as to where this saying originated. Does it have British Romani origins where a couple would literally jump over a broom, allegedly? Or has it come down from African American culture during the slave trade? However the saying started it is one I have thought of many times in relation to one of my maternal 2xgreat grandparents, William Barnacle and Jane Harrison. Numerous attempts to find a record of their marriage have drawn a total blank.

On the birth certificate of my great grandfather Frank Barnacle in 1865, his parents are clearly stated as William Barnacle and Jane Barnacle formerly Harrison. This certainly infers that they were married. William’s occupation is noted as ‘Watch Finisher’. Going forward to Frank’s marriage certificate in 1889 his father’s name again is confirmed as William Barnacle ‘Watch Motioner’.

Frank Barnacle Birth Certificate clearly stating his parent’s names

Looking at the census returns of 1871 and 1881 Frank appears as a 6 and 15 year old respectively, living with his parents in Coventry. Both of these censuses have Jane listed as William’s wife and William employed in the Watchmaking trade. Watchmaking in Coventry enjoyed a peak period between about 1850 and 1890. In fact Coventry was the third watchmaking centre in England behind London and Liverpool. Quite a few of my Coventry forebears were employed in the industry.

Interior of a watchmaking workshop about 1891

Looking at the census returns before Frank’s birth I was able to find William and Jane on the 1861 census. They are at the same address as 10 years later, Spon Street, Coventry. William is a Watchmaker and Jane a Silk Winder. Again these occupations tie in with the 1871 census. So I’m sure a have the right couple and yes, Jane is listed as William’s wife.

If a marriage did take place, it would have been sometime before 1855, assuming they married before having any children but I have found in the past not to assume this. In 1861 they already had two children, Emily aged 6 and Thomas aged 8 months.

Going back in time to the 1851 census William and Jane are both still single living with their parents and siblings. William’s occupation is given as ‘Watch Motioner Apprentice’ and his age of 17 years fits in with his age on subsequent censuses. So do I now have the name of his parents, Thomas and Sarah Barnacle. Of course this is why a marriage certificate would be most helpful as it would confirm his father’s name. Likewise for Jane’s father, who I believe to be Joseph Harrison who in 1851 was living with his wife Amelia and their four children including Jane aged 17 and a ‘Silk Winder’.

Using the census information I have found William’s baptism at St.John’s, Coventry on 10 March 1834. His parents Thomas and Sarah Barnacle are living in Spon Street and his father’s occupation is a ‘Watch Maker’. Jane’s baptism I found in the England and Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970. I have a little more information for her than William as the register is more detailed. Jane was born on 28 August 1833 in the parish of St.Martin in Birmingham.and she was baptised on 02 January 1834 at Vicar Lane Independent in Coventry. Her parents were Joseph Harrison and his wife Amelia Jane.

Baptism record of William Barnacle – Left hand page one up from the bottom.

The first census both William and Jane appear on is for 1841. William just 5 years old is with his parents and 5 brothers and 1 sister in Spon Street. His father is a Watch Maker so it appears William followed his father into that trade. Jane aged 8 is living with her parents in Spon End and her father is a Wood Turner. There are three more censuses that the couple appear on after their son Frank has left home to marry and start his own family. The 1891 census is strange in that they do not appear to be living together. Jane is found at 8 Chauntry Place which is where they appear to be living at the time of Frank’s marriage but she is alone, still stated as being married and working as a Charwoman. William I found in a lodging house in Spon Street.By 1901 the couple are reunited living in Birmingham with their daughter Rose, her husband John Clarke and two daughters Beatrice and Rose. William’s occupation has changed to Cycle Machinist. The watch trade in Coventry started to slump with the arrival of cheaper watches from America and Switzerland. However by the 1911 census William is back as a Watch Motioner and also back in Coventry with Jane.

Armed with all this information about this couple their marriage still alludes me, if indeed one actually took place. The search continues. Just to end their story Jane died on 26 August 1916. Her age according to her death certificate was 79 and the cause of death was Senile Dementia and Heart Failure. She died in the Workhouse Infirmary. William died just 17 months later on 11 January 1918 at the home of his daughter Alice. Cause of death was Senile Decay and Heart Failure. He was 80 years old.

William Barnacle Death Certificate
Jane Barnacle Death Certificate


On Jane’s death certificate it gives her occupation as Wife of William Barnacle. One day I may just track down that marriage until then I will keep asking that question “Are you living over the brush.”

A Tale of Two Grandfathers – Part Two : John Jones

John Jones was my maternal Grandfather and unlike my paternal one who I have no memories of at all, Grandad Jones is an entirely different kettle of fish. I grew up adoring my Grandad. He was a true gentleman, kind, loving and a big part of my childhood and teenage years. Here is his story along with some of my memories of him.

My Grandad – John Jones


John was born on 21 April 1893 (this also happens to be my birthday some 60+ years later) in Much Park Street, Coventry. Due to industrialisation, by the beginning of the 19th century cities like Coventry were growing rapidly. For most of the 1800’s and into the 20th century, back to back court housing was the home to many of the cities inhabitants. These houses were cheap to build, overcrowded with very poor sanitation. Just a thin wall would divide each house. There would be a privy shared with numerous neighbours in the courtyard. These would have originally been no more than ‘earth closets’ as it would be the early 20th century before flushing toilets and mains drainage would be connected. Much Park Street would have been such a community and it was into this that John was born.

The 1901 census gives us a little bit of insight into this world. My grandfather was just 7 years old and living in one of these courts in Much Park Street. The census tells me that the family occupied three rooms. So Grandad was almost certainly sharing a bed with one if not more of his four brothers. His father William was working as a Cycle Driller and his two older brothers, William 21 years old and Henry 18, were also working in the cycle industry as a cycle fork builder and cycle brazier. The census unfortunately doesn’t tell me if the younger boys Arthur, 12, Oliver, 10, and my grandfather were at school. The brothers also had a sister Annie Selina but the last I can find of her is on the 1891 census. As yet I have found no marriage or death for her and one possible record on the 1901 census of a 20-year-old servant but nothing to prove it could be her.

The following year after this census, the boys lost their mother, Sarah Ann. She was aged just 42 and according to her death certificate died of Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver, Bronchitis and Exhaustion. What had driven her to drink so heavily we can only speculate but living in such conditions certainly was a possible factor. Read her story at Sarah Ann Davis.

So at the age of just 9 my grandfather was motherless and I wonder what his early childhood had been like with an alcoholic mother. By the 1911 census all the brother’s are living in different parts of the city, however, although he is still alive, I cannot find their father. William the oldest brother, is married with three children, as is Henry, also with three children. It is with Henry, his wife and children that my grandfather is living. Henry is still employed as a Brazier in the cycle industry and John is a Bottler. Oliver I found living with and working for a carting contractor. Arthur, also a bottler by trade, was a boarder with a family called Barnacle, Frank and Esther and their seven children. It is one of their daughters Clara that my grandfather would marry in 1918.

Unfortunately I have been unable to find my grandfather’s military history for World War One. His oldest brother William was killed in France in 1916, see his story here. I have also found Arthur and Oliver’s service records but nothing for Henry or grandad.

I wonder if it was Arthur who introduced my grandparents when he was lodging with the Barnacle’s? John Jones and Clara Barnacle were married at Holy Trinity Church, Coventry on 21 December 1918. They were to have four children, three boys and their youngest child a girl is my mother.

My Grandparents

On the 1939 register which was complied just before the outbreak of World War Two, John and Clara are living at 55 Gordon Street, Coventry. This is the house they spent the rest of their lives in and one I remember very well. A little terrace house with a cosy front room which was never used, along with the best china in a glass fronted cabinet. On the fireplace stood every one of their children’s wedding photos. One of my uncle’s sadly got divorced and Grandma, to our horror, took his wedding photo and cut my aunty out of the picture before replacing just my uncle into the frame. Mind you photos would not be taken with such regularity as they are today, so I suppose it was just the logical and cheapest thing to do. My grandparents spent their time in the back room which was dominated by a large table in the middle. Grandad had his comfy chair in front of the telly. On a winter’s day the fire would be lit. I will always remember the ticking of grandad’s clock on the wall. No one was allowed to touch that clock, he wound it up meticulously each week. Down a step and you were in a small kitchen with a pantry off. A gas cooker stood in one corner and a table in the other, either side of a fireplace. There was a sink with a wooden draining board and no hot running water. Out in the back yard was a coal house and an outside toilet. My mother tells me this was considered a luxury, your own flushing toilet. Where they had lived when she was a very young girl they shared a toilet with several of their neighbours. On the first floor there were two bedrooms. The front one was my grandparent’s. There was also an attic room.

However I digress. On the 1939 register in the house in Gordon Street was grandad who worked as a Radial Driller in the aeronautical industry, grandma who is described as an unpaid domestic servant, my three uncle’s (the oldest two also working in an aeronautical factory and the younger one at school) and my mother. I recall hearing stories as a child of my grandfather spending time in Kendal , up in Cumbria during part of the war. I know he was working for Hawker Siddeley who produced such planes as the Tornado, Typhoon and Tempest. However I can find nothing to support that they moved part of their production away from the Midlands.

Grandad saw two of his sons marry during the war years and in 1949 both my mother and her youngest brother married. That attic room in Gordon Street became home to my parents for the first five years of their marriage. When I came along in 1954 they were still there. So much of Coventry had been destroyed during the war and after it was over the city council were intent of getting the factories and infrastructure back in place. This meant no houses were being built. Luckily not long after my birth land was released for residential development and when I was 6 months old we left my grandparents for our own new home.

Me and Grandad outside my new home

Grandad saw out his working life with Hawker Siddeley. I am the very proud owner of his long service clock presented to him for 25 years loyal service. The inscription inside unfortunately does not carry a date. He retired in 1963 aged 70 but did not have a long retirement.

Being presented with a present on his retirement

I have many more memories of John Jones but they will have to wait for another time. Grandad died on the 16 July 1971. I was 17 years old and it was the day I broke up from school for the summer holidays. I remember arriving home and the curtains being closed as I approached the house. It was tradition then to do this on the death of a family member. I was heartbroken at the thought of never seeing my beloved grandfather again. A strange thing happened that day though. Remember that clock hanging on the wall that no one other than grandad touched, it stopped. Apparently this is not an unusual occurrence, I believe, as a clocks mechanism does get used to being wound up a certain way. However grandad had suffered a stroke several months before his death and couldn’t wind it, so my father had been given that privileged job. My father took ages getting it started again. The only way it would tick away was being on a slight angle. Eleven years later on the death of my grandmother the clock passed down to me and now has pride of place on my wall.


Sarah Ann Davis and the Illusive Birth Certificate

As Genealogists or family historians will know we spend an awful lot of time chasing paper clues albeit a lot of those are now available online, so we spend a lot of time in front of our computers. However for those of you who have never done this type of research and wonder how on earth we can find out so much about a person who died a hundred or more years ago I am going to tell you how I found out about my Great Grandmother, Sarah Ann Davis. She has really given me the runaround. Although her name has been on my family tree from very early on in my research ( I started back in 2000) it has only been earlier this year, 2016, that I finally found her Birth Registration.

Now I don’t want you to think I have spent 16 years trying to piece together Sarah’s life. As I am researching both the paternal and maternal sides of my family, I have quite a task on my hands. I tend to jump backwards and forwards. If I hit a brick wall I tend to leave things alone for a bit and go research a different ancestor. When I started my research there was no where near the amount of information you can get online today. So instead of popping on the computer at home when I have time to spare, it would be a trip to the library or local records office. Not living in the area where my ancestors came from meant I often had to wait until I could spare a couple of days away. Things have changed so much with new records appearing online all the time.

Two vital lines of enquiry are birth, marriage and death registrations and the census. Civil registration of BMD’s started in England and Wales on 1 July 1837. Before that date we have to look at Parish Registers which recorded baptism dates, rather than births, marriages and burial rather than death dates. Here we are at the mercy of them having survived and how good the local vicar or minister was at keeping these records. Regular censuses have been taken in the United Kingdom every 10 years since 1801. The first four however contained no helpful personal information, really being no more than head counts. The censuses are not released for public scrutiny for 100 years, so censuses available at the moment are from 1841 to 1911.

So onto Sarah Ann Davis one of my maternal Great Grandmothers. I knew her name from my Grandfather’s birth certificate. Here it is listed that his mother was one Sarah Ann Jones formerly Davis. My Grandfather’s baptism record also names her but does not give her maiden name. So the search begins to put together a picture of her life. My Grandad’s birth certificate gives me another clue to start tracking the family down, that of his father’s name, William Jones. Now I can start looking at the censuses and find the family quite easily on the 1881, 1891 and 1901 censuses. Sarah Ann appears on all of these as the wife of William. The 1881 census has her down as a Silk Winder but no occupation is given on the subsequent censuses.

Providing the information they have given is correct, and believe me over the years I have found out that what we read on one record may not be the whole truth, I should be able to start looking for a marriage for William and Sarah Ann prior to 1881. Sure enough they married on 04 November 1878 at the Register Office in Coventry. The certificate tells me that Sarah is a Spinster aged 21, very strange that the 1881 census 3 years later has her as 21, but this would make her of full age and not needing parental permission to marry. The bit of information I really need to try to find Sarah’s birth is her father’s name. This is on the certificate as Henry Davis, a Gardener.

Sarah Ann Davis & William Jones Marriage Certificate

The information I have from the marriage certificate and the census returns I can estimate her year of birth being about 1857 to 1860. I start looking for the Davis family on the censuses and this gets my head in a spin. Looking back, this family took me ages to sort out but more of that in another blog. Back to Sarah Ann and what the information on the censuses told me is her mother was a lady called Sarah. They also threw up another anomaly in that her father was a Silk Weaver, so why it said Gardener on her marriage certificate is a bit of a puzzle.

Armed with all this information I start trawling the birth indexes looking for a Sarah Ann Davis born around late 1850’s to early 1860’s. I find what I think could be her and send for the certificate. No, this Sarah Ann’s father is a David Davis, a Shoemaker. Back to the indexes again. I can find no match at all. I then strike lucky and find a baptism record in the parish registers of St.Michael’s, Coventry on 10 December 1860, parents listed as Henry and Sarah Davis, father’s occupation Weaver. This has to do for now.

St.Michael’s Parish Register showing Sarah Ann Davis baptism – One from the bottom, right hand page

I have better luck finding her death. Obviously now Sarah Ann Jones she dies at the young age of 41 years on 05 June 1902. The cause of death is a bit of a shocker though. She died of Alcoholic Cirrhosis of the Liver, Bronchitis and Exhaustion. My Grandfather was just 9 years of age and I can’t image what his early life must have been like.

Sarah Ann’s death certificate

Sarah’s birth still eluded me. Many times I went back over birth records but nothing ever matched. Doing more research into her parents I discovered her mother’s maiden name was Radford and although appearing as husband and wife on both the 1851 and 1861 censuses Henry Davis and Sarah Radford did not in fact marry until October 1861. Sarah Ann’s baptism had been December 1860 and although the parish records clearly stated her parents were Henry and Sarah Davis, their marriage proved that at that time her mother was in fact Sarah Radford. Looking through the birth’s again searching for a Sarah Ann Radford I was finally able to order her correct birth certificate. Sarah Ann Davis was in fact born Sarah Ann Radford on 08 September 1860. No father is named on the certificate just her mother Sarah Radford. The final jigsaw piece. A Great Grandmother who had an illegitimate birth and died an alcoholic. So sad. I truly hope she had some happiness in her life.

The Illusive Birth Certificate

Lest We Forget -Charles Barnacle

This is the story of my Great Uncle Charles Barnacle my maternal Grandmother’s brother killed in action at Ypres during World War 1.


Charles Barnacle was born in Birmingham on 21 September 1897. He was the youngest son of Frank Barnacle and Esther Barnacle nee Green. At the time of his birth he had 4 older siblings (2 brothers and 2 sisters). His parents had 3 more daughters after Charles. His father was a Machinist in a Cycle Works.

Charles spent his early years in Birmingham and I found the family on the 1901 census in Hatchett Street, Birmingham. By 1905 the family are living in Coventry where Charles’s 2 youngest sisters are born. In 1909 when Charles is just 12 years old, Frank one of his older brothers dies. On the 1911 census Charles at 13 is at school and the family are living in Walsgrave, Coventry.

Charles Barnacle

At the outbreak of World War 1 Charles is working for Hillman’s Motor Company as a Fitter. He enlisted in early 1915 (I have found a will for him written while in service dated 4 April 1915) at the age of 17, one of the many underage recruits. He was a Driver in the 21st Divisional Ammunition Column of the Royal Field Artillery part of the 21st Division. The Division had arrived in France in September 1915.

Charles Barnacle in uniform with his mother Esther (Great Grandma) sitting centre and his sister Clara (my Grandmother) seated left.

During 1916 the 21st Division served in many of the Battles along the Western Front. This included several of the Battles of the Somme (Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Flers-Courcelette, Morval where the Division captured Geudecourt and Transloy Ridge). Between March and April 1917 the Germans withdrew to the Hindenberg Line and the Division saw action in the 1st and 3rd Battles of Scarpe and were involved in flanking operations around Bullecourt, all of these were phases of the Arras offensive.

By the end of July 1917 it became important to reach the Belgium coast to destroy the German submarine bases there. On the 31 July 1917 the 3rd Battle of Ypres or Battle of Passchendaele started. It became one of the most infamous battles of World War 1 not only because of the immense number of casualties but the awful rain, some of the heaviest for 30 years, turned the ground into a quagmire. Tanks became bogged down and the mud became so deep that men and horses drowned in it. Part of this offensive was the battle at Polygon Wood which started on the 26 September 1917 and lasted until 3 October 1917. It was here that Charles Barnacle was killed in action on 2 October at just 20 years of age.

Just some of the Memorial Panels at Tyne Cot.

Charles is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, West Flanders, Belgium. In his will he left all of his effects to his mother Esther Barnacle.

Roll of Honour in the Midland Daily Telegraph.


Charles Barnacle’s Will

Photo of Tyne Cot Memorial from Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Newspaper extract copyright Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. Taken from the website

Lest We Forget -William Henry Jones

Yet another Great Uncle who was killed during World War 1. William was my maternal Grandfathers brother. Here is his story.anzac_day_poppies

William Henry Jones was the eldest of 6 children. He was born on 24 April 1879 and was baptized at St.Michael’s, Coventry on 16 May that year. His parents were William Jones and Sarah Ann Jones nee Davis. His father was a Watchmaker and they lived in Much Park Street. William would live in Much Park Street for all of his childhood years, for it is here I found him on the 1891 and 1901 census.

On the 1901 census William is listed as being a Cycle Fork Builder. It is during this year on 26 May at Christ Church in Coventry that he marries Annie Cook. By the 1911 census the couple, living in Whitefriars Street, have had three sons, William, Lenard and Percy. Before the outbreak of war William was working as a Mechanic at the Humber Works.

William was a member of the 1/7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. This was a peace time Territorial Force and were on summer camp when they were recalled to their home base on the outbreak of war on 4 August 1914. As a Territorial Force they were not obliged to serve overseas. However the Battalion was mobilised on 5 August as part of the Warwickshire Brigade, South Midland Division and William, along with most of the men in  the Brigade, volunteered for Imperial Service. After many months of training in England in March 1915 the men of the now named 48th (South Midland) Division were told to expect overseas service. Later that month William along with the other soldiers in the Division were on their way from Southampton to Le Havre landing there on 22 March 1915. By 3 April 1915 they were concentrated near the town of Cassel, France.

Over the following year William would have been involved in the fighting in the trenches. It was on the 24 June 1916 that the allies started a week long artillery bombardment of German defensive positions in preparation for what was to become the Battle of the Somme which started on 1 July. It was on this day that William was killed in action by shell fire when leaving the trenches for rest. He is buried in Hebuterne Military Cemetery, Plot 2 Row C Grave 9.

Hebuterne Military Cemetery, France

In his will, which appears to have been written while fighting in France, he left all of his belongings to his wife Annie Jones.


Photo of Hebuterne Military Cemetery from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission