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Neston in 1916 - March Brings News of the Death of Two of Our Young Soldiers

Author: Susan Chambers Published: 22nd March 2016 14:51

The latest feature on life in Neston during the Great War, by Susan Chambers - local historian and co-editor of http://www.nestonpast.com..

Susan has recently added a comprehensive illustrated history of Leighton Court to nestonpast.com: 'Leighton Court from beginning to end.'

Dr Lewis Grant, one of the GPs who had trained the local Red Cross volunteer nursing staff and ambulance men, had an accident in the early hours of Sunday morning at the end of the month, falling from his bicycle and breaking his femur. He was returning to his bungalow on Parkgate Road after seeing a patient in Ness, when his bag got caught in the front wheel when he was by the Presbyterian Church (URC). He was unconscious for a while, and then in a dazed condition crawled as far as the railway bridge in Moorside Lane, where he was found three hours later, suffering from exposure. A long convalescence ensued.

Pemberton's Green off Mill StreetPemberton's Green, off Mill Street, Neston.

Plans were being drawn up for the local branch of the Red Cross to open a workroom in ‘Rathmines' in Hinderton Road - later in the month changed to nearby ‘Ivanhoe'. This was one of the 1880s ‘villas' in the area of what is now Hamilton Court apartments. Loans of sewing machines and furniture were requested, and donations of old linen would be gratefully received for padding purposes. Currently based in the Town Hall, the workshop had already produced a huge supply of hospital garments, splints and 3,000 bandages. Anyone was welcome to call in, socialise and be useful.

On Saturday 18th an accident in thick fog by Thornton Hough caused the death of the 15-year old driver of a post office horse-drawn mail van which had collided with a traction engine coming the other way. The deceased brought the mail from Chester at 4am, delivered till about 6am, then headed for Neston where the horse was stabled and he had lodgings till night-time when he would take mail back to Chester and go to his home there by about 11pm. The inquest jury heard that James Robinson from Little Neston was doing the ‘flagging' about 25 yards in front of the traction engine, (though without a flag). He reckoned the mail cart was going at the same speed as a motor-car, about 9mph. John George Peters from Newtown, Little Neston was the engine driver, though he had recently lost an eye; his brother Daniel was the steerer. The inquest jury decided it was purely an accident.

Wirral Farmers' Club met on 21st March, with Joseph Mealor of Whitehouse Farm on the Green in Little Neston, presiding. Farming was a difficult business and getting more so as men went off to war or to better paid jobs in munitions factories. The Government had requisitioned hay balers and presses and it was difficult to borrow or hire machines. Army horses were no longer being lent to famers, as the Army needed them, and rail transport of vital fertilisers was becoming a problem. Milk prices were dire - "was there anything cheaper than milk at 5d a quart?" Women needed to be encouraged to help on the farms, and to be accepted by the farmers. The members were reminded by the Chairman of Wirral Rural District Council that they were at war and must expect to have to put up with inconveniences.

Sapper Hugh NormanHugh Norman, accidentally killed.

The Derby scheme of conscription rather than voluntarily signing up, had been launched. Many men, often farm workers, were appealing to the local tribunals against having to go to war; a Willaston farm worked by four brothers, with thirty milking cows, 106 acres under plough, with three teams of horses, was to lose three of the brothers to the military, as only one appeal was granted.

News of the accidental death in Minia, Egypt, of Sapper Hugh Norman, 24, was met with profound shock in Little Neston. ‘Hughie' was the fifth son of Henry Norman, builder and contracter. He had been shot through both thighs after a machine-gun that was being tested accidentally fired a residual bullet. Neston man Harry Hough was with him when he died; another Little Neston mate, ‘Wilf' Pritchard had been waiting in the camp for them to return. Hugh was buried in the nearby little Greek cemetery, where one of the local civilians took a few photographs and sent them to the family.

William PritchardPrivate William Pritchard: another local death.

Another death this month was that of 21 year-old Private William Pritchard of Mill Street; he had been training with the 3rd Cheshires in Birkenhead and developed pneumonia. He was taken to the military hospital in Blundellsands, but did not recover. In Neston he used to work for Mr Price at ‘Glanrhos' (Moorside House). He was buried with full military honours in Kirkdale Cemetery.

Air-raid precautions were checked - the Neston Volunteer Company (Home-guard type unit) would go out in the case of a Zeppelin raid, making sure all lights were extinguished.

Despite general bad news, events carried on; at a social evening, Neston's men's Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross (trained by Dr Grant) received their certificates for sick nursing, and accompanied by their wives, had an enjoyable night out. Most of them were now qualified in sick nursing and first aid, and were busy in Neston's auxiliary hospitals.

Another Whist Drive and dance organised by Sam Mealor, fishmonger of High Street to raise funds for the hospitals, attracted 120 people, with prizes provided by local traders. Convalescents from the Parkgate hospital played two billiard matches with the men from the Saughall Red Cross hospital, the Vernon Institute, and on the 15th a Concert was held in the recreation room in the Parkgate hospital with some visitors from Chester. The spirited ‘Band'consisted of members of the audience.

Related content:

Neston - 100 Years Ago

New website looking at Neston's history: http://www.nestonpast.com/

Neston in the Great War - Neston Villages Remember

Days Gone By - photos of Neston's past

Newspaper Clippings


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At 21:03 on 23rd March 2016, Rod commented:
Another excellent article, George Peters drove a traction engine for my Gt Grandfather, loss of life or injury in relation to vehicles and farm machinery was all to common back in the day !.

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