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May 1916, Neston in the Great War - More Casualties and Pte Abel Tells of Horrors at the Front

Author: Susan Chambers Published: 24th May 2016 15:58

The latest in a series of articles by Susan Chambers - local historian and co-editor of www.nestonpast.com

The tenth annual show by the ever popular ‘Parkgate Entertainers' had the month off to a jolly start in the Town Hall, though it now included some performers from Birkenhead, thanks to the absence of some Parkgate artistes at the Front. Everybody's favourite Ithiel Lloyd did his usual female impersonations and caused some fun as Miss Robinson sang ‘You great big wonderful doll'. She and one of the Fewtrell girls were very popular, and were joined by young Clifford Bushell. Who remembers ‘Father's got the sack from the waterworks'? Takings went to the two hospitals.

The men of the Parkgate Military Hospital were joined by the men from Neston Red Cross Hospital on Thursday 18th for another concert with local singers. Accompanist Mrs Grant, the doctor's wife, played for such gems as ‘Love's Garden of Roses', ‘After all we'd done for him', and ‘The Village Choir'. On Saturday Miss L. Mealor was at the piano for several numbers rendered by the soldiers themselves, such as ‘There's a wee house among the heather'.

The Red Cross depot, at one of the ‘villas' on Hinderton Road where Hamilton Court is now built, reported a productive month, with 437 bandages, 46 padded splints, 231 wound dressings, plus bedding requirements. More workers were wanted and for one month they could come along and work without making a payment.
The Cheshire Volunteer Regiment (Home Guard) were finally, after two years' efforts, getting some meagre recognition on the orders of Earl Kitchener (whose death was to occur in early June) . They could have second-hand equipment if they were relieving regular troops.

Men from the Red Cross hospital get out into the community.Men from the Red Cross hospital get out into the community.

Neston unit, part of the Wirral Battalion, had been involved in a big exercise at Carlett Park in Bromborough on Easter Monday, supposing an enemy force had seized Eastham village and the entrance to the Manchester Ship Canal. Thornton Hough Section had its own rifle-range set out at what is now Thornton Farm. The Neston men had placed their miniature range at the disposal of the Lancashire Engineers who were camped on Parks Field, and shooting competitions had been arranged.

Joseph Mealor, of Whitehouse Farm on the Green in Little Neston, was president of the Wirral Farmers Club and had been to represent them in London at a meeting of the Central Chamber of Agriculture. Labour for the farms was a growing problem, despite the farmers being able to employ soldiers, though they cost more and worked less than the farm-hands, and as William Allen from Leighton Hall Farm pointed out, they only worked six days a week, no use on a dairy farm. He no longer saw anything of the Irish labourers he used to have, as they had been concerned about getting conscripted and gone back to Ireland.

The Irish workers were needed on the farms again.The Irish workers were needed on the farms again.

Tribunals were still very busy hearing appeals against conscription; a 41 year-old Willaston milk-man was judged to be 13 days within the age limit. A Thornton Hough farmer with a wife and four children was farming 30 acres by himself and was exempted from service till 30th September. A Hooton market gardener appealed for exemption for his son, too much back-work for women and they wouldn't come on wet days.

Wirral Rural District Council (Raby, Ness, Willaston) discussed the shortage of council staff and whether they should employ conscientious objectors; they decided that women were preferable at this stage.

Bowling was a very popular summer sport and a Red Cross Handicap was being organised in Wirral; the popular green used at Neston was behind the Neston Hotel, opposite to the Town Hall. The proceeds would be divided between the various Wirral Red Cross units. Teams included Neston & District, (‘triers' from Jim McLeavy's pub), Hinderton (Shrewsbury Arms) and Thornton Hough (‘The Houghers').

Colonel Eustace Harrison of Denna Hall was wounded in action early in May. He was one of the Liverpool Pals, the Kings Own Liverpool Regiment, and had recently donated £1,000 to the Liverpool Roll of Honour Fund, and at the end of the war he provided the Comrades Hut for Neston.

Two Neston men died this month; John Pyke of the 8th Cheshires, died of cholera, having survived Gallipoli, injuries and bouts of dysentery. John Coyle of the 13th Cheshires left a wife and four children when he died of a head injury in a French hospital.

Tales of life at the Front were told to fascinated families when men came back on leave; former collier Private William Abel of Eldon Terrace had suffered a fractured femur in January at Armantiers with the 13th Cheshires (‘Wirral Battalion') and was home this month on sick leave. In addition to an account of saving the life of an unconscious colleague in the trenches, he told of the time that three of them while lying in the grass watching an enemy patrol were literally frozen to the ground. Even the rats jumped over them assuming they were dead. "I thought I should never see Neston again" said Private Abel.

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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Paul Booth
At 13:49 on 25th May 2016, Paul Booth commented:
Another fascinating account of daily life in wartime. Carlett Park, in Eastham, was the home of Canon William Torr. One of his daughters, Dona Torr, used to come with her two sisters to Mrs Gladstone's musical evenings at Burton Manor before the war. Later on, Dona branched out in a completely different direction, becoming a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, and a Marxist historian.

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