Deakin, Arol. Died 16th Aug 1917

Arol DEAKIN’s birth was registered in about 1889 in Eccleshall Bierlow RD in the border district of Derbyshire and Yorkshire. He would later state that he had been born in Sheffield. He was the second of three sons of Benjamin Deakin, a rolling-mill labourer(born c.1864, in Sheffield), and his wife,Sarah A, née Horsfield,(born c.1869, also in Sheffield).

In 1891, when Arol was one year old, and his elder brother, Arthur, was four, they were living at 155 Burgoyne Road, Sheffield; his mother’s sister, Martha H Horsfield and a niece were with them.

In 1901, the family were still at that same address in Sheffield. Arol’s father was now an ‘enquiry agent’ and the eldest son, Arthur, now 14, was working as a ‘screw turner’. There was now another younger brother, Benjamin, who was six years old. Arol was enumerated as ‘Ar/nold’ which raises the question of his true name – as this entry would have been by his father and not added by an enumerator or an official. Although he was Arol on most documents, it may be that this was an oral transcription of ‘Arnold’, or indeed ‘Harrold’ without its H or D. We will probably never know, but Arol was the name he used when joining the army and in his short later life.

It seems that on 7 November 1907, Arol’s elder brother, Arthur Deakin emigrated to America on the S.S.Ivernia from Liverpool to Boston, USA. He was 21 and an ‘engineer’. This seems to have been an exploratory visit, as he must have returned, and he then emigrated again on the same ship on 15 June 1909.   He was followed a few months later by their father, Benjamin, who travelled from Liverpool on the S.S.Merion to Philadelphia, in Pennsylvania, USA, arriving on 27 December 1909, whilst his wife remained at 21 Channing Street, Sheffield. His final destination was stated as Boston, USA. In 1911, Arol’s mother was still at 21 Channing Street, Sheffield, with their youngest son, Benjamin, now 16 and an apprentice bricklayer. However, by 1917, Arol’s mother and his younger brother, Benjamin, had also moved to join the family in Ontario, Canada.

Before 1911, Arol had moved to Rugby, presumably for work. On 2 April 1911, although a boarder, Arol filled in and signed the census form for the Wright household at 32 Lawford Road, New Bilton, Rugby.   He was then aged 21 and a ‘stenographer’ working for an ‘electrical engineers’. His landlord, John William Wright was an ‘electrical engineer’, also working for an ‘electrical engineers’. Arol was latterly working in the BTH Contracts Department.

Later, in the 3rd quarter of 1911, Arol’s marriage with Dinah Ethel Wright was registered in Rugby [Rugby, Q3, 1911, 6d, 1078]. They had a daughter, Eileen in 1913, and a son, John Arol in about early 1916.

At some date after war was declared, Arol enlisted in Rugby. He was not awarded the 1915 Star, and there is no date of ‘entry into theatre’ on his Medal Card, so it is unlikely that he joined up early – indeed as he was married, he was probably exempt for a time, and probably went to France in 1916, or even as late as earlier in 1917.

He was initially a Gunner, No.186, in the Territorial Royal Field Artillery, where he was later promoted to the rank of Corporal. He was later renumbered as No.840016 in the Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery, and was posted into the 2nd/4th (South Midland) Heavy Trench Mortar Brigade.

Heavy trench mortars provided support to the infantry, and were generally stationed much closer to the front line than much of the artillery. As he died just behind the Ypres salient, it is most likely that he was in action providing support just prior to or during the Battle of Langemarck (16 – 18 August 1917), which was one of the actions of the Third Ypres offensive. He probably came under counter-battery fire from the German artillery and was wounded.   There do not appear to be other members of his unit in the cemetery, but on that same day 87 men of the Royal Field Artillery were killed in action or died of wounds at various points on the front, most of them in the Ypres salient.

It seems likely that Arol was transferred to Mendinghem casualty clearing station, which was about 10 miles north-west of Ypres. He did not recover and died of his wounds on 16 August 1917.   He was buried in the adjacent Mendinghem Military Cemetery in Grave Reference: IV. E. 38.

The Mendinghem Military Cemetery is just beyond the village of Proven. Mendinghem, like Dozinghem and Bandaghem, were the popular names given by the troops to casualty clearing stations in the area during the First World War. In July 1916, the 46th (1st/1st Wessex) Casualty Clearing Station was opened at Proven and this site was chosen for its cemetery. The first burials took place in August 1916. In July 1917, four further clearing stations arrived at Proven in readiness for the forthcoming Allied offensive on this front and three of them, the 46th, 12th and 64th, stayed until 1918.[1]

The Register of Effects[2] confirms Arol’s rank, number and place and date of death. His back pay of £22-2-6d was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Dinah E, on 8 December 1917, and his War Gratuity of £14-10-0d was paid to her on 19 January 1921.

Arol Deakin was awarded the British War and Victory Medals. He is commemorated on the Rugby Memorial Gates in Hillmorton Road, Rugby and also listed on the New Bilton War Memorial.[3] He is listed on the role of BTH Employees who served in the 1914-1918 war, and also as ‘DEAKIN, Arol’, on the BTH War Memorial.[4]

His death was listed as one of the ‘Local Casualties’ by the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in his former home town:   ‘Corpl. Arol Deakin, R.F.A., son Mr. and Mrs. B. and S. A. Deakin, Toronto, Canada, died of wounds August 16th.’[5]

This confirmed that his mother had joined his father, and that they were now living in Toronto, Canada. It seems that his youngest brother went with them, as a Benjamin Deakin, now 30 and a ‘silver polisher’, married with Edith Dickinson, a ‘box maker’, on 26 May 1925 at the Riverdale Methodist church in York, Ontario. His father died aged 58 on 20 August 1918 in York, Ontario, Canada and was buried there at Saint John’s Norway Cemetery.

Arol’s widow, Dinah, remarried with John Edwards in Rugby in 1919; they had three children registered in 1920, 1925 and 1931. After John’s death aged 55 in mid 1932, she married for a third time with Henry Chaplin in mid 1933. Dinah died aged 69 in Rugby in 1960.



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This article on Arol Deakin was researched and written for the Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the RFHG, August 2017.

[1]       Information edited from:… .

[2]       UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929.

[3]       The war memorial is by the chapel in Croop Hill Cemetery, Addison Road, Rugby.

[4]       This is from a list of the names on the BTH War Memorial when it was unveiled, and is taken from the list published in the Rugby Advertiser, 4 November 1921.

[5]       Sheffield Daily Telegraph, Tuesday, 11 September 1917.

Cooper, John. Died 1st Jul 1916

Based on the CWGC record, John Cooper was born in about 1889 in St Phillip’s, Sheffield, the son of Alfred and Mary Ann Cooper, latterly of 33, Essex Street, Rugby. He served with the 8th Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment, with the rank of Lance-Sergeant, and the number 9178.

His Military Records survive, although not fully legible. He joined up as a professional soldier before WWI, as his attestation was on 6 May 1908. He was then 5ft 35/8in tall; weighed 129lbs; had a fresh complexion; brown eyes and dark brown hair. He was a ‘bricklayer labourer’, then aged 19 years and 3 months.

He enlisted at Rotherham and was also in Pontefract and York for a short while. He was in hospital at Aldershot for over a month with measles in May and June 1909.

He was then posted to British India, with the 1st Battalion, being in Karachi by January 1911. On 25 April 1911 he was promoted to Lance-Sargeant. He was also posted to Jullanpoore [possibly Jalalpur, Pakistan] in 1913; Poona in 1914 and whilst in India he was hospitalised on six occasions: with psoriasis (in Quetta), with ringworm (in Karachi), with malaria (twice in Karachi and once in Jullanpoore), and then tonsillitis (again in Jullanpoore).

On their return from service in British India, the regular 1st Battalion was formed up as part of the 83rd Brigade in the 28th Division. John was back at Alnwick Castle by 16 November 1914, his ‘Home Service’ being recorded from 19 November 1914 to 14 January 1915.

The 28th Division comprised regular battalions returning from overseas service and went to France in January 1915. John’s Medal Card and Military Records suggest that he went to France on 15 or 17 January 1915. The 1st Battalion saw action in the Second Battle of Ypres [22 April – 25 May 1915] and later that year in the Battle of Loos.

On 5 [or 7] May 1915, during 2nd Ypres, John received a gunshot wound to his right hand, possibly during the actions on the Frezenberg Ridge. He was returned to England on 10 May 1915, and was thus not himself involved with the 1st Battalion in the Battle of Loos and was thus not shipped with the Battalion to the Balkans as part of the British Salonika Army.

After time in hospital and at the depot, he was posted as L/Sergeant to the 3rd Battalion, in UK, on 16 July 1915. When war broke out in August 1914, the 3rd Battalion, York and Lancaster Regiment had been at Pontefract, as a depot and training unit. They moved on mobilisation to Cleadon and in January 1915 moved to Sunderland. In August 1915 they moved to Durham and later returned to Sunderland in February 1916 as part of the Tyne Garrison.[1]

During this period, and probably before the move to Durham, John was posted as L/Sergeant to the 8th Battalion on 5 August 1915. This would be his final posting and agrees with his CWGC record.

The 8th Battalion was formed in Pontefract in September 1914 and in October 1914 joined the 23rd Division as part of 70th Brigade. The same year it was at Frensham, Hants, in October, and at Aldershot in December. In 1915 it was at Shorncliffe, Kent in February, and back to Hampshire at Bordon at the end of May.

During this time John joined the Battalion and they landed at Boulogne by the 27 August 1915, and in October 1915 transferred with the 70th Brigade to the 8th Division. After the Battalion landed in Boulogne they went on to Western Front, concentrating as a Division at Tilques (a few kms north-west of St Omer). The other units in 70th Brigade were: 11th Sherwood Foresters; 8th KOYLI; 9th York and Lancaster; 1/8th Middlesex (until Feb 1916); 70th MGC and 70th Trench Mortar Battery.

The account below of the final days of John’s service is based upon the regimental diaries and other sources:[2]

4th Apr 1916 – 70th Infantry Brigade prepare for battle On the 4th April 1916, in preparation for the coming battle, the 8th Division moved up to the Le Boisselle-Thiepval sector, the 8th Battalion York & Lancaster occupying trenches to the left of the sector in front of Authuile Wood, periodically withdrawing to reserve at Albert. The ground occupied by the 8th Division was the most difficult of the whole front, no-man’s land being exceptionally wide and the attack of the 70th Brigade would have to be made beneath the southern spur of the Thiepval salient which was commanded in enfilade by the Germans.

1st July 1916 – 8th Yorks and Lancs at the Battle of The Somme. Plans had long been in place for the great offensive along the line of the River Somme to draw the Germans away from Verdun to the East and so relieve the beleaguered French forces there. Despite what many people have been told about the Somme battle, it was never intended to be a war-winning campaign. It had clearly defined strategic aims, and in many respects was successful, it’s failures are extremely complex and outside the scope of this article. That it has become a by-word for failure and incompetence is, in my opinion, unfair. The huge and terrible loss of life has blinded us to any other interpretation but it is pertinent to remember that a German Staff Officer described the Somme as ‘the muddy grave of the German Field Army’.

After the artillery barrage lifted, the battalions began their assault near the village of Ovillers at 7.30am, 1st July 1916. Immediately after leaving their trenches the battalion came under heavy machine gun fire and most of the men were killed or wounded. The remainder carried on and took the enemy front line trenches and about 70 men eventually reached as far as the third line of German trenches, but only one man returned from there! What was left of the battalion remained fighting in the first line of trenches until overwhelmed. Such was the ferocity of the fighting that the Germans were forced to move extra troops in to face the 70th Brigade and this enabled other British units to make significant advances.

The 8th York and Lancaster Regiment took 680 men and 23 Officers over the parapet, all the Officers were either killed or wounded and of the battalion only 68 returned. The battalion had effectively ceased to exist as a fighting unit and was withdrawn that evening. The 8th K.O.Y.L.I.’s losses were only marginally less.

John was ‘Killed in Action’ sometime during that horrific advance on 1 July 1916, on the first day of the Battle of the Somme. His body was found and he is buried in Grave Reference: V.C. 24, in the Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuille Wood, close to where he was in action.

Authuile (now Authuille) is a village 4 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. Blighty Valley was the name given by the Army to the lower part of the deep valley running down South-Westward through Authuile Wood to join the river between Authuile and Aveluy. Blighty Valley Cemetery is almost at the mouth of the valley, a little way up its northern bank. Blighty Valley Cemetery was begun early in July 1916, at the beginning of the Battle of the Somme, and used until the following November. At the Armistice it contained 212 graves but was then greatly enlarged when 784 graves were brought in from the battlefields and small cemeteries to the east. Most of these concentrated graves were of men who died on 1 July 1916.

John was awarded the 1915 Star; the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

In the absence of any matching census information, it seems likely that his widowed mother moved to Rugby after her son John’s death.

In later 1916, his mother was still living at 109 Woodside Lane, Pitsmoor, Sheffield, and was receiving a separation allowance of 1/11d and an allotment of pay of 5/3d. By 17 May 1919, she had moved to Rugby, and was living at 33 Essex Street, with her 28 year old son, Henry Cooper. It seems likely that Henry had moved south to work in Rugby, and that his widowed mother had accompanied her son; he had signed for his mother on official documents, and she had ‘made her mark’. The location of 18 year old Eliza Cooper, a sister ‘of the half-blood’, was not known.

Whilst John Cooper is also remembered on the Rugby Memorial Gates, it seems that he was probably never in Rugby, but it was his mother’s home by the time that records for the memorial were being collated.




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This article on John Cooper was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by John P H Frearson and is © John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.



Cockerill, William Thomas. Died 25th Aug 1915

William Thomas COCKERILL (1879-1915)

William Thomas Cockerill was born in 1879 in Hanley Staffordshire. It is not known what the family were doing in Staffordshire as the rest of the children were born in Hillmorton. Thomas’s father Walter, a plasterer, married Martha Brown at Hillmorton Parish Church on 28th June 1875. Martha died the following year and Walter married Elizabeth Goode in 1877. By 1881 the family lived in Upper Street, Hillmorton. Walter died in 1884 at the age of 35 and in 1890 Elizabeth had married Edward King. By 1891 the family were living at 19 Plowman Street, Rugby and by 1901 they had moved to Gas Street, Rugby.


Thomas was educated at St Matthews School and worked as a bricklayer’s labourer in Rugby. By 1901 he had left home and joined the 1st Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He served in the Boer War, receiving two medals. After leaving the army, he remained in the reserves. He settled in Sheffield, where he married Nellie Pearson in 1906 and by 1911 was working as a labourer for an armour plate manufacturer (Vickers Ltd). He and Nellie had two children, Walter and Lewis. A third child was born later.

When WW1 started Thomas was called up (private, no. 6039, 1st Bn, KOYNI) and in November 1914 he was wounded. He came home, but on recovery returned to the front. On 25th August 1915 he died from wounds caused by the bursting of a shell.

He was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery.

An inscription on his gravestone reads: “He died that we might live, From Wife and Children”



Ward, Thomas Walter. Died 6th Aug 1915

Private Thomas Walter Ward

Private Thomas Walter Ward, Service Number 17168 was killed in action 6th August 1915 at Gallipoli aged 24 years.

WARD,  Thomas Walter pic

Thomas Walter Ward was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire 1891 to Thomas and Anne Ward. They all appear on the census of 1891 with Thomas’s two elder sisters Anne and Beatrice.   By 1901 the family are living in Rugby at 63 New Street, New Bilton with 5 more children. By 1911, from the census, they are living at 170 Lawford Road New Bilton and Thomas Walter is working as a powder cleaner.   Thomas Walter Ward, according to The Rugby Advertiser above, 18th September 1915, was working for Messrs. Willans & Robinson as a coremaker. He was a fine athlete and played both cricket and rugby football. He played rugby football with New Bilton St. Oswald’s XV and played cricket with Messrs. Willans & Robinson and was a fine bowler, as in one match against New Bilton he bowled out 4 players and 5 others were bowled by him and caught by other members of the team.

He enlisted at Rugby and joined the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry, 2nd September 1914 and was transferred to the 2nd Hampshire Regiment in June 1915 and taken to the Dardenelles. In August 1915 he wrote to his parents saying that he was well.