Wednesday, 6 May 2015

John Macfarlan Charlton, 21st Northumberland Fusiliers

I've recently been sent these details on the death of Captain John Macfarlane Charlton.  They come from Dennis Tyerman, whose father, a private in the same battalion, was wounded in front of La Boiselle on the same day.

Dennis wrote:
After volunteering in 1914 Captain Charlton trained with his battalion, the 21st Bn, Northumberland Fusiliers (Tyneside Scottish Brigade) throughout 1915. In 1916 the Brigade embarked for France and experienced life in the trenches on the Western Front in the early months of 1916.   
On 1 July 1916 the Northumberland Fusiliers were in the front line with orders to attack the German strong point of La Boiselle.  
At exactly 7.30 am Captain Charlton and the other Company commanders led their men into No Man's Land towards the German lines. 
As the British troops reached the point of no return, machine gun crews of the Bavarian Infantry Regiment subjected them to withering fire. Despite heavy casualties some troops reached the German second line but attempts to gain a foothold in La Boiselle failed.  
Captain Charlton and Captain Herries with six men were isolated in a crater and unable to advance because of heavy fire. They eventually obtained a machine gun and advanced. Herries reported how Charlton was killed. 
"For a while we did great execution but the gun jammed at a critical moment. Charlton was shot down while attempting to charge a German strong point and the initiative passed to the enemy."  
The 20th and 23rd Battalions, Northumberland Fusiliers had practically ceased to exist and only the remnants of the 21st and 22nd Battalions, some 200 men and seven officers, remained holding the line. After suffering great hardships, at midnight on 3rd July, thes men made their way back to the British lines.  
The total number of casualties sustained by the four battalions of Northumberland Fusiliers was 2,438 killed, missing or wounded. The 21st Battalion alone recorded 11 officers killed, 10 wounded, other ranks killed 161, wounded 478. The survivors from the whole Brigade barely comprised one battalion and the Brigade was pulled from the line.  
By condensing the first day of the Battle of the Somme to those few lines I have done a great disservice to those men who participated. It must have been a horrendous experience. 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Farming records of John Jackson of Lackenby, 1833-55

Record of the farming year kept by John Jackson, 1833-55
A very nice day yesterday at the University of Teesside/Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society Day School on Private Lives: Diaries in Local History, and I remembered that I meant some time ago to post this particular double-page spread from the Farming Day Book of Thomas and John Jackson (see here, and here, and here).

Of interest, I feel, to farmers - and possibly to climate change researchers?  

The Day Book is now at Northallerton Archives - the digital copy they have made is easier to read than the original (you might be glad to hear).

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

'The Man on a Donkey' by H.F.M. Prescott

With all the Tudor stuff on the BBC and the excellent dramatisation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, I thought blog readers might like to be reminded of a seriously good historical novel based on Tudor times, one that is often forgotten these days.

The Man on a Donkey by H.F.M. Prescott was first published in 1952 and it remains one of the greatest historical novels ever.  It goes in and out of print – though as a Northallerton bookseller once commented to me, "We can always sell it here" – and it's currently in print in a two-volume paperback by Loyola Classics.  (You'll find this and various other editions on Amazon.)

And why does it always sell round here?

Because it deals with the Pilgrimage of Grace (as in Thomas Milner of Skutterskelfe: the life & times of a Tudor gentleman) and is set in familiar places – Richmond, Swaledale, Pinchinthorpe, York etc, etc.

Highly recommended.

Talk in Hutton Rudby

At 8pm on Thursday 19th - the day after tomorrow - I'll be at Church House, Hutton Rudby to give a talk on Thomas Milner of Skutterskelfe, his life & times (and the pulpit, of course).

Friday, 9 January 2015

A belated Happy New Year

A belated Happy New Year to all my readers & many thanks for visiting the blog! Your messages of support, encouragement and appreciation have meant an enormous amount to me over the months of blogging.

I'm not undertaking any new work at the moment – as some of you know, I have problems with my vision and reading is rather problematic these days.  However, I have various projects to finish off and a couple of engagements this spring.  I'll be speaking at Hutton Rudby History Society on 19 February on the subject of Thomas Milner of Skutterskelfe, and at the Cleveland & Teesside Local History Society and University of Teesside Joint Day School on 14 March on the subject of the Jackson family and their Day Book.  And if I don't seem to recognise any old friends who are there, I'm not cutting you dead, it's just that you're a blur because I've had to stop wearing my distance specs.  Do come up to me and speak!

In the meantime, I am reading (slowly!) Paul Menzies' book Middlesbrough: Remembering 1914-18.  Don't miss it!  It's such an immediate, vivid, concrete evocation of those days.  We've become so used to seeing the War depicted on its grand, global scale – this is what it was like to be there in Middlesbrough at the time.

And I must also strongly recommend the exhibition Middlesbrough in the Great War at the Dorman Museum.  It is on until 6 April, and it's beautifully done.  The Dorman is open Tuesdays to Sundays, admission free.  If you haven't visited for some time, you simply must, you will be amazed – and it's a great place for children too, especially the H2O gallery.  (And there's a playground nearby in Albert Park as well, to tire them out completely).

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Update on the Redmaynes of Stainforth

I've just made some alterations to the post on The Redmayne family of Stainforth, from information received from a reader.  Thank you, Norman!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Joseph Beresford Shields: Stockton lad in Essex

I'm just making a correction today to the post about Joseph Beresford Shields 1879-1917, because I've heard from Carole Mulroney in Leigh-on-Sea that the address of the house in which Joe lived was Southsea Avenue, not Southend Avenue.

Carole will be telling the story of Joe's letters in the local history magazine - if nobody from Leigh-on-Sea comes forward to claim the letters, I'll see if Preston Park Museum would like them.  If anyone has a better idea, please let me know!