Category Archives: Post-war story

Tom Heald (1889-1980), relative of Anne Wolff

Tom HealdMy father, T.L.C. Heald (far left in the photo), enlisted in August 1914 as a Private in the 5th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment (Territorial Force), and left for France as a 2nd Lieutenant on 14 February 1915. Apart from when he was wounded in 1917, he served continuously on the western front until February 1919, ending the war as a Staff Captain. He was awarded the Military Cross, and was twice mentioned in despatches. When he died in 1980, aged 91, I found in the attic a shabby black case fastened with rusty clasps which had formerly been used for holding old 78 records. Attached to the handle was an old luggage label on which was written simply ‘My War’. Inside, there were a number of small khaki clothbound notebooks with squared paper, containing an almost daily account of his experiences at the western front from February 1915 until early 1919. Soldiers were forbidden to keep private diaries, meaning that those who disobeyed this rule left behind much that was valuable.

The diary entries, factual and at times laconic, only occasionally revealed my father’s deep feelings. One such time was when his childhood friend Basil Walker, a tall kindly man with whom my father had volunteered the previous August, was killed at Ypres on 10 May 1915. He wrote: ‘The worst day of my life. Upset me frightfully. […] It does seem hard that poor Basil should be taken. I shall never meet a better man as long as I live. He was hit in the head whilst chatting to the officers in front of their dugout. Suppose his head must have been too high though some say the bullet came through the parapet. He knew nothing about it. He is very much missed by the battalion. Went up the trenches at night to see Hartley and get Basil’s things. We put him in the dressing station for the night.’

As the war drew to its close, and like many others, my father’s mood became deeply depressed. On 16 August 1918, he wrote: ‘My birthday. I am 29. Good heavens nearly 30 and no prospects and no wife. The longer this war goes on the worse it will be for me. What chance has a man of thirty, untrained in business, of getting work at a decent rate of pay when the war is over?’

After the war, my father worked in a cotton business in Egypt, returning to England in 1924. In 1932 he took up the profession of solicitor. Then, in 1937, he was given the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and raised the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment (Territorial Force), which he commanded until 1940. At the age of 50, he became Officer commanding troop ships which transported soldiers to other theatres of war.

In later years, my father hardly mentioned the war, and I always felt that he had tried to bury the remembrance of it in the unconscious as being too painful to recall. For a long time afterwards, he suffered recurring bouts of trench fever and endured vivid nightmares of bombarding shells, dreaming that he was buried beneath the debris. The dreams became particularly acute at the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. When he was very old, and the dreams had faded, he once remarked: ‘If you have been through the Somme, nothing is quite the same again.’

Thomas Lane Claypole Heald, b. Southport, 1889, Private, Second Lieutenant, then Staff Captain, Cheshire Regiment, d. 1980, is the relative of Anne Wolff, née Heald, BA Egyptology and Italian (1973), MA (1993).

This story is based closely, with her permission, on material in Anne Wolff’s book Subalterns of the Foot: Three World War I Diaries of Officers of the Cheshire Regiment (Worcester: Square One Publications, 1992). It has been edited by Kay Chadwick. Tom Heald’s diaries are held at the Imperial War Museum, London.



James Green (1881-1952), relative of Ray Oliver

James GreenJames Green (see photo, left) was my Great Uncle. When I was a small boy in the 1940s, and on into my teenage years, I regularly had contact with Uncle Jim whenever he visited his older brother Joseph, who was my maternal grandfather. Both men were not given to idle chatter, but they clearly derived much brotherly companionship while seated on each side of the coal fire burning in the old-fashioned black iron fireplace. I knew that my grandfather did not serve in the First World War, as he was in his late thirties in 1914. But I was quite unaware at the time that Uncle Jim had served in the army during the conflict.

The recent revival of interest in the history of the First World War, particularly the personal stories, reminded me that I had inherited a collection of family photographs from my mother. I recalled that there were three pictures of Uncle Jim in uniform, but just what role he had was a mystery until I located the photos and took a close look at them.

It is clear that he wore what has proven to be the uniform of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC). Uncle Jim was a devout Baptist, and the discovery that he served with the RAMC entirely suited the gentle and caring man I knew him to be. I do not know whether this indicated that he was a conscientious objector, or whether he was able to opt for a non-combatant role due to his age (he was 34 in 1914). My mother never said anything to me to clarify his role and activities while serving with the Corps. But I know that serving in the RAMC was not a soft option for many, when they were required to venture unarmed into the front line and no man’s land to treat the wounded and recover the dead.

Uncle Jim was a life-long bachelor, who worked in the cotton mills of Oldham after the war. Like many who have served in combat areas, he never to my knowledge expressed any thoughts or opinions based on his experiences. How I wish I had been old enough to ask questions. I wonder now if he would have revealed any details of his personal First World War.

James Green (1881-1952), RAMC, is the relative of Ray Oliver, M.Eng. Electrical Engineering (1975).

Pádraig Thornton (1889-1969), relative of Niamh Thornton

Padraig ThorntonMy First World War story concerns my grandfather, Pádraig Thornton (1889-1969), also known by his Irish surname Ó Droighnéain. Born in Moycullen, County Galway, a village seven miles west of Galway city, he lived a life immersed in politics, and was deeply touched by the times he lived through. His wife, Lena (1894-1977), and their seven children carried out most of the labour on what was a diversified farm that provided well, producing enough to sell and make a profit, despite being a fairly typical, modest-sized West of Ireland farm. As an asthmatic and the only surviving child of twelve births by my great-grandmother, he had been encouraged to rest up, and was given the time to read and learn. He attended the local village school gaining fluency in English, Greek and Latin. A native Irish speaker, he was bilingual, choosing to speak Irish at home and English when he had business in Galway city, or had to represent his own or others’ interests to the authorities.

During the First World War, my grandfather supplied horses, pigs and sheep to the British Army at fairs around Galway. He was also a founding member of a local farmers’ co-operative, in operation from 1914, which supplied butter, eggs and vegetables to the London Market.

After the First World War, the co-op was repeatedly raided by the Black and Tans, a notoriously brutal force established by Winston Churchill to impose order during the Irish War of Independence, which began in early 1919. The soldiers recruited into the Black and Tans had been damaged by the experience of the First World War. They ‘were part of a hurriedly constructed counter-insurgency apparatus which included the existing police force, the regular army, secret service detachments and two completely new forces, the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans’.[1] Many soldiers who had fought in the trenches during the First World War were both unskilled and ill prepared for tackling the guerilla warfare that was happening in Ireland at the time.[2] In guerilla warfare, it is hard to know who the enemy is, so ordinary citizen establishments, such as the Moycullen co-op, were attacked. It went bankrupt as a result of the raids by the Black and Tans, and Lloyds of London, its insurers, refused to pay out because the raids were considered an act of war. My grandparents’ farm only survived because Pádraig signed it over to Lena. Others in the village continued to pay the co-op debts into the 1950s, which served to build resentments that had ramifications beyond the payment of debt. It created enmities that even spilled over into my generation, as I grew up in that village. Unable to adjust back to civilian society after the First World War, the Black and Tan recruits willingly fought in another war, and their actions inflicted terrible financial and emotional hardship on generations to come.

Pádraig Thornton, b. 1889, Moycullen, Galway, d. 1969, farmer, is the relative of Dr Niamh Thornton, Senior Lecturer in Latin American Studies, CLAS.

[2] Ibid.

William Adams (1888-1960), relative of Aly White

William AdamsWilliam George Adams (seen on the right in the photo), my great-grandfather, was born at Brockwell Farm on the Chequers estate near Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, in 1888. His father, George, apprenticed his young son to a butcher, a profession that William hated as he loved animals and could not stand the abattoir. William did not last very long in butchery, and ran away around the age of 16 to join the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry, where he worked for a few years before he was discovered by a boy he knew from back home, who had also joined up. William’s father pulled him out of the Buckinghamshire Yeomanry at vast cost. Between then and the beginning of the war in 1914, William worked on the farm with horses. Maids and Harper, a Croydon firm, were impressed with his handling of the horses and offered him a job in their timber yard. So he moved to Croydon, where he met May, my great-grandmother.

William married Dorothy May Scutt in October 1914, not long after the outbreak of the war. Two daughters followed, Edith May (b. 1915) and Doreen Margaret (b. 1916), whose early childhood William would miss as a result of the war. He joined the 13th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment in August 1914, and was sent to France not long after signing up. He was shot in the arm and gassed quite early in the war, and spent time in hospital. At the time of my grandmother Doreen’s birth in December 1916, William was posted as missing. May, my great-grandmother, received a telegram saying he was dead. But fortunately this was a mistake and he did eventually return home. On one of his leaves, the first thing he said to her was “Don’t touch me, May, I am lousy!” He didn’t even go into the house until he had stripped down and washed himself off.

William was a first-class shot and signalman, for which he was paid an extra five shillings per week. He was encouraged to go for promotion by his commanding officer, but refused, for he was a gentle man who did not wish to be responsible for other people. After his refusal, he was sent to Cologne in Germany, with the Army of Occupation. He did not return home until September 1919. My grandmother was almost three years old and did not know her father. She cried when he came home and it took her a few days to approach him.

After the war, William enjoyed family life, gardening and going for long walks in the country. He was a country man who knew about wild flora and fauna. He became quite claustrophobic after the war and didn’t like to be enclosed, especially in the cinema. Presumably this was due to his early gassing experience, which left a lasting impression on him. William died in January 1960 in Croydon.

William George Adams b. 1888 Ellesborough, Buckinghamshire, d. 1960 Croydon, Surrey, Private 13th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, is the relative of Aly White, Administrator, School of Histories, Languages and Cultures

William McGarry (1883-1948) and William Shaw (1894-1941), relatives of John McGarry

William McGarry and William Shaw, my grandfathers, both lived around the London Road and Everton area of Liverpool around 1900. Both served in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in World War I. This is their story.

William John McGarry, my paternal grandfather, was born in Ireland in 1883 and came to Liverpool at a young age with his father, John McGarry, who was a docker.  William enlisted in Liverpool on 2 January 1915 as number 3276 in ‘C’ Company, 2/5 King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, and was renumbered as 201076 in early 1917. The address he gave at the time of his enlistment was 28 Date Street, Seaforth. He gave his occupation as a shipper, and is listed as height 5′ 6″, weight 140lbs with good physical development, religion Roman Catholic. Between 1915 and late 1916, whilst stationed at Canterbury and Woking, he was punished a number of times, mainly by being confined to barracks for overstaying his leave pass. He was posted to France on 13 February 1917 (sailing from Folkestone to Boulogne), and returned for a Corps William McGarryLewis Gun Course four months later in June that year. The photograph (left) shows the soldiers on that course. My grandfather is seated far right. The expression on these faces says it all.

William rejoined the Battalion in July 1917 and was posted to 2/7 King’s (Liverpool) Regiment on 25 January 1918. According to his record and the Battalion War Diary I have managed to obtain, he was wounded and admitted to 3 Australian General Hospital on 3 September 1918. The Diary details the movements of the battalion and all the names of the trenches in which he was positioned. By all accounts, he was a character of strong will, and was pleased to serve his country alongside twenty other loyal employees and willing volunteers at the Diamond Match Company, Litherland. The employer guaranteed all these men employment on their return after the war. William survived physically, and went back to his old employment when disembodied1 on 9 March 1919. Sadly, in 1941, the factory where he worked was bombed, and he moved to the parent building in Garston, which still stands today.

It was this event, and the noise of the Liverpool Blitz in 1941, which caused a severe mental breakdown. According to my father, this manifested itself when William would shout out while walking the streets. It is quite easy to imagine how the events of World War II could affect a World-War-I trench veteran. Perhaps we should bear in mind his anxiety with three sons all serving at that time: one was James (my father), a Royal Marine and a D-Day survivor, aged 19; then there was George, who was based with the RAF in Singapore; and finally John, who was with the Merchant Navy. The three sons all lived into their mid-80s, but my grandfather died aged 66 in 1948. He was survived by nine children in total, and was grandfather to a famous Liverpool son, my cousin and poet Roger McGough.

William ShawWilliam Shaw, my maternal grandfather, was born in 1894. According to family birth certificates, he was a private in the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in March 1916, and, by April 1917, by the time my mother (pictured standing in the photograph, right) was born, a Lance Corporal (number 11571) in the 1st Battalion.  I have no other war details of him, as I can’t seem to access his war records. Can anyone advise? I would be most grateful. I did find some information on his medals (he was awarded the Victory, British and Star medals), but I am not sure that can tell me much.

Like my other grandfather, William Shaw survived but suffered tragedy as a latent consequence of the Great War. According to my family, he took his own life during the Liverpool Blitz in 1941, when he heard the news of the death of his son John (Jack), who is seated in the photograph (above right). John was serving in the North Africa campaign driving a truck which was hit.

1. ‘Disembodied’ is a specific Army term for the demobilization of soldiers in certain types of service, notably the Territorial Forces.

William John McGarry (1883-1948) and William Shaw (1894-1941) are the relatives of Dr John McGarry, Lecturer in Parasitology, University of Liverpool.

If you can help John to find details of William Shaw’s war service, you can contact him at

Jesse Jestico Marven (1889-1956), relative of Lyn Marven

Jesse Jestico Marven, my great-grandfather, was born in Plaistow, Essex in 1889. He was working as a dock labourer in March 1909 when he signed up with the Royal Navy for five years, and served initially as a stoker. According to his record, he served on various vessels (Essex, Hindustan, Seahorse, Actaeon, Hermes) and shore bases (Victory II, Nelson, Pembroke), working his way up to Petty Officer (4th class) by 1916. From March 1913 he was paid an additional 4/- per week for ‘air service’ and was transferred to the Royal Fleet Reserve in Portsmouth, home to the newly formed Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). Jesse was part of Drake Battalion and went to Belgium at the start of the First World War, but was transferred to the Central Air Office at the end of 1914. He was issued with the 1914 star. Jesse continued in the air service until the end of the war and was transferred to the RAF when the RNAS and Jesse Marven (480x640)RFC were merged in April 1918. In the photo (left), he is wearing naval uniform with a Royal Flying Corps cap, so presumably it dates from just after the merging of the two air services. He continued in service with the RAF until 1921.

Jesse married Ann Kinnear Houison (born in Leven, Fife, 1889) in Edinburgh on 4 February 1914. On the basis of the dates of his air service and his marriage, it must be assumed he spent time prior to 1914 at Leuchars, which the RFC used as a Naval Fleet Flying School. He may also have spent time on HMS Jackdaw at Crail, which was also used for RFC training, or the Turnberry aerodrome in Ayrshire.

Jesse and Ann continued to live in Leven, and had four sons and one daughter (two of whom survived into the twenty-first century), including my grandad, also called Jesse, born in 1917. Jesse Jestico died in 1956 at the age of 67. My dad, one of nine grandchildren, remembers him well, and has passed on several (sadly unverified!) tales about him. Family lore has it that Jesse Jestico learned to fly in France, that he landed his aeroplane on Leven golf course, and that he was the last person officially allowed to fly his aeroplane under the central arch of the Forth (rail) Bridge.

Jesse Jestico Marven, b. 1889, Plaistow, Essex, d. 1956, Leven, Fife, relative of Dr Lyn Marven, Lecturer in German, CLAS.

Bartus Baggott (1893-1966), relative of Eve Rosenhaft

Bartus Baggott, my mother’s uncle, was born in Baltimore, Maryland, USA, in 1893. He studied medicine at the University of Maryland, graduating in 1916.  When the United States entered the war in April 1917, Bartus joined the Army Medical Corps as a Lieutenant.  He received military training in Georgia and was introduced to the business of battlefield medicine at the Army Medical School in Washington DC. This probably included learning about poison gas, transport of the sick and wounded, and care for conditions like trench fever and trench foot.

By the time the ‘Yanks’ were ready to go ‘over there’, the European powers had been fighting for nearly three years, and medical professionals were in short supply.  Bartus was one of some 1600 medical officers who were assigned to take over and staff British front hospitals in the summer of 1917. In July he arrived in London for a wimereux_archperiod familiarising himself with British medical procedures. Between August 1917 and the end of the war he served in France at 32 Stationary Hospital at Wimereux (see photo left, courtesy of IWM) and 12 Stationary Hospital at St Pol.  He was also attached to the 1/2 London Field Ambulance – not a motor vehicle but a front line mobile medical unit.  Army medical staff were not safe behind the lines; each medical officer was required to do a rotation at a Casualty Clearing Station near the front, and some were fully engaged on the battlefield, treating casualties in the trenches and in dugouts. Bartus saw action at Cambrai in the winter of 1917 and on the Somme in the spring and summer of 1918. In the First World War, 65 American medical officers died of wounds and a further 102 of accidents and disease. But Bartus survived. He was recommended by the Chief Surgeon for a British War Medal and ended his tour of duty as a Captain, stationed in Angers until May 1919.

Bartus returned to Baltimore to make a career as a GP in private practice. When he died in 1966, one of the things he left behind was an unusual kind of war diary. In a copy of the American edition of Storm of Steel, the classic war memoir by the German writer Ernst Jünger, Bartus had pencilled notes in which he commented on the places and events from his own perspective on the other side of the lines.

Bartus Baggott, b. Baltimore, USA, 1893, d. Baltimore, USA, 1966, Captain, US Army Medical Corps, is the relative of Eve Rosenhaft, Professor of German Historical Studies, CLAS.