Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Value of Interest Groups

Most of my early information on George and his battalion came from two internet interest groups I was fortunate enough to find early on. The first was "SWARM," which is an acronym for the Salford War Memorials project. This is a local Salford group dedicated to preserving the fast disappearing local war memorials in the area. They also conduct research into service personnel from Salford and its surrounding towns and they have an active discussion forum.

When I posted George's letter on SWARM, other members posted useful information, including George's entry in the monumental "Soldiers Who Died in the Great War." His entry is as follows:

Name: George Leonard Ingham
Birth Place: Rochdale, Lancs                                    
Death Date: 15 Jul 1916                                    
Death Location: France & Flanders                                    
Enlistment Location: Rochdale                                    
Rank: Private                                    
Regiment: Lancashire Fusiliers                                    
Battalion: 19th Battalion                                    
Number: 25262                                    
Type of Casualty: Died of wounds                                    
Theatre of War: Western European Theatre 

This is essentially the same information as that found on the CWGC site, with the exception of two new pieces of information. Firstly, the SDGW extract confirmed that George enlisted in his home town of Rochdale. Secondly, George died of wounds on July 15. Died of wounds indicates that he was wounded in battle but died later, as opposed to the more usual inscription "killed in action." This detail was not available from the CWGC website. I recall hoping at the time that he didn't suffer too much.

Another member posted the following extract from the Lancashire Fusiliers' Book of Remembrance.

Lancashire Fusiliers' Memorial Book with Entry for George

Yet another member provided a photo of the Salford Pals' memorial in Trinity Church in Salford. The central portion of the memorial lists each of the Salfords killed in the attacks on Thiepval on July 1, the first day of the Somme battle. Salford suffered grievously on July 1 with the first Pals taking horrific casualties and the 2nd and 3rd Pals adding to the total.

Thiepval Memorial in Trinity Church, Salford

The flanking parts of the memorial list each of the Salfords killed on other days in the Great War, including George. 

Panel in Trinity Church Memorial - George is Included

Another member noted that George's death plaque (commonly referred to as the "Dead Man's Penny") was sold on ebay on 20-Aug-2009. More on that later. 

The second site I lucked into was the Great War Forum, an interest site that is the best research source on the net, being inhabited by expert and phenomenally generous people. The site was started as something called "The Long Long Trail," a personal web site with the original intent to build a comprehensive online order of battle for the British Army in the First World War. Along the way, mainly because people asked, sections have been added on how to research a soldier; the battles and battlefields of the war; and much more. Now it's discussion forum is the place to go to tap global knowledge on the details of the British army and its individual soldiers in the war.

This site is very popular and it has proved to be my door into getting a better understanding into George's experiences. I posted a scan of the letter on the site and within hours got very some very useful information.

One poster noted:

The 19th was initially in reserve on 1st July 1916 (first day of the Battle of the Somme) being the depth/reserve for the 1st Dorsets attack on Lepizig Redoubt at Thiepval.  Both battalions suffered very heavily from machine gun fire even before they were able to get to the step off point in the front line. Many of the 19th were killed attempting to cross open ground to get to their start point. By the time the 19th were able to come forward to join the Dorsets there were only 2 officers and 40 men left in action. It was withdrawn to Senlis over the next few days and reorganised into 2 companies due to casualties.

The battalion was back in action around Ovillers on 11th July. They conducted a number of assaults on the German positions on the 12th and 13th and also suffered a number of counter attacks. They were withdrawn from the line on 15th July 1916. If he Died of Wounds on the 15th he may have been wounded in one of the attacks of the previous days

This turned out to be a very accurate summary of George's experiences in the first half of July 1916.

Other posters focused on George's description of the fearsome German saw bayonets or on the reference made in his letter to German helmets as potential souvenirs.

After a couple of weeks, another member wrote as follows:

Hi Colin, I am sitting here in disbelief, I stumbled across this thread whilst having a look around and knew the name straight away- I own George's memorial plaque and it is definitely his because it is a unique name on cwgc!!!

I have researched George and compiled a file on him as I do with all my plaques/medals but not much to report as no service records survived. 

As a previous member stated, I believe his fatal wounds were from the attack on Ovillers on the 12/13th July. 

A day or two later, he provided the following photos:

George's "Death Penny" - private collection
This gentleman had purchased the Death Penny on ebay in 2009. I still own the death penny for my other great uncle who was killed in WWI - my Grandfather's brother Clement Finney, who died with the Royal Welch Fusiliers very near to where George fell, but 2 years later. George's had gone to the other side of the family and had obviously been less treasured. These momentos were provided to the families of all Commonwealth service personnel killed in the war. They are now very collectible, and are of higher value if the soldier commemorated was the recipient of a valour award or can be shown to have taken part in a major or famous action.

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