We have recently completed a nine day Road Trip covering just over 1,000 miles to the Midlands and north of England, the Isle of Man and Wales in our search for 13 casualties who were on our Outstanding Visits List. With only two exceptions, the casualties were all buried and mourned in their local communities.
The final resting place for ten of the casualties was ‘Unknown’ when we embarked on our project in Autumn 2007. Six names were recorded on the Brookwood 1914-1918 Memorial Wall (Bwd), three in the Canadian Book of Remembrance (CBR) and one in the UK Book of Remembrance (UKBR). The CWGC holds the Books of Remembrance in Ottawa and Maidenhead respectively.
The burial place of these casualties has been established through the efforts of many individual researchers and voluntary organisations. The Far From Home project has been able to submit documentary proof for five of these casualties (names in italics below) to the CWGC. We felt a special bond with each of these five men when visiting them and are delighted to see those names are now displayed at their final resting place on the CWGC website.
With the exception of our hotel on the Isle of Man, we otherwise relied on the welcome facilities of the Travelodge group throughout our Road Trip.
The well maintained Manchester Southern cemetery at Chorlton-cum-Hardy in Lancashire was a hundred acre multi faith facility which opened in 1879, then extended by a further 90 acres in 1926. Stanley Barke (Bwd) was buried with four other members of his family and his grave is marked with a private headstone. Despite the size of the cemetery, a map prepared for us by the cemetery management lead us directly to his grave.
Our visit to the grave of Henry Brierley (CBR) in St John Churchyard at Abram was the most poignant of all our visits. Abram is a former coal mining village south east of Wigan. In 2015, we had been asked by David Brierley a Toronto resident, to assist him in his search for the final resting place of his great uncle who had died in 1919. We found that Henry had been buried in the same grave as his aunt, Martha Benson. Sadly, David passed away before he was able to travel to England to visit his great-uncles grave, but he was able to see a photograph of the new CWGC headstone. It marked a successful outcome to his search.
After we left Abram, it started to rain for the first time on our Road Trip. Our third visit of the day was to the ornate private grave of Fred Baron (Bwd) on a hillside in the Old West cemetery at Darwen, on the southern outskirts of Blackburn.
Adjacent to Fred’s grave, there is a magnificent pictorial screen wall commemorating the contribution and sacrifices which the town made during the Great War.
By late afternoon, the rain had moved away.
We caught the 14.15 Isle of Man Ferries departure from Heysham in Lancashire and arrived at Douglas on the Isle of Man as the daylight was beginning to fade just before 18 00.
Our accommodation was at the Sefton Hotel which has a bar & restaurant dedicated to the English film star and comedian Sir Norman Wisdom (1915 – 2010) and a resident of the Isle of Man for the latter years of his life.
The final resting place for all three casualties on the Isle of Man has been well documented for many years.
Joseph Cheatley was born at County Donegal in Ireland and is buried in Douglas cemetery. His grave is marked with a CWGC headstone which now looks across to the start and finish line of the TT motorcycle races. The inaugural race was held in 1907 and this festival of speed will be held from 25th May to 7th June 2019.
We headed westwards to St Runius Kirk Marown Church which is on the outskirts of Glen Vine, between Douglas and Peel. David Joseph Lewin died at Moore Barracks Hospital at Shorncliffe in Kent on 14th October 1917. His private headstone records “In loving memory of David Joseph beloved husband of Mary Lewin”.
Our third casualty took us down to the southern most part of the island. St Lupus Kirk Malew Churchyard is on the road between Ballasalla (where Sir Norman Wisdom died) and Castletown, the birthplace of William Quayle who was killed in a cycling accident and is buried in a family plot. A photographic display in a pew inside the church individually commemorated each casualty of the Great War and included John Edward Quayle, William’s younger brother. Although William has a CWGC headstone, John Edward is listed on the family’s private headstone but is not commemorated by the CWGC because, as a Merchant Seaman, he did not die at sea as the result of enemy action.
As it was the first time for either of us on the Isle of Man, we decided to give ourselves a day off from driving and left our faithful Meriva in the hotel car park, taking the hour and a quarter trip on the Manx Electric Railway from Douglas to Ramsey in the north of the island. The journey took in some breath-taking scenery. From Ramsey, we returned by bus via Peel on the west coast to Douglas on the east coast of the island. Effectively, we had completed a round trip of the island over two days.
We will be posting days 7 to 9 in the next few days.