Tag Archives: Cumbria

CWG: Private John Stainton

Private John Stainton

John Stainton was born in the Cumbrian village of Ambleside in January 1871. He was one of seven children to George and Mary Stainton, a labourer and his wife. John followed in his father’s footsteps as a labourer, as they took him to where the work was – by the time John was ten, the family were living in Barrow-in-Furness.

The 1911 census found John married to a woman called Mary. The couple wed in 1909 and were boarding with Maybrooke Cole, a fellow labourer, and his family.

The next record for John comes in the form of his enlistment papers. He joined up on 31st August 1914, but the document throws up a couple of anomalies.

To the question “Are you married?” John marked “No”. The fact that he didn’t confirm he was a widower presents more questions than answers.

The document also confirms that he has previous military experience. He served with 2nd Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment), which fought in the Second Boer War, and was involved in Battle of Spion Kop in January 1900.

John re-enlisted in the same battalion on 31st August 1914, and remained part of a territorial force for the best part of a year. It was during this time that he married Rhoda Selina Cooper. She was born and brought up in Clevedon, Somerset, and it can only be assumed that John was stationed in the county at this time.

Private Stainton seemed to have a bit of a rebellious streak, and his service records identify three times when he was pulled up for dereliction of duty. In December 1914, he was admonished for overstaying his leave pass; in June 1915 he was reported for being absent from the base; a year later, he was admonished again, this time for losing a pair of handcuffs.

The battalion were sent to France in July 1915, and, in the end, Private Stainton served on the Western Front for just over a year. On 27th July 1916, he was sounded by shrapnel in the right shoulder, face and thigh, and was evacuated back to England for treatment. Admitted to the English General Hospital in Cambridge, sadly his wounds proved too much for him. Private Stainton died on 11th August 1916, at the age of 45 years old.

John Stainton’s body was brought back to his widow; he lies at rest in the picturesque churchyard of St Andrew’s in Clevedon, Somerset.


The Commonwealth War Grave for John Stainton incorrectly gives his name as T Stainton.


CWG: Lance Corporal William Neads

Lance Corporal William Neads

William John Neads was born on 16th December 1892, the middle of three children to cab driver and groom William Neads and his wife Ellen. Both William Sr and Ellen were from Somerset, although William Jr and his brother Charles – who was eleven months older – were both born in the Monmouthshire village of Cwmcarn.

William’s parents soon moved the family back to Clevedon in Somerset, and, when he left school, he found work as a farm labourer. He was eager to see more of the world, however and, in April 1913, he emigrated to Canada.

After working as a labourer there for a year or so, back in Europe war was declared. Keen to do his bit for King and Country, William enlisted in the 1st Battalion of the Canadian Infantry in January 1915. He soon found himself caught up on the Front Line.

In October 1916, he was involved in the Battle of the Somme – either at Le Transloy or The Battle of the Ancre Heights – and received a shrapnel wound to his left shoulder. Initially admitted to the Canadian General Hospital in Etaples, he was subsequently evacuated to England and the Northern General Hospital in Leeds. He spent three months recovering from his injuries, and was back on the Western Front in January 1917.

Later that year, William – now a Lance Corporal – was involved in the fighting at the Second Battle of Passchendaele (part of the Third Battle of Ypres). He was wounded again, this time receiving a rather unceremonious gunshot wound to the right buttock. Treated at the scene, he was evacuated back to England and admitted to the Fusehill War Hospital in Carlisle on 17th November.

Sadly, despite treatment, Lance Corporal Neads’ health deteriorated, and he passed away from his injuries on 16th December 1917, his 25th birthday.

William John Neads was brought back to his family’s home of Clevedon, and buried in the clifftop churchyard of St Andrew’s, overlooking the sea.


Tragically, William’s father had died in May 1917, at the age of 51. While no details of his passing are recorded, it meant that Ellen had, in just over a year, seen her son wounded, her husband die and her son wounded again and die as a result.


CWG: Sergeant Joseph Wilkinson

Sergeant Joseph Wilkinson

Joseph Wilkinson was born in the village of Greystoke, Cumbria in the summer of 1888. His parents were John and Margaret Wilkinson, and he had two siblings, also called John and Margaret. Joseph’s father worked as a railway signalman, and the industry employed a large number of people in the village.

Joseph’s life was to take a different turn, however, and it was likely the railway that took him there. He next appears on the 1911 census, boarding in a house in the village of Wedmore in Somerset. At 23 years old, he is listed as a Solicitor’s Cashier.

As with so many other fallen men and women, Joseph’s trail goes cold. There is not enough evidence to detail his military career – he joined the Royal Army Service Corps as a Driver and was promoted to Sergeant.

The UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects show that he was married to a woman called Ethel, although there are no records of their wedding. The document also confirms that he died at the Union Hospital in Winchester, Hampshire on 17th October 1918, but there is no cause of death given. He was 31 years old.

“He did his duty” says his impressive gravestone, but it is tragic that that duty is lost to time.

Sergeant Joseph Wilkinson lies at rest in the churchyard of St Mary’s in Wedmore, the Somerset village that came to be his home.