Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Alfred William Scorsby 1898 -1918


War memorial at South Elmsall, with close up of Pte. A. W. Scorsby's name
(photos taken 13 April 2014)

Alfred William Scorsby's birth was registered in Barnsley in Q3 1898, so he was born in July, August or September of that year. He was killed in action on 28 May 1918 in France. However he was not remembered on a memorial anywhere in the Barnsley Borough, but instead appears on the memorial in South Elmsall, about 12 miles to the east.

This small cutting from the Barnsley Chronicle on 29 June 1918 explains why this might be. 

Alfred had been working at the Co-op in South Elmsall, and from his Army Service Records we know that he was a Grocer's Assistant and/or a Drayman. 

Alfred's Service History

He was 18 years old when he attested on 22 July 1916, too young to serve overseas, so he was put in the Army Reserve until February 1917.  He was then mobilised and posted to the Northumberland Fusiliers, service number 55408, and after training he was sent to France, arriving at Bologne in September 1917.  That would have made him just 19 years old. 

His records show that he returned to England between Decmember 1917 and the end of March 1918.  The cause of his hospitalisation in Oxford appears to have been Trench Feet - the result of spending days in wet boots and puttees, which if left untreated could be a very serious disease. 

When Alfred returned to France he was transferred into the 1st Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment with a new service number 29904. At the end of April his Division, the 21st, was posted to the river Aisne, a few kilometres west of the town of Soissons, where in May they were attacked by the Germans who pushed the Commonwealth Forces back across the river to the Marne. Alfred was reported missing on 28 May 1918 and is one of the almost 4,000 officers and men commemorated on the Soissons Memorial in France, who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known graves. 

Why was Alfred not remembered in Barnsley?

His parents were Alfred Scorsby from Malton, North Yorkshire and Minnie Mary Ann Tugwell from Cranley, Sussex.  

Alfred Scorsby senior, who was a quarryman, had married before in early 1880, also in Barnsley, but his first wife Mary Ann (nee Orange) had died around the same time their first child was born, in August or September 1880. She was only 19 years old.  Alfred senior, now a 23 year old widower, was recorded in April 1881 in the census living with his parents William and Elizabeth at 9 Gladstone Terrace, off Silver Street in the Wilson's Piece area of Barnsley town centre. Also in the household was little Mary Elizabeth Scorsby, his daughter, just 8 months old. Sadly the baby died at the end of April and was buried in Barnsley Cemetery.

1890 map of Silver Street, Barnsley and terraces off to either side
(with thanks to the Barnsley Family History Society)

In this area of Wilson's Piece the terraces were named after famous politicans like John Bright and Richard Cobden, and prime ministers such as William Gladstone and Lord John Russell. The area shown is now roughly the part of Morrisons supermarket car park which is on the left as you approach it from the petrol station. There is still a tiny bit of Upper Silver Street left leading off Princess Street.

Ten years later Albert Scorsby senior was still living with his parents, now at 10 Westgate, in the area where Barnsley Town Hall now stands.  His brother Fred Scorsby, a cab driver aged 22 and his sister Lily aged 18, were also still living with their parents. Albert was 31 years old and was recorded as being a single man rather than a widower.

Alfred senior remarried on 26 June 1892 to Minnie Mary Ann Tugwell at St Mary's church in Barnsley.  He was still a quarryman and he gave his address as Westgate. Alfred and Minnie had three children together including our Alfred William Scorsby in Q3 1898.  Although Alfred's first child, Mary Elizabeth, had been baptised at St George's church as yet I can find no sign of the children of his second family being baptised at any church or chapel in Barnsley.  In the 1901 census return Alfred and Minnie are living at 4 Union Street and he is now a foreman quarryman. Union Street runs off Sheffield Road, by the Guide Post pub, and the houses there were of a better size and quality than the ones on the terraces in Wilson's Piece.

Sadly Minnie died in 1903 leaving Alfred to care for Vera, Mildred and Alfred William, all under 10 years of age. Minnie Scorsby is also buried in Barnsley Cemetery. It was no surprise to find that Alfred senior had installed a housekeeper, Augusta Siddons, by the time of the 1911 census. However also in the household was 5 year old Doris Scorsby, whose birth was actually registered as Doris Scorsby Siddons.

1911 census snip for the Scorsby household at 4 Union Street, Barnsley

 It certainly looks like Alfred had a child with his housekeeper, I wonder why he didn't marry her. 

Vera Mary Scorsby married Percy Smith from Cudworth in November 1915, and Percy declared his occupation as soldier in their marriage register entry. He died of wounds on 6 January 1916, so the couple didn't have much time together. This makes Vera the Mrs Smith referred to in the newspaper cutting shown near the beginning of this post. Percy is remembered on the war memorial in Cudworth. Vera remarried in 1918 to George Markey and called her son, who was born in Barnsley in 1919, Alfred. Maybe after her father, or maybe in memory of her brother.

By the time Alfred William Scorsby attested, in July 1916, he and his father were living at 11 Broad Lane in South Kirkby, about 10 miles to the east of Barnsley town centre. Broad Lane is about 1.7 miles from the centre of South Elmsall where we know Alfred William was working at the Co-op before he enlisted. Alfred William's cousin John Harold Scorsby, son of his father's brother Harry, also served, initially joining the York and Lancaster Regiment and then transferring to the Royal Army Service Corps. He survived the war.

Mildred Scorsby appears to have been in service in Lincolnshire by 1919, according to a mention in Alfred William Scorsby's Army Service Records, and I can't find any evidence of Doris and her presumed mother Augusta, at this time. 

I decided to buy the 1921 census return for Albert Scorsby senior to see where he was around the time the war memorial in South Elmsall was being planned.  I don't do this for many of the soldiers I am researching, it would be just too expensive at £3.15 per image even with my subscriber's 10% discount.  I was surprised to find that Alfred Scorsby senior, now 62 years old, was living with his younger sister Lily at 11 Broad Lane, South Elmsall. Lily had married William Harrison at St Mary's in Barnsley on 15 August 1895. In the 1901 census they were living in Cudworth - I wonder if that is how Vera met Percy? - and by 1911 they had moved to South Elmsall. 

1921 census snip for the Harrison household at 11 Broad Lane, South Elmsall

I think that 11 Broad Lane, South Kirkby and 11 Broad Lane, South Elmsall were the same place. If that was the case, then were Alfred William Scorsby and his father Alfred senior living with Lily Harrison in 1916? Why had they left Union Street?

In 1921 William Harrison, his son George Edward, who had been born in Cudworth in 1906, and his brother-in-law Alfred Scorsby were all working for the Carlton Main Colliery Company at the Frickley Colliery in South Elmsall. I have seen mentions in the local newspapers of the time that the Frickley Colliery was sunk between 1899 and 1905 so that suggests they would have been looking for new workers. Maybe the Harrisons had moved from Cudworth (after 1906 but before 1911) to the South Elmsall area for work? Maybe William sent a message to his brother-in-law saying that there was suitable work for him in the Frickley Colliery. Unlike many of the miners I have seen on the 1921 census the Harrisons and Alfred Scorsby were not 'out of work' at this time. Possibly because William was a groom (and the horses had to be cared for even in a strike), his son worked in the waggon shop (maintenance I assume) and Alfred was a labourer in the colliery yard, a less strenuous job for an older man. 

Commemoration of the Great War in South Elmsall

Sheffield Daily Telegraph, 3 July 1923, p.4.
(Click the image to enlarge it.)
A decision had been made by September 1922 that the South Elmsall war memorial would be a stone cross costing £400. (Penistone, Stocksbridge and Hoyland Express, 20 September 1922, p.5) Knowing now that Alfred William's father was living in the area in 1921 it seems perfectly reasonable that he would have put forward his son's name for inclusion on the war memorial. The memorial was unveiled and dedicated on 2 July 1923. 

The newspaper report shown here (with thanks to Find My Past) notes that the land for the memorial had been donated by the Carlton Main Colliery Company, and a special mention was made of the 1,200 men who went to serve from the Frickley Colliery.

It is always nice when things seem to come together like this. Albert William Scorsby was remembered on the memorial in part provided by the company for which his father, uncle and cousin worked.  He may not have been remembered where he was born, but South Elmsall is not that far away.

Unveiling day at South Elmsall. Penistone, Stocksbridge and Hoyland Express, 7 July 1923, p.6.
(With thanks to Find My Past)

 Thank you for reading.

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