Today is Remembrance Sunday and tomorrow the 101st anniversary of the Armistice. Here is my final reflection on the men whose names are recorded on just one memorial in one Cumbrian town.
‘After the war is over when the battle’s done
‘Everyone’s heart will be joyful after the victory’s won..’
So go the lyrics of a 1918 song, written by an American, for American soldiers. It’s an optimistic sentiment – and for too many many families (of all nationalities), an over-optimistic one.
Even when men survived the war, even when they came home with physically sound, they came home changed by their experiences.
When Penrith Congregational Church unveiled a memorial tablet on September 26, 1920, ‘in grateful memory of the men of this church who fell in the Great War,’ one death was actually very recent.
In fact, although the war officially ended on 11.11.18, several of the men recorded on the tablet died after hostilities ended.
A previous post tells how Private Allan Rigg died in December 1918 and Private Lawrence Little in May 1919, both from the long-term effects of being gassed during the War.
One of the men honoured by the church died just a few weeks before the tablet was unveiled. His name is actually squashed next to another on the last line, suggesting it was kind of an ‘afterthought’.
Private William Mounsey 24688, died on August 28,1920. He is recorded as a soldier still: 5th Battalion, Border Regiment.
William was a plumber’s apprentice in 1901, and a farm carter in 1911. He is buried at Beacon Edge Cemetery, and there doesn’t seem to be anything to explain how a 1920 death makes him a war victim. There is no service record, and a newspaper notice tells us little:
‘Thanks for sympathy. Mr and Mrs Mounsey thank all friends and neighbours for their kind expressions of sympathy and floral tributes sent to them following their sudden bereavement. 6 Graham Street. Sept 7, 1920.
The distinctively named Ephraim Dickinson also survived the war, only to die a few months later while still in France.
Ephraim was born in Lancashire, and an 1901 was a stationer’s apprentice. Work brought him to Penrith – as an assistant to a distant cousin of mine (a few times removed), Penrith bookseller and stationer Harold Lamley Sweeten.
In 1913, he took a similar position in Winchester, and soon after the outbreak of war he joined the Hampshire Carabineers.
Up, up, but not away
He later transferred to the air force and was engaged in the observation (balloon) section.
An observation balloon would be tethered at height behind the front lines. The observer would be able to see the enemy and pass on their positions to ground artillery, to fire on them.
Despite having left Penrith in 1913, Air Mechanic 1st Class Ephraim Dickinson returned there – to marry Doris Irving, of Lowther Street, at the Congregational Church on May 19, 1917.
The honeymoon was brief, but eventful!
The groom only had four days’ leave and they set off for Morecambe, which where they found themselves being followed by the military police as they walked along the seashore. After being arrested, it took them some time to convince the military and civil police that Ephraim was not a Flying Corps deserter who had defrauded a Morecambe landlady. He bore a remarkable resemblance to the wanted man, even to the marking of a defective tooth.
Doris’ father James Irving, by the way, was a baker. He is also named in the ‘gas’ post, as the employer of Allan Taylor Rigg.
Penrith Observer. Tuesday March 4, 1919.
Mr James Irving of Lowther Street received a telegram stating his son-in-law First Air Mechanic Ephraim Dickinson was seriously ill with pneumonia. Followed by further news that he had died at St Omer. He was well known and highly esteemed in Penrith. He took a keen interest in amateur sport and was a keen tennis player.
Ephraim Dickinson died at 4th Stationary Hospital, St Omer, France, on February 23, 1919. He was 33. He was buried Longuenesse Souvenir Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais.
His widow Doris was left effects worth £340 17s 1d. One wonders how much (or little) time Doris and Ephraim actually got to spend together. She looksat least to have found love again: a Doris Dickinson married Penrith district 1928 to a Charles Gilbert Simmonds.