MY FAMILY AT WAR
We are in an age when many people want to know who they are and where they came from. We spend time investigating the internet, family records, using specialist agencies and visiting the National Archives. Amongst these people there are those like myself who have become fascinated by the experiences of relatives who fought in the First World War. My interest began during school history lessons, developed by looking at old magazines of the 1914/18 period kept by my grandparents, reading countless books, watching the BBC Great War series of the 1960s and then engaging in visits to the battle fields from 1980 onwards.
From my researches I knew that my maternal grandfather George Maltby fought in the latter stages of the war with the Royal West Surrey [RWS] Regiment the Queens, though I knew little else as my grandfather never talked about the war. In the 1980s my mother told me about George’s brother, Frank Maltby, who had been killed and was buried near to Arras. In 1987 I visited Frank’s grave. Thus began my search for stories of these distant relatives – a search that gained momentum in 2007 on my retirement from full time employment.
Who were these relatives? I was lucky enough to know my four grandparents and have therefore been able to base my researches upon them and their siblings. I have not been able to access any family papers and few photographs have come to light. Most of the research has been confined to documents open to public access like birth certificates, census documents and army service records where they survived, plus those at the National Archives. It has been a journey of discovery and detection, with great help along the way from people who have a similar fascination for the period and the history of WW1.
Let me begin this story with my grandparents on my mother’s side, because their families were large and extended and included many males eligible for active services at the time of WW1. George Mason Maltby, my grandfather, was born in Cambridge in January 1899. He was one of eleven children, five of them boys. I have been able to establish that four of these boys joined the army but the fifth brother’s history has proved to be very elusive.
Sidney Maltby was born in 1880, joined up in December 1915 into the Royal Garrison Artillery. Charles S. Maltby was born in 1882 but I can find no evidence of his having joined up, so perhaps he was in a restricted occupation. Samuel J. Maltby was born in 1894, joined up in February 1914 into the 3rd Battalion Suffolk regiment. Frank H. Maltby was born in 1896, joined up in November 1914 into the 2/1 Cambridgeshire Regiment. George M. Maltby was born in 1899, joined up in March 1917 into the 1st Battalion RWS, the Queen’s.
The Maltby family was very extensive in Cambridge so there were a number of my grandfather’s cousins who also fought in WW1. Arthur W. Maltby was born in 1889, joined up in late 1915 into the 12h Battalion Suffolk Regiment. Samuel R. D. Maltby was born in 1894, joined up in January 1914 into the Cambridgeshire Regiment, the same as his cousin Frank. Frederick E. Maltby was born in 1894, joined up in April 1915 into the Royal Army Medical Corps. William Maltby was born in 1896, joined up on January 1914 the same day as his cousin Samuel R. D. Maltby into the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment.
Thus, according to my researches, the Maltbys of Cambridge had at least eight of their kin involved in the war.
Next I started to investigate relatives of my maternal grandmother Winifred Jarvis. She was born in 1902 into a large family living in rural Essex in the village of Felsted. Her eldest brother Albert Jarvis was born in 1888 and had emigrated to Canada before she was born and eventually was called up into the Canadian Army in 1918. Another brother Ernest Jarvis was born in 1890 and was called up under conscription in May 1916 into the 8th Battalion Suffolk Regiment. There were cousins too from the same village. Albert Jarvis was born in 1892, joined up in September 1914 into the 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment. His brother Frank Jarvis was born in 1897, joined up in 1916 probably conscripted into the 3/6 Battalion Essex Regiment. My grandmother’s mother was Lucy Jarvis, nee Livermore, that was another extended family in and around Felsted. Percy Livermore was born in 1894, joined up in 1915 into the Royal Field Artillery after his family had moved away to New Cross, London. Wilfred W. Livermore was in born 1898, joined up in August 1914 into the 9th Battalion, Essex Regiment the same as his cousin Albert Jarvis previously mentioned. Leonard Livermore was born in 1886, joined up in October 1917 into the Royal Engineers. Leonard’s older sister had an illegitimate son, Albert Livermore who was also born in 1886, called up in January 1917 into the 8th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment. So the Jarvis and Livermore farming families made a contribution of at least eight men to the war effort.
On my father’s side the families came from the west country. My paternal grandfather Arthur George Weekes was born in 1884 and signed up in September 1914 into the South Wales Borderers. He had much older brothers, one of whom had been in the army in the late 19th century, had died on his way to India and was buried at sea. My paternal grandmother Mildred nee Shallish had two brothers. Leonard H. Shallish was born in 1883 and conscripted in 1917 into the Worcestershire regiment. George E. Shallish was born in 1888 and was also conscripted in 1917 into the 4th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment.
This website will provide profiles on these relatives thus giving an insight into how much information can be found using the various pieces of evidence available from public sources. It needed some detective work and a little guessing to put together the puzzle and so provide a profile of each man’s war time story. It will also show the different experiences arising out of the various time periods and theatres of war in which these men operated during the period 1915 to 1918 - none of my relatives were from the old contemptibles of 1914. It is fascinating to discover that these nineteen men who became related by post war marriages were fighting so close to one another without all of them knowing it at the time. Their stories show just how far they travelled around the battlefields of the western front. Whilst it may appear that the army spent its time in major battles, the reality was one of constant movements back and forth into frontline trenches with much time spent in training and just plain boredom waiting for something to happen.
Of these nineteen relatives that I have identified, fourteen survived the war of whom four were invalided out due to wounds and thus wore the Silver War Badge (SWB) although one of these went back into the Army. Of the nineteen, fifteen served in a theatre of conflict and as such were entitled to receive war medals including one winning the Military Medal for bravery in the field. Two of them never left the shores of England though like so many others they made their contributions to the war effort. Two never made any contribution because they had medical conditions which made them unsuitable for any Army service.
These are their stories - some more detailed than others, but all were taken out of their normal daily lives to serve their country in a foreign field. Some never returned and lie at peace in a CWGC cemetery. One has no grave but along with thousands is commemorated upon the ‘Memorial to the Missing’ of the battle of Arras. They are also remembered on the war memorials of their villages and towns. For those who came back, their lives returned to some semblance of normality, though the country was a changed place in 1919. Most of them married and had their families and happy times. My Grandfathers always remembered their comrades on the eleventh day of the eleventh month when the nation mourned its “Glorious Dead” but on the whole they kept their thoughts to themselves. Although I only ever met my Grandfathers, I am sure that, like them, the others too did not share their memories of what they had witnessed and experienced.
This story will hopefully help those of us who have never experienced the horrors of war to understand something of what they endured and to be forever grateful for their sacrifices.