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SRD

Mere Military Funeral

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FROGSMILE

I agree with the comment that it's an awful lot of effort and a large turnout for a run-of-the-mill military funeral, even allowing for the times.  I would consider a specific incident like an air crash, of which there were many around Salisbury Plain both before and during WW1.  

Several of the pall bearers drawing the gun carriage are RFC and so are several of the street liners, they are marked out by khaki field service caps.  I think it might be connected with Upavon, Netheravon, Stonehenge, or Larkhill, and that the funeral cortege is just passing through Mere rather than going to an interment there. Such a high profile incident would also explain the large number of civilians that have turned out.  The significant number of gunners visible leans towards Larkhill.  This is all conjecture of course.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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PRC
3 hours ago, SRD said:

Looking at the original picture the clock tower is on the right, in other words on the left of the cortege, so they are moving away from Boar Street and the URC (which can be seen in the background of the more recent photo beyond the tree overhanging in the distance to the left). From the way the cortege is moving and the position of the onlookers it is doubtful if they could have come from Boar Street.

In the more recent photo Church Street runs from the lamp past the black car and vanishes bottom right.

 

Apologies and thanks your patience - I've looked again and it seems everytime I go from map view to streetview, google spins me through 180 degrees so my error for not noticing. One last question and then I'll stop.

 

So i take it that they are going up Castle Street rather than Church Street which itself loops round the church of St Michaels.

 

Giving the size of the funeral cortege I can see why they might favour Castle Street over Church Street. However from the map there seems to be two roads going through from Castle Street to Church Street - one, Barton Lane, coming out by the churchyard gates. If anything they are narrower than Church Street but they are it least a cars width and seem relatively easy to turn into from the Castle Street end.

 

Is it possible these routes were favoured for funeral access and so a local funeral is still a possibility?

 

Cheers,

Peter

Castle Street and Church Street Mere Wiltshire sourced Google Maps.png

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SRD
45 minutes ago, PRC said:

 

Apologies and thanks your patience - I've looked again and it seems everytime I go from map view to streetview, google spins me through 180 degrees so my error for not noticing. One last question and then I'll stop.

 

So i take it that they are going up Castle Street rather than Church Street which itself loops round the church of St Michaels.

 

Giving the size of the funeral cortege I can see why they might favour Castle Street over Church Street. However from the map there seems to be two roads going through from Castle Street to Church Street - one, Barton Lane, coming out by the churchyard gates. If anything they are narrower than Church Street but they are it least a cars width and seem relatively easy to turn into from the Castle Street end.

 

Is it possible these routes were favoured for funeral access and so a local funeral is still a possibility?

 

Cheers,

Peter

Castle Street and Church Street Mere Wiltshire sourced Google Maps.png

The turning into Barton Lane from Castle Street is tight and Barton Lane itself is narrow, no more than 1 car wide whereas Church Street is at least two cars wide and I think the cemetery is down Angel Lane so Barton Lane wouldn't be an option if they were going directly there. It is possible for the cortege to have turned left round the clock tower but firstly the line of of soldiers on the right as one looks at the photo are across that road and they'd have removed the horse & trap alongside the clock tower. I think the photo was probably taken from the upstairs window in the NE corner of the George Inn.

The route from the NW corner of the church back to Castle Street is a footpath, it may have had vehicular access back then but it is even tighter than Barton Lane.

Edited by SRD

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jay dubaya

Well this is an uncannily pleasant twist for me at the almost end of another long day. It was with surprise when I saw Pte Thompsons' record on SDGW, which led to a few notes and on to some childhood memories. 

John Thompson was born in Pembroke Dock in 1877, his father a career soldier from Warwick was a L/Cpl in the 41st (Welch) which explains the connection with Pembroke Dock and I suspect John was born at Llanion Barracks, by 1891 the family are living in Cardiff which goes some way in explaining why there is no local commemoration here in Pembrokeshire the only connection being he was born here when his father was stationed here. I'm currently 700 meters off Pembroke Dock and I'm wondering if either of John Thompsons' sons donned khaki and went off to war and if John is commemorated anywhere in Birmingham........

I checked and Pte John Thompson was the first casualty of the 10th Glosters, died of disease? a few months into training in a newly formed Kitchener Pals Battalion. This now takes me back to early childhood and back home to Sheffield visiting the graves of distant relatives with my dad and sisters, (it was surely here that our fascination with graves and their inscriptions began) he would always point out the war graves in the cemetery and one in particular now stands out, the grave of Pte Charles Haydn Hanforth, 12th York & Lancs. Charles died on 9th February 1915 in the Northern General Hospital of pneumonia and he too was the first of the battalion to die. The battalion had not long moved to Redmires Camp and the winter was grim for those poor souls, it was only a stones throw from home for Charles, his father Thomas was the organist at Sheffield Cathedral and the funeral was well documented locally. I don't envy his pals having to march into town to the cathedral and then march all the way back up to Fulwood and then on to Redmires.

 

I see no reason why the image in the OP cannot be the funeral of Pte Thompson but at present and without some eagle eyed spotter finding the golden clue it could be any military funeral in or surrounding Mere. Who would be travelling in the carriage behind the limber? I'm guessing that if any family were present there would be more than one carriage as is evident with Pte Hanforths' funeral, so possibly not a local?

 

J

1300892802_Hanforth_Funeralsheffield.jpg.a71e1829674053b70d25e45ddefca5c5.jpg

1449668950_HanforthgraveSheffield.jpg.839460786f8aba146e744e6a37125062.jpg

 

 

 

 

Edited by jay dubaya
terrible predictive spelling...........

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Moonraker
14 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

...  I think it might be connected with Upavon, Netheravon, Stonehenge, or Larkhill, and that the funeral cortege is just passing through Mere rather than going to an interment there. Such a high profile incident would also explain the large number of civilians that have turned out.  The significant number of gunners visible leans towards Larkhill.  This is all conjecture of course.

Some very well-informed suggestions and information from several people. Just to be niggly: Lark Hill was not an operational airfield in the Great War, flying there having ceased just before the conflict started. (RFC personnel were housed in huts there, though.) I'm assuming, of course, that the scene is a wartime one.

 

I too wondered about the scale of the funeral, but Jay's image shows that there could be an impressive turnout even for a humble private.

 

I did have the thought that the funeral might be that of a local dignitary and retired senior army officer.

 

Unless someone else comes up with the "golden clue", the only way forward seems to be to look at the local newspapers, as has already been suggested. TBH Mere didn't feature much in my researches, as it's tucked away in a corner of Wiltshire that didn't see much military activity (apart from the VAD hospital and, of course, the funeral we're discussing), but I've an idea that it was covered by North Dorset papers. There weren't that many photographs published in Wiltshire papers of the Great War period.

 

 

Moonraker

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Moonraker

Just managed to drag something from the back of my ageing memory. When billeted at Mere, Gunner John Allen of the 115th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, stabbed Gunner John Horrigan to death in a row, then tried to cut his own throat. He was acquitted of murder. The death was described in the Salisbury Journal of March 13, 1915 and the court hearing in the Journal of May 29.


Inquest

 

CWGC

 

He's buried at Wardour Roman Catholic Cemetery

 

ten miles from Mere.

 

It's a long time since I visited Mere Library (c2003??) but I recall that there was some sort of permanent local history exhibition there. The library is run by volunteers, but an approach might lead to a local historian? Oh, and there's the

 

Mere Historical Society

 

Dunno how closely this is linked to the village's Facebook account?

 

I would delve a little more but am already running VERY late. I suggest that SRD, as the OP, explores these possible avenues.

 

Moonraker

Edited by Moonraker
I was running late, now it's very late.

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FROGSMILE

The Larkhill I airfield (Durrington Down) closed operations in August 1914, I think in order to make way for the arrival of war raised units.  There is an excellent pdf covering the RFC airfields in Wiltshire, here: https://www.academia.edu/36949166/Wiltshires_World_War_I_Airfield_Landscape_a_focus_on_the_landscape_of_aircrew_training

I recall seeing RFC graves in Fittleton churchyard near Netheravon. There are many others across the plain.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Moonraker

Thanks to Frogsmile for the link to the excellent article.

 

Pedantically, military flying at Lark Hill had been winding down since 1913, with the opening of Netheravon and Upavon airfields. Lark Hill was deemed to be too visible and accessible to the public, with one local lad being killed by a moving aircraft that ran into a crowd of spectators.  No 3 Squadron moved from Lark Hill (to Netheravon) in June 1913, but made use of the flying field there until May 1914. The Bristol Flying School there closed on June 2, 1914.

 

Thus the field was conveniently vacant and able to accommodate large numbers of wartime troops, not least the First Canadian Contingent that arrived there in mid-October 1914.

 

CWGC lists 72 "Royal Air Force" (sic) WW1 graves in Wiltshire: none in Netheravon Churchyard, some 35 or in Upavon Cemetery, and 16 in Yatesbury Churchyard. (Airfields close to the first two opened before the war, that at Yatesbury in 1917.)

 

But perhaps we are assuming too much from the presence of RFC men among the pall-bearers? Had the dead man belonged to the RFC I would have thought that the Corps would have supplied all the party. Perhaps the pall-bearers were drawn from the fitter fellow-patients of various units from the VAD hospital?

 

Can anything be deduced from the uniforms of the two men immediately in front of the bier? Were they perhaps comrades in the same battalion as the deceased? A pity their cap-badges are so indistinct.

 

 

Moonraker

Edited by Moonraker

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FROGSMILE
17 hours ago, Moonraker said:

Thanks to Frogsmile for the link to the excellent article.

 

Pedantically, military flying at Lark Hill had been winding down since 1913, with the opening of Netheravon and Upavon airfields. Lark Hill was deemed to be too visible and accessible to the public, with one local lad being killed by a moving aircraft that ran into a crowd of spectators.  No 3 Squadron moved from Lark Hill (to Netheravon) in June 1913, but made use of the flying field there until May 1914. The Bristol Flying School there closed on June 2, 1914.

 

Thus the field was conveniently vacant and able to accommodate large numbers of wartime troops, not least the First Canadian Contingent that arrived there in mid-October 1914.

 

CWGC lists 72 "Royal Air Force" (sic) WW1 graves in Wiltshire: none in Netheravon Churchyard, some 35 or in Upavon Cemetery, and 16 in Yatesbury Churchyard. (Airfields close to the first two opened before the war, that at Yatesbury in 1917.)

 

But perhaps we are assuming too much from the presence of RFC men among the pall-bearers? Had the dead man belonged to the RFC I would have thought that the Corps would have supplied all the party. Perhaps the pall-bearers were drawn from the fitter fellow-patients of various units from the VAD hospital?

 

Can anything be deduced from the uniforms of the two men immediately in front of the bier? Were they perhaps comrades in the same battalion as the deceased? A pity their cap-badges are so indistinct.

 

 

Moonraker

 

Yes, I’d reached the same conclusion as your first paragraph regarding the demise of Larkhill Airfield after reading the pdf.  The August 1914 date was quoted from there.

 

I have a huge soft spot for the area (and Wiltshire in general) having been based at Netheravon along with my late wife (a true “follower of the drum”) for one of the happiest periods of my service.  By the fickle fates of fortune I wore three different cap badges based there, with an 8-year gap elsewhere between the second and third.  I’ve often wondered at the odds of that occurring as it did.

 

I always took an interest in the WW1 related places of interest and served in both the lower and upper camps with the gap in between.  It was from there that I one day found the overgrown RFC graves in Fittleton churchyard. A poignant moment.

 

Looking at the photo again you make a good point that if the death had been RFC then they might ordinarily play a more leading part.  I am positive that the two leading men are Royal Artillery of some nature (RFA/RGA etc).  They both wear dark blue 5-button frocks typical of pre-WW1 and still occasionally seen during the war.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Moonraker
12 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

... Looking at the photo again you make a good point that if the death had been RFC then they might ordinarily play a more leading part.  I am positive that the two leading men are Royal Artillery of some nature (RFA/RGA etc).  They both wear dark blue 5-button frocks typical of pre-WW1 and still occasionally seen.

Possibly indicating a funeral very early in the war, when recruits were issued with a variety of make-do uniforms, as evidenced by photographs of newly-formed battalions at Codford in late 1914.

 

Moonraker

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FROGSMILE
20 minutes ago, Moonraker said:

Possibly indicating a funeral very early in the war, when recruits were issued with a variety of make-do uniforms, as evidenced by photographs of newly-formed battalions at Codford in late 1914.

 

Moonraker

 

I don’t think so in this case.  Both men are immaculately dressed in undress blues complete with coloured forage caps (unlike all others).  It’s more likely that they were ordered to wear that dress for a specific reason and it’s notable that they lead the cortège.

Edited by FROGSMILE

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Moonraker
On 06/09/2019 at 01:26, jay dubaya said:

I note there are 6 CWGC burials in Mere Cemetery...

 

On 06/09/2019 at 08:38, Jools mckenna said:

Could it be Dvr Messager's procession? He's the only man from the Artillery from the 6.

 

On 07/09/2019 at 09:33, Moonraker said:

...  When billeted at Mere, Gunner John Allen of the 115th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, stabbed Gunner John Horrigan to death in a row, then tried to cut his own throat...

 

13 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

...  I am positive that the two leading men are Royal Artillery of some nature (RFA/RGA etc).  They both wear dark blue 5-button frocks typical of pre-WW1 and still occasionally seen during the war.

 

5 minutes ago, FROGSMILE said:

...   Both men are immaculately dressed in undress blues complete with coloured forage caps (unlike all others).  It’s more likely that they were ordered to wear that dress for a specific reason and it’s notable that they lead the cortège.

Looking at other CWGC interments at Mere and based on comments above, it would seem that the funeral was that of Driver Messenger or Gunner Horrigan.

 

I don't suppose there is a message, postmark or publisher's imprint on the back of the card?

 

Moonraker

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SRD

Thank you all, most informative and I think your advice is good regarding local press reports if anything comes up I'll post it here.

I don't think the cortege is coming from either the URC or the Catholic Church (actually I'm not sure there was a Catholic Church in the early 20th century hence the burial at Wardour where there is a long standing Catholic presence (the castle was owned by the Arundells and held for the Royalists during the Civil War).

As well as the hospital Mere had a firing range, unfortunately the card has no other info on it & local history groups are aware of the FB thread but have been unable to come up with anything.

Personally I think the cortege is passing through, maybe towards one of the large houses local to Mere, Zeals House or Stourhead maybe, or, as has been suggested here, to the station at Gillingham in Dorset.

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FROGSMILE
2 hours ago, SRD said:

Thank you all, most informative and I think your advice is good regarding local press reports if anything comes up I'll post it here.

I don't think the cortege is coming from either the URC or the Catholic Church (actually I'm not sure there was a Catholic Church in the early 20th century hence the burial at Wardour where there is a long standing Catholic presence (the castle was owned by the Arundells and held for the Royalists during the Civil War).

As well as the hospital Mere had a firing range, unfortunately the card has no other info on it & local history groups are aware of the FB thread but have been unable to come up with anything.

Personally I think the cortege is passing through, maybe towards one of the large houses local to Mere, Zeals House or Stourhead maybe, or, as has been suggested here, to the station at Gillingham in Dorset.

 

Looking on a much larger screen now I can see that a significant majority of the cap badges that I can identify are artillery.  Moonraker's conclusion seems quite likely to me.

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jay dubaya

If it were a local man I would perhaps expect to see more than one carriage behind the coffin. 

 

J

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johnboy

IIRC most pics I have seen of military funerals show a horse or pair pulling the limber

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Moonraker

Further thoughts: I have a feeling that soldiers were based in and close to Mere only in the first months of the war, when there was a shortage of hutted camps. Perhaps the impressive cortege was facilitated by so many soldiers being available within two or three miles. By early 1915 there were artillery parks with hutments at several smaller camps ten miles to the north of Mere.

 

Dare one say it, but perhaps large-scale military funerals were more common early in the war for the first fatalities (as featured in Jay's post 29), but as the war progressed death became commonplace and funerals more routine.

 

So I'm inclined to think that the date of the scene is late 1914 or early 1915.

 

I now realise that I've assumed  that the photo was on a postcard, whereas it could be "just" a print.

 

Moonraker

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acknown

The few cap badges I can see look like RA ones. So:

I don't have a subscription to the National Newspaper Archive (I use the library when I need to access it) so searches at home only get the basics. However, on Fri 19 Mar 15, the Western Chronicle published an article about the inquest into the murder of 4492 Gnr John William Horrigan B Bty 115th Bde RFA, who was killed, I think it concludes, by 'Gnr Allen' on 07 Feb 15, aged 35 whilst they were stationed 'at' (probably near) Mere. He was the husband of Edith Bertha Horrigan, of 49, Baildon St., Deptford, London.

Horrigan was initially interred in Bonham (St. Benedict) RC Chapel Yard, Stourton (three miles from Mere). But in May 1959, this site was deemed unmaintainable and he was reburied at Wardour RC Cemetery. 

I wonder if the funeral is Horrigan's. No leaves on trees. Funeral in St. Mary's RC Church? Was 115th Bde RFA camped near Stourton?

Acknown

 

I've now found the report of the incident in the Western Chronicle of Fri 12 Feb 15: 'Soldier succumbs to shocking wound ... comrade of victim in custody'.

Acknown

Edited by Acknown
More information.

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jay dubaya
5 hours ago, johnboy said:

IIRC most pics I have seen of military funerals show a horse or pair pulling the limber

 

I hadn’t paid that much attention to that detail in the image, early wartime, new recruits..... lack of horses? and coupled with Moonraker’s last post comments I’m still inclined to think this is likely the funeral of John Thompson

 

J

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Moonraker
44 minutes ago, Acknown said:

...   on Friday 19 March 1915, the Western Chronicle published an article about the inquest into the murder of 4492 Gnr John William Horrigan B Bty 115th Bde RFA, who was killed, I think it concludes, by 'Gnr Allen' on 07 Feb 15, aged 35 whilst they were stationed 'at' (probably near) Mere. He was the husband of Edith Bertha Horrigan, of 49, Baildon St., Deptford, London.

Horrigan was initially interred in Bonham (St. Benedict) RC Chapel Yard, Stourton (three miles from Mere). But in May 1959, this site was deemed unmaintainable and he was reburied at Wardour RC Cemetery. 

I wonder if the funeral is Horrigan's. No leaves on trees. Funeral in St. Mary's RC Church? Was 115th Bde RFA camped near Stourton?

Acknown

Rather more information about the murder is given in this

 

link

 

that I gave in  post 32.

 

But it's interesting that Horrigan was originally buried at Stourton.

 

The 115th was part of the 26th Division whose artillery was based at Shaftesbury, Gillingham, Wincanton and Mere.

 

By the way, a local photographer who produced many postcards of the town, including some of the VAD Hospital, was Frederick Holmes. (Not that this is likely to take us any further, though one never knows ...)

 

Moonraker

Edited by Moonraker

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helpjpl
10 minutes ago, Moonraker said:

Rather more information about the murder is given in this

 

link

 

that I gave in  post 32.

 

But it's interesting that Horrigan was originally buried at Stourton.

 

The 115th was part of the 26th Division whose artillery was based at artillery was at Shaftesbury, Gillingham, Wincanton and Mere.

 

John William Horrigan was buried at Bonham (St Benedict) Roman Catholic Chapelyard in Stourton on 09 February 1915:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/05bdbc_a28844330fea418c9df6f544a78ceb5d.pdf

 

From this site - scroll down to 'The Great War':

https://www.wiltshire-footprints.co.uk/wardour 

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Moonraker

Off topic, I'm afraid, but I came across

 

this marvellous photograph

 

of Mere reservists responding to the call of duty.

 

Moonraker

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helpjpl
56 minutes ago, helpjpl said:

 

John William Horrigan was buried at Bonham (St Benedict) Roman Catholic Chapelyard in Stourton on 09 February 1915:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/05bdbc_a28844330fea418c9df6f544a78ceb5d.pdf

 

From this site - scroll down to 'The Great War':

https://www.wiltshire-footprints.co.uk/wardour 

 

On 06/09/2019 at 21:28, PRC said:

 

So i take it that they are going up Castle Street rather than Church Street which itself loops round the church of St Michaels.

 

Castle Street and Church Street Mere Wiltshire sourced Google Maps.png

 

 

1.  Don't know if this is relevant, but Castle Street leads to Stourton:

755867912_CastleStreet.jpg.e92029111a1aa760529bf239cae8b5c0.jpg

 

 

2.  John William Horrigan was billeted at the house of Mr Cowley in Mere:

https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/05bdbc_273796ad7241402388c57f3c1b505004.pdf

 

JP

Edited by helpjpl
John William Horrigan was billeted at the house of Mr Cowley in Mere

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