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Remembered Today:

My great-grandparents - what are they wearing?


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supersub

I've had this picture for a long, long time without ever looking too closely at it - a photograph of my great-grandparents. I had vaguely wondered about my great-grandmother - is she wearing some sort of uniform? It doesn't look like normal civilian clothes, though I might be completely wrong about that. Maybe women used to dress like this in solidarity with the men?

But I've only just thought about my great-grandfather in the picture. He would have been 37 in 1914, and I never thought of him being in the forces during the Great War. Now I am wondering.

His name was William Edward Cawston, from Caversham, which is now a suburb of Reading, but I believe it was then in Oxfordshire. He was a twin, incidentally, and his brother was imaginatively named Edward William!

I have never failed to receive an extraordinarily knowledgeable reply here, so I look forward to any thoughts... and thanks in advance!

uniforms.jpg

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FROGSMILE

He is a ‘sapper’ of the Corps of Royal Engineers.  There’s nothing about the lady’s dress to suggest a uniform, but both of them appear to be wearing very smart (and at the time expensive) ‘his and her’s’ gabardine raincoats.  His is not an Army issue garment (they generally had shoulder straps) and so he is technically breaching discipline by wearing ‘mixed’ (civilian/military) dress, something he could presumably get away with when with his lady and away from the eyes of military authorities.  He’s compounding matters by wearing civilian boots too!
 

Both coats are single breasted, have the superior raglan style sleeves, and were of a design made by several companies including Macintosh, Aquascutum and Burberry.  It doesn’t seem an accident that they’re both wearing similar garments that were the epitome of fashion at the time.

 

NB.  Strangely enough my great grandfather was from Caversham during that period, I wonder if they knew each other.

 

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215E1431-FAAA-40D8-A38D-7DD8E020129E.jpeg

Edited by FROGSMILE
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jay dubaya

What a great image.
There is a William E Cawston Royal Engineers WR/322440 to 8084 (5th Bn Bedfordshire Rgt) and back to RE 235588. Incidentally there are a also an Edward W Cawston Royal Engineers 222552 and WR/313847.

The WR prefix denotes Inland Waterways and Transport which may suggest the brothers had some experience in this field.

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charlie962
5 minutes ago, jay dubaya said:

The WR prefix denotes Inland Waterways and Transport which may suggest the brothers had some experience in this field

Indeed they did.

 

This 1916 clipping is courtesy FindmyPast Newspapers:

2059102693_GWFCawstonWETribunal.JPG.561fc629d68c9f334d4d96bf1a9892b8.JPG

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jay dubaya
3 minutes ago, charlie962 said:

Indeed they did.

 

This 1916 clipping is courtesy FindmyPast Newspapers:

2059102693_GWFCawstonWETribunal.JPG.561fc629d68c9f334d4d96bf1a9892b8.JPG


Brilliant, nice find Charlie 👍

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charlie962

Followed by this the week after, again courtesy FindmyPast:

2066234199_GWFCawstonWTribunal2.JPG.b8becbdc3f212d66d3fbbd6f0381e54e.JPG

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RaySearching

 Its unusual to see a photo of a soldier and his wife,  with his wife wearing a hat veil, I wonder what the occasion was

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RaySearching

William's brother Edward has service papers are on Ancestry  ( LINK)  transcribed as Causton by Ancestry

He is shown under what is your Trade  or calling on his service papers  as a boat proprietor 

 

 

Ray

 

Reposting Link

Edited by RaySearching
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Dai Bach y Sowldiwr

Curious...

Edward William was registered as Edward Joseph at birth.

Perhaps he later changed his name to avoid confusion...

 

  Name: Mother's Maiden Surname: 
CAWSTON, EDWARD  JOSEPH   POWELL  
GRO Reference: 1877  D Quarter in HENLEY  Volume 03A  Page 627
CAWSTON, WILLIAM  EDWARD   POWELL  
GRO Reference: 1877  D Quarter in HENLEY  Volume 03A  Page 628
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Grovetown
2 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

He’s compounding matters by wearing civilian boots too!

 

 

When it comes to boots, it seems that "discipline" was more honoured in the breach than the observance as you see endless examples of commercial boots being worn. You see it all the time,

 

In the panicky shortages of 1915, huge numbers of 'civilian' items were sourced from the trade for issue. As with this pair, the presence of speed lacers are a dead giveaway - the images are just a random few from the postcards in my collection.

 

Cheers,

 

GT.

 

 

 

QWR boots.jpg

RS boots.jpg

Kosb Boots.jpg

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FROGSMILE

Yes I’ve often noticed the civilian boots and as you say the hooks for speed lacing are a dead giveaway.  It’s seen less I think with regulars, who usually seem to have their B5s, etc.  As you say the early build up of the New Armies appears to have led to ‘needs must’, although I also think advantage was probably taken by some if more comfort could be achieved.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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Andrew Upton

Information courtesy the late Joe Sweeney:

 

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...l=toes&st=0

 

"Private purchase boots were extremely common. Pre-war Terriers were required to provide their own boots during annual training and on embodiment at the outbreak of war. These did not necessarily have to be of Army Patterns but must have been sufficiently serviceable to last three months. For this the Territorial Force soldier was paid a grant of, £1 4s. Since the War Office could not immediately take over the supply and equipage for the embodied Territorial Force the County Associations were required to contract for its own supply of boots, putting itself in competition with Army contracts. These boots usually equipped only first recruit issues. These boots should not have War Office acceptance stamps, as County Association contracts were not considered government contracts (War Office) unless they purchased additional quantities off existing War Office contracts which probably were not possible after August 1914 and for sometime there after.

In addition out of personal preference soldiers acquired ankle boots. Even the Guards allowed their soldiers to buy non army pattern boots. The Standing Orders of the Irish Gurads simply state that soldiers were allowed to acquire their own boots but the toes "must not be excessively pointy"."

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FROGSMILE

I recall that thread Andrew, the situation with the TF not at all surprising I thought.  Images of Foot Guards show private purchase boots going back as far as Victorian photography.  Indeed they even wore elastic sided boots with raised block heels in Home Service clothing (purposely elevating those more diminutive).  The civilian boots seem less apparent for Guards in drab service dress during the war though, and so I’ve often wondered what the ordnance supply chain arrangements were for them then. Presumably it improved as the war went on.  The contracts with boot makers apparently made them rich men, so soldiers must have been wearing them to some considerable degree by 1918 (70 Million pairs of boots supplied to the war office apparently).  The crisis early in the war (rather as with uniforms) is well reflected here: https://www.rushdenheritage.co.uk/shoetrade/shoetradeWWI.html

There’s also an interesting BBC Report on the subject, focusing upon Northampton, linked here: https://www.northamptonshirebootandshoe.org.uk/content/northampton/northampton-articles/northamptons-shoe-factories-and-world-war-one

And a piece about the famous Lennon boot Co, who had war office contracts, here: https://www.greatbritishlife.co.uk/people/stepping-back-in-time-at-derbyshire-s-last-remaining-boot-6504794

Edited by FROGSMILE
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supersub

Wow, I knew you wouldn't let me down! That's an extraordinary discovery. I immediately wondered why, as a boat builder, he was a sapper, but of course the WR explains that. Would he have been in charge of army boats?

And fancy finding the newspaper cutting. So he was a reluctant soldier!

Thanks so much to all of you. This year we published a greatly expanded second edition of Walking the Line, the book my wife and I wrote while walking the whole Western Front in 2018. If I had known all this, I would certainly have included it.

I have a lovely picture of the twins (the only boys among 10 offspring of my great-great-grandparents!) standing in front of their boathouse beside Caversham Bridge. My wife says they stand in exactly the same way that my brothers and I do! Unfortunately, it is framed and under glass, so hard to copy without glare. One of the pictures here shows the launch of Majestic, the "flag ship", and I believe at least one of the characters in the picture is William or Edward. The portrait is of Edward - in his boating uniform! The business was sold after WW2 to Salters but I can still remember the boathouse before it was demolished and flats were built on the riverside site.

Incidentally, my father, who worked on the boats as a young boy, used to claim that a Cawston boat took part in Dunkirk, but I have never found any evidence of this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Majesticlaunch.png

EdwardCawston.png

Cawston card.png

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FROGSMILE

As a sapper (private equivalent) he would not have been in charge, but he might have a NCOs stripes on the khaki jacket beneath his raincoat.  With his experience I imagine he would have been promoted providing he adapted to military discipline.

The RE ran the barges in particular up and down the waterways in various theatres of war and played a vital part in resupply along the lines of communication.  They also operated the hospital barges running back down to the channel ports I believe, although the medical staff were of course RAMC and QAIMNS.  Barges were not the only craft of course so it’s difficult to determine precisely what river craft he might have crewed.

Edited by FROGSMILE
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charlie962
2 hours ago, supersub said:

Incidentally, my father, who worked on the boats as a young boy, used to claim that a Cawston boat took part in Dunkirk, but I have never found any evidence of this.

 

I have seen reference in newspapers to that effect.- see below

 

2 hours ago, supersub said:

(the only boys among 10 offspring of my great-great-grandparents!)

What about Arthur ?

 

This obit for William is available on FindmyPast Newspapers - you should look at them because you will find a few other clippings in the Reading papers over the decades that are of interest for you and your family but outside this Forum scope.

 

Note it mentions the Starlight as the Dunkirk boat and the younger brother Arthur.

1898117200_GWFCawstonWEobit.JPG.54e9bedee565c54787ecad678a7717aa.JPG

 

 

PS Starlight is not mentioned on this site for little ships but it is worth contacting them.

 

Charlie

Edited by charlie962
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supersub

Now I have really been exposed for my sloppy research/family knowledge! I said 10 children because I happened to look at their 1881 census entry yesterday. If I had looked at 1891, I would have spotted Arthur - and Percy. Twelve children!

Thanks for the cutting.... I didn't know about Findmypast Newspapers (a serious hole in the knowledge of this former newspaperman). I shall definitely take a look. I'd seen that ADLS site before, hence my doubts about the truth of my father's story, but I shall investigate further, armed with this cutting.

Thanks so much!

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charlie962

ADLS archivist would probably be interested to see that obit. They also list a lot of research material.

 

It would be good for you to see a boat that your great great grandfather built in the late 1800s being identified as a Dunkirk little ship. You will then have to find the crew.

 

It is always possible that the ship was requisitioned and renamed whilst in Naval Service ?

 

Do let us know the result although strictly outside scope of this Forum.

 

Charlie

42 minutes ago, supersub said:

I didn't know about Findmypast Newspapers

It is the same ownership as British Newspaper Archive.  You might also find other stuff at Reading ?

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Michelle Young

Lovely to see an old photo of Caversham, I was born and grew up in Caversham. 

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supersub

What a lot of people from Caversham! Bit off-topic (apologies if I'm breaking any rules), but these are specially for you, Michelle...

island.png

bridge.png

ladies.png

trips.png

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Hmm.  So this may be one of their boats in the background?

 

 

JK_A01_12_03.jpg.0fcde550eab37f13b26d575a440e37bc.jpg

 

The rider of the Harley (not necessarily his - there's a pic of someone else posing on it) is a Canadian officer attending the School of Military Aeronautics at Reading, possibly Lt Walter Fraser Anderson, April/May 1916.

 

 

Edited by pierssc
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supersub

Nice picture! Could be a Cawston boat, though I don't recognise it. I didn't know about the school of military aeronautics. I wonder if that encouraged my grandfather Leslie Roberts Jenkins, who also grew up in Caversham and married into the Cawston family, to join the RAF. He trained as an observer, but luckily for him - though perhaps to his disappointment - the war ended before he could be deployed.

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