The Story of a Merseyside Conscientious Objector: Joseph Alfred Pearson of Toxteth Park and New Brighton 1894-1917

I recently finished writing a PhD thesis about Wirral in the Great War, one chapter of which focused on the reasons why local people were able to endure the challenges and privations of total war. I argued that the majority of the population shared a collection of beliefs which both united them as a society and motivated them to keep fighting despite the many sacrifices they were required to make. The two most important of these beliefs were in the doctrines of patriotism and Christianity. With regard to the latter, it was a certain interpretation of Christianity, which claimed that it was the individual’s responsibility to serve his or her country, to be prepared to die if necessary for the great cause of defeating Germany and to accept suffering and loss with faith and equanimity. Hardly anybody voiced any opposition to these beliefs and those who did so were vilified and even persecuted by the authorities and by the rest of society. Many of these brave dissidents were in fact Christians, but Christians with a different interpretation of their faith – one which emphasised love, forgiveness and non-violence, instead of patriotism, militarism and aggression.

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Battle of Givenchy Centenary Tour Saturday 7th – Wednesday 11th April 2018

‘… the atmosphere that was created was very moving’ – comment by a year 9 pupil after a trip to the Somme, July 2016

55 Rose


The Hundredth Anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Givenchy – when the 55th (West Lancashire) Division fought off a massive German attack – will occur on 9th April 2018. It will be a good moment to visit the ground upon which so many soldiers from the North-West of England fought and are commemorated.


We will explore the landscape by either minibus or small coach (depending upon numbers) and on foot, taking in remnants of the battlefield and the many associated memorials and cemeteries. Real soldiers’ stories will be woven into our visits, giving many opportunities for discussion, reflection and commemoration. Continue reading

‘West African Britisher Dies Whilst Serving the King’

The above words are the title of an article appearing in the ‘Birkenhead News’ of 31st July 1915. I discovered it on 8th August 2012 in Wirral Archives and it rather took me by surprise, firstly because I was not expecting to read any detailed references to African people in the local press and secondly because of the largely favourable way in which John (or Jack) Libby (or Lebby) was described. Here is the article in full:

John Libby 31 July 1915b

The Birkenhead News of 31st July 1915 Reports on the Death of John (Jack) Libby in Birkenhead

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Kendal War Memorial

I taught history in Kendal for 13 years. During that time, I, my colleagues and my pupils carried out several interesting projects relating to the Great War. In about 2005, I challenged my year 9 pupils to research the lives of the soldiers recorded on the town’s war memorial. Two young men embraced the challenge with gusto and wrote notes about every local soldier who is buried in Parkside Cemetery. One of them told me that he had never learned so much history before, which is exactly what I wanted to hear.

Parkside Cemetery March 2014

Kendal Parkside Cemetery March 2014

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History From The Bottom Up: John Lodge of Ellesmere Port and the Great War

Ellesmere Port is a remarkable place. It lies on the banks of the River Mersey, at the southern end of the Wirral Peninsula. It grew as a result of its links with the Midlands via the Ellesmere Canal (later called the Shropshire Union Canal)  and access to Liverpool, Manchester and the wider world via the Manchester Ship Canal and River Mersey.  Two ironworks arrived early in the 20th century –  Burnell’s in 1903 and The Wolverhampton Corrugated Iron Company in 1905. By 1911 the two works were employing over 3,000 people between them and the town’s population had risen by 142.5 percent since 1901.

Ellesmere Port on the 1912 6-inch O.S. Map

Ellesmere Port on the 1912 6-inch O.S. Map. Notice the two ironworks north and south of the railway line and Oldfield Road (where the Lodge Family lived) and Cambridge Road (where the Lodge children attended school) in the bottom left corner.

Ellesmere Port Ironworks from Above in 1926

Aerial View of the Ironworks in 1926

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Thomas Ernest De Maine of Morecambe

Thomas’s name appears on the Morecambe War Memorial. The first source to mention his existence is the 1901 census:

Demaine Family on King Street, Morecambe in 1901

Demaine Family on King Street, Morecambe in 1901

We see that Thomas’s parents were Henry and Mary De Maine and that Thomas had a brother called John McClure Demaine who was born in about 1893. The next source is the 1911 census: Continue reading

Private Farrell G. Dixon of Morecambe

Private Dixon appears on Morecambe War Memorial and was mentioned in the ‘Lancaster Guardian’ of 25th March 1916 as follows:

Farrell Dixon 'Lancaster Guardian' 25th March 1916

‘Lancaster Guardian’ 25th March 1916

The article is typical of the time and gives us a brief, but useful introduction to the experiences of one Morecambe family during the Great War. We notice the following facts:

  • In 1916, the Dixon family lived at 65 Edward Street, Morecambe.
  • Farrell was serving with the Duke of Wellington’s West Riding Regiment.
  • He was killed in action ‘in France’ on 2nd March 1916 aged 24.
  • He went to France at the beginning of the summer of 1915.
  • He had been on leave a month prior to his death.
  • Farrell’s father, George, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
  • His brother, Leonard, was an ‘Old Territorial’, who was also on active service and had been seriously wounded in the left arm.
  • His brother, George Frederick, was a sergeant in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, also on active service.

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Two George Yoxalls Of The Cheshire Regiment

George Yoxall on Middlewich War Memorial

The First George Yoxall on Middlewich War Memorial

The Second George Yoxall on Middlewich War Memorial

The Second George Yoxall on Middlewich War Memorial

For a couple of years, we had a base in Middlewich. It was a remarkable coincidence because my wife and I are sixth cousins via the Yoxall family, which must have begun in the village of Yoxall in Staffordshire, but, in the 18th and 19th centuries, lived in the Cheshire village of Sprowston near Middlewich. We are descended from Moses Yoxall (born in about 1700), our six greats grandfather. During my frequent strolls around Middlewich I noticed the town war memorial and saw the two Yoxalls –  G. and G.W.; there is also a George Yoxall on nearby Winsford War Memorial; his inscription appears at the top of this post. I wanted to know firstly whether they were related to each other and secondly whether they were related to my wife and I.

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