Private Dixon appears on Morecambe War Memorial and was mentioned in the ‘Lancaster Guardian’ of 25th March 1916 as follows:
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.
The first document to record Farrell/Farral and his family was the 1901 Census:
It shows that George Senior was from Birkenshaw and his wife Clara Ann and all the children from Liversedge in Yorkshire. Morecambe is well-known for attracting both holiday-makers and residents from the West Riding of Yorkshire, particularly from Bradford, which lies just north of the two towns. Perhaps George and Clara had spent some happy holidays in Morecambe and decided to relocate. His trade as a carpenter would have made the move possible. None of the family can be found in the 1911 Census.
Remarkably, as stated above, George Dixon Senior served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the Great War and his service records are among the 20 per cent or so which survived the London Blitz in 1940. They appear as follows:
We notice the following points:
- George gives a different birth date to the one which appears in the Census – 8th September 1856, rather than 1860.
- He confirms many of the details contained in the ‘Lancaster Guardian’ article and in the 1901 Census, including his address, occupation and names of his children.
- George joined the army for reserve home service in Colchester early on in the war, on 26th September 1914.
- He served as a private with the number 26490.
- He left the army on 29th June 1916, having been assessed as unfit for service due to suffering from arterial sclerosis, which the medical board were keen to point out was due to his age and not his military service. This ensured that he would not be paid a pension.
- George was a Wesleyan Methodist.
- He married Clara Horner in a Wesleyan Chapel on 26th October 1881.
- In addition to the children appearing in the 1901 Census, he and Clara also had another son, Francis Joseph, who was born in Heaton, Lancashire on 19th July 1902.
- George was 59 when he was discharged, which confirms a birth year of 1856/7.
- George never served overseas and was therefore not awarded any medals.
It is a touching story of a mature man who could easily have avoided any kind of military service due to his age, but chose to make sacrifices in order to serve his country. His wife and children must have been proud of him, as well as feeling the economic strains caused by his probable reduction in income.
The next member of the family to have served in the army was Leonard. The ‘Lancaster Guardian’ article says that he was an ‘Old Territorial’. His service records have not survived, but his entry in the Medal Rolls tells us exactly which units he served with:
He had served with the local Territorial Battalion, the 1/5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, with the number 1730 and the 4th Royal Welch Fusiliers with the number 205211. His medal index card confirms these details and adds that he qualified for the 1915 Star (having arrived in France on 14th February 1915) and that he left the army on 24th April 1919:
Leonard and Farrell’s younger brother was called George. He was born in 1895 and was described by the ‘Lancaster Guardian’ as being a sergeant in the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Again, we do not have his service records, but his medal roll entry appears as follows:
We learn that George served with the 5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (the local Territorial Battalion) with the number 240155. He received the British War and Victory Medals. His medal card confirms these details, but says that he was a lance corporal and that (as a result of entering France on 27th September 1915) he qualified for the 1914/15 Star:
We have similar records for young Farrell – firstly, his medal card:
It confirms his regiment and his date of death as 2nd March 1916 and tells us that he served with the number 12906; he entered France on 15th July 1915 and was therefore eligible for the 1914/15 Star and the British War and Victory Medals. His entry in the Medal Rolls confirms the details and tells us that he served with the 9th Battalion of the West Riding Regiment:
Lastly, we have Farrell’s entry in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects, kept at the National Army Museum:
Farrell’s unit, the 9th (Service) Battalion of the West Riding Regiment, was formed at Halifax in September 1914 as part of K2 (the second wave of new battalions formed by Secretary of State for War H.H. Kitchener) and came under command of 52nd Brigade in the 17th (Northern) Division. It moved to Wareham, and then Bovington in October and Wimborne in November 1914. It went to Hursley Park in June 1915 and landed in Boulogne on 15th July 1915. In early 1916 the 17th Division was involved in fighting at the Bluff (south-east of Ypres on the Comines Canal), part of a number of engagements officially known as the Actions of Spring 1916.
According to the Battalion War Diary, on 1st and 2nd March 1916, the 9th West Ridings were in trenches at a place called Reserve Wood near Ypres in Belgium. The battalion was concentrating upon trying to capture a position called the Ravine, but met stiff German resistance followed by a counter barrage which killed many soldiers coming up to the front line with supplies. Perhaps Farrell was one of these casualties. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.
We do our best to explore, understand and commemorate the lives of people who lived through and died in the Great War. The above notes serve as a basic introduction to the experiences of one Morecambe family. If you know more about the Dixons, please do get in touch.