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As part of The Warrington Museum of Freemasonry’s celebrations for the Tercentenary of the Grand Lodge of England (1717-2017), our thoughts have turned to Freemasons in Warrington who lost their lives during the First World War (1914-1918). It is chilling to think that the British Army had some 8,700,000 men available for deployment, of which 2,270,000 were wounded or died of disease and some 970,000 were killed in action. These figures also include those missing presumed dead. Only half of these men have a known marked grave. 3
Amongst those figures were two Warrington Freemasons, the first being Lance Corporal William Haddock Robinson, a member of Lodge of Friendship No 2693, (interestingly his father, also William Haddock Robinson was a member of the Lodge of Lights No 148). The second was Lieutenant Percy Carter who was a member of Gilbert Greenall Lodge No 1250. 11,14
To celebrate the lives of these men and recognise their sacrifice, a plaque to commemorate them will be made for the Masonic Hall to be unveiled at the Heritage Open Day on 9 September 2017. Also, the Curator of the Museum, Vic Charlesworth, kindly handmade two beautiful crosses to be placed on their graves by Rob and Caroline Crook during their trip to France.
Lance Corporal William Haddock Robinson (1879-1918).
William H Robinson is recorded in the 1881 census as being born in 1879. He was the son of William Haddock Robinson and Elizabeth Johnson Robinson (nee Bolton) of 18 Bridge Street Warrington and was one of seven children. His father was cashier at Joseph Crosfield and Sons, Soap Manufacturer and his mother was a tobacconist. The family moved to Wilson Patten Street, Warrington and they are recorded as living there on both the 1891 and 1901 census. His father died 15 April 1903 and his mother 22 February 1911. On the 1911 census, he is recorded as living with his brother and sister at The Mount in Lower Walton.
William worked for the Liverpool and Manchester District Banking Co. Ltd. of Sankey Street, which was taken over eventually by the Royal Bank of Scotland. His Masonic records held at United Grand Lodge of England show he was a member of the Lodge of Friendship No 2693 from 1911 and that he was on War Service from 1915 until his death in 1918. 1
The Lodge minutes2 record that the Lodge met at the Masonic Hall in Bold Street, also known as St. Austin’s Chambers. St Austin’s Chambers was previously the Officers Mess for the 4th Royal Lancashire Militia (The Duke of Lancaster’s Own Light Infantry). The Minutes also document that William was proposed on the 3 April 1911 by W Bro Greenough and seconded by W Bro Lee. He was initiated on the 4 September 1911, by W Bro Greenough, passed 2 October 1911 and raised 4 December 1911. During the September 1918 meeting of the Lodge, the minute’s record that both the WM, Bro J E Birtles and PM, W Bro H V Pigot commented on Bro Robinson’s death;
“The WM made a feeling reference to the much-lamented death of Bro W H Robinson, who was killed whilst on active service and a very suitable tribute was paid to our late brother by PM H V Pigot who stated whilst lamenting his untimely death, we must all be filled with admiration for his patriotism in having so readily volunteered his services and in having made the great sacrifice in the cause of King and Country”.
It is well known, that men serving with the Army Service Corps are difficult to track as they were and still are today very mobile. William’s army service records did not survive the bombings during the Second World War (1939-1945), but we have been able to piece together his military service using a variety of lines of enquiry. Firstly, we discovered the Company that he was in when he died.3 Then we researched every other soldier that died on the same day as him and who were buried in the same cemetery.4
Prior to the outbreak of First World War (1914-1918), William had moved to the south of the country and was living in Saltford, Somerset at the time of his deployment. He enlisted in Ramsgate as a dispatch rider on the 2 May 1915. He latterly served in the Army Service Corps 364th Company, at the Base Mechanical Transport Depot as a driver.3 ‘No 6 Base Supply Depot’ as it was known, was located close to Calais, France and it was opened in April 1915 as a supply base to relieve pressure on Boulogne and to be closer to the Western Front. This base did not close until the last soldiers left France in 1921. The supply depots supported the frontline forces carrying out, administration and recruitment, induction for new arrivals, training for butchers and bakers and re-supply. They would supply everything from locomotives to move equipment and supplies to the Western Front such as food for the soldiers and horses. Ordnance however was supplied by the Royal Ordnance Corps. No. 6 Depot, also served as the Army Veterinary Corps Base depot and was the site of no fewer than 6 hospitals with capacity for 2,500 beds. There was also a Royal Flying Corps airfield close by and it was also served by the Royal Engineers Inland Water Transport Company, who used tugs to move goods from the British coast and along the river and canal systems in France. Incredibly, at its peak, the Army Service Corps numbered nearly 330,000 men and officers. The large base at St. Omer was similar to that in Calais, but had a very large repair depot where they would repair everything from bicycles to tanks and planes.5
Considering the importance of such Military bases, it comes as no surprise that they were often targeted and bombed by German aircraft.
It was during such a bombing raid that William was seriously injured along with several of his comrades and they were taken to the 30th General Hospital, where William and eleven others died of their wounds on the 12 August 1918. It is difficult to say the exact spot where William was killed, as records are not available, but by researching other soldiers who died on the same day and who are buried alongside William, it is most likely that he was at the Calais or St. Omer bases during the air raid.
They were all buried in Les Baraques Cemetery in Sangatte, which was started in September 1917 having been designed by Sir Herbert Baker. The last First World War (1914 – 1918) military casualties were buried here in 1921. There are some 1,500 soldiers buried in the cemetery of which 1,304 are currently identified.3
William received the 1914 -15 award which was issued to all those who served in a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915.6
The Warrington Guardian published obituaries7 following his death, on both the 17 and 24 of August 1918 and they tell us little more about William:
“He was a keen and ardent motorist”,
He had also captained the Warrington Cycling Club and that he left a widow and one child; sadly, we have not been able to trace a marriage or a birth, the administrators named both in his Army Register of Soldiers Effects, and in the probate records1 are Leslie Dewing and William Rogers bank clerks their relationship to William is unknown.
His name is inscribed on the Cenotaph at Bridge Foot in Warrington 8,9,10 and moreover his name and date of death are also recorded on his parent’s gravestone in Warrington cemetery.
The Les Baraques Cemetery at Sangatte3, is beautifully maintained and was full of colour, the air filled with the scent of the flowers, the sound of children playing in the distance, was a far cry from the horror that these men went through a hundred years before. It didn’t take too long to find William’s grave and those of his comrades, Rob placed the cross on the grave and prayers were said. The inscription on his grave reads;
Lieutenant Percy Carter (1877-1918)
Percy Carter was born in Warrington in 1877, the fourth son of Thomas Birchall Carter and Isobella Carter. In the 1881 census the family lived at number 5 Palmyra Square, Warrington, and his father Thomas was a master baker. By 1891 the family were living in Frodsham at High Lea on Vicarage Lane and his father’s occupation was corn dealer. Percy continued to live in Frodsham until his death. In 1903 he married Sarah Florence Middleton, the daughter of a farmer, and they went on to have three children, Doris, Geoffrey and Isabel. In the 1911 census, they lived in The Lodge in Frodsham.1
His obituary in the Warrington Guardian7 of 17 and 20 April 1918 tell us that he was a Director of Messrs. Carter and Son Bakers and Corn dealers of 20-24, Bridge Street, Warrington. He was educated at Aston Hall and Harrogate College. He was also involved in public service, as a member of Frodsham Parish Council, acted as Commander of the Frodsham detachment of the Cheshire Volunteer Regiment; he also served on the Board of Management of Frodsham Auxiliary Military Hospital and was a magistrate in the Eddisbury division of Cheshire.
His Masonic career started in September 1910 when he was proposed by Bro J Taylor, seconded by W Bro C G Mc Dowell and initiated into Gilbert Greenall Lodge No 1250 on the 8 November 1910 by WBro Holland. He was passed on 10 January 1911 and raised on 14 February 1911, in the Assembly rooms at the Lion Hotel on Bridge Street, Warrington12. His records held at United Grand Lodge of England record that at the time of his initiation he was a metal perforator, which has been cross checked with the minutes of the Lodge. They also show he was on War Service from 1916 until his death in 1918.1
When the news of Bro Carter’s death reached the Lodge in May 1918, it was minuted that;
“The Worshipful Master proposed a vote of condolence and sympathy with the widow and family of the late Bro Lieutenant Percy Carter, who was killed whilst serving his country at the front, which was assented to by the brethren standing in silence”.
The lodge was ordered to be placed in mourning for 3 months.12
As In the previous case of William H Robinson, Percy Carter’s military records did not survive the Second World War (1939-1945), so we have used a variety of research lines to obtain the information gained. Percy joined The Prince of Wales Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) early in the First World War (1914-1918),3 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant on the 7 July 1915 and became a Lieutenant on the 11 January 1916. The Prince of Wales Volunteers left for the Western Front on the 13 February 1915 and were attached to the 7th Brigade in 3rd Division. On the 9 January 1916, they were transferred to 55th (West Lancashire) Division. During April 1918, the 55th (West Lancashire) Division fought alongside 2nd Portuguese and British 40th and 34th Divisions, in the Battle of the Lys also known as the fourth battle of Ypres. In what came to be known as the Spring Offensive, German forces attempted to cut supply lines to the British forces, by crossing the rivers Lys and Lawe on the 9 April 1918, the 55th (West Lancashire) Division fought the defence of Givenchy and it was on this day that Percy Carter was killed in action.15, 16,17,18
In Givenchy, there is a memorial dedicated to the 55th West Lancashire Division.
The memorial is inscribed on all four sides;
The front reads;
“To the memory of the 55th West Lancashire Division 1914-1918”
“Somme 1916, Ypres 1916-17, Cambrai 1917, Givenchy-Festubert 1918, The advance in Flanders 1918”
“Units of the West Lancashire Territorial Force which was formed in 1908. Fought in France and Belgium from November 1914 onwards. On 3 January 1916, it was re-assembled as the 55th (West-Lancashire) Division and served under that title throughout the remainder of the campaign”
“Around this site from the 9th to the 10th April 1918 the division continuously attacked from the canal to Festubert by three German divisions and with its left flank turned, held its ground and inflicted severe loss upon the enemy.”
“THIS MOST GALLANT DEFENCE, THE IMPORTANCE OF WHICH IT WOULD BE HARD TO OVERESTIMATE” … Sir Douglas Haig’s despatch dated 20 July 1918.”
Lieutenant Percy Carter was buried in Bethune Town Cemetery alongside 10 of his comrades who fell the same day, there are just over 3,000 commonwealth soldiers buried there of which only eleven are unknown, the cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.3
Once again, the peace and beauty of the cemetery was incredible. Rob placed the cross on the grave and prayers were said. The inscription on the gravestone reads:
‘Duty nobly done’
Percy Carter is also remembered on the Frodsham War memorial,9,10 which is on the summit of Overton Hill, Warrington, a stunning position, with views across the Mersey estuary to Liverpool, both the Anglican and Roman Catholic Cathedrals can be seen on the horizon, looking to the East the Pennines are silhouetted against the sky, to the West the Mountains of Snowdonia, to the South the beautiful central sandstone ridge disappears on its route through Cheshire to Whitchurch.
Both men are remembered, in The Ring of Remembrance Monument for Peace, in Lorette, Ablain-Saint-Nazaire near Arras.19 The monument, designed by Philippe Prost opened in 2014 is stunning in its simplicity and extremely moving when you walk round and through it. The size of the monument is very striking. Each panel is approximately four metres high and a metre wide, the names are engraved in a font called Lorette especially designed by Pierre di Sciullo, a graphic artist. There are about 40 nations represented on the memorial, including the United Kingdom and Commonwealth, Germany, Russia and China. On the memorial, it states;
“This memorial pays tribute to the memory of soldiers who fell in the Nord and the Pas-de-Calais between 1914 and 1918. The 580,000 names are listed in alphabetical order, without any distinction between rank or nationality, former enemies and friends side by side.”
In 1919, not long after the First World War (1914-1918) had ended, The Grand Lodge of England, at the suggestion of the Most Worshipful, The Grand Master, HRH The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, decided to build a new headquarters for the English Craft, in Great Queen Street, London, as a lasting memorial to the many brethren who had given their lives during the War. An appeal was made to all brethren for voluntary donations to the fund which was known as the Masonic Million Memorial Fund. The donations were to be recognised by commemorative jewels. A competition was organised to design the jewel, it was won by Bro Cyril Saunders Spackman RBA RMS. and was described at the time in this way.
“The jewel is in the form of a cross, symbolising Sacrifice, with a perfect square at the four ends, on the left and right, squares being the dates 1914-1918, the years in which the supreme sacrifice was made. Between these is a winged figure of Peace presenting the representation of a Temple with special Masonic allusion in the Pillars, Porch and Steps. The medal is suspended by the Square and Compasses, attached to a ribband, the whole thus symbolising the Craft’s gift of a Temple in memory of those brethren who gave all for King and Country, Peace and Victory, Liberty and Brotherhood”.
Further information can be found on the Library and Museum of Freemasonry website.20
Warrington Museum of Freemasonry
1Ancestry Public Family Trees, Masonic records, census returns.
https://www.ancestry.co.uk/ (Accessed July 2017)
2Minutes of Lodge of Friendship No 2963.
3Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Percy Carter http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx?cpage=1 (Accessed July 2017)
William Haddock Robinson http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx?cpage=1 (Accessed July 2017).
4In memories by Pierre Vandervelden http://www.inmemories.com (Accessed July 2017).
Percy Carter http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/bethunetown.htm (Accessed July 2017).
W H Robinson http://www.inmemories.com/Cemeteries/lesbaraques.htm (Accessed July 2017).
5The Long, Long trail
William H Robinson (2 August 2015) Army Service Corps Mechanical Transport Companies
Percy Carter (19 July 2015) Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment).
6Naval and military archives http://www.nmarchive.com (Accessed July 2017).
7Warrington Library – Warrington Guardian Archives.
8Warrington Bereavement Services.
9War Memorials Online.
Percy Carter https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/search?keyword=frodsham&search=1 (Accessed July 2017).
William Haddock Robinson https://www.warmemorialsonline.org.uk/memorial/135815/ (Accessed July 2017).
10Imperial War Museum.
Frodsham War Memorial http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/2164.
Warrington Cenotaph http://www.iwm.org.uk/memorials/item/memorial/18154.
11Masonic roll of honour names of brethren who fell in the service of their King and country during the Great War, 1914-1918 (1921) Freemasons Hall London.
12Minutes of Gilbert Greenall Lodge May 1918.
The London Gazette, 17 August 1915 Issue:29266 Page:8174
https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29266/page/8174 (Accessed July 2017).
The London Gazette, 28 January 1916 Supplement:29456 Page:1230.
https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/29456/supplement/1230 (Accessed July 2017).
14The Masonic Great War Project http://www.masonicgreatwarproject.org.uk/
http://www.masonicgreatwarproject.org.uk/searchdb.php (Accessed July 2017).
15Blades Geoffrey David (December 2012) The Battle of The Lys, The British Army on the Defensive in April 1918. [Online][/Online] http://nickpowley.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/THESIS.pdf (Accessed July 2017).
16The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment Lancashire Infantry Museum
http://www.lancashireinfantrymuseum.org.uk/the-royal-lancashire-militia/ (Accessed July 2017).
18National Library of Scotland trench maps http://maps.nls.uk/ww1/trenches/index.html (Accessed July 2017).
19Northern France Tourist Office official Website.
20The Library and Museum of Freemasonry.
A Library and Museum of Freemasonry Information Sheet (February 2011) The Hallstone Jewel.
http://freemasonry.london.museum/it/wp-content/uploads/2010/10/The-Hallstone-Jewel.pdf (Accessed July 2017).