David Shackleton, of Staveley, reveals some of the first South Westmorland men to die during the war

On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war against Germany, and by mid August some 100,000 men had been transported to France.

These men were either from the Regular Army or were men recalled from the Reservists.

By the end of 1914, a number of men from or with family connections to South Westmorland had been killed or had died of their wounds.

The first was Sergeant Joshua Hall. He was born at Bowness Institute, where his father was drill instructor.

Joshua was a long-time soldier, had served during the Boer War and was a regular with the 1st Btn Norfolk Regiment. He was killed on August 24, 1914 at Elouges during the Battle of Mons.

Then began the retreat south which ended 150 miles from Mons on September 4.

The EDF then retraced its steps, and by September 13 had re-crossed the River Aisne, and were faced with the formidable obstacle of the Chemin des Dames, a long high ridge, well defended by the Germans.

Thomas Ellis of the 18th Hussars was born at Kendal.

The family lived at 50 Stramongate. His wounded body was taken to the French convent du Beau Secours at Rozay en Brie, where he and two other British soldiers subsequently died.

Some of the nuns there were British and Irish and news of his death on September 6, 1914, was sent home by one of them. The three soldiers now lie in the French Communal cemetery at Voinsles, 55 km south east of Paris.

The men who died during the retreat from Mons and have no known grave are commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Ferte sous Jouarre, one being Joshua Hall.

Two other local men, Isaac Thompson of Preston Patrick, a driver with the Army Service Corps and George Goodall, Kings Liverpool Regiment, whose wife lived at Lowther Street, Kendal are also named on this memorial.

Andrew Hill, a native of Leeds, had lived at Main Street, Staveley, for eight years. He was postman for the Kentmere Valley. A reservist, he immediately joined the 1st West Yorks and was killed on September 20, 1914.

His battalion attacked the Germans at Troyon on the River Aisne. Their casualties that day amounted to 630 officers and men.

Andrew is buried in the French Communal cemetery at Villers en Prayers, along with 32 other British soldiers.

Few local men died serving with the Royal Navy, but Percy Bland of Anchorite House, Kendal, was a sick berth attendant on board HMS Cressy.

On September 22, 1914, he was patrolling off the Dutch coast in company with HMS Aboukir and HMS Hogue.

In less than two hours all three were torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. More than 1,400 seamen perished, among them Percy.

Richard Crayston of the 12th Lancers is buried in Kemmel, a lovely little Belgian village. Born at Kirkby Lonsdale, he and his family had lived at Mint Street, Kendal, then in Lancaster.

Richard worked at Wyman’s bookstall at Windermere railway station, but he was called up, only to be killed October 12, 1914.

There are only 25 British soldiers buried in Kemmel’s church yard, but two of them are from South Westmorland. The other is Captain Miles Radcliffe, of Summerlands.

October 13 saw the deaths of three more local men. On that day The King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, newly arrived in Northern France from the Aisne Department, attacked the Germans, who were occupying the town of Meteren, near Bailleuil.

The town was cleared of Germans at a cost of 100 casualties to the battalion.

The first officer to be killed was Lt Arved Waterhouse. Pte Henry McKend of Holme and Pte Arthur Proctor of Kirkby Lonsdale were also killed. Lt Waterhouse had suffered a peculiarly sad childhood. Born in Vienna on October 4, 1891, he was orphaned by the age of eight and brought up by his aunt and uncle in Liverpool.

After their deaths, he came to live with his aunt Miss S. Waterhouse, at Shenstone.

He held a BA from Oriel College Oxford, where he won the challenge cup for sculling. He played tennis and was also a member of Radley, Windermere and Kendal Golf clubs. In his last letter home to his aunt he wrote: “I look upon this war as a holy one, a war for righteousness, for liberty and for peace and one that it is a great privilege to be able to take part in.”

Waterhouse and Proctor are buried in Meteren Military cemetery. McKend’s body was not found but he is named on the Memorial to the Missing at Ploegsteert as is Captain Higgin Birkett.

Ten days later Captain Miller, of Merlewood, was killed leading his men in an attack at Bixschoote during the first Battle of Ypres. Age 36 at the time of his death, he had married in November 1913, and with his wife lived at Haverbrack, Milnthorpe.

Little or no information is given in the local newspapers of the next three to die.

Frank Noble of Preston Patrick who was married with two children, was the first Border Regiment soldier to be killed in action.

He had been working as a cowman in the Leeds area.

John Hoggarth, whose home address was Stricklandgate, died serving with the 2nd Btn West Riding Regiment. Then Charles Blackshaw of Shaw’s Brown, a regular soldier, was killed serving with the Scots Guards.

October 24 saw the death from wounds of Pte Michael Walker, of Mitchelgate, Kirkby Lonsdale. Wounded in action at Herlies, he was taken to one of the five British Hospitals at Boulogne and was later buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, where 5,000 others now lie.

Another of the first local men was Captain William Higgin Birkett, of Birket Houses, Winster. On October 28, 1914, while serving with 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers he was wounded in the head by a shell fragment.

He left the front line trench to go to the dressing station to have his wound attended to.

His men watched him walk down the road towards the Advanced Dressing Station.

He did not arrive and no trace of him has been found.