Welcome to my blog......

The purpose of this blog is to remember the fallen heroes of the Great War, whose names are recorded on the memorial plaque situated in St Barnabas Church, New Whittington, Chesterfield.

To mark the centenary of World War 1 I aim to research all of the men on the memorial. I hope to ensure that the brave men who gave their lives for their country 100 years ago are remembered and each man's story told.

I would love to hear from anyone who may have information regarding the men; photos, letters or passed down memories. Any descendents are most welcome to contact me and I will provide copies of the research that I have undertaken.

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left to grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them"

For The Fallen,
Laurence Binyon September 1914.

Thursday, 18 June 2015



Private 9705

2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders

Missing presumed dead 18th June 1915

James Craig was the local postman in New Whittington, he was married to local girl Rose Ellen Mitchell.  Rose was the sister of a soldier we have already remembered Arthur Mitchell, who gave his life in the early days of World War 1 on 20th October 1914.  Arthur Mitchell's story can be read here.

The service records for James Craig have survived, although parts are badly damaged.  They state that James was "James E Craig born in Galashiels near Glasgow in 1885".  They also tell that his mother was Sarah of 253 Nottingham Road, Ilkeston and his sister was Esther Craig.

The Craig family....

James was the son of George Craig and Sarah Entwistle.  George was born around 1841 in Northumberland, Sarah around 1841 in Belmont, Lancashire.  The couple married on 31st December 1866 in Govan, Lanark, Scotland.

George was a fellmonger, he travelled the country plying his trade.  Fellmongery was the dealing of hides and skins, the removal of the fur from the hide was also undertaken. 

Once married Sarah accompanied her husband on his travels, the birth places of their eight children reveal the various whereabouts of the couple; Durham, Manchester, Liverpool, Galashiels and even overseas in Bruges, Belgium.  A life on the road would be a tough one, especially withe the young ones in tow; sadly in 1874 baby Thomas died not long after their arrival in Belgium.

And so we can see that the Craig family were well travelled, they would follow the work trading in the animal skin market.  The first U.K. census I have been able to locate the Craig family on was in 1881, when they are living at 16 William Street, Chorley, Lancashire.  All of the family have been recorded as being born in the town of Chorley, but I would suspect that was to make the enumerator's life easier.  George senior was aged 40 years old and still working as a fellmonger.  There is a new addition to the family; baby Esther Craig who was just 1 year old.

Time to settle....

The Craig family finally appear to settle down in the city of Derby, in the East Midlands area of England.  

Esther and James Entwistle Craig were baptised together on 2nd April 1885 at St Barnabas Church in the city of Derby.  The birth of James was actually registered in Derby in 1885 but it is highly possible that the Craig family may well have been living in Galashiels, Scotland at the time of his birth and then moved on to Derby shortly afterwards.

In 1891 the family were living in the Friar Gate area of Derby, George was described as a "traveller", two of his sons George and Alexander are both working as skinners.  James E Craig 6 years old but is recorded as being born in Derby not Galashiels, Scotland.

The family appear to remain in the East Midlands area and settle into family life; Mary Elizabeth married Peter Smedley on 28th September 1892 at St Barnabas Church, Derby.  Sarah Alice married her sweetheart Frank Rowley in 1898 also in Derby.

Sad times for the Craig family....

Death George Craig, Derby Mercury 28th December 1898 page 5
George Craig died on 11th December 1898 aged just 58 years old, the family were living at 16 Campion Street where Sarah remained.  She was living there on the 1901 census with her two son's; George aged 30 years a sorter at the skin yard and James aged 16 years also employed at the skin yard as an apprentice.  Her daughter Kate was aged 24 years old and helped around the house.

Mary E was living at 11 Otter Street, Derby with her husband Peter who was employed in the telegraphics trade.  They had two children by now Peter aged 7 and George aged 2.  Mary's sister Esther was also living with them. 

Alexander was living at 67 Brough street, Derby with his wife Hannah.  The couple had married in 1896 but their were no children recorded.

George married Sarah Hayes in 1902 at Derby.  The couple baptised their first son named George Alexander on 27th October 1902 at St Barnabas Church in Derby.

Kate was the next to marry on 21st January 1903 she married Thomas Henry Llewllyn at St Barnabas Church, Derby.  Thomas was a hairdresser by trade.

Esther Craig married Charles Beighton on 8th February 1905 at St Mary's Church, Ilkeston. 

1911 the eve of war....

Mary and Peter Smedley were living a very respectable life in their 6 roomed house at 11 Otter street.  Peter was still employed as a telegraphist by the Derby Post Office.  The boys had grown up, Peter was 17 years old now and had a good job as a bank clerk.  George was aged 12 years old and still at school.

George and Sarah were living at 48 Slack Lane, Derby.  George was aged 40 years old and still employed as a leather dresser.  They had one son named George Alexander aged 8 years old.

Sarah and her husband Frank were living at 251 Nottingham Road, Ilkeston.  Frank was employed in agriculture and worked on a farm as a horse driver.  They had three daughters; (Annie) Doris aged 12 years, Frances Mary aged 5 years and little Esther aged 2 years.

Alexander was living at 66 Ettwall Street, Derby.  He worked as a leather dresser and was aged 35 years old.  Alexander and Hannah now had a 2 year old son named Leonard James Craig.  They also had a family member of Hannah's staying with them; Bridget Parker a widow aged 60 years old.  Bridget was born in County Roscommon, Ireland.

Kate lived at 95 Longford street, Derby with her hairdresser husband Thomas.  Kate and Thomas had suffered some hard times by now as they had bore 4 children but only 2 survived in 1911; Twins - Thomas Henry and Florence Dorothy aged 5 years old.  They were born on 24th December 1905.  

Esther also lived in Ilkeston not far from her sister Sarah, living at 13 Corporation Street.  Charles was employed as a labourer on the building sites, they had one daughter named Winifred, she was 1 year old.

James' mother Sarah was living with her daughter Kate and her young family.  Sarah was aged 70 years old by now, Kate and her husband Thomas had lost two daughters; Esther and Kate.

Military life for James Craig....

James does not appear on the 1911 census.  He had left his family far behind when on 27th December 1904 he had joined the army the East Lancashire Regiment.  Private 8384. 
Service records James Craig
His medical was at Derby on that very same day, he was described as 5ft 6 5/4, 137lbs with grey eyes, light brown hair and a fresh complexion.  James had "5 small tattoo's on left forearm, scar on cheek and 2 scars right butt(ock)"  His religion was also recorded as Presbyterian. 

James' time with the East Lancashire Regiment was short and on 17th February 1905 he transferred to the Gordon Highlanders, James was now Private 9705.  He remained in the United Kingdom to undertake his training for most of 1905 until on 26th November 1905 when the regiment waved goodbye to the cold winter for sunnier climes; embarked for East India.

As far as the service records show James carried out all of his army life in East India, returning on 22nd October 1912.  He was posted to the reserves on 23rd October 1912 until he was called upon once more on 4th August 1914.

Civvy life for James....

James E Craig in the Post Office Appointment Books 1913
James took up employment as a postman, his brother in law Peter Smedley was a highly respected member of the post office so he may well have help James to obtain this employment. 

Maybe it was as James delivered the post to the residents of New Whittington that he met Miss Rose Ellen Mitchell.  The young couple married on 15th June 1914 at St Bartholmew's Church in the village.  James was a little older than Rose at 29 years old, she was only 19.  The parish register tells that James's father George was a deceased leather dresser and that Rose's father William was a miner.  Rose's siblings were witnesses William Henry and Lucy Mitchell.  

Life must have been treasured for the newly weds in those few months before war was declared.  They would listen to the radio and read the local newspapers and know that there was unrest in Europe, that if war was declared then James would have to return to the Gordon Highlanders and leave his new wife behind. 

It wasn't long before the Craig family were to hear the patter of tiny feet, along came James Gordon Craig.  He was baptised on 12th November 1914.  I wonder if James was present at the baptism?

James' war....

When James had completed his service "with the colours" in 1912 he was placed in the army reserve, which deemed that should a national emergency occur he agreed to be called for service.  And so, it would come as no surprise when on the very day that war was declared on Germany, 4th August 1914, he received his call to arms.

Mobilsiation was speedy and by the end of the month James had joined the British Expeditionary Force (B.E.F.) in France, landing on 29th August.  James was initially attached to the 1st Battalion who had arrived in France on 14th August, the 2nd Battalion were in Egypt at the outbreak of WW1 and so didn't join the theatre of war until 7th October when they landed at Zeebrugge, Belgium.

A newspaper article states that James took part in the heavy fighting at Mons and the Battle of Aisne.  The 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders were present at these battles as part of the 8th Brigade, 3rd Division.

In October 1914 James was injured whist the battalion were fighting at La Bassee, he was transferred back to England and hospitalised at Aldershot whilst he recovered from his injuries.  Differing accounts state that he was wounded in either his left foot or as a result of a bullet through his thigh.  Once on the mend he was transferred to the 3rd Reserve Battalion which was stationed at Aberdeen throughout the war.

James recovered well enough to be deemed fit for active service and on 25th May 1915 he returned to the front; joining the 2nd Battalion Gordon Highlanders.  Just days later on 31st May the battalion relieved the Canadian 12th Regiment in the trenches near to Festubert, once there they were face with a terrible sight "all lines very dirty - dead bodies unburied, equipment both British and German everywhere".  And so, they set to tidying up the area "equipment collected, dead buried and the front line redoubts connected up".

The battalion were caught off guard whilst burying the dead, when they accidently hit a buried German bomb; five men were wounded, one man died of his wounds sustained.  The men were under heavy gun fire during this time, "casualties heavy during the day", they would be glad when on 4th June they were relieved and moved on to billets near Hinges.  The following day, after resting the men marched off again to different billets at Bellerive, described as "excellent billets in a beautiful country, with farms full of stock".  James would hopefully enjoy his reprieve in this pleasant area, whilst there the men were given time to relax and sleep, attended church service and even had a game of water polo against the 2nd Scots Guards; unfortunately the Gordons lost, the score was 3-2.  The war diary notes "Battalion sports took place: a great success".

Spirits lifted, it was time to go back into the line of fire; on 13th June the battalion moved via Loisne to arrive in the trenches at Le Plantin the following day.  At 6 p.m. on 15th June the battalion took part in the large-scale attack on the German army located eat of Givenchy, the battalion would form the central wave along with the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards.  The attack was a tough task, the German front line in this area was impressive with deeply dug trenches.

Private 9705 James Craig was officially recorded as being killed in action on 18th June 1915, the 2nd Battle of Givenchy.  At the end of JuneRose received a letter from a comrade stating that he was with James when on 17th he was wounded "by a bullet having struck him in the stomach".  He went on to give Rose hope, adding that James had been taken to a place of safety.

On the day James was reported missing presumed dead, the18th June 1915 the Battalion was in action, with an order to "attack and capture the German position from Givenchy to Chile-St-Roche".  The battle took place from 15th until 18th June 1915.  At some time during this battle James went missing, presumed dead. 

The entry in the war diary reads "the battalion appear to have been heavily engaged, losing 5 Officers and 150 men in casualties".

Sadly, no further letters from James ever fell on the doorstep of Rose's house at Daisy Bank, New Whittington.  She wrote to the War Office for clarification of her beloved husbands whereabouts to no avail and so a photograph of James was distributed in France.  Sadly, some men of the 2nd Battalion recognised James and confirmed that he the sad news that he had been killed in action.

James was awarded the 1914 Star and clasp, also known as the Mons Star, the clasp signifies that he was present during heavy fighting between 5th August and 22nd November 1914.  The recipients of the 1914 Star can be remembered for their diligent work in holding back the German advance whilst Britain trained its new recruits for active service.

Private James Craig is remembered at the Le Touret Memorial in France, Panel 39-41.

James was awarded the Victory, British, 14 Star and clasp for his service during WW1.  His total military service amounted to 10 years and 174 days.

Post Office Memorial Chesterfield
The memorial to the Men of Chesterfield Post Office may include James Craig; the inscription reads "I E Craig of the Gordon Highlanders, 18-01-15".  The first initial and month of death are however inscribed incorrectly if this is the case.

Life went on....

The news that James was reported as killed in action with no body to identify or a fitting burial must have been a difficult concept for poor Rose to bear.  For the young widow it seems to have left her with more anxiety than had she known that her beloved was laid to rest in peace.  Sadly within James' service records is a hand written note which was a reply to a War Office's earlier memo, dated 8th May 1916 it reads....

" (I) am sorry to say I have not
had anymore news regarding
my husband it is now getting
(on) for twelve months it seems
strange know one (sic) seems to
now any think (sic) of him!
I remain
yours truly
Mrs R E Craig"

The words and date give us an indication of the heartbreaking time Rose was enduring.   James was reported several times in the Derbyshire Times, telling that he was missing in action.  But on 4th September 1915, nearly three months after his death, the sad news was written in print; that James had been killed in action on June 18th.  The news had been passed on to Rose by a fellow comrade of James a Corporal in the Gordon Highlanders.

What became of Rose in the coming years I have not been able to confirm; there is a marriage registered in 1919 for a Rose Ellen Craig to Walter Bostock but I have not purchased the marriage certificate to ascertain that this is correct.  If this was Rose then she still signed for the medals due to James in 1919, 1921 and 1922 in the name of "R E Craig".  Rose may well have felt it her duty as wife to James to honour him and sign as she would have remained had it not been for the sad realities of war.

I have not found any definite life story for James Gordon Craig, he may have married late in life to Louisa Cummins in 1967.  There is a death registered for a James Gordon Craig in Chesterfield in 1977.
Rose Bostock is registered as deceased in 1974 aged 79 years old.

The Craig Family....

Sarah Craig - James mother Sarah died in 1917, she was aged 75 years old.

Mary Elizabeth Craig was to suffer her own tragic loss, the death of her eldest son Peter.  He was serving with the 2 5th Regiment Sherwood Foresters, Private 202007.  Peter was killed on 4th April 1917. Peter was aged just 23 years old.  Peter is remembered at the Vadencourt British Cemetery, Maissemy, France.

Mary's husband Peter continued to run the telegraphic service at the Post Office.  His retirement was noted in the Derby Daily Telegraph on 3rd June 1926, when he is said to have worked in the business for 45 years.  He was commended for his work during the years he was in charge of the Edensor Village, owned by The Duke of Devonshire.  He was particulary noted for his work in 1904 when the Duke received the King and Queen of Portugal. 

Derby Daily Telegraph 2nd June 1936

Mary and Peter lived at Gorsey Bank in Wirksworth, but later into their retirement they moved to Allersley, Coventry.  Their remaining son George ran the Post Office on Osmoston Road in Derby.  Peter died in 1936, his death was recorded in the Derby Daily Telegraph on 2nd June 1936. 

Derby Daily Telegraph, 9th November 1939

Mary died at her son George's home, the Post Office at Derby.  She was buried at Allesley Cemetery, Coventry.

George Craig  may have died in 1940, his wife Sarah in 1945. 

Sarah Alice Craig died at Ilkeston in 1912.  She was only 40 years old.  The death may have been related to childbirth but without the death certificate I cannot confirm this - her youngest daughter Phyllis was born in that same year of 1912. 

Alexander Leonard Craig  also lost his life during World War 1.  He was serving with the 10th Battalion Sherwood Foresters, Private 14418.  He died of his wounds on 4th September 1915. He is buried at Lijssentheok Military Cemetery, Belgium. 

An article has already been written on the service of Alexander Leonard Craig during World War 1 - it can be read here.

Kate Craig and her husband Thomas went on to have another healthy child, a daughter born in 1916 named Nora Kathleen.  Kate died in 1953 at Shardlow, Derby.

Esther Craig died in Ilkeston in 1942, her husband Charles Beighton died the year later in 1943.

If you may be connected to this family or have any further information on James Entwistle Craig, his wife Rose Ellen, his son James Gordon Craig or his siblings / parents please do either leave comments via the pen icon below or drop me an email.

Further information from Nicola Rippon -

Sarah Craig, sister of James Entwistle Craig
with kind permission of Nicola Rippon
The Craig side of the family came from the North East - around Weardale were they were lead miners, while the Entwistles hailed from the Bolton area, although James' maternal grandmother was Irish.
Sarah Alice was my great grandmother. You are correct in that she married Frank Rowley, who was the brother of one of her near-neighbours in Campion Street in Derby. 
They had four daughters: Doris, May (Frances), Esther and Phyllis (my Nana). 
Frank had been the owner of a beer house but, by the time Phyllis was born, had fallen on somewhat hard times and was, rather than working in agriculture, actually driving horses at the local ironworks. Sarah gave birth to Phyllis on 20 October 1912 but died only a few days later from of the birth. Frank was, separated from much of his family, looking after three young daughters and the only wage-earner and with a tiny baby to look after, as well as the immense grief he must have been feeling, found looking after the entire family too much. My Nana, Phyllis, was adopted by her uncle and aunt (Frank's brother William and his wife Jane) who took her to live in Derby. 

Phyllis married Alec Rippon and lived out her life in Derby. She died in 1994.
Doris stayed in Ilkeston and had three sons, May and Esther moved back to Derby with Frank. May married John Spencer and Esther married Claude Eric Pountain who was a professional musician and the brother of crooner Denny Dennis (Eric used the stage name of Barrie Gray). During WW2 he served in the merchant navy and was killed at sea when his ship was sunk.

Ref and further reading -

Parish Registers
Medal Rolls
Service Records www.ancestry.co.uk
Soldiers who died in the Great War
Newspaper articles - Derbyshire Times & Derby Daily Telelgraph
CWGC http://www.cwgc.org

Derbyshire Record Office -
Baptism James Entwistle Craig - ref M538
Marriage James and Rose Craig - ref M532
Baptism James Gordon Craig (noted in registers as Entwistle) - ref M531

Post Office Heritage - war memorials http://www.postalheritage.org.uk/collections/memorials/

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