SKEALS Commemorates the Great War

This year SKEALS decided to put on an exhibition to coincide with the outbreak of the First World War. It was staged in All Saints’ Church, Easington. The concept was to remember the lives of the men mentioned on the Easington War Memorial.

As it turned out the remembrance went one step further. Nine names appear on the memorial and the idea was to produce a card, with each man’s name, number, details of regiment, age and date of death. Members of SKEALS and other local people produced a floral tribute for each man.

The names of the fallen are — Arthur Carrick, Louis Carrick, Lewis Clubley, Thomas Docherty, John Longhorn, George Marritt, Clarence Sculpher, George Tennison, and John Webster.

A floral tribute
A floral tribute
A sculpture in barbed wire
A sculpture in barbed wire

In fact eleven cards were produced, to include two men who are not listed on the memorial (see later). In addition a number of display boards were created with a selection of photographs comprising recruitment posters, advertising posters, memorabilia from the area, and caricature sketches of officers from Spurn during the First World War.

Some photos were included of various locations in the area, notably the military forts at Kilnsea (Fort Godwin) and Spurn (Green Battery), and the Sound Mirror at Kilnsea. Easington School also contributed boards showing their own interpretation of the events of the War, and the people involved, including two soldiers who returned safely back to Easington.

A soldier who returned safely, Eric Keyworth and his family
A soldier who returned safely, Eric Keyworth and his family

Of particular interest was the name of a man who does not appear on the local War Memorial. A document trail supplied by Mrs Pat Lount showed her grandfather’s participation during the war. The man in question was Private Fred Gilliatt of the 12th East Yorkshire Regiment. On display was his enlistment document (December 1914), notification of missing and wounded (July 1917), two field service post cards, the information that he had died of his wounds on 8th April 1918, notification from the Red Cross on Sept 1918, notification of his pension (February 1919), notification of his place of burial in France (November 1920), and the award of his medals.

Regimental cap badge
Regimental cap badge

His family also received a so-called ‘Death Penny’, which is a large bronze plaque, inscribed with his name.

Death Plaque awarded to Private Fred Gilliatt Medals awarded to Private Fred Gilliatt
Death Plaque and medals awarded to Private Fred Gilliatt

A sad local story is that of Thomas William Copeland Docherty, a Gunner in 251st Northumberland Bde. Royal Field Artillery, who died from his wounds on 11th November 1918, ironically the last day of the war. He was awarded the Military Medal, (Level 3 Gallantry award) and is buried in Easington Cemetery.

Royal Field Artillery badge Grave of Thomas Docherty
Royal Field Artillery badge and Grave of Thomas Docherty, M.M. Holder

Another soldier, whose name does not appear on the war memorial, is that of Lieutenant Francis William Jennings of the 3rd Leicestershire Regiment. He was stationed at Easington, most probably in a training capacity, and was aged 47 years old. A report in the local paper on 27th March 1916, reveals that a mine had washed up on the beach at Easington. Lieutenant Jennings and two other officers, Captain Barr and Captain Wightman, who were both from the Royal Engineers, had gone to inspect the mine and blow it up. A charge was set and ignited, the three officers walked away, and the two Captains took refuge in a crevasse in the cliffs. Lieutenant Jennings, although further away than the other two officers, did not, so when the mine exploded he was killed instantly by a piece of shrapnel penetrating his chest. A doctor was called, but life was extinct. An inquest was held at Rectory Farm Easington. Later a military funeral was held and Lieutenant Jennings was buried in Easington Cemetery.

The Leicestershire cap badge The grave of Francis Jennings
The Leicestershire cap badge and the grave of Francis Jennings

Another story that came to light was that of George William Tennison of Kilnsea, one of three brothers. All three, as was often the case in those days of limited bedrooms, slept in the same room. One night after all retiring to bed they said goodnight to each other and all went to sleep. In the morning they were surprised to find George’s bed was empty. Unbeknown to any of the family George had planned to enlist in the East Yorkshire Regiment of the army, to serve his country, and during the night he had quietly woken up, slipped out of the house, made his way to Hull and signed up. He was killed in action in France on 23rd April 1917, aged just 22 years old. His name is inscribed on the Arras War Memorial in France. Sadly goodnight was the last thing any of them said to him, and they never got to say goodbye. This very moving account must have been repeated thousands of times throughout the country, as many young men volunteered to serve their King and Country, without any hesitation.

At the close of the SKEALS exhibition on the Sunday, an Act of Remembrance was carried out, with the names of the fallen read out, and candles were lit by the congregation for any person known to them who had taken part in the conflict. Over the two-day event refreshments were on sale and, with a collection, a total of £297 was raised for All Saints’ Church.

Mike Welton (December 2014)