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Saturday
Oct052013

Bk2 THE PEACOCK FAMILY

THESE PEACOCK FAMILY SHORT BIOGRAPHIES NEED MORE WORK BUT AS I AM HOPING TO GET BOOK 2 TO THE PRINTER IN THE NEXT MONTH I HAVE DECIDED TO PUT THEM ON THE WEBSITE IN THEIR PRESENT STATE IN CASE ANYONE CAN AMEND AND ADD TO THE STORIES BEFORE PRINTING. I HAVE OMITTED IMAGES AWAITING PERMISSION TO USE

 

The Peacock Family. A Tale of Many Colours

 

The Peacock family is one of the oldest in Ringstead, stretching back at least into the seventeenth century. We will pick up the family with Thomas Peacock who married Susannah Smith on 6th April 1793 In Ringstead Parish Church. The couple had six children before Susannah’s death, aged 46, on 19th September 1813. Thirteen Years later Thomas, a local farmer, married again to Elizabeth Mayes and had a further five children. Seven of the eleven children died before they were twenty years old, most in infancy. Only Elizabeth, who married Thomas Abbott and Thomas from the first marriage and Reuben and Richard from the second survived to have children of their own. Of these, Reuben died when he was only thirty-three years old.

A simplified chart of the Peacock family.

 Main people covered are shown in bold and siblings not shown. Birth dates approximate.

 

William Peacock (1831 – 1891)

We will be looking at some of the descendants of Thomas, from the first marriage, who was born on the 8th May 1807 and Richard from the second, born in about 1837 and baptised ion the 26th May of that year. Two step brothers born thirty years apart.

Thomas junior had married Sarah Ward on the 12th October 1830 and first we will look at their eldest son, William, born some six years before his Uncle Richard. There are two baptisms for William and often this would indicate a “replacement” son but as there is no sign of a burial it seems that he was indeed baptised twice, first on the 6th November 1831 and then again with his brother John on the 11th November 1832.

This double blessing did not set a seal on William’s life and too much water was not to be the cause of his problems. His mother, Sarah, died in 1840, just a few months after the birth of a sixth child, Charles. The 1841 Census shows Thomas, at thirty-five (possibly thirty-four) a young widower with five children, aged from to two years old. Living with them there appears to be Robinson Phillips, twenty years old, and probably acting as a housekeeper to the young family. By 1851 Thomas is still a widower and his eldest and youngest sons are shoemakers but John and Robert are agricultural labourers like their father. The only daughter, Susannah is sixteen and not shown with any occupation. It seems likely that she has now taken over the role of housekeeper.

The first time that William seems to have troubled the law was shortly after the Census, on the 22nd July 1851. William Weekley Ball, although he had not been charged with the murder of his mistress, Lydia Attley, was believed by many of the locals to be guilty. Local animosity forced him to leave Ringstead and set up business again in Ramsey in Huntingdonshire. Ball was trying to leave the village in a wagon piled up with his furniture and possessions. It appears that there was an angry crowd seeing him off but also some friends. Thomas Dunmore, a tailor, tried to stop people from cutting the ropes that held the furniture on the wagon but William Peacock immediately struck Thomas on the head with his fist. At the Petty Sessions William was fined five shillings with costs of £1 8s. 6d.

Ten years later finds Thomas, aged 53 and still a widower with William, at 27, now a shoemaker, as is youngest son Charles. Susan, at 24 (actually 26) was still a housekeeper and this is a role that she keeps for the rest of her life.

On 2nd April 1870 the Northampton Mercury reported that:

On Saturday last the 26th Thomas Peacock, labourer, of Ringstead, aged sixty years, was found dead in bed. He had been living with his daughter and two sons. Of late he has been as well as usual and never complained. The previous evening he went to bed in his usual good health.

The three siblings never married and lived together for most of their lives. We do not know whether alcohol played any part in William’s attack on Thomas Dunmore but we do know that it was going to bring him into constant trouble for much of his life. There is a later case of drunkenness involving his brother Charles and Robert too has brushes with the law but it was William who could be rightly called, if a Peacock can be, the black sheep of the family.

On 11th January 1869 William first appeared in the Northampton Mercury charged with drunkenness and riotous behaviour on the 8th December at Thrapston Petty Sessions. Other convictions were also proved against him and he was ordered to pay a fine and costs amounting to 14s. 6d. and to find sureties for his future conduct and in default to be committed to Northampton Gaol for two months. One can only guess that he spent his time in prison.

He came up again before the courts in September of the same year when, along with Noah Dicks and Alfred Wilson he was charged with drunkenness on the 21st August in Ringstead. The Mercury reported

Defendant did not appear, and service of the summons was proved in the usual manner, and the usual process resorted to.

By 1871 William was lodging with shoemaker William Bull and his wife in Shop Street and is now shown as an agricultural labourer. His three unmarried siblings, Susan, Robert and Charles are still living together in Church Street. Has William’s behaviour caused a falling-out? It is likely that the number of Ringstead men brought to trial for drunkenness would have been affected by the attitude of the local police constable and whether he was stationed in the village. Certainly with William there seems a gap in his court appearances in Thrapston but there is another explanation for this break.

There is a police record of a William Peacock aged forty from Huntingdon Gaol. He had been found guilty of stealing a hat and dog chain on 15th July 1871 and sentenced to six weeks hard labour. His intended place of residence after he has served his sentence is given as Ringstead. We do get a rare description of an ordinary person from this time both from his written particulars but also from the new procedure of photographing prisoners. Petty criminals often did not have to move far to leave their past behind and often took on numerous aliases. These photographs were part of an attempt to stop this deception.

William was described as 5 foot. 7½ inches tall with dark brown hair, grey eyes and with a fresh complexion. The photograph also shows his mutton chop sideboards and also the bulky coat and waistcoat and battered hat. Protection from the elements was more important than being too hot even in July when we must assume that this photograph was taken.

By 1881 William is back living, as head of the house, with his sister and brothers. It confirms that he is now a farm labourer. Unfortunately either he has avoided the local courts or his drinking once more seems to take over and he falls foul of the law. Inspector Tarry charged him with being drunk and disorderly on the 7th September 1881 and he was fined £1 with 10s. 6d. costs and committed for one month in default of payment. He was again accused of being very drunk and abusive by P.C. Elias brown on 20th February 1883. He did not appear in court and was fined 20 shillings with 10 shillings costs or a month in gaol in default. There was a similar appearance and sentence in April 1884. In January 1888 he was accused of stealing an elm pole worth two pence on the previous December 22nd. The prosecutor withdrew the case and William was discharged with a caution. A few months later, however, he was again accused of stealing some wooden rails, the property of the Reverend G.H. Capron. The local police constable had found two of the poles in his barn but William claimed that: 

                . . .  he thought the rails had floated down with the flood from Addington or Irthlingborough.

He was sentenced to fourteen days hard labour.

It seems that the drinking as well as the hard labour took their toll. On Monday 2nd March 1891 the Mercury reported:

On Monday morning a man named William Peacock was suddenly taken ill. The doctor was sent for, but he died a few hours after. No inquest was held, the doctor being able to certify the cause of death.

The three remaining siblings, Robert Susan and Charles never married and continued living together into old age. The 1891 Census recorded them now in Denford Road and in 1901 they are living at 3 Drayton Cottages. Charles, the youngest, who had been summoned for drunkenness died first in 1906 and Susan(ah) the following year.  By 1911, Robert, now 70, and still a farm labourer, is living by himself in Agutter’s Farm Cottages. He died in 1915.

References

Ringstead Censuses (www.Ancestry.co.uk and www.rushdenheritage.co.uk ).

Ringstead Parish Registers (NRO and www.rushdenheritage.co.uk ).

Northampton Mercury (www.britishnewspaperarchive.com ).

Victorian Crime and Punishment. (http://vcp.e2bn.org ).

 

John Thomas Peacock (1863 – 1896)

 

As we have seen William Peacock and three of his siblings never married and spent most of their lives living together. He had one brother, John, baptised, with him in 1832, who did marry and have a large family. John married Jane Bates on 25th July 1856 in Ringstead Church and they had eight children. We will be looking at two of these children, John Thomas, usually known as Thomas, born in 1863 and baptised on the 22nd May 1864 and a child of his younger brother, Arthur Henry, baptised three years later.

John Peacock, the father was a shoemaker. He and his wife, Jane were living in Church Street in 1871 with children William, aged 14 and an apprentice shoemaker, Eliza 10, (John) Thomas 8, Arthur 4 and youngest child Agnes two years old. By 1881 Thomas had also become an apprentice shoemaker. Also living in Church Street was an army shoemaker called Michael Bellamy. He had been born in Sudborough but had married Ringstead girl Charlotte Childs and by 1881 there were seven children. Martha Ellen, the eldest, was seventeen years old and was a shoe stitcher. She like John Thomas preferred to use her second name.

The two obviously got to know each other because they married, both aged 20, on the 4th October 1883 in the local church. Perhaps surprisingly, at this late date, when John Thomas could have attended the village school he made his mark on the Marriage Register although Martha Ellen signed her name in a clear hand. By 1891 the couple had four equally spaced children with Albert, the eldest seven and the youngest Oris (Horace) just one month old. There was to be one more child, called Thomas but a terrible tragedy struck the family before his birth

Ellen, pregnant with Thomas went to bed at about 11 o’clock on the 15th January 1896. She left her husband sitting by the fire reading by the light of a paraffin oil lamp. A few minutes later, he finished reading and started up the stairs to bed, carrying the lamp to light his way. Ellen heard a shout and then the crash of the lamp falling. She rushed out of their bedroom to see what had happened.

She saw Thomas enveloped in flames and ran back into her bedroom and opened the window and screamed for help. Amos Weekley, a neighbour, heard her screams and forced the door open. He found John Thomas in flames and running about the house. Amos helped put out the flames and Thomas told him that that he had trod on his long shoemaker’s apron on the stairs and fell forward on the lamp which at once caught fire and ignited his clothes.

A doctor was fetched and Thomas was taken to Northampton Infirmary suffering from severe burns to his right thigh and both hands. He survived for some six weeks but died on 27th February from “the shock to his system and the burns”. His long survival may indicate that it was an infection which finally killed him for this was still the most usual cause of death in burns cases.

At the inquest the jury returned a verdict of accidental death and the coroner, in summing up:

. . . commented on the regrettably large number of accidents caused through people using improper and unsafe lamps. He did not wish to praise any particular lamps but it was a grave misfortune that so many people had common lamps which easily caught fire, while there were so many kinds which did not allow the oil to escape into the flames.

Ellen was left a widow with her young family and by 1901 she was living at 30 High Street in Ringstead with her five children aged from seventeen to four. Her younger sister, Ethel, a boot closer, was staying with her, perhaps also helping with the children. A year later, Ellen married widower Benjamin Phillips, a shoe worker in a local factory. In 1911 Benjamin and Ellen are living with Bert, Benjamin’s young son from his first marriage and four of Ellen’s children. Bessie aged 21 is a heel builder and Thomas at fourteen is a “factory lad”. Horace, aged 20, is working on a farm but it is Cyril who is 21 and whose occupation is something of a surprise, for he is a hairdresser. We will come back to Cyril in a later biography.

 

References

Northampton Mercury 6th March 1896; 1st January 1897. (www.britishnewspaperarchive.com )

Ringstead Censuses. (www.rushdenheritage.co.uk and www.Ancestry.co.uk ).

Ringstead Parish Registers. (www.rushdenheritage.co.uk and NRO).

 

 

Richard Peacock (c 1836 – 1917)

 

We will now return to Richard who was the youngest son of farmer, Thomas Peacock (born about 1763) and his second wife Elizabeth Mayes.  He was the step brother of Thomas junior whose descendants we have so far considered.

The 1841 Census Ringstead Census shows Thomas, aged seventy-five and now of independent means. Living with him is his second wife, Elizabeth and children Reuben (13), Hannah (12), Catherine (10), Mary (8) and Richard (6), Thomas died on April 22nd 1847 aged eighty-five.  The 1851 Census shows Elizabeth (58) as a widow and housekeeper with her sons, Reuben (23) and Richard (16) both journeyman shoemakers. Since the 1841 Census this second family have had some tragic losses. Mary died on June 11th, aged ten, Catherine aged fifteen on October 2nd of the same year. Hannah died aged eighteen died a few months after her elderly father on December 4th 1847.

More sadness followed for the 1861 Census shows the oldest child, Reuben, aged thirty-two, working as a carpenter, with his wife Mary from Marker Harborough.  A few weeks after the Census was taken Reuben too died, leaving only Richard as the only surviving child of Thomas’s second marriage. Three of the six children of Thomas’s first marriage to Susannah Smith also died in infancy so it was a family used to sadness.

Richard married Mary Ann Gray, daughter of a shepherd from Titchmarsh on 13th October 1856. Mary had worked as a cook at Clapton Hall prior to her marriage. The 1861 Census shows the couple with their three-year-old daughter Ellen. They are living a few doors away from his stepbrother, Thomas, some twenty-seven years his senior and recently widowed and beyond him live his oldest brother, Reuben who has only a few weeks to live. In the other direction lives Thomas’s son, John with his wife, Jane, and their two children. For good or ill they are rarely far from other Peacock family members through the passing Censuses.

The 1871 Census shows Richard and Mary in Church Street with their four children. He is now thirty-six and a shoemaker and grocer. Next door are his stepbrother’s unmarried children, Susan, Robert and Charles. Although the Census shows Richard as a grocer it is likely that his wife, with eldest daughter Ellen run the shop while Richard carried on with his craft. The 1881 Census recognized this by showing Mary as the grocer with possibly daughters Sarah and Elizabeth now helping in the shop and also with the two-year-old daughter, Annie. Ellen, the eldest had married shoemaker Ebenezer Mayes in 1876.

By 1891, now fifty-six, Richard is shown as the grocer and it may be that he had given up his shoemaking either through age or the scarcity of work in the industry. The 1901 Census tells us that they were still grocers and that their address was 21 Church Street. Only the youngest daughter, Annie, is still at home and working as a boot closer. Living next door now is Arthur Peacock, the grandson of Richard’s stepbrother, Thomas, with his wife Emma and their eleven-year-old son Arthur. We will write of him next.

May Ann died on 15th February 1910, aged 73 and the 1911 Census still has seventy-six year old Richard working as a shopkeeper on his own. It may surprise some younger readers that even until the 1970s many larger villages would be dotted with small grocery and sweet shops, perhaps with some other sideline, which were kept going usually by elderly women. They would have relied mainly on their longstanding older customers and profits would have been very low and dwindling.

Richard died on April 18th 1917 aged 82 and he and his wife are buried in the Ringstead Cemetery under a solid headstone with two hands , one perhaps welcoming the other into the afterlife, carved at the top. For the most part it is the headstones of the tradesmen and farmers that have survived from this period. The stones of ordinary shoemakers and labourers, if they ever existed, have largely disappeared.

 

Arthur Edward Raymond Peacock (1890 – 1914)

Throughout the nineteenth century, especially when agriculture or shoemaking were suffering hard times, young men from Ringstead left to join the army, marines or navy. Some returned but many settled elsewhere or died in service. Two of the Peacock family served in the First World War but had very different experiences.

Arthur Henry Peacock was the son of John and Jane (nee Bates) Peacock and the grandson of Thomas and Sarah. He was born on the 18th August 1866 and baptised on 23rd March 1867 in the parish church. John had become a shoemaker and the 1871 Census finds the family living in Church Street with their five surviving children. Two girls called Sarah had died in infancy.

Arthur was the youngest son and by 1881, aged 14, he had also started work as an army shoemaker. He probably married Eliza Emma Sophia Bugby from Raunds sometime around 1890. It is a little unclear because, probably due to a bureaucratic anomaly, the marriage of Arthur and Emma, (as she was usually known), is not on the National Register of Marriages. On 3rd May 1890 their first child, Arthur Edward Raymond Peacock, was born. The couple only had a further two children, both sons, Leslie Montrose, baptised on 15th May 1903 and Harold William, who was born on the 14th February 1908. This would normally have meant that other children had died in infancy but the 1911 Census makes clear that they only had three children, and had lost no other children. Of course there may have been early miscarriages but as increasingly most children survived infancy, and there was increasing access to contraception the large Victorian families began to decline and the small modern family began to emerge.

Arthur Edward Raymond, always known to his family as Raymond, perhaps because the military boot industry was going through one of its periods of depression, signed up with the Northamptonshire Regiment. After the Boer War a recruit could sign up for twelve years but opt to be on active service only for the first three years. He then would have nine years in the Reservists but, in time of war, would have an obligation to return to the “Colours”. I have sought advice on the Great War Forum website and Stebie9173 advised that that Raymond was almost certainly a Special Reservist who had signed up  for a “Six Year Special Reserve” term.

His Regimental Number 3/8607 is a Special Reserve number dating from January 1909 and the first letter we have from him is from “The Barracks”, which was the Gibraltar Barracks on Northampton, and dated January 1909. This starts:

                Dear Mother and Father

I hope that you are in the best of health as it leaves me the same. I received your letter with love and was very pleased with it. The reason I have not written before was because I thought I would wait till I could send something. I went to the football match on Saturday, but I could not see Dad, and when he came down to the barracks with the other chaps it fair made me jump I was so glad.

This affectionate letter assures his mother that he is getting enough to eat and he is sorry that his baby brother is not well. He signs off with nine kisses and:

                PS.          Tell Ralph the barber his fags were alright and thank him for them.

                PPS.       Give my love to Rose and the others [and another seven kisses]

Raymond’s letters tend to follow this pattern but with glimpses of his army life. The letter in April remarks:

While I am writing this I am very near asleep for we are digging trenches this morning. I think I shall get a job in the sewer when I come home.

This time he fills half of the page after signing off with kisses for his younger brother, Leslie and Larry [Harold].

Raymond would have served a five month training period and in May he tells his parents that he has paid 2 shillings and 10 pence to get his boots repaired. He also fills in a little more detail about army life:

We have to get up at half-past five in the morning, and we are done for the day at 1 o’clock. But I shan’t have much more of it as we only have about a month to do.

A second letter in May tells how he is “counting the time” to when he comes home. He also adds:

I have sent a little for Mr. Webb*, and you might order me a couple of white shirts size 4, ready for when I come home. If you order any be sure and have them with removable collars, and don’t have them too dear. Glad to hear that the diptheria [sic] is no worse. There is about 20 of us taking our kit in next week, so I shall be home a week on Friday.

                *This may refer to Alfred Webb, a draper in Denford.

He would have attended a trainee’s musketry course from the 18th June until the 11th July 1914 followed by a summer training camp at Landguard, near Felixstowe in Suffolk until the end of the month. He was obviously looking forward to getting home for he wrote:

We shall be home a week today, so you need not trouble about that, We start from here about half-past six in the morning, and get to Northampton about half-past twelve, so that I reckon I shall be home for tea on Saturday

He also adds:

I am sorry to here [sic] about J. Scholes little girl,* and I hope that you will mind and not let Leslie go out to [sic] much. I hope that he is alright, and the Baby better. I have sent 7/6 more, so that I think I shall have a little for August. I think that is all.

                                                                From Your Ever

                                                                                Loving son

                                                                                     Raymond

 

*This refers to the local baker daughter, Rita Mary Scholes, who had died aged ten years old.

 

Below are four rows of kisses for his young brothers. Leslie and Larry

That would have been the end of his initial full-time training and he would have been a part-time soldier from then on, rather as in the Territorial Army today. He would have had to have had a full-time job and by the 1911 Census he was back in Ringstead working in a local factory as an “Army Boot Stitcher”. The days of the home based hand-sewn army boot makers are numbered and his father, now 45, is unemployed.

There is a letter written in 1912 although the date is rather ambiguous. In it Raymond tells his parents:

They gave us our own insurance cards yesterday, and they are going to put two stamps on it, and they stop us 8d. Dad might ask Joe Smith, about me going in the Trade, so when you write let me know what he says. I hope Leslie and Larry are alright. I am sending another order for 5/- as that is better than losing it. I am glad Dad done alright at Thrapston.

It is possible that this letter was, like the others from the army while he was doing the compulsory annual training, but it may be that Raymond was working away from home in a factory, perhaps in Northampton.

The 1911 National Insurance Act introduced the idea of benefits based on contributions paid by the employed persons and the employer. Stamps were put onto a card and if a person lost their job they were “given their cards” to pass on to the next employer. At first this was for unemployment benefit only and a scheme ran alongside it administered by “approved societies” which could include trade unions. I think that the “trade” that Raymond mentions in his letter means trade union and we know that he joined the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives and his card for 1913/1914 seems to be filled in until the end of December 1913 but from January 10th 1914 it appears that he does not pay his eight pence weekly contribution .The collector seems to have signed each week across the Sick Pay and Unemployed Pay columns. Was Raymond out of work or was he taking part in the military training exercises of 1913?

On 8th August 1914 the Special Reservists were called up and Raymond would have reported to the Depot at the Gibraltar Barracks in Northampton. Raymond did not go with the main force of the 1st Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment to France. They had sailed on the S.S. Galeka, on the 12th August 1914 arriving at Le Havre on the following morning. Raymond would probably been on the second draft which was sent after the first major casualties were suffered by the Regiment. It consisted of some seventy men under the command of Lieutenant Ralph Davison. Raymond’s medal card shows that the arrived in the “Theatre of War” on 12th September 1914, although it was not until the 21st that the draft finally joined up with the 1st Battalion.

There is a tantalising note which seems to have been written by Raymond as he waited ready to go to France. Unfortunately it was scribbled on rough grey card in soft pencil and time and wear has made much of it is difficult to decipher.  It appears to say:

                                                                                Southampton [?]

                                Dear Dad [?] & Mother

                                Just a line hoping you are all well, as it leaves me the same.

I am writing this in the train [?] while it is in the dock [?] 

We sail [?] in the morning [Rest completely undecipherable].

                                                With Love

                                                                Ray

                                                                    X X X

 

Unfortunately this lack of clarity was also apparent in the official record of Raymond’s movements at the time and his mother, Emma, after his letters stopped, tried to find out what had happened to him. She received formal letters from the Infantry Record Office, the local Member of Parliament Stopford Sackville and the War Office assuring her that Raymond was not on any casualty list. This continued into 1915 and we are not sure when finally Arthur and Emma were told that their son had died just  a few weeks after he had arrived in France.

Raymond would not have taken part in the early engagement with the Germans at the sugar refinery at Troyan. At this time the battles were open with only scrapes for the soldiers to lie in. It was often close quarters hand-to-hand fighting rather than the grinding stalemate of trench warfare that quickly developed. The Northamptonshires had been relieved and were resting behind the lines from 19th September and it is there that Raymond‘s draft probably joined them. There had been heavy rain and the trenches then being built were filling with mud. The Battalion returned to the front on the 29th September and remained there until mid October. We can only guess at how a sensitive young man was affected by entering this terrible world of mud with the constant noise of the artillery and the sight and fear of death. Raymond was killed on the 16th October 1914. He was buried at Vendresse British War Cemetery, the neat white stone concealing the confusions of his death.

Raymond was awarded the Victory Medal, the British Medal and the 1914 Star and Clasp. His mother received the back pay due to Raymond and a small pension as the War ended in 1918. Emma died on 2nd February 1956 aged 87 and Arthur Peacock died of heart failure and old age, aged 90, in Glapthorne Road Hospital, Oundle on 12th March 1957. They are buried together in Ringstead Cemetery.

 

References

My special thanks to Kevin Varty for allowing me to copy the letters and other documents of Raymond Peacock and to Janice Morris for alerting me to their existence and acting as the agent in this process. My thanks also to Stebie9173 (Steve) particularly and also Grumpy (on the excellent Great War Forum website) for explaining the likely context of Raymond’s letters and adding more detail for me.

Ringstead Parish Registers (NRO and www.Rushdenheritage.co.uk )

Ringstead Censuses (NRO and www.Rushdenheritage.co.uk )

Raymond’s Military Records (www.Ancestry.co.uk).

Raymond’s Birth Certificate

www.rootschat.com/forum . (On the Northamptonshire Regiment at the start of First World War.)

 

 

Thomas Cyril Peacock (1887 - 1964)

In telling of the life of John Thomas Peacock and his tragic death after he had been badly burnt by an upset oil lamp, we briefly mentioned his second son Cyril, born on the 1st November 1886. Cyril first followed his father into the shoe trade and is shown as such in the 1901 Census. His father died in 1896 and his mother, left to look after a young family, had married widower Benjamin Phillips in 1902

Cyril had been baptised Thomas Cyril but he was known by his middle name, probably to distinguish him from his father who tended to use his own second name. At some time after the death of his father, perhaps because of difficult times in the military boot trade, he had become a hairdresser. The 1911 Census shows him living with his mother and stepfather but a year later on August 12th 1912 he married Rose Brayfield in Raunds Parish Church

Cyril joined up on 10th December 1915 and became part of an Army Reserve Training Battalion. He had expressed an interest on his Attestation Form that he would like to be considered for the Royal Flying Corps which had only been formed some three years earlier and consisted of balloons and aircraft. I t seems from his later career that  Cyril may have been looking to be in the ground crew but what mechanical background he had is unclear.

When he took his army medical in 1915, Cyril was 29 years old. He was 5 feet 5 inches tall with blue eyes. He had a chest size of 33¼ inches and a “range of expansion” of 1¾ inches (this was later changed to 3 inches). The minimum height for conscription was 5ft. 3 inches but even this was reduced in the so-called “Bantam Regiments” as men died in their millions. It was the revelation of the poor health and small size of many recruits in the First World War that stimulated the movement towards the Welfare State.

He was “mobilised on 9th December 1916 and posted twelve days later to an Infantry Reserve or Training Battalion. On the 8th February 1917 he joined the Machine Gun Corps (Motors). This was one of the most dangerous postings as they were a vital target for snipers as well as other artillery. It looks, however, as if Cyril did not see front line fighting and served the rest of the war in England.

On the formation of the Machine Gun Corps in October 1915 the Motor Machine Gun Services was absorbed into it and became the Machine Gun Corps (Motors). It had machine guns mounted on motorcycles, cars, armoured vehicles and even trains. The real industry of war had begun.

Cyril joined the No.6 Battalion of the Machine Gun Corps which was based at Belton Park and Harrowby Camp in Grantham. On one official form (B103) it calls it, No. 6 Dominion Battalion which implies that it was composed of soldiers from Canada and perhaps also from Australia and New Zealand. Cyril remained a private or gunner throughout his army career and it is not clear what role kept him away from the fighting. He had gained a “Machine Gunner First Class” qualification so perhaps he was an instructor or demonstrator to the new troops. It is also a possibility that he was a driving or motorcycle instructor. There is also the nagging thought that he was the dreaded man who gave the troops their regulation haircuts. On balance it would seem that he was an instructor of some sort but we cannot be sure as his army records give no clue.

On 26th July 1917 he was posted to the newly formed Heavy Brigade of the Machine Gun Corps soon to become the Tanks Corps and then the Tank Brigade. It was based at Bovington near Wareham in Dorset and Cyril became part of the Central Schools of Instruction. Originally Cyril had asked to be in the Royal Flying Corps and tanks were the other great innovation of the First World War.

The tank was based on ideas from before the war but the stalemate and terrible slaughter of the Flanders trench warfare once more ignited interest among the military and political leaders. The tank was under development in all the main warring nations but the prototypes, often based on tracked agricultural machinery had many problems and research and progress was top secret. Some of the first production tanks were marked with Russian lettering and the rumour was propagated that they were snow ploughs intended for Russia. It was designed as a weapon to cross the rough terrain between the opposing trenches, the “killing field”, and break into the enemy defences. Many designs were tried and failed. Eventually on 15th September 1916 tanks were used but it was only very late in the war that tanks played an decisive part in the Allied victory.

Cyril had a good army record and his only offence was to overstay his leave pass from Grantham by 12½ hours in April 1917. As his daughter Ellen Louisa had been born on the 16th March there may have been some excuse and the four days’ pay that he initially had deducted was reduced to one. His only injury seems to have been a dislocated elbow on 20th October 1920 which kept him in Wool Military Hospital, near the Bovington Camp for thirty-two days. As we can see from this date Cyril had been retained at the end of the war, first for six months and then for a further three and he was finally demobbed on 12th December 1920.

He stated on his discharge papers that he wanted to be a publican when he returned to civilian life. I have not managed to find out if Cyril fulfilled his ambition to be an innkeeper. It seems, however that he did make a good living by some means. On 12th October 1949 Cyril and Rose, with their unmarried daughter Ellen Louise, sailed into New York harbour on the Queen Mary.

The family were bound for Texas and we know that Ellen, aged thirty-two arrived in El Paso after having crossed the border from Mexico. She was bound for Alpine in Texas and it seems that it was here that her parents had settled.

It may be that Alpine was chosen because they were hoping to improve the health of Rose. She died thee on 1st August 1956 after having lived there for seven years. The causes of death include a chronic peptic ulcer which she had also had for seven years. She had suffered as well from Hypertension for six months and was killed finally by a “Massive Coronary Occlusion”. She was sixty-nine years old and obviously had been unwell for some time.

Thomas Cyril Peacock died some eight years later on 6th February 1964 of lung cancer aged seventy-seven and was buried in Elm Grove Cemetery, almost half a century after many of his former comrades

References

My special thanks to Jim Parker from the www.blueyonder.co.uk website, for his many helpful information sheets and his individual help with the research.

Ringstead Parish Registers (NRO and www.Rushdenheritage.co.uk).

British Army WW1 Pension Records 1914 – 1920: New York Passenger Lists. Border Crossings from Mexico to U.S. 1895 – 1964). (www.Ancestry.co.uk).

Texas Deaths.( https://familysearch.org ).

USA Death Certificates (www.fold3.com ).