Stories behind the Rampside wartime memorials

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9 January 2017 3:43PM

EVERY community in Furness was affected by the loss of young lives during the First World War.

This article looks at three men from Rampside – two who died in trench fighting of France and Belgium and a third who died in a swimming accident just as he approached the age where he could go off to war.

Research by Peter Schofield, of Rampside and Memories Page writer Bill Myers helps to tell their stories.

An article in the Lancashire Evening Post, on Monday, January 28 in 1918 noted: “At St Michael’s Church yesterday morning the archdeacon of Furness dedicated a new oak pulpit and a new oak lectern.

“Both the pulpit and lectern are beautifully carved, and they are respectively the gifts of Cllr and Mrs. Pearson of Waver Farm, Rampside, to the memory of their son Pte Herbert Pearson who fell in Flanders on September 24 in 1915 in his 20th year, and Mr and Mrs A. Foster of Infield Park, Barrow, to the memory of their son, Percy, who was drowned in Piel Channel on August Monday 1917 in his 17th year.”

Percy Albert Spivey Foster, aged 16 years and 10 months was the son of a grocer whose shop was in Duke Street, Barrow, and he drowned in a swimming accident.

He went by boat with friends from Rampside to Piel Island for a Monday afternoon picnic.

An article in the Dalton News on August 11 in 1917 noted: “After sitting for about 15 minutes on the island he stripped and went into the water unaccompanied, leaving the two girls and the other boy sitting on the grass.

“After swimming a short distance out he called out: ‘It is deep here. I cannot touch the bottom.’

“He then disappeared and was not seen again.”

An inquest was held two days later at Barrow Police Court where a verdict was returned of “accidentally drowned”.

The newspaper noted: “Deceased was a fine tall, young lad, and in these days the country could ill afford to lose such.”

Herbert Pearson was the son of Thomas and Agnes Alma Pearson, who lived in a Rampside farmhouse which was built in 1802.

He was a former pupil of the Municipal Secondary School for Boys in Barrow – later to be called Alfred Barrow School.

Pte Pearson was well-known as a member of the successful Ramsden House tug-of-war team.

He joined the 7th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment.

The soldier would have been familiar with the cafes of Armentieres, a town on the Belgian border around eight miles from Lille.

He died of wounds in the Battle of Loos – the first major British offensive on the Western Front.

Pte Pearson is buried in the Cite Bonjean Military Cemetery at Armentieres. One soldier among 2,604.

There is a marble plaque in the Baptistry at St Michael's to the memory of Herbert Pearson and to Cuthbert Whalley.

An inscription notes: “To the glory of God. In proud and loving memory of Herbert Pearson and Cuthbert Whalley who died for God and country in the Great War 1914-1918.

“Also in grateful remembrance of all who served, this baptistery and fittings were dedicated on the 30 th of September 1922 by the Bishop of Carlisle.”

Pte Cuthbert Whalley was army number 200607 and was killed around May 12 in 1917 while serving with the 8th Battalion of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment.

He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.

An article in the Dalton News on June 23 in 1917 noted that Pte Whalley was aged 20 and his parents lived at Moss Side, Rampside.

Before the war he had been in the cost department at Vickers and had been released by his employers for military service, serving first with the 4th Battalion of the King’s Own.

The article noted: “He had seen a lot of hard fighting, first in Flanders and then on the Somme and Ancre, being in at the taking of Trones Wood, Guillemont, Delville Wood and Thiepval.”

He was badly wounded in the neck and thigh and could have seen out the war as a sergeant-instructor at Oswestry but was determined to return to the trenches.

Pte Whalley was back in France for just two days before being killed in action.

The article noted: “He was well-known among his comrades as a brave and intrepid soldier, cheerful in the face of the greatest dangers.

“He was always among the first to volunteer on any piece of trying work.

“Though wounded three times, his luck had become proverbial with those who knew him.

“Refusing promotion several times, he preferred to remain with his Lewis gun crew, to whom he became greatly attached.”

At home he was a regular at Roose Wesleyan Chapel and was a member of the Young Worshippers’ League – taking part in temperance and social work.

In army service he had make close shaves.

The article noted: “On one occasion he left his Lewis gun crew and went forward to a listening post, and while there his six comrades at the gun were all killed by a German shell, amongst them being two Barrow lads.

“Another of his experiences reveals his pluck and courage.

“He had gone out with his Lewis gun crew.

“He was the first to reach the parapet in front of the German trenches but was hit with shrapnel as he mounted and was shouting ‘Come on the Lions’.

“He refused help, and commenced to get back to the British line.

“On his was down he came across Pte Little, of Millom, badly hit and lying exposed.

“He attended to him as best he could and then carried him across to the English lines for their carriers, but he died of his wounds shortly after.”

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