The experiences of WW1 soldiers, sailors and airmen

Oxo advert

Research so far about the lives of those commemorated on our local First World War memorials has shown us some touching insights into many aspects of their lives. While the Oxo advert might seem to us to be a rather opportunistic use of war for advertising purposes it is clear that small homely comforts were very important to those on the front.

Private Banks

One of those was Tom Banks, who is remembered on the memorial to the pupils and teachers of Cherry St School. He attended Cherry St School for a short period from 1902, before moving out of the area, no doubt on account of his father’s job as a railway clerk. Tom was a passenger clerk at Church Fenton, Yorkshire, before he joined up. Tom wrote to the North Eastern Railway Magazine a few days after he arrived at the front and says:

I was surprised when I entered the field of battle. I thought by what I heard before I came that it was a terrible war, but no one who has not seen it knows how awful it is. It is scientific murder, and everyone has to take his chances. Never fear the British will show them no mercy and will fight to the last man. We are driving them back now, and hope to keep them on the run.

We are resting now after three rough days and nights in the trenches. You get mud from hair to feet. There is no keeping anything clean. Talk about being particular in the manner of eating! When we were in the trenches I got a Rowntrees gum tin and filled it half full of water and boiled it. Then I put 2 Oxo cubes and bits of biscuit in. This was the only warm drink in three days. And I did enjoy it.

Tom was killed 2 May 1915. He had been at the front for 14 days.

His photo was in the Yorkshire Herald on 16 April 1915.

We’re keen to find out more about the lives of local WW1 soldiers and the impact of the war on their families and descendants. It is important also not to forget that the First World War was genuinely a World War, and not just limited to Europe and the Western Front. Other major theatres included Turkey and the Middle East as well as Germany’s African colonies etc. You may have family family links with the Middle East.

If you’re interested in this activity, or have any information to share with us, please contact us by email at enquiries@clementshall.org.uk or leave a telephone message on 01904 466086.

(Oxo image courtesy of Imperial War Museum)

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