Chesterfield soldiers stories of sacrifice in defending country during Great War

Michael Orme has released a few of the stories of sacrifice ahead of the launch of his new book.

Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 3:11 pm
Robert Cannon left a wife and three children behind at Warwick Street, Birdholme.

He said: “For me, the most rewarding aspect of this project is that some members of the families of these lads have now reached out and made contact with me. This really is making the whole project worthwhile as some of those long-lost connections to Birdholme are now beginning to be restored.”

George Henry Randall – Sergeant with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

As a soldier of Britain's pre-war 'standing army', George was the first Birdholme man to fall during the war. He was present with his unit at Mons (the first major engagement of the war in which British troops were involved), Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne. George was 24 when he lost his life during the 1st Battle of Ypres on November 4, 1914. His brother William Bernard died in September 1915. Their parents were living on Bridge Street at the time of their sons' deaths.

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Thomas Benjamin Morris was married with six children and lived with his family at 117 Derby Road, Chesterfield.

Robert Cannon – Gunner with the 49th Siege Battery Royal Garrison ArtilleryRobert was 31 when he lost his life on July 26, 1916. He left a wife and three children behind at 11 Warwick Street. Michael Orme said: "Strangely, this street still exists despite that the houses which once lined either side of it have been demolished. It now serves an industrial estate off Storforth Lane. Robert was described by a member of his family today as 'a lovable rogue'.

Thomas Benjamin Morris – Soldier with the 1st/5th Battalion of the Sherwood ForestersThomas was 33 when he died on July 12, 1918, leaving a wife and six children at 117 Derby Road. Before the war, Thomas worked for the Staveley Coal and Iron Company Ltd as a blast furnaceman and had previously lived in Brimington. He enlisted as a volunteer in January of 1915 but had only served 12 weeks overseas when he died.

Samuel Beresford May – Sapper with the 257th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers.

Samuel's story helps to shine a light on the local miners who were sent to France with very little military training, but the skills that these men already possessed were a very important part of Britain's war effort. Samuel, 24, was the victim of a German gas shell and at least two other local men who perished with him on August 15, 1917, lie mere yards apart in the same Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

Samuel Beresford May, a Sapper with the 257th Tunnelling Company Royal Engineers, was the victim of a German gas shell.

Manasseh Dawes – Lance Corporal with the 1st Battalion Sherwood ForestersManasseh was not living in Birdholme when he returned to his regiment at the start of the war but with his wife and family in a property at Shakespeare Yard near the heart of Chesterfield. Manasseh’s appearance on the Birdholme roll, however, was doubtless secured by his parents, who were living at Alma Street when they learned that their 31-year-old son had died during the Battle of Aubers Ridge on May 9, 1915. The news of Manasseh's death was first communicated to Chesterfield in a letter sent by an old comrade from Staveley, who referred to him by his nickname 'Nat'. Manasseh had first joined the army in 1902 and served with this regiment in both China and India before returning to England to be placed on the reserve.

Charles Edward Askew – Gunner with “O” Anti-Aircraft Battery Royal Garrison Artillery

Charles was born and raised in Nottingham and working as a house painter before the war. His wife passed away in 1912 and evidence suggests that Charles moved to Chesterfield shortly afterwards to be with his parents. Charles, 35, survived the war and made it home to Birdholme; however he died from an illness that was almost certainly connected with the Spanish Flu pandemic just days later, leaving four orphaned children at an address on Derby Road. His dying wish was to be buried with his wife in Nottingham and he was given a full military funeral there on February 5, 1919.

Manasseh Dawes' parents were living in Alma Street, Birdholme, when news of their son's death reached them.
Charles Edward Askew made it home to Birdholme after surviving the war but died from Spanish Flu a few days later, leaving four orphaned children at an address on Derby Road. He had a full military funeral in February 1919.