Frederick Stanley Kirkham was born in Waterloo, Liverpool in 1895. His parents, Frederick John Kirkham and Harriet Johnson, were married in St Michael’s Church, Toxteth in 1892. He was 49, she 33 years old. Both Frederick senior and his grandfather Henry were grocers. Frederick died when Stanley was a small boy and as he grew up his mother became more dependant upon him.
In 1901 Harriet, now a widow, had moved to Holywell. She and her children – Elsie(8), Mabel(7) and Stanley – were boarding in the home of Henry Williams, a sixty-five year old widower. Henry Williams was born in Holywell and lived in Victoria Row next to the Victoria Inn. In 1901 he was employed as a roadman.
By 1911 daughter Mabel was working near Denbigh as a general servant for the Storeys, a brother and two sisters who were farmers and brewers. Elsie meanwhile was staying with her Uncle and Aunt in the Isle of Man. I cannot find any reference to Stanley and his mother in the 1911 census.
However we do know that in 1915 they were living in Esmore Cottage, Dyserth. In December of that year Stanley went to Rhyl to enlist and joined the 1st/5th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. Some of his army documents have survived and show that he was 20 years and 10 months old and 5 ft 6 and a half inches tall. His occupation is difficult to decipher but looks like ‘market gardener’
On the 26th of June 1916 Stanley sailed on the Northland from Devonport to Alexandria with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
On the 14th of July he joined his regiment in Ismalia. His records show that in late October he spent two weeks in hospital suffering from diarrhoea, returning to his unit on the 11th of November. By December he was back on active service in El Arish. The last entry on his casualty form states that he was killed in action in Gaza on the 26th of March 1917. He had served for 2 years and 2 months.
His regiment was involved in The Battle of Romani (1916) and, in 1917, in the First Battle of Gaza which took place on 26th of March – the day he died. Another Dyserth lad – Henry Rees Ellis – also died on that day. Henry’s story is on another page.
Welsh soldiers played a prominent part in the First Battle of Gaza. At the outbreak of the First World War, Palestine (now Israel) was part of the Turkish Empire. By 1917 Britain’s three main war objectives were to maintain maritime supremacy in the Mediterranean Sea while preserving the balance of power in Europe and the security of Egypt, India and the Persian Gulf. The latter could be secured by an advance into Palestine and the capture of Jerusalem. A further advance would ultimately cut off the Ottoman forces in Mesopotamia from those on the Arabian Peninsula and secure the region. (information from Wikipedia)
On the 26th of March 1917 the Egyptian Expeditionary Force (EEF) made its first attempt to invade the south of Palestine. Fighting took place in and around the town of Gaza on the Mediterranean coast when infantry and mounted infantry from the Desert Column attacked the town. Late in the afternoon, on the verge of capturing Gaza, the Desert Column was withdrawn due to concerns about the approaching darkness and large Ottoman reinforcements. The outcome was disputed – both sides claiming victory. (Seen largely as a British defeat, a second battle in April 1917 also resulted in defeat.)
British casualties from the first battle amounted to 4,000; 523 killed, 2932 wounded and over 512 missing….. two of whom were Stanley Kirkham and Henry Rees Ellis.
The Jerusalem Memorial on which Stanley is commemorated stands within the Jerusalem War Cemetery. It commemorates 3,300 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the first World War in operations in Egypt or Palestine and who have no known grave.
There were no personal effects to pass on to his mother – just his wages, which amounted to £2/12/3 (two pounds, twelve shillings and three pence) and a War Gratuity of £4/10/-
By 1919 she had moved to Cefndy Road in Rhyl. Harriet Kirkham outlived her son and died in Wrexham in 1928.