A Preston mother’s desperate plea to save her son.

Eliza Carlisle, was a widow with 3 sons serving in the First World War, Richard and William both with 6th Battalion The Loyal North Lancs and Thomas a Gunner with 3/9th Battery 2nd West Lancs Royal Field Artillery, her husband William had died some time before.


By 1911 the family lived at 218, Marsh Lane, Preston. As well as the 3 boys above their siblings were Jane, Mary, Louisa and Lily.


Thomas Carlisle was the youngest of the 3 brothers and determined to enlist like his older brothers but he was born 3rd May 1900 too young to enlist, despite this he went along to the Preston recruiting office on the 18th May 1915, enlisted with the West Lancs RFA declaring himself to be age 19 years and 1 month old. He was 5’ 7” tall with a chest measurement of 35” and of good physical condition therefore easily passed for a 19 year old.


On 23rd December 1915 he was sent to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force and served with various units until ending up with the 55 Trench Mortar Battery in June 1916.

9th September 1916 Eliza wrote to the Officer Commanding 2nd West Lancs RFA and included Thomas’s birth certificate, explaining that she was a widow with 3 sons serving but Thomas was under age and asked for his return until he was of age to enlist legally. A similar letter to the War office was sent by her on the 11th September 1916 with the same request. See below.

Carlisle image

As a result of these letters Thomas was sent home to England on the 8th October 1916 and discharged on the 11th October but he did qualify for the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal!


His elder brothers Richard and William both survived the war but did Thomas ever get to enlist again? We do not know. DO YOU?


Written by R Jefferson

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Shot at Dawn Statue

Shot at Dawn

Richard Stevenson a Preston Soldier who was “Shot at Dawn” a story of Patriotism, Intrigue and Sorrow

Pte Richard Stevenson 2554 Loyal North Lancs Regiment (The Loyals)

Richard was born in Preston during October 1889 to parents Jane and James Archer.  His father James (born in Ireland) was a Tailor/Journeyman. Richard is shown as a labourer on his enlistment papers.

He enlisted in Garstang with the Loyal North Lancashire regiment (LNL) on the 15th September 1914 at the age of 24 years shortly after war had been declared.  His attestation papers show some previous involvement with the Army between 1906 and 1910, perhaps with the Territorials.

He is described as 5’ 4” tall, weighing 133 lbs, with a 35” chest, fresh complexion and brown hair.  He also displayed tattoos of a snake, Buffalo Bill and a Red Indian on his wrist and forearms!  He was declared fit for service.

Richard was posted to France on the 4th May 1915 as part of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

Apart from the odd misdemeanors and punishment, like many young soldiers in this situation, we do not know what kind of soldier he was.   After 16 months or so serving at the front in France and Belgium, sometime in September 1916 he was charged with desertion.  He spent 34 days in confinement and was Court Martialled on the 11th October 1916.

He was found GUILTY of Deserting His Majestys Service and SENTENCED to DEATH

Richard was “Shot at Dawn” on 25th October 1916 and buried in the Poperinghe Military Cemetery in Belgium.  He is represented by a headstone similar to other fallen soldiers in this Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery.  His medal, the 1914-15 Star (issued to those in the BEF) was forfeited.

He is commemorated on the Shot at Dawn Memorial which is a monument at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire. It memorialises the 306 British Army and Commonwealth soldiers executed after courts-martial for desertion and other capital offences during the First World War.

Post written and researched by Jeff Jefferson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Preston Postwoman

When war broke out in 1914 everybody was keen to start doing their bit. For the Post Office this meant sending out letters to every eligible employee encouraging them to enlist – joining the 11000 Post Office workers who had already signed up. This campaign was so successful that by December 1914 28000 staff had obliged.

However this left the Post Office at a bit of a loss, as within the first two years of war over a quarter of their workforce had been transferred to the trenches. The temporary workers which they drafted in included 35000 women, and one of those women was 34 year old Ellen Abley, who, although born in Yorkshire, was living near Fishergate Hill on Northcote Road at the outbreak of war.

Ellen started working as a postwoman, delivering letters on a usual ‘round.’ This was significant in a number of ways, despite the fact that women had been permitted to work in the Post Office in official capacities since 1870.

Before the war, women were only permitted to actually deliver post in rural areas, where there were no men available, and most commonly worked as clerks in individual post offices around the country. The special circumstances not only allowed women to put on a uniform and get out delivering letters, it also allowed women, including Ellen, to get around the Marriage Bar. Introduced in 1876, this forbade married women from working in established positions, and forced unmarried women to resign when they tied the knot. Ellen had married Edward Abley, a Borough Police Constable, in 1903, which meant she would not have been allowed to work for the Post Office in any position during peace time – the marriage ban was not lifted until 1946.

All of this serves to highlight the remarkable new territories being explored for and by women during the First World War. Ellen Abley was a wife and mother, but she also became a professional working woman, helping to keep the Post Office’s vital operations running smoothly during a time of need.

You can find out more about women in the First World War by visiting the Style and Substance exhibition, on display in the Harris Museum’s costume gallery.

Post written and researched by Emma Dooley


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Preston’s Conscientious Objector

Preston man Joe Garstang was a committed socialist and member of the No Conscription Fellowship, Joe took an absolutist stance and refused to have anything to do with the conflict. As a result, he spent several years in prison, during which time he went on hunger strike and was force-fed. His family believe that this experience broke Joe’s health. A market gardener and fitness instructor before the war, he was unable to return to his former working life when he was released from prison for the last time in 1919 and he died less than 10 years later, aged only 38.

Joe’s life has recently been researched by his great niece Ann Berry as part of the Documenting Dissent project looking at conscientious objectors in the North West. You can read his whole fascinating story here.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Nurses outside Moor Park Hospital about 1917, Courtesy of Preston Digital Archive

Moor Park Military Hospital opened in January 1915 and cared for thousands of wounded soldiers during the war. Picture: Preston Digital Archive More images of Moor Park Hospital on Flickr

Caring for the wounded

Preston had four hospitals which cared for wounded soldiers during the First World War – Preston Royal Infirmary, Mount Street Hospital (St Josephs), Fulwood Military Hospital and Moor Park Military Hospital. It also helped fund a hostel for disabled soldiers in Preston and a base clearing hospital run by the Colonel Trimble of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade at Etaples, between Boulogne and the Somme Estuary in France.

Preston’s existing hospitals Preston Royal Infirmary and Mount Street were the first to offer help to wounded soldiers in 1914. Mount Street Hospital – run by the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady Mother of Mercy – offered beds to Belgian soldiers and the Mother Superior was later awarded the Belgian Elizabeth Medal for her work caring for the wounded.

The Moor Park Military Hospital was a temporary hospital at the north east end of Moor Park which opened in January 1915. It was created from a wooden pavilion used by the Royal Lancashire Agricultural Society for their annual shows. The hospital was originally suitable for 35 patients, but further buildings and wards were added so that by 1918 it catered for 270 patients. The hospital also used a house at 1 Moor Park Avenue.

The hospital was run by the Voluntary Aid Detachment (V.A.D.) a nursing unit founded by the Red Cross and the Order of St John, the matron was Mrs Howard and the management committee was chaired by Lady Hollins. It closed in March 1919 and during its lifetime was staffed by over 300 volunteer nurses.

No records of the hospital survive, however, recently the Europeana project documented a fascinating autograph album which belonged to nurse at Moor Park Hospital called Amy Tomlinson. The Preston Digital Archive also has a large number of pictures of the hospital.

Further information on the Moor Park Hospital can be found in the following books:

For Remembrance by Harry Cartmell, Mayor of Preston, 1919

The Personal Diary of Nurse De Trafford 1914-19 – Moor Park Military Hospital, published in 2000.

For more information on the St John’s Ambulance in Preston contact Peter Dodds on 01772 713415.

Post written by Beth Garlington and Emma Heslewood, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Vegetable Products Committee were formed in December 1914 by the Preston Horticultural Society to collect fruit, vegetables and jam for the Royal Navy. More images of the Vegetable Committee on Flickr

Preston’s Gift to the Royal Navy

During World War One, Preston and Fulwood Horticultural Society set up the Preston branch of the Vegetable Products Committee for Naval Supply. The committee collected fruit, vegetables and jam from the public to send to Royal Navy ships, torpedo craft and submarines.

In 1915 the committee were provided with a rent free shop on Friargate to use as a depot. Donations of fruit, vegetables, jam and other miscellaneous items such as woollen scarves were collected and regularly dispatched to Royal Navy bases. Throughout the war, the committee and the people of Preston received recognition in the press and over 300 letters of thanks from servicemen.

According to London officials, the Preston branch was reported as an ‘easy first’ amid the 800 branches in the excellent work done. At the end of October 1917, it was revealed the branch had not missed a single week in dispatching large batches of fruit, vegetables and jam. The number of large packages shipped was 4,000 with the value of £1,500. By 1919, the Vegetable Products Committee had received £3,250 in donations to support their work.

Sir David Beatty, the Admiral of the Fleet, acknowledged the work of Preston’s Vegetable Products Committee in a letter written on 6th April 1919. The letter mentions a permanent memorial in Preston Town hall commemorating the work of the committee. The location of this memorial is currently unknown – it may have perished in the Town Hall fire of 1947. While Admiral Beatty was receiving the Honorary Freedom of Liverpool, he sent two destroyers the Velox and the Watchman to recognise the generosity of the Preston people. The ships docked on the 3rd April, stayed for four days and received 50,000 visitors.

Post written by Beth Garlington, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Private William ‘Jock’ Young VC

Private William Young was a Preston war hero who served with the East Lancashire Regiment and was awarded the Victoria Cross for an act of bravery which took place on 22 December 1915.

Glasgow born – William Young, settled in Preston in 1902 and married a local girl – Mary Simmons. The couple had nine children and lived at 7 Heysham Street. William worked as a labourer, but had previously served in the army, so was a member of the army reserve. He rejoined the army at the outbreak of war in 1914.

On 22 December 1915 the East Lancashire Regiment was holding the front line along the Foncquevilliers – Monchy au Bois line between the towns of Albert and Arras. Young risked his life to rescue a wounded officer and was badly injured – a bullet shattered his lower jaw and another entered his chest. He later underwent months of treatment, including reconstruction surgery by Captain Harold Gillies.

Private Young returned home to a hero’s welcome on Wednesday 19 April 1916. The homecoming was filmed by Preston film maker Will Onda. To express the town’s admiration for Private Young a fund of £562 was raised to support his family.
Private Young left Preston on 25 April 1916 to continue his treatment. After a series of operations he did not react well to the anaesthetic and died at 8.55am on Sunday 27 August 1916 of heart failure at the Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot.

During Private Young’s funeral procession in Preston thousands lined the streets to pay their respects to the town’s hero. He was buried in Preston Cemetery with full military honours.

In 2013 the Department for Communities and Local Government ran a design competition for a paving stone to commemorate recipients of the Victoria Cross in the First World War. The winning design by Charlie MacKeith of Research Design Architecture features Private Young VC.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Preston Station Soldiers and Sailors Free Buffet

During the First World War, the railways became vital to the war effort. Tired, hungry soldiers and sailors soon arrived at stations like Preston throughout the day and night.


After hearing reports of tired, cold and hungry soldiers a group of Preston women headed by the Mayoress Anna Marie Cartmell established the Preston Station Soldiers and Sailors Free Buffet. On its opening day – 19 August 1915 – the Preston Buffet served 386 men.

The committee – Annie Cartmell, Beatrice Todd, Mrs Foster, Mrs Eastwood, Ethel Woodcock, Mabel Astley-Bell, Mrs Blackhurst, Mrs Rea and the buffet managers – Mrs Moore and Mrs Threlfall recruited and organised nearly 400 female volunteers who worked in teams for 12- hour shifts. Their efforts ensured that the Preston Buffet was open for 24-hours from 1915 until 31 May 1919 and then for 14-hours a day from 1 June to 11 November 1919. During its four year lifetime they served 3 ¼ million servicemen who passed through Preston Station.

The buffet was based in a large room on the main platform – where the women could prepare and serve food and drink. The volunteers also greeted packed trains with baskets of buns and biscuits and served hot tea or coffee in mugs drawn from large buckets.

Inside the buffet soldiers and sailors could also rest and relax, read the paper, write a letter or sleep on the wooden benches. The Preston Buffet became greatly admired by the servicemen who passed through Preston Station and its reputation soon spread. Many soldiers, sailors and their families wrote thank you letters and made donations.

The buffet was funded entirely through donations. Wealthy local families, organisations, businesses and individuals supported the buffet – Horrockses Cotton Manufacturers alone gave £50. Small flag pins were also sold on special ‘flag days’ which raised up to £320. By January 1917 the buffet was serving 3,250 men in 24-hours and needed £100 per week – £5000 in today’s money.

The buffet finally closed on 11 November 1919, but was revived in 1939. Commemorative plaques hang in the waiting room at Preston Station and record the incredible achievements of the Preston Free Buffet in serving 3 ¼ million servicemen.

Monday, February 24, 2014