Text Box: March 2015

Some members will note that we have returned to our ‘Old Bill’ style logo on Brum Ration. Old Bill was the much loved creation of Bruce Bairnsfather. It is suggested by Mark Warby, an authority on Bairnsfather, that he started to draw as a way of alleviating the monotony and boredom of trench warfare. At the time he was serving with The Royal Warwickshire Regiment at ‘Plugstreet Wood’. Within weeks of his first cartoon appearing in The Bystander he was involved in the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and was sent home suffering from shellshock and hearing damage. It was during the time he spent on Salisbury Plain as a machine gun instructor that his most famous cartoon captioned ‘Well if you can find a better ‘ole, go to it’ appeared. It depicts Old Bill, an experienced soldier, with another soldier in a shell hole with shells bursting all around them.  His unique insight made his cartoons extremely popular with the serving soldiers.

Tony and Valmai Holt are currently engaged in a campaign to secure recognition for what many feel is Bruce Bairnsfather’s contribution to our understanding of the 1st World War.                                    RL.


Four memorials to fallen World War One soldiers of Coleshill have so far been identified around the town and the Coleshill Roll of Honour currently includes 133 names.  Detailed research into the families and military service history of each man is being carried out, and so far 106 of these men have been added to the online database:

The research began with the names on the Parish Church Memorial.  However, one name was proving difficult to trace:  Lance Corporal J H Nightingale of the Welsh Regiment.

In 1911 the Nightingale family were living at Angel Yard, High Street, Coleshill.  John Charles Nightingale, a farm labourer, and Harriett Nightingale had seven children.  The eldest was John Henry Pallett, a coal miner, born in Over Whitacre in 1892.  In the 1901 census he is recorded as John Henry Nightingale, living with his family in Kingsbury, where his father worked as a waggoner.

John Henry Pallett was christened on 19th June 1892 at Over Whitacre, and his mother is listed as Harriett Pallett, single woman.  A number of his siblings were christened at Nether Whitacre, their parents shown as John Nightingale, labourer, and Harriett Pallett.  John and Harriet were married on the 14th November 1892 at Bishop Ryder in Birmingham.

There may have been a good reason why John Henry sometimes used his mother’s name. In 1909 he stole two bicycles and the report of his trial appears in the Tamworth Herald on 4th December 1909. It indicates that he worked at Kingsbury Colliery at the time.  It also proves that John Henry Nightingale and John Henry Pallett was the same person. 

There is no sign of Lance Corporal John Henry Nightingale/ Pallett, Welsh Regiment, anywhere in the military records.  The National Archives and the Imperial War Museum have searched their records too.  The Welsh Regimental archives have no record of him either.  They suggested he may have signed up using a false name, and so began the search.

The Coleshill Chronicle newspaper archives provided a vital clue.  A thorough search of the years 1914-1918 revealed nothing at all.  However, during 1919-1920, the people of Coleshill were outlining plans to build a War Memorial.  On the 15th May 1920, a list of the names of Coleshill men who fell in the Great War was published, and included there was Lance Corporal J H Nightingale, 16th Battalion, Welsh Regiment. 

The military records showed 580 Lance Corporals in the 16th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment who died in World War One.  The 392nd record was the elusive one: Lance Corporal John West, son of Mrs Harriett Nightingale, of Angel Yard, High Street, Coleshill (his father died in 1913).  John Henry did sign up with a false name!  The recently digitised Registers of Soldiers’ Effects records confirm this:  “John West alias John Henry Pallett, legatee: Mother Harriet Nightingale.”

John Henry Nightingale enlisted in the 16th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment at Cardiff (service number 23991), giving his home address as Hengoed, Glamorgan.  Lance Corporal Nightingale was killed in action on 31st August 1916, aged 24, and is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.

Dr Sarah Jane Veevers. www.veeversresearch.co.uk

THE 16

The Battalion sponsored by the City of Cardiff was recruited from November 1914 and by 30th December the officers and 600 other ranks marched through the City. After training at Porthcawl and Colwyn Bay it became part of the 38th Welsh Division and with the 17th Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 10th and 11th South Wales Borderers became the 115th Brigade of the Division. By November 1915 the Division was considered ready for active service and was inspected by Her Majesty the Queen on Salisbury Plain.

The Battalion embarked for Le Havre in December 1915, and by December 19th were in trenches in a section of line from Givenchy to Laventie.  They moved to the Somme in June 1916 and on 7th July with the 11th South Wales Borderers attacked the Hammerhead of Mametz Wood. Getting to within 200 yards of the wood cost the lives of 5 officers and 131 soldiers of the Battalion. A further attack on the 11th was described as ‘a vicious melee amongst shell torn trees and undergrowth’ but the majority of the wood was secured. In August 1916 the Battalion was moved to Ypres to take over trenches in the north western part of the Salient. It would appear that it was here having survived Mametz that Lance Corporal Nightingale was killed.                                       RL.


The following report appeared in the 17 September 1916 Sunday Times:

Ancient Egyptian Recruit:  Papyrus Letter Asking For Comforts

Among a lot of Egyptian letters, written on papyrus thousands of years ago, was discovered one from a young man of Alexandria who had evidently passed the military examination and had been taken from his home to serve in the army.  He writes to his mother; and there is a striking similarity in the nature of the requests with those to be found in many letters from the front and the training camps today.

This recruit of the army of Ancient Egypt writes thus:’Send me two hundred drachma.  I have nothing any more.  When brother Gemellus came I still had four hundred drachma.  They are all gone............

Send me my monthly allowance soon.  When I was with you, you promised to send my brother with it before I came to the garrison.  But you sent nothing.  You left me to go as I stood, nothing in the pocket.  Also my father on his visit gave me not a penny......................

All laugh at me and say 'Your father is a soldier himself and still he sends you nothing'.  My father tells me when he gets home he will send me everything. But you send nothing.  Why?............

There is the mother of Valerius; she sent him a pair of abdominal bandages and a measure of oil, a basket of meats, and two hundred drachma.  Send quickly.  I already went and borrowed from a comrade. Also brother Gemellus sent me a pair of trousers.  ‘

When this letter was written Egypt was ruled by the Macedonian Greek Ptolemaic dynasty hence the reference to drachma.  The Pyramids were already more than two thousand years old.  Verily nothing ever changes.

J P Lethbridge




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Text Box: The Bulletin of the Birmingham Branch of the WFA
March 2015
Compiled by Richard Lloyd