Farm Worker

 When I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me27

All in all, 1895 had been a miserable year; the agricultural depression12 was biting as hard as ever, work was hard to find and living costs rising21.  To make matters worse, the weather had been awful32, the harvest poor12 and now, as Autumn set in, snow was falling32.  However, amid the misery, for Maria and agricultural labourer2 John Hanmer, there was a bright spark; the birth of their son, George24.

Unequivocally living in the shadow of poverty10 in their four-roomed4 dwelling, Magpie Hall, Cockshutt2/3, the burgeoning family3 would have struggled to survive on John’s pitiful wages7.  From a young age, George would have been expected to work50, especially around harvest; for a paltry sum50 he would have spent many arduous days gleaning cornfields, racing against the gluttonous birds and rats9.

With few opportunities for play50, George undoubtedly enjoyed village social occasions and “great rejoicings”13.  Perhaps as he grew older, he joined the “cricket club”13, unknowingly sharpening his hand-eye co-ordination, which would be so important in the not so distant future17.

As the “years move(d) along tranquilly” 13, and with school behind him, George found employment as a farm labourer with Thomas John Marsh3, father of (William) Stanley Marsh55.  Only they will know if their paths ever crossed, but the terrible fate they shared had germinated many years earlier, as the Great European Powers jostled for supremacy56, until the only way forward had been war, which finally erupted in 1914.

Smiling in the Face of Adversity

Until now, Cockshutt had been “unstartled by the sensation of sudden innovation”13, but as the brutal war of attrition with its deadlock of trench warfare46 claimed more and more lives, it found itself impacted by the loss of its own, both in death and enlistment.

George enlisted 191511 onwards, with the Army Service Corps39, after which he was attached to the Rifle Brigade (The Prince Consort’s Own) 1/5th London Regiment17, probably after his competency and skill with a rifle53 were identified during training.

Rifleman G Hanmer 4534017 served on the Western Front6, where his role would have been crucial in defending the trenches and attacking the enemy, as he advanced with the infantry54.  Vast advances may have been made in mortar, machine gun and grenade technology, but compared to the rifle they were cumbersome, unwieldy and a logistical challenge, relying on large amounts of ready ammunition to make them functional53.  In comparison, the British Lee-Enfield Rifle was portable, reliable and sturdy, dependent on the training and skill of the Rifleman himself53.

After the near collapse of the Germans following their Spring Offensive of 1918, the Allies pursued what was later known as the Hundred Days Offensive49.  In August, the Battalion (as part of 56th (London) Division) was at Croiselles which, after very heavy fighting, they recaptured on 28th August 191817.  Two days later, they were at nearby Riencourt52 and it was here that Rifleman G Hanmer 45340 was killed in action54 on 30th August 191816.  The War Diary for that date tells us,

“Heavy barrage of HE* and gas put down in Valley U20c and U21a as Batt. was being relieved52”.

Posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal11, Rifleman G Hanmer’s final resting place is at Croiselles British Cemetery, France17.  

We Will Remember Him.


Medal Index Card
WW1 British War Medal & Victory Medal


Rifleman George Hanmer, 45340, London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade).

Killed in action in France on 30th August 1918.

Buried at Croisilles British Cemetery, France. Grave IV. E. 25.



The eternal holiness of you,
The timeless end, you never knew,
The peace that lay, the light that shone,
You never knew that I had gone
A million miles away, and stayed
A million years18.



Wellington Journal, 21st September 1918, X8936/1918/9/3/357688, Shropshire Archives


1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG14PN16180 RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED3 SN11


The Rifles Collection, The Regimental Museum of the Rifles, http://riflesmuseum.co.uk/


The London Regiment, 5th (City of London) Battalion London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade) http://battlefields1418.50megs.com/5londons.htm

46The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, 1962, Penguin Books, ISBN: 978-0-241-96821-5

The Grass is Greener – The Plight of UK Dairy Cows, 22nd April 2016, https://www.ciwf.org.uk/news/2016/04/the-grass-is-greener-the-plight-of-uk-dairy-cows-f1


The German Spring Offensive of 1918, CN Trueman, 17th April 2015, The History Learning Site, www.historylearningsite.co.uk


The Few That Fed the Many: Loss of Labour, A New Era, www.nfuonline.com/worldwarone

42The County Around Ellesmere is Full of Charm and Interest, H. Clayton Jones, Shropshire Magazine, March 1959, Shropshire Archives
41The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH
40The Boy’s Winter Book, Descriptive of the Season, Scenery, Rural Life, and Country Amusements, Thomas Miller, 1847, New York, Harper
39Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919, Naval and Military Press Ltd 2010
38Shropshire’s Sacrifice in the Great War, Neil Evans & Phil Morris, 12th October 2014, Bluprint, ISBN 978 0 9931233 1 3
37Shropshire Pack 1, Shropshire Archives
36Roll of Honour, Lest We Forget, Shropshire, Cockshutt War Memorial, Martin Edwards 2017

Roll of Honour, 4th August 1914 - 28th June 1919, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH, www.meresandmeadows.com


Photograph of the Final Resting Place of George Hanmer, The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org


On This Day 30 August 1918, https://www.firstworldwar.com/onthisday/1918_08_30.htm


Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, October 1895, November 1895, December 1895, August 1918, https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive-hidden-treasures/monthly-weather-report-1890s


London Regiment, https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/london-regiment/


London Regiment, https://www.forces-war-records.co.uk/units/4899/london-regiment/


Life on a Victorian Farm, http://www.aboutbritain.com/articles/life-on-a-victorian-farm.asp

28Kelly’s Directory of Herefordshire and Shropshire, 1895,(Part 2: Shropshire), Kelly & Co. Ltd,
27In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul, Psalm 138, v. 3, Holy Bible, KJV
26GRO Index England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007, Oswestry, Shropshire, Q4, 1940, Vol 6A, pg 1875
25GRO Index England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007, Ellesmere, Shropshire, Q1, 1931, Vol 6A, pg 1006
24GRO Index England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg. 645
23Feeding the war effort: agricultural experiences in First World War Devon 1914-17, Bonnie White, 2010. Agricultural History Review

Farming in the First World War, Julie Moore, 23rd March 2015, https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/2015/03/farming-in-the-first-world-war/


Farming Depression in Late Victorian Box, Alan Payne (& Shirley & Ainslie Goulstone), July 2015, http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/victorian-farming.html

20Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me, Psalm 23 v.4 Old Testament, KJV    
19England 1870-1914, RCK Ensor, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1936
18Dining-Room Tea, Rupert Brooke, Collected Poems, 1916

Commonwealth War Graves, https://www.cwgc.org/find


Combat and the Soldier’s Experience in the First World War, Vanda Wilcox, 29th January 2014, British Library, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/combat-and-soldiers-experiences

15Cockshutt War Memorial, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH
14Churchwardens’ Account Book for Cockshutt from 1794 to 1926, Milestones in the History of a North Shropshire Rural Parish, August 1956, Shropshire Magazine, Parish Pack 2, Shropshire Archives
13Churchwardens’ Account Book for Cockshutt from 1794 to 1926, Milestones in the History of a North Shropshire Rural Parish, August 1956, Shropshire Magazine, Parish Pack 2, Shropshire Archives
12Causes of the Fall of Agricultural Prices between 1875 and 1895, HM Conacher, in PJ Perry (ed.), British Agriculture 1875-1914, London, Methuen, 1973, pp. 8-29
11British Army Medal Index Cards 1914-1920, WO 372/8/246824, Series WO3272, National Archives
10British Agriculture 1875-1914, PJ Perry, Editor’s Introduction, 1914 , London, Methuen, 1973, pp. xi-xliv
9Bringing the Harvest Home, Dr. Alan Crosby, 2018, Who Do You Think You Are? Immediate Media

Arras and Canal du Nord 1918, https://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/battles-and-fighting/land-battles/arras-and-canal-du-nord-1918/

7A History of the English Agricultural Labourer, 1870-1920, FE Green, 1920, PS King & Son Ltd, Orchard House, Copyright-evidence-date 20070823134915, Openlibrary_edition OL7132216M, Openlibrary work OL7890258W, Possible Copyright Status: not in copyright

5th Battalion, London Regiment, https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=709


5th (City of London) Bn, The London Regiment (London Rifle Brigade), Paul Nixon, 27th August 2008, http://armyservicenumbers.blogspot.com,

31911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG14PN16180 RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED3 SN2
21901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG13, Piece No 2550, Folio 6, pg. 4

1870 Education Act, https://www.parliament.uk/about/living-heritage/transformingsociety/livinglearning/school/overview/1870educationact/

56WW1 A Layman’s Guide, Scott Addington, 2012, Amazon, ISBN: 9 781495 911569, pgs. 138-139
55World War One, Rupert Colley, 2012, William Collins, ISBN: 978 0 00 753911 6
54William Stanley Marsh, 1898-1917, Private, 16526, Coldstream Guards

Weapons of War – Rifles, Michael Duffy, 22nd August 2009, https://www.firstworldwar.com/weaponry/

51War Diary: 169th Brigade, 56th Division, London Rifle Brigade, 1/5th Battalion, The London Regiment, April 1918-31st August 1918, National Archives

Victorian History, Income vs Expenditure in Working Class Victorian England, Dr Bruce Rosen, 19th June, 2014, http://vichist.blogspot.com/2014/05/income-vs-expenditure-in-working-class.html


Victorian Children in Victorian Times, Baxton Price, 11 December 2012, www.victorianchildren.org

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