Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me54
But for the emergence of red and yellow hues among the masses of foliage42, the warm temperatures of late September 189431 might have been mistaken for midsummer. All things considered, the harvest was bountiful and for those labourers fortunate enough to have work during the ongoing agricultural depression, it was a busy time9.
For waggoner2 Samuel Hanmer and his wife Agnes1 there was much to celebrate; the birth of their second son John2 and his forthcoming baptism, in the Parish Church of St. Michael & All Angels, Loppington8.
For the growing family, life in the small tithe cottage in English Frankton2 would have been hard as it struggled to survive on Samuel’s meagre and irregular wages57. As he grew up, John would have been expected to share the burden of work, albeit for little pay56. Many long days would have been spent scaring birds from the crops, sowing potatoes, and filling sacks with grain29.
John’s schooldays were spent firstly at Loppington30 and then Cockshutt, after the family moved into the village30, presumably as his Father pursued work7. Afterwards, he made his home in Brown Heath35 whilst working as a Cowman at Church Farm, Loppington3.
As war was declared and Church bells stopped ringing19, the news filtering in from the Western Front was grim as the elite but small BEF fought valiantly at Mons and Marne, but at great cost50. As 1914 ground to an end with the deadlock of trench warfare50 and voluntary enlistment fell, Cockshutt found itself coming to terms with the death of one of its own .
Against this backdrop, John enlisted with the 1st Battalion KSLI16, entering the Western European Theatre of War on 2nd June 191511. For the next three and a half years, Private J Hanmer 1119416 fought a long and brutal war, during which it is likely he experienced the first flamethrower attack by the Germans in the 1915 Battle of Hooge51. Over the next couple of years, he would have encountered considerable action with his Battalion which saw service in the Somme 1916, Arras 1917 (where he was wounded59) and Cambrai32. On countless occasions, he would have witnessed relentless “heavy casualties”58 and still found the strength and courage to move against the persistent “heavy resistance (and) constant heavy shelling throughout the day … and sniping at night” 58.
By early 1918 John had been promoted to Lance Corporal16 and in all likelihood saw action on the Hindenberg Line32 during the German Spring Offensive. Afterwards, the Battalion moved to Lagnicourt, Northern France58 where the fighting was so ferocious it was later labelled “one of the worst episodes in German History28”. In the resulting carnage and chaos, Lance Corporal J Hanmer was captured by the Germans on 21st March 1918 and taken to Kassel Niederzwehren Prisoner of War Camp, Germany16/35.
Having served his country in the most appalling circumstances for nearly three and a half years, Lance Corporal J Hanmer 11194 died as a Prisoner of War on 23rd November 191816.
Posthumously awarded the 1914/15 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal11, his final resting place is at Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel, Germany16.
Now at peace, John Hanmer was the last of “Our Boys” to be killed in the Great War 1914-1918.
We Will Remember Him.
Lance Corporal John Hanmer, 11194, 1st Bn. King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
Died in Germany on 23rd November 1918
Buried at Niederzwehren Cemetery, Germany. Grave VII. B. 10.
Here dead we lie
Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.
Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young25.
|1||1892 England & Wales Marriages, Wem, Shropshire, Volume 6A, Pg. 1446|
|2||1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG13, Piece No 2550, Folio 12, Page 15|
|3||1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG14PN16180 RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED3 SN127|
|4||1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Wem, RG14PN16205 RG78PN1003 RD352 ED9 SN25|
1st Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry During the Great War, https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/regiment.php?pid=17676
|6||24 Hrs at The Somme 1 July 1916, Robert Kershaw, 2016, WH Allen, Penguin Random House, ISBN: 9780753555484|
|7||A 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|
|8||Baptism Register, Shropshire Baptisms, 1859-1900, Pg. 49. DC Thomson Family History, Archive Ref: P173/A/2/2, Shropshire Archives|
|9||Bringing the Harvest Home, Dr. Alan Crosby, 2018, Who Do You Think You Are? Immediate Media|
|10||British Agriculture 1875-1914, PJ Perry, Editor’s Introduction, 1914 , London, Methuen, 1973, pp. xi-xliv|
|11||British Army Medal Index Cards 1914-1920, WO/372/8/246840, Archive Reference WO372/8, National Archives|
|12||Causes 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|
|13||Churchwardens’ 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|
|14||Cockshutt War Memorial, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
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
Commonwealth War Graves, https://www.cwgc.org/find
|17||England 1870-1914, RCK Ensor, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1936|
Farming Depression in Late Victorian Box, Alan Payne (& Shirley & Ainslie Goulstone), July 2015, http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/victorian-farming.html
Defence of the Realm Act, The Gazette, https://www.thegazette.co.uk/all-notices/content/217
Farming in the First World War, Julie Moore, 23rd March 2015, https://everydaylivesinwar.herts.ac.uk/2015/03/farming-in-the-first-world-war/
|21||Feeding the war effort: agricultural experiences in First World War Devon 1914-17, Bonnie White, 2010. Agricultural History Review|
|22||GRO Index England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Wem, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg. 665|
|23||GRO Index England & Wales Deaths 1837-1007, Oswestry, Shropshire, Q3, 1941, Vol 6A, pg. 1351|
|24||GRO Index England & Wales Deaths 1837-1007, Oswestry, Shropshire, Q3, 1943, Vol 6A, pg. 645|
|25||Here Dead We Lie, AE Housman, 1914|
|26||King’s Shropshire Light Infantry Badge & Motto|
KSLI Battlefields Tours, www.facebook.com/KSLI.Battlefields.tours
Lagnicourt a Black Day for Germany, 10th March 2017 http://anzaccentenary.sa.gov.au/story/lagnicourt-a-black-day-for-germany/
Life on a Victorian Farm, http://www.aboutbritain.com/articles/life-on-a-victorian-farm.asp
|30||Loppington National Church of England School, Loppington, Shropshire, 1900, National School Admission Registers & Log Books 1970-1914, DC Thomson Family History, Archive Ref: ED4407/1/5|
Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, September 1894, 1918, https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive-hidden-treasures/monthly-weather-report-1890s
|32||Notes on the Shropshire Regiments, 2007, Shropshire Regimental Museum|
On This Day 23 November 1918, https://www.firstworldwar.com/onthisday/november.htm
Photograph of the Final Resting Place of Lance Cpl. J Hanmer, The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org
Prisoner of War Lists, Prisoners of the First World War ICRC Historical Archives, https://grandeguerre.icrc.org
|36||Roll of Honour, 4th August 1914 -28th June 1919, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|37||Roll of Honour, Lest We Forget, Shropshire, Cockshutt War Memorial, Martin Edwards 2017|
|38||Shropshire Pack 1, Shropshire Archives|
|39||Shropshire’s Sacrifice in the Great War, Neil Evans & Phil Morris, 12th October 2014, Bluprint, ISBN 978 0 9931233 1 3|
|40||Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919, Naval and Military Press Ltd 2010|
|41||St Aidan’s Chapel, St Chad’s, St Chad’s Terrace, Shrewsbury, SY1 1JX|
|42||The Boy’s Autumn Book, Descriptive of the Season, Scenery, Rural Life, and Country Amusements, Thomas Miller, 1847, New York, Harper|
|43||The Boy’s Summer Book, Descriptive of the Season, Scenery, Rural Life, and Country Amusements, Thomas Miller, 1846, London, Chapman & Hall, 186 Strand|
|44||The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|45||The County Around Ellesmere is Full of Charm and Interest, H. Clayton Jones, Shropshire Magazine, March 1959, Shropshire Archives|
The Few That Fed the Many: Loss of Labour, A New Era, https://www.nfuonline.com/assets/33538
The German Spring Offensive of 1918, CN Trueman, 17th April 2015, The History Learning Site, https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/battles-of-world-war-one/the-german-spring-offensive-of-1918/
The Grass is Greener – The Plight of UK Dairy Cows, 22nd April 2016, www.ciwf.org.uk
The Great War 1914-1918, The Second Battle of Ypres, 1915, www.greatwar.co.uk
|50||The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, 1962, Penguin Books, ISBN 978-0241-96821-5, pgs. 284, 478, 481- 482|
The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, 1914-1918, The KSLI During the Great War, www.shropshireregimentalmuseum.co.uk
The Ramsdale Family Register, www.ramsdale.org
The War Battles, The Battle for Hooge, www.ww1remembrance.com/hooge
|54||Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me, Holy Bible, Psalm 138 v. 7|
Victorian Children in Victorian Times, Baxton Price, 11 December 2012, www.victorianchildren.org
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
Wages Through History: Agricultural Labourers’ Wages –1850-1914, February 2011, https://historyofwages.blogspot.com/2011/02/agricultural-labourers-wages-1850-1914.html
|58||War Diary: 1 KSLI, 4th August 1914 to November 1918, 1914-1918, Ref: 6005/SHYKS/10/0145, Shropshire Archives|
Wellington Journal 19th May 1917, Wounded Lists, Column 7, Ref: X8936/1917/5/3/349147
|60||World War One, Rupert Colley, 2012, William Collins, ISBN: 978 0 00 753911 6|
|61||WW1 A Layman’s Guide, Scott Addington, 2012, Amazon, ISBN: 9 781495 911569|