Thursday, 1 June 2017

The Manchester Barnardo boy who joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916 .............. stories behind the book nu 4

An occasional series on the stories behind the new book on Manchester and the Great War.*

William, circa 1916-1918
I first came across William Phillips after I had made an appeal across Canada for stories of men and women who had been born in Manchester but had served in the Canadian army or Red Cross during the Great War.

And almost by return of post Patricia Bronson sent me the story of William Phillips who had been born in Manchester, was sent across the Atlantic by a children’s charity and volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1916.

He had survived the war, returned to Canada, and married Violet.

Patricia remembered them as “a wonderful couple.  They had both come to Canada under the BHC Immigration scheme [and]  lived out their lives in the Village of Bethany, Manvers Township and are buried at St. Mary`s Anglican Church Cemetery, Lifford, Manvers Township.

At this point I do not know the family circumstances that sent them to Canada.”

Between us we had managed to discover that he had been born in Fallowfield in 1897, that his father was widowed and that he had two siblings one of who was living off Cheetham Hill Road in 1916.

Added to which he was one of the 100,000 British Home Children migrated to Canada between 1870 and 1930.

Some had spent their early years in care while others came from abusive or neglected backgrounds and a few were given up by their parents who because of ill health, or poverty were desperate for their children to have a better life.

Violet and William
Overseeing the migration policy were a number of children’s charities often working in partnership with the local Poor Law Unions.

We both knew there would be more but had yet to begin looking and that is where my friend Tricia stepped in and took the story further than I could have hoped.

She had “found that his mother was Elizabeth nee Bradbury who died 1900 and his father James Henry had died in 1903.

So he would only have been six when he was made an orphan which might explain why he entered the orphanage.”***

It is impossible to know whether his siblings joined him.  Barnardos will not divulge their records to non family members but given that in 1903 his sister Elizabeth Alice was14 and Harold 13 I doubt that they would have been in care for long if at all.

In 1911 Elizabeth Alice was staying with her uncle and aunt in Irlam and Harold was married and living in West Gorton.

Leaving for Canada, on the steps of Manchester Town Hall, 1897   
As for William at the age of just nine he was migrated by Barnados to Canada sailing from Liverpool to Quebec in 1906.

It is a familiar story and one that those of us with a BHC relative will readily identify with.

My great uncle went over in 1914, failed to settle on any of the farms he was placed on and ran away to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915.

Like William he returned safely to Canada but we lose him after 1925.

If he did marry we have yet to find out and I doubt we ever will.

William we know did and it was not uncommon for children migrated to Canada to fall in love and marry a fellow BHC which William and Mary did in 1926.

William's attestation papers, 1916
The romantic in me is pleased that William found Violet and they were well regarded.

Sadly his siblings fared less well.

Harold had also joined up but was killed on the Western Front on August 10th 1918 and is buried in the Allied war cemetery at the village of Rosieries on the Somme.

He died during the successful action to regain the village from the Germans.

Elizabeth married Joseph Harrison in 1919 and died six years later.

They had no children.

But the search is not quite over because Harold and his wife Francis had two children and while both will now be dead there may still be living relatives.

Picture; William Phillips in military uniform,  circa 1915-18,  with Violet, date unknown and his Attestation Papers, 1915, courtesy of Patricia Bronson, Manchester children leaving for Canada in 1897, courtesy of the Together Trust

*Manchester and the Great War, Andrew Simpson, was published in February, 2017,

**Patricia Bronson

*** Tricia Leslie

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