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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #133

Dear Reader,

Written by my youngest son 🙂

Christmas at the Front by Rhys age 14.

My direct ancestor, Jeanne de Valois, c1294 – 7 March 1352), Countess consort of Hainaut, Holland and Zeeland. She married William I, Count of Hainault. A skilled mediator, she brokered peace between many warring factions during the first half of the fourteenth century.

My direct ancestor, Eleanor of Castile, (1241 – 1290), wife of Edward I, a political match that developed into love. Well educated, Eleanor was a keen patron of literature and encouraged the use of tapestries and carpets in the Spanish style. She was also a keen businesswoman.

While tracing the Stradling branch of my family tree, I discovered a direct connection to Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster.

Born Katherine de Roet, Katherine is thought to be the youngest child of Paon (aka Payn) de Roet, a herald and later a knight. Her birthdate is uncertain, although some sources place it on 25 November 1350 in Hainaut, Belgium.

Katherine Swynford

Around 1366 at St Clement Danes Church, Westminster, Katherine married Sir Hugh Swynford. From Lincolnshire, Sir Hugh was in the service of John of Gaunt, a son of Edward III and arguably the most powerful man of his age. For Katherine, this was a political not a love match and we can only imagine her feelings as she embarked upon a new life with Sir Hugh.

As Lady Swynford, Katherine gave birth to the following children: 

Blanche (born 1 May 1367)

Sir Thomas (21 September 1368 – 1432)

And possibly Margaret Swynford (born c1369), later recorded as a nun in Barking Abbey

Katherine served John of Gaunt, a charismatic, chivalric knight, as governess to his daughters, Phillippa of Lancaster and Elizabeth of Lancaster. In turn, John of Gaunt was named as the godfather of Katherine’s daughter, Blanche. At this stage it was evident that Katherine and John of Gaunt were close. In due course, that relationship became more intimate.

John of Gaunt’s wife, Blanche of Lancaster, died on 12 September 1368 of the plague. A few years later, after the death of Sir Hugh on 13 November 1371, Katherine and John of Gaunt embarked upon a love affair that produced four children out of wedlock. The children were:

John, 1st Earl of Somerset (1373 – 1410)

Henry, Cardinal Beaufort (1375 – 1447) My direct ancestor.

Thomas, Duke of Exeter (1377 – 1426)

Joan, Countess of Westmorland (1379 – 1440)

The illicit relationship continued until 1381 when it was truncated for political reasons. The ensuing scandal damaged Katherine’s reputation, and we can only imagine her feelings at losing John of Gaunt, the man she truly loved, and the gossip around court.

John of Gaunt

Another union for political reasons followed: John of Gaunt’s marriage to Constance of Castile (1354 – 24 March 1394). On 13 January 1396, two years after Constance’s death, Katherine and John of Gaunt were married at Lincoln Cathedral. Subsequently, the Pope legitimised their four children.

Katherine lived through many of the major events of the fourteenth century including the Black Death, the Hundred Years’ War and the Peasants’ Revolt. At the royal courts she met the greatest personalities of her age. While the London courts were often flamboyant and licentious she was also familiar with the pastoral aspects of Lincolnshire. Both locations must have offered a sharp contrast to her childhood in Hainaut.

When John of Gaunt died on 3 February 1399, Katherine was then styled as ‘Dowager, Duchess of Lancaster’. She outlived him by four years, dying on 10 May 1403 in her early fifties.

Katherine’s descendants were members of the Beaufort family, the name assigned to her children. This family played a major role in the Wars of the Roses when Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII, derived his claim to the throne from his mother, Margaret Beaufort, a great-granddaughter of Katherine and John of Gaunt. Furthermore, five American presidents are descended from Katherine.

Katherine has been the subject of numerous novels, including Anya Seton’s Katherine, published in 1954, and non-fiction works including Katherine Swynford: The Story of John of Gaunt and His Scandalous Duchess by Alison Weir.

Geoffrey Chaucer

A footnote to Katherine’s story. Her sister, Phillipa, married Geoffrey Chaucer, thus placing the great poet on my family tree.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #125

Dear Reader,

I’m researching the Cannes Film Festival for Damaged my latest Sam Smith mystery. The film festival began in 1939 as a response to fascism – Hitler and Mussolini had fixed the only international film festival, at Venice, in their favour. 

The first movie premiered at Cannes, on 31 August 1939, was The Hunchback of Norte Dame. The followed day, Hitler invaded Poland and the festival was cancelled.

A sneak preview of Mom’s Favorite Reads’ November 2021 issue, a poem by my youngest son, Rhys. He wrote this poem from scratch in one draft.

A scene familiar to my Bristol ancestors, the Dutch House on the corner of Wine Street and High Street, 1884.

Through my gateway ancestor Barbara Aubrey (1637 – 1711) I’ve traced the Stradling branch of my family tree back to Sir John d’Estratlinges, born c1240 in Strättligen, Kingdom of Arles, Switzerland. He married a niece of Otho de Grandson and they produced a son, my direct ancestor Peter de Stratelinges, before her premature death. Later, in 1284, Sir John married Mathilda de Wauton, but the marriage produced no children.

Strättligen consisted of villages in the possession of the von Strättligen noble family, named after their home castle of Strättligburg. This family, my ancestors, ruled over much of western Bernese Oberland. Strättligburg was destroyed by the Bernese in 1332 and later generations of the Strättligens lost most of their possessions.

The minnesinger Heinrich von Stretlingin in Codex Manesse (fol. 70v), depicted with the arms of the von Strättligen family.

On 20 May 1290, Edward I granted Sir John d’Estratlinges a charter for a weekly market and an annual two-day fair for the Feasts of Saint Peter and Paul, which occurred on 29 June. The fair was held at Sir John’s Little Wellsbourne Manor.

On 3 July 1290, before his departure to Palestine, Sir Otho divided his Irish lands amongst three of his living nephews, including Sir John. Sir Otho’s charter, witnessed by many nobles, granted Sir John the following: 

Castle and Town of Kilfekle

Land of Muskerye

Manor of Kilsilam

Town of Clummele

On 4 May 1292, Henry de Foun quitclaimed a third of the following to Sir John de Strattelinges:

In Warwickshire: 36 messuages, 9 carucates, 9 virgates of land, 3 mills, 7 acres of wood, 15 acres of meadow, plus £51 10s of rent in Walton Deyuile, Walton Maudut, Wellsbourne, Lokesleye, Hunstanescote, Tysho and Ouer Pylardyngton.

In Oxfordshire: 1 messuage, 2 carucates of land, 1 mill, 5 acres of meadow plus £7 rent in Alkington.

In Gloucsestershire: 1 messuage and 4 virgates of land in Shenington.

Because his marriage to Mathilda produced no heir, all the de Wauton estates remained with her when she remarried. Subsequently, they were withheld from Sir John’s son, Sir Peter.

Sir John died c1294. A trusted servant of Edward I, the king cleared all of Sir John’s debts post mortem, ‘in consideration of John’s good service to him.’ Two points to note here: 1. If I had been alive at the time I would have been an opponent of Edward I, and therefore my ancestor Sir John, because of the king’s oppression of the Welsh people. 2. Even privileged nobles like Sir John ran up considerable debts. An example:

On 3 February 1294, John de Stratelinges, deceased, acknowledged in chancery that he owed Henry de Podio of Lucca and his merchants the considerable sum of £200. Edward I covered that debt.

St Donats Castle Door Header. Image: Todd Gilbert, WikiTree.

Sir Peter de Stratelinges, son of Sir John, was born c1260 in Strättligen. He travelled to England with his father and in c1290 married Joan de Hawey, heiress of her brother, Thomas de Hawey. Their marriage produced two children: John Stradling and my direct ancestor Edward Stradling.

Sir Peter was governor of Neath Castle, Glamorgan, Wales. Through his wife’s inheritence, after her brother’s early death, he also obtained the following de Hawey estates:

St. Donat’s Manor, Glamorgan, Wales

Combe Hawey Manor, Somerset, England

Compton Hawey Manor, Somerset, England

Compton Hawey Manor, Dorset, England

In July 1297 Sir Peter was governor of Neath Castle when the king mandated ‘Peter de Straddeleye’ to deliver the castle to Walter Hakelute, ‘with its armour, victuals and other goods.’

The Gnoll and Castle, Neath, 1790-1810 by Hendrik Frans de Cort.

On 1 April 1298 at Westminster, Sir Peter was nominated as attorney for the following men, who were out of the country tending to the king’s affairs:

  1. Otto de Grandson, who had gone to the Court of Rome.
  2. Peter de Stanye (d’Estavayer), who was ‘staying beyond the seas.’
  3. Aymo de Carto, provost of Beverley, who had also gone to the Court of Rome.

As attorney, Sir Peter spent a considerable amount of time in Ireland, up to three years, overseeing his nominators’ affairs. He died c1300 possibly in Ireland. By this time he had acquired lands in Ireland through inheritance.

Through his wife’s inheritance, Sir Peter established the Stradlings in Glamorgan, my home county. Through marriage to other noble houses, they produced links to many of the castles in Glamorgan. It’s ironic that, in the past, I visited these castles without the knowledge that my ancestors used to reside there.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #121

Dear Reader,

I’ve received messages asking me when Operation Cameo, book six in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, will be available. I’m pleased to say that the book will be listed on all major platforms as a pre-order later this month.

The earliest photograph to feature people. The Boulevard du Temple 1838 by Louis Daguerre. Because the exposure lasted for several minutes the moving traffic in the busy street left no trace. Only a shoe polisher and his client remained in place long enough to appear on the printed image. Sam mentions this in my latest Sam Smith mystery, Damaged.

Summer 1915, C Company, The Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, Number Nine Platoon. This picture includes my 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick. 

On 25 September 1915 the Royal West Surrey Regiment engaged in the Battle of Loos, which resulted in 80% British casualties, including Albert, when the generals gassed their own men.

A State Lottery was recorded in 1569. The tickets were sold at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, pictured c1560.

A poem written in Welsh c1920 about my 2 x great grandfather William Howe. Lines include: ‘He deserves all the praise he receives’. ‘A Christian in his warm home’. ‘William Howe is a godly saint for getting us all to pray again in the chapel with the children’. ‘We will enjoy a big feast at the Sunday School’. ‘We will sing his praises when we meet in heaven’.

My latest article for the Seaside News appears on page 36 of this month’s magazine.

I’ve traced the Bick branch of my family back to the fifteenth century. They settled in Badgeworth, Gloucestershire and lived there for hundreds of years. My branch of the family moved to London in the Victorian era, but you can still find Bicks in numerous numbers in Gloucestershire.

Unfortunately, the records for the Bicks of Badgeworth are not extensive, but I have uncovered a few nuggets of information that add details to my ancestors’ lives.

The surname Bick is of Dutch and German origin. It derives from the Middle Dutch and Middle High German word bicke meaning pickaxe or chisel. The name was associated with stonemasons and people who worked with pickaxes and chisels.

It’s likely that the Bicks arrived in Gloucestershire from the Netherlands or Germany in the early Middle Ages. My branch of the family feature in many land deeds during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These deeds indicate that they farmed land as yeomen. However, they were never described as ‘gentlemen’, which suggests that there was no link with the gentry.

Bick sons married the daughters of the following families: Meek, Fawkes, Spring, Blush, Izod and Netherton. Evocative names. These families were also of the yeomen class. The name Fawkes suggests a link to the infamous Guy Fawkes. However, Guy was from York and it is unlikely that my ancestor, Jane Fawkes, was closely related to him.

From the land, my Bick ancestors became innkeepers, running coaching inns. George was a popular name over four successive generations. George ‘the second’ – 22 October 1668 to 3 June 1738 – was an innkeeper in Badgeworth. Some of the Bicks left wills, but they are difficult to read and those that are legible contain only basic details of modest inheritances for sons and daughters.

The Bick ancestor who captured my attention was Thomas Bick, born 1575 in Badgeworth. He died in 1623 of the ‘pest’, also known as the pestilence or plague. The plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, which mainly infects rats and other rodents who become the prime reservoir for the bacteria.

Seventeenth century plague doctor with protective mask and clothing.

The Pestilence was a bubonic plague pandemic that occurred in Afro-Eurasia from 1346 to 1353. The plague created religious, social and economic upheavals with profound effects for the inhabitants of the time. It also drastically altered the course of European history.

Further waves of the plague swept over Europe throughout the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries. Certain years were more blighted than others, including 1623 the year that Thomas died. That bout of the pestilence lasted until 1640. It reoccurred again in 1644–54 and 1664–67. 

The 1664 to 1667 episode was the last major epidemic of the bubonic plague to occur in England. In 1665-66 it swept through London producing the ‘Great Plague of London’. Then, in September 1666, the ‘Great Fire of London’ destroyed the city. Some people speculated that the fire killed the pestilence, although records suggest that the disease was already on the wane. My London ancestors were caught up in the ‘Great Fire of London’, but more about them in future posts.

London 1665.

As we know to our cost, when we abuse nature and animals we create pandemics. Our ancestors did not have the scientific knowledge to appreciate this, but we do; there is no excuse.

Along with the pestilence, our ancestors died from a range of diseases and illnesses. Here is an example from 1632 with a few definitions.

Cut of the Stone – The surgical removal of a bladder stone

French Pox – Syphilis

Jawfaln – Locked jaw

Impostume – An abscess

King’s Evil – A tuberculous swelling of the lymph glands

Livergrown – Liver disease, possibly caused by alcoholism 

Murthered – Murdered

Planet – To be stricken with terror or affected adversely by the supposed influence of a planet

Purples – Purple blotches on the skin caused by broken blood vessels, indicative of an underlying illness, such as scurvy

Rising of the Lights – A condition of the larynx, trachea or lungs

Tissick – A cough

Tympany – Bloating

The saddest entry on this list, and the largest in number, is chrisomes and infants. Chrisomes refers to a baby less than a month old, which indicates that the start could often be the most dangerous period of a person’s life.

Stay safe. Wishing you well.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #116

Dear Reader,

Now available for pre-order, Damaged, Sam Smith Mystery Series book nineteen. This story is set in the South of France and deals with immigration and terrorism.

Eight and a half months pregnant. My detective agency was in good hands, Faye and Tamara’s hands, so time to put my feet up and await the Big Day. However, Gabe, my private eye friend from Boston, had other ideas.

Hired by Alexander Carmichael III the current head of a powerful Boston dynasty, Gabe was on the trail of Chelsea, Carmichael’s runway daughter. That trail led to Wales – hence my involvement – then on to the South of France.

Amongst the glitz and glamour of the South of France events took a murderous turn – someone was making and detonating bombs, and that someone had developed a close association with Chelsea.

We found ourselves in a race against time, to prevent an explosion and the loss of many innocent lives, and to return home to deliver my baby.

Read this from the top to the bottom then from the bottom to the top.

My latest translation, The Olive Tree: Branches, in Portuguese.

My ancestor Robert Dent was born on 17 July 1882 in London to Richard Dent and Sarah Ann Cottrell. As a child, Richard emigrated to Ontario, Canada only to return to London in his early twenties where he married Sarah Ann. He found employment at London Docks and on the ships that sailed into those docks. In 1883 his ship, Stadacona, foundered with all hands. You can read Richard’s story here https://hannah-howe.com/ancestry/dent-yorkshire-canada-london/dent-yorkshire-canada-london-4/

In the early 1900s Richard’s son, Robert, followed his sister, Eliza, to Ontario, Canada. On 17 November 1909 in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada, Robert married Edith Eugenia Mollett, a woman of French descent. Between 1910 and 1914 the couple produced three daughters: Caroline (named after Edith’s mother), Edith and Jessie. Then the First World War broke out.

Given their British and French backgrounds, Robert and Edith must have discussed the war and its unfolding events in some detail and those discussions led to Robert enlisting in the Royal Canadian Dragoons (1st Armoured Regiment) on 21 January 1916.

Most of what follows was recorded in Robert’s official war record.

Robert Dent’s attestation paper

At the time of his marriage to Edith, Robert was a railway assistant. He was still working on the railways when his daughter Caroline was born. Remarkably, we know the exact time of her birth: 8.40 pm on 20 September 1910. When Robert signed up he was a farmer. In common with the vast majority of men who signed up he had no military experience.

Robert’s personal details. Height: five foot five and three-quarter inches. Weight: 135 lbs. Girth: 37 inches when resting, 41 inches when expanded. Complexion: fair. Eyes: grey. Hair: light brown. He had no smallpox scars, but his skin did reveal four vaccination marks. His habits were considered ‘good.’ On 21 January 1916 the medical officer considered Robert ‘fit for active service.’

After training, Robert left Halifax, Canada on 15 August 1916. By ship he arrived in Liverpool, England on 24 August 1916 and was transferred to the 11th Reserves Battalion at Shorecliffe. On 27 October 1916 he was transferred to the 8th Battalion to serve overseas. 

The 8th Battalion was authorized on 10 August 1914 and embarked for Britain on 1 October 1914. It disembarked in France on 13 February 1915, where it fought as part of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion was disbanded on 15 September 1920. During the Great War the battalion saw action on a number of key battlefields including Ypres, Passchendaele and the Somme.

A page from Robert’s military file

Robert’s war record reveals that he was ‘accidentally slightly wounded’ on 7 February 1917. These ‘slight’ wounds included gunshots to the right knee, thigh, leg, forearm and face, and they necessitated a thirty-two day stay at Clapton Military Hospital, from 3 March 1917 to 4 April 1917. 

How did Robert sustain his wounds? It would appear that he was present in a brigade bombing area, attending a bombing instructional course. The safely at the course must have been lax resulting in a accident. Robert’s medical record states that he sustained ‘gunshot wounds’ and not ‘shrapnel wounds’ so maybe he was hit by bullets during the exercise and not shrapnel from an exploding bomb.

On 4 April 1917 medics moved Robert to the Canadian Convalescent Hospital in Bromley, Kent, where he remained until 17 April 1917 when he was discharged with limited movement in his right knee.

Robert’s disability was of ‘a serious nature’ and would ‘interfere with his future efficiency as a soldier.’ On 27 July 1917 he made a will, leaving all his worldly possessions to his wife, Edith. Then, despite his injuries, he returned to the frontline.

Back on the frontline, Robert suffered from trench foot, a common malady during the First World War. On 13 December 1917 he was transferred to the Canadian General Hospital in Shorecliffe where he remained until 12 March 1918, forty-eight days. During his stay surgeons removed his toenails.

A case of trench foot from the Great War, 1917

Despite his injuries, Robert survived the Great War. However, he then faced another twist of fate.

From February 1918 mankind had been engaged in another ‘war’, against the ‘Spanish Flu.’ While in England waiting to return to his family in Canada, Robert became ill. On 15 January 1919 he was admitted to the Mile End Military Hospital. A week later, on 21 January 1919, he died.

Trooper Robert Dent, service number 225554, survived the horrors of the Great War only to succumb to an unseen enemy. This suggests an irony and tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. However, this was no play; it was life, and death. Edith lost her husband. In return she received a gratuity of $180, her husband’s life valued at £4,000 in today’s money.

Robert Dent’s final resting place, Brookwood Cemetery.
Image: Find a Grave.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

#1 for value with 565,000 readers, The Fussy Librarian has helped my books to reach #1 on 31 occasions.

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Dear Reader

Dear Reader #99

Dear Reader,

On 15 May 2021 we will publish Stormy Weather, book eighteen in my Sam Smith Mystery Series. Meanwhile, I’m working on Damaged, book nineteen in the series. We will publish this book in the autumn. Meanwhile, here’s the cover.

Chester, 1590, den of iniquity.

The Brereton’s are on my family tree. One generation were involved in a murder plot and an attempt to alter a will. The case reached the Star Chamber.

My latest translations, Ann’s War: Victory in Afrikaans and Eve’s War: Operation Broadsword in Portuguese.

The May 2021 issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads.

In this month’s issue…

Am I a Real Mum?

The Benefits of Journaling

International Nurses Day

Discovering Your Eighteenth Century Ancestors 

Things to Celebrate in May

Plus, travel, photography, puzzles, poems, short stories and so much more!

Colourised image of Fleet Street, London, 1888.

Just discovered that my 5 x great grandfather James Noulton served in the Napoleonic Wars, receiving a decoration in 1811 for his participation in the Invasion of Java.

Picture: A plan of the Cornelia, 1808, one of the two ships James Noulton served on.

More about James in future posts.

My 2 x great grandfather Albert Charles Bick was born on 3 September 1879 in Battersea, Surrey, the youngest of William Bick and Fanny Brereton’s eleven children.

William and Fanny moved to Battersea from Gloucestershire. The family also had connections in Hampshire and over several generations moved between these counties. William was a labourer so money for the family was always tight.

Albert started school at a young age, three. He attended Sleaford Street School, one of the new board schools created to give working class children an education.

Albert at school

After school, Albert found a job as a car man at the coal wharf, transporting coal on a horse and cart. He was still in this form of employment when he married Annie Noulton on 22 March 1902 in Lambeth, London. In thirteen years the couple had seven children.

In 1911, Albert was still a car man, now working at Doulton’s Pipe Works in Lambeth. The birth records of Albert and Annie’s children reveal that he worked as a car man throughout his married life. On 7 April 1911 there was a mass baptism when four Bick children from various strands of the family were baptised.

When the First World War broke out in 1914 Albert and Annie had six children with another on the way. During the summer of 1915, after the birth of his seventh child, Albert volunteered to serve in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment. Why did he volunteer? 

Albert’s brothers William, John and Frederick also volunteered, Frederick for the Red Cross. It would appear that the brothers volunteered together, and that it was a family decision. In 1911, the  family baptised four children together, so obviously they were a tight-knit family. By this time, the war had been raging for a year so unlike the first wave of volunteers who set off with naive optimism, the Bicks volunteered in the knowledge that they were entering hell.

The hell Albert entered had a name, the Battle of Loos. He departed for France on 31 August 1915 and engaged in the battle less than a month later, on 25 September 1915. 

The Battle of Loos was the biggest British attack of 1915, and the first time that the British used poisoned gas. The plan was for the French and British forces to break through the German defences in Artois and Champagne, and disrupt the pattern of trench warfare. 

At a conference on 6 September 1915 British commander Douglas Haig suggested that the extensive use of chlorine gas might facilitate an advance as long as the French and British were able to keep the attack secret.

Royal Engineers dug under no-man’s-land and planted mines under the parapets of the German front line trenches, ready to be detonated at zero hour.

Insufficient ammunition hampered the initial bombardment. Also, the British commanders did not fully appreciate the defensive formation of the German machine guns.

Prior to the attack, the British released 140 long tons of chlorine gas. The wind favoured no side and the gas affected both British and German troops.

British infantry advancing at Loos 25 September 1915

The gas masks were inefficient so many soldiers removed them to obtain clear vision and, ironically, to catch their breath. At 6.30 am on 25 September 1915 Albert engaged in battle, charging across open ground, the air full of gas and bullets.

In many places the British artillery had failed to cut the German barbed wire before the attack. Furthermore, the engineers manning the poison gas cylinders warned against their use, because of the unpredictability of the wind. However, they were overruled by General Sir Hubert Gough. 

As the battle developed, the gas claimed more British than German casualties. Despite that disaster, the British did capture the village of Loos-en-Gohelle. Bad planning meant that the breakthrough could not be exploited. A contemporary account stated, ‘From what I can ascertain, some of the divisions did actually reach the enemy’s trenches, for their bodies can now be seen on the barbed wire.’

Major-General Richard Hilton, a Forward Observation Officer, said of the battle, ‘A great deal of nonsense has been written about Loos. The real tragedy of that battle was its nearness to complete success. Most of us who reached the crest of Hill 70, and survived, were firmly convinced that we had broken through on that Sunday, 26 September 1915. There seemed to be nothing ahead of us, but an unoccupied and incomplete trench system. The only two things that prevented our advancing into the suburbs of Lens were, firstly, the exhaustion of the “Jocks” themselves (for they had undergone a bellyfull of marching and fighting that day) and, secondly, the flanking fire of numerous German machine-guns, which swept that bare hill from some factory buildings in Cite St. Auguste to the south of us. All that we needed was more artillery ammunition to blast those clearly-located machine-guns, plus some fresh infantry to take over from the weary and depleted “Jocks.” But, alas, neither ammunition nor reinforcements were immediately available, and the great opportunity passed.’

Twelve attacking battalions suffered 8,000 casualties out of 10,000 men in four hours. In total, the British suffered 48,367 casualties in the main attack and 10,880 more in the second attack, a total of 59,247 losses, a high percentage of the 285,107 British casualties on the Western Front in 1915. Though Haig and Gough were culpable for this disaster, they escaped much of the blame. 

Albert Charles Bick died at Loos on 25 September 1915, whether through gas poisoning, a machine gun bullet or a mortar bomb is not known, for his body was not recovered. In the official files he is listed as ‘presumed dead’.

Annie received a widow’s pension. She did not remarry and died in 1963. Her eldest daughter and my direct ancestor, also Annie, survived her. As a child, I met daughter Annie several times during her later years, although I was too young to appreciate what the family had been through.

Loos War Memorial

The poet Robert Graves featured in the Battle of Loos and wrote about his experiences in Goodbye to All That while the Loos Memorial commemorates over 20,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who fell in the battle and have no known grave, including Albert Charles Bick.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx