John Hubert Worthington

Hubert, as he was always known, was born on the 4th July 1886 in Alderley Edge, Cheshire to Father, Thomas and his mother, Edith Emma. Edith was Thomas’ second wife. He was their youngest child.  The family were Unitarians, who used to worship at Dean Row Chapel near Wilmslow.

Thomas was a well known architect who designed many buildings in and around Manchester. Perhaps his best known work is the Albert Memorial in front of Manchester Town Hall. The family lived at ‘Broomfield’ on Macclesfield Road throughout Hubert’s childhood. Hubert was educated at Ryleys Preparatory School in Alderley Edge. Here he met Wilfrith Elstob, who was to become a lifelong friend. In 1900 he went to Sedbergh School in Cumbria, and stayed there for 5 years. He served in the School Cadet Corps for 3 years, reaching the rank of Corporal. Hubert qualified for a Master of Arts (MA) degree in Architecture at Manchester University before being articled to his half-brother Percy in order to commence his professional career.

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A photograph of Hubert in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/23/91/160

Hubert visited Italy in the years before the outbreak of the First World War, and ‘developed a lifelong love of Italian architecture’. In 1912 he began working in the office of Sir Edwin Lutyens, a famous and highly esteemed architect who was just beginning to design Lutyens Delhi, in India. Edwin’s work and personality both inspired Hubert greatly and they would remain friends for many years. In 1914, Hubert, now an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects applied to be commissioned as an officer in the 6th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment, where his brother Claude was serving. His ‘papers were returned from the War Office’ on the 17th. Hubert tried again a month later. This time he was accepted into the 1st City Battalion. This was being formed by the men of Manchester so that they could serve together. He became a Probationary Second Lieutenant on the 12th September and was confirmed in the rank on the 3rd October. Wilfrith Elstob joined the battalion on the same day, after Hubert had persuaded him to stay in Manchester rather than join a London based unit.

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Lt. Col Winifrith Elstob, Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre, Reference: MR4/23/91/81

On the 8th December 1914 Hubert became a Temporary Captain. He was given command of A Company with Wilfrith as his Second in Command. The 1st City Battalion became the 16th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The unit trained at Heaton Park in Manchester until April 1915 when they moved to Belton Park near Grantham in Lincolnshire. They moved to Larkhill in Wiltshire during September, and sailed for France in early November, arriving on the 8th. The 16th Battalion trained around Hebuterne and Louvencourt after their arrival in France. In January 1916 they moved to the area around Maricourt and stayed here, taking their turns in the front line, until the 1st June. They then began training to take part in the Somme Offensive, which was to begin on the 1st July. On this day the 16th Battalion attacked the village of Montauban. Although they took the village, heavy German fire killed and wounded a large number of soldiers, including Hubert. As he later related, ‘6 machine gun bullets hit me + I knew no more but the feeling I was killed. The next thing I knew was that I had been dragged to a shell hole where I lay 30 hours quite helpless’. Hubert was wounded in the left hip and hand, and one bullet had passed through his right lung, breaking at least one rib.

Hubert’s wounds were very serious. He was evacuated back to the UK on the 11th July for treatment at the 4th London General Hospital in Denmark Hill. He recovered well, and was discharged from hospital on the 19th September. He went on sick leave to Clovelly Court in Devon.

Hubert continued to have trouble breathing, and at the beginning of November he ‘strained muscles of right chest’. He was still ‘unable to pull or lift heavy weights’ in mid December. His sick leave was extended every few months until the 24th February 1917. On this day he was admitted to the Prince of Wales’ Convalescent Home for Officers in Marylebone, London, until the 21st March. He was passed fit for Home Service after 3 more weeks of leave. In mid April Hubert was ordered to join the 21st Officer Cadet Battalion (OCB) at Crookham, near Fleet in Hampshire. He was employed as an assistant instructor, helping teach officers under training how to lead their soldiers on the battlefield. He was easily exhausted, but at the 21st OCB he could ‘spend his nights in bed and can rest when knocked up’. His Commanding Officer did not believe he was ‘fit for anything more active than employment here’. Hubert stayed at the 21st OCB until after the end of the war on the 11th November 1918. He became a Company Commander there on the 28th November and held this job until he was released from the Army on the 8th February 1919. He had been ‘a most reliable and hard working officer’ and ‘an influence for good’ on the Cadets he had trained.

Wilfrith Elstob had not been as fortunate as Hubert. He went missing on the 21st March 1918, after leading the 16th Battalion in the defence of Manchester Hill near St Quentin. Hubert was determined to recover his friend, who he knew as ‘Bindy’. He travelled to France twice during 1919 with members of the War Graves Commission in the hopes of finding his body, but without success. Wilfrith, with no known grave was commemorated on the memorial at Pozières. Later that year though Hubert was instrumental in gathering the evidence that led to Wilfrith being awarded the Victoria Cross on the 9th June. He went with Wilfrith’s father to receive the Victoria Cross from King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 24th July 1919.

Hubert returned to the family firm, Thomas Worthington and Sons, and resumed his career in architecture. He designed a large number of buildings and monuments, including Manchester Dental Hospital and the Private Patient’s Home at the Royal Infirmary in Manchester. He also designed a new wing for Rossall School in Lancashire, rooms for Eton College, and the Memorial Cloister at Sedbergh School. In 1923 Hubert became Professor of Architecture at the Royal College of Art in South Kensington. One of his students was Sophie Joan Banham. They married in Chelsea between October and December 1928. They had 3 children, who were all born in the Brentford area of West London. Penelope Anne was born between July and September 1929, Anthony Crispin on the 1st February 1932 and Olivia Joanna between July and September 1935. Hubert and Joan’s marriage was long and happy. They shared ‘a common interest in the arts and humanities’, and worked together on many projects. As one friend remembered, ‘it was no uncommon matter, when pondering over a problem connected with a project for Hubert to say: ‘I would like to ask Joan about this’. And so the perfect solution was discovered’.

In 1943 Hubert was appointed Principal Architect for the Imperial War Graves Commission, North Africa. He would be responsible for selecting the sites for cemeteries and memorials, and then designing them and overseeing their construction. He and Joan went on a tour of North Africa for this purpose in early 1947, and then another, visiting the finished cemeteries, in 1953. Amongst his many designs were the Malta Memorial to missing airmen near Valetta, Tobruk War Cemetery and the El Alamein Cemetery and Memorial in Egypt.

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The El Alamein War Cemetery, Egypt

Hubert was highly thought of as an architect who despite all his professional success, kept a special place in his heart for his former comrades in the 16th Battalion. He would always stop and greet any he met in the street, and never missed a reunion. At these events comrades ‘relished his after-dinner reminisces, as he was a raconteur and mimic of outstanding merit’.

Information Sources:

Museum of the Manchester Regiment

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission

 

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Private Ernest Donald Gow

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Private Ernest Donald Gow
4th Bn, Australian Infantry, A.I.F.

Died: 03.02.15 (Double Pneumonia, Mena Hospital, Cairo, Egypt)
Age: 24
Headstone Inscription: ‘At Rest’
Son of William and Minnie Gow, of Ulmarra, New South Wales. Born at Wollongong.

Ernest Donald Gow (Service No. 1207) was one of the first men from the Illawarra to die in World War 1.

He was born in Wollongong in 1890, the son of William Gow and his wife Minnie Gow (nee Baldwin). Ernest had lived with his family at Croome, and had worked for the Albion Park Post Office, as well as for the Post Office in other towns in NSW.

Ernest gave his occupation as Telegraph Operator when he enlisted at Randwick in the AIF on September 12, 1914. He was part of the 4th Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the AIF. He named his father William Gow of Ulmarra as his next of kin. On October 20, 1914, he embarked from Sydney, New South Wales, Australia on the HMAT A14 “Euripedes”.

Sadly, he was one of the first men from the Illawarra to die in World War 1 of double pneumonia at the Mena Hospital in Cairo on February 3, 1915. His passing along with three others who also died of pneumonia, was reported in a number of newspapers across Australia.

Commonwealth War Graves point out Ernest was buried in Cairo, Al Qahirah, Egypt in the British Protestant Cemetery, Row B: Grave No 149. He is also commemorated on Panel No. 40 of the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

An extract from the Illawarra Mercury 12 February, 1915 reads:

‘SAD NEWS. On the arrival of the Sydney dailies early this week, it was learned that Mr. Ernest Donald Gow, son of Mr. William Gow, of Ulmarra, Clarence River, had died in the Mena Hospital, Egypt, from pneumonia. Much regret has since been expressed at the sad news of the death of this young fellow, who gave his life for the honour of his country. Mr. Gow was at one time a telegraph messenger at the Albion Park post office, having with his parents lived at Croome, he got along so well in the Postal Department that promotion came quickly, and he was appointed on the relieving staff, and had done duty in many towns in New South Wales, and from reports from several of these places it is known that young Gow was a popular officer wherever he went. In the post office he was most obliging and courteous. He was also fond of clean sport and did much to further the attractiveness of several sporting clubs in various towns in which he was relieving. Much sympathy is felt for the parents in losing so brave a son under such sad surroundings”

Sources:
Discovering ANZACS:http://discoveringanzacs.naa.gov.au/browse/records/284011

Shellharbour District Centenary Project 1914-1918 on ANCESTRY :http://trees.ancestry.com.au/tr…/71353581/person/32244157916

Trove – Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertister Family Notices – 4.2.1916
Northern Star – 24.3.2014 – http://www.northernstar.com.au/…/many-soldiers-die…/2207014/

The War Grave Photographic Project –http://www.twgpp.org/information.php?id=1818897

Trove – Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser – WW1 The Honour Rolls – http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article123890556

 

‘The problem is not an easy one’ … cemetery construction, horticultural schemes and the Egyptian climate

In 1948 Hubert Worthington, the Principal War Graves Commission  Architect for Egypt and North Africa was busy adding his comments to the sketch plans, estimates and reports for the new cemetery construction at Tel-el-Kebir. The war memorial cemetery at Tel-el-Kebir, 110 kilometres north-north-east of Cairo, was used from June 1915 to July 1920 and increased after the Armistice when graves were brought in from other sites, including 15 from the International Christian Cemetery at Zagazig. During the Second World War, Tel el Kebir was a hospital centre and the site of a great ordnance depot with workshops for the repair of armoured cars and other weapons of war.

The form A for Tel-el-Kebir lists 608 burials consisting of 497 British burials, 40 allied burials, 66 Polish burials and 5 civilians. The Deputy Director of Works estimated the total area of land required to be 6098 square meters – thereby allowing 10 square meters per internment at a cost of £22 . 12 shillings and 9 pence per grave* (which included the cost of the headstone). 

The remarks listed on the form A by Sir Hubert Worthington are interesting as they highlight the challenges of laying down a cemetery in the Egyptian terrain. He wrote:

‘The problem is not an easy one as four separate units have to be welded into the design. The 1882 cemetery with its magnificently grown trees makes a fine centre. New planting will continue existing palm trees with a Eucalyptus grove as a background to the East & close planting (as a screen on each side of the new main entrance to the 1914-18 cemetery) An entrance feature & gate on the road will prevent trespass and the unfortunate new native huts must be walled out with 8 foot walls as shown & be planted out’

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A view of the 1882 Cemetery, Tel-el-Kebir as mentioned in Worthington’s 1948 notes               Image Source: The Welcome Collection (1910 – 45) 

Worthington worked with, rather than against the landscape to produce beautifully ordered cemeteries with sparse but careful planting in Egypt’s tough environment. One of Worthington’s toughest challenges proved to be the cemetery at El Alamein where seven thousand men are buried with over 8,500 soldiers and 3,000 airmen  commemorated on the Alamein memorial. He declared that he would endeavour to follow the brief to build and plant along the same lines as the cemeteries from the Western front however the climate in Egypt required modifications. He suggested high walls to keep out drifting sand and shady pergolas with cool terraces to provide shelter from the sun. Where grass could not be grown owing to the lack of water the earth would have to be panned and plants such as cacti and succulents would be used rather than the thirsty roses and shrubs grown in other parts of the world.

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A photograph from the Australian War Memorial showing how difficult a task it was to provide a horticultural scheme for Egypt                                                                                            Image Source: The Australian War Memorial, MEA0953 refers 

The form A for the cemetery at Heliopolis, written in 1947,  lists 1630 British burials, 71 allied burials (inc: 28 Poles), 148 enemy burials  and 2 civilians. The Deputy Director of Works estimated the total area of land required to be 60357 square meters – thereby allowing 32.6 square meters per internment at a cost of £14 . 8 shillings and 0 pence per grave* (which included the cost of the headstone). After the war, 125 graves were moved into the cemetery from Mena Camp Military Cemetery where permanent maintenance was not possible due to sand movement. In all 1,742 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War were buried or commemorated in the cemetery along with the 83 war graves of other nationalities reflecting the diverse make up of the Middle East Command in the World War Two. Worthington noted:

‘This cemetery is a very important one. Before my visit in 1943 the general layout had been made and most of the burials were completed. The result was very rigid and bleak. However with water and Nile mud available at the present design, depending for the most part on grass and trees should give a satisfactory result. The surroundings are ugly and the grooves and avenues of Eucalyptus trees will give the necessary seclusion and sense of peace. The war cross in a central position has avenues of cypress trees on its four sides and Ficus trees are arranged elsewhere to form arches and shady walks. The entrance is flanked by Rest Houses and within is a simple and dignified setting of the war stone. Much will depend on fine grass lawns and the use of trees and flowers’

Sometimes when we speak of Egypt our minds rarely move past the antiquities of Ancient Egypt however war has played a huge part in Egypt’s modern history. I cant help but consider how proud Worthington would be to see the horticultural work being conducted in the Egyptian cemeteries today where trees and flowers are being used to their fullest effect.

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The cemetery at Heliopolis, Image Source: Twitter @walid_matrawy  CWGC Egypt 

The cemeteries are beautiful, peaceful resting place for hundreds who tragically lost their lives – carefully tended with immense pride by skilled Egyptian gardeners. In these cemeteries we have an overlooked monument to Egypt’s significance in the wider context of world history; one that will remain as important as any sarcophagus.

Please take a moment to consider visiting the cemeteries if your travelling to Egypt  – further information on visiting the cemeteries is available on the Commonwealth War Graves website https://www.cwgc.org/

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Photograph of Hubert Worthington from the Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre    Reference: MR4/23/91/160

‘One of the Best’ Private W.Vincent Rumbelow – Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.

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A few months ago I was lucky enough to find the Great War medals belonging to 240221 Private William Rumbelow of the 1st / 5th Bn Suffolk Regiment for sale on E Bay.

I was really pleased to be able to purchase the medals and began to undertake some research into the life of their owner and the circumstances surrounding his death.

After the Second Battle of Gaza the Palestinian campaign settled into a stalemate along a line of entrenchments from Gaza on the Mediterranean to the water wells of Beersheba at the foot of the mountains thirty air miles to the southeast. In his book ‘The Egyptian Expeditionary Force in World War I’  Michael J Mortlock wrote:

‘There was considerable bitterness amongst the front line soldiers over what had transpired. The troops were bitterly disillusioned  and very angry as General Murray had no idea how to break the dead lock and kept his headquarters in the comfort of the Savoy Hotel in Cairo, giving awards for gallant services  to members of his large headquarters staff – many of whom had never even see the front line’

Actually Murray did temporarily move to a train carriage at El Arish so as to be closer to Generals Dobell and Chetwode quartered at In Seirat. It was during this period that Private W. Vincent Rumbelow ‘D’ Company of the 1st / 5th Suffolk’s was mortally wounded by a 5.9 shell burst on the 1st of May 1917 while on ‘light duties’ as his comrades were detailed for a wiring party. Murray reported

‘They directed artillery fire on the rear of our positions on the Mansura ridge, doing a certain amount of damage among the transport animals, and making any movement of camel transport during the day impossible’

Although urged by his pal, Private Jake Mortlock, to come with their wiring party ‘as the Turks will send over a few shells and we shall be lying about most of the day’ he could not be convinced and a 5.9 ‘Jack Johnson’ shell mortally wounded him. His sister, Marjorie, remembers the fateful day the Postman delivered the news to his Parents who up until  that day had prayed nightly for his safe return – she never again saw them kneeling by their bed.

Private Mortlock’s grief was not readily discernible in the letter he penned in the rear of the Sheikh Abbas ridge – but the loss of his best pal was a terrible blow to him – not to mention his sister, Gwen, who had been engaged to be married to ‘Vinnie’.

‘One of the Best’ was Jake’s tribute written on the back of a photograph he sent to Gwen.

Michael J Mortlock wrote that ‘W Vincent Rumbelow’s premature death also had unforeseen repercussions regarding the family ownership of the ancient Freckenham manor, as his surviving brother was described as a ‘cripple’ and not up to such an onerous task’ I will research this statement further as although William has an entry on the Soham Grammar School war memorial on the 1911 census he is listed as the son of William W and Mary Rumbelow, aged 15, a Farmer’s Son working on farm, born Freckenham, resident Freckenham, Soham, Cambridgeshire.

For now Williams medals are safe in my keeping.

 

 

Stories from the Hadra War Cemetery (Egypt): Staff Nurse Ella Cooke

In the winter of 1914, Ella Cooke was looking forward to a grand adventure. The Auckland-born nurse and her twin sister Lily had just departed New Zealand in a boat bound for Vancouver, New York and finally England. She was looking forward to seeing the sights, and eventually a working holiday in London, or maybe Paris.

The outbreak of war in July 1914 dashed all her plans. By the time the pair finally docked in London, Ella was contemplating an assignment in one of the many under-resourced hospitals in France. In November 1914, Ella was one of a group of 14 nurses who left England to serve with the French Flag Nursing Corps. She spent the next six months at a hospital in Bernay near Rouen before to returning to England.

Instead of returning home, Ella was persuaded to join the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve. After completing her training at Aldershot she was posted to No: 17 General Hospital at Alexandria, Egypt at the end of September 1915.

During her two years at the hospital, Ella was regarded by her colleagues as a “happy and popular” recruit. On a Saturday off duty – exactly two years after arriving in Alexandria she was killed instantly whilst taking a short cut across a railway line behind the hospital enroute to visiting her friends, Major and Mrs Walshe. She was struck on the forehead by some part of the tram and fell back onto the verge. She died instantly as a result of a skull fracture.

A Court of Enquiry chaired by Lt Col Godding R.A.M.C concluded that she must have been either hurrying or dreaming and did not look up to see whether the tram was approaching. The enquiry exonerated the Driver and the Tram Company of blame and recorded the death was ‘due to a temporary and regrettable want of care on poor Miss Cooke’s part’. 

She was honoured with a full military funeral and buried in the Hadra War Cemetery, Egypt. Her name is inscribed on the World War 1 Nurses Memorial in York Minister, England.

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Service Number 2/RESC/1266 Staff Nurse Ella Cooke

Cemetery/memorial reference: B. 25.

‘A gallant and erudite Soldier’ – The Funeral of Major William Throsby Bridges

William Throsby Bridges was born at Greenock, Scotland, on 18 February 1861. As a youth he moved to Canada, where he later entered the Royal Military College but failed to graduate. In 1879 Bridges moved to Australia and joined the civil service, working in Braidwood, Murrurundi, and Narrabri. He returned to military life in 1885, taking a permanent commission in the artillery, and that same year married his wife, Edith. For the next few years he held various positions at the School of Gunnery and attended several gunnery courses in England, passing them with distinction. Bridges served with the British army in South Africa from 1899 until he was evacuated with enteric fever in 1900. In January 1909 he became Australia’s first chief of the general staff and the next year was tasked with founding Australia’s first military college, the Royal Military College at Duntroon. By the time the First World War had broken out Bridges had attained the rank of Brigadier General and was given the task of raising an Australian contingent for service in Europe. He was promoted to Major General in August 1914 and was appointed the commander of the new Australian Imperial Force. Bridges travelled to Egypt with the first contingent in October and started to record his experiences in a diary from early 1915.

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From this diary we can observe the evolution of planning for the Gallipoli campaign, including his meetings with commanders like Lieutenant General William Birdwood and General Sir Ian Hamilton and with various Australian commanders who would rise to prominence in the years to come.

On 25 April 1915 units of Bridges 1st Australian Division were the first to land at Anzac Cove. In the desperate confusion of the first day the landing force suffered more than 2,000 casualties, and little progress was made towards achieving their military objectives. Bridges argued for an immediate evacuation but was overruled. From the outset Bridges insisted on inspecting the front lines on a daily basis, despite the danger to himself. On 15 May 1915 he was travelling with other officers through Monash Valley when he was shot through his right femoral artery by a Turkish sniper. The rapid onset of gangrene meant that immediate amputation for a 53 year old man would prove fatal so a medical decision was taken that it was better for nature to take its course, which in Bridges’ case was 3 days. He  died on board the hospital ship Gascon before it reached port. His last recorded instruction was “that his regret should be conveyed to the Minister for Defence that his dispatch concerning the landing was not complete — he was too tired now.”

William Bridges was initially buried at Alexandria in Egypt, but in June 1915 his body was exhumed and returned to Australia. A series of interesting photographs held by the State Library of  New South Wales show views from his original funeral.

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He became the only Australian killed in the First World War to have his remains returned to Australia. On 3 September 1915 he was buried on the slopes of Mount Pleasant at Duntroon in Canberra, under the words ‘A gallant and erudite soldier’.

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Sources and Acknowledgements 

The Australian War Memorial

State Library of New South Wales