This post outlines the seven Armers who were killed in World War I, as well as looking in more detail at the war service of Thomas Edward Armer (youngest son of Richard Huntington Armer), who survived the war. His grandson David kindly lent me a folder of fascinating family mementos when we met at the 2018 Reunion.
First I will go through the Armers who gave their lives, in order of their death dates. I have a paid subscription to Forces War Records and also use the excellent free site Commonwealth War Graves, from where I took the screen-grabs of the cemeteries.
Armers in our family who died in World War I
Edward Armer (Service number 8390), died 26 August 1914
Edward was born in 1887 and was the son of Richard Armer, himself son of William Armer and Ellen Hayes. At the time of the 1911 Census he was working as a Dock labourer at Glasson and living in the family home there at Brick Row.
Edward Armer was a Private with the 2nd Battalion of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was posthumously awarded the 1914 Star – given to those who saw active service at the beginning of the war. Edward was killed in Le Cateau, France, 26 August 1914, less than a month from the start of the fighting. His parents were then living at 15 Ridge Street, Lancaster.
Edward was one of eleven children, but I haven’t traced any of them to the present day, so the information here is from online sources.
Albert Henry Armer (Service number 11850), died 12 August 1915
Albert Henry Armer was the youngest son of Henry and Hannah Armer of Carnforth, born in 1888. Henry was my great-grandfather’s younger brother, but, again, there are no family recollections of this branch.
At the time of the 1911 Census, Albert Henry was a draper’s assistant with Marshall & Snelgrove in Oxford Street. The census lists several hundred employees (drapers and assistants, clerks and porters), all male, from all corners of the UK. The firm was taken over by Debenhams in 1919.
Albert Henry served as a Lance Corporal with the 6th Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Forces War Records states that from 30 July 1915, the Battalion was involved in the Action of Hooge, part of the first flamethrower attack by the Germans, and the Second Attack on Bellewaarde. Albert Henry Armer would have been entitled to recieve the 1915 Star.
Mark Benson Armer (Service number T4/186717), died 21 July 1917
Mark Benson Armer is an Armer who’s line hails from Sedbergh, and who is as yet only tentatively connected to the Sedbergh forefathers of our more southerly Lancashire branch. I am in touch with one of his great-great-grandsons and am looking into a connection many generations ago.
Mark was born in 1881 in Dalton-in-Furness, but his grandmother Agnes Benson was from Ambleside, and Mark himself moved back to Kendal after his marriage in 1906 to Lily Palmer Russell from West Bromwich. At the time of the 1911 Census, he was working as a Brewer’s labourer and living at 10 Captain French Lane, Kendal, with Lily and their 3-year old son Reginald Rigby Armer.
He was a Lance Corporal with the 832nd Coy Battalion of the Army Service Corps.
The headstone in Kendal Cemetery is next to another Armer grave – that of Mark Benson Armer’s widow Lily Armer and her two sons Reginald Rigby Armer and Stanley Steeble Armer. I think this family is connected to ours because both lines go back to Sedbergh in around the 1680s, but, with only Parish Registers to go on, the connection could be difficult to establish.
Hazel Frackelton, a granddaughter, visited the grave for the first time in 2016 and provided the family photo below for an item in the Westmorland Gazette describing her search for information about her grandfather. Mark fought in the Battle of the Somme and received injuries so severe that he was shipped back to Oaklands, a makeshift hospital in Essex, where he later died.
John Armer (Service number 5464), died 15 December 1915
Hazel told me that Mark Benson Armer’s brother John was killed by head-wounds from a shell. It must have been horrific, as a witness was given a week’s compassionate leave to return to England and wrote down the story. Hazel sent me this photo from the Westmorland Gazette.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website give the additional information that John was 35 when he died, and was husband of EJ Armer of 17 Milton Street, Barrow in Furness.
Emmanuel Armer (Service number 201750), died 31 July 1917
Emmanuel Armer, born in 1888, was a grandson of Thomas and Jane Armer of Jogger Hill, via their daughter Mary Jane before she married Henry Pemberton in 1893. Emmanuel grew up with his grandparents, attending Cockerham School from 1894 until 1902. In 1912 he married Alice Hollinghurst at St James, Whitechapel, and worked as a farm labourer at Kidscape Farm, Goosnargh. The couple had two children: Robert Manuel Armer (1912–2002) and Alice May Armer (1915–17). Alice May died from measles on Boxing Day 1917.
Emmanuel joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 8 November 1915 at Preston. He was 5ft 7 inches tall and lived at 29 Preston Road, Longridge. He served in France and Belgium from 11 April 1916 and was killed in the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). (Information from David Armer, another descendant of Thomas Armer of Jogger Hill.)
Emmanuel Armer is commemorated on Lancaster War Memorial.
James Armer (Service number 41593), died 3 December 1917
James Armer was a son of Henry and Ellen Armer of Bank House and cousin of Edward Armer who died in 1914. Henry died in 1897 from a fall while unloading planks at Glasson Dock, and after the accident James and his older siblings were brought up by other local families.
James served with the 21st Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and later with the 63rd Company of the Labour Corps.
William Armer (Service number 90993), died 13 September 1918
William Armer was the fourth son of William and Mary Armer who ran the Ship Inn at Pilling. He served with the 8th Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool Regiment). At just 19, William was the youngest of the Lancashire Armers’ war dead. His great-niece told me that William’s mother was in the garden of the Ship Inn hanging out her washing, when a bird fell dead from a tree. It was then that she knew her son had died.
Thomas Edward Armer, survivor of the Great War
Thomas Edward Armer was the youngest son of Richard Huntington Armer, born 1878. He married Margaret around 1902 and worked as a gardener at Thurnham Hall all his life, except for during his war service. The couple had three children: Jane in 1904, Agnes in 1906 and Tom in 1911. Thomas Edward sent the children and his sister Jane Raby postcards from France, which the family have saved.
In the war, Thomas Edward served with the Liverpool Regiment and the Labour Corps.
Thomas Edward Armer served in France, and I would like to find out where. I ordered his medal record from the National Archives, which stated he was a Lance Corporal and was awarded the Victory Medal and the British Medal. To follow his movements with his regiment, I would need to know his battalion number, which I don’t yet have. On one (undated) family document, “chronic myalgia rt leg” is listed under wounds. I knew that this meant muscle pain, but I didn’t realise until now that it was the most common and lasting symptom of trench fever.
This was one of the cards sent to the three children, with the enclosure (left), below.
Thomas Edward sent his son Tom the card below for his sixth birthday, in 1917.
In 1918 Thomas Edward sent the card below to his eldest daughter, Jane. As she was born in 1905, the birthday was her 13th.
There are two postcards from Thomas Edward to his sister, Jane Raby, in the folder. Jane was his oldest sister, in fact a half sister. She was Mary Lawrence’s daughter, born in 1858, before Mary married Richard Huntington Armer in 1860. Jane married John Raby and they lived at Overton. The 1901 Census lists John as a fisherman, born at Cockersand Abbey.
It’s been a privilege to share a little of Thomas Edward Armer’s story, as well as the sadder stories of the Armers who never came home from the war. I’ll close with a photo of Thomas Edward on civvy street, gardening at Thurnham Hall. A big thank you to David and Joan for sharing all these precious cards and photos!