Four Mates go to War

Four Preston Brook Mates join up Together

On the 18th November 1914 following Kitchener’s call to arms, four friends enlisted in the 8th Battalion of the Kings Own Royal (Lancaster) Regiment in Frodsham. They had consecutive regimental numbers.

Tom Spender No.15947
John Jameson No.15948
Charles Frankland No.15949
Ted Basnett No. 15950

Thomas Henry Spender

Thomas was born on the 7th February 1893 in Preston Brook and was one of eight children. Their parents were Edward and Rachel Spender. Edward was born in Aston about 1853 and Rachel (nee Roughsedge) in Daresbury about 1856. Thomas was baptised in Aston by Sutton on the 12th March 1893.

By 1901, Edward was a porter in the iron ore trade and the family lived by the Bridgewater canal. Thomas’ older sister, Sarah and younger ones, Mary Gertrude and Rachael lived with them.

Ten years later, in the 1911 Census, Thomas, now 18, was working as a blacksmith. The Family was now living at Norton Cottages. Harriet, his eldest sister, had moved into the five bedroomed family home with her husband, John Hazelhurst (also a Blacksmith) and their two year old son. Sarah had now left home.

He volunteered with his mates in Frodsham, Cheshire into the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. After training they arrived in France on the 28th September 1915. Thomas was later transferred into the Royal Engineers (No. 312635) where he served out the rest of the war. He received the Victory Medal, British War Medal and the 1915 Star for his services.

On the 26th December 1927, Thomas got married to Ann Weaver at the Parish Church in Little Leigh, Cheshire. At the time Thomas was living at the Post Office in Dutton, Cheshire. Ann was living at 61 Bloomsbury Lane, Timperley which became their family home .

In WW2, Thomas again became a Blacksmith in the Royal Engineers No. 312635 (the same as his WW1 R.E. number). He died on the 7th December 1944 whilst still in the Army. At the time Ann was still living at Bloomsbury Lane.

John Jameson
John was born at the Norton Cottages, Preston Brook to his parents Arthur and Mary Ann (nee Cliff), on the 23rd April 1892. His birth being registered on the 3rd June 1892. John had three other siblings, William, Joseph, Ellen and Peter. His father, Arthur, worked as a warehouse porter.

In the 1911 Census, John was listed as a ‘Poultry man’, whilst still living as home.

In November 1914, he enlisted at Frodsham with his mates and after training the lads embarked for France on the 27th September 1915. John served throughout the war with the 8th Battalion.

Whilst a Lance Corporal was awarded the Military Medal for acts of gallantry and devotion to duty under fire or for individual or associated acts of bravery, being gazetted on the 14th May 1919.

Before returning to civilian street John was made Acting Sergeant.  Nothing is yet known of John’s post war life.

Charles Frankland

Charles was born on 27 October 1895 in Preston-on-the-Hill. He was the seventh child of Alfred James and Annie (nee Edwards). Alfred was a boot and shoemaker from Runcorn who came to Preston-on-the-Hill in 1877, when he was bound as an apprentice cobbler to John Norman.

By 1891, he was working for himself as a boot and shoe maker and was also a rural postman. The family lived near ‘Stokesay’ in Preston Brook.

Charles was baptised on 29 December at Daresbury Church. His siblings were Alfred James (born 28 August 1884 and baptised on 25 September 1884 at the Methodist Chapel by Leo Miles), Ellen (born about 1887), William Johnson (born in 1888 and baptised on 27 May at Daresbury Church by Thomas Whitley), Dora (born about 1895), Florence (born about 1895) and Annie (born about 1897). All the children were born in Preston-on-the-Hill.

Charles attended Daresbury School and in 1911 was working as a farm labourer at Sumner’s farm. He, William, Dora and Annie were all living at home with their parents. On 24 July 1912, his brother, William, married Lucy Gertrude Walker from Preston Brook and the couple went to live in Latchford.

Charles enlisted on the 18 November 1914 with three of his mates. After his training in Aldershot, he went overseas on 27 September 1915. The following March, his battalion took part in the successful attack on ‘The Bluff’ during the battle of Loos. In April, the battalion attacked ‘across a waste of sticky mud’ to recapture a series of mine craters at St Elon.

During the Somme offensive on 18 July, the battalion attacked Delville wood and fought off three German counter attacks. On 16 August, they attacked near Talus Boise and two days later attacked the German trenches at Guillemont, but this was unsuccessful. Finally, on 13 November, the attack on Serre failed as the troops tried to advance in waist deep mud.

In 1917, Charles’ battalion took part in three battles around Scarpe, the battle for Polygon Wood and the battle of Cambrai, where British tanks were used to great effect.

During the German spring offensive of 1918, Charles was badly gassed and wounded on 20 March and died two days later, aged just 22 years. He is buried in Bucquoy Road Cemetery in Ficheux, south of Arras in Belgium (Grave memorial reference II G 20)

Charles was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which would all have been sent to his next of kin.

Edward (Ted) Basnett

Ted was born in 39 Cavendish Street, Runcorn on 31 March 1891 and was one of seven children. His father, James, had been born in Runcorn in late 1850 and in November 1872 had married Emma Lightfoot in Burtonwood, near Warrington. James was an engine driver at the time, having previously worked as a grocer’s messenger and a labourer in a chemical works.

In 1901, the family was at the same address and Ted was at school at Shaw Street, Runcorn.

He left Runcorn aged sixteen and went to lodge with the Potts family at Cotton’s Bridge, Preston Brook and worked as a warehouseman for the Bridgewater Canal Company at Norton. By 1911 he was working as a horseman for the company.

Ted was a keen sportsman and played both Rugby League for Runcorn RL Club and football for Runcorn FC. In the 1909-1910 season he played with Tom Potts for Aston Hall Reserve AFC along with several other lads from the village.

Ted enlisted at Frodsham on 18 November 1914 as a private in the 8th Battalion (B Company) of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment with three of his mates. His initial training was at Aldershot and using his knowledge of horses he was allocated to the Transport Section.

He was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1915 and whilst on leave, Ted married Bertha Jones (daughter of Thomas Henry Jones of Rose Cottage) on 18 September. The wedding took place at Greenway Road Primitive Methodist Church in Runcorn.

Only nine days later, he was posted to France to begin his active service. He was promoted to Sergeant in January 1916 after a training course at Albertville in France.

During the Battle of the Somme, whilst his battalion was attacking Delville Wood, Ted won the Military Medal for ‘conspicuous devotion to duty’ on 18 July 1916.

Soon after this, Ted suffered from a serious bout of trench fever and was invalided to England to recuperate in Berkshire.

Ted did not return to the front and became the permanent orderly sergeant at Knowsley Park.

His Military Medal was presented by Field Marshall Viscount French at Exchange Flags, Liverpool in September 1917.

The 1918 electoral roll shows that Ted was still on military service and it wasn’t until 14 February 1919 that he was transferred to Class Z army reserve, which meant that he had been discharged from the service.

Ted and Bertha went on to have four children – Eddie (who died when he was three years old), Ester, Jessie and Eric. The family lived at Rose Cottage with Bertha’s parents until 1927, when they moved to Chester Road, Sutton Weaver. Ted worked as a water engineer for Runcorn RDC.

The British Legion was formed on 15 May 1921, bringing together four national organisations of ex-serviceman that had been established after the war. The first Poppy Appeal took place on 11 November 1921. Ted was a founder member of the Halton branch of the British Legion and organised Poppy Day collections and collected money for the Hospital Fund and also for district nurses.

Ted also played in the Preston Brook Band with his old friend Tom Potts and his father-in-law. From 1931 until 1939, Ted was a lay preacher on the local Methodist circuit.

Shortly before he died at home on 13 June 1968, Ted was awarded one of the highest awards in the British Legion, the Gold Badge.