WILLIAM BIRKETT BLACOW

Private 11691 2nd Regt. (Inf.)., South African Infantry who died on Thursday 20 September 1917 . Age 41 .
Husband of Lily Blacow, of 14, Hanover St., Morecambe, Lancs., England.

YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium Panel 15 - 16 and 16A

William is the grandfather of Mrs Jean McLeod, who lives in Morecambe. She maintains a comprehensive family history and has kindly supplied the following details concerning William and his family. One can readily appreciate the service which this old Morecambe family have given to their country over many generations.

The splendid photograph above shows him whilst on leave with his wife Lily and his three sons: William Greaves (Father of Jean), John and Frank. He was born in Morecambe as was his father, grandfather and great grandfather - all the way back. He attended The National School, Poulton Road and when he left worked as a plumber.

William was vice captain of a the famous Morecambe Rugby Union side in the season 1896/6 when they won the County Championship. Jean still has the gold medal presented to members of the team together with a newspaper cutting, which is shown here in its entirety. William is seated on the ground on the left. Glory days for sport in Morecambe at that time.

Note the comment " . . . Vale of Lune - an infant rugby union side. . . ."

William had gone to South Africa looking for work - his wife's sis ter lived out there. When the First World War started; so he enlisted immediately - at the age of thirty eight - true courage and patriotism indeed. He joined the 2nd South African Infantry.

This little pocket book is his "Account Book", in which he recorded cash in and out. He received monies - SA Rands (?) from Lieut Addison and recorded the spends as follows:

Dubbin, Polish, soap, brasso 3.40

Extras for rations 4.0

Course of Instruction (?) ?

Cigarettes, Washing Soap, Polish 90

Polish and soap 28

Pears. Cigarettes ` 72

Obviously keeping clean and smart were top priorities.

 

His medals and his cap badge, the latter with the motto:

"EENDRACHT MAAKT MACHT- UNION IS STRENGTH

An extract from the Introduction to the Registers of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorials, published in 1927 by the Imperial War Grave Commission :

"On the 31st July 1917, the Battles of Ypres began. They were fought in wild weather, in which tanks gradually became useless and the movement of guns was exceptionally difficult, and the employment by the enemy of he system of defence by "pill boxes" accounted for great loss of life; these battles were won at a cost of 310,971 killed, wounded, and missing from the forces of the Empire"

 

These two facsimiles of letters sent to William's wife in Hannover Street Morecambe, report the sad death of her husband. They show clearly the compassion and the thorough and disciplined care taken in recording and reporting the deaths of their comrades. Such a meticulous approach is typical of most armies.

   

The commemorative medal given to William's wife, with the certificate alongside. This medal was often reffered to as "The Widows Mite".

   

Above is an early picture of the Menin Gate Memorial together with the panel showing William's name.

 

The opening page of the Memorial Register and the page containing William's name, with his commemorative scroll below.

 

William's son and Jean's father also served in WW1 with the King's (Liverpool Regiment), and suffered a shell wounded in the back on 30 July 1918. After the war he joined the Seaforth Highlanders. On theleft is his photograph, with alongside he and his brothers in scout uniform (he is top left) and below a picture of the Battalion At the bottom are facsimiles of the Armistice supper of 1931 - with some famous names. Jean's family were also very involved with service in the Armed Forces. Her husband was in the RAF for 6 years from the age of 19, and also served in South Africa. He had another brother in the RAF, one in the Army and a sister in the WAAF they all joined up together.

 

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