The Family of

Thirza Adams nee Radmore

1868-1942

Mrs Navvy Adams.jpg

1. EDITH (Edie) (1887)

Married Joseph Thomas Smith whilst both were living at Dawson City.  The couple were living with her parents at Hayfield in 1911 and moved to Stocksbridge with them before moving to Port Talbot, where Joseph went to work on the docks.

 

 2. WILLIAM JOHN (1889), died young

Born at Hut 34, Thelwell, Latchford, Warrington.

 

3. HARRY (1891-1936)

Punch was Harry Adams’ nickname - apparently, it referred to his size, as he was not much over 5' tall.  He married Sarah Ellen White at Bolsterstone church in 1917.  The family were told that, after his younger brother John was killed on the 9th October 1917 he enlisted in order “to get one of them that killed him”  His army records do not seem to have survived; it isn't known which Regiment he originally joined, but he re-enlisted with Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own (Yorkshire Regiment) better known as the “Green Howards.”  Due to his stature he joined their Bantam* Division, the 13th Service Battalion.  He survived the war, but, like many men, was never the same afterwards.  He was in receipt of a disability pension from the army, and he lived at Broomfield Cottages, Bracken Moor (these houses adjoined the Miners Arms).  In 1935 he was admitted to the Wharncliffe Hospital (this was Middlewood hospital, a "mental hospital"); he died there after nine months, on the 2nd January 1936 aged 45.  His obituary said that he had served with the K.O.Y.L.I.  He left a widow, Nellie (Sarah Ellen) and a son, also Harry.

*A bantam, in British Army usage, was a soldier of below the British Army’s minimum regulation height of 5ft 3in (160 cm). During the First World War the British Army raised battalions in which the normal minimum height requirement for recruits was reduced from 5ft 3in (160 cm) to 5ft (150 cm) with an expanded chest measurement of at least 34 inches.

Harry Adams soldier.jpg
Bantam recruitment.JPG

Private Harry Adams, 57735 Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards)

Harry's War

In Navvyman, Dick Sullivan mentions that Harry was shipwrecked and “never was right in his head after that.”  His battalion were due to set sail aboard a troopship from Dundee on the 16th October 1918, but they were delayed because the ship wasn’t ready; it was in poor condition, dirty, unsanitary, and, it was said, in an unserviceable condition.  One account records that some of the men wished to disembark and go into town while the ship was being readied. This request was denied, but about 150 of the men pushed their way ashore where they were stopped at the dock gates by the sentries and military police.  The Colonel drew his revolver was threatened to shoot the next man who tried to leave the dock. In retaliation, the men stated that they would fetch their rifles and do likewise. This near mutiny situation was resolved when the ship was towed into midstream so that they could not get ashore.  They finally set out the following day, but the ship soon developed steering problems and was listing to one side. A day later her boiler burst and power was lost; the ship was drifting helplessly towards a minefield. An accompanying destroyer attempted to take her into tow but failed. Eventually she was towed into anchorage in the Shetlands where temporary repairs were made.  This took three weeks, and to avoid running out of supplies, the troops were put on short rations.  In order to make more permanent repairs the ship sailed toward the naval base at Invergordon.

 

During that journey, the ship began to list so severely that the men were ordered to stay on the portside of the ship.  A member of the crew was washed overboard during the night and was not found.  The steering failed again, and the Captain was forced to take refuge in Inganess Firth on the Orkneys. With the main anchor having failed the Captain was reduced to using the auxiliary ones and as the weather worsened and a storm set in, the auxiliary anchors could not cope. The ship was being steadily pushed towards the cliffs, endangering the safety of the ship and the men’s lives. Distress rockets and a ship’s S.O.S. was put out, and whilst waiting for help a line was sent ashore and some of the men were taken off by the ship’s lifeboats. Eventually, rescue craft arrived, and the rudderless and anchorless ship was towed to safety. Repairs could not be carried out that would make the ship seaworthy, and the troops were transferred to a sister vessel, the Huntsend.

 

The Huntsend sailed north to the Artic Circle and the troops finally arrived at their destination of Murmansk six weeks later than expected on 27th November 1918. This was a fortnight since the Armistice had been announced on the 11th November, but British troops were involved in an intervention in the Russian Civil War, which began in 1918.  Harry’s Battalion, the 13th, was ordered to entrain at Murmansk on 2nd February 1919 and from there to travel by sledge to Seletskoi, Russia, to take over from a battalion of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment. Most reached there by the 22nd February.  Some of the men of the 13th mutinied and refused to fight; the mutiny ended on the 25th February and the men were told that they would return to Britain once the thaw had set in.  On 4th April 1919 Churchill sent a message to the men “to carry on like Britons fighting for dear life, set an example to others......reinforcements and relief are on the way.”  These events have been described as “Churchill’s Hidden War” by some historians.  Conditions were poor – locals were starving, soldiers’ supplies were stolen, and people were shot on sight.  One Russian Officer observed a squad of British troops being forced to march up a valley - on either side on top of the hill were other British troops with machine guns prepared to fire upon their own should they turn back.  On 25th December 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Robert Plumpton of the 6th Green Howards was found murdered in a ravine near Murmansk. His watch and some army stores were found on the 14th January 1919 in a raid on a house in the Russian quarter and the owner was tried and shot on 5th February 1919. 

Finally, a troopship arrived in Tyne from Murmansk in August 1919 carrying about 1,800 British and Italian troops, including men from the 6th and 13th Battalion’s Yorkshire Regiment.  Pension ledgers record that he was discharged on the 26th November 1919 with an (unnamed) disability. 

No wonder Harry never really recovered from his time in the Great War.

4. MINNIE (1893-1965)

Minnie was born in South Wales in 1893 and moved to Stocksbridge with her family sometime after 1912.  She had an illegitimate son, George, in March 1916 and married Charles William Murray in February 1917; this eleven-month gap probably means that Charles was not George’s father.  The marriage certificate says that Charles was a Private in A. Company, 2nd West Yorkshire Regiment.  Minnie and Charles had two daughters, Daisy (1920) and Violet (1926).  They had been living at Corn Mill, Stocksbridge (off Ford Lane), but they left the district in 1929, following Minnie’s parents Thirza and John and some other family members to Hebden Bridge.  Minnie and Charles lived at Pleasant View, Hebden Bridge, but in 1934 Charles divorced his wife on the grounds of her “misconduct” [adultery] with John Edward Holden of Windy Harbour Farm Cottage. 

 

John Holden had been born in Blackburn, Lancashire, in 1893, and seems to have had a colourful past. As a teenage boy in 1908 he had found the body of a woman floating face-down in the canal at Livesey, a part of Blackburn.  He and his family were living at Tockholes, Blackburn, at the time.  He had noticed the body on the far side of the canal and had dived in and brought it to the bank, where two lads assisted him to get it out.  They then sent for the police.  The family relocated to Todmorden soon after this event, between 1909 and 1911. 

 

Holden appears to have served as a soldier for three and a half years during WWI, being wounded three times, one of these times being shot in the head.  He received a pension of 12 shillings a week.  In 1919 he married Mary Potts in 1919, but she was granted a separation order in 1924, five years after their marriage.  John was constantly in trouble with the police, although initially they were lenient with him because of his war service.  In 1921 he broke into a mill and stole some calico but he was seen by a woman who then reported him to the police.  He pleaded guilty and was fined 40 shillings.  In 1922, when he was 29 years old, he was sent to prison for three months with hard labour on two charges of stealing chickens.  It was reported that Holden had been before the Bench twice before, once for failing to notify the finding of a stray dog, and once for stealing calico (in 1921).  His war service was brought up but the court was not so lenient this time.  He and his accomplice apparently “offered no objection to being detained [in custody] till Monday.”  Their defense was that they were drunk.

 

The following year, 1923, John appeared in court on two assault charges.  He had been lodging at 41 Lumbutts Road, Todmorden, and had been served with an eviction notice by his landlady.  She got a man called James Howarth of Rock Terrace to get him out, but Holden attacked him (he went on to attack the same man again a few years later, in 1929).  Holden also fought with the policeman who came to arrest him, knocking him down and kicking him with his clogs.  The court heard that he had seven previous convictions against him, and he was fined ten shillings and committed to prison for fourteen days with hard labour. Previous convictions included theft and being drunk and disorderly. 

 

Holden's wife was granted the separation order in 1924.  The couple had been living at Walsden, a part of Todmorden, and their matrimonial difficulties were heard in court and published in the local newspapers.  His wife Mary, who gave her address as 5 Vale Cottages, Littleborough, applied for a separation order against her husband, John Holden, of 8 James Hill Street, Littleborough.  For about six months after they married, they lived at Cross Stone, Todmorden; John Edward then sold some of their furniture and they went to live in Blackburn, his hometown.  He had no work to go to, but eventually Mary found some work.  Whilst living in Blackburn, John Edward assaulted his wife several times.  They then moved to Walsden, and Mary twice took out summonses against her husband for assault, but each time she forgave him.  From Walsden the couple went to Littleborough where John Edward again assaulted his wife.  One day he hit her on the face, and his conduct was so bad that a policeman had to be fetched.   He had been in receipt of employment insurance money for many weeks but had given very little of it to his wife.  He assaulted her yet again, threatening to take her life with a razor.  He said, “Do you want to die?” and she replied, “I may as well, as live a life like this.”  She finally left him, and was told, “if you come back here, I will cut your head off your shoulders.”  A Mrs. Graham, who lived at the same address as Mary, said she had seen bruises on Mary’s body.  John Edward said that his wife had left him on two or three occasions but admitted that he had assaulted her.  The Magistrates granted her a separation order, her husband having to pay her five shillings a week.

 

It seems the couple still saw each other.  In 1924 John Edward was living in a lodging house at Todmorden when he was charged with being drunk and disorderly at Littleborough.  The court heard that he had assaulted his wife that night, with the result that she had to be taken to the Birch Hill Hospital.  Holden said that his wife, who had been granted a maintenance order against him, went from Littleborough to Todmorden “to cause a dispute.”  They were having a carnival at Todmorden and he “went on the beer.”  He returned to Littleborough with his wife and went into a public house there.  He had no recollection of what had happened afterwards.  He was fined £1.  In 1925 he was arrested for being drunk and incapable and was bailed, but he failed to answer the summons, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.  Two months later, he handed himself in.  The court heard that he was a labourer of no fixed abode; he told them he belonged to “anywhere.”  He pleaded guilty, and explained that he had been to Fleetwood, where he was employed on several trawler voyages lasting 14 days, with rest periods of 21 hours ashore.  He thought of sending the money on, but was told at Fleetwood that he would have to appear at Todmorden, so he had come back and given himself up.  He was fined 10 shillings, and the bail forfeited.  He said he could pay the following Wednesday, when a £40 [army] pension would be due to him.

 

In 1927 Holden was again in trouble for being drunk and disorderly on a bus and in the street.  He was still of no fixed abode in 1929 when he was committed to prison for six months on five charges: being drunk and disorderly, refusing to quit a public house, wilful damage, common assault and also assaulting James Howarth of Rock Terrace (for a second time).  Previous convictions were reported which included stealing, house-breaking, being drunk and disorderly, assault, and office breaking, many of the cases having been heard in Todmorden.  He was sentenced on the five charges with both fines and imprisonment, with a total of six months in prison with hard labour, to be run consecutively.  Holden said he could not remember anything.  He said that he had been wounded in the head whilst serving in the army and he could not remember going into the public house at all.  He was still of no fixed abode in 1932 when he appeared in court yet again charged with being drunk and disorderly.  The police proved nineteen previous convictions against him, the last one in 1929.  In view of the fact that he had kept “straight” for three and a half years, and on his promising to keep straight again, the Bench were lenient, imposing a fine of 5 shillings, or seven days’ imprisonment, should he not pay the fine.

 

Some time around 1933, Minnie took up with John Edward, and was divorced by her husband in December 1934.  They did not marry, probably because John Edward was still married, not divorced.  The new relationship does not seem to have reformed him.  Eight months after the divorce, the Todmorden & District News for 30 August 1935 reported that Minnie had accused him of assaulting her.  She and a daughter had gone to Blackburn with him, and he had hit her several times whilst they were away.  On their return journey, he had asked her for some money, which she refused, and he pushed her.  When they got back home, he chased both her and her two daughters Daisy and Violet out of the house.  He hit her again, bruising her leg, and he broke the wireless and gramophone.  Minnie telephoned for the police and told them that she wanted him to keep away from her.  He denied assaulting her and was bound over for two years to be of good behaviour and ordered to pay costs.  There was no mention of the previous convictions.

Minnie’s son George would have been in the Navy at this time, having joined in about 1934.  Despite the violence, Minnie did not leave John.  They seemed to move house a lot.  In 1937 they were living at 2 Old Charlestown, then in 1939 they were living at 78 Bridges Lane, John being a builder’s labourer and Minnie working as a cotton winder; Minnie was fined ten shillings in this year for breaking the wartime Blackout regulations.  In 1940 they were living at 10 Tanpits, Hebden Bridge. The relationship with John obviously broke down, because in 1944 Minnie married William H. Warner somewhere in the Bradford area.  She died on the 9th June 1965 at Marland Hospital, Rochdale and had been living at 172 Ramsey Street, Rochdale.  She left £536 to Daisy Delaney, her daughter.

 

Minnie's children were: 

a.  GEORGE (1916-1943)

Minnie’s son George was born at Stocksbridge.  He married Isabella Moir from Hebden Bridge in the Portsmouth area in 1939.  George had enlisted in the Royal Navy in about 1934, and Isabella must have travelled down to Portsmouth to get married, perhaps because he could not get leave to come back north once Great Britain had declared war on Germany on the 3rd September 1939.  After the wedding, Isabella returned to Hebden Bridge, where she lived with her widowed father William and some of her siblings, working as a clothing machinist to help make ends meet.  A son was born to the couple, George junior, born at Hebden Bridge in 1943 (June Q).  Sadly, George senior was killed later the same year when his ship was sunk by a German U-boat in the Mediterranean. 

 

George senior was a Petty Officer Stoker in the Royal Navy.  He was serving on the Destroyer H.M.S. Holcombe (L 560) when it was attacked and hit aft by a Gnat torpedo fired from a German U-boat (U-593) at 14.45 on the 12th December 1943.  This U-boat also sank the Holcombe’s sister ship, the H.M.S. Tynedale, on the same day.  Both ships went down in the Mediterranean, north-east of Bougie, Algeria.  The Holcombe sank in less than five minutes, taking 84 men down with her.  80 survivors were picked up by the destroyer U.S.S. Niblack.  The U-boat was hunted down in a “swamp” operation, which involved detecting the submarine and keeping it submerged until it finally had to surface for air, when it was then attacked.  The following day, at half past midnight, U-593 was spotted and attacked off the coast of Algiers in the Mediterranean.  The U-boat was eventually forced to surface and its crew of 51 men had to abandon it; they all survived.  [Information from uboat.net]

 

George is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial on a register of names of those who fell in the 1938-1945 War and have no Grave other than the Sea.  The site of the memorial was provided by the Corporation of Portsmouth, and the details given in the register of names was compiled from information provided by the Admiralty and the next-of-kin.  He is also commemorated on the Wadworth Parish War Memorial just above Hebden Bridge, which can be seen HERE.

 

It wasn’t until the 10th January 1944 that a notice was placed in the Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer that Stoker Petty Officer George Adams (27), R.N., of Hebden Terrace, Midgehole, Hebden Bridge, was reported missing.  The Halifax Evening Courier of the 4th February reported that Adams, who had previously been reported as missing, was now officially presumed dead. 

 

Isabella and young George junior lived at 4 Hebden Terrace with her family for a few years after George was born.  They later moved to a prefab in Heptonstall, but often returned to Hebden Terrace to visit grandfather Moir.  It is thought that George junior never met his paternal grandmother Minnie.  This could be because, with his father no longer around, his mother’s family wanted nothing to do with Minnie.  It would all have been quite scandalous; divorce itself was a scandal, and not only was Minnie divorced by her husband for adultery (and the case reported in the newspapers), she then went to “live in sin” with this man, who had a record for theft, being drunk and disorderly, assault and so on.  His previous marital difficulties had also been reported in the newspapers.  Young George was told that Thirza Adams was his grandmother, but no connection was ever made until his daughter Lucy got in touch with me after seeing this article on the website.  Thirza turned out to be his great-grandmother.  How sad that young George never knew his father, who died serving his country, many miles from home.

 

b. DAISY (1920-)

Daisy was born at Stocksbridge in 1920 and moved to Hebden Bridge with her parents in 1929.  When the 1939 Register was taken, she was working as a (civilian) kitchen maid in the NAAFI on the R.A.F. base at Halton, Aylesbury, in Buckinghamshire.  In 1940 she married Harry Bentley; she had two further husbands - Norman W. Townsley in 1949 and James Martin Delaney in 1957.

 

c. VIOLET (1926-)

I have been unable to find Violet on the 1939 Register but she married in the Rochdale district in 1951 to Ken Tucker.  Had two? children, Carl and Kerry.

5. JOHN (1895-1917 – killed in action)

John was 20 years and 10 months old when he signed up in Sheffield for a Short Service Contract with the York and Lancaster Regiment on July 23rd 1915, to serve for either three years or for the duration of the war.  

 

Acting Corporal John Adams was killed in action in October 1917 when he was killed by a sniper.  His parents were informed of his death in a letter from Lieutenant K.C. Whitlock in which he writes: “It is with deepest regret that I have to inform you of the death in action on October 9th [1917] of your son. He had only just re-joined the battalion a few weeks before his death, but it was sufficient time for me to see that he would make a capable NCO, and his loss will be keenly felt by myself and all his comrades. He was killed by a sniper during the advance on October 9th; but it may be some consolation to know that his death was instantaneous and he therefore suffered no pain. Please accept my deepest sympathy with you in your loss.”  He had been on active service for three years.

 

John’s Service Record states that he was based in the Mediterranean area from October 27th 1915 until the 26th June 1916.  He was then to the France/Flanders theatre of war on the Western Front, just in time to participate in the battles that took place from 1st July to 18th November 1916, which became known as the First Battle of the Somme. He was probably killed at the Battle of Poelcapelle which took place on the 9th of October 1917 - the day that he was recorded as having been killed in action. 

 

October 1917 was extremely wet; Major Richard Talbot Kelly of the Royal Artillery wrote, “It rained absolutely continuously, one was as afraid of getting drowned as of getting hit by shells. Actually, the extraordinary quagmire nature of the Passchendaele (sic) battle masked much of the effect of the shells, which sank so deeply into the mud that the splinter and blast effect was to a large extent nullified. But half the men in my battery were suffering from ague. I had only one sergeant left on his feet and I was the only officer left at the guns. But it was the weather, more than anything else, that got one down. When one woke in the morning in the little scrape you’d scratched out of the ground to get out of the way of the worst of the splinters, you felt the water bubbling and oozing in the small of your back.” Major Richard Talbot Kelly, Royal Artillery. Forgotten Voices of the Great War, Max Arthur 2002 p 218).  Humans, animals and machines sank in the mud.  On the 9th October it took some of the British troops eleven hours to travel from Ypres along narrow duckboard tracks to reach their jumping off points.  The guns weren’t stable enough to maintain their accuracy, and many of the shells fired by the British failed to explode or simply disappeared into the mud.  The British attack at Poelcappelle failed to achieve its objectives. 

 

John was buried at the British Cemetery, Langemark-Poelcappelle in Belgium and is remembered on Stocksbridge Clock Tower War Memorial

 

John’s family placed this poem in the Penistone Express (17th November 1917), signing it as his “sorrowing parents, sisters, brother and friends.

The midnight stars are shining

On a grave I cannot see

Where sleeping without dreaming

Lies the one so dear to me.

Could I have been there at the hour of his death

To have caught the last sigh of his fleeting breath

His last faint whisper I could have heard

And breathed in his ear a loving word

Ah only those who have suffered are able to tell

The pain of the heart in not saying farewell.

But when alone in my sorrow and bitter tears flow

There stealist sweet dreams of a short time age

And unknown to the world he stands at my side

And whispers these words “Death cannot divide.”

 

Another poem was printed in the Penistone Express of 15th October 1921 from “Father, Mother, Sisters and Brothers, Victoria Street, Stocksbridge.”  

He sleeps beside his comrades

In his grave across the foam;

And his name is written in letters of love,

On the hearts he left at home.

For a fuller account of John's War, see Parker, Michael. Poppy People Revisited, 2009 

Dawson City huts.JPG
John Adams Corporal.jpg

John Adams, showing his Corporal's stripes

6. NELLIE (1898)

Married Stephen Cooke, a boiler firer, in 1932 (Todmorden Registration District).  In 1939 his occupation was boiler firer.

 

7. WILLIAM (1900)

William Adams married Mabel Brookes in 1922 at Stocksbridge Parish Church; - he was a miner, living at Victoria Street; Mabel was living on Button Row.  William died 18th November 1963, age 63 at City General Hospital.

 

 

8. DAISY (1902)

 

 

9. RICHARD (1905-1906)

Richard was born in March 1905 at No. 2 Hut, Dawson City, Heptonstall.  He died young.

 

 

10. EDWIN (1906)

In 1923, when he was 16, he was placed on a 12-month probation order for stealing from the Water Works stores at Ewden.  He stole a spirit level belonging to to Fred Johnson, the foreman of the works, and a hammer, a hatchet, and a quantity of pitch pine wood, the property of the Sheffield Corporation.

Edwin married Millicent Dawson in 1932 (in the Todmorden Registration District).  They had at least one child, Wendell, in 1942)

 

 

11. ARTHUR (1908)

Arthur was born in the Bolton area.  In 1939 he was living at Hebden Bridge with his wife Sarah (Robertshaw), young son John and his mother Thirza.

NAVVY LOSES AN EYE

George Radmore, Thirza’s father, was the ganger (like a team leader or supervisor) at Pateley Bridge in 1895 when his son Arthur lost an eye when some explosives went off.  Arthur sued the contractors he was working for under the Employer’s Liability Act, claiming just over £187 for personal injuries.  He sued Morrison and Mason, who were contracting to the Bradford Corporation. 

 

On 29th November Arthur was injured in an explosion of dynamite and had to be taken to Leeds Infirmary, where for some time his life was in danger.  His right eye was so severely damaged that it had to be removed.  He also suffered some facial injuries, a broken cheekbone and jaw, a wound on his left eye, a wound on his right thigh and several of his teeth were loosened.   Arthur was permanently scarred and needed further surgery to his face.  He left the infirmary on the 1st January 1896, but still had to attend as an out-patient.

The case came to court in June the following year. 

 

Arthur had been employed in a group of eight workmen over which his father George Radmore was the ganger.  They were making a cutting and had to blast the rocks, but the weather had been frosty, and the dynamite cartridges had frozen and needed to be thawed before they could be safety used.  If dynamite was not properly thawed, the slightest knock or friction would immediately cause an explosion.  The gangs were meant to be supplied with “warmers” in which to warm the dynamite, but none had been available, despite George repeatedly asking for them.  A warmer consisted of an inner and an outer bucket which warmed the cartridges by means of a hot water jacket.  One of the other gangers had improvised a warmer by using ordinary buckets, but George didn’t even have a bucket, so he resorted to the practice of placing the cartridges in his shirt for an hour or two in order to warm them enough to be used safely.  Arthur had charged two holes and was charging a third, putting in first what was known as the primer, then a full cartridge, then half a cartridge which his father had cut in half.  It was in pressing the latter down that the explosion occurred.

 

The firm’s solicitor submitted that there was no evidence that the accident occurred through the neglect to provide “warmers,” and that accident might have been caused by pushing too hard on the half cartridge.  They said that Arthur knew that the cartridges were not properly thawed, but he knowingly risked using them.  The judge disagreed and said that “if persons chose to put dynamite cartridges into the hands of workmen without proper means of thawing according to the Act of Parliament, they would incur liability.”  He awarded Arthur the full amount of damages, to be paid immediately.  The firm said they intended to lodge an appeal, but as there was no report of one, it must have been disallowed.

 

Arthur’s wage had been 24 shillings a week.  He was 20 at the time of the accident and turned 21 in March 1896.  He told the court that he had first started as a labourer nine years ago (he would have been twelve years old).  He had started work on the Manchester Ship Canal, and was experienced in blasting, and fairly familiar with the use of the dynamite cartridges.

Thank you to Gail Adams Linaker and Ron Adams for their help; Gail and Ron are the great-grandchildren of Thirza and John; Gail’s grandfather was Harry (Punch) Adams (1891) and Ron’s grandfather was their son William Adams (1900).  Also to Lucy Adams for the photographs of George Adams, the son of Minnie.