As most of us will know, this month marks the 100th anniversary of the start of one of the most terrible slaughtering fields of World War One – the Battle Of The Somme. Around one million men were killed or wounded across the course of this horrendous battle, which lasted five months.
What is less well-known is the connection of the Somme Battle to a little farm in Draycott-in-the-Moors.
Past visitors to Totmonslow Farm, which is on the main Uttoxeter Road, have always been struck by the two ‘dead men’s pennies’ which used to hang on the wall at the back entrance.
The name ‘dead men’s pennies’ was the slang term given to the medallions sent to the families of the deceased after the war, to commemorate the men’s sacrifice. For some families, to receive such medals was a moment tinged with bitterness.
The medallions there remember two of the local Perry Family brothers (see the one for James in the picture above).
Sad to tell, the three Perry brothers, Joseph Harold and James Leslie and Arthur all died in the conflict.
It was Joseph who died at the Somme – aged just 21 – and sadly his body was never recovered. However, his living descendant, Phil Robinson, told us that his name is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial To The Missing; and Phil and his wife were able to pay their respects a few years ago.
Curiously, Joseph and his brother James (army numbers 12300 and 12301) were serving with The Highland Light Infantry when they died. Why they were with a Scottish regiment is a puzzle, but Phil thinks that many young men, in their enthusiasm to join up, would enlist with non-local regiments just to get into the army more quickly; and they could even be transferred between regiments during active service.
So that could explain what happened to these lads.
Brothers in arms
Whereas Joseph died on the battlefield and was reported lost, James and Arthur were probably wounded and then taken to casualty hospitals, where they died. We can presume this because they were buried away from battlefields.
James died in March 1915 and is buried at St Severs Cemetery in Rouen.
Arthur died in October 1915 aged 32 and is buried at Wimereux, near Boulogne. Phil believes he was a married man, living at Tean before he joined up; his daughter was Mary Perry – the cousin of Joe Thorley and Pat and Eve Robinson.
(Joe and Pat and Eve are Totmonslow legends, running Totmonslow Farm themselves, for virtually the whole of the twentieth century, until the recent sad death of Pat, the last of them).
The question is: why were the medallions at Totmonslow Farm?
It’s true that the Thorleys/Robinsons were close relatives of the Perrys, but the Perrys are considered really as a family that lived in Tean. In fact, the lads are commemorated on Tean’s Christ Church War Memorial – NOT the Draycott war memorial. Perhaps the connection is through Mary Perry.
However, if you also go along to Cresswell St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church graveyard, you will find lots of Perrys there also. So the Perrys spread themselves around!
The medallions are now in safe keeping as important family heirlooms; though the future of Totmonslow Farmhouse itself is uncertain.
The memory of that awful conflict, and a world in which young men had to go out to die in such terrible circumstances, will always, one hopes, be remembered – and lessons learnt.