A happy outcome to Peter's work described below has ensued in September 2013.
Original article below.
Peter Threlfall, Chair of the Merseyside Branch, writes of his recent and continuing research:
Edward (Ed) Lawton was a distant relative (my Great, Great Uncle) whom I had known about for some time, as I have a very keen interest in researching my family tree. However, up until very recently, I did not know that he had served in a Pals battalion (13th Cheshires) which I had been researching a book on; I didn't know of his service; and ultimately I did not know of his sad demise.
For the last two years, I have partnered a small Great War/family tree research business with my business partner, Judith Beastall (also a WFA member), and she was able to trace Edward Lawton from his birth up to to his death in 1918. I happened to have a copy of the original nominal roll for the Wirral Pals and, amongst the soldiers listed, were two soldiers listed by the name of Lawton. With the information supplied by Judith, and the information gleaned from the nominal roll, I was overjoyed to discover that one of these was indeed Edward Lawton. This was confirmed by his home address given on the roll, and his wife's detail's.
Judith was also able to ascertain that Ed was buried in an unmarked grave in my local cemetery: Flaybrick Hill Cemetery, Bidston, Birkenhead. Fuelled by excitement and an outright need to find my relative, I went down to the cemetery on a cold and blustery morning to find him - or at least his plot. After what seemed an age, and some confusion, I discovered the plot, but the grave was marked..........by a war grave!
I remember thinking to myself that this surely can't be right. So, I phoned Judith, and she confirmed that there were four burials in the one grave, and one of these was definitely Edward Lawton, but the other was another soldier of the Cheshire Regiment, by the name of James Wall, to whom the war grave on the plot was dedicated. My mind was a whirl and, thinking long and hard about Edward Lawton, once again, at the risk of becoming a pain in the neck to Judith, I phoned her again and asked her to see if she could find any service papers for both soldiers. She quickly reported back that there were papers forJames Wall but none for Edward Lawton. My heart sank. But then she discovered what was to prove to be the most crucial piece of documentation in the whole of the story and discovery of Ed's life: his pension papers.
The pension papers confirmed above all that Edward Lawton was still in receipt of an Army pension when he died and, therefore, I was convinced that he was entitled to a war grave. They also contained a lot of information about his service on the Western Front. The jig-saw was finally beginning to come together. I now knew a lot of things about his personal life, when he enlisted, and subsequent service in England, France, and Belgium, but now I had to take the long road to try to get him a war grave.
In September, 2010, I made the initial contact with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and asked firstly if Edward Lawton was indeed entitled to a war grave. In my impatience, the few weeks it took to get a reply back seemed like an age. Miss Maria Choules of the Records Section finally came back to me and asked me if I could furnish any evidence to back up my claim and, if I could, she would forward it to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to look through and to come to a decision whether Edward Lawton was duly entitled to a war grave. Almost exactly a year after my evidence had been gathered and sent through, I received the news I had been waiting for for so long, in that the MOD had recognised the "non-commemoration" of my relative, and that proceedings would now move forward to have a war grave erected on Ed's grave. Maria Choules, whose praises I can't sing high enough, also informed me that the process would take 12-15 months because a field officer had to view the site, and then the stone had to be imported from France.
My intention, when the stone is finally in place, is to have a small dedication service followed by a buffet. Of course, anyone who reads this article is most welcome to attend once I can confirm a date.
It would be wrong to end this article without telling the reader a little about Edward Lawton. He was born in Runcorn, Cheshire, on 29 February, 1888, the son of John Henry and Emma Lawton. By the age of 5 his family had settled in Birkenhead, Wirral.
In later life he became a bricklayer's labourer. On 13 February, 1909, he married Miss Anne Aspinall, and they went on to live at 113, St. Anne Street, Birkenhead, and to have six children: James (born 29 October, 1909); Hannah (born 1910 - died 1912); John (born 30 June, 1912); Harriet (born 13 May, 1916); Robert (born 30 July, 1917 - died 1918); and Edward (born 21 July, 1918).
Following the outbreak of the Great War, Edward Lawton presented himself for enlistment into the newly-raised Wirral Pals battalion: the 13th (Wirral) Bn, Cheshire Regiment, at a Birkenhead Recruiting Office, and once determined medically examined and passed as fit for war service, he was posted to his battalion on 6 January, 1915, where he joined No 1 Coy, and given the regimental number W/1239.
He went on to train with his battalion at Codford St Mary, Bournemouth, and Aldershot, before embarking for France, at Folkestone, on 25 September, 1915.
Ed went on to see active service at Le Touquet, Zouave Valley (between Souchez and Givenchy), Ovillers, Stuff Redoubt (near Grandcourt), and finally at Ploegsteert Wood. It was here, on 7 November, 1916, that he was shell-shocked and developed a Cerebral Hemorrhage. He was admitted to the 75th Field Ambulance, and then sent to the 1st Canadian Casualty Clearing Station, prior to be moved to the 6th Stationary Hospital, Wimereux, where he was admitted on 12 November, 1916. Eight days later, Edward Lawton was invalided back to England on board the hospital ship "Jan Breydel". He was discharged from the army on 2 May, 1918, and his army pension of 20/- (£1) began the following day. He died from influenza and pneumonia on 16 October, 1918, and he was buried in what was then an unmarked grave.
In an ironic link, I discovered that 16032 Private James Wall, 12th Bn Cheshire Regiment, had tried to commit suicide in July, 1915, by cutting his throat. The wound was non-fatal. He had had a previous history of military misconduct when he served with the 3rd (Special Reserve) Bn Cheshire Regiment, and this continued in his service with the 12th Battalion, when, on 20 July, 1915, he was awarded 28 days Field Punishment No 2 for being absent from Tweseldown Camp, Aldershot. It was whilst he was undertaking this punishment that he tried to cut his throat. A decision was made to discharge him from the army as "no longer physically fit for war service". He died suffering from Melancholia on 19 November, 1918, only 27 days after Edward Lawton. He had lived only three doors away from him at 107, St. Anne's Street, Birkenhead. James Wall never served overseas.
A final ironic link is that buried immediately in front of Edward Lawton is a soldier from not only the same battalion, but the same company: W/701 Sergeant Richard Elliott, who died of wounds received at Zouave Valley.
As previously mentioned, nearer to the date when I can confirm a date for Edward Lawton's grave being erected, I will update this article, and send out an open invitation to all WFA members who would like to attend.
Article and photographs contributed by Peter Threlfall, Chairman, WFA Merseyside Branch.