Private Oliver READSHAW (24554)

14th Bn. Durham Light Infantry

Born: Abt. August 1885, Glenridding, Westmorl
and
Died: 23 October 1915, Belgium (Age 30)

Oliver Readshaw was born in Glenridding, most likely at 3, High Cottages, around August 1885 and was baptised at St Patrick's Church on the 18th October 1885. He was the fifth son of Paul Readshaw, a Lead Miner at the Greenside Mine, and his wife Ann (nee Oliver). Paul and Ann had moved to Glenridding from Weardale around 1880. The family were still living in Glenridding when the 1891 census was taken, so Oliver would have certainly begun his education at Patterdale School but would have completed his studies at Benfieldside School in Consett, when the family moved back to County Durham sometime before 1897

On the 26th January 1901, his father Paul, who was a Shifter at the Medomsley Busty Pit, died of a heart attack whilst travelling out of the pit at the end of his shift - he was aged 56. So a couple of months later when the 1901 census was taken, we find the widowed Annie living in Park Street, Consett with six of her sons, the eldest four, including Oliver, were working in the local coal mines. Around November 1909 his mother Annie also died, so by 1911 he is found living with his brothers George and Paul in Leadgate, County Durham - they were all coal miners working at the nearby Busty Pit. Oliver was a keen Cricketer and a member of the Leadgate Cricket Club, where he acted as groundsman and coach

Just a few weeks after war was declared, Oliver enlisted at Barnard Castle and was assigned to the 14th (Service) Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry (DLI). During the third week of September 1914, 1110 men travelled south to temporary billets in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. By the 3rd of October the Battalion had moved to nearby Halton Park where they linked up with the 15th Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry. The battalion trained during the following weeks in weather that was described as "wretched". At this time uniforms were in such short supply that many of the men were still in civilian clothing, so it seems likely that the 'official' photograph of Oliver on the left was taken during early training. At the beginning of December 1914 the battalion moved to High Wycombe into billets that were described as an immense improvement. Marching back to Halton Park in April 1915 the Battalion found a big improvement in the accommodation they had left in December. Training continued amongst the Chiltern Hills until 21st July when they marched to Witley Camp in Surrey, a distance of 75 miles which was covered in 5 days. The Battalion continued to train hard in hot and dusty weather in the weeks before embarkation.

After training for almost 12 months in the South of England the 14th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, now part of the 64th Brigade of the 21st Division, embarked at Folkestone on the 11th September 1915. They landed in France, at Boulogne, the next morning and immediately entrained for the Saint Omer district, where most of the new divisions were prepared for services in the line. The 14th Battalion's first experience of total war took place within two weeks, when, on the 25th September 1915, they were moved up into reserve trenches on the Loos battlefield and up to the front line the next day.

The Battle of Loos lasted until the 18th October and casualties where heavy, with both sides using poison gas. The 14
th Battalion casualties alone during this period were horrific with over 270 listed as killed, wounded or 'missing'. They were relieved before the end of September and we can find no evidence of any further front line action for the 14th Bn. up to the date on which Oliver is reported to have died - it could be that he was wounded around the 26th/27th September and died from those wounds on the 23rd October 1915. The photograph of Oliver above was originally taken from a local (North-East) newspaper article reporting his death, unfortunately very little text was visible on the copy we have; if the complete article can be found we may learn more about the circumstances of Oliver's death.

Oliver had completed just over a year with the DLI and just 6 weeks in France and Flanders before he died. His medal card1 shows that he was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal, British War Medal and the 1915 Star. His actual medals were donated to the DLI Museum by Mrs Janice Hobson (a family descendant?) and can be viewed in Medal Case 3, Display Group 13 in the museum's Medal Room

He is remembered and commemorated on: 

Glenridding Public Hall – Roll of Honour (alongside his brother George)
Leadgate War Memorial (Left Hand, Lower Plinth)
Church of Saint Ives, Leadgate - Memorial Plaque
Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery in Belgium(Plot III, Row H, Grave 5)
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission Memorial Certificate

It is curious that Oliver's name appears on the Glenridding Roll of Honour (with a crucifix next to it) but was not included on the War Memorial. 


What became of his family?

Oliver's parents had already died when he joined the Army.

As for his brothers and sister; they all moved back to the Consett area and this is all we know at the moment:

John William was born on the 29 Apr 1871 in Stanhope, Weardale. In 1891, he was single and working at the Blast Furnace of the Consett Iron Foundry. He married Margaret Annie Layton around May 1900 and they had one son Ernest William Henry (b. 23 Sep 1905). Sadly Margaret Annie died in 1913. When the 1939 Register was taken John William was living at 42, Falmer Rd in Darlington, along with his son Ernest who had married Laura M Scruton earlier that year. John died on the 26 Oct 1940. Ernest died on the 23 Jun 1960 and his wife Laura remarried in 1966.  

Margaret was born about November 1877 in Rookhope, Weardale. She is listed with the family in the 1891 Census when they were living in Glenridding. In the Spring of 1898, not long after the family had moved back to the North East, Margaret married John George Winch a coal miner. They had eight children; George Rutland (1899), Thomas Whitfield (1900), Beatrice May (1901), Anne Elizabeth (1903), Benjamin (1905), Olive Louisa (1907), Sydney who was born towards the end of 1910 but sadly died in August 1911 and Elsie who was born in April 1913 but soon died and was buried on the 8th April - both were buried in Blackhill Cemetery, Consett. Margaret was recorded as Oliver's 'Next of Kin' and was living at Dixon Street, Blackhill when she was told of his death. Margaret died in December 1915, at the early age of 38, and was buried in Blackhill Cemetery, Consett on the 22nd January 1916.
Whitfield was born in 1880 in Rookhope, Weardale. He became a miner and married Sarah Ann Hardon towards the end of 1906 in the Durham area but his wife died whilst giving birth to their first child Alfred Frederick in 1910. Last record found was in 1911, when he was living in Consett with his wife's family and his 8 month old son.

Thomas Dickinson was born about February 1881 in Glenridding and baptised on the 31st May 1884. He married Lily Robinson in 1901; in 1911 they were living in Knitsley where Thomas worked at the Consett Iron Foundry; They had ten children.

George was born about August 1882 in Glenridding. He married Esther Coombe and had two daughters, Ellen and Edith. He joined the Durham Light Infantry (1/6th Bn.) and was killed in action on the 22nd September 1915 just 4 weeks before Oliver. 

The twins, Robert and Paul were born about April 1888 in Glenridding and baptised on the 9th May. Sadly, Robert died in October aged just 5 months. Last record found was in Leadgate with George and Paul in 1911.

Sidney was born about August 1889 in Patterdale. In 1912, he married Mary Williams in Durham; they had two sons.


Notes:

1. Medal Card for Private Oliver Redshaw (24554) Durham Light Infantry.


The Victory Medal
To qualify for the Victory medal one had to be mobilised in any service and have entered a theatre of war between 5 August 1914 and 11 November 1918).

The British War Medal

To qualify for the British War Medal a member of the fighting forces had to leave his native shore in any part of the British Empire while on service. It did not matter whether he/she entered a theatre of war or not.

The 1914-15 Star

The 1914–15 Star was approved in 1918, for issue to officers and men of British and Imperial forces who served in any theatre of the War between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 (other than those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star).

2. Ploegsteert Wood Military Cemetery in Belgium

This cemetery was made by the joining up of several small separate cemeteries which had been started in the war by different units. Other graves were added later during the War, effectively forming a single larger cemetery.The cemetery grounds were assigned to the United Kingdom in perpetuity by King Albert I of Belgium in recognition of the sacrifices made by the British Empire in the defence and liberation of Belgium during the war. It fell into German hands between the 10th April and the 29th September 1918, when the Hundred Days Offensive swept fighting out of the Salient. The cemetery was designed by W H Cowlishaw.  More Details

3. The family name was often recorded as REDSHAW, particularly on later documents. We have used the spelling READSHAW as this was used to register his birth and therefore would appear on his birth certificate.

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