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Geoffrey Connell Lancaster was born in Inskip, a small village on the outskirts of Preston on the 16th March 1896 the son of the Reverend John James and Fanny Maria Lancaster (nee Mason). John James Lancaster`s first marriage was to Mary Anne Stowell Rattray in 1872 in Liverpool and the couple had two children, Henry Boswell (1872) and Jessie Rattray (1876-1878). At the time of his first marriage John James was a student at St. Aidan`s Theological College in Liverpool. In 1881 he was made a Deacon and the following year was ordained as a Priest and by 1882 he had been offered the Parish of St. Peter`s in Inskip. John and Mary moved to Inskip but left their son Henry back in Liverpool living with his grandparents.

Sadly, John`s first wife Mary Anne passed away at the Vicarage in Inskip towards the end of 1892 and two years later on the 14th August 1894 he married Fanny Maria Mason in St. Catherine`s Church, Abercrombie Square in Liverpool. Fanny was 15 years his junior and had been previously employed as a school governess. After their marriage the couple returned to Inskip where two years later their only child, Geoffrey Connell was born.

Geoffrey was educated at Kirkham Grammar School and in 1911 as a 15 year old he was living with six other `boarders` in the School House which was being overseen by the Headmaster Thomas C. Walton, his wife Amy and three general servants, Nancy Metcalfe, Annie Dixon and Agnes Parnaby. Geoffrey`s parents were still in Inskip in 1911 and living at the Vicarage next to St. Peter`s Church.

After leaving Kirkham Grammar School Geoffrey took up a position as a clerk at the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank in Preston. After war was declared in August 1914 the Mayor of Preston, Alderman Cyril Cartmell placed the following advertisement in the Lancashire Daily Post on the 31st August 1914;

“It is proposed to form a Company of young business men, clerks, etc., to be drawn from Preston and the surrounding districts, and be attached, if practicable, to a Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. Will those who would like to join, apply here any afternoon or evening this week – the earlier the better. Town Hall, Preston – Cyril Cartmell, 31st August 1914”

The Mayor was responding to Earl Derby`s call that men might be more willing to enlist into the New Armies if they were able to fight alongside their friends, neighbours and workmates. Kitchener gave his blessing to this idea and sanctioned the raising of what became known as `Pals Battalions` and after the formation of the 7th Battalion, “D” Company became known as the `Preston Pals`. The other three Companies of the Battalion comprised of `Pals` drawn from Blackpool, Kirkham, Wesham and the Fylde.

Geoffrey enlisted on the 7th September 1914 at Preston, joining “D” Coy (Preston Pals) of the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was 19 years and 6 months old and confirmed his occupation as a bank clerk. His height was measured at five feet six and three quarter inches and he weighed 111lbs. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and `light` hair. Geoffrey named his father the Reverend John James Lancaster of the Vicarage, Inskip as his legal next of kin.

Geoffrey`s name along with dozens of other recruits was later noted in a list published by the local paper;13055-corporal-geoffrey-connell-lancaster

The Battalion went down to Tidworth to begin their training and by the 27th September 1914 Geoffrey had been appointed Lance Corporal (paid) and then on the 27th March 1915 he was further promoted to Corporal. On the 17th July 1915 he sailed from Folkestone to Boulogne with the main body of the 7th Battalion, the Battalion coming under the Command of the 56th Brigade of 19th (Western) Division.

During September 1915 the Battalion was involved in the ongoing Battle of Loos but by October the Battalion was to the north of the Loos battle area, either up in forward positions between Richebourg l`Avoue and Festubert or in the rear in billets and though this period may be described as comparatively peaceful, casualties were by no means few in number.

During the late afternoon of the 11th October 1915, having spent 16 days in the trenches, the Battalion was about to be relieved by the 7th Battalion South Lancs. Regiment. Sadly, whilst Geoffrey was packing up his kit a rifle grenade came over and a piece of the missile struck him the back, killing him instantly. The relief continued and the Battalion went back into Reserve billets. Later newspaper information states that the men in Geoffrey`s section were so `broken down` by his death that they returned to the trenches the following morning to find his body. Having found him they then carried his body down to a spot three miles behind the lines where he was laid to rest, the ceremony being conducted by the Chaplain.

After his death some of Geoffrey`s colleagues sent letters to one of the local papers in Preston, extracts of which appeared on the 23rd October 1915 in the Preston Herald, the piece entitled “ANOTHER PAL KILLED”;

“Corporal Geoffrey Connell Lancaster, youngest son of the Reverend J.J. Lancaster, Vicar of Inskip, has been killed in action. Deceased, who was aged 19, was educated at Kirkham Grammar School, and at the time of enlistment in the Preston “Pals” Company of the 7th Battalion, L.N.L. Regiment in September of last year, was a member of the staff of the Manchester and Liverpool District Bank at Preston. Letters received from the Rev. L.N. Force, Chaplain, Second Lieutenant Torane, Sergeant-Major Howarth and Sergeant Frank Hayes pay an eloquent tribute to his memory. It appears that the whole Battalion was coming out of the trenches for a short rest, and Corporal Lancaster was in the act of packing up his equipment when a German rifle grenade pitched into the traverse, and a piece of the missile hitting him in the back, killed him instantly. Of two others in the same traverse, one was killed and the other wounded in 34 places.

Lieut. Torane states; “His section who are absolutely broken down by his death, went up to the trenches the following morning, and carried him down to a spot three miles behind, where he was laid to rest by the Chaplain”.

Another letter states that the Battalion had been in the trenches for 16 days without a change of clothing, and were being relieved at midnight”.

Writing to the same paper, an unnamed soldier of the 7th Battalion LNL sent a letter to a Mr. Wrigley, Superintendent of the Britannic Assurance Company, the letter was written two days after Geoffrey died, the soldier describing what the Battalion had endured in the three week period prior to Geoffrey`s death.

“WITH THE “PALS”

THE BOOM OF THE GUNS

Trenches a foot deep in water and mud

Writing to Mr. Wrigley, the popular Superintendent of the Britannic Assurance Company, a soldier in France, under date October 13th says:-

“I received your parcel of cigarettes this evening, and you can rest assured I shall enjoy them. I thank you very much indeed for same, also all my colleagues who have contributed towards them. We have had a pretty rough time since I wrote you last, but have not taken part in the great advance. We have just held on to our position, but I might say it is a very difficult position to hold, in fact, one of the worst on the whole British front, as the Germans are very near our lines, and have a very nasty habit of sending bombs over, and they are decent sized ones at that, and do a great deal of damage to the trenches and to the occupants when they drop in the traverse. We are sat in reserve billets at present, as we were relieved on Monday night (11th). We had the misfortune to lose two of our men killed and another wounded about two hours before the time we were relieved. We had it very rough indeed for the first four days, as the rain simply poured down most of the time, and the trenches were in a very bad state, nearly a foot deep in water and mud. You can imagine what it was like tramping about in it all day and night. There is not much time for rest either. We have not been more than a mile from the front line trenches for nearly three weeks, and when not in the firing line we have been in the trenches digging and doing all kind of `fatigues`. We were not more than a thousand miles from where the big advance took place, and could hear the big bombardment quite plainly from our position.

I am on guard at present, but it is not my turn on for an hour or so, and the big guns are making too much noise for sleeping purposes. It is not so often I am kept awake by the big guns, but they seem to be making more noise than usual tonight. We have had a few casualties during our stay in the trenches, three killed and three wounded in the `Pals` alone; also a few in other Companies”.

The Reverend Lancaster later received some of his sons` possessions including; 1 pair kid gloves, 1 scissor case, 1 wristlet case, 1 photo case, 1 cigarette case, 1 pouch, letters and photographs, 1 ID Disc, 1 handkerchief and one title (LNL).

After the war the Rev. John James Lancaster took receipt of his sons` 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice. Geoffrey was buried in Le Touret Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L`Avoue and his parents had the following words inscribed at the foot of his headstone;

“IN TREASURED REMEMBRANCE”

13055-corporal-geoffrey-connell-lancaster-cwgc

Photo taken August 2015

Geoffrey Connell Lancaster`s name is also remembered on the War Memorial Stone that stands outside the Church of St. Peter in Inskip.

Inskip, St. Peter`s Church War Memorial Stone

Inskip, St. Peter`s Church War Memorial Stone

Rank: Corporal
Service No: 13055
Date of Death: 11/10/1915
Age: 19
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 7th Bn.
Cemetery: LE TOURET MILITARY CEMETERY, RICHEBOURG-L’AVOUE

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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