Monday, March 07, 2016

1583 Sergeant William Calvert, 1/5th East Lancashire Regt

William Calvert was a patient at Hickwells from November 1915. His entry in Nurse Oliver’s album (accompanied by a line drawing of the East Lancashire Regiment badge reads:

The Summer. The Summer.
The exquisite time.
The red roses blush and
The nightingale chime.
The chant of the Lark and
The boom of the Bee.
Make all sad hearts look up with glee.

Sergt. W. Calvert
1583. B.Coy
1/5 East Lancs Regt

He shares this page with an entry from R/1480 Rifleman Stan Collins of the 12th Kings Royal Rifle Corps.

William was born in Harrogate around February or March 1878. I have been unable to trace him on the 1881 and 1891 census returns but he appears on the 1901 census living at 2 Wood Street, Baildon in the West Riding of Yorkshire. By this time, William, aged 23, had left the family home and was heading his own household. The household comprised William (a shoemaker), his wife Mary Calvert (aged 26) and their two children: Clara E Calvert (aged three) and Florence Calvert (aged one). There is also a 25 year old boarder - the name looks like Clara Hodgeth although the gender is given as male – working as a Woolcomber.

William attested with the 6th West Riding Regiment (Territorial Force) at Keighley on 31st January 1911, giving his age as 32 years and eleven months. He signed on for four years’ service in the United Kingdom and gave his trade as master shoemaker, employed in Burnley, Lancashire. He also indicated that he had previously served with the 2nd Volunteer Reserve Battalion (West Yorkshire Regiment) and the 3rd Volunteer Reserve Battalion, West Riding Regiment. He was given the service number 1515.

A medical examination conducted a few days later found him to be five feet, six inches tall with good vision and fair physical development. His application was approved on 14th February 1911.

William attended the annual camps at Ripon in July/August 1911 and Flamborough in July/August 1912. On 27th May 1913 however, he transferred to the 5th East Lancashire Regiment, presumably because he had been living in Lancashire at least since the time of his joining the Territorial Force and it made more sense to serve with a local unit than one on the other side of the Pennines. He was given another regimental number: 1583.

On 5th August 1914 he was embodied as a private and simultaneously promoted to sergeant and appointed master shoemaker. On 10th September he embarked at Southampton aboard HT Deseado and fifteen days later disembarked at Alexandria. He remained in Egypt until 5th May 1915 when he embarked for the Dardanelles. On 13th September he was admitted first to a Field Ambulance and then to the 11th Casualty Clearing Station which noted that he was suffering from jaundice. He presumably then spent a number of weeks in hospital on the peninsula before being evacuated to England on 4th November 1915 aboard the Hospital Ship Mauritania. He arrived at Brighton a week later.

On 20th November, The Sussex Daily News published a list of sick and wounded men who had arrived at Brighton nine days earlier and William Calvert’s name appears there. On 3rd December he was mentioned in the paper again:

The soldiers at Hickwells Relief Hospital at Chailey were ‘at home’ to their friends on Wednesday afternoon and by way of amusing them gave two excellent entertainments - one at 2:30 and the other at 4:30. The bugle called the performers together and when the screens were withdrawn a nice little group of waxworks was disclosed, Bombardier Ryan shewing off their ‘beauties’ in his usual amusing way. Corporal Nash (as St George) and Private Allen sang the ‘Tin Gee Gee’, Private Wise and Sergeant Calvert making two fascinating ‘Little Dolly Girls’. Rifleman Collins, still on crutches, made a splendid broken doll. Lance-Corporal Smith was a Japanese Lady, and, later on, although only having the use of one arm, cleverly ‘vamped’ some accompaniments. While dresses were being changed, Private Hume and Private MacBride sang and danced, and then to the tune of ‘Here We Are Again’, Hickwells’ Pierrot troupe appeared and gave a spirited entertainment. Driver Bradley and Private Allen made excellent ‘Corner Men’ and Bombardier Ryan was capital as the ‘Master of Ceremonies’. The troupe included, besides those already mentioned, Sergeant Calvert, Sergeant Sheppard, Corporal Nash, Lance-Corporal Smith, Privates Wise and Holleran, Driver Cleary and Corporal Dicks, many of whom sang and recited. Two of the nurses helped at the piano.

“Entertainments” were very much the vogue in Chailey and such sky-larking was still sufficiently novel for newspapers to report on. On 17th December there was another concert which was again covered by The Sussex Daily News:

The soldiers at Hickwells’ Relief Hospital gave another entertainment to their friends on Friday evening and had an appreciative and crowded audience. Corporal Nash made an excellent Master of the Ceremonies. The performers were in fancy dress, some quite fine ‘ladies’ being among them. ‘Hickwells’ Famous Band’ opened the proceedings. Many and various were the instruments, from bells, drums, whistle-pipes and tambourines, while even a brass candlestick was made use of, and last but not least an accordion. No encores were allowed and two of the nurses helped at the piano.

[There then follows a programme list - omitted here - performed by: Drummer Davis, Private Holyrod, Private Hume, Private Allen, Lance-Corporal Savage, Corporal Nash and Private Wise]. Besides those already mentioned, the band included Sergeant Calvert, Corporal Littler, Driver Cleary, Private Harrison, Private McBride, Private Ladd, Private Dawson and Private Kearton.

I am unsure how long William Calvert remained at Hickwells but by 10th May 1916 his soldiering days were over. He was discharged from the army “in consequence of the termination of his period of engagement” and went home to his wife and children at 2 Evelyn Street, Burnley.

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