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For our recent ‘History of Antrobus in 10 Objects’ exhibition last month, Ian spent many hours researching the lives of the soldiers from the village who died in the First World War. Some of their lives are told here.
Around the time of Remembrance Sunday I came across an article around Thankful Villages. A thankful village is a community where everyone who went to fight in World War One came back alive, and there is an article about them on the BBC website. So when I found a newspaper article about a family from Antrobus whose four sons all fought in the Great War, and all came back alive, that seemed an amazing story of survival – particularly as one of them was a prisoner of war in Germany.
The Painter family from Reed House View, Antrobus included six sons and two daughters. William and Martha Painter’s eldest son, Thomas, was in India with his regiment when the war broke out, having been there for four years. Shortly afterward Christmas 1914 he proceeded to the Front and some months ago was taken prisoner by the Germans during the battle at Hill 60. His friend Alfred Gatley received a typically understated postcard from him:
“You will see by this that I am a prisoner of war, and I’m afraid you will have to go to short of news, as we are only allowed to write two letters and four postcards a month, but I will let you know at intervals how I am going on. If you don’t mind I would be glad to receive a parcel, but don’t mention any war news in your letter.”
After serving in the army for 12 years, Tom and his wife applied to Government House Ottawa for Coronation tickets. They were success in being allocated 2 of the 8,000 official tickets and emigrated to Canada in1926 where they built up a successful business.
John, the second son, joined the 10th Cheshires at the beginning of the war, and became a sergeant. The third son, James Knowles enlisted in September 1915 trained as a gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, and fourth son William joined the third line of the 5th Cheshire Regiment (Territorials.
However upon further research it appears that since the newspaper article was written in the Northwich Guardian in 1915 another son, Peter, also joined up. The sixth son, Frank, was too young being only 15 by the end of the war. Peter joined the Royal Navy in 1915 when only 15. In 1916 he was a gunner on the HMS Queen Elizabeth and was in the North Sea as part of the Grand Fleet. Towards the end of 1916 he was taken very ill and like many sailors was hospitalised in Valletta, Malta. His condition must have caused concern as his convalescence lasted for nearly one year.
It was not a completely happy story and the family was not untouched by the horrors of war, with Martha Painter’s younger cousin Arthur Rustage being killed at Gallipoli in 1915.
With thanks to the Painter family for permission to tell this remarkable story