James Owen of Penrhos

and his descendants

Frederick Starkey (1896-1918)

Victoria's son Frederick Starkey, born in Birkenhead in 1896 [Birkenhead 1896, 4th qt] was a 16 year old 'milk deliverer' in 1911. In WWI he was a bombardier in 275th Brigade Royal Field Artillery. This was part of the West Lancashire Division which was part of the peacetime Territorial Force so he may have signed on as a boy-soldier before the war; he joined up at Liverpool. I have yet to research his army records but a bombadier might have been a lead driver, gun layer, rangefinder, signaller or even a wheelwright, farrier or mechanic. In 1914 the units of the Division had just left for annual summer camp when emergency orders recalled them to their home base (All units were mobilised for full time war service on 5 August 1914).

The Divisional artillery moved to France in October 1915 where it joined 2nd Canadian Division. In November 1915 the War Office decided to reform the West Lancs Division in France so the artillery returned to the division then renamed the 55th Division. In January 1916 it established itself in the Hallencourt area and by 16 February it had taken up a position in the trenches south of Arras, in the area Wailly-Bretencourt. It proved to be a comparatively quiet period before the Battle of the Somme but in raids and minor operations, 63 officers and 1047 men of the Division were lost (killed, wounded or missing). Relieved on 25 July 1916, the 55th moved south and took up a position in the front line opposite the village of Guillemont. It then took part in the several phases of the Battles of the Somme 1916 - the Battles of Guillemont (4-6 Sept), Ginchy (9 Sept), Flers-Courcelette (17-22 Sept) and Morval (25-28 Sept); there was a short period of rest at Ribemont from 12 to 17 September.

On 28 September, it withdrew to the area of Buire and Ribemont where it received orders to move to the Ypres salient and in October 1916 it occupied the section of line between Wieltje (just south of where the A19 now ends, about 2 km NE of Ypres) and Railway Wood (just N of the Menin Road and about 3 km E of Ypres). It remained in this area for the first half of 1917, surrounded on three sides by the enemy and under constant artillery fire but otherwise it was a relatively quiet time - the calm before the storm. The Division was to be involved in two phases of the Third Battles of the Ypres (Passchendaele) - the Battle of Pilkem Ridge (31 July-2 Aug) and the Battle of Menin Road Ridge (20-23 Sept). Between 30 July and 4 August, 168 officers and 3384 men of the Division were lost. Three days later the Division withdrew to Recques for a re-fit and training. It then returned to almost the exact position it had left on 15 September, in readiness for the next phase of the offensive and lost a further 127 officers and 2603 men before moving out of the line on 22/3 September.   >