Cheshire East Reflects
Twelve months ago I didn’t know I had a Great Uncle who was killed in the First World War. On 3rd August I visited his grave in a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery, 10.5 kilometres south of Ypres in Belgium. It was the hundredth anniversary of his death and a glorious summer’s day.
Oliver Badrock was born in Crewe in 1878; like so many of his generation he was born into a railway family, but one that had its roots in Cheshire’s rich agricultural tradition. His father, William (my Great Grandfather) was born in 1849 into a family of agricultural labourers; they lived in Bunbury. His mother Ellen, was born in Acton in 1854.
Sadly there are no family records or memories of Oliver, or indeed of any of his 7 siblings. My grandmother, his sister, who was 13 years his junior, died in 1977, but had been estranged from her family for over 60 years. All of the information I have has come from the Internet. Census records have been a valuable source as has the excellent Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. An unusual surname has also helped; I have no such advantage on the other side of my family; Smith is not a name that lends itself to easy searching!
The 1891 Census shows Oliver working as an Office Boy in a Coal Wharf in Crewe, ten years later he had moved to work in the steel works in Barrow in Furness where he was employed as a labourer, he was still working there in 1911. I don’t know why he moved or changed occupations. He was unmarried. In 1914 he enlisted in Barrow with the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and served with the Second Battalion. On 3rd August 1915 he was killed in action.
Oliver is buried in the St Quintin Cabaret Military Cemetery. It is said that time heals; this is certainly the case with this small field in rural Belgium. One can only imagine the carnage and bloodshed of 1915, but today the cemetery (which contains 460 Commonwealth war graves) sits in idyllic countryside, its lawns and gardens immaculately maintained. It is a place of peace, it is a place of beauty, it is a perfect resting place for a boy from a railway family in Crewe, for a soldier who died serving his country and for a man who is not forgotten.