Thursday, 23 October 2008

The Whitehead brothers of Derby

Fellow family historians will sympathize with my frustration at the number of old photographs in the family collections that are not annotated, and for which there is now nobody left alive to identify the subjects. In some of my articles I have been sharing ideas, tips and techniques by which such photographs may be researched, and for which there is a possibility of making tentative identifications. In one such article posted recently - Portrait of a young man in Derby, by Milton ... or perhaps Frost? - I made some progress with two turn-of-the-century portraits belonging to my aunt.

In this article, I present a photograph of a rather different nature, which can be equally as perplexing. The subjects are clearly identified by name ... the question is, "Who were they, and what connection did they have to my family?" To some, these photographs are peripheral to their ancestral research, and may be largely ignored. To me, however, they form an important part of the overall jigsaw puzzle that outlines the life of a particular ancestor or family group. To carry the analogy a little further, these photographs can add significantly to the background of the main character, in a puzzle without edges that won't ever be complete, but will be far more interesting than a series of dates and a simple outline of a life.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

This mounted large format print (72.5 x 98.5 mm on a pale beige and brown embossed card mount 140 x 165 mm) is typical of the little projects that I let myself get sidetracked on from time to time ... okay, quite a lot of the time. It shows three young men seated and standing in formal triangular arrangement in a garden setting. Two of them are dressed in suits, one wearing a trilby, the other a flat cap, while the third (seated at right) is in a military uniform and is holding a peaked forage cap on his right knee.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

The uniform looks to me to be from the pre-Great War era. The cap badge is fairly clear - a passant lion with three words beneath it (the first word could be "THE" - but it's not clear which regiment it was from. It looks very much like this one which, according to Bernard Renshaw's web site, Military Regimental Cap Badges UK, is from the King's Own (Royal Lancashire Regiment).

Image © Bernard Renshaw and courtesy of Military Regimental Cap Badges UK

The front two men are seated on what looks like a slatted wooden garden seat, in front of which is a herbaceous border, and behind the group is the trellised front to a garden shed or similar structure. At the base of the card mount, hand written in black pencil or pen, are the names of the three men, Vincent, Cecil and Maurice.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison

The reverse of the card mount reveals, in the same handwritten black ink, "Vincent, Cecil and Maurice Whitehead." Subsequently, my aunt has printed below this, also in black ink, "CHARLES VINCENT PAYNE (STANDING)." However, I had some doubts about the identification of the Vincent in the photograph as my great-grandfather Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941). The original caption suggested to me that the name of the man standing was Vincent Whitehead, not Payne, even though his face does have some superficial resemblance to CVP, as shown in the images below.

Image © and courtesy of Barbara EllisonImage © and courtesy of Barbara Ellison
"Vincent" in a fedora (left), and Charles Vincent Payne in a top hat (right)

I'm not aware of any genealogical connections to a family named Whitehead, so the next step was to find out who they were. The mount gives no indication of photographic studio or location. However, as my initial estimate of date was around 1910, and most of my aunt's family were living in and around Derby at that time, Derby was naturally the first place to look.

Image © the National Archives and courtesy of Ancestry.com
Extract from 1891 Census: WHITEHEAD family,
53 Silverhill Rd, Litchurch, Derby, Derbyshire
National Archives Ref. RG12/2735/106/46/308
Image © the National Archives and courtesy of Ancestry

A search of the 1901 and 1891 Censuses (using indexed images from Anestry.com) and various trade directories quickly turned up a Whitehead family in Derby with sons named Vincent, Cecil and Maurice, living first at 53 Silverhill Road, Litchurch (1891), then at 118 Richmond Road (1895) and 68 Normanton Road, Derby St Peter's (1899-1901). They were sons of Richard David Whitehead and Elizabeth Ann Barnett, who were originally from Manchester, but moved to Derby in early 1890, when Vincent Whitehead was eight and Cecil Barnett Whitehead was six. Maurice Whitehead was born in December 1890, shortly after their arrival. There were also four sisters, Annie, Minnie, Dorothy and Ethel. Richard D. Whitehead was employed as a science teacher (mechanical & civil engineering) at the Derby Technical College. Their mother died in early 1898, at the age of 37, and a paternal aunt Martha Ann Whitehead came to live with the family as a housekeeper, before their father remarried in late 1901.

Image © the National Archives and courtesy of Ancestry.com

By this time, Cecil was a soldier, and the census of 31 March 1901 shows him in the infantry at Chatham Barracks in Kent. Vincent married in 1904 and Cecil did likewise in 1909. However it is Maurice who is shown in uniform, not Cecil, and I found a First World War medal card for Maurice, showing that he was a Sergeant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Regimental Number 33905).

Image © and courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The web site and database of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission show that Maurice Whitehead died on 26 September 1917, while serving with the 10th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and his name is commemmorated on Panels 63-65 of the Tyne Cot War Memorial (Certificate), 9 kilomteres to the north-east of Ieper (Ypres). It is obvious that he was killed or went missing during the Third Battle of Ypres, an offensive mounted by Imperial and Commonwealth forces to distract German attention from weakened French positions in the south, and culminated in the Battle of Passchendaele in November 1917.

Chris McCarthy has the following account of the actions on the V Corps front, covered by the 3rd Division and the 76th Brigade, during the Battle of Polygon Wood from 26 September to 3 October, in his book, "The Third Ypres - Passchendaele: The Day-by-Day Account" (Arms & Armour Press, London, 1995, ISBN 1 85409 217 0).
76th Brigade: On the right of the railway, the 2nd Suffolks and the 10th Royal Welsh Fusiliers advanced. Whilst encountering little resistance, they were briefly held up as they sought a crossing point over the Steenbeek, but they carried on to the Green Line. Aftre the railway had been crossed the attack lost momentum under heavy machine-gun fire from the station. The centre of Zonnebeke was entered by parties of the RWF and the Suffolks but the station held out and they could only get to within 200 yards of it. At 2.30 p.m. the first counter-attack was launched but this was easily repulsed. A more determined attack was made at 6.30 p.m. but was stopped with rifle and machine-gun fire ... the 10th RWF held 150 yards of the road running north-west from the church.
While I've discovered a fair amount about the Whitehead brothers, I'm really no nearer to discovering what the connection was to my Payne family. There are, however, several possibilities. Vincent (born 1881) and Cecil (born 1884) were of a similar age to my great-grandfather's youngest brother Fred Payne (1879-1946) and sisters Lucy Mary Payne (1876-1953), Lily Payne (1882-1968) and Helen Payne (1883-1933). Maurice (born 1890) was more a contemporary of my grandfather Charles Lesley Lionel Payne (1892-1975). I'm hoping that one day, either I will come across further clues to add to the picture, or that someone researching the Whitehead family will stumble across this article.

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