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Henry was born on 12th February 1875 in Stoke Newington, London. We believe that he was christened Charles Henry Walmsley Thwaites and was the illegitimate son of Mary Annie Thwaites. Mary Annie was born in Greystoke in 1849, the daughter of Joseph and Mary Thwaites. She grew up in Berrier before moving to London to work as a servant in Maryleborne. It was whilst here that she gave birth to Henry. We have no way of knowing who his father was, except to assume that his surname was “Walmsley”, given Henry’s middle name. Soon after giving birth Mary Annie moved to Patterdale where she lived with her mother and father Joseph and Mary at Goldrill House in Patterdale (now the Patterdale YHA). Joseph died in 1879 and in 1881 6 year old Henry was at Patterdale School, and living at Goldrill House with his mother and grandmother. By 1891 Mary Annie was still living at Goldrill House with her mother (who died that year) but Henry was working as a farm servant with the Boustead family in Great Strickland. In 1892 Mary Annie married a local widow, Thomas Nicholson, a farmer, who was living at Home Farm. It was around that time that the picture to the left was taken of Henry aged 18. Interestingly on the back of the photo is shows that it was taken by Johnston & Co, 60 High Street Stoke Newington, London -
They started a family in Barrow, with son Harold being born in 1902, followed by Maude (1903), Lilian (1904), Warick (1906) and Annie (1908). It appears that Henry and Maud decided to make a new life together in Canada, and in May 1909 Henry set sail aboard the appropriately named Canada bound for Quebec. He arrived a month later and the following year Maud and the children joined him, arriving on the 1st April 1910 aboard the Corsican. They settled in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and by the time of the 1916 Census 2 new children had arrived, Henry Walmsley (1911) and Evelyn (1916).
On the 27th August 1915 Henry enlisted with the 90th Canadian Infantry Battalion, the “Winnipeg Rifles”. This was the same regiment that several month before fellow Patterdale man and Canadian John Dewis Place had joined. There is some confusion over his dates in the army as there is another enlistment record for him for the 8th December 1916, this time for the 251st Overseas Battalion of the the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Oddly although the two forms are 16 months apart, Henry’s age had only increased by 4 months. This is either just a simple error, or more likely that he was keen to remain under the 41 year old age limit. The 251st (Good Fellows) Battalion, CEF was a unit in the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. Based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the unit began recruiting in the autumn of 1916 in Winnipeg and the surrounding district. As a result of these discrepancies it is difficult to know exactly when Henry sailed for Europe and with whom. Especially as we believe that the 251st was merged with other units, one being the 18th Battalion. However we know that in fact Henry was serving in 1916 as in July 1916 he was based with the Canadian division at Shorncliffe Barracks in Kent. It was whilst there that he was given six days leave and travelled to Cumbria, visiting his father in law in Barrow and then his mother in Patterdale, from where he sent the postcard below to Maud in Winnipeg. This postcard, along with several others, was kindly shared with us by his family. These included a fascinating one which was sent to all serving soldiers from Patterdale by a committee from the Dale led by the Headmaster of Patterdale School, Joseph Philipson, which is shown on our Roll of Honour page. More of these postcards are also included in our Then and Now section.
Henry therefore is likely to have seen action at the end of 1916, and throughout 1917 and 1918 and been involved in significant actions including at Ypres and Passchendaele, and later at the infamous Vimy Ridge, and the attack on Hill 70. It was in this action that John Dewis Place lost his life.
After the war Henry returned to Maud and the family in Winnipeg. We do not know many details of his life from then except that Maud died on 31 July 1962, and Henry died just over a year later on 22nd November 1963 at the age of 88. We are very grateful to his relations in Canada for all the information and photos they have shared with is, including the one of Henry’s gravestone shown below. Henry’s son, also called Henry Walmsley Thwaites, served in the Canadian Army in the Second World War. Tragically he died of a heart attack aged just 42 on the 30th May 1954 . Back in England we know that Annie Mary (Nicholson by then) was buried in Patterdale on 6th January 1919 at the age of 70 and at the time was living at Ullswater View in Patterdale (next door to Goldrill House where she had been before). Her husband Thomas Nicholson was buried 26th May 1920 at the age of 73, again in Patterdale, and he was living at Home Farm. We know from Henry’s family in Canada that when Annie died as part of her will she “left a legacy to her son & grandchildren in Winnipeg. One cousin has a very nice framed picture, a clock and the grandchildren were given money and some went on a driving tour to New York City with the inheritance.”
We are very grateful to Henry’s family for the information and photos they have shared on the ancestry website and subsequently with us via email. If you can add anything to Henry’s story please let us know.
Picture believed to be of Henry’s mother, Mary Annie Thwaites (Picture courtesy of the Thwaites family)
Henry Walmsley Thwaites, Henry's son in his WWII uniform. (Picture courtesy of the Thwaites family.)
Private (Charles) Henry Walmsley Thwaites
186269, 90th Canadian Infantry Battalion “Winnipeg Rifles”
Born 12th February 1875 Stoke Newington. Died 22nd Nov 1963 Winnipeg Canada aged 88
Son of Mary Annie Thwaites, once of Goldrill House Patterdale
Husband of Maud Mary Coward from Barrow-
Father and Grandfather
Henry’s Gravestone kindly sent to us by his family