A WW1 Tale of Two Sisters – Lucy & Elizabeth Congreve
Malcolm Britton’s Great Aunt and Grandmother
Lucy (born 1880) and Elizabeth Congreve (born 1882) were two of the five children of a South Lincolnshire farmer, George Congreve and his wife Eliza. Both married and both lost their husbands during the Great War in very different circumstances. Lucy married Percy Webster, a “threshing machine attendant”, and Elizabeth married George William Parish, a farmer. Both Percy and George were 37 when they died.
Percy Webster was born and lived in Glinton, near Peterborough. He was the second son of Henry and Fanny Webster of Bleach House. Married to Lucy Congreve, he enlisted at Peterborough as a Private (16624) in the 1st Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment.
Local newspapers reported that Pte Webster was wounded in the arm by shrapnel on 8th July 1916. After recovering in hospital in Nottingham, he returned to France and was killed in action on 24th September 1918, aged 37. Pte Webster is buried in Berthaucourt Communal Cemetery, Pontru, which has over 70 causalities, mainly from the 1st Northamptons killed on 24th September 1918.
The 1st Northamptons were involved in “The Advance to Victory” which was the last major action of the First World War. On 24th September they attacked a sunken road on a ridge of land between the villages of Pontruet and Gricourt near St Quentin, France. Their casualties during this action totalled more than 250.
I remember Auntie Lucy living in a little semi-detached thatched cottage in Hundleby in the 1950’s. Her water supply came from a well in the garden and newts would occasionally be pumped up in the water. When she died in 1959, aged 79, she had been a widow for 42 years.
George William Parish was a farmer and, as such, he was in a reserved occupation. In April 1917 he suffered a burst appendix and because medical help was not readily available, he died of peritonitis leaving a widow, aged 35 expecting their third child, a 5 year old son and a 2 ½ year old daughter.
My grandmother had to give up the farm and took over a shop in the nearby market town selling children’s clothes many of which she made herself. Her son, the man of the house, became a Petty Officer in the Royal Navy and went down with HMS Grimsby in World War II. Her elder daughter’s husband was a prisoner of war for the duration of World War II. Their son was 2 years old at the outbreak of war and for the fist two years after her husband was captured she had no news of his fate. The younger daughter served throughout World War II as an officer in the WRNS. Her fiancé was killed and she never married, dying at the age of 96 in 2013. Grandma Parish died aged 94 in 1976 having been a widow for 59 years.
|The original exhibition display: Lucy & Elizabeth Congreve