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Capt Arthur de Bells Adam (MC)
1885 - 1916

CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916

Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916

Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916

Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft

Sgt 17872 David Webster Irvine

  • Age: 32
  • From: Liverpool
  • Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
  • K.I.A Tuesday 11th July 1916
  • Commemorated at: Thiepval Memorial
    Panel Ref: P&F1D8B &8 C.

Born 1884, David was the 3rd of 8 children born to David Webster Irvine, born 1851, and his wife, Mary Ann (nee Stout). His parents were both from the Shetland Isles and married in Liverpool at St James' Church in 1877. He had two older brothers - George and John, both born 1882, 2 older sisters (Ann Elizabeth, b.1878 and Catherine Amelia, b.1879) and three younger sisters (Mary, b. 1890; Sarah May b. 1893; and Jessie b. 1896).

In 1901 the family lived at 79 Boswell Street, Liverpool, though his father is not shown on the Census. This is because he was away at sea in the merchant service at the time.

In 1911, David’s parents, with three of his sisters - Ann, Jessie (a teacher at St Mary’s School, Liverpool) and Sarah May, an apprentice milliner, live at 40 Hartismere Road, Seacombe. Their eldest son, George William Edward, married Ann Alice Ashton in Birkenhead in 1910 and in 1911 is shown living with his wife’s parents, Thomas Ashton, a self-employed florist, and his wife Janet at 95 Park Road, Toxteth. David does not feature in the 1911 Census as he was at sea as a steward aboard SS Campania with his home address on her crew list in 1912 shown as 33 Hampstead Road, Wallasey.

His father died on 14th December 1912 in the Royal Southern Hospital, Liverpool.

David enlisted on 23rd September 1914 at Liverpool, aged 30 years and 180 days, giving his occupation as steward and stating that he had previously served with the “5th Liverpool Scottish” and was “time expired”. (This was probably a mistake by the recruiting officer as what was to become the Liverpool Scottish Battalion was initially designated in 1900 as the “8th (Scottish) Volunteer Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment)” and in 1902 provided an “Active Service Section” of a Lieutenant and 23 Other Ranks to serve with the 1st Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, in the South African War. As a result of the Haldane reforms in 1908, Volunteer Battalions ceased to exist and the Liverpool Scottish Battalion (Territorial Force) was designated 10th (Scottish) Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, Territorial Force).

He was described as being 5 ft 6 and 3/4" tall, weighing 115 lbs with a 36 inch chest, a fresh complexion, grey-blue eyes and brown hair. He stated his religion Church of England.

His ability and past service as a soldier was recognised and on 25th September 1915 he was promoted to Corporal. However, the Defaulters Book for Larkhill Barracks shows that on 13.01.1915 he reverted to the rank of Private on grounds of “inefficiency”. Despite this, between March and August he was appointed Lance Corporal and then Corporal. On 13.10.1915, again at Larkhill, he was severely reprimanded by his Commanding Officer for Neglect of Duty and refusing to take a man into the Guard Detention Room. Just 2 weeks later he was appointed Lance Sergeant and two days later embarked for France with 19th Battalion. On 17th March 1916 he was promoted Sergeant! From 15th to 28th May 1916 he was in 96 Field Ambulance, having sprained his ankle, and rejoined his Unit on 28th.

On 11th July 1916 he was reported missing in action at Trones Wood and was subsequently assumed to have been killed on that date.

The murderous fighting that went on inside Trones Wood rendered it impossible to put specific dates on some of the casualties which is why many of the 17th Battalion losses have been bracketed as killed in action between 10th and 12th July 1916. The conditions are best described in the following passage from Everard Wyrall’s book “The History of The King’s Regiment (Liverpool) Volume II.” 

“The remembrance of Trones Wood in July 1916 to those who passed through it is of a noisome, horrible place, of a tangled mass of trees and undergrowth which had been tossed and flung about in frightful confusion by the shells of both sides. Of the ghastly dead which lay about in all directions, and of DEATH, lurking in every hole and corner with greedy hands ready to snatch the lives of the unwary. The place was a Death trap, and although the attacks were made with great determination, the presence of snipers who could not be detected and often fired into the backs of our men made the clearing of the wood impossible.”  

David's body was not recovered or was subsequently lost as he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. 

On 01st August 1932 the Prince of Wales and the President of France inaugurated the Thiepval Memorial in Picardy. The inscription reads: “Here are recorded the names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.”

On his file is a copy of a letter from a Miss Evelyn Carroll (?), of 1010 Main Street, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA who writes to his unit asking “Would you kindly tell me if David Webster Irvine is still alive. I have not heard from him since November 1914. I am anxiously awaiting your reply” - at this time David was still in the UK! As a regular visitor to the USA in his seafaring days, David no doubt became acquainted to one or more ladies over there! In June 1916, Jessie Smith writes from Laingcliffs, 69 South Parade, St Annes on Sea, saying “I wrote a short time ago re Corporal David Irvine - I am a friend of his and have not heard from him since last September. I would like to know if anything has happened or if he is wounded or otherwise. I wrote to him once in France so do not know if he got my letter”. Jessie stated that David was in 12 Platoon. What is it they say about a sailor and every port? There is also a letter from A. Irvine who claims to be his “next of kin in this country” giving her address as 44 Hampstead Road, Seacombe asking for any news of David, and adds that his mother “ lives at 169 Walnut Street, Waterbury, Connecticut, USA”. It is likely that “A. Irvine” is David’s older sister, Ann Elizabeth. In August 1916, his brother, George W. E. Irvine, 44 Hampstead Road, Seacombe, also writes asking for information, stating that David was in 11 Platoon and adding that his letters to David have been returned marked “hospital”. Interestingly, David’s Service Record shows his next of kin initially as his brother, George, of 65 Marsden Road, Egremont but this has been struck through and the name of his mother, Mary, of 161 Walnut Street, Waterbury, Connecticut, USA, substituted. Her address has then been amended to read 44 Hampstead Road, possibly as a result of the letter from “A. Irvine” above. His brother, George, is also named as a next of kin with his address shown as 65 Clarendon Road, Egremont.

Soldiers Effects to mother Mary, brother George W,. sisters Sarah Mary Gilles, Catherine Moore, Ann Elizabeth and Jessie, no Pension record found

A sworn declaration dated 18th November 1920, names his immediate relatives as : Father (deceased); Mother – Mary Ann, 145 Euston Avenue, Waterbury, Connecticut, USA; brothers : George, 44 Hampstead Road, Wallasey; John James, living Nanking, China ( where he was still living in 1922 when he sailed from UK to Shanghai with his wife Annie Elizabeth (nee Norbury). John was a merchant for Union Cold Storage, Liverpool, and regularly travelled to and from China. He died in 1950 in Scotland, leaving two sons, George Ashton Irvine born 1916 and David Ashton Irvine, born 1919 – both presumably named after his brothers George and David Webster Irvine. The declaration also shows four sisters – Catherine, living in Ford City, Pennsylvania, USA; Ann Elizabeth and Jessie, both living with their mother in Connecticut, USA. In 1920 his medals (3) were sent to his mother in the USA.

A family tree says that his mother died 1939 in Altoona, Blair, Pennsylvania, USA

David's Memorial plaque was offered for auction in 2014 for £60-£80.


Killed On This Day.

(108 Years this day)
Tuesday 18th July 1916.
Pte 27346 John Mawdsley
34 years old

(106 Years this day)
Thursday 18th July 1918.
Cpl 106108 William Alexander Unsworth
38 years old