Thursday, March 08, 2018

"Until the day break ..."

1. Staff Sgt. William Fisher Birkett, REME
Known as 'Billie' to family and friends
"Died of injuries in a battle accident" 
Western Front, 18 April 1945

[Photo courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News']
[His father was killed in the 1914 - 1918 war]
2 .High Street, Cleator Moor Cumberland 
(Early 20th C postcard)
Birthplace and home of Sgt W.F. Birkett, REME
3. Cleator Moor Brass at a remembrance service
Cleator Moor Wesleyan (Methodist) Church
Billie Birkett was married in this church 
4. Cleator Moor War Memorial
Decorated with poppies of Remembrance
Billie Birkett died in WW2, his father Dick in WW1
5. 1914 Lonsdale Battalion recruitment poster
Dick Birkett, father of Billie, was a recruit
Dick Birkett was killed in action in 1917

[Photo taken at Cumbria Museum of Military Life, Carlisle]
"Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether." 
Song of Solomon 2:17 
The Bible (King James Version)  

[The first part of this verse is the epitaph on Billie Birkett's CWGC headstone in the war cemetery at Becklingen, Germany]


Staff Serjeant William Fisher Birkett, REME (known as 'Billie') [Photograph No. 1] "... died of injuries sustained in a battle accident in a forward area on the Western Front ..." on 18 April 1945. Sgt. Birkett came from Cleator Moor, Cumberland in the N.W. of England [Photograph No. 2]. In life, Billie was a popular member of the Wesleyan (Methodist) church at Cleator Moor, a church which holds an annual service of Remembrance for all those killed in wars [Photograph No. 3]. 

The death of Sgt. Birkett in WW2 was a case of history repeating itself. His father, Pte. Dickinson Fisher Birkett ('Dick'), was killed on the Western Front while serving with the 11th (Lonsdale) Battalion of the Border Regiment in the 1914 - 1918 war. Like father, like son - both made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in the Armed Forces. Billie Birkett and his father Dick Birkett are just of the war dead from the Cleator Moor district of Cumbria commemorated by the town's war memorial [seen in Photograph No. 4]. 


For further information click on 'Comment's below. 


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Family background of William Fisher Birkett

William Fisher Birkett ('Billie') was born at Cleator Moor, Cumberland in 1916, the only child of Dickinson Fisher Birkett ('Dick') and Margaret Birkett (nee Greggain) who had married the previous year. The family home was close to the town centre, at 60 High Street, which can be seen in photograph No. 2 (above). Billie never knew his father who was killed in action on the Western Front in 1917 (as explained explained later in this article).

At senior school level, Billie Birkett studied at Whitehaven Grammar School (Whitehaven County Secondary School) about four miles from Cleator Moor and Woodhouse Grove, Leeds (West Yorkshire). This latter school was originally a boarding school for the sons of Wesleyan (Methodist) Ministers. After leaving school Billie Birkett became a mechanic at Cumberland Motor Services bus company before joining the army at the beginning of WW2.

On Thursday, 20 June 1940, after being evacuated from the Dunkirk beaches, Billie Birkett was married to Mary Walton at Cleator Moor Wesleyan (Methodist) church (see transcription of newspaper report below). Both bridegroom and bride were members of this congregation. Billie and Mary had one son, also called William, born in 1945 only a few months before Billie Birkett lost his life shortly before the end of WW2.

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Married after the Dunkirk evacuation
Transcript of an article in the 'Whitehaven News'
(Thursday June 27, 1940, page 6)

Cleator Moor Bridegroom
Cleator Moor Wesleyan Methodist Church was the scene of a pretty wedding on Thursday, when the marriage of two well-known and popular members of the congregation took place.

The bridegroom was Mr William Fisher Birkett, son of Mrs M. Birkett, High Street, Cleator Moor, and his bride was Miss Mary Walton, elder daughter of Mr and Mrs George Walton, Hilden Cottages, Cleator. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. T.S.J. Walsh, and Miss Metherell played bridal music on the organ. The hymns "O, Perfect Love" and "Lead us Heavenly Father" were sung by the large congregation.

The bride, given away by her father, was charmingly robed in a dress of ivory satin beaute with veil and and coronet of orange blossom, and accessories to tone, and carried a boquet of red roses, together with a silver horseshoe presented by Master Frank Rushton.

The principal bridesmaid was Miss D. Holmes, a friend of the bride, who was dressed in blue taffeta, and wore a posy of pink carnations; and two junior attendants were Miss D. Walton (sister of the bride) and Miss M. Greggain (cousin of the bridegroom), who each wore a dress of pink taffeta and had a posy of cream rosebuds.

Mr. L. Robson, Moor Row, an Army friend of the bridegroom. was best man. The bride was a Sunday School teacher at Cleator Moor Wesleyan Methodist church, and the reception was held in the schoolroom. Many presents were received by the happy couple. The bride's gift to the bridegroom was a Rolls razor and his gift to the bride was a gold wristlet watch. To each of the bridesmaids he presented a handbag.

The bridegroom is a soldier and had been granted leave for the wedding. He was serving with the B.E.F. in Belgium and was in the evacuation from Dunkirk. He had served overseas since October and whilst in France visited the grave of his father who was killed in the last war.

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Accidentally killed shortly before the end of the war
Transcript of an article in the 'Whitehaven News'
(Thursday May 10, 1945)
Western Front Accident
Mrs W.F. Birkett, Hilden Road, Cleator, has received word from the War Office that her husband, Staff Sergt. W.F. Birkett, R.E.M.E., has died of injuries sustained in a battle accident in a forward area on the Western Front on April 18.

Sergt. Birkett, aged 28, had been in the Army since the outbreak of war and was previously employed as a mechanic by the Cumberland Motor Services at Whitehaven. He was in action at Dunkirk, Libya, Sicily and Italy and was attached to Montgomery's 5th Tank Corps. He was educated at Whitehaven Secondary School and Woodhouse Grove, Leeds. His father, Mr D.F. Birkett, was killed in the last war. Sergt. Birkett is survived by his wife and one child and by his widowed mother, Mrs D.F. Birkett, High Street, Cleator Moor.

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

CWGC citation for Sgt. William Fisher Birkett, REME

This is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation for William Fisher Birkett:

Rank: Staff Serjeant
Service Number: 7591347
Died: 18/04/1945
Aged: 28
Unit: Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Additional information:
Son of Dickinson Fisher Birkett and Margaret Birkett, of Cleator Moor, Cumberland.
Husband of Mary Birkett, of Cleator Moor.
Cemetery details:
Location: Niedersachsen, Germany
Number of casualties: 2303
Cemetery/memorial reference: 2. H. 6.
Headstone inscription:

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Roll of Honour

Transcript of a family notice in the 'Whitehaven News'
(Thursday April 17, 1947)

BIRKETT - In loving and affectionate remembrance of W.F. Birkett (Billie) loving husband of Mary Birkett and only son of Margaret Birkett and the late D.F. Birkett, who died April 18th, 1945.
"Always in our thoughts"

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Pte. Dickinson Fisher Birkett in the 1914 - 1918 war

As explained above, Billie Fisher's father, Dick Birkett was killed in the First World War while serving with the Lonsdale Battalion of the Border Regiment, and Billie was able to visit the grave of his father while with the B.E.F. in France in 1940.

Below is some information about Dick Birkett in WW1:
He was married to Margaret (Maggie) Birkett (nee Greggain) and before the First World War was a baker with the Cleator Moor Co-operative Society. The 11th (Service) Battalion The Border Regiment Battalion (Lonsdale) was one of the "Pals" battalions raised in the early weeks of the 1914 - 1918 by Hugh Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale (the "Yellow Earl").

A recruiting poster for this battalion asked the question "Are You a Man, or Are You a Mouse?" The battalion motto was the same as for the Order of the Garter:
Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense — Evil be to Him who Evil Thinks

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Transcript of artice in the 'Whitehaven News' explaining the circumstances of Dick Birkett's death.
(Thursday February 15, 1917, page 5)


A few details have been received by the relatives of Private D.F. Birkett, whose death was reported a fortnight ago, whilst on active service in France. In a letter from the Captain of the Company to the bereaved widow, it appears Private Birkett was acting as officers' servant, and was with several others when a shell fell amongst them, and most were killed outright. The captain extended the deepest sympathy of the officers and men of the company, adding he trusted it might be some consolation to know that he did not suffer at all.

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

CWGC citation for Pte. Dickinson Fisher Birkett, Border Regt.:

This is the Commonwealth War Graves Commission citation for Dickinson Fisher Birkett (father of Sgt. W.F. Birkett) who died in WW1:

Rank: Private
Service Number: 30153
Died: 12/01/1917
Aged: 26
Unit: 11th Bn., Border Regiment
Additional information:
Son of Mrs. Ann Birkett and the late John Birkett, Cleator Moor.
Husband of Margaret Birkett, of 60, High St., Cleator Moor, Cumberland.
Cemetery details:
Location: Somme, France
Number of casualties: 1127
Cemetery/memorial reference: I. H. 36.
Headstone inscription:

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


' "I know! I know!
The ceaseless ache, the emptiness, the woe, -
The pang of loss, -
The strength that sinks beneath so sore a cross,
" - Heedless and careless, still the world wags on,
And leaves me broken ... Oh, my son! my son!"
'To You Who Have Lost'
John Oxenham, (William Arthur Dunckerley 1852-1941)
This article is dedicated to the memory of William Fisher Birkett, who died in WW2, and Dickinson Fisher Birkett, who died in WW1. May they rest in peace!


(1) Cumbria County Archives and Local Studies Centre
Whitehaven Archives,
Scotch Street, Whitehaven, Cumbria. CA28 7NL

(2) The 'Whitehaven News'

(3) Cleator Moor Methodist Church
Market Square, Cleator Moor Cumbria. CA25 5AU

Thursday, 08 March, 2018  

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