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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Recognition for Cumbrian Great War soldier

A “forgotten” World War One soldier has now been given official recognition and will appear on a national website listing the fallen.

Private John Monkhouse photo
Private John Monkhouse

Private John Monkhouse, who is buried in a family grave at Hutton-in-the-Forest, near Penrith, had not been listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website – the first resource for people tracing soldiers who served in the conflict.

But, thanks to the efforts of retired geography teacher and keen World War One historian, Richard Preston, Pt Monkhouse’s name will now be included.

Mr Preston, of Southwaite, co-chairman of the Penrith Remembers Group, which is organising centenary events and celebrations throughout the year, looked into the background of Pt Monkhouse, who died at home of tuberculosis in February 1918.

“I was looking into the background of the five soldiers named on the war memorial at Hutton-in-the-Forest when I came across a problem – he was not on the CWGC site,” he said.

“It’s the first place you look when researching dead World War One soldiers. This fascinated me and made me determined to find out about this soldier who had been awarded the Military Medal.”

He said the CWGC had probably missed Pt Monkhouse off in error and he “got lost in the system”.

“They couldn’t tell me why,” he said. “It could be that because he died at home and was buried in a family grave and had come out of the forces.”

Mr Preston’s research, including looking through the census and newspaper articles at the archive centre in Harraby, Carlisle, led him to find out that Pt Monkhouse was born in 1896 and was working as a farm labourer at Calthwaite by 1911.

He served at military hospitals in Penrith before joining the army ambulance unit. Mr Preston found records indicating he had been gassed in 1917 but said his medical records didn’t relate to the incident.

“He may just have been affected by gas as he was handling the patients who had gas on their uniforms and it was not uncommon for medical personnel to be affected by this method,” he said. “By July 1917 he was in hospital in London with a chest complaint. Then ‘no longer fit for service’ he was dismissed from the Army on September 26 1917. His final discharge medical note said that his injuries were wholly caused by his Army service.”

Pt Monkhouse was nursed at home before his death on February 18 with his cause of death listed as tuberculosis. He was given a military funeral.

“I put together the necessary documents and submitted them to the CWGC to prove that he should be given recognition as a soldier who not only served the Crown and died, but was given a medal for valour,” he said.

Mr Preston said he had discovered Pt Monkhouse has a great nephew who lives in the Penrith area but he has not made contact with him.

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