1st World War 1914 - 1918

There is little mention in the archives of the effects of the Great War on the parishioners of St. Joseph’s but like all other communities throughout the country, every family experienced the trauma of losing loved ones in this most dreadful of wars, which is graphically described in the work of local poet Wilfred Owen. Those that survived were then victims of the virulent epidemic of flu that swept throughout the country directly following the end of the war.
After the war was over a parish meeting was called in Feb 1919 to discuss the erection of a War memorial to the memory of the members of the congregation who had died. A house to house collection was made and the War Memorial and Tablet (which can be seen on the North Road side of the church) were unveiled on 19th June 1921 by Major General Sir Lionel Nicholson, representing Western Command ; Bishop Keating, Senior Chaplain to H.M. Forces sang the Mass in the presence of Bishop Singleton and the Mayor.


Birkenhead News 22nd June 1921

Striking sermon by Right Rev. Mgr. George D.D.

The ceremony of unveiling the memorial dedicated to the former members of the parish who gave their lives during the war was performed with fitting solemnity and reverence after High Mass at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Sunday morning by Major-General Sir Lionel Nicholson in the presence of His Worship the Mayor (Councillor Luke Lees), His Lordship Bishop of Shrewsbury (Dr. Singleton) His Lordship Bishop Keating (Senior Chaplain to the Forces), the Right Rev. Provost Barry, the Very Rev. Canons A. O’Leary and H Mottram (Seacombe), Councillor and Mrs D.J. Clarke, Mr. and Mrs Oldham and many others. A large crowd of people lined the road and footway outside the Church and a Squadron of the 4th Cheshire's (Commanded by Lieutenant Chandler ) was drawn up in the roadway. Belsey’s Own Sea Scouts were also in attendance.
Prior to the unveiling ceremony Pontifical High Mass was sung by Bishop Keating in the presence of His Lordship the Bishop of Shrewsbury, the Deacons being the Rev. P. Burke and Rev. Dr. O’Leary, the Master of Ceremonies Father A.J. Wilson (Rock Ferry) and assistant to the throne the Rev. Father McCann (Rock Ferry), Provost Barry and the two Canons also officiated. The choir conductor was Mr. J. E. Mathews and the organist Mr. Gerald Downe. Gounods Mass of the Sacred Heart was sung, the Offertory music being ‘Pie Jean’ (Mozart's Requiem) and Requiem Aeternam (Mozart's Requiem).
The sermon during the Mass on the subject of the fallen soldiers and sailors was preached by the Right Rev. Mgr. George D.D. “They had come together” he said “not in a spirit of pageantry or vain sentiment but to perform a serious and solemn duty that of paying homage to the men of the parish who had given their lives during the war. The immortal poet Shakespeare said the ‘ evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones’, but they should be determined that this should not be so in their case. The names were inscribed on a noble monument and we should keep their memory green, to pass a record of their deeds down to posterity. We had a lesson with a two-fold aspect to learn by their deaths. They had died that we might live, that we might live lives worthy of their deaths. Though it might seem a strenuous claim, they were the heroic dead, for those who had known them found nothing unusual in them, they were ordinary stuff and did not pose as heroes. If they were praised at any time they passed it off as a joke. And if they did not pose as heroes still less, the thought they did pose as saints. Although they had their imperfections there was all the time smouldering in their hearts that fire which only required a spark to set it into a burst of flame. Amid the mud and the poisonous gases - as if all the fires of hell had been set loose, they had found noble aspirations and lofty ideals. Hating war they had only to sustain them the grim determination that justice and right would prevail in the end. This they had lived and died for an ideal and we might now safely entrust them to God’s care. “Greater love than this no man hath”, and we could be confident as the end crowns the work, so noble deaths are stepping stones to greater and better things. “God grant”, he continued “that we never lose sight of the duty which we owe to them. The commemoration looked to the future as well as the past. Some might ask themselves whether the world was any better for the war, or whether we had learnt any lesson by it. Then we must ask ourselves whether we individually had learnt any lessons before criticising others for having learnt it. There would be a chance that others might learn the same lessons. There was he thought a striking ignorance in modern life of lessons taught by the history of past years. Life he considered was not worth living unless there was a spirit of self-sacrifice and self-conquest. It was not a gamble in which the cunning triumphed and in which the weak and the simple went to the wall. It was only by practising the virtues which he had already quoted, that anything could be achieved and that we could then attempt to set aright the balance in the world around us. There seemed an awful phenomenon he continued, existent in the present day, that people seemed indifferent over things that really mattered. If a man ran his business in the same way that he tried to run his politics he wouldn’t achieve much. in the same way there was an indifference over religion and people were foolish by trying to run it on the ( ...................) of sentiment. In conclusion the preacher showed that just as the men who had fallen had had to fight before they attained their reward, so also we must stand with Christ on Calvary (before) joining Him in heaven.
At the end of the Mass the congregation proceeded en masse to where the memorial was is a tall Crucifix, the figure being of finely moulded burnished bronze and the Cross of polished teak wood, mounted on a broad pedestal of carved stonework and overhung with a sloping canopy of teak. Underneath carved into the stone is the following inscription ;

‘ Erected by the congregation to perpetuate the memory
of the men of St. Joseph’s Parish who gave their lives
for their country in the Great War 1914 - 1918.
May they rest in Peace’.

With reference befitting the occasion the General drew the purple veil aside and the congregation joined together in silent prayer. The Mayor subsequently gave a typically brief and feeling address in which he enumerated the obvious reasons why we should respect and perpetuate the memory of the brave fallen. The final hymn ‘Forth comes the standard of the King’ (Rev. E. Caswell) was sung by the choir, and the bulk of the congregation returned to the church where the Memorial Tablet which contains 27 names was unveiled by his lordship the Bishop of Shrewsbury. The memorial, the teak of which was finished by Mr. Oldham was carved and shaped by Mr. McLaghlan assisted by Mr. McBride. The tablet was made by Mr. Dalziel, the lettering inscribed in gilt by Mr. Fred Dunne, and the masonry executed by Mr. Charles Hamilton under the general supervision of Mr. Robert Rothwell assisted by Mr. Egan’.

Roll of Honour 1914 - 1918
Lieut. Edward H. Duncan
Chief Steward James Harold
Co.Q.M.S. William J.M. Nicolson
Ship Wrgt. John Magner
Cpl. Act. Sgt. Richard Over
A.B. Patrick Kelly R.A.
Pte. George Buckley
Pte. William A. Daly
Pte. William Hind
Pte. Hugh McDonald
Pte. Thomas M. Newman
Pte. Frederick Reader
Pte. Albert C. Reagan
Rifleman Thomas Rylance D.C.M.
James Young

Lieut. Gilbert M. Sweeney
Q.M.S. Joseph McNamara
Sgt. Thomas O'Neill
Dvr. Thomas McKnight
L.Cpl. Adrian Bonham
Stoker George C. Robinson
Pte. James Cullen
Pte. Michael Egan
Pte. Martin Hughes
Pte. Sidney Millar
Pte. Patrick O'Reilly
Pte. James Reader
Pte Charles Rylance
Pte. John Weston

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