Mark Armstrong, Private 1319,
13th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment
We were sent this information by Ian whom Mark is Ians Great Grandfather
Mark Armstrong was born in Huttons Ambo on 13th August 1877 to John Riley, from Murrisk in Ireland and Mary Armstrong, from Hull. He was their fourth son. His older brothers, Martin, Henry and Francis, were all born in different places in Yorkshire, so their father, an agricultural labourer, must have gone from farm to farm for work. There was one daughter, Harriett, who was the eldest child, and a younger brother, Luke, also born in Huttons Ambo.
In 1881 the family were living in Huttons Ambo. Between 1883 and 1891 their father died and in 1891 Mary, now widowed, who had reverted to her maiden name, Armstrong, was living with Mark, aged 13 and Agnes aged 7 [both at school] at 5 Black Horse Yard, off Tuthill, Scarborough.
On 24th December 1898 Mark married Jane Anne Lowther at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Hull and in the November of the following year their son George William was born. The 1901 census shows Jane Anne with one year old George, with her parents at 77 Buckingham Street, in Sculcoates. No record for Mark has been found so I wonder if he was at sea.
Then on 24th January 1904 they had another son – Alfred; and on 29th August 1905 – Mark; 22nd November 1906 – Thomas; and on 22nd November 1908 – a daughter, Mary Ann.
On 2nd April 1911 the family were living at 6 Alaska Street, Holderness Road in Hull, and Mark was a stoker in the cement works.
On 12th October 1913 their last son John Wilfred was born, then, sadly, in September 1914 Frank died, aged three years. A few months later on 16th November Mark signed his attestation papers [aged 37 years and 2 months]. He had already volunteered with the 4th East Yorkshire Volunteers, and he had been working as a stoker. He was 5’10” tall. He was joining the 4th Hull Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment. Only a month after Mark had joined up, Jane Anne gave birth to another girl, Elizabeth.
Mark was made acting Lance Corporal on 15th December 1914, but reverted to Private on 21st April 1915. He served in Port Said and then was sent to France on 3rd March 1916. Whilst he was abroad his son John Wilfred became ill and died of peritonitis and bronchial pneumonia, at home at 169 Buckingham Street, on 9th August 1916, aged just 2 years. His death certificate was included in Mark’s military records.
Mark wrote to his wife on 8th August 1916 –
My dear wife,
It was with great pleasure I received your letter. It turned to great pain when I read the sad news it contained about poor little Wilfred, God rest his soul, but as you say he will be better off now he has gone to meet his little brother. I don’t wonder that your heart is at breaking point, mine is broken already. It seems awful to think that I am here facing death every day for my country, and my little boy dying at home, and what makes it worse was having to wait so long for a letter from you.
I got your cablegram telling me about him dying, and sent you one back early next morning, I also sent a letter the same day, asking you to do certain things, but I don’t think it will be any use doing so. Both my officers and headquarters officers tried their best to get me off. The district headquarters even sent for my regimental number and home address, but I have not heard any more about it and I don’t suppose I shall.
Now I wish with all my heart that I were with you to share the trouble with you and also the pain. You asked, dear heart, to show your letter to my officer, he could not do anything for me personally, as such cases as ours have to go through the war office.
But never mind, darling wife, keep your trust in God and he will make the trouble not so hard to bear. You remember the words dearest “oh you came to me heavily laden, and I will relieve you”. So bear that in mind dear. I can assure you that it has been my hope and prayer and has kept me safe many times whilst in the trenches, and also remember dear, when your thoughts turn to either of our two little boys that they have gone to the one who loves little children, and they are safe under his mighty arm, and think also they may both be waiting to receive us, when our times comes to follow them.
Well, Jenny dear, I yearn to see you again. Blacky’s alright I forget to tell you before. This is all I can tell you this time, only tell the boys to be good for my sake. Have you got the rosary I sent you yet, it’s not much this time.
From your loving husband Mark
P.S. love to all at home, goodbye dear for the present. May God bless you and protect you all till I return.
Only 3 months later on 13th November 1916 he was recorded as ‘Missing in the Field’ and was still on the Missing List of 9th January 1917 and in the Snapper [journal of the East Yorkshire Regiment] in February 1917, but later it must have been decided that he had been killed in action on 13th November 1916 and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
After Mark’s death, Jane Anne and the children moved to 69, Endymion Street, then to 7, Berkshire Street. On 9th July 1917 Jane Anne was awarded a pension of 31s 3d a week. By the time Jane Anne was sent Mark’s medals in December 1919, she was already married to my great grandfather, Frank Lewis, and was living in Durham Street, Holderness Road. His wife had died in March 1914, leaving him with two surviving ‘grown-up’ children, including my grandfather, Arthur [who served in WW1 and in WW2]. Jane Anne had five children, ranging in age from 20 years to 5 years, and she and Frank went on to have two children together.
Written by Ian dedicated to his Great Grandfather and all the Hull Pals who fell in the second Offensive of the Somme in November 1916.
Mark Armstrong, Private 1319,
13th Bn, East Yorkshire Regt
I walk no longer midst men or mud,
I should be grateful.
For both were clinging, tortuous, pitiful,
Neither did me good.
Sucking clay, deep, feet deep, knee deep.
Clogging every waking moment,
Boots weighing a hundredweight,
Clothes wet, mired, dried, mired and dried,
Keen men, scared, bravely scared.
Wallowing in fear on sleepless nights,
Nerves, pulling down like lead weights,
Tears hidden, dried on muddy sleeves, minds fraught, taut,
Then my peace delivered. A flash,
A mighty flash, no noise, yet as I spun, I knew.
My world turned slate grey and brown over and over, I knew.
I watched, interested as mud reached up, enveloping me
With the small hands of my precious boys,
Who went before and now guide their father.
In the aftermath of man’s insanity.
I shall lie torn asunder in mud. Unknown.
For my King and country, my comrades, my family and you,
Men, women yet unborn,
Your future bought with my blood.