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Edward Fairless (1892-1916)

Lance Corporal in the 18th Battalion DLI commemorated by an oak tree at Wolsingham Grammar School

Edward’s story contains information contributed by a student at Wolsingham School.

Edward was born on 16 April 1892 in Stanhope. At the time of the 1901 Census, Edward was living with his parents, Edward senior and Mary Fairless. Also living with the family at this time was Nicholas Peart, a child from Mary’s previous marriage. Both Edward senior and Nicholas were working as general labourers. Edward’s mother Mary died in 1903. It is unclear when his father died but as Edward was living with his cousin William Fairless by the time of the 1911 census, it is probable that Edward senior had also died before this date. William was working as a rockman in a limestone quarry whilst Edward was working as an assistant teacher.

At the time of his enlistment on 21 September 1914, Edward was working as a teacher at Tudhoe Colliery Council School. He had been appointed as a certified teacher assistant at this school on 17 July 1913. He was mobilised as part of the 18th Battalion Durham Light Infantry (DLI) just over a week after his enlistment on 29 September, serving as a private with the service number 18/267.

An extract from a letter written by Edward appears in the Christmas 1914 edition of the Wolsingham Grammar School magazine, The Phoenix. He gives the following description of his experience: “This life is a very pleasant one – something like College on a larger scale – and everyone is full of enthusiasm for his work, and hence improvement is rapid. I have my College pal here with me so I am A1. The food is plain and somewhat scanty, while the outdoor exercise is fine sauce. We expect to get to France by about Christmas.”

Whilst training with his battalion in January 1915 at Cocken Hall, Edward received a punishment of seven days confinement to barracks after being absent from his quarters for several days. In the first week of December 1915, the 18th Battalion DLI left England to travel to Egypt. Arriving on 22 December, the battalion were involved in helping defend the Suez Canal from Turkish assault. The following year Edward’s battalion were transferred to France, arriving on 11 March 1916. At the beginning of July he was wounded and admitted to the 94th Field Ambulance suffering with shell shock. It was shortly after this, on 15 July 1916, that Edward was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal. Edward was killed in action on either 27 or 28 July 1916.

Edward was engaged to Janet Vickers who received the money owed to Edward following his death and the medals he had been awarded. Similarly to Edward, Janet was a school teacher at the time of the 1911 census. After the war, in 1920, Janet married Joseph Hall.

Edward is buried at St. Vaast Post Military Cemetery in France. He is remembered on several memorials in his home town of Wolsingham, as well as plaques commemorating council workers who served and lost their lives during the First World War.

Wolsingham Grammar School planted 18 oak trees during 1918 and 1919, each commemorating an old scholar at the school who lost their life serving in the First World War. The following inscription appears on a plaque by the trees: “These trees were planted in memory of Old Boys who fell in the Great War “non timidi pro patria mori”.

Edward’s death was reported in the Wolsingham School magazine, The Phoenix. The following description of Edward appeared alongside the announcement: “ Edward Fairless, Captain of the School, the Cricket Eleven, and the Football Eleven, in the palmiest days of School Athletics, had all the attributes of a hero – mental vitality, strength and dignity of character, athletic prominence and versatility, and tenacity of purpose. The world is poorer since he left it.”

Civil Parish: Wolsingham

Birth date: 16-Apr-1892

Death date: 27/28-Jul-1916

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Westgate, Stanhope (1901 Census)
Briar Hill, Westgate (1911 Census)
Front Street, Westgate in Weardale (Service Records)

Education: Westgate Council School
Wolsingham Grammar School

Religion: Church of England

Employment: Assistant Teacher (1911 Census)
Teacher – Tudhoe Colliery Council School (ROH County Council)

Family: Parents: Edward Fairless, Mary Fairless
Step-brother: Nicholas Peart
Cousin: William Fairless
Fiancée: Janet Vickers

Military service:

18th Battalion DLI
Lance Corporal
Service Number 18/267

Medal(s): Victory Medal
British War Medal
1914-15 Star

Memorial(s): Plaque 1914-18 1939-45, Grammar School, Wolsingham
Photos 1914-18, Grammar School, Wolsingham
Trees 1914-18, Grammar School, Wolsingham
Plaque 1914-18 1939-45, County Hall, Durham
Plaque 1914-18, Old Shire Hall, Durham

Gender: Male

Contributed by Student at Wolsingham School

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