This old photo in my collection may be very small, just 3 x 1.5 inches, but with the addition of a name written on the back, and the photographer, it’s such a gem. The stories I’ve discovered about the family are really interesting too.
As you can see below the photographer was actually a Superintendant Clerk at the Admiralty, so a very good amateur photographer, the family had links with the Royal Navy so very likely they knew him well.
Gwendoline Ray Whittall was born on 3 October 1888 in Brockley, Lewisham very close to Greenwich, to parents James Bowyer Kidman Whittall 1860-1937 and Margaret Mance 1853-1915. She had three siblings Osborne Whittall 1889-1889, James Mance Whittall 1890-1965 and Robert Hutchings Whittall 1892-1978. Her parents travelled abroad a lot during their lives to Canada, America, China, Australia and New Zealand. Her father was an Insurance Agent. Her brother James was born in Shanghai, China and her youngest brother Robert was born in Wellington, New Zealand. Gwendoline went to live in China arriving on 18 January 1916, unmarried, she was accompanied by her father from Liverpool, England, then a short while after arriving she married Percy on 28 March 1916 in Shanghai. We have a full description of her on the passenger lists too “From Liverpool, England, Arr 18 Jan 1916 New York, New York, USA Final Destination Hawkon, China Ht 5 Feet, 4 Inches Hair Brown Eye Green/Gray Com’ Fair”
Gwendoline married Percy William Oswald Liddell (1881-Sep 1967) on 28 March 1916 in Shanghai, China. They had five children David Oswald Liddell 1917-2008, Margaret Liddell 1918-1996, Ian Oswald Liddell 1919-1945, Elizabeth Liddell 1921-2015 and Jenny Liddell 1923-May 1967. As you can see Gwendoline’s youngest daughter Jenny and her husband Percy died within a few months of each other in 1967, how sad for the family.
Gwendoline died on 17 July 1978 in Manston House, Manston, Blandford Forum, Dorset, England at the age of 89. Here’s her part of the small tree I have compiled on Ancestry.
I was very lucky to find these two old photos, one of Gwendoline’s paternal grandfather Joseph Whittall and also a photo of her husband’s father Captain Charles Oswald Liddell both I found on public trees on Ancestry.
I love it when you find a document like this one below, this is from Ancestry, London and Surrey, England, Marriage Bonds and Allegations, 1597-1921. These are Gwendoline’s paternal grandparents, her grandmother, Elizabeth Frances Dowie Hutchings was just sixteen when she married, and her grandfather (photo above) was 21. Joseph was the Head Paymaster in the Royal Navy, so that’s the link with the photographer of the photo. So lucky to be able to access records like this and all this information from home.
Gwendoline’s husband Percy was a Stockbrokers Clerk at the age of 20, later becoming a Merchant, he had been born in Shanghai, China as the eldest of eight children to parents Charles Oswald Liddell (1854-1941) and Elizabeth Kate Birt (1861-1928) his siblings were Kenneth Charles Liddell 1884-1970, Norman Oswald Liddell 1886-1971, Colin John Liddell 1888-1888, Charles Bertram Liddell 1889-1956, then came three girls Dorothy Catherine Mary Liddell 1896-1957, Maria Bessie Liddell 1899-1968 and lastly Enid Muriel Liddell 1901-1958.
Here’s the family tree I’ve compiled on Ancestry: Gwendoline Ray Whittal Family Lynns Waffles
After seeing that Gwendoline and Percy’s son Ian Oswald Liddell died in 1945 I looked further into the records and discovered this amazing biography of him on the super website http://www.vconline.org.uk/ as he had been awarded the VC Victoria Cross. I just had to share this account with you all.
b. 19/10/1919 Shanghai, China. d. 21/04/1945 Rothenburg, Germany.
Ian Oswald Liddell (1919-1945) was born on 19th October 1919 at 273 Avenue Haig, Shanghai, China. The address no longer exists as it is now part of the Anglican Cathedral School. He was the son of a merchant trader in China, Percy William Oswald Liddell JP, and his wife Gwendoline Ray. Ian had an elder brother, David Oswald, who later became a Major in the Cameronians and was awarded the MC, and three younger sisters: Peggy, Betty and Jenny. The family returned to the UK in 1930 when Ian was 11 and purchased Mounton House, Chepstow, Monmouthshire in 1935. (I believe the family owned the house until about 1951 when it was sold to Monmouthshire Council and converted into a special school that closed in 2020, and now has been turned into flats) Ian’s education was at boarding school at St Andrew’s, Eastbourne, Sussex before he entered Harrow between 1933 and 1937.
He did hope for a career as a veterinary surgeon as he had a great love for animals and was even later given a Labrador by King George VI whilst serving in the Coats Mission. Sadly, his career options were cut short by the outbreak of World War II in September 1939. His brother was called up immediately, and in May 1940, Ian was enlisted into the Shropshire Light Infantry. His education and background made him a prime candidate for a commission and he entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst. He was given an emergency commission in the Coldstream Guards and posted to Regents Park Barracks in London. He was also given extra duties as part of a Mobile Detachment later known as Coats Mission, to provide protection for members of the Royal Family in the event of invasion. They had their HQ at Bushey in Hertfordshire and Liddell was promoted to Acting Lieutenant and posted to the Coats Mission in February 1941. He remained with them until November 1942. The Mission was eventually disbanded the following year.
He returned to the Holding Battalion, then posted to 5 Coldstream Guards under Lord Straitheden, and placed in 32 Guards Brigade of the Guards Armoured Division. They eventually moved to Eastbourne in May 1944, ready for D-Day. On 25th June 1944, the 5 Coldstreams arrived in a camp outside Bayeux, and first took its place in the front line southwest of Caen, three days later. It came under immediate attack from the German 12 SS Division and was fully engaged as the remnants of the German Army escaped through the carnage of the Falaise Gap. By mid-September, the 5 Coldstreams had followed them to Escaut on the Belgian/Dutch border.
The 5 Coldstreams took part in Operation Market Garden, the attempt to seize the Rhine bridges between the Dutch border and Arnhem. On 23rd September 1944, they attacked Vokel, then two days later, moved to guard the road between Nijmegen and s’Hertogenbosch. In December 1944, Liddell was granted leave and returned to the UK. On 9th January 1945, he married Section Officer Patricia Patton-Bethune in South Kensington, London. Tragically, the marriage would only last 3 months. She would later remarry twice.
He rejoined the 5 Coldstreams in Belgium, and on 7th February, they drove through Holland to Tilburg where they stopped for the launch of Operation Veritable, an assault on the Reichswald defences, west of the Rhine in Germany. The attack was not a success and they became bogged down, until they managed to attack the Siegfried Line on 16th February. Through March, the 5 Coldsteams continued to make slow progress across the Rhine into German territory.
On 3rd April 1945, Liddell was commanding a company of the Coldstream Guards, which was ordered to capture intact a bridge over the River Ems near Lingen. The bridge was covered on the far bank by an enemy strong point, which was subsequently discovered to consist of 150 entrenched infantry supported by three 8.8 cm and two 2 cm guns. The bridge was also prepared for demolition with 250 kg bombs, which could plainly be seen. Having directed his two leading platoons onto the near bank, Captain Liddell ran forward alone to the bridge and scaled the 3 m high roadblock guarding it, with the intention of neutralising the charges and taking the bridge intact. In order to achieve his object he had to cross the whole length of the bridge by himself under intense enemy fire, which increased as his object became apparent to the Germans. Having disconnected the charges on the far side, he re-crossed the bridge and cut the wires on the near side. It was necessary for him to kneel, forming an easy target, whilst he successively cut the wires. He then discovered that there were also charges underneath the bridge and completely undeterred he also disconnected these. His task was completed he then climbed up onto the roadblock in full view of the enemy and signalled his leading platoon to advance. Thus alone and unprotected, without cover, and under heavy enemy fire, he achieved his object. The bridge was captured intact and the way cleared for the advance across the River Ems.
On 21st April 1945, during a skirmish at Rothenburg, Liddell was killed when a sniper’s bullet went through the head of another soldier and hit him. Liddell was initially buried at Sohlingen In the small village cemetery. After the War, Liddell’s remains were moved to Becklingen War Cemetery. His posthumous VC was gazetted on the 7th of June 1945. The presentation of his VC to his widow Patricia was delayed until 12th February 1946 as she was accompanying Air Vice Marshal Fiddament on his round-the-world trip. The medals were later donated by Patricia to the Coldstream Guards RHQ, Wellington Barracks, London. LOCATION OF MEDAL: COLDSTREAM GUARDS RHQ, LONDON. BURIAL PLACE: BECKLINGEN WAR CEMETERY, SOLTAU, GERMANY.
This account also led me to find out more about their other son David Oswald Liddell and again I have shared this obituary with you here as he had quite a story to tell too, both accounts give us lots more family history.
DAVID OSWALD LIDDELL, of the 12th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), was in command of a company which was ordered to capture the village of Villa Grande, on Italy’s Adriatic coast, which was held by the fearful German 1st Parachute Regiment, on December 23, 1943. The leading British platoon suffered severe casualties and Liddell’s company was pinned down by heavy machine-gun fire. Liddell charged the machine-gun post single-handedly and knocked it out with hand grenades. Although wounded in the eye, he led his men’s advance to link with other isolated platoons. He wore gym shoes to report to his CO, so as not to be heard by the Germans in the next building and refused to be evacuated until his men were moved to safety and were fed. Awarded an immediate Military Cross, he was just 26.
Major Liddell, who has died, aged 91, was born in Hankow, China. The son of a merchant, he moved to Shanghai and attended school with the future ballerina Margot Fonteyn and author Mary Hayley Bell (later to marry John Mills). A talented musician and sportsman, at Harrow School he boxed and led the school orchestra. Training as a chartered accountant, he joined a Lloyd’s broking firm and on the outbreak of war with the Scottish Rifles assisted in the detention of Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, when the former landed at Hamilton Racecourse, Scotland. Posted to the Faroe Islands in 1941, his battalion was ordered to reinforce the Eighth Army fighting its way up Italy. After treatment for his injuries sustained when he won his MC, he returned to the fray and was sheltering in a cowshed on his 27th birthday when it was hit by a direct shell. Three of his comrades were killed and he was severely wounded, needing many months of hospital care. After the war, he returned to London stockbroking and became a member of Lloyds, but his war wounds forced his retirement from the city in 1967. Inheriting a Monmouthshire estate, he turned to Friesian cattle breeding with great national success. He and his wife, Joan, became passionate about fishing and hence moved to the Highlands, but heavy losses at Lloyd’s forced a return south.
Major David Liddell MC, soldier and cattle breeder; born, on January 9, 1917, died, on 20 Mar 2008. This obituary above was on the https://www.thefreelibrary.com/ after finding this I discovered that he was actually declared bankrupt in Scotland in 1993.
Gwendoline and Percy’s daughter Margaret married Major David Royden Rooper and had two children, their daughter Elizabeth married Alexander James Houston who served in the RNVR Fleet Air Arm, they also had two children, I found a great photo of him on an Ancestry public tree, see below. Their youngest daughter Jenny married James Gerald Bourne a Consultant Physician.
I always find it interesting to see what occupations the different family ancestors on a tree had, and Gwendoline’s tree show’s that William Hodgson Liddell, who was Charles Oswald Liddell’s father and Gwendoline’s husband Percy’s grandfather was born in Cumberland, and after his marriage to Catherine Oswald in Brechin, Angus, Scotland, the family lived in Blinkbonny, Edinburgh, Scotland. William was a Tanner, Currier and Japaner.
“A Tanner: Tanned (cured) animal hides for leather making. A Currier: Tanned leather by incorporating oil or grease. A Japaner: applied Japanese style black hard varnish – “Japanning”. All these descriptions from Index of Old Occupations
In total contrast to William, Gwendoline’s grandfather Henry Mance who had married Sarah Elizabeth Saunders in Heavitree, Devon in 1838, was in the 1851 and 1861 census a Confectioner at 3 Argyle Street, Bathwick, Bath, Somerset. On the 1861 census, Sarah’s widowed father Christopher was living with them and I love that he is described as a Collector! I wonder what of?
After looking up the various houses the families lived in I came across this beauty lived in by Charles Oswald Liddell and his family, although his wife moved to Bexhill, Sussex after his death.
Shirenewton Hall. Featured in Country Life in August 2018 when it went up for sale for £4.25 million with Savills, full article and photos here: Shirenewton Hall
“There has been a house on the site of Shirenewton Hall since the days of William Blethyn, Bishop of Llandaff who died in 1575. The house was built in an Italianate style around 1830 by William Hollis who was Sheriff of Monmouthshire in 1831. Originally known as Shirenewton Court, the building fuses an Italianate style with oriental decor introduced by Charles Oswald Liddell, who bought the property in 1890 and served as Sherriff in 1918. On the east lawn hangs an impressive one-and-a-half-tonne Temple Bell under a pagoda-style roof. It was brought to the hall in 1903 after the Boxer Rebellion in China. It was at this time that the Japanese Garden was created“.
The next group of photos were where Gwendoline lived after her husband Percy died in 1967. I believe that Percy had inherited Shirenewton from his father and he died there. So she must have moved sometime before her death in 1978 to Manston House, Blandford Forum, Dorset.
This house was also up for sale by Savills in September 2018: “Manston House, in Dorset, originally a 17th-century house, was rebuilt after a fire in 1857. It was the property of Thomas Barnabas Hanham, the youngest son of Sir James Hanham, the 7th Baronet of Deans Court in Wimborne. The Grade II listed house has recently undergone restoration and is on the market with a guide price of £6.5 million“. It has since been up for sale for nearly £8 million.
I was able to find out lots more about Manston House thanks to the fabulous article in the Dorset Life magazine of 2011 by Tony Burton-Page. I was totally fascinated by the fact that it was here that the then-owner Thomas Barnabas Hanham conducted the very first legal cremations in Britain. Full article here, it’s a good read: Dorset Life. Manston House.
Till next time then……