Alick Slater Beadsworth

Name Alick Slater Beadsworth
Corps Leicester Regiment, 2nd Battalion, D Coy., formerly 3rd regiment 9907
Rank Private
Service No. 11410
Date/Place of entry Leicester
Date of death 15 May 1915 Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave Le Touret Memorial, Panel 11

Alick (he was registered as Alick but some records give Alec/Aleck) Slater Beadsworth (also Beedsworth/Beesworth) was born in the spring of 1891 in Aylestone, where his parents William and Elizabeth Beedsworth lived in Saffron Lane. William was first cousin to the nine children of Antony Beedsworth of Cottingham.

Since 1873 William, a shoe finisher, had been legally married to another woman, Mary Makepeace. She was a textiles worker who was then living with her parents in Leicester St Margaret’s as she had been since 1881 and would continue to do in the next century. In 1876 William and Mary had had a son, Arthur Beadsworth, who lived with her in her parents’ house. At some point they evidently split up and William left Leicester. William’s life and antecedents before 1891 are discussed in the entry for Arthur.

His whereabouts in the years after he and his wife separated have thus far proved impossible to identify beyond doubt. It does seem as if he may have deliberately ‘disappeared.’  There is no sign of him in the 1881 census indices under any known variation of the name Beedsworth, then in 1891 he reappears in Aylestone as ‘Alexander Bosworth’, a boot and shoemaker born in London. In subsequent census he reverts to his real name. It remains possible that the anomalies are the result of an enumerator’s mistake and/or indexing errors, but the 1891 entry plainly says ‘Alexander Bosworth’.

He is listed with his wife Elisabeth (born 1851 in Northampton), and their daughters Sophia (registered at birth as Elisabeth Sophia Beedsworth) and Kate (registered at birth as Kate Slater Beedsworth). There is no marriage registered to an ‘Alexander Bosworth’ and indeed no other reference to him anywhere in government records, so it’s 99% likely to be an alias.

Three year old Kate Slater Beedsworth’s birth was registered in Leicester in 1888 so in 1891 they had evidently been living there for some time. Elizabeth Sophia’s birth however was registered in 1883 in Colchester district. What were they doing there? The town had a substantial barracks where the 50th Regiment of Foot was stationed in the 1880s but there is no military record whatsoever for William. Colchester was essentially a market town serving the surrounding rural area and the demands of the garrison.  Engineering was the principal growth industry of the late nineteenth century but boot and shoemaking also gets a mention in the town’s history.

There are more mysteries concerning the identity of Alick’s mother Elisabeth.   She consistently gave Northampton as her place of birth in each census, and it’s reasonable to think that Slater was her birth surname, given that two of her children were given it as a middle name. However, there is no civil registration record in Northampton for an Elisabeth Slater born around 1851 and no entry in the 1861 census index for the town. There might be several legitimate reasons for this discrepancy; Elizabeth was not her first name, the age at and place of birth are incorrect though given in good faith, Slater was not her surname, etc etc.  Anomalies and errors in census entries are commonplace, and index entries not always correct. There was an Elisabeth Slater registered in the Northampton district in 1850 but she died in 1870.

There was an Eliza Slater born in 1851 and living in Leicester St Margaret’s between then and 1871. She was one of several children born to William and Mary Slater nee Lenton. William was a cabinet maker from Preston near Uppingham, and Mary who was several years older than her husband was from Seaton. They appear to have separated before 1871. Eliza was with her mother and younger sister in 1871 and they had a lodger, carpenter Lewis Eagle born in Cottingham. There is no trace of Eliza in Leicester after 1871, or of a marriage there. Maybe Eliza was Alick’s mother? 

There remains another possibility, that Elizabeth was born with a different surname and married a Slater before she met William Beedsworth. It was investigating this hypothesis that brought forth a significant clue. The1881 census for Sneinton, Nottingham, listed a couple named William and Elizabeth Slater and their two Leicester-born children. William Slater was a shoe finisher  of the same age as William Beedsworth; he and Elizabeth gave their place of birth as Northampton. The Slater children were Rose Elisabeth M. A. born in late1872, and Claude William E. born 1874, both births registered in Leicester. What ties this couple to the Beedsworth family is the marriage of Rose to another William Beadsworth in 1894 in Blaby. This second William Beadsworth grew up in the house of Sophia Beedsworth, William senior’s mother.

Was William Slater Elisabeth’s first husband? Or was it an alias for William Beedsworth?

I have failed to find Rose and Claude anywhere in the 1891 census, but Claude was living in Aylestone in 1892. He joined the 3rd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment in November 1892 giving his age as seventeen years and eleven months, his address as14 Long Street, Wigston, his occupation, shoe finisher, his birthplace Leicester St Margaret’s, and his next of kin sister Rose and mother Elizabeth. His was not to be a glorious army career. He overstayed his pass / was absent without leave three times in his first year, then deserted in October 1894 when ordered to proceed with the draft to the West Indies. The army documents dealing with his desertion seem particularly angry about his disappearing with all his army kit. He applied for and was granted  a pardon in 1910 under a general amnesty.

I still can’t find him in any UK census after 1881. The occupants of 14 Long Street are a different family in 1891. 
(Obtaining the relevant birth/marriage certificates would help solve the mystery but would cost money and is outside the scope of this website. Should anyone who knows the family history happen to read this, I would be delighted to hear from them.)   

The 1911 census asked the questions, how long have you been married, and how many children have you had, whether living or dead? The entry for William and Elizabeth Beedsworth states they’d been married forty years and had had six children of whom four were dead. Three of their children are known: Elisabeth Sophia, Kate Slater, and Alick Slater. Kate died in 1900. Who were the other three deceased children?

In 1911 the Beedsworth household at Sheridan Street, Leicester, comprised William and Elizabeth, William’s unmarried brother Isaac, and an eight year old girl whose name is illegible. She is listed as their daughter, but given Elizabeth’s age it’s more likely she is a granddaughter. William had swapped shoe finishing for being a grocer.
Where was Alick in 1911? He was in the family home in 1901, and enlisted with 3rd (Reserve) Leicestershire Regiment in February 1908 alleging that he was eighteen years and nine months. He was in fact a couple of years younger. His attestation record says he was five foot three inches tall and weighed 106 pounds. The start of his army career was inauspicious but hardly unusual; in April  he was given seven days for being drunk, using obscene language and creating a disturbance in Blaby, and in July overstayed his pass. In 1909 he completed a course in musketry as did Cottingham-born Albert Oliver who joined the 3rd that year.

His whereabouts in 1911 are unknown – true to family tradition -  but he was active in the 3rd Regiment for the full term of six years, being discharged in February 1914. He had attained the rank of sergeant in 1912 and his conduct was described as ‘very good’ on his discharge document. This also says he had a brother, William, living in Wigston. Was this brother Claude William Slater?

The following year, 1912, he was definitely around Leicester as he got married there in April to Mabel Allen. By the outbreak of war they had two daughters, Elisabeth born in 1913, and baby Mabel born earlier that year. His address upon re-enlistment was 119 Wordsworth Road, Knighton. The exact date he re-enlisted is unknown but he embarked for France on 5 October 1914.

At the time of his death in 1915 he was a private in the 2nd Battalion, Leicestershire regiment. The Battalion had been stationed in India and arrived in France a week after Alick, on 12 October so he may have transferred into it; there is no record surviving so the date is unknown. The Battalion formed part of the Gharwal Brigade of the Meerut Division. Other soldiers who served in the 2nd included Francis Omar Tilley, Edward and Arthur Towndrow, William James Tansley, Sidney Tilley, Thomas Crane and Harry Fisher.

In March 1915 the 2nd Leicestershire’s fought at Neuve Chapelle where they suffered heavy losses; Edward Towndrow and William James Tansley were killed during the battle. Alick was serving in ‘D’ company on 15 May when the battalion went into action on the opening day of the Battle of Festubert. By 9.30pm that night British troops had managed to get eleven bridges into position alongside the existing ones over the stream bordering No Man’s Land, despite sporadic enemy fire. The bridges were needed as the stream had been widened by holes left by enemy shelling.

 At 11.30pm the first platoons crossed  into No Man’s Land,  impeded by the tree stumps and other debris created by earlier bombardment. They met with very heavy fire from German machine guns and rifles, and had to contend with enemy grenades whose fire on impact illuminated their position. Only a handful of men got near the enemy lines and the remaining troops, crowding onto the bridges, could not advance far enough to provide effective support. Many were cut down and the remaining troops were ordered to withdraw at midnight.

Alick died during the attack but his body was never recovered. His name is listed on Le Touret Memorial in the Pas de Calais. The Memorial lies at the east end of Le Touret Military Cemetery on the Bethune-Armentieres road. It commemorates over thirteen thousand, four hundred British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave. Almost all of them were killed in actions that took place along a section of the front line that stretched from Estaires to Grenay.

Including Alick there are only six men named Beadsworth listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for the First World War. All but one of them were descended from William and Alice Beesworth of Drayton and Bringhurst, and were therefore second cousins of the Cottingham branch. They are his half- brother Arthur, Harry, Charles Edward and William Joseph Beadsworth. The remaining soldier listed on the website, Thomas Storey Beadsworth, was descended from a Beadsworth family of Uppingham and so highly likely to be a distant relative.

The name of Alick’s  next of kin on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission record is not that of his wife Mabel but his smother Elisabeth. The address is 119 Wordsworth Road, Knighton as stated on his re-enlistment papers which suggests Mabel and their two very young children were living with the in laws. She gave birth to their third daughter, Amy, early in 1916.

In that same January – March quarter of 1916, William and Elizabeth’s daughter Elizabeth Sophia died. If their 1911 census statement is correct, they had now lost all six of their children. In the following year, William’s son Arthur from his first marriage also died following a gas attack while serving on the Western Front.

In the last quarter of that year, William Beadsworth’s legal wife Mary nee Makepeace died, and he married Elisabeth Slater. William died in 1922, but Elizabeth lived on through the 2nd World War, dying in 1946 at the age of ninety three. If she was indeed the mother of Rose Elizabeth Slater, she outlived her too; Rose died in 1936.