This is our second blog post in a series leading up to our World War One Family History Day at the Museum of Liverpool this Saturday, 24 March. Today, we look at the story of the Turner Brothers, William and Fred.
Lieutenants William and Fred Turner were born in Ullet Road, Liverpool, to parents Jessie and William. Both attended the local Greenbank School, and went on to become successful sportsmen in cricket, rugby and football at Sedbergh School, Yorkshire before following in their father’s footsteps and joining the printing firm Turner & Dunnett, of which their father was Senior Partner.
The boys were among the first to ‘sign up’ and both joined the Liverpool Scottish Battalion as officers.
Fred, the younger of the two sons, was the first to go abroad arriving at the Front on 2 November, 1914. His brother William was still in England when Fred was killed within a few weeks of arriving in Belgium on January 10th, 1915, while inspecting barbed wire entanglements in front of his Platoon. He was age 26.
His Commanding Officer said in a letter:
"Fred was a gallant fellow, a universal favourite and the idol of the men under his command. His ever cheery manner and courageous bearing under all conditions endeared him to all his comrades. One of his fellow officers remarked to me that Fred Turner, above all men he had ever met, was one in whom it was impossible to find a fault, and I heartily endorse this opinion."
A Private wrote of him :
"His first thought was always of his men; when their spirits were inclined to droop he rallied them and joked with them, though he always took upon himself the most dangerous and disagreeable duties. A sniper who had tracked him along the trench picked him off."
His older brother William left for the Front straight after Fred’s memorial service two weeks later, and at the request of the men, took his brother’s command. Five months later, he too was killed leading his men in the charge of the Liverpool Scottish on June 16 1915, aged 31.
It was a day that the Liverpool Scottish underwent a terrible ordeal of fire at Hooge, when many men fell in a charge that broke the German lines. A German trench had just been captured, when a heavy shell burst, killing the men and Lieutenant William Turner.
The Rev. Alexander Connell, in an eloquent address at the Memorial Service said: “"He stepped without fuss, and at once, into his fallen brother's place. He won the affection and confidence of his men. Some of them, who have also fallen, had sworn, as we know, that for his sake, as for his brother's, if any hour of peril called them they should be found by his side, living or dead.”
Captain Noel Chavasse, Lord Derby and The King were among those who sent letters of condolence to the Turner family.