It is well known in genealogy circles that any small story can become a rabbit hole of research, and that was certainly the case when I came across the stories of William Moore and Wilfred Dyke, linked by the moment when William nearly drowned in the Coventry Canal.
William Moore's Story
The article below was published by the Lichfield Mercury on Friday 12th August 1910:
GLASCOTE. Gallant Rescue. — Whilst playing with other children on the canal side on Friday morning, a little boy named William Moore, aged five years, of Meadow Street, Kettlebrook, fell into the water. Fortunately, Mr William Dyke, Glascote, who was delivering bread for Messrs Clifford at some cottages in the Anchor Yard, saw the child fall in. Immediately he cleared the railings and jumped into the canal, bringing the child safely to the bank. After being provided with dry clothing by Mrs W Sharpe, the child was sent home little the worse for his perilous adventure.
The Tamworth Herald wrote up the same story on the following day, Saturday 13th August 1910, but their account differed in several details:
GLASCOTE Rescue from the Canal — The danger of children resorting to the canal towing path for recreation has again been brought the notice the residents of Glascote, especially those residing near the Anchor Inn. On Friday morning last week, Charles Moore, of Meadow Street, Kettlebrook, with two companions, all about six years of age, were playing on the towing path in front of the Anchor Row, when Moore fell into the water, and but for the timely aid of a youth named Wilfrid Dyke, who was at the time delivering bread nearby, the lad might have been drowned. Dyke, hearing cries from children, saw the boy struggling the water. After climbing a fence, he threw off his coat, and, getting into the water, rescued the boy. The lad was taken home to his parents and apparently is none the worse for his adventure.
I was unable to find any records of a boy named Charles Moore of the right age in the right location. There was a family named Moore at 6 Meadow Street, Kettlebrook, but there was no child named Charles. Did the Tamworth Herald, despite being the more local of the two papers, record his name incorrectly? It turned out that they did! William Moore was five years old and was born on 8th Feb 1905 in Ancoats, Manchester. In the 1911 census we can see that he lived with his father William Moore, his grandfather, Dawber Moore, a farm labourer, his grandmother Caroline, his uncle Thomas, his aunt Ellen, and Caroline's nephew William Griffin.
Although the Tamworth article says that William was taken back to his parents, his father William was a widower. He had been a night porter in Manchester, but now that he was in Kettlebrook, he was working as a coal miner. It is unclear why his son was playing by the canal near Anchor Row on that day, as it was quite some distance from his grandparents' house.
Little William Moore grew up none the worse for this experience. In 1938 he married Hilda May Starkey. In 1939 they were living at 11 Spinning School Lane, Tamworth, and William was working above ground as a colliery banksman. They went on to have two children, Raymond Michael Moore and Jean Hilda Moore.
Wilfred Dyke's Story
William's gallant rescuer, Wilfred Dyke, was born in Glascote, probably in John Street, on 31st Dec 1891, the second son of Edward William Dyke and his wife Annie, nee Hartill. Wilfred's birth was registered with the spelling Wilfrid - but in later documents his name is spelled conventionally with an e. His father, Edward, was a baker, and was employed by a grocer, Mr Henry Clifford, from 1872. By 1897 William and Annie had had five children: Charles, Wilfred, Albert, Maggie, who died as a baby, and Frederick. The following year, on 28th July 1898, Annie died aged 35 (Tamworth Herald notice), leaving Edward to raise their family alone.
In 1901 Edward was living at 12 Neville Street with three of his surviving sons and two boarders. I have not found the whereabouts of his youngest son, Frederick, in 1901, but he did survive, so it is possible that he was temporarily fostered or sent into care. Later in 1901 Edward remarried to a widow, Eliza nee King. Eliza already had a daughter, Nellie, and in 1903 Edward and Eliza went on to have a son together, who they named Edward. Eliza's first husband was called Thomas Moore, so I did wonder whether there was a connection between him and William Moore, but if they were related at all, it was not a close relationship.
By August 1906 Edward Dyke had been employed as a baker by Mr Henry Clifford for 34 years. That month the Tamworth Herald reported that Mr E Argyle had applied for temporary authority to transfer the off-beer license of a property in Main Road, Glascote, from George Brain to Edward Dyke. Edward was now self-employed. At some point between 1901 and 1910, Wilfred started working as a baker's delivery boy. At first I thought that this related to his father's new business in Main Road, but I later discovered that Wilfred worked for his father's former employer, Henry Clifford.
Wilfred would have been about 18 years old at the time of the incident by Anchor Row (1910).
The following year (1911) the family were living at 258 Main Road, Glascote. Wilfred was still working as a baker's delivery man, and his brother Frederick was working as a news boy. In the Tamworth Herald of 23rd September 1911, Wilfred Dyke (presumably the same one) was mentioned as being re-elected honorary secretary of Glascote Old Boys Club.
I realised that Wilfred was the right age to have served later in WW1, and sure enough, I found his military records. By now his parents were living at 293 Main Road, Glascote.
On 10th December 1915, Wilfred enlisted. He was probably one of those recruits who were surplus to Army requirements and was therefore allocated to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, Bristol Division, service number Z/3640 (Devonport). He was posted to the Royal Naval Division to begin his training.
His service record provides a limited description of him. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall and had a 33¾ inch chest. He had a dark complexion, dark hair, and dark grey eyes, and had a scar on his upper lip. On 28th March 1916 he was posted as an Able Seaman to 'Victory I', a shore based establishment for naval training. his character was described as Very Good during this period.
On 8th April 1916 he was transferred to HMT Wallington which I understand to have been a former Grimsby trawler used as an Auxiliary Patrol Base and boom defence vessel in the Humber area.
On 25th October 1916 he was posted to the Excellent, a shore establishment in Portsmouth, presumably for further training. Again on 31st Dec 1916 his character was described as Very Good.
On 15th Jan 1917 he was posted to the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve under President III, a shore pay and administration office for men serving in the Royal Fleet Reserve, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and the Royal Naval Reserve. On the 31st January he appears to have been demobilised from the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, and on 1st Feb 1917 he seems to have been remobilised with the Royal Fleet Reserve, still under the control of President III.
No further ships are mentioned in his service record, but in August 1917 he was on board the SS Blagdon. This was a steamer, carrying a cargo of herring, with 123 men in the crew. On 9th August 1917 she was on the North Sea, 75 miles East by South of Muckle Flugga, a small rocky island north of Unst in the Shetland Islands. At this time the Germans were waging an unrelenting campaign against merchant shipping. The Blagdon was torpedoed by the German U-boat (submarine) U78 and abandoned by the majority of her crew. It seems that a skeleton crew remained on board, and this may be the reason why Wilfred was recorded with the final rank of Acting Leading Seaman. SS Blagdon was then hit again, by the U-100 submarine captained by Kapitänleutnant Freiherr Degenhart von Loë. Twelve crew members were killed, including the Master of the Blagdon, Wyndham Douglas Lewis, and Wilfred Dyke.
The steamer sank to the bottom of the sea. It seems a terrible irony, given the rescue he carried out in 1910, that Wilfred's body was never recovered. Wilfred's father and stepmother were notified of his death on 16th August 1917. On 1st September 1917, the Tamworth Herald published a photo of Wilfred and reported on his death:
THE WAR. Roll of Honour. Mr Edward Dyke, 293 Main Road, Glascote, has received intimation from the Naval authorities that the SS Blagdon was sunk on August 9, and that his second son, Wilfrid Dyke, Acting Leading Seaman, RNVR, who was on board, and a member of the guns' crew, was drowned. Gunner Dyke was 25 years of age, and was formerly employed by the Tamworth Co-operative Society. He joined the Naval service in January, 1916. He was a bright and cheerful young fellow, and was highly respected. Mr Dyke has two other sons with the Expeditionary Force in France, and another in an American unit.
Wilfred was awarded the Britsh War Medal and the Victory Medal, and is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial and on a tablet in Glascote Church. The unveiling of this War Memorial was reported in the Tamworth Herald on Saturday 12th June 1920.