Norman Pilling (c.1880-1917)

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This page is part of a project by David Verguson to research the lives of those who appear on war memorials and rolls of honour in the Lindley area.

Biography

Norman's father, James, was born in Birchencliffe in 1867 and married Mary Ann Dowling at the end of 1890. Mary Ann was born in Suffolk in 1869 and may have come to Huddersfield to work as a domestic servant.[1]

In 1901 James was working as a cloth finisher — though his first job had been as a brickyard labourer — and they had four children: Norman was eight years old, Doris, six, Beatrice who was three and Stanley only a year old. They lived at 36 Briar Lane. Ten years later they were at 40 Briar Road and although they may have moved it was probably about the same size as 36, that is having only three rooms, and like many of the houses in the village, probably back-to-back.

Next door lived Hannah Pilling aged 69 who was James' widowed mother, his father George, a coal miner, having died in 1888. Hannah had been born in Lindley, George and the family, in Birchencliffe. The Pilling family had been in Birchencliffe or Lindley for generations by the time Norman was born. They had lived on Briar Road at least since his grandfather raised a family. Norman was sent up the footpath from Birchencliffe Hill to the Wesleyan Chapel for Sunday School.

In 1908, James died and Mary was left to raise the children — three still at school and one, Nora, only a year old. It cannot have been easy: the house had only three rooms and there was little in the way of social security except "going on the parish". However James relatives lived nearby so she at least had someone she could turn to for help.

By 1911, with three of the children at work, things must have been a bit easier, at least as far family finances were concerned. Norman worked as an under-gardener at Birkby Lodge for Mr G.P. Norton, and Doris and Beatrice both worked in the woollen industry. Stanley was still at school but could go part-time in a year or so and Nora, only four, probably attended Birchencliffe Infants School.

We don't know precisely when Norman joined up. His number, for someone in the Royal Field Artillery, suggests he enlisted quite early on, perhaps 1915.

Some batteries of the RFA were sent to India after service in the Middle East and Norman may have been with them. It seems unlikely that he was sent later as a replacement from England when the demands of the Western Front were so pressing.

Kicked by a mule, Norman died of a cerebral haemorrhage on 13 September 1917 and was buried at the Cambellpore Cemetery in the Punjab and Dehli Province, India. He was thirty-seven years old.

Like the other 550 others named on the Karachi memorial, Norman is buried in a civil cemetery that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission has found it impossible to maintain.

Norman is also remembered on the memorial in the Methodist Church on East Street where he attended Sunday School and at St. Philip's, Birchencliffe.

Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922

The following extract is from Huddersfield's Roll of Honour: 1914-1922 (2014) by J. Margaret Stansfield:

PILLING, NORMAN. Driver. No 25840. 78th Battery, Royal Field Artillery. Eldest son of Mrs Mary Ann Pilling, 40 Brier Lane, Birchencliffe, Huddersfield. Attended Lindley Wesleyan Sunday School. Employed as under-gardener for Mr. G. P. Norton, Birkby Lodge, Huddersfield. Died in India from a cerebral haemorrhage on 13.9.1917, aged 37 years, after being kicked by a mule. Buried CAMPBELLPORE CEMETERY, INDIA. (PUNJAB AND DELHI PROVINCE). Commemorated KARACHI 1914-1918 WAR MEMORIAL, PAKISTAN.
ROH:- St. Philip's Church, Birchencliffe.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

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Notes and References

  1. The only Mary Ann Dowling of the right age, listed in 1891 was a servant living in Jersey, born in "England".