Ben Howard Kirkham, Private 243183, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 4th October 1917 in Belgium, aged 21
Ben Howard Kirkham was born on 27 May and baptised with his twin sister Ada Howard Kirkham on 11 June 1896 at St John the Baptist Church, Penistone, West Yorkshire, the son of Ruth and Sampson Kirkham, a farmer of School Wells, Thurlstone, near Penistone. In 1901, four-year-old Ben was living at School Wells, Thurlstone, with his parents and siblings Ann and John (twins aged 6), Ada (4), and Ruth (2).
By 1911 the family had moved to Cut Thorn Farm, Wildboarclough, where fourteen-year-old Ben was helping his father on the farm. During and after the Great War, the family lived at various locations in Wildboarclough including Dry Knowl, Eagle and Child Cottage, and Burnt Cliffe.
Ben enlisted in Macclesfield, joining the 1st Cheshire Regiment. According to his medal entitlement, he did not serve overseas until after 1915.
In some official records, Ben is named as Benjamin.
Private Ben Kirkham has no known grave and is commemorated on panel ref. 61 to 63. on the Tyne Cot Memorial, West Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Ben Kirkham, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
The deaths of Ben and his brother John were commemorated by ‘In Memoriam’ notices published in the Macclesfield Courier on 5 October 1918:
KIRKHAM – In loving memory of Private Ben Howard Kirkham, who was killed in France October 4th 1917. Also his brother, Private John Kirkham, killed October 5th, 1917, in France; both of Dry Knowl, Wildboarclough.
Sleep on, dear brothers, we would not wake you,
Sorrow and care would darken your brow,
Peace be your sleep while angels are near you,
No earthly sorrow can come to you now,
So sad, but so true, we cannot tell why,
The best are the first that are called to die.
Sadly missed by Father, Mother, Sisters and Brother, Buxton, October 1st, 1918.
KIRKHAM – With loving memory of Private John and Private Ben Howard Kirkham who were killed in France, October 4th and 5th, 1917.
Dear ones cease your weeping, Angels round us smile,
We are only parted For a little while.
We are happy now, Though ’twas hard to part,
Yet still our spirits linger Around your aching hearts.
From Mr and Mrs Brassington and Family.
Hollin Hall, October 1st, 1918.
Brother of John Kirkham, who served in the same battalion of the Cheshire Regiment and died of his wounds the following day, 5th October 1917.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births, Marriages, Deaths
Census (England & Wales): 1901, 1911
West Yorkshire Parish Baptism Registers (Ancestry): Penistone, St John the Baptist
British Army Medal Index Cards (Ancestry)
Soldiers Died in the Great War (Find My Past)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Courier: 5 October 1918
Thanks to Ben Kirkham’s family for supplying the photograph.